Billy Graham - The Power of a Positive No
In two of the three past years, the Academy Awards given in Hollywood for best motion pictures of the year have been British films. And they've been about two men, one by the name of Eric Liddell and the other Gandhi, who had the force and the courage under pressure to say no, no to themselves, to discipline themselves. And tonight, I want to take as my text First Corinthians the 10th chapter beginning with verse 12. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There is no temptation", listen to this, no temptation that you ever face "but such as is common to man".
Everybody else faces the same temptation at some point in their lives, "but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear, but will with the temptation make a way to escape". In other words, every temptation that you ever have, there's a way to escape. God provides it if you know Christ.
Now, there are many stories in the Bible about young people who said no and changed history. The first one I'd like to mention is one you've probably never heard of. Her name is Vashti. She was queen of Persia. The wife of Xerxes who reigned all the way from India to Ethiopia. Think of all the oil he had and probably didn't know it. One of the richest monarchs that ever lived. And he gave a great feast that lasted for many days. And at the end in his sort of drunken stupor, he ordered his wife, Vashti, to come and perform a lude dance before all of his guests.
And she astounded the entire world of leaders that had gathered by refusing. She said, no, I will not come and expose my body to those leering men. He sent a second message and the threat was she would no longer be queen. She would lose and forfeit her material luxury and all of her fame. But she sent the same message back. No, and she changed history because she was deposed as queen. She's lost in history, but because of her Esther became queen and the Jewish people were saved. And to this day, the Jewish people celebrate a great holiday because a woman said no and opened the door for the salvation of the Jewish people because there was a man like Hitler that was the prime minister of the country, and he had determined to destroy and to kill the Jews.
Now, the Bible has a great deal to say about sensuality and lasciviousness and lewdness. The word lasciviousness means the tendency to incite lustful desires. Sensuality means the planned appeal to the physical senses for personal gratification. The Bible says abstain from fleshly lust. That is sensuality, which war against the soul. They're at war against your soul and your spirit. And the Bible says abstain from them, keep clear of them. And then the Bible uses another word, reprobate.
Now these are the totally deprived people. Their consciences are either dead or seared. They can no longer blush. They've lost the ability to discern between good and evil. And in Romans 1:28 it says, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things that are not right". In other words, God gave them up and said, go to it. Have all the lewdness and all the sex and sexuality you want. I won't disturb you. Not yet, but be sure your sins are going to find you out and you will stand at the judgment.
And Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, "These also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds reprobate concerning the faith". In other words, they've rejected Christ so long that their conscience is dead and seared and their hearts become hard. And even if the Spirit of God speaks, they cannot hear. That's the reason it's important to come to Christ while you're young and it's important to come to Christ now, if the Spirit of God is even whispering to you, give your life to Christ, because there may come a time when your conscience will be dead and you can no longer hear God speak. Vashti said, no.
Now Vashti, you're going to lose your throne. You're going to lose your riches. You may lose your life. She said, the answer is still no. What is your answer tonight to those things that are wrong, to lying, to lust, to greed, to racial prejudice? What is it? Will you discipline your body? Will you stand by the convictions of Christ and what the Bible teaches, or are you going to give in and go on the broad road that leads to destruction or will you go through the narrow gate and go the narrow road that leads to eternal life? Which will it be? You have a choice tonight. God will never force his views upon you.
And then another young man was named Daniel, and the scripture says that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the King's meat. Nor with the wine which he drank. Now Daniel was a young man with a purpose. He had been captured in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar's armies had invaded Jerusalem. He had been captured and he was taken 1500 miles across the fertile Crescent to Babylon, 15 miles from home, 1500 miles from home now. No airplanes, no automobiles; days and weeks of travel. But he was determined to serve God. He couldn't have been more than 12 or 15 years of age.
And Nebuchadnezzar, the great king had taken captives from Jerusalem to Babylon and ordered that these young men in whom there's no blemish, but are well favored and skillful in languages to be taught and reared in his court so he could use them. He wanted to use these young Jews because he knew that they had a special gift. And during the period of training, they brought the finest wines and the finest foods and all the soft living that you could imagine in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. But Daniel said, no, I don't want the King's wine and I don't want the finest foods. I want to sleep on the floor, not the feather bed. I want to lead a very simple, self-disciplined life.
How different from those who can't wait until they can get away from home and live it up, but not Daniel. Daniel was far from home and nobody would know if he did some of these things. Nobody would know if he had a girl and slept with her. Nobody would know if he got drunk on the King's wine. Nobody would know back there in Jerusalem. He could have gained popularity by indulging, but this early no in his youth prepared him for the big no when he was prime minister of Babylon and was thrown in the lion's den because he wouldn't compromise his faith in God.
We defile ourselves by overeating, drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs, spending too much time watching the television or going to the films. In Luke. Jesus said in the 21st chapter, "and take head to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life so that that day come upon you unawares". The apostle Paul said, "Make no provision of the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof". Peter said, "For in times past we walked in lasciviousness and lust, an excess of wine, revelings, banquetings and all sorts of evil things".
The Bible says we're to discipline our minds, we're to discipline our bodies. We're to discipline our hearts by their faith in Christ. And then there was another young man by the name of Joseph, and he was sold into Egypt by his brothers and he became a slave to a man called Potiphar. And Potiphar had a very beautiful wife. Now Joseph was strong and handsome and in Genesis, the 39th chapter if you want to read the story, it tells the story of the temptation of Joseph. Potiphar's wife sort of fell in love with Joseph because Joseph became head of the whole household and managed the affairs of his master. And she saw this handsome young, virile young man walking through the house and in the gardens and in all the business affairs every day. And she lusted for him.
She said, "Come and lie with me". He said, "No". He said, I cannot disobey my master who has trusted me with all of this to lie with his wife and I cannot sin against God, the God of my fathers. Now he was away from home way down in Egypt. Who would know? But he said, "No". And when he said no on the last time he ran from her, when she grabbed him and left his coat behind and she began to scream and yell and call for the servants and said he tried to rape me, which was not true, but she said that and the master Potiphar had him thrown in prison and many of you know the story of how he was in prison and how through a whole series of circumstances he, too, became the prime minister of Egypt and ruled Egypt under Pharaoh. God watched him and promoted him because he had the strength that God gave him to say no when he was tempted.
Now sex is not a sin. Sex was given to us by God to propagate the human race and for enjoyment within the bonds of certain rules that God laid down within matrimony and the marks of a Christian are self-control and self-discipline. And Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "Keep myself pure". How can you stay pure in a world like we live in? How can you stay pure and look at the newsstands? How can you stay pure and look at the films? How can you stay pure with all the temptations thrown at you? You can't. No way, except one. If Christ is in your heart, He will give you the strength and the power because no temptation will come to you that's so strong, but what He will provide a way to escape.
Give your life to Christ tonight and let him take control of your life and let him be Lord of your life and let him rule that area of your life, your mind, and your body and even your sex. Let him be Lord of your sex life. Then there was another young man by the name of Moses. We think often of Moses as being an old man with a beard, but it was in his youth that he made the decisions that brought him to greatness. Because the scripture says by faith, Moses, when he'd come to years, maybe 17 or 18 years of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing. He had to make a choice rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Now notice he was in Egypt, the son of Pharaoh's daughter, heir to the throne of Egypt, possibly to be the next Pharaoh. But he made a choice because he knew that his people, ancient Israel, were the slaves of the Egyptians. And he had to make a choice at the height of his glory, at the height of all that was offered to him. And he said no to Pharaoh, I will not be your son. I will choose to suffer and die with my people and serve the true and the living God. And that's exactly what he did. And we know Moses today is one of the great men of all history. He said, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Now there's a difference between pleasure and joy. "He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man", the Bible says, and the Bible says about one man, "I gave my heart to know madness, pleasure and folly, but this caused vexation of the spirit, but she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she lives". Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The Bible says there are people that love pleasure more than they love God. Which are you? Do you love God more than you do sinful pleasure? I'm not talking about sports and all of these wonderful things that we have. I'm talking about sinful pleasure.
Now, joy is produced by the Holy Spirit and there are hundreds of scriptures that talk about joy. You can have joy when you may not have pleasure because joy runs deep. The angel said to Mary on that first Christmas night, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people". And even in suffering, when you come to Christ, God doesn't take away the suffering and he doesn't take away the problems and the difficulties of your life, not at all. He doesn't promise if you're unemployed that he's going to get you a job tomorrow morning if you accept Christ tonight. He promises that he'll give grace and strength and joy through it all.
"Blessed are ye when men shall hate you", he said, "and when they shall separate you from their company and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil for the son of man's sake, rejoice in that day and leap for joy". He said when you come to me and you have trouble and tribulation and people even hate you, he said, jump up and down for joy. For behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in like manner did their fathers under the prophets. "All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution", the Bible says.
There's going to be suffering. Jesus said, if you're not willing to take up the cross and deny self, you cannot be my follower. Moses chose the joy of following God rather than the pleasures of Egypt. Which are you following? What is your choice tonight? And then the last one is Jesus. Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. Now you mean to tell me that Jesus was tempted to lie? Yes. That Jesus was tempted to lust. Yes. That Jesus was tempted to go with some woman? Yes. That Jesus was tempted to steal. Yes. He was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin.
How did he overcome temptation? The Bible tells us in the fourth chapter of Matthew and many other places, but I'll just take that one. The devil came to him when he was hungry and tired and thirsty and said, "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread". Notice he tried to put doubts in Jesus' mind as to who he was. You see, Jesus was the Son of God. He was the virgin-born Son of God, who was raised from the dead by the power of God and is alive today. But the devil put a doubt in his mind. He was weak, He was tired, He was hungry, He was a man now. He faced the devil, not as the Son of God. He faced him as a man and he always answered by quoting scripture. That's why we want you to memorize scripture. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God".
Jesus said, there's something more important than food and sex and material things. It's your spiritual life. And then he said, "If thou be the Son of God, cast yourself down for it is written, 'He shall give his angels charge concerning you and in their hands they shall bear you up'". Jesus answered again, "It is written, thou shall not tempt the Lord by God". And then the devil took him up on a high mountain and showed him all the future of the world, all the kingdoms that were yet to come. And he said to him, "If you will bow down your knee to me and acknowledge me, I'll give you all the kingdoms of the earth" from now on. But Jesus said, get these hints Satan, "thou shalt worship the Lord by God and only Him shalt thou worship". So, the devil left him, and the angels came and helped him.
Notice how Jesus met the devil and the temptation. First, he quoted scripture. Second, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and third, he was in the will of God. Are you willing to say no to the temptations of the tempter? Are you? Think about it. And are you willing to say yes to the claims of Christ, that He is the Son of God and that you want Him to come into your heart and forgive your sins and you want to know it? Oh, I know many of you have been baptized and confirmed. Most of you perhaps are members of some church or you're identified with a church, or maybe you go to church two or three times a year.
I don't know whether you do or not, but I'm sure a lot of you do. But you're not sure. You couldn't stand here tonight and say, "I know my sins are forgiven. I know I'm going to heaven". God is willing to forgive all your past tonight because of the cross. God is willing to say, I forgive you because he loves you and God is interested in you as though you were the only person in the whole world. And you can receive him tonight.
You say, what do I have to do? You have to be willing first to repent of your sin. That was the first sermon Jesus ever preached was repentance and the word repentance means to change, to change your mind, to change your way of living, to let Christ come and help you change. Are you willing to do that? You can't change yourself, but he'll help you to change. It doesn't mean that you become perfect. It means that you turn around and start in a new direction and he's there with you to help you as you live from day to day for Christ. Oh, you'll fail, and you'll make mistakes. You won't be perfect, but Christ will be with you, if you're willing to repent. You say to God tonight, I have sinned and I'm sorry and I'm willing to change. And then the second thing is by faith you receive Him.
Notice Cliff said a moment ago, you cannot think your way all the way. There are certain things that you can think your way through, but there are many things in the beginning you cannot. You come like a little child and say, Lord, I don't understand it all, but I do receive you into my heart tonight by faith, "For by faith are you saved through faith and that not of works, lest any man should boast". For by grace are you saved.
And then the third thing, you're willing to leave here tonight saying, I'm going to follow Him and serve Him as best I know how. You know, in our meeting in Bristol a few weeks ago there was a 17-year-old boy and he had a driving lesson that night and he asked his instructor to drop him off at Ashton Gate, the stadium. And in that great crowd, he located his family who had been given tickets for the evening and at the invitation he and his sister both did what I'm going to ask you to do. They came forward and stood in front of the platform to signify that they were giving their lives to Christ.
One week later, this young boy, 17-year-old boy, was killed after a tunnel of sand collapsed on him on the beach. You probably read about it in the paper. He said yes to Christ, never dreaming that within just a few days he'd be in heaven and we'll see him in heaven. Do you know if that happened to you tonight where you'd go? You can make sure before you leave here, I'm going to ask you to leave your seat right now. Hundreds, maybe thousands of you and come and stand here on this pitch quietly and reverently and say, by coming, "I want to repent of my sins. I want to receive Christ into my heart. I want to know my sins are forgiven. I want to know I'm going to heaven and I want this new life".
Jesus died publicly for you, naked, bleeding and dying in front of that mob for you certain you can come on this beautiful pitch tonight and declare yourself for Christ. Not only young people. You may be 70 or 80 years old and God has spoken to you tonight, get up and come. We're going to wait on you.
Give your life to Christ tonight and make the decision that these people are making these hundreds of people. We've seen more than 3000 every night this week come out on this pitch to make their commitment to Christ. You join them where you are and make that commitment to him. God help you to make that decision tonight and be sure and go to church next Sunday.