Billy Graham - How to Get to Heaven
Tonight I hope you have your Bibles with you. I've been asking you to bring your Bibles, because we're here to see what the Bible has to say about your problems, and my problems, and the nation's problems, and the world's problems. Not what someone else has to say, but what does God have to say? And I want you to turn with me to the 2nd chapter of John's Gospel. The 2nd chapter of John's Gospel.
In the 23rd verse, Jesus said, or the scripture says, "Now when he was Jerusalem at the passover in the feast days, many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did, but Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man. There was a man of the pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that you do except God be with him. And Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God".
I remember the first day that I ever went to school. I was scared to death. We had to walk to school in those days, about two or three miles, and walk back in the afternoon after the school was finished, and my mother had fixed me a little lunch to take and eat at lunch time or the recess time. No one told me that there were two recesses, so that had one recess about 10 or 10:30, for us to go out and stretch ourselves a little bit, and so I ate my lunch very quickly at that time, well, when the real lunch time came at 12:30 I had nothing to eat. And I'll never forget that day as long as I live. I got on the bus the wrong way or (this was four years later) I got on the bus the wrong way, and the principal came out and he grabbed my ear. And I think part of it is still gone.
But sometime ago, Bill Hybels said in one of his sermons that there is so many changes happening rapidly that we don't even realize how many of them are affecting us. He said that this is an era of information overload. You and I have access to more information, data, facts and news and knowledge than anybody in history. And information in the world is doubling every five years. And then we get information through magazines and newspapers. We're told that we forget up to 80 percent of it in 24 hours, and virtually all of it will be forgotten by the time we reach eternity.
Nicodemus, the man that we were just reading about in the Bible, was a great religious leader. And he came by night. He probably was afraid of criticism, or he had a desire for a private conversation with Jesus and maybe that was the only time Jesus could give him. Or maybe he thought about committing himself in a new way. Many of you have thought a long time about religion and Christianity. We're living in a revolutionary and changing world. Man's ability's, man's moral ability's lagging behind his technological ability. And it could mean disaster and catastrophe for the whole human race, and many people have a feeling that something is about to happen.
I'm asked more questions wherever I go today about the end of the world than I ever have in all of my ministry put together. People look at our world with all the crime, and all the headlines screaming at us about the killings, and we see the moral depravity on so much of our entertainment, and we ask ourselves, are we nearing the end? Are we living in the days of Noah, as Jesus predicted would come someday? I heard about a drunk in London. He was under a streetlight and he was looking for his wallet that he had lost, and somebody came by and said, "Did you lose it here"? He said, "No, 'bout a half block back". "Well, why don't you look there"? "There's no street lights back there", he said.
Searching is important. Searching for purpose and meaning is very important. Do you have purpose and meaning in your life? I told many times about the 10-year-old boy, who went to his mother and said, "Mother, how was I born"? And she said, "The stork brought you". And he went to his grandmother and said, "Grandmother, how were you born"? Said, "The stork brought me". Said, "How was my mother born"? "Well, the stork brought her". And he was to write a little paper in his class on birth. And he wrote in his paper and said, "There hasn't been a natural birth in our family in three generations". Now Nicodemus was surprised and stunned when Jesus turned to him and said, "Nicodemus, you must born again".
If Christ had said that to Zacchaeus, he was cheating the people out of money, you could understand that. Or the woman at the well who'd had five husbands. You could understand it. Or the thief on the cross who was guilty of robbery and mugging and all kinds of things. Who begged Jesus who said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Or the woman taken in adultery, but to say it to a religious leader like Nicodemus surprised everybody. You see Nicodemus was a ruler, he was rich, he was religious, and yet he was searching for reality, and that's why he was there. He wanted fulfillment in his life which he hadn't found in all of his religion.
Let me tell you how religious Nicodemus was and see how you stack up. He fasted two days a week. He spent two hours every day in prayer. He tithed all of his income. He was a professor of theology. He worked hard at his religion. But Jesus said, "Nicodemus all that is not enough. You must be born again". Why did Jesus say this? Jesus could see in his heart. He could see that he had all this outside religious experience, he had all the traditions of religion. Like fiddler on the roof, "Tradition, tradition, tradition", is what he sang. And we have traditions in our church, and all the churches, we have traditions. And we stick to those traditions. But all of it's not enough. Jesus said you must have a personal experience with God.
You must come to know me as your Lord and your Savior, personally. You can't depend on your traditions, you can't depend on your family. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Nicodemus, all of your religion is not enough". Why? The little boy put his finger on it when he said, "I guess I was just born wrong". Yes, the Bible says, "In sin did my mother conceive me". I was born in iniquity. What causes lying, cheating, hate, prejudice, greed, injustice, selfishness, cruelty, racial tensions? What causes it, what causes perversion? Jesus said, "The heart". He said, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile a person". They're in our hearts. We were born with that tendency to sin.
And as we grow older, we make choices to sin, so we become sinners by choice. And then we become sinners by practice. We practice this sin, it's a disease worse than cancer, worse than aids. And the whole world is infected. And you may live to be 70 or 80 or 90 or a hundred years of age, but your spirit, your soul, that part of you that will live forever either in heaven or hell, that part of you is dead. Dead toward God. And it's sinful. And that's the reason you need forgiveness. That's the reason you need for God to come along and justify you.
Did you know that tonight before you leave here you could be justified before God, just as though you had never committed a sin? That's what the cross is all about. That's what the resurrection is all about. That's what the blood of Christ is all about. Jesus came to give himself to you because he loves you, and when he died on that cross God laid all of our sins on him. He became guilty of murder, of lying, of adultery, of greed, all the sins that you and I have were laid on him. He voluntarily did it because he loves you. God loves you.
There are many words used in the New Testament for sin, I'm not gonna try to use them all. One of them is turning aside from a straight path, "All we like sheep have gone astray. We've turned every one to his own way", said Isaiah. In Romans 5 it says, "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned". Thus a radical change must take place before you can get into heaven. Before you can be accepted by God, and that change can take place tonight. To find true or real fulfillment even in this life, that change must take place. To be acceptable to God, that change must take place.
Now what is this new birth, when Jesus said, "You must be born again"? Nicodemus asked that question. He said, "How can a man be born again when he's old? Can he enter his mother's womb and be born again"? He wanted to understand. Jesus indicated, the Bible indicates that we will never understand all these things. We'll never understand all the mysteries of God, we come by faith. Nicodemus could only see the physical and the material. And Jesus was speaking of the spiritual. When Jesus said, "You must be born again", he didn't mean that you're gonna inherit it. You don't inherit salvation from your father and mother, the scripture says in John 1:12, "Which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".
I can be born in a garage but that doesn't make me an automobile. You can be born in a Christian home, but that doesn't make you a Christian. There has to come a time in your own life when you make your own decision and your own choice. And then some people think they can come by their own works, by being, by doing many good things and great things. That's wonderful, keep doing them, but that doesn't save your soul. It's a result of your salvation. In Titus 3:5 it says, "Not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us". You are saved by the grace of God. Now grace means unmerited favor, grace means something you don't deserve. You can't work for it, you can't pay for it, it's a gift from God. Have you received that gift?
You receive that gift by faith, and he comes into your heart, and changes you, and you become born anew. You see man sinned in a perfect environment. We had it all. Adam and Eve had everything. They didn't even need to have police forces: they didn't need to have government. They didn't need anything because they had it all, but they rebelled against God, they sinned against God. And they passed it on down from generation to generation down to you and me, 'til we're all sinners. Now to be born again means being born into God's family. In Ezekiel it says, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you".
In Romans Paul speaks of it as being alive from the dead. In II Corinthians, he calls it being a new creation. "Old things are passed away behold all things become new". Has that happened to you? Peter said, "We become partakers of the divine nature". How wonderful to become a partaker of God's very nature. John calls it passing from death unto life. You're no longer heading for death and destruction and hell and judgment. You're heading for a new life, an eternal life with God in heaven. And you receive it tonight. Well, how is this new birth accomplished? There's a mystery to it, the Bible says. Jesus said, "The wind blows where it listeth". I can't see the wind. I can feel it. I can see the results of the wind but I can't see the wind. The wind blows where it wants to.
And then there's the analogy to natural birth. There's conception, just a few seconds when the sperm and the egg are joined together, and then there's gestation for nine months, and then birth comes. And the labor lasts a few minutes or maybe a few days, and how does that become an analogy to the new birth? Well, there's the reception of the Word of God, that's conception. I Peter 1:23, "Being born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever". And then Romans 10:7 says, "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God". "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching", (or declaration or proclamation), "To save them that believe". It's also the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. You can't come to Christ except the Holy Spirit convicts you and draws you. John 16 says, "And when he has come he will reprove the world of sin and righteousness and judgment". He'll use a mother's prayers. He'll use a tragic experience. He'll use a pastor's sermon. He'll use a tract or something you've read out of the Bible. The Holy Spirit gives new life. The Bible teaches that we're dead in sin, "And you hath he made alive who were dead in trespasses and in sins". Man needs new life, and that new life is brought by the Holy Spirit. That's the new birth. And that could happen to you tonight. You can leave here born anew. And start life all over again, with Jesus Christ. Being born from above.
And then the Bible teaches that when you receive Christ the Holy Spirit comes to indwell, "He dwelleth with you and shall be in you", the scripture says. "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God that dwelleth in you"? He gives you a new power. "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you". That power can come from God tonight, beginning tonight.
I read of a woman who tried her driver's test for the 38th time and failed in England. Perhaps you've tried, nearly that many times, in religion. But you haven't found it. You're still searching, you're still wandering, you're still uncertain about the future. You're not absolutely sure. Oh you've been baptized and confirmed perhaps, and you've been in the church or maybe you're a leader in the church, but something is missing. There's still a vacuum there, there's still a search there, there's still an uncertainty there. I'm asking you tonight to move over and trust the Holy Spirit to drive and control your life. You can do that tonight. And I'm going to ask you to do it.
You say, "Well, what do I have to do"? There are three things that are important for you to do. First, you must repent of sin. Repentance means that you change your way of living and change your thinking. Be willing for a change to take place in your life. The second thing, by faith, and faith and repentance go together. There's no dichotomy, they go together. You repent and you believe, believe in Christ. You don't believe in anything else for your salvation except the Lord Jesus Christ. And you receive him in your heart, and say, "Lord Jesus, come in", and he'll come in.
Then the third thing is to obey him. Say, "Lord, I know I can't live the Christian life, and Billy Graham can't live the Christian life", and I can't. If I didn't have the help of the Holy Spirit every day, I would be a total failure every day, as far as living the Christian life, I'm a failure a great deal of the time as it is. But it's the Holy Spirit that comes and lives through you and in you, and gives you a power to resist temptation that you never had before. And gives you a new joy and a new peace, that you never knew existed.
That can all be yours tonight, if you're willing to say, "Lord I do repent, I do receive you. I open my heart to you". I'm going to ask you to do what we've already seen hundreds of people do. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat. From up here, and out there, way back in the back, and over here, back there, and come and stand in front and say by coming, "I do receive him. I am willing to repent of my sins. I want there to be a change. I want to know that I've been saved. I'm not sure where I am now, but I want to know". You get up and come. We're going to wait on you. Going to ask people to be in prayer for those that are making those commitments now. And ask nobody to leave now, this is the holy moment of the service, just very quietly let the people come that God is speaking to.
I want to say a word to you that might have been watching by television. We're not on television live. This may be shown several weeks or several months from now. But you have participated in this service. You've heard the message, you've heard the music, you've heard the testimony. And God has spoken to you. And you would like to give your life to Christ tonight and make sure of your relationship to him. I'm going to ask you to pick up the telephone and call that number that you may see on your screen. Most cities will have it. My God help you to make that commitment tonight. There's still time to make that important decision. Just call the number on the screen, or write that letter tonight to mr. Graham. Someone is waiting to pray and talk with you and help you. Don't put it off, call now.