BAODING CITY, October 18, 2009–Continuing the Graham family legacy of sharing God’s Word and love with the Chinese people, Franklin Graham proclaimed the Gospel Sunday in China’s second largest church and extended an invitation to the some 10,000 people in attendance to entrust their lives to Jesus Christ.
An hour before Franklin stood to preach, the Bethel Church of Baoding had reached full capacity. Each pew was tightly filled. People several rows deep lined the walls of the mammoth church. Others sat on the floor and on the balcony steps. Still others squeezed into multiple overflow areas outside and in the adjacent six-story Lay Training Center, which was just dedicated the previous afternoon.
After the congregation sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Franklin approached the pulpit with interpreter Daniel Ma, an associate pastor and seminary professor at Nanjing Theological Union Seminary, considered the No. 1 seminary in China.
Franklin told of his grandfather Dr. L. Nelson Bell who came to China in 1916 and served as a medical doctor for the next 25 years. He related how his mother Ruth Bell Graham was born in China in 1920 and fell in love with the Chinese people. The Bell family was forced to leave China when Japan invaded the country during World War II.
“My mother’s desire was to come back to live in China, but she met my father Billy Graham and her life changed,” Franklin said.
But his parents, accompanied by Franklin, did return to China in 1988 to visit Ruth’s birthplace. During that trip, Mr. Graham had opportunities to preach, to meet numerous church leaders and to talk with government officials. During his current trip to China, Franklin has done exactly the same, as he did in 2008.
Sharing the Love of Jesus
On Sunday morning, Franklin drew at length from the Luke 19 story of Zacchaeus, a wealthy but despised tax collector. Franklin pointed to the love of Jesus Christ and how one can have his sins forgiven and his life changed by turning to Christ and receiving Him as Savior.
Zacchaeus was small in stature and struggled in trying to see Jesus as He passed by on his way to Jericho. “Maybe you feel you’re small in the eyes of Almighty God, that your life is not important to Him and that with 1.3 billion people in China, how could God know who you are,” Franklin said.
“I’m here today to tell you that not only does God know who you are, He loves you,” Franklin stated.
But sin prevents each person from approaching and knowing a holy God, Franklin said. However, he repeatedly pointed to the Good News throughout his sermon: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Franklin shared his own story of how he regularly went to church, that he believed in God and in Jesus Christ as His Son, but that he didn’t want Him to be the Lord of his life. “I had pride in my life and I wanted to control my own life,” he said.
But Franklin conveyed that one night he fell on his knees when he was 22 years old and told God that he had sinned against Him and that he wanted to surrender his heart to Christ.
“That night, Jesus came into my heart and God forgave my sin, not because of anything that I had done, but because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross 2,000 years ago,” Franklin explained.
When Jesus passed by, He saw Zacchaeus, Franklin said. “Today, right here at Bethel Church, that same Jesus, who is not dead but is alive, is passing by and He sees each and every one of you and He knows your name,” Franklin said.
“You want to know why?” he asked. “Because God made and created every one of us here today.”
When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He wanted him to come quickly, Franklin pointed out. There was a sense of urgency. But Zacchaeus had a choice to make, either to accept or reject Jesus’ calling.
Zacchaeus had to come God’s way and that’s through Jesus Christ, Franklin added. “There is no other way to God,” he said, quoting John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
Franklin then said that no one in the history of China or in the history of the United States has paid for one’s sins. “Jesus Christ is the only Person in the history of the entire world who has paid for your sins,” Franklin said.
The Choice is Yours
Pausing, Franklin challenged the extremely attentive audience: “You have a choice today. You can accept Him by faith, or you can reject Him. The choice is yours.”
Franklin further explained that if they were willing to tell God that they’re a sinner, that they’re sorry for their sin and wanted to turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ by faith in their heart, then God will forgive them, cleanse them and receive them into His presence–and give them His Holy Spirit to change their life and empower them to live in obedience to Him.
Franklin then extended an invitation to everyone that if they wanted to commit their life to Jesus Christ they should stand and hold their hand high. And just as people have around the world, including in China’s largest church last May, more than 1,000 people responded.
Franklin led those who stood in a prayer to give their life to Christ. Afterwards they received special literature from the church designed to help them begin to grow in their Christian faith.
“Now always remember that God loves you. To Him be the glory,” Franklin closed.