Billy Graham - Time for Decision
I want to take this opportunity to welcome all of you. I want you to turn with me tonight to the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel and the 24th verse. The sixth chapter and the 24th verse. These words, "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" at the same time. You have to make a choice. "No man can serve two masters for either he will hate the one or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and materialism".
You know, there's a psychological vacuum in America tonight. Millions have no purpose for living and no motivating challenge. They want a cause to believe in, they want a song to sing, and they want a flag to follow. Ernest Hemingway 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 into". Irvin S. Cobb once said, "In politics, I'm a democrat. In a religion, I'm an innocent bystander".
I remember a story that they used to tell out of the American civil war. One man said, "I'm neutral", so he put on gray trousers and a blue coat and they shot at him from both sides. Christ never allowed people to be bystanders and spectators. The word "Christian" is from the latin, and it literally means "Partisan for Christ". A partisan for Christ. You know, they're having all that trouble down in Yugoslavia. And Mr. Tito died some time ago and left a vacuum in that country. And his people that followed him in fighting the Nazis during the war were called partisans. I'm old enough to remember that myself. And they were called partisans, and they committed themselves. They believed in something.
And those partisans never play it neutral. They never play it safe. They never sit on the fence. They are never spectators in the struggle of their times. They take sides, they commit themselves. I heard one in Texas, they asked this man, "Are you a Christian"? And he said "No, thank God I'm a baptist". The word Christian in the early days was used in derision. It was a term of reproach. Many people have a wrong idea about what a Christian is. They think that a Christian is a person who prays, who lives by the golden rule, who is sincere, who goes to church, and who keeps the Ten Commandments. All those are good things. They're products, many times, of being a Christian, but that doesn't make you a Christian. That doesn't really make you a true follower of Jesus Christ.
A Christian is one that three things has taken place in his life. First, he has made a choice. All the way through the Bible we're asked to make a choice. Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, and it affected the whole human race, because they sinned against God and that became a disease that went from generation to generation and you and I have a disease that's going to end in physical death and spiritual death unless we turn to Christ. Every choice we make affects other people. In Deuteronomy the 30th chapter Moses called upon the people of Israel. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I've set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life that both thou and thy seed may live".
Choose! Joshua, the 24th chapter, Joshua said to the people, "Choose you this day whom you are going to serve". I'm asking you tonight to make a choice. Many of you have a choice to make. I talked to a man on the telephone this afternoon and I asked him straight out: "Will you receive Christ as Savior"? He said, "Not now, I'm going to think it over. I have too many questions to ask", and he made a choice, but he said, "I'll watch on television", and I'm praying that he'll make the right choice. In I kings, the 18th chapter, Elijah said to all the people: "How long are you going to halt between two opinions? If the Lord God be God follow him. If the devil is God serve him". Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the straight gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go therein because straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth to life and few there be that find it".
Think of it. Jesus said it's a narrow gate, it's a narrow road for eternal life, and only a few people are going to find it. Most of the people are going to be on the broad road that leads to destruction and judgment and hell. Which road are you on tonight? You have to make that choice before you leave here. And then secondly, a Christian is a person who has made a change, a change in the way you live. The Holy Spirit comes into your life when you receive Christ and he gives you the power to change your whole way of life. The scripture says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new".
Your mind, your emotions, your will are all involved in that change and it affects your whole life when you come to Christ. Many people have made statements about this very thing. Freud said, "People change by renewing their fixations". Adler, the great psychiatrist, used to say, "People change by renewing their goals". Rollo may used to say they change by "Renewing their efforts towards self realization". But God says people change by renewing their minds. The Bible has a lot to say about the mind. When you come to Jesus Christ, you don't commit intellectual suicide. You come to Christ with your mind and you change your mind and that's repentance. You change your mind toward God, you change your mind toward sin. You change your mind toward yourself. And you change your mind toward your neighbor and you begin to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Bible is very clear. To change from a defeated, problem oriented person depends on first changing the mind. Because our problems, emotional upsets and feelings and behavior and goals are all rooted in wrong basic beliefs about how to meet our personal needs in Christ. The third thing... A Christian is a person who has accepted a challenge. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". How many of you are looking for a challenge? If any man will come after me, the first thing he must do is deny self. Your own selfish ambitions. Your own self goals.
And you must come to the cross, where Christ died for you and shed his blood. Because you see, you and I are sinners. We've all broken God's law and we deserve judgment. We deserve hell. We are going to end up in hell. We're going to end up at the judgment, but Christ came on the cross, and by his stripes we are healed. When they took those long leather thongs with steel pellets and beat him across the back, he was doing that for you. When they put those nails in his hands, he was doing it for you. When they put that spear in his side he was doing it for you. He went to hell for you. He took your judgment and your hell, so that you'll never have to spend one minute in hell, and you'll never have to face the great judgment of God. That's how much God loves you.
God loves you. But he rose again. We don't worship a Christ who's still on a cross. We worship a living Christ. That's what Easter is all about. But God says, that if you're to follow him, you're going to have to take up your cross daily. Every morning, when you get up, you take up your cross. Now what is your cross? The cross is the fact that Jesus went out to die on the cross. It was like saying, take up the electric chair and follow me today. Take up the gallows and follow me. You identify yourself with Christ, openly and publicly, and you're not ashamed of Christ. That's what it means. He would walk down the street and he would call men, and they would follow him.
Now some young people here tonight, resist the idea of choice of any sort. We've been called the generation of the uncommitted. They don't want to be called narrow. They don't want to close their minds. Christ taught clearly that there are two roads, two masters and two destinies. We cannot travel both roads, so we avoid the choice as long as we can. There's death in every choice. You die to one road when you go down the other. Life never allows neutrality without exacting a price. Try to be neutral in politics, and one day you'll be confronted with the ballot box. Try to be neutral about the race problem, and you'll be confronted in your block, in your neighborhood, or on your street or in your school.
And someday it will come to you. You can't be non-involved in the issues of our day, and the social problems of our day. You can't be involved with the thousands of people that walk the streets of king county with no place to sleep and nothing, and very little to eat. We have to do something about it. That's the reason we have love in action. We know we can't feed all of the hungry people. But we do it as an example as to what churches ought to be doing all the time. We ought to be extending a helping hand to help all of those that are in need. Some people don't want to be involved in their neighbor's problems. There is a time, though, when you must stand up and be counted. Jesus Christ demands that you decide, decide about him.
Pilate asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ"? Pilate washed his hands. You have to make a decision about Christ. "Whom do men say that i, the son of man, am"? And Simon Peter answered and said: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God". Now some are reluctant to make the choice for Christ because of theology. You don't want to accept all of the things that the scripture teaches about God, and about Christ, even about God himself. The Bible says, "I am the Lord God, I change not". The Bible says God is a God of love. And then there comes the Bible. What am I going to do about the Bible? I can't accept the Bible. Job says, "I've esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food".
In II Timothy the third chapter, it says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God". The Bible is the inspired Word of God. I don't ever spend five minutes wondering whether this is the Word of God or not. I accepted this by faith years ago, and I've never had a doubt about it since. When you accept it by faith, nothing can move you. There are things I don't understand in the Bible. There are things that are almost apparent contradictions, but they're not. I just accept it as God's word by faith. My problem is, not the things I don't understand in the Bible, it's the things I do understand. Things that I do understand that I ought to be doing in obedience to Christ. That's what disturbs me.
And then there are a lot of young people that say, "Well, I've heard about conversion, and you want us to be converted". Yes, because Jesus said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, you can't see the Kingdom of God". What does conversion mean? It just means turn around. I'm going this direction, I turn and I start this direction in my life. That's conversion. Just changing over. That's all it means. Don't make a big thing out of it. But it is a big thing because it depends, your eternity depends on whether you've been really converted or not. You have to be converted inside, in your heart, not just the outward things. Many people think you're a good person because you go to church, you've been baptized or maybe you've been confirmed in your church. But you need to come and reconfirm your confirmation vows: you need to come and reconfirm the baptism vows that you took or the baptism vows that your parents took. You need to come and make Christ real in your own life.
And then some refuse Christ because of the church. How many times I hear the word, "Well, the church is full of hypocrites". Well, there's hypocrites in every area of life. I was born and reared on a dairy farm, and we sold milk. And we would distribute the milk to the various customers, and we'd get up early in the morning and send our little dairy trucks out. And I would milk the cows, and sometimes I'd go on the truck, and we had several dairies in our area, and so when the price of milk got so low, the farmers began to put water in the milk. Now, there were hypocrites in the milk business. But that did not mean that there were not some real ones. My father would never stoop to such a thing as that.
Now the one requirement for membership in the church is that you are unworthy to be a member. Christ himself founded the church. The church is made up of sinners that have been saved by the grace of God. There's no such thing as a perfect church. If you find a perfect church, and you join it, it becomes imperfect. The church is for fellowship. The church is for strengthening our faith. The church has many things that it can contribute to you. But there's another reason that we sometimes say we don't want to come to Christ. We don't want to pay the price. If you want an education, you'll deny anything to get it. If you want wealth, you'll give up all sorts of things to attain it.
Now, God gave the very best he had for you. The scripture says he spared not his own son. The scripture says, "The world passes away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abides forever". "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul"?
And then there are other young people that are afraid of being misunderstood and ridiculed. Do not want to be in such a small minority. The Bible teaches that there may be persecution. There will be. You will be misunderstood. You will be an outsider in many groups and peer pressure is so powerful today in the various school levels whether it's the university or whether it's the high school. The Bible teaches that you may be an outsider. And you may have to seek some new friends, because one of the things that happens is when you come to Christ you enter a whole new social world. And you will find that you will have brothers and sisters in every country of the world. It's a great fraternity that we join when we come to Christ.
And it may not be just episcopalians or baptists or methodists or Pentecostalists or Presbyterians or catholic. It may be we just are "Christ ones". I've been all over... Well, not all over the world, but many parts of the world, and I've met people that were absolute strangers to me, but the moment we met we were brothers. You might not be invited to certain parties. You might not be invited to certain things, and you may have to pay a price for a little while 'til you make new friends among believers. To follow Christ may be costly business. But the apostle Paul said, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution". That's a part of the cost.
It's not easy to follow Christ in 1991 in America. It's hard. It costs something. And then there are many young people that just put it off. You say, "I'm gonna wait 'til another time". Proverbs 27 says, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow for you know not what a day will bring forth". The scripture says, "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation".
In Lillian Roth's story, in her book "I'll Cry Tomorrow", at a certain point, she had this to say: "I'm an alcoholic and I need help". You need to say tonight, "I have sinned against God and I need help. I want to know I'm going to haven. I want to know my sins are forgiven. I want to be sure if I died now that I would go straight into heaven". Will you say that tonight? And if you're not certain of your relationship to Christ tonight, I'm going to ask you to make sure, so that you can leave here and say, "I know that Christ lives inside of me". And I'm going to ask you in a moment to get up out of your seat and say that. You must make that commitment. Don't sit on the fence any longer. Just stand out and say, "I'm coming".
A young man recovering from a motorcycle accident in which he nearly died, saw that we were going to be in Sheffield, England for a crusade. And he said, "I don't know anything about God but I ought to hear that man". So he came. He did, and he accepted Christ and he told his counselor, "I almost died without faith". When we were in one of the places, I forget, some city, there was a 16-year-old girl that gave her life to Christ and 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".
George Williams, who founded the YMCA came to Christ in the 19th century in England's west country, and he wrote this: "I cannot describe to you the joy and the peace which flowed into my soul, when first I saw that the Lord Jesus had died for my sins, and that they were all forgiven". Do you know Christ? Are you certain of it? If there's a doubt in your heart and mind, make sure tonight.
I read the life story, some years ago, of Francisco Pizarro. It brought back to mind today when I was reading about the trouble they are having in Peru. In the 16th century, he conquered Peru. In the midst of great difficulties, when he only had a handful of men left, he drew a line with his sword on the ground. One way was to Peru, with riches and danger and the other was back toward Panama where their ships were and security. He chose to march south to Peru, and became the founder of that great nation.
Tonight, you stand at the crossroads of your life. You step across that line that has been drawn in the sand by our Lord Jesus Christ. And he says, "Repent of your sin: be converted. Come to me. I will change your life, I'll make you a new person. I'll give you a new power, a new joy. A new peace, a new happiness". I'm going to ask you to come. And by coming, you are saying, "I open my heart and give my life to Christ. I want a change in my life". Get up and come. I'm going to ask that no one leave, please.
I want to say a word to you that have been watching by television. You have been here in Seattle, Washington with us in this great kingdome, one of the great stadiums of the world. And we've seen hundreds of people come to Christ tonight. Simply, not knowing all about it, but coming to offer themselves to Jesus Christ and praying and hoping that there'll be a change in their lives. There will be, with Christ in their lives. You can make that same commitment where you are. You make the commitment now and say yes to Christ. He'll come into your heart. And say Lord, "I want a change to take place in me: in the relations with my family, my wife, my husband, my children, my parents. I need you Lord, and I want you to come in". He'll forgive your sin. He'll give you the assurance that you're going to heaven when you die. Give your life to him tonight.