As you probably already know, two giants in the world of Protestant Christianity have died this year. Billy Graham and R.C. Sproul were both powerful influences in my life. This needs to be acknowledged.
It was through the preaching of Billy Graham that I became aware of who Jesus Christ really was, and that I needed him as my Savior.
The year was 1971. I was 13 years old. I heard the amazing story by watching a Billy Graham Crusade on my family's television. It was, of course, a black & white, with fuzzy reception (the antenna had to be adjusted just right to get the best picture).
Amazingly, 47 years later, that Billy Graham sermon can be watched again. Here is the link: Who Was Jesus-Chicago 1971
But Billy Graham has always been a special person to me.
And then, in more recent times (like, for the past 15 years, or so) it has been RC Sproul of Ligonier Ministries who greatly influenced my life and Christian walk.
While Billy introduced me to Christ, it was RC Sproul who taught and fed me on the Word of God like I had never been fed before. R.C. went beyond giving milk to babes; he delivered the "strong meat" of scripture (as mentioned in the book of Hebrews).
For me, with a Baptist foundation, and a foray into pentecostalism, hearing RC Sproul's full-bodied depth of Biblical exegesis, was like a drowning man being brought to the surface of the water.
R.C introduced me to the concept of progressive sanctification, which is, I dare say, the primary message for Believers in the New Testament. I do not remember hearing this message before I heard it from R.C Sproul.
Besides that, the depths of my own depravity, contrasted against the grace and mercy of God became so much clearer to me (and central to my Christian walk) through the preaching and teaching of R.C.
Hardly a day goes by that I do not listen to RC Sproul's teaching through his daily internet radio program, which is online at Ligonier Ministries, or can be heard on RefNet internet radio.
So it is that I am thankful to God for raising up men like Billy Graham and RC Sproul. Their gain, in death, is this world's loss.
P.S. Billy Graham and R.C. Sproul both had solid, and long marriages. And neither was ever, to my knowledge, associated with financial or sexual scandals. They were not perfect men, of course, but they were godly men—true stalwarts of the faith they espoused.