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Graham sees passion movement & ‘ultimately a mission’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Most Christians will not be called upon to die for their faith, “but we are all called upon to live for our faith, to live for Jesus and, in becoming living sacrifices, to share His passion with the world,” said Jack Graham.

Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas metro area, in addressing students, faculty and staff at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, urged them to be people of passion — not human passion, but the passion demonstrated by Christ in His death on the cross.

“The passion of Christ must become the passion of the Christian. The passion of Christ must be the passion of the church,” Graham said in his March 17 chapel message in reference to the recent Mel Gibson film “The Passion of The Christ.”

“I’m praying that the movie and the interest will move beyond a passing fad,” Graham said, envisioning “a movement and ultimately a mission … for the Gospel of Christ and for the work of the cross … a mission that will propel us in these days getting the Gospel to this generation and beyond.”

However, for the passion of Christ to infuse the church, it must receive primacy in the lives of believers, Graham said, citing the story in Acts 5 in which Peter and John defied the Sanhedrin’s directive to speak the name of Jesus no longer.

Their stance is an example of how the church and individuals within the church, can impact the local community and the world for Christ, when they make Christ’s passion their priority, Graham said.

“The entire city of Jerusalem was captivated,” he said. “Ultimately it would be said that when the fire of the church, the passion of the church, spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth, that these are the men who turned the world upside down.

“In the power of the Holy Spirit, witnessing and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they captured the city,” Graham continued. “And what was intended to be a criticism becomes the most wonderful and beautiful compliment you could ever give to a church of Jesus Christ: ‘You have filled the city with your doctrine, with the name of Jesus, and with the truth of the gospel.’”

The truth experienced in the first century church, Graham said, remains vital to the 21st-century church.

“The way to make the biggest impact on the world is still through carrying the message of Jesus Christ through the local body of Christ we know as the church,” he said. “We establish these points of evangelism and lighthouses of faith all over the world and that is how we capture cities, one heart, one life at a time. It is with the witness of the church and the people.”

However, Graham lamented that the directive to Peter and John against speaking the name of Jesus, if it were given to the average churchgoer today, might not have any effect on his or her life. On the opposite end, Graham said, are those who are overly focused on keeping the faith through defending the Gospel. While defending the faith is good and essential, he said, it must not prevent believers from sharing their faith with a lost and dying world.

“These things must not ultimately keep us and distract us from giving the faith away. It’s too good to keep. [Peter and John] said, ‘We can’t help but tell about these things we’ve seen and heard….’ When you know this truth, you can’t keep it to yourself,” Graham said. “The greatest good news the world has ever heard is the Good News of the Savior who was born, who lived, who died on the cross, who rose again, who is coming again and who lives in us. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we cannot help but speak of the things we have seen and heard.”

Ultimately, reaching the world for Christ will result from Christians and churches taking the Gospel to the marketplace of ideas through Christ’s power and the work of the Holy Spirit. Beyond protests or marches, Graham said, “Satan is more intimidated by a Christian and by a church sharing the Gospel and its dynamite power.”
Graham’s message can be viewed in its entirety in the NOBTS chapel archives at www.nobts.edu.

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  • Katherine Albers