The Need for Strong Christian Leaders

By   •   September 26, 2013

It is time to start rebuilding the character of the American people. Our greatest leaders came from families whose ethical foundations were built into their very souls. Abraham Lincoln, with neither natural ambition nor education, never escaped the unique character building principles formed in his life by his loving stepmother. Christian character is not old-fashioned or outmoded.

J.D. Grey once said, “When we religious teachers urge young people to live sober, clean and honest lives, we are accused of ‘preaching.'” But the fact remains that business advocates the same thing. Nearly every week we receive letters of inquiry from bonding companies and corporations, asking questions about certain individuals. One questionnaire reads as follows: “To your knowledge is the employee known to be: a user of intoxicating liquor; interested in gambling, in speculation; a user of drugs, opiates or the like; the possessor of a good reputation; happy in domestic life; extravagant; honest and trustworthy; suspected in any fraud; in good company and associates?” It is perfectly obvious that even business considers a strong Christian character of vital importance.

How about the questionnaire on your personal life? Could you pass that sort of examination? One mistake is the tendency to confuse character with greatness. A.W. Tozer said, “Bible characters fall into four classes: first, those who are great but not good; second, those who are good but not great; third, those who are neither good nor great; and fourth, those who are both great and good.”

Goodness is possible for everyone, even though greatness is achieved only by a few. Greatness contributes nothing to one’s personal and inward happiness. Goodness contributes everything. Most people aspire to be great, only a few desire to be good. We are upside down. We are placing value on the wrong thing. Greatness requires a combination of qualities rare in nature. Goodness is a gift of God and may be acquired by the humblest person.

A famous newspaperman said some time ago, “The world is in its present mess because of the absence of character.” The glue that holds society together has been allowed to dry out. We have come unstuck, and we shall certainly fall apart unless somehow we can put moral virtues back into fashion.

Man measures material wealth. God measures character. Man says we must have something. God says we must be something. Man measures values by the degree of his own strivings and accomplishments. God measures true values by the degree to which His power is permitted to flow through a person.

In the sight of God, permanence and stability and character are related to conversion to Christ. Outward circumstances change, and as a result people change, but Christ is unchanging. Jesus remains the same in the storm or in the calm. His disciples withered under certain circumstances and were astounded to notice that Jesus was the same regardless.

Even though Nicodemus was a great religious leader, Jesus said that he still lacked something. Jesus turned to him and said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). In other words, Jesus said, the only way that you can establish a permanent Christian character, the only way that you can be rid of the sin in your soul, the only way you can have a new life, the only way that you can begin to build a new and better world, is to be born anew.
Jesus taught that all of man’s difficulties and problems come from a sinful heart. It is the heart that defiles a person, He said: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20). The only way to build true Christian character is through a new birth.

This divine new birth is not the remolding or improvement of the nature with which you are born. It is not the remaking of the old nature. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). God wants to create a new nature in the individuals who make up our society.
The new birth is the impartation of a new life wrought in the Christian by divine power through a supernatural act, whereby we become partakers of the divine nature. The new nature is spiritual and distinct from the old nature. It is a God-implanted, divine life. The Bible teaches that it is the very life of Christ Himself. The only way for us to have true Christian character is to be born again.

When we, by faith, accept Jesus Christ as Savior, then God places within us a totally new nature. Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in our hearts. The Christian begins to produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The Bible teaches that we cannot produce these fruits unless we have been born from above.

Many people ask the same thing that Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by being born again?” (Cf. John 3:4-8). The first time we experience birth, we are born physically into the physical world. But at the moment we are born into the physical world, we are born spiritually dead. The Bible teaches that we are dead spiritually.

The Bible says the natural man “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are … spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). We are the natural man. We have been born once into the physical world, but we are blind to spiritual things.

There comes that moment in life when the Spirit of God convicts us of sin. It may be a sermon preached, it may be a tragic circumstance, it may be a disappointment in life. But the Spirit of God uses these things to convict us of the fact that we are sinners.

Christ is presented to us as the only hope of salvation from the bondage of sin. We are told to turn from our sins and commit and surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. The moment we do that—and it happens instantaneously—the Bible says we are born again. It is not a matter of emotion or some great feeling that sweeps over us. It is a simple act of commitment to Christ. Then by faith we believe the Word of God, which says, “God puts a new nature in you” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

We cannot inherit Christianity. There are people who think they are Christians because they have Christian parents. I could be born in a garage, but that would not make me an automobile. We can be born in a Christian home, but that does not make us Christians. We may live a fairly decent and moral life, but that alone does not make us born again. We may go to church once in a while, but that does not make us born again. We may give our money to charitable organizations, but that does not make us Christians. Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). You must be born again.

There are just two conditions to the new birth: the first is repentance, the second is faith. At the moment we are born again, God will give us supernatural power. Lying, cheating, hate, lust and all such things will disappear if we let the Spirit of God have his way in our lives.

In every part of the world where I am invited to preach the Gospel, I seek for individuals to be born again. It is only as people are born from above that they can live the Christian life, and it is only as we inject Christians into our society that nations can be saved. We have tried to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and we have failed. We have tried many schemes and philosophies. They have all failed. Now I beg of you to choose Christ. You cannot know the fruits, thrills, joys and destiny of the Kingdom of God unless you have been born again.

Have you been born again?  ©1976 BGEA

Reprinted from Decision magazine, September 1976. Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

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  1. Rachel says:

    While praising and worshiping God, I got a picture of a sign on a wooden gate that read, “Welcome Home.” To all of you who have made a decision for Christ, welcome home. All Heaven rejoices when children come home. STAND STRONG IN GOD AND PRAY OFT

  2. Bryan says:

    On may 13, 1984 I knelt at an alter and accepted Christ as my personal Savior.I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and He did.When I stood up I immediately felt I was changed.I did not understand what had just happen or how,but I was changed!

  3. Sally Thomas says:

    Yes you must be born again. Jesus said this to Nicodemus. Though Nick was highly educated, held many high positions, he did not know this one big truth.i really like Nick's responds to can a man enter into the mothers womb when he is old?

  4. Brady says:

    Jesus Christ is the worlds only hope and it is my prayer that Christians would stand up and spread the Gospel truth to all the ends of the earth like Pastor Graham has done for so long. Let us join together and praise our marvelous Savior!!!!!!

  5. Jack says, says:

    Fore all of us, That are BORN AGAIN CHRISTIANS, There is one clear Mandate, Who are, Children of GOD, And Brothers and Sisters of JESUS CHRIST, TO PROCLAIM, THE GOSPEL, And Make Disciples, Of all NATIONS, PRAY TODAY, GOD BLESS.

  6. Patrick says:

    Dear Reverend Graham, thank you for having a true concern for my spiritual welfare, actively seeking me, helping me daily to improve morally so I may continue in obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love. 1 Peter 1:22

  7. Eric says:

    The transformation begins with us. I pray that everyone who commented here, individually, seeks out from our Heavenly Father all the He will give us, in the name of our Lord Jesus, to stimulate the change He wants for our world.

  8. Cornelia says:

    Matt 24, “Watch For as a thief in the night, I (Jesus) am coming. You would not want a thief to get in your house, so watch!!!! And live for Christ every day,

  9. Stephen says:

    The Need for Strong Christian Leaders—by Billy Graham.Thank you for those fine words. Jesus for sure is our 'strong leader'. With God our father and the Holy Spirit also, what a wonderful powerful spiritual leader we have. Amen.

  10. Pete says:

    These words take me back to when I first gave my life to the Lord. Thank you Mr Graham for all that you have done for me. My prayer is that our great God will raise up leaders in both the U.S. and the U.K. who are both Christian and born again.