Billy Graham - Who Do You Serve?
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to the third chapter of Daniel. Now, at this time, Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon and he was the greatest of all the kings probably that ever lived. And he conquered Jerusalem. and he takes some Jewish captives among the young men, many of them in their middle or late teens. They were scientifically inclined. He takes them back to Babylon to train them to help him as be builds his empire, very much like the Soviets and the Americans after World War II. They took German scientists. I remember one of them was Wernher von Braun who made a great contribution to the American military power.
And I remember sitting with Wernher von Braun not long before he died. We were at a banquet in Los Angeles at the Century Plaza Hotel. And my wife and I happened to be at the table with him. And we'd known him quite a long time. And he told us how, intellectually, he'd come to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Not just by faith alone, but he became convinced that there was a God and that drove him to study the Bible and the New Testament and he came to know Christ as his Savior.
Now among the captives of Nebuchadnezzar there were a number of top young Jewish men. Four of them are named in this passage. Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. And they were disciplined in all the ways of the Babylonians so that they could help as Nebuchadnezzar extended his empire to become the greatest empire in the world at that time. Now Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego knew assertive discipline early because, as we've already heard in the Scripture that was read to us by John Wesley White, they refused to eat of the king's meat and drink of the king's wine because the king's meat had been offered to idols and they knew it was against the law of their God. Now they were 1,500 miles from home. Who would know? Who would care? But they knew God was watching and as young men they dedicated themselves and they committed themselves totally to God.
Now Daniel had had a dream and he called in the astrologists and the soothsayers and the scientists and all the other people and he said, "Tell me what the dream is". Nebuchadnezzar had the dream and they said, "Well, tell us the dream". He said, "I can't tell you the dream. I can't remember it, but it troubles me. Tell it to me. If you don't' tell it to me," he said, "I'm going to have you hacked to pieces". Boy, that really made them study and work and try to come up with the answer, But they said, "We can't tell it to you unless you tell us the dream. We can't interpret it".
And so, Daniel called one of the guards over to him and he said, "I can interpret the dream. God has revealed it to me". My God has. And he went to see Nebuchadnezzar and he said, "Don't kill all the astrologers and the soothsayers, and the wise men of Babylon. I'll tell you the dream and I'll interpret it". He said, "What you dreamed was the dream of a great statue. And it had a gold head And its breast and arms were made of silver And its thighs and stomach were made of brass It had legs of iron and had feet of clay mixed with iron". Or iron mixed with clay. And Nebuchadnezzar said, "That's right. God has revealed it to you. Now, what's the interpretation"? And so, Daniel interpreted and said, "You, sir, are the head of gold. You are the greatest empire, the greatest king that will ever live and then it will decrease on down till the end of history and then will come the stone cut out without hands and will crush the image and it will come tottering down".
In other words, Daniel was being told by God that all the empires of the world will someday fail and only the kingdom of God is going to survive, but that's the second chapter. Now we come to the third chapter. There is another image. Nebuchadnezzar has become very powerful, very egotistical, as men of power often get, and so he decides he'll build a statue to himself. A big image. Ninety-nine feet high, made of gold, and he calls thousands of his subjects from many of the countries of the Middle East to come on the plain of Dura. And there he says, "When you hear the trumpet sound and you hear the music play and you see the flags coming in and you see the marching of the soldiers, I want all of you to bow down and worship the image and if you don't, I'm going to throw you into flames of fire, and you'll be burned up".
You see, false religion does not hesitate to use force. The Bible teaches that Satan is the god of this world. He's the prince and power of the air. He's the prince of this world and he uses force to get people to believe strange things and we're seeing force used by religious groups today all over the world as tensions are mounting on a scale so rapid that we cannot keep up with them. And we've seen even in the past few days things happening that we never dreamed would happen, but they're happening. and it seems as if the world is rushing madly toward World War III and World War III will be Armageddon. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are already riding. I can hear their hoofbeats. And unless we repent and turn to God, they're going to come with all of their war and their destruction and starvation and diseases and the death and the hell that they bring with them. He commands that they worship the image.
But Christ also was asked to worship an image. He was asked to bow down and worship the devil in Matthew 4. But Jesus didn't argue. He didn't debate. He said, "It is written". All he did was to use the Word of God. That's the reason it's important to memorize passages in the Bible because He just used it as a weapon. And He said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord Thy God and Him only shall thou serve". God had said in the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me". Jesus said in Matthew 6, "No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other".
You cannot serve God and materialism at the same time. You have to choose. That's a choice that every person in this room will have to make. It's a choice that every person watching by television will have to make It is a choice that every one of us has to make between bowing down to the things of this world that are evil and wrong and bowing down before the true and the living God. And the images that Satan calls upon young people to bow down to today: pride, lust, many other things. Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego restrained their desires in situations of temptation, and they said, "No, we will not bow down to the image".
Now Nebuchadnezzar could destroy the body, but not the soul. and Jesus warned about those who could destroy the body and the soul. In Matthew 10 He said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell". You have a body, but living inside of you is your soul, your spirit. That's the part of you that will live forever. The part of you that remembers, and the part of you that feels, and the part of you that's the real you will live forever. And Jesus said, "Fear the one that can destroy both body and soul". That's the devil. Because hell was created not for you but for the devil and his angels. And if you persist in bowing to the images of this world and rejecting the true and the living God in your life, then you're going to follow the devil to hell.
Now to disobey God's commands is called spiritual and eternal death. Now these three Hebrews did not bow down. They stood up. They were the only ones of the thousands that were there from the different languages and the nations and the ethnic backgrounds of the whole world of that day that came to bow before the image of Nebuchadnezzar, they stood stiff like this as ramrods. They wouldn't bow. And of course, it was reported immediately to the emperor. Now the alternates before them. They could have taken an alternate route. First, they could have bowed and avoided trouble. It would have compromised all that they believed in. They could have rationalized and said, it's our duty to obey the king and that's our first duty. But they had a higher law. They had The Ten Commandments. They had God. And secondly, they could have said, "it's just a matter of form. After all, religion is a matter of the heart. God knows that inwardly we're true to him, even though outwardly we'll bow down to the image". Or they could have stayed indoors that day. That would have been cowardly.
They had an opportunity to witness to thousands that day and they took an opportunity to do it. Jesus said, "He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me". The Bible says, "If sinners entice thee, consent not. Follow not the multitude to do evil". Then they could have said, "We're far from home. God doesn't expect us to live like we did in Jerusalem. Who will know? Who will see us"? Or they could have said we're under obligation to the king and they were. He'd been very good to them. Or they could have refused to bow, which they did. They refused to bow. "Choose you this day whom you will serve," says the Scriptures. Who are you going to serve? The true and the living God, or are you going to serve these things that the devil brings in your path? The images that he placed before you to bow to, for you to give in to. The decision could not be put off. They had to make a decision then. When the heralds announced it. When the announcement was made, they had to make a decision.
Just like some of you will have to make a decision tonight. You can't put it off. "He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy". God says, "My Spirit will not always strive with man". There comes a point beyond which you can go in which it is very difficult to return. And tonight, for many of you, this is the decision night. It's either yes or no. You say, "Well it may be maybe". Some of you will try to straddle the fence and live in both worlds, but God doesn't allow that. Jesus will not compromise with you. He will not make it easier for you. He will not lower His standards. If He had lowered His standards, He wouldn't have gone to the cross. But He went to the cross and He died; and He shed His blood for our sins. He rose again from the dead. He's coming back to rule this world someday.
The gospel plan is all set and God says, "You have to repent". You have to receive Him by faith. You have to accept My Son into your heart as Lord and Savior and let Him rule your life, if you're to enter My kingdom. Yes, they refused to bow to the devil and give in to the devil. What if it does cost you a few pleasures in order to save your soul? Would it not be better to be thrown into the fiery furnace here than to have both body and soul cast into hell forever? When your trial comes, and it will if you're a true born-again Christian. If you're following Christ you're going to be tried and tempted and shaken as you've never been before. When if comes, act in the light of eternity. Do not judge the situation by the kings' threat or by the heat of the burning fiery furnace but by the everlasting God and the eternal life which awaits you.
Don't let the music of this world fascinate you. Don't let the drumbeats cause you to march to the drumbeats of this world. March to another drumbeat that the world cannot hear. The drumbeat from heaven. March by the steps ordered by the Holy Spirit and set by the example of Jesus Christ. And if you want to make that commitment... You've been watching television you'll see a telephone number there. Pick up your phone and call that number. Somebody is waiting there to talk with you, to help you make that commitment, and that decision right now. Some of you are feeling the pressures, some of you are going through trials and tribulations and temptations which are too great for you and you need help, you need prayer. There's someone there that will pray for you. And if you dial and it's busy, call back several times. They will be there all evening. These brave young men dared the rage of the infuriated tyrant. And because they saw Him who is invisible and had respect unto the recompense of the reward, they believed. But the king gave them another chance.
Now after this life is over, the Bible does not promise that you'll have another chance. No place in the Bible do I find where you're going to have a second chance. The moment you die, that's it. But the king gave them another chance, another opportunity. And they answered. Tremendous answer. "O Nebuchadnezzar," they said, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, that our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, then He will deliver us out of thine hand, O King. But if not, if not, be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which you have set up". They didn't know that God would ever deliver them. They did not cringe and say, "We beseech thee, King Nebuchadnezzar, please don't throw us in. Your majesty, don't. Think it over sir. We can't disobey God, but we don't want to disobey you either". And they didn't say, "Let's have a consultation and come to terms". And they went into this terrible furnace and the men that threw them in were burned up. That's how hot it was. They said to God, "Thy will be done". And God says, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life".
It was only after their decision. They made a decision. After they made their decision it was then that God intervened and delivered. He says, "Lo, I am with you always". And when you have troubles and difficulties He says, "My grace is sufficient for you". And then the king looked into the furnace, standing back as far as he could so he wouldn't be burned up, and he was astonished at what he saw. What did he see? He said, "I see four men. and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God". Three men had been thrown in. They should have been nothing but a crisp. They were bound. But he sees four men and the fourth is like unto the Son of God. God had either sent His angel there or it was the Son of God Himself that had come. God is with His people in the fiery furnace. He is with His people in times of temptation and trouble and trial. "Nothing shall separate us from the love of God," says the Scriptures. They have no hurt. "The Lord shall preserve thee. He shall preserve thy soul, for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil".
And who is he who will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good. The way they walked into the fiery furnace, calm, self-possessed, joyful. Christ was with them. God was with them. Their bonds came off and when the king ordered them taken out, they came walking out straight as a ramrod with their head high. Not even a hair of their head was singed. Their clothes, they'd gone in fully dressed, their clothes didn't even have the smell of smoke on them. And the king bowed down before them. And he said, "Your God is the true and the living God". And he ordered all the wise men and the soothsayers, and the Chaldeans thrown into that furnace and then he ordered that great crowd from all over the world to bow down to the true and the living God. And he destroyed the image he'd built. And it changed Babylon because three young men dared stand alone. Dared to die. Dared to look death in the face and say, "I believe".
That's what Jesus Christ did. He stood before the cross. The cross was to be the next day. And that night, on Gethsemane, He knelt down with His disciples and He prayed all night, and He sweat drops of blood, and He said, "Lord," to His Father, "My Father, not My will but Thine be done". If there is no other way to save the human race, if there is no other way to save Bill and Jim and Suzy and Mary down yonder in 1983, I'll go to the cross. They deserve death, they've broken the law, they deserve judgement, and they deserve hell, but if You want Me to and if it's Your will, I'll go and take their hell and their judgement in their place. So, He stepped out the next day. They put a crown of thorns on Him. Here He was the Son of God with 72,000 angels with drawn swords ready to come and deliver him and sweep this whole planet out of existence. He said, "No, I love them".
And then He took that cross on His back and staggered after they'd beaten Him and His back was bleeding and they'd pulled His beard and His face was bleeding and they led Him up Golgotha's mount and there they put a spike in each hand and a spike through His feet and a spear in His side and He hung on the cross, naked in front of a mass of people shouting, screaming at Him and He stayed there for you and for me. He took it all alone on that cross for you, so that you could have everlasting life. He took the furnace of hell for you, so that you might be forgiven of your sins and when you die, go to heaven. And have peace and joy here and now. And have Christ with you through the Holy Spirit now. Every day.
You don't have to live one minute alone. Every problem and every difficulty that you face, He's there. He helps you in deciding whom you're going to marry, or what your vocation is going to be or what your life is going to be or help you in your studies, to help you in your relationships with other people. He's there to help lift your burdens here and now. That's besides the life to come. He gives both, life here and now and life to come. And it's all yours if you put your faith and confidence in Him.
You say, "Well, what do I have to do"? Three things. First, repent of your sins. How many of you here tonight could tell me what repentance is? You think you really know Christ, don't you? You go to church, you've been baptized, you've been to Sunday School, but you probably don't even know what repentance is. Repentance means change. The change of your mind, the change of your way of living. If when you came to Christ, your life didn't change dramatically, over a period of time, then there's something wrong with that decision. If you have a doubt in your heart or mind that you're ready to meet God right now, you better settle it tonight and recommit your life to Christ and say, "Lord, I need you".
I was the leader of the young people in my church, but I really didn't know Christ in a personal way. And one night, I found him. He found me, changed my life completely and it was a totally different Billy Graham than the one that just went to church and led young people and told the elders of the church that I believed all the catechism and believed all those things. I did believe them with my head, but not my heart. My will had not been surrendered to the will of Christ. And then the second thing is by faith you receive him. The word faith means commitment. We've heard that word tonight. Commitment. That means you totally surrender for the rest of your life to Jesus Christ not only as Savior but as Lord. You surrender your personal life, your body, your mind, everything to him. And then thirdly, you're willing to obey Him and follow Him and serve Him.
Three things: repent, believe. And the word believe is where we stumble because we do believe with our minds, but I'm talking about believing with everything you have. Surrendering it all to Him. And then obeying Him no matter what it cost. The world or the furnace, which will it be? Because there is a judgement to come. And if you'll make that decision tonight, I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat. We've seen several hundred every night do what I'm going to ask you to do. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform and say, by coming, symbolically, I do repent of sin. I do receive Christ as best I know how. I will follow Him with his help. I'm going to ask you to come and stand here and after you've come, I'm going to say a word to you, have a prayer with you and we'll give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. It's a lifetime commitment to Jesus Christ. Quickly, you come. We're going to wait.
As you can see these hundreds responding here, we want you to take time to call that number now on your screen (877-772-4559). Counselors are standing by ready to talk with you. If the line is busy, just wait a few moments and then call again. Counselors will be there as long as the calls keep coming in.
You that have been watching by television can see that many people here in Oklahoma City are coming to make their commitment to Christ. You can make that commitment where you are. Pick up the telephone and call the number on your screen. And if you don't reach someone, keep dialing. They'll answer after a while. May God bless you and help you as you make this commitment and be sure and go to church next Sunday.