Billy Graham - The Power of the Cross
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to a familiar passage of scripture, Galatians, the 6th chapter. Galatians, the 6th chapter, and the 14th verse. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world". Just after the war, Cliff Barrows and I came together. He led the singing, and I did the preaching. And his wife and my wife, and the four of us, went to England. And we lived in England during the winter of 1946 and '47.
Now London was almost totally devastated. And one of the things I remember is that in all that devastation after the war, and all the rubble, there stood St. Paul's Cathedral. And on top of St. Paul's was a cross. I remember when Coventry Cathedral was being built, because it had been destroyed during the war. And it was nearing completion. A cross was lowered by helicopter and placed on the top. A huge 25 foot wooden cross stands above the fields of the buried horror of Belsen concentration camp. A tiny cross placed there by sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conquer the peak of mountains, is buried on the snow and the ice at the summit of mount Everest.
Now you, many of you, are very religious, and you have embossed upon your Bibles a cross, or you wear a cross around your neck. And the thing that I want to ask you tonight is this: what does the cross mean to you? Why do all the catholic churches, and all the protestant churches, have a cross? That's the one thing we agree on is the cross. The whole Christian world looks to the cross.
Why did Paul say that he gloried in it, more than anything else in all the world? Paul could have gloried in his education. He was one of the most educated men of his time. He could have gloried in his religion: he was very religious. He could have gloried in his ability to speak several languages: he was fluent in several. He could have gloried in the fact that he was a Roman citizen, but he didn't. Or he could have gloried in certain things about Jesus Christ, other than the cross. His spectacular, miraculous birth, born of a virgin, the virgin Mary, or the great teaching of Christ.
Even today, educators say there's never been a teacher like Jesus Christ. Or his great social work, his compassion for the poor and the needy, his concern for the hungry and the sick, his amazing resurrection from the dead, his future glory, when he's going to rule the world. And his kingdom is going to come. He could have gloried in any of those things. But he said, "No, I glory only in the cross". And he said, "God forbid that I should glory in anything else, except the cross". Why?
Well, I want you to think a moment and look at that cross. It was the most cruel of all punishments, because the victim sometimes would hang there for several days: it took them several days to die. And on this occasion they were crucifying three people: two thieves, murderers, and Jesus in the middle. The soldiers entered the guardhouse and brought Jesus with the two other condemned men. They were beaten 33 times, or 39 times, on their bare backs with leather thongs with steel pellets on the end. A crown of thorns had been put on Jesus' brow. A cross was laid upon his back.
The procession started. Jerusalem was filled with a carnival-like atmosphere at that time. And the procession went through the main streets, so that all might see the criminal and be warned of a similar fate if he broke the laws of Rome. A big crowd was following. Just a few of Jesus' friends were following. And Jesus became weakened by the loss of blood, and he fell. And so Simon of Cyrene, an African, helped him carry the cross. The soldiers went quickly and methodically about their task of driving home the nails in his hands, and the spike through his feet.
The crowd mills around, jeering, "He saved others: himself he cannot save". They laughed, and they mocked, and they made fun of him. "Come down, do just one more miracle", they said. But he didn't do it. He stayed there, and you know why he stayed there? Because of you. Because he loved you. Because, you see, only in Jesus Christ can we find forgiveness of sins. He was bearing our sins on the cross.
People ask me constantly, as they write, "Is there any hope for me? Can Christ save me"? Prostitutes, alcoholics, robbers, murderers, prisoners, people filled with racial prejudice, people who hold in their hearts anti-semitism: "Is there any hope for me"? People who have done many evil things, both corporately and privately: "Is there any hope for me"?
A bishop of a church in another country came to me one time, some years ago now, and he told me that he did not believe that he was saved. He said, "I've been to theological school in England". He said, "I've been a bishop now", and he told me how many years. But he said, "I have so many doubts that my sins are forgiven and I'm going to heaven". And he said, "I've come to you, to ask you if you would pray for me, and pray with me". And very simply I talked to him just like he was a little child, as though he had never heard the Gospel before. Tears came streaming down his face, and he got on his knees, and he prayed a very simple prayer, which indicates to me that you can even be a clergyman, be in the church.
I know a man in St. Louis, pastor of a large church: he was converted to Christ under his own preaching. He'd never known Christ, and suddenly the Spirit of God spoke to him. I know a man here in Boston who was pastor of a church that was dying. He had a brilliant education from one of your great theological seminaries here. And his little daughter got sick, and he thought she was dying. And he said, "Lord", he said, "If you will raise up my daughter, from now on I'll turn to the Bible and preach nothing but the Bible. And accept your word as the word of faith". And that happened. Within a year, his church was packed out. Now he's pastor of a great church in Florida. Some of you know him.
Paul gloried in the cross because it is the only way of salvation. Nothing else will save. The cross is the only way. "There is a way", the Bible says. Oh, there are other ways of salvation, so we're taught by many teachers, "That seemeth right: but the end thereof is the way of death". There's only one way - by the cross. And that's one reason why people don't like to talk about the cross, or the exclusiveness of salvation. We like to think that there are many ways.
And there are many ways that people worship, and there are many ways that people pray. And God does hear the prayers of all people, all over the world. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord is going to be heard. But there's only one way outlined in the Bible. And I, as a minister of the Gospel, must declare unto you what the apostle Peter said, "There is therefore now no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved". Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the father, but by me". I didn't say that: Jesus said it. Jesus said, as I've already quoted, "Enter in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it".
Notice, he says it's hard. It's not easy to follow Christ. You pay a price. He said, "If you're not willing to deny self and take up the cross, you cannot be my follower". You see, we would like something cheap and something easy. His demands were so high that many people refused to go with him any further. They'd go so far, and then they'd turn away. Because he turned to a crowd one day and said, "Count the cost". Count the cost. If you follow me, that means that I become Lord of your life. If you follow me, that means you become my learner, my disciple, and you must do my commands. You've got to love your neighbor as yourself, if you follow me. If you follow me, you've got to be concerned about the needs of the world. If you follow me, you've got to be willing to take up the cross.
I'm going to die on a cross. I'm going to be executed. That means that you're willing to go back to your school, and back to your home, and back to your neighborhood, and tell the people that you know Christ. And let them see Christ in you. And that won't be easy. But if you'll do that, he'll be with you. He doesn't ask us to live the Christian life alone: I cannot live the Christian life. I'll be honest with you, I cannot do it. But Christ can live it through me, if I will let him. And he can produce the Fruit of the Spirit. He can give me a love and a joy and a peace that I'll never find anywhere in this world. He can give me the certainty of my eternal life.
Now Jesus also warned us that "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not preached in your name? And in your name we have cast out demons? And in your name we have done many wonderful works? And then he said, I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity". You see, you can go to church, you can be a good person, and maybe really never know Christ. I know many people that live moral lives that are agnostics and even atheists. There comes a point, there comes a moment, sometime, somewhere, when you must receive Christ into your heart.
Paul gloried in the cross because it expresses the depth of sin: because it shows the love of God: because it's the only way of salvation: and, fourthly, because he knew that it gave a new dynamic to life. Once you've been to the cross, you can never be the same. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new", the scripture says. You'll never be the same once you come to Christ.
I remember the night I came to Christ. I stood with about three or four hundred other people, made my commitment to Christ. And while I was standing there, I felt like a fool. I started to turn around and go back. A woman next to me was weeping and I didn't have any tears. I had no emotion at all, except fear, afraid of standing in front of so many people. But I went home that night, and I remember it was a moonlight night. And we lived on a farm, and I looked out across the field, across the woods.
And I knew something had happened to me that night. I didn't know what. If you'd asked me the next day what had happened to me, I could not have told you. I now know. That first step was so weak, and my faith was so weak, and I had so many doubts. But, my goodness, the transformation that began working its way into my life over a period of time was so tremendous. And it's still working, and it's still growing. And I'm still learning, and it gets better every day.
And then, fifthly, fifthly, it's a motivation for service, a motivation for service. Did you see Mother Teresa getting that award? And then she won the Nobel Peace Prize, two or three years ago... And she's won so many awards. And she said, "I owe it all to the cross". Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize, and they asked him something about it. And he said, "It was built upon my father's evangelical preaching". I know his father, and I knew Martin Luther King, of course. And his father always preached the Gospel, and believed in the cross, and so did Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you know Christ? It's a motivation for service. What motivates you to go out and help the hungry, and the poor, and the oppressed? My son spends his time, a great deal of it, in the third world, helping the poor and the needy, going to little dispensaries and little hospitals and sending doctors to help them. He was out on one of those boats in the China sea, helping pick up those refugees a couple years ago. What motivates him? Why does he go to some place in Africa, or go all through New Guinea, or go through India or Bangladesh, or some of these places to try to help? Because he loves Christ. It's Christ that motivates him. What motivates you? Or do you have any motivation at all to help others?
And then Paul gloried in the cross because he knew that it guaranteed a future life. The cross was followed by the resurrection. But "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself". And the scripture tells us in a grand anthem in the Book of Revelation, the 5th chapter, "And they sang a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation and hast made us unto our God a kingdom of priests: and we shall reign on earth". What a glorious future we have because of the cross.
Some of you are watching by television. Pick up that phone, and call that number (1-877-772-4559) that's there right now. And talk to the person, and tell them your need. And share with them, and they will talk to you. And you can find Christ tonight, or you can find help for your problem or your need, whatever it is.
Now what was the attitude of the crowd that was there that day? Christ dying on the cross. First, there was the attitude of apathy. "Sitting down, they watched him there". That's indifference. Many here this evening who are completely indifferent to what I'm saying, and to the Gospel. The mockings, the abuse, and the atrocity of that ancient pagan mob were less painful to Christ than the indifference of a modern world, upon which the light of the Gospel has been shining all these years. Here in new England, no place in all the world has had more Gospel than you've had in your past history. How many today are indifferent?
"To whom much is given, much is required". You see, more is going to be required of you, where you've had the Gospel for so many years and so many Bibles, so many churches, and now the television and the radio, than those people in China, or people in other countries that don't have the Gospel as freely as we have it today.
And then there's the attitude of the skeptic and the cynic. "And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, 'ah you that destroyed the temple, and you build it in three days, save yourself, come down from the cross'". And there are skeptics here tonight, I know that. We've had many a skeptic come to the meeting, and have his life changed. I remember the great scientist from the University of Minneapolis who came skeptical. But three days after that service he found Christ and became a wonderful Bible teacher of the faculty at the university.
Then there's the attitude that saves. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister". And then there was the attitude of the centurion, who said, "Truly, this is the Son of the living God". My wife was born and reared in China. And in Chinese, the word "come" is written with three characters, each of which is a cross with a person on it. We're translating tonight in Chinese: both Mandarin and Cantonese. The cross in all languages means "Come to the cross". Find salvation. Come to the cross and find peace. Come to the cross and find forgiveness. "Come" is the invitation of the whole Bible. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". Come to the cross.
I'm asking you tonight to come to the cross. You say, "Well, what do I have to do"? Three things. Christ has paid the price on the cross. He's been raised from the dead. That is the heart of what is called the "Good news", the Gospel. The good news is that God loves you. He gave his Son to die for you. He will forgive you of your sins. He will give you eternal life tonight. You don't have to wait till tomorrow. Tonight. That's the good news. But you must receive it.
How do you receive it? First, by repenting of sin: that means to turn, to change your thinking, to change your mind, to change your attitude, and to change your way of living. Let Christ come, and be in control of your life. That's repentance. Saying to God, "I have sinned, and I'm sorry for it. Forgive me". That's repentance. But then you must by faith receive him, and that word "Faith" may trip you up. Faith means that you totally commit to Christ. Just as I'm standing on this platform, and my body is committed to this platform. So you stand with your whole life. And everything you have, you put on Christ. Your hope is in him, and him alone. He becomes the one that you trust totally and completely for your salvation.
There was a minister preaching on the thief on the cross once. Some man yelled from the congregation and said, "What about that thief on the cross"? And quick as a flash, the minister said, "which thief"? Because, you see, one died and was lost: and one died and was saved. And that's the only story of deathbed repentance in the whole Bible.
So you better not wait. The Bible says, "Today is the day of salvation: now is the accepted time". Nowhere in the Bible does it promise you tomorrow. And Jesus said you must do it publicly. He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me publicly before men, I will not acknowledge you before my Father which is in heaven". That's the reason I ask people to come forward publicly.
You see, your coming forward doesn't actually save you. It's coming forward as a symbol of an inward decision you're making in your heart. You're coming and standing with Christ at the cross, and saying by coming, "I do repent of sin. I do want a change. I do want his forgiveness. I do want a new life". I'm going to ask you right now to get up out of your seat, and do what we've seen thousands through New England do. I'm going to ask you to come and stand in front of this platform. And say by coming, "I want sin forgiven. I want to know when I leave this stadium that Christ is with me, and that Christ has forgiven me, and that I'm going to heaven".
If you have a doubt in your mind, don't you leave this stadium till you've settled it, because you may never have another moment when your heart is this close to the Kingdom of God. You're not here by accident. I believe you're here in the providence of God. You get up and come right now. We're going to wait on you. Hundreds of you, quickly. I'm going to ask that no one leave the stadium. This is a very holy and sacred moment, and you be in an attitude of prayer. You can bring your friend with you. If you're with friends or relatives, or you've come in one of those buses, they'll wait on you. You get up and come, and make this commitment.
You that are watching by television can see here in Boston, Massachusetts, many hundreds of people coming to make their commitment to Jesus Christ. You can make your commitment right where you are. Just say yes to Christ. Pick up the telephone and call that number. God bless you. Be sure and go to church next Sunday.