Billy Graham - How to Live Forever
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to first John the fifth chapter. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God". I want to speak about knowing, being absolutely sure, that you know Christ, because it was written to give you assurance that your sins are forgiven and that you're going to heaven. The Gospel of John, though, was written that "You might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through his name".
In other words, the Gospel of John was written to bring you to Christ, and the little Johns were written to help you to know how to live the Christian life and to be sure that you do know Christ. There are so many people that go to church, and so many people that have been baptized, and so many people that have been confirmed in the church, but they don't have the assurance, they don't have the certainty. They don't know for sure that Christ lives in their heart. So first John was written that you might know that you have eternal life. In first John 3:23 it says, "And this is his commandment that we should believe on the name of the Son of God". Do you believe?
Well, you say, yes, I believe. Do you really? Do you know what "Believe" means in the Bible? What faith is in the Bible? It means that you put your total weight on Christ. It's the story that I told the other night. I'll tell it again, about this fellow that came over from France, and he announced that he was going to put a tight rope across Niagara River at Niagara Falls and he was going to walk across it. A big crowd of people gathered on both sides of the river, the Canadian side and the American side, and they watched, and sure enough, he walked over and he walked back, and they applauded. He did it two or three times, and then he took a wheelbarrow, and he put 200 pounds of dirt in it, and rolled it over and rolled it back, and rolled it over and rolled it back.
Then he asked, "How many of you believe I can roll a man across"? And they said, "Oh, we know you can do it". And so, there was one man in the front row that was quite enthusiastic about it. And he said, "Sir," he said, "Would you mind stepping in the wheelbarrow and being the first man"? Well, that man was gone. I don't blame him. But you see, that's what faith is. You put your total weight in the wheelbarrow. You put your total weight on Christ. And Christ is the one that you're to put your faith in. Whosoever believeth that Christ is... "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God". "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and a conviction of things not seen". Real faith carries with it the idea of commitment. Not just believing with your head, but a commitment of your life: of every phase of your life to Christ. Your vocation, your studies, your girlfriend, your boyfriend. Your sex life. Everything is committed to Christ.
The first question is: do you really believe, have you really committed your life to Christ all the way? Get that settled.
Then the second question in this examination: a changed attitude toward sin. First John 1:8 and 10 says, "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". Yes, as Christians, sometimes we sin. We may sin without knowing it, because there are sins of omission, sins of commission, somebody you should have helped, somebody you should have smiled to today that it would have encouraged them, and you didn't do it. But he says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
If you do sin, there's a remedy. God will forgive you if you confess it. And the Bible says, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin". The blood that was shed on the cross when Christ died has the power 2,000 years later, to wash all your sins away. I thank God that he stayed on that cross and when they put those nails in his hands and the spike through his feet, and the spear in his side, he stayed there. He didn't come down. He stayed on the cross because he loved you. He loves you tonight. Whoever you are, whatever you've done, however bad you've been, he loves you. And when he uses...
Now after you have come to Christ, what should be your attitude toward sin? First, if you do commit a sin, confess it immediately. Secondly, forsake it immediately with his help. Thirdly, seek after righteousness and holiness. Be sure that you don't do that again. You know, some people will commit a sin and then they come to God and ask for forgiveness, and then they'll go and commit the same sin, commit it over and over and over again. It means you turn from sin. You don't go back and do that again. In the 23rd Psalm, David said, "He restores my soul". Do you need your soul restored tonight?
There are hundreds of people here tonight that are believers but you need to rededicate your life. You need a new surrender. There are people here tonight that God is calling to be a missionary. There are people here tonight that God is calling to work in the church. There are people here tonight that God is asking to speak to people where they live and where they work, to speak to them about Christ, and that's mission work. If you're a member of the body of Christ and have rebelled you can confess it and you can receive forgiveness and full restoration, and he restores your soul. That's a wonderful thing.
And then the third question is this: do you have a desire to obey God? First John 2:3 says, "And hereby we know that we know him if we keep his commandments". Go through the New Testament and Mark up every place where it says, you should do this, or, you should live this way. And find where you've failed. An infallible sign of the new birth is that we want to obey Christ. I don't obey Christ because I'm afraid not to obey him. I obey him because I want to, I love Christ. I want to obey his will. I want to do the things he wants me to do, like a daily devotional life. It's hard to have a daily devotional life because the devil fights you so. If you open the Bible and start reading, the devil will make you sleepy. Or somebody will come in immediately and want to talk to you. Or maybe there's a good TV program on and the temptation is to turn that TV program on. And you don't have time to pray and you don't have time to read the Bible.
Then fourthly, there's the separation from the world. In first John 2, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him, for all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the father, but is of the world". And if you love the world more than you do Christ, you're not in the Kingdom of God. And how many of us tonight love the world? The devil is called the God of this world. He's called the prince and power of the air. He has tremendous power. There are many demons in the world. And those demons are working with the devil to destroy your Christian life.
The moment you receive Christ, the devil is going to be after you. He's going to tempt you. He'll bring things to you that you never dreamed you'd be tempted to do. Temptation is not of God. Temptation comes from the devil. And how do you fight the devil? He tempted Jesus. He caught Jesus at a time when Jesus had not eaten or had anything to drink for forty days and forty nights in a wilderness. And he tempted Jesus three times. And they were real temptations. And how did Jesus combat him? He didn't argue: he didn't debate. He didn't use his supernatural power. He just quoted scripture.
Every time Satan came with his temptation, Jesus quoted a passage from the Old Testament, a scripture verse. And that's the reason it's very important to memorize all the scripture you can. I've reached the age where it's hard to memorize scripture. I wish I'd memorized 10,000 times more than I did when I was young. While you're young, while you're in school and after you leave school, those early years, you can retain scripture. You see, you take a scripture verse and memorize it, and that'll stay with you all your life. If you repeat it week after week and week after week, it's yours for life. And when the devil comes with his temptation, you're there with the sword, because the scripture is called the sword of the spirit, and that's your armor that you use to fight Satan when he comes.
Are you separated from the world? The scripture says, "And the world passes away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God shall abide forever". And you know, when I face some situation, shall I watch this TV program? Shall I go to this film? Shall I do this particular thing that's in the world? And there's a doubt in my mind as to whether I should do it or not do it, there are certain questions one can ask yourself.
First, I ask myself: does it violate any principle of scripture? The thing I'm thinking about doing, does it violate any principle of scripture?
Secondly, does it take the keen edge off my Christian life? I'm not keen for God after seeing that as I was before I saw it.
Thirdly, can I ask God's blessing on it?
And then I ask myself the fourth question: is it a stumbling block to others? If someone else who was a believer saw me doing this thing, saying that thing, losing my temper, whatever... Is that going to be a stumbling block to them?
And then the fifth question I ask myself is: do I love... Other Christians of all denominations? Do I love other people? Do I love the poor enough to do something about helping them in their poverty? Do I love the people in my own neighborhood who have a different color skin? Do I really love them? Or do I just put it on? Is this just an act that I put on? Is it a real love affair with people, no matter what their background may be? The scripture says "We know that we have been passed from death to life because we love". "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death". Many children of God who do not walk with Christ think that other things are more attractive than walking with Christ, and asking ourselves such questions as this. How can we live in the present society and be separated from the world that is run by the devil? How can we? Only with the help of Christ.
And then, sixthly, if you really do know Christ, you do not practice sin. First John 5:18, "We know that whosever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself and that wicked one toucheth him not". The devil can't touch him. You say, but it says, "Sins not". That word actually means, doesn't practice sin. You may make a mistake and you may yield for a moment, and you may fall one time, or two times, or ten times, or twenty times, or whatever it may be... But you won't practice sin. You won't do it over and over and over and over again. You'll confess it and forsake it and give it up, and say, "Lord, help me, I'm so weak. I need your help to live a Christian life".
And then seventhly, there's the witness of the spirit. If you really know Christ, you will know it because there'll be a witness of the spirit in your heart. "The spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God". How do I know? Not only the Word of God tells me, not only my life tells me that I know God, but... It's like the little boy that was flying his kite and the kite had gotten out of sight, like these low clouds over here today. And the top of the towers, the television towers, you couldn't see the very top because the clouds were so low. And this boy's kite had disappeared. It had gotten so high, but he was holding on. He couldn't see it. And somebody said, "What are you doing"? He said, "I'm flying a kite". They said, "We don't see a kite. How do you know it's up there"? "Oh," he said, "I feel the tug of it".
And when you come to know Christ, you feel the tug of Christ in your heart, and you know that he lives in your heart. Do you feel that tug in your heart? Do you? Do you? If you're not absolutely sure that Christ lives in your heart and you're totally committed to him, you can make this the moment in which a great transformation takes place in your life. Know, and you will have a power that you don't have. You see, we're talking about yielding totally, not to yourself and not to your friends, not to material things, but yielding to Christ. A yielded mind makes an intelligent Christian.
Now, secondly, a yielded sex life makes a dynamic Christian. Yes, there's nothing wrong with sex. God gave it to us. It's one of his great gifts to us. It's for our enjoyment. It's for, to keep the race going. And we're to enjoy sex, but within the bonds of matrimony. Sex is for human reproduction and the fulfillment of married love. All those other functions we're trying to use sex for are merely unsolved spiritual problems which only Christ can solve. And then a yielded body makes a useful Christian.
In Romans 6 it says, "Likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body", don't let sin control you, "That you should obey it and the lust thereof, neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness. I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice acceptable unto God". Our bodies belong to God. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Now a yielded heart makes a devoted Christian. The American heart association indicates that 27 million Americans are afflicted with heart disease. But we also have the spiritual disease of the heart. The Bible talks about in Proverbs 12 the deceit that's in the heart. Proverbs 14: man is a backslider in heart. Proverbs 18: the heart of man is haughty. Proverbs 22: sin is bound up in the heart. Man's real heart problem is spiritual. That's the reason you need to come to the cross. To find forgiveness, to find a new life. And he says he'll give you a new heart. And turn you completely around.
And then lastly, a yielded will makes a forceful and a determined Christian. A yielded will. You see, there are three little men that live inside of all of us. There's the mind. There's the emotion. And there's the will. The scripture says, "Whosoever will let him come". It doesn't say "Whosoever achieves," or "Whoever understands," or "Whosoever deserves it," but it says "Whosoever will". The door to the Kingdom of God is open to every person here tonight. To live a victorious life. To live a glorious life in which you know your destiny and you know your purpose and meaning.
I read about, some years ago, they had a great meeting in England of factory workers and Dwight L. Moody was speaking to them, and he closed by saying, "I'm offering you Jesus Christ, Christ who died on the cross and who rose again for you. I'm offering you Christ and I want you to stand up and say 'I will' or 'I won't'. I will receive him, or I won't receive him". And a man stood hesitatingly up and he said, "I will". Another one said, "I won't". Another one said, "I will". Another one said, "I won't". Another one said, "I will". Another one said, "I won't". And the audience was divided.
About half said, "I will follow Christ. I will serve him, I will surrender to him". But another half said, "I won't". Which would you be? Which group would you be in? Because you see, when your will responds, it can also say, "I won't". Which are you going to say tonight? I'm going to ask you to say tonight, "I will". I will, to the best of my knowledge, receive Christ into my heart, and I want to live the kind of life you've been talking about. I don't have the strength, I don't the energy, I don't have... I just feel that I can't do it, but I'm willing to start, and I'm willing to say tonight, I will, with God's help, yield my life to Christ as Savior and Lord and master.
And he may speak to you about serving him in some other part of the world. My oldest son, Franklin, just came back from Sudan. He said he saw suffering on a scale that he'd never seen anywhere in his travels in the world. What God could do with some of you people in places like that. What are you going to say tonight: "I will," or "I won't". I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat. All of you that will say, "I will," I want you to get up out of your seat and come and stand here in front, as we've seen every night, and say, "Tonight I will open my heart to Christ. I will receive him. I will surrender to him. I want to know that I'm going to heaven. I want to know that I'm living for Christ. I want to serve him".
If you're with friends or relatives, they'll wait on you. Why do I ask you to come forward publicly like this? 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". There's something about coming forward and standing publicly that pleases Christ, and helps you to mean it. If you're in the choir, you come. If you're a Sunday school teacher, or if you're even a pastor of a church, and you're not sure how you stand before God, you get up and come. We're going to wait on you.