Back to the Pure Gospel

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J. Lee Grady

Recently I watched a vintage Billy Graham sermon from the 1950s that
aired on television. I said to a friend who was with me that I rarely
hear the gospel articulated today as clearly as we did by this amazing
evangelist. A few days later, for my birthday, my friend sent me three
recorded Graham sermons available on DVD.

One of the messages was from Graham’s 1971 crusade at McCormick
Place in Chicago. The shag haircuts, huge afros and polyester fabrics
in the audience looked odd, and the music performed before the sermon
was almost prehistoric. But when Graham held his Bible in the air and
preached about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in that packed arena,
nothing seemed outdated.

Listening to Graham stirred something deep inside me: A passion to
be a herald of truth to my generation. My heart cries out for the
American church to stop muddling, muffling, cheapening, distorting and
merchandising the pure gospel. How we need to return to the simplicity
of evangelism that cuts to the heart, produces repentance and reveals
the Son of God!

For several months I’ve been asking the Lord to make me His trumpet.
In my quest He’s shown me some of the qualities that shaped biblical
prophets into His mouthpieces. I pray all of us will adopt these same

1. Boldness. True prophets have steel backbones.
They do not cower when the majority disagrees with them. They are
possessed by God, and they must release the fire inside. Will you pray
for this boldness and say with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me” (Is. 6:8,
NASB)—even when you know you will be opposed?

2. Biblical integrity. Our movement has been
veering dangerously off course lately. Please don’t jump on every
charismatic bandwagon that comes along. You might fall off the edge.

Some of what is passed off as prophecy today resembles the daily
horoscope. The prophetic movement has been tainted by silly fads and
charismatic witchcraft. Our warm and fuzzy fortunetelling can titillate
and thrill those with itching ears, but it is nothing more than pablum
designed for babies who don’t want to grow up. We need solid meat
without poisonous additives.

3. Compassion. Most people think Jeremiah was
angry and judgmental, but actually he wept when he confronted Israel’s
sins. It is not enough to prophesy the Lord’s word—we also must aim to
speak with His tone of voice. We must be willing to intercede for and
identify with those we confront.

4. Purity. God is not so much interested in the
booming voice, the rousing delivery, the charisma or the technological
savvy that we expect today from celebrity preachers. What matters most
is pure content that flows through a pure vessel.

When Moses made the tabernacle, God told him to make silver trumpets
that were “hammered work” (Num. 10:2). If we want to speak for Him, we
must be willing to endure the shaping process. Prepare to be hammered!

5. Faithfulness. Jonah tried to flee as far as
possible from Nineveh, but the God of the second chance used a strange
vessel to get the prophet back on course. It involved a visit to a
fish’s stomach, where Jonah spent three days in darkness, stewing in
digestive juices. When the fish vomited him on land, he was better
prepared to speak heaven’s words.

Like Jonah, the American church has been running from its
evangelistic assignment. We charismatics get excited about prophecy,
angels, healing, visions, dreams, gold dust and prosperity, but when it
comes to winning souls we’re not really interested. Like Jonah, we’ve
boarded a ship for Tarshish and gone to sleep—and we’ve put unbelievers
in peril by our disobedience.

In my travels overseas, I find rapidly growing churches fueled by a
radical exuberance for evangelism, discipleship, missions and helping
the poor. Yet when I come home I see a church enamored with the latest
spiritual sideshows.

The storms we endure today are designed to get us back on course.
Evangelism, pure and simple, is God’s heart. We must repent of
betraying the Lord. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

J.Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma. You can read
his previous
online columns, as well as comments from readers, here.

+ posts

J. Lee Grady is an author, award-winning journalist and ordained minister. He served as a news writer and magazine editor for many years before launching into full-time ministry.

Lee is the author of six books, including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, 10 Lies Men Believe and Fearless Daughters of the Bible. His years at Charisma magazine also gave him a unique perspective of the Spirit-filled church and led him to write The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and Set My Heart on Fire, which is a Bible study on the work of the Holy Spirit.

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