Billy Graham - When God Gets Your Attention
Now I want to take as our text tonight, a passage in the 12th chapter of Hebrews. These words: "And this word, yet once more signifieth the removing of all those things that are shaken as of things that are made, but those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire". Since we were here in the fifties, and then in the sixties, things have changed.
I was asking Joe Aldrich of moment ago, I said, "Don't you all still have streetcars? It seems to me I've seen one since I've been here". And he said, "Yes, they've just put them in". And I thought, "That's the first city I've been to in a long time where they had streetcars". The last I can remember, was in Bucharest. They had streetcars, and it took me back to my boyhood, and childhood, when we had streetcars in our town of Charlotte, North Carolina. But many things have changed since we were here. And those of us that are senior citizens can really see a change in Portland. Things that you younger people take for granted.
We were born before television. Before frozen foods. Before antibiotics. Before nylons. Before xerox. Before credit cards. For us time-sharing meant togetherness, not computers. And software wasn't even a word. We were before pantyhose and drip dry clothes. Before a ice makers and dishwashers, CheerieO's, instant coffee, decaffeinated anything, and McDonald's had never been heard of. And I don't know how we lived. If we'd been asked to explain CIA, VCR, UFO, ERA, NFL, or JFK, we would have said, "That's alphabet soup". When you think of how our world has changed, and the adjustments we've had to make, today's senior citizens are a pretty hardy bunch. Because we came along through all of that. There've been great political changes.
Hungary. We were in the people's stadium in Hungary about three or four years ago, and had the largest crowd in its history, to hear the Gospel. 115,000 people in one service. South Africa, we'd have never thought of having an integrated service in those days. We went to South Africa. We did not go until they guaranteed we could have integration. And we went there. And we can show you on film where the newspapers had headlines saying, "Billy Graham says apartheid is sin".
And then there have been gigantic geophysical and ecological calamities across the world. I read last Sunday's earth week column in the Oregonian, a diary of some of the things that happened on the planet last week. It talked of tropical storms last week, like the worst hurricane to slam into Hawaii in this century. It continued to report on the damage from, hurricane Andrew in Florida. Norman Minsky's house, who is on our team, looked like some giant hand had come down and just lifted the whole thing up, and lifted everything out. We went to homestead, in southern Florida, and my son, who is here tonight, Franklin Graham, has an organization called Samaritan's Purse, and they had already gotten ten trailers in place, down there by the time we got there to see it.
And what a devastation that was. You cannot imagine what happened in southern Florida. You can't see it on television. Stephan Nelson, my grandson spent his full-time down there, working, handing out water and bread and things and he saw on top of one roof, this sentence that somebody had written: "Okay God, you got our attention... Now what"? And the newspaper went on to mention Typhoon Sybil, the tropical storms Payne and Rosalyn. Monsoon floods washed away entire villages in North India and Pakistan, killing thousands of people. There were earthquakes in Zaire and Nicaragua. And minor shakes in many other parts of the world.
These are just the things that came out of one newspaper. This is all in addition to environmental changes, such as the sudden drop in levels of protective ozone over the antarctic, mentioned in the column, that might signal major damage. I could go on and on. And that was just in your newspaper last week. We're living a changing and increasingly dangerous world. That's the point I'm trying to make. It's not getting better. Do you have a purpose in your life, and does life have meaning to you? Or is your life cracking up, and going all to pieces? The big question today is, what is meaning? Fifty years ago, when I started preaching, the philosophical question was: what is truth? Today's question is: what is the point?
The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful, above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it"? Your heart, my heart, is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Who would believe that after a storm hit Miami, and Southern Florida, like Andrew, that there'd be looters, taking advantage of it. I read an article in the Charlotte observer last week, that domestic violence cases are soaring after the hurricane in southern Florida. We don't know our hearts. We don't know what would happen till it actually happens. Andrew Morris, the great philosopher in France wrote: "The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we on this puny mud heap, spinning in infinite space"? He said, "I have not the slightest idea".
And there are many people that take that attitude. Albert Camus, who was the great philosopher, that everybody quoted, a few years ago said, "Man cannot live without meaning". Are you trying to live without meaning in your life? Now here are some of the things that the philosophers were saying, that people, think about when they're alone. When you're alone, here's what many people that are here tonight think about. First you think about, will I have to suffer? Maybe now, or soon? I must struggle, to make ends meet. I must struggle in my marriage. I must struggle with my girlfriend, my boyfriend, because it seems that things are going wrong. I must struggle to make grades, in school. I'm at the mercy of chance. I feel guilty all the time, and I don't know what I'm guilty of.
I asked the question, when I'm alone, who am I? I know that I must die, and I'm afraid to die. I don't want to die. But, I know I'm going to have to die. Every person in this audience, 75 years from now will be dead. A scientist recently asked the question on television, who made the earth? Why is it here? What is its future? We have the answer, we just don't know. Then he said an interesting thing. Perhaps we're all going to have to restudy the biblical accounts. And that's exactly what many atheists are doing today. They are restudying the biblical accounts.
The first time I met Mr. Yeltsin, in the Kremlin, I talked with him. And he told me that he had been an atheist. But he said, "I am no longer an atheist". He said, "I have come to believe that there's something beyond this life. And something bigger than we are". He said, "I've started going back to church". And he said, "My grandchildren are wearing crosses around their necks and I'm glad". Now, that was a couple of years ago, before the coup. T.S. Eliot once wrote: "Where is the wisdom", think of it now, "Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge"?
We have a tremendous amount of knowledge. We have universities by the scores, and hundreds and thousands throughout the world. But we've lost wisdom in the midst of all of our knowledge. Jesus said, "And there shall be signs, in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth. Distress of nations with perplexity," in Luke 21:25. "Distress", that word means that we're pressed from all sides. And "Perplexity" means, no way out. If you had gone to Rio, to that conference, on ecology, and how can we save this planet, you would have come away, like many of them came away: confused, and mixed up, discouraged, and hopeless.
President Kennedy said a quarter of a century ago, "No man entering upon this office, could fail to be staggered upon learning the harsh enormities of the trials through which he must pass, in the next few years". How right president Kennedy was. He went on to say, "Each day the crisis multiplies. Each day the solution grows more difficult. Each day we draw nearer the hour of maximum danger, and time is not our friend". In the midst of all these changes, there are certain things, that have not changed, and will never change.
The first thing that has never changed, in all these centuries, the nature of God has not changed. He said, "I am the Lord, I change not," Malachi 3:6. The scripture says, "There is no variableness, neither shadow of turning with God". That means the batting of an eyelash. Not even that much change in God, in all these centuries. He's from everlasting to everlasting. He had no beginning. He has no end. I don't understand that, but I accept it. He's the one thing that we can count on, is God. He's unchanging in his holiness. "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is, and is to come," Revelation 4:8.
God is unchanging in judgment. It says, "The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth". God is unchanging in love. "For God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". God loves you. That's hard to believe. That's hard to take in, but God loves you. And if you were the only person in the whole world, God would love you, and he would've sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you. God is love. That's one thing I want you to remember, when we leave, that we've said.
And then the second thing, the Word of God has not changed. Not only the nature of God has not changed, but the Word of God has not changed. This Bible is the Word of God. "The grass withereth, the flower faded, but the word of our God shall stand forever". And what you read in this book stands forever. It's a thrilling thing to take up this book, and know that you're reading something inspired by God. And it's his message to the human race. He tells us where we came from. He tells us we're going. He tells us how to live every day.
The third thing that hasn't changed, human nature has not changed. Jeremiah the prophet said, as I said a moment ago, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it"? "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God". You're a sinner. I'm a sinner. Sin means that I've broken God's laws. I've broken the Ten Commandments. If you have broken one commandment, one time, you're guilty of all. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever had lust in your heart? Then you're guilty. We're guilty before God. And because we're guilty, we're under sentence of death. Death in this life, and death in the life to come.
The way of salvation has not changed. In all these centuries the way of salvation is still the same. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there's none other name unto heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved," in Acts 4:12. John 14:6 says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the father but by me". In the last generation, the only way to God was through Christ. In this generation, the only way to God will be through Christ. The only one in history, of whom it is written, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him".
Think of it. The wrath of God abides on you now . And the only way that wrath can be turned away is by the cross. When Jesus Christ took your sins on the cross, God could no longer see your sins, because your sins were buried in the depths of the sea. And God cannot even remember your sins. Think of it. God cannot even remember. He has the ability to turn the tape recorder off, and erase it. And God cannot remember your sins, when you come to Christ at the cross, by faith and repentance. Yes, God will never change. The Word of God will never change. But you have to change, if you're to go to heaven. If you're to have a new life here, and have purpose and meaning in your life, you have to change.
The first thing you have to do is repent. "Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out," the scripture says. The second thing is to believe. And that word believe means to commit. That's the marriage vow that we take. It's not just getting married, it's a lifetime commitment. My wife is here tonight... And she... And uh... We've had differences, like every normal couple. And someone asked her, "Had she ever thought of divorce"? She said, "No, but I have thought of murder". I don't know where she's sitting... But some time I'm going to ask her to explain that. But we have a wonderful marriage, and we have a wonderful family, and all of them know the Lord, for which we give thanks to God.
Now I want to ask you: do you know Christ? You see, Christ died for you. And on that cross, God laid on him the sins of us all. We deserved hell. We deserved judgment. We deserved to pay the price for our sins, but Jesus took them voluntarily on the cross. And on that cross, he had the capacity, because he was the God man, to see you sitting here tonight. He looked ahead, these thousands of years and, he could see you, and he knew you. And he knew all about you, and he loved you. And he is willing to forgive you, and give you purpose and meaning in your life and change your life.
Your life has to change. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name". Have you come to Christ? Has there been a time when you received him as your Lord and your Savior. And said, "Lord, with your help, I want to follow you. I'm going to read the Bible. And I'm going to pray. And I'm going to be as faithful to you as I can. I can't live the Christian life alone. I'm a failure".
Billy Graham cannot live the Christian life. I've tried. I can't do it. But with the help of the Word of God, and the help of the Holy Spirit, I can live the Christian life. But he lives it through me. He produces the Fruit of the Spirit, which is love and joy and peace. All of these things are supernaturally produced in you, by the Holy Spirit, when you receive Christ. Some people say, "I'm trying to hold on". You don't need to hold on. He holds you! Just turn loose, and let him come into your heart.
How many of us, we've been baptized. We go to church once in a while, maybe every Sunday. But deep in your heart there's a doubt that you know Christ. You're not sure that if you died at this moment you'd go to heaven. You want to be sure. You want to be certain. You want to know that your sins are forgiven, and you want to know that purpose and meaning that God can give to you. Are you willing to change your way of living? That's repentance, to change your mind, to change the direction of your life. And you can't repent by yourself. The Holy Spirit has to help you do that. And then you come by faith, and faith means commitment.
When I stepped on this platform last night, I had never been on this platform before. I didn't get down and examine it to see if it would hold me up. I accepted by faith that the carpenters that built it, built it to hold a man. And by faith you receive Christ in the same way. You totally commit yourself. You say, "Lord, I'm not trusting anything else to save my soul except Jesus. I commit myself to him".
Young people today are looking for a cause. They are looking for a flag to follow. They're looking for something to really believe in. People are mixed up. They're confused. They don't know what to think. They're just angry. And many people think, can we hold together as a society? Come to Christ. He will meet all of those longings, and all those needs, and give you a new life. He can come into your family. He can come into that office where you've been having trouble. He can come into your school room. He can come into every phase of your life, and make you a new person. He can make those ends meet. He can help you meet those payments. He can help you in looking for a job. He can give you total assurance, that your sins are gone and that God will never hold you accountable for them again. There are forgiven. And he receives you with open arms. And he will do it tonight, if you'll let him.
I'm going to ask you to something we saw hundreds of people do last night. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, and come and stand in front of this platform. And say by coming, "I want Christ to come into my heart. I want him to take all of me. I surrender my life to him". And I say, "Lord Jesus, I am willing to repent of my sins, and turn by faith to you. And put my total confidence, and my total faith in you".
He died on the cross and shed his blood for you. And certainly you can come and take a stand here for him. He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me publicly, before men, I'll not acknowledge you before my father which is in heaven". That's the reason I ask people to come forward. Every person Jesus called in the New Testament, he called publicly. Every one. You look and see. There was one, Nicodemus, came by night. But those that made their commitment to Christ, came publicly. I'm going to ask you to come, publicly, and receive him as your Lord and your Savior and your master. You come right now. We're going to wait on you.