Billy Graham - Obstacles to Heaven
Well, this has been a marvelous evening and I would like to welcome those that have joined by television tonight in various parts of the country and in other parts of the world. Now tonight I would like you to turn with me to the nineteenth chapater of Luke. Luke, the nineteenth chapter and a very simple little story that many of you have heard since childhood. I'll read it to you. The nineteenth chapter, the first ten verses, if you have your Bibles, and I hope you do.
"And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was chief among the publicans, and he was very rich. And this man sought to see Jesus who he was; but could not for the press, because he was little of stature. and he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. and when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he has gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any many by false accusation, I will restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost".
And that's one of the key verses in all the New Testament, that tenth verse, because it gives you the purpose of the coming of Jesus Christ. He's come to seek and to save that which is lost. But here is this man, Jesus, God-man, walking through Jericho. He's on his way to die on the cross. And as he comes into Jericho he sees blind Bartimaeus and he heals him and has that tremendous experience where Bartimaeus was saying, "Help the blind, help the blind, help the blind". And as Jesus passed by he cried out saying who is this passing by and somebody stopped and said, "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by". And he screamed out "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me".
And if he hadn't cried out at that moment, he would have never been healed. Jesus passed by that one time. Just as Jesus is passing by in Central Florida right now and He may never come this way quite like this again, when so many people have joined together and prayed and backed this crusade. Most of the churches in Central Florida cooperating in this great crusade. When will it ever happen again? Jesus is passing by and for many of you this may be the last time opportunity that you'll ever have to make certain of your own personal relationship to God. And then, as he was going out of Jericho, Jericho a relatively small town, there was another man that wanted to see Jesus and his name was Zacchaeus. And he meets Jesus going out of the town.
Now Zacchaeus was about the most hated man in the town. He was the richest man in town. He was a publican, a tax gatherer. Rich and despised, a social outcast, because, you see, he was Jewish but he would collect all the taxes for Rome, the occupying country. And then he would try to get more than the taxes and pay them to Rome and fill his own pockets. That's the way the tax gatherers were in those days. They became the richest people in town and the most despised people in town because they were looked on as traitors to their own people. They were looked upon as robbers, as cheaters, and they became very wealthy as a result of it. Now if Jesus had considered public opinion, he would have looked straight before him when he came to this Sycamore tree where Zacchaeus had climbed up in.
Now Zacchaeus was a lonely man. He didn’t have any friends. And there are many lonely people here tonight. Friends that misunderstand you, loved ones that have betrayed you and you’ve failed in school. And your loneliness has led you to bitterness. And I imagine he was a bitter man as well because almost every person in town despised him. He was hated and avoided by most people. Yet he had a curiosity. He’d probably heard about Jesus many times. Maybe he’d heard of the enemies of Jesus say that he was a devil or he was a fanatic or he was a blasphemer or he was a heretic or he was an imposter. Maybe he’d heard some of Jesus’ friends say that he was a great teacher and a good man, the Son of God, the great Messiah that had been predicted or a great prophet, but he wanted to see it for himself.
I can see Zacchaeus trying to get through that crowd. He was a very short man. And I imagine some of the people tried to push him away and some would put their foot out and make him stumble and fall. He was trying to run as fast as he could. Probably if he had lived today, he’d have had an instamatic camera with him to get a picture of Jesus, like my wife does. She has one and I enjoyed married life before she got it. And I enjoy it now. She made one of me the other day and called it me on Golden Pond because I had an old hat and some old specs on and I was sitting there beside a fish pond and she took a picture and she’s sending it around now, maybe on our Christmas card, I don’t know. And Zacchaeus would have had a tape recorder.
And I remember when we were in Hungary and the first service, we had several thousand people, about fifteen or twenty thousand people in that first service in the open air outside of Budapest. And when I got through preaching, I heard all these clicks going on. And I turned to my wife and I said, "Are they gnashing their teeth"? And she said, “No, those are tape recorders.” Everybody’s got a tape recorder. And they were taking the message down and then they were sending it throughout Eastern Europe. The messages that had been preached. And it was an amazing thing to me in Budapest that you could go to the bookstores and buy my sermons. They put them in book form. And I preached straight Gospel sermons just like I’m doing now. God is doing some strange and wonderful and thrilling things throughout the world. Mysterious things. Things that pass our understanding. The devil is at work but so is God at work.
Now this man Zacchaeus was so anxious to see Jesus that he decided to climb up a tree. He climbed up a Sycamore tree. Now there are many obstacles in getting to Jesus that you face too! He faced the obstacle of being so many people there, so small of stature. I imagine he was sitting up there on that limb with that tape recorder, or the camera. He wanted to get everything that Jesus said. He was so interested. You, too, have your obstacles.
Now if you’re watching by television right now you can pick up a phone and call that number that you see on your screen (1-877-772-4559) and get spiritual help right now. There are people standing by to answer that phone. Call right now while I’m talking.
But you see the Bible says, Jesus said, “And what shall a man profit if he gain the whole world and loses his own soul?” And all the way through the Bible you find choices made between the things of the world and the things of God. Moses had to make that choice. He had to make the choice between all the wealth of Egypt and all the power of Egypt as an heir to the throne of Egypt and he had to turn his back on it and follow Christ. Abraham had to turn his back on all he had ever known to go and find a city whose builder and maker was God, by faith. And then there’s secret sins that become obstacles to coming to Christ.
The scripture says, “Cleanse Thou me from secret sins.” You see man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart. He knows what goes on inside your heart. He knows what you’re imagining, what you’re thinking, what you’re fantasizing. He knows the things you’re lusting for. He knows the evil thoughts and the pride and the jealousy and the greed that’s in your heart. And he judges by what he sees inside, not just by what he sees outside.
And how many of you are members of the church in good standing, officers in the church, Sunday school teachers, but down deep inside you know that your heart is just as dark as some of the worst sinners in town. And you know you are a hypocrite and you are ashamed of it and you don’t know what to do about it and you wish that somehow you could find peace and you haven’t been able to find it. Make your commitment to Christ tonight and say, “Lord, forgive me. I want to come back to you. I once knew you. I once knew the joy of Christ, but somehow I’ve lost that joy and I’d like to find it again.”
And self-righteousness can also be an obstacle. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes and yet is not washed from their filthiness. Self-righteous, like the hypocrites of Jesus’ day. Now, Zacchaeus was sitting up there, and he found his way to the Sycamore tree, just like you found your way here and curiosity brought him. Curiosity. Did you know many people find Christ out of curiosity? You’ve come to this meeting out of curiosity, many of you. Many of you came because somebody brought you but many came out of just shear curiosity.
We heard about a man the other night who was on his way past on the highway and he saw the lights on. I think it was in one of the papers and one of the other papers I read. And he just stopped in here. And he found a parking place way off somewhere and he walked over here. And it was half-way through the service, but he gave his life to Christ and it tells in the paper the joy that he found in Jesus Christ. That can happen to you. And so, he calls Zacchaeus, “Zacchaeus come down.” The crowd murmurs and they still do when you eat with sinners or try to reach those that are on the other side of the track. And Jesus tears the hide off religious sinners, but he treats other sinners with tenderness and love.
You see the argument and the debate Jesus had was not even with the Roman Empire. His debate was with the religious leaders who were not living as they should live. They were hypocrites. And there are many of us that way. We’ve developed that same thing. And this is certainly true in some parts of our country, where people go to church in great numbers but during the week they’re not living a daily life with Christ. But, you know, Jesus never compromised. He doesn’t offer a cheap grace or a cheap salvation. When you come to Christ you must be willing to repent of sin and receive him in your heart. And notice he said it was an urgent call. He said, “Make haste, come down now!”
Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation. There’s no promised tomorrow. There’s no promise in the Bible that you’ll be alive tomorrow. God doesn’t make any promises for tomorrow. It’s today, now, now, now, now, all the way through the Bible. And it was a successful call because Jesus did go to Zacchaeus’ home and probably took Matthew with him because Matthew had been a publican, too, and a tax gatherer and Jesus has said, "Follow me", and Matthew had gotten up and followed. And maybe he took Matthew with him to give his testimony to Zacchaeus. I don’t know. But Zacchaeus probably was very proud and showed Jesus all the things in his home. All the art that he had and his servants. And the beautiful carpets he had on the floor.
And the beautiful picture windows that he had and the beautiful view out there and the grass and everything. He was so proud of it all. But Jesus probably just stood there looking at Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus began to wonder, “Well, why is he looking at me like that? Those piercing eyes, they’re reaching into my soul.” Then Jesus turned and looked out the window and saw broken humanity. He saw those who were suffering, those who were poor, didn’t have anything. That Zacchaeus has stolen from and cheated. And Zacchaeus, his conscience began to bother him. He became convicted of his sins and suddenly he opened the door and he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Lord Jesus, I’m ready.” “If I’ve stolen from anyone I’ll restore it fourfold. I’ll give back everything I’ve ever taken from anybody. I just want to know you.”
It took restitution and it says he did it with a new joy in his heart. He did it joyfully. There seems to be little joy in too many modern lives even among professing believers. And the Bible says there’s two types of joy. There’s joy in heaven when a person comes to Christ. I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents. When you come to Christ tonight, you may be the only one, but you’ll set off the orchestras of heaven and the choirs of heaven will be singing because of you. Just one person will cause joy in heaven. Then there’s joy inside your heart when you come to Christ. “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.”
Notice, it was open confession. Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord in front of all the people. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven”. That’s the reason I ask people to come forward to make their commitment to Christ publicly. Every person that Jesus called in the New Testament, including Zacchaeus, it was public in front of other people. He said if you’re not willing to acknowledge me before my Father, I’ll not acknowledge you. If you’re willing to acknowledge me before your friends and other people, I’ll not acknowledge you before my Father.
Wouldn’t it be terrible to get there and Jesus would not even know us. He says there are many people who are going to say, “But Lord, I did this for you, and I did that and that”, but he said, “I never knew you.” And he won’t acknowledge us. Come to Christ openly. Yes, his repentance cost him something. He had to restore fourfold. The surprise of the crowd, the shock of the crowd. There come times for restitution if our repentance and faith are to be real. And the purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to seek and to save people like Zacchaeus who were lost. And many of you tonight are lost from God and all the prayers and all the work and all the money that’s gone into this crusade has gone into it for you. To reach you because your soul is worth more than all the rest of the world put together.
You say, “How could that be?” Because it’s going to be eternal, because it’s going to live forever. When you die that’s not the end of you. You can’t commit suicide by taking a gun to your brain. Your body dies but your spirit, the real you, lives on forever and ever and ever and ever in heaven or hell and it depends on what you do with Christ now. Publicly. I’m going to ask you to receive Him tonight.
You know there was a little boy that was lost in the mountains of North Carolina where we live. And they organized the police and they organized the helicopters and they got all the police dogs they could and they organized hundreds of people to search for that little boy. And they searched for about five days before they found him. And when they found him he was already dead, piled in the snow and lost. It was too late. Thousands of people have worked and prayed for this crusade for you. And God sees you sitting there and he knows your heart and he knows your need and he calls you by name and he says, “Make haste Mary, come!” “Jim, make haste, come!” For today I’m coming into your heart. Will you allow me? Will you entertain me into your life and into your heart?
You say, “Well, Billy, what really do I have to do?” First, you have to be willing to repent of your sin. You say, “Well, what does that mean?” That means to change your way of living, to change your way of thinking about Christ, about God and about yourself. It means to live a new kind of a life. It means you’re willing to give up some of those wrong things in your life and walk with him. That’s repentance. And Jesus said except a man repent he can’t see the kingdom of God. Have you repented? Are you sure of it? Did that change take place? I’m not talking about you saying, “O Lord, I’m sorry.” That’s not repentance. “O Lord, I’ve sinned.” That’s not repentance. It means a change. Old things are passed away and everything becomes new.
And then the second thing you must receive him by faith. “But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Just simple faith, like a little child believes in its father or its mother. You believe. Jesus said you have to become like a child. You may be the professor at the university in mathematics or some of the sciences, but you have to become like a little child when you come to Christ, in faith, believing. Just as I have confidence and faith in this platform to hold me, that’s what the word faith means. You put your confidence in, your strength in, you put everything you have in Jesus Christ and you’re going to do that tonight.
And then the third thing, you must be willing to follow him and obey him, in reading the Scriptures and in prayer and in witnessing. Are you ready to do that? If there is a doubt in your heart tonight that you are right with God, you come and be sure. You may not be a member of any church or you may be a member of several churches. I don’t know. You might have been baptized every way you can be baptized, but that’s not enough. You must come to Christ and find him as your Lord and your Master and your Savior.
And I’m going to ask you to do it right now. We’ve seen hundreds of people every night come. I’m going to ask you tonight to get up out of your seat and come. And you that are watching by telephone, or watching by television, pick up that telephone, call and there will be a counselor to talk to you right now and you can make the same commitment that people are going to make here. I’m going to ask hundreds of you to get up out of your seat and come because you may never have another moment like this again. Come now. If you come from that top balcony, it takes about two minutes, so start now.
If you are with friends or relatives, or you’ve come in a bus or with a group, they’ll wait on you. 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 to help you in your Christian life. You get up and come. You know you need Christ. Bring your friend with you. Husbands and wives, and sweethearts and whole groups that are here tonight, you need to come. You get up and come. We’re going to wait. Young and old. There are some old people here tonight. You’ve heard the Gospel many times but somehow you’ve never really found peace with God and you’re uncertain about your relationship with him. Come and settle it tonight. We’re going to wait as many people come from everywhere.
You that have been watching by television, you can see here in Orlando, Florida, in this beautiful Tangerine Bowl, you can see many people coming to make their commitment to Christ. You can make that commitment right now where you are. You may be in a bar room, you may be in a hotel room, you may be in your living room or in your bedroom. Right where you are bow your head and say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, come into my heart". And he’ll bring you the same joy and peace that he’s brought to my heart and of those you’ve heard speak tonight or sing tonight. Give your heart to him now. And, if you will, pick up the telephone and call. You may have to call two or three times. Keep calling. There will be people there for the next two or three hours ready to talk with you. Don’t let this night pass or this day pass without making that commitment. God bless you and be sure and go to church next Sunday.