Billy Graham - Whose Fool Are You?
Tonight, I want to talk on fools. And I want you to turn with me to the third chapter of I Corinthians, beginning with the 18th verse: "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: he taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they're vain".
A couple of years ago, Anthony Newley sang "What kind of a fool am I," to the top of the charts. I looked up in the dictionary to see what a fool is, or one of my associates did for me. And the Bible has a lot to say about fools and what a fool is. Proverbs 10:21 says: "Fools die for the want of wisdom". Proverbs 1:7 says: "Fools despise wisdom". When P.T. Barnum came to this country many years ago he said, "The American people want to be fooled and I'm here to fool them". He said, "A fool is born every minute".
Now synonyms that you can find for the word fool is stupid person, bonehead, blockhead, simpleton, chump, nitwit, goose, sap, numbskull, ignoramus, beetle head, whatever you want. One who has been imposed on by others: a stooge, a gullible or a dupe! Now in the Bible it may mean all of this. But it also has a moral meaning in the Bible. And is a very important word in the Bible. And the verses seem almost paradoxical. I Corinthians 3:18 says: "Let him become a fool". And Proverbs 1:7 says: "Fools despise wisdom". And God is speaking from the divine standpoint. In one passage the fool is an unthinking, thoughtless, careless person without true understanding. In the other passage, the word fool is used from the standpoint of people who have received Christ because the world laughs at them and says they're foolish and ridiculous. They're fools!
So there are unwise fools and there are wise fools. Now Jesus said, "Whoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire". You be very careful how you call another person a fool. I wouldn't dare use that name for you or for anybody else. Never use the word fool in anger the Bible says. But I'm telling you what God says about it in certain instances.
First, there's the atheistic fool. It's repeated twice in Psalm 53:1 and Psalm 14:1: "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God". But in Hebrew, it actually means, "There is no God for me". In other words, this fool deliberately says, "There is no God for me". He's not saying, there's no God. He's saying, there's no God for me. Then there's the practical atheist. You see, there are many people that are really not atheists but they are practical atheists in the sense that they live like an atheist. You profess to believe in God, but you don't live like you believe in God. You live as though there is no God. You too, in a sense, are an atheist. And there are hundreds here tonight like that. You believe in God with your mind. You may go to church. But you live as though God does not exist as far as you're concerned. As so you are an atheist in a sense.
And then secondly, the Bible talks about the mocking fool, the mocking fool. "Fools make a mock of sin," Proverbs 14:9. Here is God in all of his holiness and the Bible tells us that we've sinned against him. We've broken his laws and we're under the sentence of death. We're under the sentence of death. I saw a film tonight on television, on one of the news programs, telling how many men and women are on death row in the United States right now under the sentence of death. All of us here tonight are under the sentence of death. "The wages of sin is death". And we have all sinned and broken the laws of God. And so, we're all sentenced to die. We are to die physically. The graveyards are full of people that are there because sin caused death. And then sin also causes spiritual death. Your soul is dead, your spirit is dead. Physically you're alive, but your soul that lives inside your body is dead toward God. So you're a walking dead person under the sentence of death. And the only way that you can have that sentence lifted is to come to Christ by repentance of sin and faith in him as your Lord and your Savior.
If you would like that sentence lifted, if you would like your sins wiped out as though they'd never existed, if you would like to be justified in the sight of God, pick up that telephone (1-877-772-4559) right now, you that are watching by television. Pick it up and call the number that you see on your screen and a counselor will answer. And the counselor will talk to you about how you can come to know Christ, as many people here tonight, I hope, and believe, and pray will find Christ as their Lord and Savior. But there are many people that make a mockery of sins. They mock God's standards: God's standards of sex, God's standards of marriage, God's standards concerning divorce and ethics and morality and social justice. We make a mockery of it, we laugh at it.
The Bible says, "Be sure your sins will find you out". Don't ever doubt it. Your sin, your sin will find you out though no one on earth may discover it. You may never be caught. You may never have to pay for it here as far as you can tell. But you sin will someday be found out. No one ever commits one sin that isn't found out. Everything that you did in the darkness, every evil thought that you ever had is going to be found out. Because it will all be recorded, it's being recorded, awaiting the Judgment Day. It's being recorded on tape machines far more sophisticated than anything we have. It's being recorded: even your thoughts and your sins will find you out and it'll be exposed to the whole universe. "Will find you out," will. It's only a question of time.
The word "Will" is definite! Will find you out. Perhaps you've deceived everyone else: your wife, your family, your church, your friends. But the Bible says, "Your sin will definitely find you out". A detective at last: after running away so long and hiding so long, God's hand will come on your shoulder and say, "I have found you, you've been found out. We now know".
And then thirdly, there's the slandering fool, the slandering fool. "He that hideth hatred with lying lips and he that uttereth a slander is a fool". Passing along an evil story about others, maligning other people's character, wrecking their reputations by evil gossip. Gossiping is listed in the Bible as one of the worst of all sins. And yet, how frequent that's done even in circles that call themselves Christians. It's a terrible sin in the sight of God and God's says, "That person is a fool".
You wouldn't think of killing a person with a gun or a knife. But then, many times, we assassinate a character or try to pull someone down or to get even, or because of jealousy, by whispering innuendos: "Someone told me" or "He did thus and so". We commit murder by character assassination: worse than killing a man with a pistol or a knife or a club. "He that uttereth a slander," the scripture says, "Is a fool".
And then fourthly, there's the Christian fool, the Christian fool. Remember the road to Emmaus after Jesus Christ had died on the cross for our sins and he'd been raised again? And remember he was appearing to the disciples. In fact, eleven different appearances after his resurrection and this is one of them. And these two disciples were on the way to Emmaus outside of Jerusalem. They were sad, they were disappointed, they were disillusioned. And they were mumbling and groaning among themselves.
And another man joined them. And they didn't recognize who he was. And he talked to them, said, "Why are you so downcast"? They said, "Oh, we thought he was to be the Messiah. Haven't you heard all the happenings in Jerusalem during the past week about this Jesus who did wonderful things? We thought he was the Messiah, we thought he'd come to save the world. But he didn't, he disappointed us. They killed him on a cross and now the third day has passed and we heard rumors that he might be raised from the dead, but we don't accept that". And then Jesus said, "Oh, fools, you're fools".
Then he started expounding to them the scriptures from Moses through the prophets as to who he really was. And then he went to spend the evening with them and he was sitting at the meal in their home in Emmaus. And all of a sudden their eyes were opened and they saw it was Jesus. In other words, the Christian fool who has the Word of God in his hand, who reads his testimony and yet, doubts the promises of God. Jesus said, "Oh, you fools," for not believing the scriptures that he was going to rise from the dead and some day he's coming back.
And then fifthly, there's the covetous fool. And the story is told in Luke, the 12th chapter, Jesus told the story about a rich man and his barns. You remember, he built his barns and he said he was going to retire because he'd made enough money now. Probably going to go to southern California or Florida, come here to Idaho to this beautiful place and retire. He'd made enough money. And he said, "Soul, take thine ease, drink and be merry". And that night he had a heart attack and when he was dying there was a voice heard from heaven that said, "Thou fool! This night thy soul is required of thee". And the scripture said, Jesus said, "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God".
You see, he tried to find happiness in the wrong place: money. He ignored the power of influence in that no man liveth unto himself. He must have had a family. He disregarded death. He'd made no provision for eternity. He had provision for his retirement. How many men and women I know who have planned for retirement, planned everything, but they haven't prepared to die and they die shortly after they retire. It's amazing. I've thought about that. Some people announce their retirement and you read two or three weeks later that they dropped dead of a heart attack. They thought they were going to have 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 years that they could just take it easy and enjoy life. But it doesn't always work out that way.
You better be sure that you have prepared to meet God. Every person who is more concerned about getting some of this world's goods and leaving out the preparation for eternity is a fool. Or the person who spends their time in social climbing or having pleasure more than eternal things is a fool in the sight of God. If you're not concerned about your home in heaven, you're not concerned about the riches that will never fail, not concerned about "Laying up treasure where moth and rust doth not corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal," then you're a fool!
If you'd ask this man, what is your name? Well, he'd say, "My name's the rich man". Or "I'm the prosperous man that you read about". Or "I'm an eminent man. I'm a great man in the neighborhood". Or, "I'm a famous man, my name is in the paper all the time". Then ask God, "Lord, what is this man's name"? And the answer comes back, "Fool, he's a fool! That's his name". The rich man knew every name but the right one. He'd been called by his family name, his given name, his ranks, his titles, his wealth, the flatteries of men. But in the sight of God his name was "Thou fool". That's all we know about him, that he was just a rich fool that laid up treasures on earth, but laid up nothing for heaven.
And how many of us are in the same category? You may not be rich, in the sense that this man is rich. But everybody in America is rich compared to Bangladesh and people where we've been in many places of the world, like in Africa or, as victor was talking about, in Vietnam where he was a missionary for some years. Very few of you would stir if I would look out on this audience and say, "Fool, come here I'd like to see you". How many of you would get up and come? Very few, maybe nobody. But the Bible says, "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment". Quickly it can all end! Your dream house comes tumbling down. Trouble in the family, the wealth is gone. Here was a man, a multi-millionaire perhaps, but standing a hand's breath away from his own grave. Counting on everything in this life: the happiness, the joy that this life could give him and he's called in the Bible, by Jesus, a fool.
And then seventhly, there's another kind of a fool, or sixthly, "The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish". I Corinthians 1:18: "But unto us which are saved it is the power of God". What the world counts foolish, we have rested our eternal salvation on. And when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior turn your back on the pleasures and the sensual lust and things of this world, people think you're a fool. The world that does not know Christ looks foolish to me. Why can't they see? Why can't they understand? I want to grab everybody I see on the street and everybody we pass, everybody in the hotel, I want to grab them and say, "Look here, Christ could change your life". I see their empty faces and I hear the hollow laughter. And I see them drinking, trying to drink themselves into some happiness. Or taking the drugs and that hollow stare that they have. And I say, "Oh, if I could only just shake them loose".
But you see, only the Holy Spirit can do that. I cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit for him. The Holy Spirit must convict them of sin. He must also lift this veil that's over their minds. And so, "Salvation is of the Lord," the Bible says. If anyone desires wisdom, let him take his place in identification with Jesus Christ. What the world calls foolish, I'm resting my salvation on: the cross of Christ, no matter what the world may think of him or of me. We're fools for Christ's sake, willing for the world to look at us as out of our minds, willing to be accounted as the very off-scurrying of the earth because we've turned to Christ.
Are you one of the devil's fools? Or are you willing to be a fool for Christ's sake? The Bible says in Proverbs 12: "The way of a fool is right in his own eye". "There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death". Which road are you on: the narrow road that leads to eternal life or the broad road that leads to destruction? You have to make a choice. The scripture says, "Choose you this day whom you will serve". Are you going to continue to be a fool in the sight of God or are you going to become another kind of fool, the Christ fool, that the world will call a fool and call foolishness?
Because you see, when you come to Christ there's a price to pay. And one of the prices you pay is being misunderstood by some members of your family, some people in the community, some people where you work or where you go to school. And that's what Jesus meant when he said, "Come and take up the cross and follow me". You see, the cross that you bear, the cross that you bear, is identification with Christ. It's not some special sickness that you get or some trouble you get. It's identifying with Christ and letting people laugh at you and being willing for them to make sport of you, if necessary, for following Christ. That's your cross! And if you're not willing to take that cross you cannot be his follower, he said.
Are you willing to take that cross? Are you willing to turn your life totally over to Christ? Some of us have got one foot in heaven and one foot in hell, as it were. One foot in the world, one foot in the Kingdom of God. And we're straddling the fence. God does not allow fence straddlers. You cannot be a mugwump. That's what a mugwump is, a fence straddler. Christ does not allow that. He allows no neutrality. You cannot be both! You must come all-out for him. And you'll find that all the way through the Bible. You'll find it all the way through the teachings of Jesus. A great crowd was following Jesus one day. And he turned and talked to them about the fact that he was going to die on the cross. And it said, "Many followed him no more"! Why? Because they couldn't take this talk of the cross.
Do you want Christ in your heart? Pick up that telephone (1-877-772-4559) right now if you're watching by television. Talk to that counselor, make that call. If it's a busy signal, call again, they'll be there all evening, all over the country. And you can talk to somebody and receive Christ into your heart tonight. Because you see, when Christ died on the cross it says that the crowd down below, the mob below, ridiculed and laughed. And they said, "What a fool. You saved others, but you cannot save yourself. Ha, ha, ha, ha". And Jesus was hanging there and in heaven 72,000 angels, ten legions, drew their swords, ready to come and rescue him. But he said, "No, I love them".
And when he died on the cross, he took your sins. Every sin that you've ever committed he took on that cross. He took your death penalty for you. And because he was the Son of God and because he was sinless, he could bear your sins. And God has accepted his death as a sin offering for our sins. So that when God looks at me now, he doesn't see Billy Graham the sinner. I am a sinner. I have sinned. But I have placed my sins under the blood of Christ. And the blood that was shed on the cross washes my sins away, symbolically, in the sight of God, so that when God looks at me he cannot see my sins. And God has a unique ability that you don't have. God can forget! And it says that he forgets your sins.
In other words, the tapes are erased from the time you were born 'til the time you die. Because if one sin ever remained on those tapes you'd never make it to heaven. God is righteous and holy. And before you can get into heaven you must be righteous too. And the only way you can get any righteousness is to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And he offers you that righteous clothing tonight free! You don't have to pay for it. But you have to do three things. You must repent of your sins. That means you're willing to change your way of life. You're willing to change completely and put Christ first in your life from this moment on.
You may be a member of the church. You may be a Catholic, a Mormon, Jewish, Protestant, whatever you are you need Christ. And you want to make that commitment. I'm not asking you to join a church tonight, a specific church. I'm asking you to make sure that your sins are forgiven and that you're ready for heaven. First, repent. Second, receive him by faith into your heart. Faith means trust, total commitment. It means that he becomes the pilot of your plane or he becomes the driver of your car, of your life! You turn all the decision-making over to him. And that's a wonderful thing. You trust him for your salvation. And then the third thing, you're willing to obey him. Study the scriptures and pray and obey him and do what he says and be his follower no matter what the cost.
I'm going to ask you to make that commitment tonight I'm going to ask you to do what we've seen hundreds of people at each service do so far. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform and say by coming, "I want to make that commitment. I want to know my sins are forgiven. I want to know the sentence of death has been lifted. I want to know I'm going to heaven".
Why do I ask you to come forward publicly? Because Jesus said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me before men, I'll not acknowledge you before my father which is in heaven". The scripture says, "Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation". Nowhere in the Bible does it promise that there'll ever be a tomorrow for you. It's tonight. I believe there are hundreds of people here tonight that may never have this moment again in your whole life in which you're so close to the Kingdom of God. Just get up and come: fathers, mothers, young people, hundreds of you. You want Christ in your heart tonight, you want to make that commitment, you get up and come, quickly.
You that are watching by television can see that here Boise, Idaho, many people are coming to make this commitment to Christ tonight. You can make that commitment right now where you are. You may be in a barroom. You may be in a night club. You may be in a hotel room. You may be in your living room or in your bedroom. Just say yes to Christ and let him come into your heart. As you can see, men and women and boys and girls from all over the coliseum have come forward tonight to commit their heart and life to Jesus Christ. This is also a time of decision for many of you. Until then, this is cliff barrows speaking for Billy Graham and every member of the team saying good-bye and may God richly bless you.