Not Like Daddy Bill
March 5, 2019
This week was the one-year anniversary of Billy Graham’s death. His grandson Tullian Tchividjian blogged profoundly personal yet widely applicable truth as he reflected on the impact of his death: “As I sat there, crying and speechless, I vividly remembered a night when I was in college many years ago. On that night I got down on the floor—facedown—and begged God to make me into a man like my granddad. I asked God to keep me humble like him, to make me a man of integrity like him, to develop the same kind of character in me that He developed in him. God’s call put my granddad's feet on a path from which he never wavered. And he fulfilled that calling without ever being guilty of any sexual, financial, or other moral scandals. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.”
I imagine most of us can recall similar moments when we deeply desired and even committed to be all God could make of us. Many of us can also feel empathy for his next words: “Having myself been entrusted with a call to preach the good news of God’s boundless love to a broken world, I blew it. I had it all: the influence, the gifts, the charisma, the platform, and the audience. But what I apparently did not have was the character to handle it all. In a season of sin and self-destruction, egotistical pride and selfish ambition, unfaithfulness to my wife and unfaithfulness to Christ’s Bride, I lost everything and hurt many people in the process. In 2015, at 41 years old, I broke my life, I broke my family, and I broke the hearts of those who trusted me and looked to me for leadership.”
In a letter to a friend he wrote, “Watching my grandfather’s life, it has hit me afresh just how selfish and arrogant I was, how much I squandered. And for what? FOR WHAT?? What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? Character matters. It does not gain us favor with God, but it does give us credibility with others so that we can deliver God’s favor to the world. I blew it. I’m undone.”
If you are standing at the precipice of making a poor decision that will alter your life, pursuing self-centered temporary passions, I urge you to stop and consider this. This is the dead-end of self-centered choices. One day when you regain your moral and spiritual sanity, you will be crushed at all you have squandered. STOP. NOW. Satan is destroying you thought by thought and piece by piece. Don’t be a fool.
If you have already made that choice, Tullian’s article points to the hope of the Gospel for broken people. But even more powerful and comforting is the good news that there is a man named Jesus. Unlike Daddy Bill, I soiled my record. Regardless of how I live my life from now until the day I die, my season of sinful self-destruction will always be remembered and talked about. The hurt I caused myself and countless others will linger in many hearts and cause some people to doubt me, disparage me, and distrust me for the rest of my days. I’ve accepted that my blemished reputation is here to stay. There is no going back.
But I believe that if Daddy Bill were still alive, he’d say something like this to me: “Tullian, I may not be guilty externally of the same sins you are, but I assure you that my heart is no less sinful than yours. According to God’s standard of perfection, I’m a failure just like you. The tributes speak to what people saw. But the Gospel speaks to what only God sees. All of our records are stained with sin. But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus’ perfect record is ours by faith. When God looks at our account, He doesn’t see all of our nasty withdrawals. Rather, he sees all of Christ’s perfect deposits. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that because of Jesus, the sins we can’t forget God chooses not to remember. So take heart failed one, before God the righteousness of Christ is all any of us need. Before God, the righteousness of Christ is all any of us have.”
There is no going back, but there is a going forward. Regardless of our sins, the message of the season we are moving into right now with Lent leading us to Easter is that Jesus came for broken people. He can change, restore, and give us power to live purely and uprightly in a world that is broken and sinful. He can and will completely change us to the degree we are willing to surrender ourselves.
My prayer is that you will do that today, and share the good news with the rest of the broken people you know.
(This blog may be read in its entirety here.)