Billy Graham - The Danger of Neutrality
I want you to turn with me to the sixth chapter of Matthew, and Jesus is speaking, and he says this: "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". Jesus said that. You've got to make up your mind. Now I find a psychological and spiritual and moral vacuum in the United States, and in Europe and America and many other parts of the world. Millions of young people have no purpose for living and no motivating challenge. And young people are restless, I find. They want a cause. They want a song to sing. They want a flag to follow.
And into that type of a situation came Hitler. He found Germany with millions of young people unemployed, millions of young people marching and demonstrating for this cause and that cause and into that vacuum came Hitler and built that mighty military machine that almost conquered Europe and the world. Ernest Hemingway, the great writer, once said, "I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there's no current to plug it into". And you know, there are many young people who just never make up their mind. They never make a definite decision.
Now Christ never allowed us to be bystanders or spectators when it came to him. The word "Christian" actually means a partisan for Christ. It means that you have chosen Christ and you're following Christ. And partisans are never neutral. And we see today, radical young people all over the world, stirring up trouble, bombing hotels, bombing in airplanes, hijacking planes. They're following some sort of a cause and a lot of times we don't know what their cause is. They are restless, they want something to do. Somebody said the best thing that could happen in some parts of the world was to have a war. May God forbid. But young people want something.
And these young people that we're reading about in our newspapers every day and watching on television, they never play it safe, they never sit on the fence, they're never spectators, in the struggles of our times. They commit themselves to whatever their cause may be, and I want to ask you: are you a Christian? I mean a true Christian, a real Christian. Somebody asked an Anglican down in London when we were down there, they were trying to witness and they said, "Are you a Christian, sir"? He said, "I've been an Anglican all my life and nobody's going to make a Christian out of me". And down in Texas they asked a man on the street in ft. Worth, Texas, said, "Are you a Christian"? He said, "No, thank God, I'm a Baptist".
The word "Christian" was used first in derision. It's a term of reproach. And many people have a wrong idea of what a Christian is really like. They say, well, a Christian is a person who prays. Christians pray, but that doesn't make you a Christian, a true Christian. Or they live by the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you". That doesn't make you a Christian. You may be sincere. I watched a man in an American football game and there were 90,000 people in the rose bowl in Pasadena, California, and he carried that ball down the field. The crowd cheered, but he ran the wrong way, and got a goal for the other team and lost the game. He was sincere.
My mother was sincere when I was a little boy and gave me what she thought was cough syrup for my cold, and gave me iodine, and she called up quickly the doctor, and the doctor said, "Give him some cream". Well, we had a little dairy farm with about 60 cows, and she almost filled me up with cream. You say, well, a Christian is a person that goes to church. Yes, a Christian ought to go to church, but that doesn't make you a Christian. You can be baptized, and you can do all of those things, and you can be called Christian, but I'm talking about a real, genuine personal relationship with Christ. Do you have that?
Or one who keeps the Ten Commandments. I've never met anybody that kept the Ten Commandments. I haven't kept them. You haven't kept them. Did you know that everybody in this stadium and everybody watching, has broken every commandment. The Bible says that if you break one commandment you've broken them all! So we've broken the whole of the Ten Commandments, and that is called sin, in the Bible, and the Bible says all have sinned and come short of God's requirements, come short of God's glory. Now, first, a Christian is a person who has made a choice. Secondly, a change has taken place in his life. And thirdly, he's accepted a challenge. And I want to make those the three things I want to emphasize.
First, he's made a choice. All the way through the Bible, we're asked to make a choice. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden made the wrong choice. They rebelled against God. They chose to build a world without God, and they made a mistake, a terrible, tragic mistake, and we're paying for it today, because all the problems in the world today including death, comes from the fact that our first parents broke God's law. And passed it on to Cain and Abel, their children, Cain became a murderer. And passed it on to you and me. And we're all capable of sin and we all sin.
David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me". I was born in sin. We're sinners by choice, we're sinners by practice. Every choice we make affects others. Moses, before he died, said to all the people of Israel, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life and both you and your children will live". Choose, he said. He said to the people of that day, "You have to make a choice", and a little bit later, the next man to follow him, was named general Joshua, and Joshua the 24th chapter, had all the people of Israel before him at Shechem, and he said, "Choose you this day whom you're going to serve".
Are you going to serve God? Or are you going to serve yourself? "Choose"! He said. And then he said, "As for me and my house, we're going to serve the Lord". And Elijah was a great prophet of God. And he once had 450 prophets of Baal who was a heathen god, and Elijah came to all the people and said, "How long are you going to halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him"! If Christ is who he claims to be, follow him! Because I tell you this, if Christ is not who he claims to be, we're in trouble. I don't see any hope in the world at all. And the only hope is Christ.
Yes, you have to make a choice. Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the straight gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat, but straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". He said only a few people are on the narrow road that leads to heaven. The vast majority are on a broad road that leads to judgment, destruction and hell. Which road are you on?
It's what you do about Christ that counts, because you see, Christ came to die on the cross, and the cross becomes the door, it becomes the gate, and if we'll enter that narrow gate of the cross and the resurrection, and say, "Yes, Lord, I believe, I turn from my sins, I'm willing to change my way of living", and we enter the narrow road, it'll be rocky and rough and tough, but at the end is heaven, and while on that road, there's a new resource and a new power and a new joy and a new love that God gives you.
Now secondly, a true believer, a true Christian, is a person who has made a change in his life. And that's done by the Holy Spirit. The moment you receive Christ, the Spirit of God comes to live in your heart, and it says in 2 Corinthians, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he's a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things become new". You become a new person, and he's the one that does it. He performs that act in your life. Yes, a true believer is one in whom a change has taken place. Has a change taken place in your life?
You see, you act the way you believe. The Bible is clear, to change from a defeated, problem-oriented young person depends on, first, changing your mind. I'm going to ask you tonight to change your mind about God, about Christ, because you see, our problems and emotional upsets and feelings and behavior and goals are all rooted in the wrong basic beliefs about how to meet our personal needs in life. Our problems with sex or with peer pressure. Christ can take charge of all of that, if you'll let him.
And then a true believer is a person who has accepted a challenge. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me and deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". In other words, you deny self, your own selfish ambitions, your own selfish, sinful pleasures, you deny that, and then you turn and take up a cross. What did he mean by that? He means that you are going to die with him. The cross was a place of executing criminals. He said when you go back to your school, back to your neighborhood, back to your work, and tell them that you have received Christ, you may receive persecution. They may laugh at you. They may make fun of you. Your peers and your friends will maybe no longer have anything to do with you. You might lose some dates. You'll have to pay a price.
Many of the people that followed Jesus, when he talked about death, and he said, "I'm going to die", they quit following him. They didn't understand the deeper meaning of his death. They didn't realize that when he died on the cross, that was the only hope they will ever have to get to heaven and to have their sin forgiven. Because when he shed that blood on the cross, that is the only hope that we have in this life or the life to come.
Now I know that some young people in America, at least, resist the idea of a choice of any sort. It's been called the generation of the uncommitted. They don't want to be called narrow, and they don't want to close their minds, but Jesus clearly taught that there are two roads, and you have to choose which road. There are two masters, and you have to choose which master you're going to surrender to. And there are two destinies: heaven or hell, and you have to make the choice. Because, you see, God doesn't make the choice for you. God gives his Son, he helps you to make the choice, by sending his Holy Spirit to convict you, to speak to you, but ultimately, you make your own choice. He gave you a gift he didn't give to his other creatures.
You can choose what kind of life you're going to live, and there's nothing God can do about it. You can choose what you're going to believe, and there's nothing God can do about it, because he gave you a gift of free will. You can say, "I will" or "I won't". "I will" or "I won't". Which will it be for you? "I will" or "I won't"? That's the decision that you'll have to make. You see, there's death to every other choice. You cannot travel both roads. You die to one road when you go down the other. If you choose to marry one girl, you cannot ordinarily marry another. I said "Ordinarily".
Life never allows that kind of neutrality. Jesus does not allow you to be neutral about him. Try to be neutral in politics, and you soon are confronted with the ballot box. But some people do not want to be involved in their neighbor's problems and there's a time when you must stand up and be counted. Jesus demands that you decide about him. Pilate asked, "What shall I do with Jesus, which is called the Christ"? What are you going to do? What is your decision? Before you leave here, you have to make a decision. It'll be "I won't", or "I will". "I won't" or "I will". Pilate washed his hands and said, "I don't want anything to do with him". You have to make a decision. Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I the son of man am"? And Peter answered, "You're Christ, the son of the living God", and Jesus said, "Peter, you're right"!
Then some are reluctant to make a choice for Christ because of theology about the Bible, they're not sure about God. They're not sure that you can prove God. No, you can't prove God. You can't prove that God exists. You cannot go to a scientific laboratory and say, "Here's God in a test tube". We accept God by faith. Everything in nature tells us there must be a God. I have a watch here, it didn't just fly together. This universe that runs in perfect precision, there's a supreme being out there somewhere. We call him God. And when Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf and dumb, when they first communicated with her, they used the word "God" and she said, "I knew him, but I didn't know his name".
There is a God, and the Bible tells us that he's a spirit. And he created the world. That he's from everlasting to everlasting. And he said, "I am the Lord, I change not". But God also says that he's a God of love. He loves you. He's interested in you. He has the hairs of your head numbered. He loves you with an everlasting love, and he wants to forgive you. He wants to come into your life and into your home, and into your work, and into all your relationships and help you. He wants to be the pilot of your plane. He wants to be the pilot of your boat, or the driver of your car. The car of life.
And then there's some young people that will raise the question about the Bible. Can we trust the Bible? Job said, "I've esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food". The scripture says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God". God inspired the Bible. I don't understand everything in the Bible. You can ask me questions in the Bible that I cannot answer. I accept it by faith as the Word of God. And it's changed my life. And it feeds my soul. Every time I read the Bible, any part of the Bible, I don't care where I open up, it speaks to me. It's a living book. It's not like a history book. It's not a book of science. It's a book about faith. It's a book about God. It's not just a book on philosophy. It's not a book just on religion. It's a living book that speaks to you as you read it. There's a supernatural power in reading that book.
And then there are some young people that talk about conversion, and they think of conversion as some dramatic experience in which they hear bells or they see the lightning flash or they hear the thunder, or maybe something like that has to happen to them. I remember the night that I came. I came in a, the crowd was much smaller than this. But I came forward, and stood there. I almost turned around and went back, because I wondered, what in the world am I doing down here? All my school friends looking on. I knew they were going to kid me the next day, and I knew that they were going to laugh at me. But I stood there, because I deeply wanted Christ.
I was a member of the church. I'm sure my pastor was shocked. He thought I was one of his best young members. I was vice president of the young people's society of the church. But I knew I really didn't know Christ. I didn't have any personal relationship with him. So I stood there, and the lady standing next to me was crying. I didn't feel like crying. I didn't feel much at all. And I thought to myself, there's something wrong. There's nothing happening to me. But it did happen.
Deep in my heart when I went home that night, we lived on a farm in the foothills of North Carolina, and I looked out over the moonlit fields and into the woods beyond, and I got on my knees beside the bed, and I looked up at that moon for a long time, and I said, "O God, I don't know much about what I've done tonight, and I certainly don't know much about you, but what little I do know, please come into my heart tonight and change me, and make me a new person".
From that moment on, I started being different. I was headed in a new direction. I didn't have anybody to follow me up. I didn't have anybody to talk to me, and I didn't know how to communicate about what I'd done, but I knew something was different. I was turned around, I was changed. That's what conversion means. It means to change, to turn around. I'm going this way, and I turn and I start this way.
Then some people say, "Well, I don't want to go to church". They refuse Christ because of the church. And some people say, "Well, the church is full of hypocrites". Well, there are hypocrites in every area of life, I'll tell you. The church is not a society of saints. The church is for sinners saved by the grace of God, and the one requirement for membership in the true body of Christ is that you're unworthy to be a member. I'm not worthy to be a member of the body of Christ. I'm not worthy to be a member of the local church where I'm a member. Christ himself founded the church, and its purpose is to glorify God by worship.
You see, we go to church to worship him. We go to church for the fellowship. "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst". The church is for strengthening our faith. You take one live coal and put it aside, and it'll die. But put it with others, and it'll live. The church is an influence for good in the community. The church is for the purpose of witness and service. But I think the main reason a lot of young people don't come to Christ is because they don't want to pay the price.
And he will not compromise. He will not negotiate. You either come by repentance and faith, or you don't come at all. And a lot of young people don't want to pay that kind of price. If you want an education, you'll pay most anything to get it. If you want wealth, you'll give up all sorts of other things to get money. But Jesus said, even all those things... The scripture says, "And the world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abides forever". Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul".
Suppose you had all the wealth in the whole world, and lost your soul. Would it be worth it? No. You see, your soul is that part of you that lives in your body and it's going to live forever, and the decision that many of you make right here tonight or on the satellite places tonight, will decide about your soul's eternal destiny. Now many young people put it off. "Behold, now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation", the Bible says. "He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy".
You say, "What do I have to do"? You have to be willing to say, "God, I'm a sinner". That's repentance. Turn from sin, change your mind. That's repentance. Then faith is where you totally commit your life to Christ. You put him first from now on. Down in Cornwall on Tuesday night a 16-year-old girl gave her heart to Christ, we were told this week. And then the next night, she found her counselor and said, "I want to give you a change of address. I'm going back to live with my parents. They came here tonight and we were reconciled".
She was a runaway. An 18-year-old woman said she had turned away from God at the age of eleven when her mother died, and as she responded to the invitation right here, on this pitch, she said, "I know I cannot go on any further in my life without Jesus. I'm sorry that I've been rejecting him for so long". A young man recovering from a motorcycle accident in which he nearly died saw the mission Sheffield posters and thought, "I don't know anything about God, but I think I'll go and hear what this man has to say", and he did, and he accepted Christ and he made this statement. He said, "I almost died without faith". Because in that accident he came close to death.
Tonight is the night. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, hundreds of you, as we've seen thousands this week here. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform, here in the center and all around, and as you come, you're saying, "I want Christ in my heart. I want him to take over my life. I'm turning my life over to him. I'm not sure". You may go to church, you may not go to church. You may be a good church member, you may not be. I don't know anything about you, but God knows, and you need him, and you may never have another moment like this as long as you live. This is your moment before God. You get up and come.