Billy Graham - A Nation at the Crossroads
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to 1 Kings, the eighteenth chapter. 1 Kings, the eighteenth chapter in the Old Testament. 1 Kings 18 and this is one of the most dramatic stories in all the Bible. 18:21 "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal be god, follow him and the people answered not a word". Elijah is the most remarkable character, to me, in all the Old Testament. I like to read about him. He's mentioned 30 times in the New Testament and when Jesus Christ went to the Mount of Transfiguration there were two men that were there with him; Elijah and Moses.
So, we know that hundreds of years after Elijah had died or had been taken to heaven, we know that he came back. And we know that he was living, and he was talking because he was on the Mount of Transfiguration, but here in his life story he suddenly appears at the darkest moment of Israel's history. Never had the nation gone so low morally, spiritually, militarily, economically, as it was at this hour. The nation was struggling for its very existence and out of nowhere there came this rugged, strong, craggy, young, long-haired, sun-tanned son of the desert, Elijah. And he suddenly announced to the people, Elijah is here, and the king trembled on his throne, because Elijah came in the power and the anointing of the Spirit of God. It used to be said that Mary, Queen of Scotts, was more afraid of the prayers of John Knox, one preacher, than she was all the armies of England. One man and God constitute a majority anywhere.
Elijah was a mighty prophet of the Lord. And what had happened in Israel that Israel to go down rapidly was that a very wicked man had come to the throne. His name was Ahab, and the Bible says he did more evil than any other king that had ever proceeded him. And then he did something else. He married a woman from one of the heathen nations which was against ancient Israeli law. He married Jezebel and she worshipped Baal. She didn't believe in God. She didn't believe in the God of ancient Israel. She didn't believe in the God of Moses. She didn't believe in the God of Abraham. She believed in Baal and Baal was one of the worst forms of worship that we've ever known. Filled with sensuality, sex orgies, human sacrifice and all the rest.
And this is a very interesting thing, that in a time when people turn away from the true God, many times, you'll find that they will put sex, violence and their religion together. And we're seeing indications of that in America with the rise of Satan worship, and the occults, the emphasis on sex, the emphasis on violence. Put them together and you have something the Bible says that God abhors, and God will judge, and the wrath of God will fall on that people. And that was the situation when Elijah appeared on the scene. And the first thing that Elijah did was to protest, except Elijah was almost alone. He thought he was alone, but God had told him later that there were 7,000 that hadn't bowed the knee to Baal.
And Elijah said to the king, "All right, here's what I want you to do. I want you to gather all the prophets of Baal that believe in idolatry and lead idolatry in this country. I want you to gather them at Mount Carmel, that looks out over the Mediterranean Sea. And I'll come up there and we'll let all the people come and watch and we'll have a contest. I will debate the 450 prophets of Baal publicly and let the people decide who is God". And the king said, "All right". So, all the people gathered, thousands of people gathered on Mount Carmel and the 400 prophets of Baal. And Elijah was standing for God alone. He was just one man, one solitary prophet standing there all by himself.
He said, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to get two bulls. Build two alters. You call on your god, Baal. I'll call on my God, the true and the living God and we'll see who answers by fire". They said, "All right". So, they built their alter. They cut their bullock up, laid it on the alter, thousands of people watching and then they began to call on Baal. They said, "O Baal, Baal, Baal, Baal, answer by fire. We know you're the true god". And nothing happened. And Elijah stood there and laughed at them. And it's one of the most humorous things in all the Bible. He said, "Go ahead, yell. Maybe your god is on a trip somewhere".
And from morning til noon, they screamed, and they yelled, and they cried, and they prayed. And then they began to cut themselves until blood was gushing out all over the place. Trying to get Baal to answer. But, of course, Baal couldn't answer. Then Elijah said, "All right, it's time for me to take over". He said, "All right, build the alter". And they built the alter, put the bullock on the alter. He said, "Now, I want you to get twelve barrels of water and pour it on top. Dig a trench around, fill that with water, and everything is soaking wet". Then Elijah called upon God, and the fire came down from heaven and burned up the bullock, and burned up the alter, and burned up the whole thing. And the people said, "We believe in the Lord God who has answered by fire".
And Elijah won the day and left Mount Carmel victorious over the false prophets of Baal. I want you to notice who was there. Three groups of people. One group, one man, Elijah. On the other side, 450 prophets of Baal, all experts in religion, philosophy and psychology; and out in between were the vast mass of people who were not sure. They were uncommitted. They were not sure whether Baal was god. They were not sure whether Elijah's God was God. Their ancient traditions made them want to believe in Jehovah. Their interest though was in pleasing the king and being relevant and being in. They didn't want to be old fashioned and traditionalist and out of step. They didn't want to be caught believing in the Ten Commandments if that wasn't the in thing.
You see men have always been sort of faddish. We go after fads. That's true in every generation. And the in thing at that moment was to believe in Baal, with all the freedom of sex and sensuality and the orgies. Now, they didn't like the human sacrifice, but all religion demands some sort of sacrifice, so what they would do they would take their babies, many times, a chosen baby and put him in the hands of this great god and the baby would be burned up and they'd give their babies as human sacrifices. That was Baal worship. But then there were many who were secret followers of the true God. They didn't believe all that hocus-pocus about Baal. They had a guilty feeling about it, but they were afraid. They were afraid of standing up for God; afraid of standing up for what they believed to be truth, so, they didn't take a stand publicly.
You see, Jesus demands a public stand. That's why I ask people to come forward. He demands a public stand. You can't be a secret follower of Jesus and please him. He said if you're not willing to take your stand publicly and openly, I'll not take my stand openly for you in heaven and without the intersession of Jesus Christ, none of us would ever make it. And then Elijah said something to all these people. "If the Lord be God, follow him; but If Baal, then follow him". He said, "Make a decision". God's not going to allow you to have an alter to Baal in your home to materialism in your home and then go to church on Sunday and think that's going to do it. You've got to come all out for Jesus Christ. He must be first and Lord in every area of your life if you're to be acceptable to God.
Now the people had seen the evidence. They knew Baal couldn't give them peace and joy and happiness. They knew that. You know, one of our most famous film stars said the other day, I won't call her name, but she was quoted in one of the magazines saying this, "I was the victim of the American Dream. I've been brought up to believe that when I found success, I would automatically be terribly happy. We were all taught that. Well, I got the success. I'd spent 21-years believing that as soon as all these wonderful things happened to me, all my troubles would vanish. Well, they didn't. It was a big disillusionment", she said. And she's only 21 now. Twenty-one years thinking that if she made it on television and she's famous on television and she's famous in motion pictures around the world, that she'd be happy, but she's said, "It's been a big disillusionment".
You see Baal can't bring inner peace and satisfaction to the human heart. Pascal one said it, the great scientist. He said, "Happiness is neither within us nor without us. It is in God and only when God is in us is happiness within us and without us". How true that is. Happiness and peace and joy come in knowing God. Baal couldn't answer their deepest needs, their great philosophical questions of where did I come from? Why am I here and where am I going? Baal gave them no answers. Neither does capitalism and materialism and secularism and humanism. It's found only in a relationship with God.
You see, you were made for God. Made in God's image. Made for fellowship with God. And you can try all your life and a thousand different directions to find that certain something, and you'll never find it. I've seen men strive to become the most brilliant scientists and I know some of the most brilliant scientists in America that are miserable. I've seen men spend their lifetime making money and I know some of the richest men in America and I know how miserable some of them are. I've seen men strive all their lives to obtain political power, and they get political power. They get the office they were seeking, but it doesn't bring the peace and the joy and the happiness and the fulfillment they thought it would. But here's an interesting thing. I've never seen a person give their lives to Jesus Christ sincerely, but what they didn't find what they were looking for. He satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts and of our lives.
Now Elijah taught us one thing and Jesus teaches it, too. You must make a choice. You have a will of your own and you have to decide how long will you hold between two opinions. Jesus said there are two ways of life. Now the Bible says, "There's a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death". Some of you think you're all right and you're on the right road now. You don't realize you're on the broad road that leads to destruction. Jesus said there are two roads, the broad road and the narrow road. The narrow road leads to eternal life. The broad road leads to destruction and every person in this audience tonight is on one or the other. Which are you on?
He said there are two masters. He said you cannot serve God and mammon. You'll either hate one and love the other or love one and hate the other. He said make a choice. He said there are two fathers. You know the Bible doesn't teach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Not in the sense that many people teach it. By creation, He's our father. By creation, we're all members of the same human race. And that's why we're to love each other, no matter what race we come from. We're all brothers in that sense. But spiritually speaking, spiritually speaking we're not all of the same father and all of the same blood. There are only two groups. Those who are lost and those who are saved. Those on the broad road and those on the narrow road. You must be on one or the other.
And there are two destinies. There is a heaven and there is a hell. I know its not popular today to believe in hell. You can believe in heaven, but people would rather not think about hell. I don't blame you. It's a terrible place, but the Bible teaches it's going to be a hell. There is a hell where men are going to be separated from God forever. And there's a heaven where we are going to fellowship with each other and fellowship with Christ forever. You must make a choice. You young people, you have to make a choice. This is one choice you can't depend on your parents to make for you.
Your parents can teach you and help you and do their best; and many of you parents have done your best with your children. You've prayed for them. You've loved them. But there comes a time when they have to make their own choice about Jesus Christ. They have to decide for themselves, in the lonely arena of their own hearts. The greatest battle that's ever fought is this battle in the heart of a young person about Jesus Christ. And this is one thing you can't depend on anybody to make for you. You have the ability to make it. You have the right to make it. You can say yes or you can say no. It's one or the other. And Jesus does not allow for neutral ground. And he warns against waiting too long.
The Bible says, "Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation". "He that hardeneth his heart, often being reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy". Come while you can. Don't put it off any longer. How long halt you between two opinions? Now when you make that choice, there's going to be a price to be paid. The people who choose Jesus Christ will pay a price. There are thousands of people in other parts of the world. The price they have to pay is they are ostracized from their family. In some parts of the world they can never go farther than grammar school if they make a decision for Christ. They can never get a job above menial labor, if they make a decision for Christ. But in those parts of the world, thousands upon thousands are living for Jesus Christ.
In America, we've had a sort of unnatural situation. It's almost popular to follow Christ in some areas of the country now. That won't last long. There's always a price and if you receive Christ as your Savior and try to live for him, some people are going to sneer and they're going to make fun behind your back and in this period of conformity we don't want to be considered too different, but He calls upon you to be different. When the gang is doing certain things you know to be wrong, You take your stand and say, "No, I can't do that because I'm a Christian, because I believe in Jesus Christ". It costs something to follow Christ. And Jesus said you better sit down and count the cost one day.
You see, a big crowd was following Jesus and he said, "Wait a minute. Count the cost. Do you know that I'm going to die on a cross and if you follow me, you're going to have to go die with me"? "O, we didn't know that Jesus. We thought you were setting up a big kingdom. We were going to be in the kingdom with you". So, they left him.
There will be the cross for you to bear before the crown. When you do come to Jesus Christ, you're going to be tested by God. God never has anyone come to him that he doesn't test. Some of you have made your decisions for Christ this week and already you're being tested. Temptation has come. A friend doesn't understand the step that you've taken. Already you're filled with some doubts and weakness. This is all normal to every person who ever came to Christ. We don't just start and jump right out and be full grown.
Grady Wilson, his daughter just had twins. Well, they weren't born full grown. One was five pounds and one was six pounds and they're just little tiny babies. But they will be full grown some day. But it takes time to grow. God will test you when you come to Christ. And he demands an immediate decision. I wonder how many more sermons it would take to win you to Christ? How many more warnings will God have to give you? How many more graves will have to be dug? How many more wars will have to be fought? How many more earthquakes or tornados and floods will have to come before you make your decision?
The thief on the cross took that one moment and said, "Lord, remember me", and in that moment Jesus said, "Thou shalt be with me in paradise". That quick, you can make your decision and commitment. And remember, God loves you. He has a plan for your life. You're sinful, you're separated from God by sin, and some of the results of this sin are worry and irritability and lack of purpose in life as well as some of the gross immoral sins that we read about. God has provided the cross as a means for you to be forgiven of sin, but you must individually receive Christ as your Lord and your Savior. You and you alone, in the quiet arena of your heart, will have to make that decision. How long will you halt between two opinions?
Charlotte Elliot was a beautiful woman. And a great preacher by the name of Caesar Malan went all over Switzerland. He was put out of his church because of his faith, but once he was in England and he met this beautiful, charming young woman by the name of Charlotte Elliot. She was suffering ill health. He went up to her and asked her if she would become a Christian. She rebuked him and said, "I resent you asking me that". And she was very irritated at him. He said, "I didn't mean to be offensive to you, but I only meant to tell you that God loves you and God's willing to change your life and give you peace in your heart".
That night, Charlotte Elliot could not sleep. The words that the preacher spoke to her kept ringing in her ears. And during the night she got up, got on her knees and gave her life to Christ and she sat down and wrote the hymn that we sing every night, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come". Just as you are. You don't have to go home and change cloths. You don't have to go home and get better. You can't improve yourself. You come just like you are with all your sins and all your failures and all your mistakes; with all your hypocrisy. You come just as you are. He will forgive you and change you and come into your life.
I'm going to ask you to do just that, publicly and openly right now. I'm going to ask hundreds of you to get up out of your seat from all over this stadium and come and stand in front of this platform and say by coming, "I do receive Christ". You may be a member of the church. You might have thought you were right with God before, but somehow you know you're not. You're not sure. You're not certain, but you'd like to be. I'm going to ask you to come right now. From up in the top galleries, it will take a minute or two to come, but we're going to wait.
Hundreds of people have come every night. You come. This is your moment and your hour of commitment. And after you've all come and stand here quietly, I'm going say a word to you, have a prayer with you, give you some literature and you can go back and join your friends. And if you're with friends or relatives or if you've come on a bus, they'll wait for you. You get up and come right now and make your commitment to Christ. We're going to wait.
To you that are watching by television, You can make your commitment right now In your home or wherever you happen to be watching. Hundreds of people here at the University of Kentucky Coliseum are coming to Jesus Christ. They are choosing between these two opinions. They are choosing Christ. They are coming just as they are. You can come just as you are where you are. May God help you to make that commitment tonight. God bless you.