Billy Graham - You Have to Choose
To you that are watching by television, this great stadium here at San Jose University, in the Southern area of San Francisco bay, in San Jose, is filled to overflowing. There are a few empty seats here and there, but if you took the people on the ground, that are sitting all over the ground, they'd more than fill this great stadium where the Spartans play. Tonight I want you to turn with me to the Old Testament, to Joshua, the 24th chapter. To Joshua, the 24th chapter. Now you that are watching on television are going to see a telephone number across the screen (877-772-4559). You call any time during this program, or after the program, and there are counselors standing by to talk with you about your spiritual problems and your spiritual needs. And so, pick up the phone and call. If you call and it's busy, call again.
Now the 24th chapter of Joshua. Joshua, as you know, was a great military leader, and he took the place of Moses when Moses went to be with the Lord. And the 15th verse: now he had called all the leaders of Israel together at a place called Shechem, and he's getting ready to die and this is his farewell address. And during this address, he warns the people about their idolatry. He warns them that the judgments of God will fall upon them unless they live for the Lord. And here's what he says, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve"! If you want to serve the devil, serve him! But make a choice! "Whether the Gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the Gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell", but then he says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".
Joshua said: if every one of you serves other idols and other Gods, makes no difference: as for me and my house, we've already made a decision: we are going to serve the Lord. And that's a decision that every single person here tonight has to make. You either have to decide that you're going to serve the Gods of materialism all around us, or, the true and the living God. And Joshua was warning the people to choose God, to follow him, instead of these other Gods. And so, we have to make a choice. Moses had warned Israel much earlier, a generation earlier, when he was dying. He said, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I've set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live".
Moses had said the same thing that Joshua is saying, separated by many years, and every generation has to hear it, over and over and over again, and that's why the gospel never grows old. It applies to every generation or life. We have to make a choice. Alexander the Great was asked how he conquered the world. He said, "By not wavering". And James says in the first chapter, "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed". He said, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways". Are you unstable about your relationship to Christ? Do you waver in your relationship to Christ? Or are you totally committed to Christ as Savior and Lord? Or do you waver about it?
Many of you waver by the way you live. And Jesus warned the hypocrites, people who pretend one thing and live another. This was his great battle with the hypocrites in the church. We have old Proverbs that are familiar to us all: he who hesitates is lost. Procrastination is the thief of time. A stitch in time saves nine. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don't waver: make a decision, do it now! That's what Joshua was saying. And Joshua, the great military hero, that had led them from victory to victory reminded them of all the victories that God had given. And he said, "Serve God and live! Serve these other Gods and you'll die and come under the judgment of God," and the message has not changed.
Now the wars were over, but Joshua found that the people were going toward idolatry. And many times the problems of peace are greater that the problems of war. And he had called all these leaders to Shechem. Now Shechem was a place, the most historical place in all of Israel at that time, and still is today. It was where Abraham had first settled when he left Ur of the Chaldees. It was were Jacob had purchased his parcel of land. It was where the bones of Joseph had been buried when they were brought up from Egypt. And so there are two mountains there. I've stood there, and on one mountain he put six of the tribes, and on the other mountain, he put the other six, and Joshua spoke with a mighty voice, even though he was an old man.
And he reviews the history of Israel, and how God had blessed them. And how they had won their victories, not by their own power, and their own strategies, and their own ingenuity and their own strength, but by the power of God. And the people should have been grateful to God, but instead, they were now going to other Gods. And we in America should be grateful to God for the blessings he's given us, but what do we find? We find that we're worshipping other Gods. The Gods of pleasure, the Gods of lust, and greed and hate. The Gods of materialism. Even the Gods of war. And Joshua tells them that such a condition cannot continue. They must decide whether they want to serve the idols, or to serve the living God. And he will not allow any neutrality. Neither does Jesus Christ.
And Joshua said you have to decide immediately, now! "Choose you this day", not tomorrow, this day, "whom you're going to serve". And many of you are going to have to decide tonight. What is the number one priority in your life? Is the priority Christ? Or is the priority something else? Christ demands first place. There's no room on the throne of your heart for two Gods. It's either Christ, or it's the other God. Because I believe the emphasis must-, we must lay it out straight that you cannot serve God and Mammon: you must make a choice. And I've found that the harder the challenge is the greater the response. Young people today want a challenge. They want something tough and hard, all right? Give your life to Christ. He'll challenge you. Because he says you must deny self and take up a cross. He says, "I'm going to a place of execution. Come and go with me". Deny your own selfish ambitions and lusts and turn to me and go to the cross with me.
Now Paul taught that a Christian is someone who has turned to God from idols, to serve the living and the true God. There's a film showing throughout the world this year called the idol maker, but a Christian is an idol breaker. And regardless of their decision, Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we're going to serve the Lord". You know, Adam and Eve had to make a choice in the Garden of Eden. God said, "If you want to build a wonderful world, we'll build it together. But I'm going to test you because I've given to you the ability choose. I haven't made you a robot in which I could punch a button and you would obey me. I've made you in my image. You have the right to choose"!
So when Adam and Eve faced that choice, they chose wrongly. They broke the law of God. And God said, "In the day that you do, you will suffer and die". And man had been suffering ever since, and it's all because of that first sin in the Garden of Eden. And man has been inheriting that tendency to sin ever since: the seed of sin is in us when we're born. David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me". Think of it now: at conception, sin was already planted. And then comes the age of accountability. Moral accountability, maybe eight, or nine, or ten years of age when you are held accountable by God for your actions and you choose to sin! And then the rest of your life, you practice sin. You're born toward sin, you choose to sin at a certain point, and then you practice sin. And the Bible says, "We have all sinned," and we're all idolaters.
Now Adam had to make a choice and he made the wrong choice. You have to make a choice. Many of you that are watching by television, I hope that you will use that telephone number right now and call in and make the choice for Christ and say to that counselor, "As for me and my house, I choose the Lord". And then, many choices, like the rich young ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus, and he was filled with questions, and he wanted eternal life, and he said, "Sir, what must I do to find eternal life"? And Jesus said, looked at him and loved him, and said, "Go sell all that you have, give it to the poor, take up the cross, follow me". The young man was grieved: he wept. He wanted Christ, but he wanted his money more. Now if he had said, "All right, I'll do it, Lord, I'm sure the Lord would have said, no, it's not your money I want: I want your heart". It's our attitude toward these idols and toward these things.
The television itself can become an idol. When we walk into the room, all conversation stops, and we sort of sit there in reverence, watching that box to see if J.R. is going to be shot again. Now the Bible says we must choose two ways of life. Jeremiah had written, "Thus saith the Lord, behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death". There's a way of life: there's a way of death. Which way are you on? Jesus said, "I am the way. I am the way. I'm the only way. I'm the only way to permanent peace. I'm the only way to permanent joy. I'm the only way to eternal life. I'm the only way to forgiveness of sin. I'm the only way to the father". You have to come by me. And that eliminates a lot of people.
When Jesus began to talk about dying on the cross, a lot of his followers left him. They said, "Lord, we thought you were going to sit upon a big throne and we were going to drive in Cadillacs, and we were going to have beautiful swimming pools and lovely ladies, and all the rest of it. We didn't really know that you were going to die and wanted us to go with you. We thought this was going to be a kingdom, and we were going to overthrow Rome, and we going to rule the world". And that is going to happen someday, but not now! The cross before the crown. Some of us want the crown before the cross. The Bible says, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death".
What are some of the ways? Well, some people say, "I'm gonna follow my conscience," but you don't follow your conscience. Many of us have dead consciences. Your conscience is no longer a safe guide. You've hardened it: you've deadened it. And then other people say, "Well, I try to be sincere in everything I do". We're here in a football stadium right here. And many years ago, I saw a man pick up a football and he ran 65 yards the wrong way! Now he was one of the most sincere fellows you ever saw. Lost the game. And then there are many people that say, "Well, you know, I do a lot of good works, and I give money to charitable causes, and I do all that. I'm sure God will understand". The Bible says, "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, that not of yourselves, but the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast".
See, if you could work your way to heaven, and pay your way to heaven, you'd get up and say, "Look what I did. I got myself here by my own good works". The only way you're ever going to make it is to come to that cross, where Christ took our sins, and our judgment and our hell, and identify ourselves with him. And then there are some people that say, "Well, I'll reform. I'll do better". I know people that are always saying, "I'm going to do better". But they never do better. They don't have any power within them to do better, until they come to Christ, and when you come to Christ, an explosion takes place, of power that he gives you to live a new life. I can't live the Christian life. I have no power within me to live the Christian life. The Holy Spirit has to live in me, and Christ has to live through me. I cannot live the Christian life. I'm a total flop and failure.
Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat, because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". Few, he said only a few are going to find that narrow gate and that narrow way, as I said last evening. Are you among that few? You not only choose between two ways of life, but you choose between two masters. Jesus said, "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," he says, in Matthew the sixth chapter in the sermon on the mount.
You have to make a choice. All the way through the Bible: choices, choices, choices, choices, choices. Not only between two ways of life and two masters: but you're going to have to choose between two fathers. Two spiritual fathers. He said in John 8, a very shocking statement, the 44th verse, he said, "You are of your father, the devil, and the lust of your father you will do". Now he says, "For many of you, the devil is your spiritual father". Now you're not aware of it. You wouldn't admit it. But that's the way God looks at it. There's either God, your spiritual father, the true and the living God, Christ. Or, there is the devil. And then you have to choose not only between two ways of life and two masters and two fathers, but you have to choose between two destinies: heaven or hell. Solomon wrote about the way to hell, in Proverbs 7:27.
C.S. Lewis, the great Cambridge and Oxford professor, he taught at both universities, used to emphasize, he said, "No one ever had so much to say about the way to hell as did Jesus Christ". On the other hand, no one ever spoke of heaven with more clarity and authority as Jesus Christ. And one of the most played pop songs is the led zeppelin "Stairway to heaven". Jesus Christ is the stairway to heaven. He is the way to heaven. Come to him. And if you want to come to him, pick up that telephone if you're watching, and call that counselor who's waiting to talk to you about the way to heaven and how you can find Christ. He said, "In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you". Yes, Jesus is in heaven preparing your estate right now. Waiting for you. There is a future life, and eternal life does not begin when you die and go to heaven: it begins here and now when you make this choice for Christ. Because eternity, eternal life comes to dwell in your heart tonight. Jesus Christ is the gateway to heaven.
Now this choice also, you must make yourself. Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". Your father can't make it for you. Your mother can't make it for you. Your children can't make it for you. This is where you must choose yourself. He knew that he could not choose for the tribes of Israel. They must choose for themselves. Man is a social being: however, there is an inner sanctuary within ourselves, where we retire from all other fellowships, comradeships, and influences, and there's a lonely arena where the greatest battles of life must be fought alone. And this is a decision that you have to make alone. Moses said, "I call heaven and earth to record this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live forever".
Notice it says, "Thy seed". This had something to do with your children and your grandchildren, and your children's children. My son and I were talking tonight about how it passes on from generation to generation, this faith that we have in Christ. The writer to Hebrews recounts how Moses "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches that the treasures of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer the affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season". He made a choice. Moses could have probably been the Pharaoh of Egypt. He was the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Heir to all the riches and power of Egypt. And he made a choice to suffer persecution and the reproach with the people of God. He didn't know that his name would be in history. He didn't know that some day he would lead all of Israel. He didn't know that some day he would be considered one of the greatest men that ever lived. When he made that choice, he made it on the basis of simple faith in God.
Some think that Guy Lafleur is the world's greatest hockey player, and he said a month ago, that each of us has only one past, but there are many futures. You see, you can't change your past, but you can determine your destiny by deciding for Christ, and when you do that, Christ changes your past! He wipes out all the sins of the past. Because, you see, the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth from all sin. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. When he died on that cross, he forgave all the past. You tonight are reminded of the many sins in your life. The Holy Spirit's bringing them to your mind right now. And you know, they stand against you at the judgment, where every secret thing will be brought out. But Jesus, tonight, offers forgiveness. But he offers more than forgiveness. He offers justification. Just as though you had never committed a sin.
What a wonderful thing to go to bed tonight and know that the past is gone. Forgiven, cleansed, and God no longer remembers your sins. Yes, and this choice is very urgent. To delay makes the right decision harder. Indecision is itself a choice. Not to decide is to decide not to. Choose now! Nowhere in the Bible does it promise a tomorrow. Come while you can. Time itself makes the decision for you if you don't. You say, "But what do I have to do"? Three things: you must be willing to repent of your sin. That means to change your way of thinking about your sins and realize how bad they are in the sight of God. Change your thinking about God and say, "I love him and I'm going to love him with all my heart, mind and soul. I'm going to make him the priority of my life. I'm going to put him first from now on. He's going to be not only my Savior but my Lord".
You may be a member of the church: you may not be a member of any church. You may be an officer in the church, but you're not sure about your relationship with Christ, and you want to be sure. And you must be willing to repent, and secondly, by faith, receive Christ into your heart. That means you put your whole weight on him and trust him and him alone, and thirdly, you follow and serve him as his disciple and follower and obey him. That means a big change for many of you, if you make this choice. I'm going to ask you to make it now.
And I'm going to ask you to do it publicly, as we've seen thousands of people this week already come to Christ. I'm going to ask you to get up from your seat. If you start from that top stand up there, it'll take you two minutes, so start now. And come and stand in front of this platform, and as you all stand here in front of the platform, I'm going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you, and give you some literature, and you can go back and join your friends. You're making that choice by coming and standing here.
And the reason I do it publicly is because every person that Jesus called, he called publicly. Joshua called upon the people publicly. Moses called upon the people publicly to inscribe their commitment that would be seen publicly for generations to come. I'm asking you tonight to publicly and openly come, and say tonight, "Christ is going to be priority in my life. I want to know that I have eternal life". And you that have been watching by television, pick up the telephone and call that number. There are people standing by to talk to you right now.
You that are watching by television can see that here in this stadium at San Jose university in California, that hundreds of people are coming to make their commitment to Christ. Pick up the phone. You see on your screen (877-772-4559), you dial that number, and if you don't get in right away, keep calling. They'll be there all evening, and make your commitment to Christ over the telephone. Or ask the counselor to answer your questions. God help you to make that commitment. And please go to church next Sunday.