Billy Graham - Life's Most Important Question
Tonight I want you to turn with me to the sixteenth chapter of Acts. One of the most familiar stories in all the Bible. The sixteenth chapter of Acts is a wonderful little story in the life of saint Paul. He and Timothy are traveling about. He picked Timothy up at another town and now they come to Philippi. And they are arrested for preaching. But Philippi was very interesting because that was the first European city that Paul went to. He felt that he should be going south, but it seems that God blocked the way. Then he felt he should go north, up by the Black Sea. And the Holy Spirit said, "No, don't go there". He had only one place to go and that was west. And so he came to Europe.
He had a vision of a man in Macedonia calling him, saying, "Come and help us". So he went to Europe with his little team. There were four of them by this time. There was Timothy, there was Luke, and Silas. And they were all together, going around preaching, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. And they were arrested in Philippi. They had already had several converts. And the first convert in all of Europe was a woman by the name of Lydia. She was a very well to do woman, a seller of purple. And she found the Lord. She opened her home for them to stay there.
When they were arrested they were beaten, with long leather thongs, with steel pellets on the end. Or they were beaten with rods it says in one place. And they were black and blue and bleeding. And they were thrown into the inner prison which meant their neck was tied with an iron necklace. Their hands were put in stocks. Their feet were put in stocks and there they were. But you know what they did? By midnight they began to sing praises to God. They began to testify. They began to tell what Christ had meant to them. The jailer was listening. And all the people in the jail were listening. And they kept on preaching.
Finally there came an earthquake and the walls began to fall down from the jail. And the stocks that bound them were loosened. And the jailer, knowing that he would be held accountable, and he would have to die he would be executed for allowing these people to escape, he pulled out his sword and he was going to plunge it into his heart when Paul said, "Don't do yourself any harm. We're still here". And the jailer, seeing Paul and Silas standing there, fell down before them in humility, in the dust of the jail. And he asked this question, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? How can I have the faith and the spirit that you have? You came into this terrible, smelly, awful place having been beaten and now you begin to sing and you begin to tell what Christ could do for you. How can I be saved? How can I have this same peace and joy and happiness that you have"?
And Paul gave him a very simple answer. He didn't go into anything profound. He didn't go into a discussion of philosophy or psychology or world conditions. He said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house". Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved. Now that was very simple, wasn't it? And so we hear the cry all over the world, "Save us"! We're crying, "Save us from war". We read a great deal about Armageddon and many people are asking me today, "is the end of the world near"? They are so alarmed at what they see on the television with all the crime that we see, and all the hunger that we read about in the Sudan and in Somalia. Then people are saying, "Save our homes". Church leaders have told me about the breakdown of the home here in Ohio. Nationwide one out of every two marriages ends in divorce.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved and thy house". If you come to Christ tonight it'll have an impact on your family, have an impact on your marriage, on your neighbors. Then we cry, "Save us psychologically". The tensions in the home, problems at work, health problems, making ends meet. We want to scream at life. We want to escape from life. A few years ago a popular song said, "Make the world go away and get it off my shoulders". Job, who suffered so much in the Bible, wanted to die. Thousands of people are suffering from some sort of mental illness. We're called the tormented generation. Millions are crying, "What can I do to be saved from the pressures of life"? The pressures are just so great. We have great technology to save time, but we have less time than ever. Escapism is a subconscious mechanism to escape reality.
Job said, "My days are spent without hope". Isaiah the prophet said, "Even the youths shall faint and be weary". Cain, who had killed Abel, had a terrible guilt in his life and he said, "My burden is greater than I can bear". He became a vagabond, a wanderer. The Psalmist said, "And I said, oh that I had the wings like a dove, for then I would fly away and be at rest". Have you said that? I'd like to just fly away from my problem, get away from it and have rest. The Psalmist's longing to escape has become the cry of the world today. But there doesn't seem to be any way out for you. To those people Jesus said, "I'm the way out". Jesus said, "I'm the door, by me if any man enter in he shall be saved".
We have in the media today what we call group thinking. It's affected our whole way of living. It affects our brand of food, the cars we drive, even patterns of religious belief, modern communication lays down the law of fashion, manner, speech, and especially moral behavior. Students feel almost like statistics at the big universities. And personal relationships between teachers and students that used to prevail have disappeared and have broken down. The student now feels that he is only a statistic. Students even in high school and grammar school are now taking computers to class.
In the sight of God man is an individual. And God looks upon you as an individual that he loves. He has the hairs of your head numbered. He sees the sparrow fall. He loves you. He's interested in you and he wants you to talk to him and tell him what your problems are and he will help you. When you see a play on television or you see a movie, almost everyone is saying, "What must I do to be saved out of my particular situation"? Or you read a novel... How is that person going to escape? All of mankind is crying, "What must we do to be saved"?
And this was what the jailer was asking Paul and Silas. "What must I do to be saved"? He said. And it's the cry of our world in the latter part of the twentieth century, and as we begin the next two thousand years. And Paul had a simple answer: believe. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. But we don't want to do that. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me". Many people today would say that this jailer was in no emotional state to make such a decision. I think we need some more emotion in our faith. We have it at ball games. We have it in the theatre. We have it everywhere except when we go to church.
I heard about a baptist from Texas again. He was in one of those big Cathedrals in Europe and he didn't think he would hear anything that would sound like Texas baptist to him. And they said the Apostle's Creed, the minister got up and read the 23rd Psalm. And then when the minister got up to give a short homily, or a short sermon, he said some things he believed. And so he said, "Amen" out loud, two or three times. And everybody stopped and looked around at him. Thought he was crazy. And an usher came to him and said, "Sir, you can't do that in here". He said, "I've got religion". And the usher said, "But you didn't get it here".
Now the apostle Paul had been converted to Christ in a very dramatic way. He had turned against the Christians. He was trying to kill them, persecute them. And he was on the way to Damascus to capture some more and bring them. He was going to put them in prison. And all of a sudden he was stopped by a bright light. And he fell down. He was blinded. And he said, "Lord, what do you want"? He knew it was God. And on that Damascus road, Paul was converted. His name was Saul and it was changed to Paul. And he was converted and he became the greatest Christian that has ever lived.
Now that was a dramatic moment. There was emotion to it. The Bible teaches that we are to fear God. Psalm 33:8 says, "Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him". We are to fear the judgment. Modern man doesn't like to think of God in terms of wrath and anger and judgment, but God is a God of judgment. He's a God of love. He loves you. He loves you so much that he died on the cross for you and shed his blood for you. And if you repent of your sins and receive him into your heart you'll be saved. You'll go to heaven when you die. You can have that assurance right now.
And there are thousands of people here tonight that have been baptized or you've been confirmed in the church and you're a good person. But deep inside you're not certain that you really know Christ. You're not certain that you're going to heaven and you want to be sure. You'd like to be sure. You can be sure before you leave this stadium tonight if you make your commitment to Christ. And we are to fear the fact that we're going to judgment.
Modern man doesn't like to think of God in terms of wrath and anger and judgment. He tries to remake God to conform to his own wishful thinking and make himself comfortable in his sins. This modern God has the attributes of love and mercy and forgiveness, but without judgment. We don't like that word judgment we don't like that word hell. How long has it been since you heard a sermon on hell? The Bible says he's "Appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained".
A divinity school student stood up at Harvard and asked me, in a discussion, said, "Can you tell me in plain and clear language, what must I do to be saved"? He asked me that question right in front of the faculty and the other students. And I answered him. I answered him as Paul answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". After Peter had preached his great sermon at Pentecost the people were stirred in their hearts and they said to Peter, "What must we do, what do we have to do"? Twentieth century man asked the same question that man has always asked.
I remember when I was in Korea during the war, there was a chaplain that came to me and he said, "You know, I've been to seminary. I have my degrees. I've been pastor of a large church. I was called to be professor at a seminary. And the other day I was called to the side of a dying boy out at a field hospital and he was dying and I didn't know what to tell him". "He asked me, he said, what can I do to find peace in my heart? I know I'm dying". And he said, "I didn't know what to tell him. What would you tell him"?
The answer that Paul gave to this jailer long ago is so simple that millions stumble over it. You don't have to straighten out your life first. You don't have to go home and do something good in order to find Christ. You do that after you've come to Christ. We don't have to make ourselves well before going to a doctor. Doctor Henderson is sitting on the platform. He sees sick people. He doesn't see well people. Jesus was called the great physician. He said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance".
I'm a sinner. Billy Graham is a sinner. I needed to repent of my sin and receive Christ by faith. And we're all sinners. So are you. The blind man came to Jesus just as he was. The leper came just as he was. Mary Magdalene with seven devils came just as she was. You can come to Christ tonight just as you are. You don't have to go and clean up anything. You don't have to go change clothes and put on your Sunday best. Just come as you are. And say Lord, I am just a person in need of Christ. I need to know that I know Christ.
What do I have to do to believe? You have to become as a little child. The Bible says all the way through the New Testament that we enter the Kingdom of God by faith. "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". In Ephesians 2 it says, "For by grace are you saved through faith". Now grace means something you don't earn. You don't work for it. You can't work your way to heaven. You can't get good enough to get to heaven. The word believe implies commitment, surrender. It doesn't mean that you believe everything or just anything. You believe in the person of Christ. And that word believe means that you commit your life to him. You're not trusting anything for your future.
The little boy that I heard about. He said, "You know, this life is short, but from what I've heard eternity is awfully long. We better spend our time getting ready for eternity". So when you come to commit your life to Christ, you commit your mind, you commit your emotion, you commit your will, you commit your body. The whole person is involved in this act of commitment. "Neither is there salvation in any other for there's none other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved", the Bible says. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". I'm asking you tonight by faith to call on him.
We received a letter from a woman recently who said she was brought up in a non-Christian home. And I'll read you a part of what she said. She said, "Although I was aware there must be a God somewhere, I never gave him any thought and just carried on believing that I led a very happy, good church life. My nephew, age 31, was killed in a car accident. I wanted to know why he had died so young. Where had he gone? Where will I go when I die? I really need to find out. My husband bought me a Bible, the first one I'd really ever owned. I started to read, seeking answers for myself and searching for myself. And one day I noticed in the paper about your crusade that was going to be on television. I watched and that night, in front of the television set, I committed myself to Christ. God opened my eyes. Everything has changed".
What about you? Is there a doubt in your heart if you died at this moment you'd go to heaven? Some of you may not be back to cooper stadium this week. Some of you are planning to come back, but you may not make it, because we never know what the next hour is going to bring forth, what the next day is going to bring forth.
"Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation". Come while you can. And I'm going to ask you to do something that we've seen thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions do. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand out here on this... In front of me. You can come all the way up here to this rope here and stand there. That's all you do, just stand there. And after you've all come, I'm going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you and give you some literature. And you can take it home and study it. It'll help you in your Christian life.
You say, "Well, Billy, what does that mean now for me to come and just stand there? What's that going to do to me"? It's not going to do anything to you. It means that you're saying to Christ, "I commit myself to you the best I know how. I don't know all about it. I don't understand the Bible. I don't understand salvation. I don't understand any of these things you've been talking about. But I know I need something in my life".
So I'm going to ask you to come now. Hundreds of you, just get up out of your seats around here. You may be in the choir. You may be an officer in the church. You may be a minister in a church. Most crusades we even have clergy come to make a commitment. They want to be sure about their relationship to Christ. Not the relationship to the church, not the relationship to your family, but relationship to Christ personally and you need Christ in your heart. You come. We're going to wait on you, as these many people come.
I want to say a word to you that may watch on television. You see these television cameras around. They're not filming tonight to show it this week or next week or in the next month or two. This may be shown sometime before Christmas and there are people that participated in this service just like you have by watching on a screen at home, or in a hotel room, or a bar, or wherever they might be. They can make the same commitment that you're making, by surrendering their life to Christ and committing themselves to him. Make that commitment now.