Billy Graham - Choices We Make
Tonight, I want to take my text from my new book. It’s found in Joshua 24:15. “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. He made a choice. Joshua voted. Now Joshua had led the people of Israel after the death of Moses. He was a great general, and now at the end of his life, he’s called all the people together at Shechem.
Now Shechem was between two mountains. One was the mountain of law. The other was another mountain and in between those two mountains they gathered. Now the history of Israel was always up and down. For a little while they’d serve the Lord and then they would fall back into their old ways and go to their old idols and in this case, it was Baal. And he was telling them, you’ve got to make a choice. It’s between Baal and God. Which is it going to be? Who do you vote for? You know, we have old proverbs. I suppose you have them here in North Florida. 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. Now they made decisions and they cast their votes. No matter what the cost was, because of what they believed. And Joshua said, I’m calling my family together and we’re voting for God. We’re going to serve the true and the living God.
Now, outwardly they’re followers of God but deep in their hearts they were idolaters. And Joshua says that such a condition cannot continue. You must decide whether you’re going to worship those idols, or worship the living God. And they must decide immediately. That was Israel’s day of election. Israel’s day of decision. They must go on record for God or against him. And you must decide tonight. There are hundreds of people here tonight that have to decide tonight And your decision tonight, yes or no, will decide where you’ll be a hundred years from now. Because you see only one God can occupy the throne of your heart. Scripture says, the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. I the Lord thy God am a jealous God”.
Now, we have idolatry today in subtle ways. Our actors and actresses and academics, many times, and even athletes, can very easily, subtly, become our gods. Richard Phelps wrote in Time Magazine in September, with regards to the cocaine deaths of sports superstars, he said, “The trouble is that Americans tend to think of athletes as god-like beings”. And sometimes that is true. We make too much of some of the young players and these young players sometimes just cannot take it and they crack up because it takes experience and maturity to take all the money and all the fame so suddenly, at such a young age. And Paul taught that a Christian is someone who has turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. But regardless of what the people did, Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord".
I don’t care if the whole outfit turns against God. I don’t care if all of you turn to idolatry. My house and me, we’re going to serve the true and the living God. Have you ever said that? Have you ever said I’m going to serve Christ no matter what my peers think, or what my classmates think or what the people I work with think, or my neighbors? Robert Browning exclaimed a hundred years ago, “This business of life is made up of terrible choices”. And it is. We have to make some of these choices in our lives. Adam had to make that choice. Was he going to build his world with God and have peace in the world and have justice in the world or was he going to go his own way? He decided to go his own way and to listen to the devil. And he led the whole world astray.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus wanting to find some spiritual help and Jesus said "All right, would you like to have eternal life"? Or the rich young ruler said, "What must I do to inherit eternal life"? And Jesus said, if you want eternal life you do this and this and this and this and this. The rich young ruler left sadly because he couldn’t pay the price and Jesus would not bargain with him. Every person that ever lived has to make the same choice. It’s either the world and its pleasures and its gods or it’s Christ. Which is it for you?
Now first, we must choose two ways of life, between two ways. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Thus saith the Lord, behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death”. Which road are you on? Jesus Christ said, “I am the way”. “I am the way” Come to Christ. He will give you a new strength and a new power and a new joy and a new peace and a purpose for living. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man”, the Bible says, “but the end thereof are the ways of death”. It looks right, that road you’re on. The path you’ve chosen looks right. It looks so good. That business you’re in, that school you’re in, looks so good, but one of these days, unless you’re committed to Christ and in the will of God, you’ll soon find out that you’re on the wrong road.
Some people say, “Well if I follow my conscience, isn’t that enough”? No, because your conscience can be dead. Many people have a dead conscience. But when you come to Jesus Christ, he re-sensitizes the conscience. You see, you tell a lie when you’re a child and your conscience bothers you. Now you can look a person straight in the face and tell a lie and it doesn’t bother you at all. There was a time when you would do some other things and it would bother you and now you can do it and it doesn’t bother you at all.
You say, “Well it’s not so bad then”. Your conscience doesn’t bother. Why? Because your conscience has been seared or it’s dead. But when you come to Christ, he gives you a new conscience so that you can be sensitive to those things that are wrong. People say, “Well, being sincere, if I’m sincere in life, isn’t that enough?” No, it’s not enough. You can be sincere. My mother was very sincere one time when I was sick, and she gave me some iodine by mistake. She thought she was giving me cough medicine. But it was wrong. Sincerely wrong. Or they say, “Well, if I do so many good things for people and I smile at people and I’m friendly with people. Don’t you think God understands if I commit a little sin now and then? He’ll understand. He’s a good God and a loving God and all that”.
No, God doesn’t understand. If you know Christ, then those sins are forgiven. But, you see, we’re not saved by our goodness and our own works. I’ve come from a country, France, where many people think that they’re saved by their good works. They’ve been taught that since childhood as a part of religion. But you’re not saved by good works. You’re saved by the grace of God. “For by grace are we saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast”.
If I was saved by my own goodness, I’d get up to heaven and I’d walk around and brag and say, “Look what I did to get here. I was a good boy”. But we’re all sinners. None of us deserve to be in heaven. God says we’re to be as holy as He is. I can’t be as holy as God. So, what happens? Christ came and died on the cross and shed his blood to provide for me a holiness that I do not naturally have. And he provides a cloth of holiness for me and righteousness that I don’t deserve. Then there are people who say, “Well, I’ve reformed”. Yes, you can reform the rest of your life, but that’s not it. You must come to Christ and you must enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow road.
So, there’s a choice that you have. You have to vote. One life or the other. Which will it be? A life of surrender to Christ as Lord and Savior or a life in which you surrender to yourself and your own desires and your own pleasures and your own lust and your own greed and your own jealousies. And then you have to make a choice 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. You have to make a choice. It’s either self or Christ. Which will it be? Not only two ways of life, not only two masters, but also, you have to choose between two destinies.
What is your destiny? Where will you be fifty or a hundred years from tonight? You’ll be somewhere. The real you. Your body will be in the grave, perhaps, but you, the real you, your soul, your spirit, the thing that thinks and remembers and loves and so forth, that’s the part of you that will live forever either in heaven or hell and you’ve got to make a choice between the two. Solomon wrote about the way to hell in Proverbs 7. C.S. Lewis, the great Cambridge and Oxford professor, used to emphasize that no one ever had so much to say about the way to hell as did Jesus Christ and he was right. On the other hand, no one ever spoke of heaven with such clarity and authority as did Jesus Christ.
One of television's most popular programs during the last year has been entitled “Highway to Heaven”. Jesus Christ is the highway to heaven. He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions”. We were in Romania last year holding meetings and there were thousands of people as far as you could see. And they took me into a place called Moldavia and they took us on a little sight-seeing tour up into the hills and the mountains and so forth, and they took us to churches and buildings that were painted about a thousand years ago with a kind of paint that has never lost his glow and its color and they don’t know how they did it. They think maybe they used honey, but they’re not sure. All the paintings are religious paintings because the people didn’t have any Bibles and they didn’t have any Christian literature and they had no way of telling the story of the Bible. So, they taught the Bible with paintings on the sides of buildings and you can see the whole Bible story.
And I saw one painting in beautiful blue and the various colors that had lasted a thousand years and I thought to myself, "Look at that". It was a picture of a ladder that was going from the fires of hell up to where Jesus was at the top of the ladder in Paradise. And down below were demons all the way up that ladder pulling at them, pulling at them, trying to get them into the flames. Then over them were the angels helping them along up that ladder. And I thought that’s a little bit like it. It might be distorted. It may not be theologically exactly right, but they had the idea, because there is a constant battle for your soul going on all the time.
You see, your soul is important to the devil. He wants your soul. He’ll pay any price and some of you are selling your soul so cheaply. “What shall if profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” The devil will give you the whole world, if you’ll follow him. But some of you will follow him and he won’t give you anything. You just follow him because you’re like the pig that’s following the man that’s dropping the beans, going to the slaughter pen. Every little bit he drops a bean and the pig goes, following right along. And you don’t even think that your following the devil in the wrong direction. Yes, Jesus Christ is the highway to heaven. But be aware, “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me”, He said. And then this choice, or this vote that you make has got to be yourself.
You must make that vote yourself. For as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I don’t know when, I guess one of the years’ most popular songs is Madonna’s "Papa Don’t Preach". Now Joshua didn’t hesitate for one moment to preach to those people. He said, “As for me and my house...” He was voting for Christ, for God. He knew that he could not choose for the tribes of Israel. They must choose for themselves. He had to choose for himself. Man is a social being, However, there is an inner sanctuary within us where we retire from all other fellowship, all other influences. There’s a lonely arena in the depths of your heart where the greatest battle of life must be fought alone. That’s your decision about Christ. Your parents can’t make it for you. The church can’t make it for you. Your friends can’t make it for you. Your girlfriend, your boyfriend can’t make if for you. You have to make it yourself. You must make the commitment.
One of the popular songs according to Billboard is entitled, “Lonely Alone”. And how true that is. Lonely alone. And it’s in that part of you and when you voted, you yourself had to cast your own vote. Moses said, “I call heaven and earth to record this day that I’ve set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life”. You choose life that you and your seed may live. It affects future generations. It affects your children and your grandchildren. A decision that my grandfathers made years ago, affects my life today.
We read that a generation earlier Moses had chosen Christ, and the writer to the Hebrews recounts how Moses, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. He could have been commander in chief of the armies of Egypt, or he might have been the Pharaoh. All the education, all the wealth of Egypt was his. He turned his back on all of it to suffer with the people of God. He chose God. Who are you choosing? Who are you voting for? Choosing rather to suffer the affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Oh yes, there’s pleasure in sin for a short time, but it’s soon over. The hang-over comes and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s going to be there.
Choose Christ and there will never be a hangover except joy and peace. That doesn’t mean that he’ll deliver you from all your troubles and problems and trials, because that will go on and on. But they may be different. God allows them. That’s a part of our maturing process. That’s how God trains us. But down deep inside is a deep river of joy and peace in the midst of the life that you’re living. Now you can’t change your past, but you can determine your destiny by deciding for Christ. But Christ can change your past. He died on the cross so that all the sins that you’ve ever committed, all the things that you’ve ever done wrong are forgiven. And when God says they’re forgiven, he means more than we mean. He means justification. That means just as if you had never committed any sin at all.
That’s the power of the blood of Christ that we heard them singing about a while ago. I know my sins are under the blood. And the choice involves a price. The Apostle Peter wrote, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”. The price that Jesus paid on the cross when he shed his life blood for you. Martin Luther once said, the founder of, I suppose, the reformation and the founder, we could say almost one of the founders of Protestantism and certainly, of the Lutheran churches. He said, “When I look at myself, I don't know how I can be saved, but when I look at Jesus, I don't see how I could be lost”.
John Calvin, who founded reformed theology in one sense, and the Presbyterian church, said, “Upon a life, I did not live. Upon a death. I did not die. I hang my whole eternity. I hang it on Jesus”. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, when he lay dying, said, “My mind is almost gone. I can remember only two things. I'm a great sinner, but Jesus is a great Savior”. Christ is a great Savior. What do you have to do? You have to repent of your sins. That means to be willing to change your way of living. You may have no power to do it. You may not have power to give up some of those habits you know are wrong. You may not have power to fall in love with your wife again. You may not have power to change your whole life that you know needs to be changed, but if you surrender to Christ, He’ll give you the power.
You say, “Well, Billy, I don't know what else to do. I've been baptized. I joined the church and so forth, but I don't really have peace and joy and power in my life. All that you're talking about. How do I get it?” If you're not sure that you're ready to meet God, if you're not sure you're going to heaven and you're not sure that your sins are forgiven, you come and make sure tonight. I believe that none of you are here by accident tonight. I believe that you are here on this particular night because this is the night that you are to meet God in a new way and receive him into your heart and it's an urgent decision because to delay makes the right decision harder. Indecision in itself is a choice. Not to decide is to decide not to.
If you have a ticket for a flight to Atlanta tonight and can't decide whether to go or not, if you wait past the departure time, the choice will have been made. The plane will take off without you. Decisions are made whether we make them or not. Time decides if you will not and time always decides against you. Joel said, “Put you in the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Come get you down. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. “Now is the accepted time”, the Bible says.
Come now while you can. You may not have a chance tomorrow. Today is the day to cast your vote totally for Christ. Sir Walter Scott, "The most important of three letters in the English language", he said, "were N-O-W". Now. Bartimaeus was a blind man. Jesus was coming through his town, the little town of Jericho, and he was blind, and he had that one moment and he cried out and he said, “Jesus have mercy upon me. Jesus, Thou son of David, have mercy upon me”. And the Scripture says that someone told him that it was Jesus, that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He took that one moment. I believe this whole crusade has been planned and prayed for and organized, and we've been brought here maybe just for you.
I told people when I came here that I felt we'd come to Tallahassee because of one person. I do not know who that person is, but you may be the person and it'd be worth all the effort for you because you see Christ would have died on the cross if there had been nobody but just you. On the rugged wave beaten cliffs of the West coast of Scotland, a man was once gathering the eggs of the sea birds, which nest there, and he'd been let down from the top of the cliff by a rope to the ledge where the nests were. But in a moment of carelessness, he'd let the rope slip from his hand. He knew that the first swing of the rope would be his only chance, and with all the powers of his body and mind, he jumped for the rope. He seized it and he was saved.
The rope is swinging in your direction. The rope of salvation from the cross and the empty tomb. God is saying seize it. The Bible says, "Tthere'll come a day when they shall call upon me, but I will not answer. They will seek me early, but they shall not find me. For that they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord". There will come a day. You'll cry out to God, but it'll be too late. Come now. There may never be a thing like this in your lifetime in Tallahassee again ever when you were so close to the kingdom of God.
I'm going to ask you to do something we've seen several hundred people do in the last two days. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of this platform and say, by coming, I surrender my heart to Jesus Christ. I want to be sure that I'm ready to meet God. The first day we were here, the wife of a pastor came. People from the choir came. An usher came, and God is speaking to you. You may be the finest Christian in town as far as people think, but deep down inside, you know you're not. You need to surrender to Christ and make Him Lord and Savior of your life.
Why do I ask you to come forward? Because every person Jesus called in the New Testament, he called publicly. He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge Me before men, I'll not acknowledge you before My Father, which is in heaven". He died on the cross publicly for you. Now you must come publicly and say yes to him and I'm going to ask everyone to be in an attitude of prayer as you get up and come, men, women, young people, to cast your vote tonight and vote for Jesus. You know you need him. We're going to wait on you Quickly from up in the top and all around here. God is speaking to you. You come.