Billy Graham - Sex, Power, Riches and Materialism
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to the 12th chapter of Matthew. The 12th chapter of Matthew, and beginning at verse 38. Somebody asked me what version I'm using. I'm using the same one Paul used - the King James version. You know, we have so many versions today that you can stand up and quote scripture and if you misquote it, they think you're using another version! And it's very interesting. I have, I guess my wife and I must have 25 different versions. Well, I'm going to the King James version as I normally do in my preaching. I like a number of the versions, and they throw a lot of light on it.
And I heard the story that someone told about the apostle Paul, or pardon me, Timothy had received a letter from the apostle Paul. And behind him were two donkeys loaded down with baggage, and they said, "What is all that"? They said, "Well, these are the commentaries to tell you what Paul is saying in that letter".
"Then certain of the scribes and of the pharisees answered saying, master, we want to see you do a sign," we want a sign. "But he answered and said unto them, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign and there shall be no sign given it but the sign of the prophet Jonah". Isn't it strange that Jesus would use Jonah? He didn't tell us not to believe the story of Jonah. He accepted the fact that Jonah had been swallowed by a whale, or a big fish. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth". He was using that as an illustration of his own death and resurrection. "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And behold, a greater than Jonah is here".
Remember when Jonah preached to Nineveh? And Nineveh was a great city of several hundred thousand people, and the greatest revival of all time took place? When that entire city turned to God in repentance. They repented of their sins, and everyone in the whole city turned to God, and God spared that city the judgment. And I've been praying for America, "oh, God, spare America"! Because we see the possibilities of our world being destroyed. Not only in atomic war, but also by aids and other things that are gripping our world at the moment.
"The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and she'll condemn it for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but behold, a greater than Solomon is here". How could a greater than Solomon ever come? I want to talk about that tonight. I want to use Solomon's life as an illustration of the lives of Americans today and American young people, because you see, Solomon was a man of great knowledge and we look on every hand today and we see young people seeking knowledge, security, love. It seems that they're on a great quest. Young people seek to define themselves in terms of clothes they wear, and we hear that the mini skirt is on the way back. And the crowd they run with and the things they buy, and the places they go, and the rock concerts they attend. But many of our young people today are lonely.
And I was talking to the dean of one of our great eastern universities, and I said, "What is the greatest problem on this campus"? And he said, "Lack of purpose and meaning". That was Dr. Buck at Harvard University. Now the results of Solomon's search were expressed time after time. He said, "Vanity of vanities". Life is nothing but a vanity. And the word "Vanity" means a bubble that bursts. He sought pleasure by every conceivable means. But it was nothing but a bursting bubble. Solomon had it all, and at the end he said it's not worth it.
First Solomon attained great knowledge. He knew more than any man that ever lived, except Jesus Christ. He said, "I've got more wisdom than all they that have been before me, and all of those that are going to follow me," in Ecclesiastes 1:16. In I kings 4:30 it says, "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt". He said, "I gave my heart to know wisdom, and I perceive that this also is vexation of spirit, for in much wisdom and knowledge, there is much grief". He said you can know it all! Have all the knowledge and have all the PhD's and all the rest, but it doesn't satisfy something deep inside our hearts and our souls. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
And the struggle intensifies around the globe right now, for the hearts and minds of youth. But Christ said we're to love God with our heart, soul, strength and mind. And you cannot come to God alone through your mind. Our natural minds have been affected by sins. The Bible says in II Corinthians 3:14, "Their minds were blinded". In II Corinthians 4:4, "The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not". The God of this world is the devil. The Bible teaches there is a devil. There are demons. And they have the power to blind your mind toward spiritual things. "In the futility of their thinking they are darkened in their understanding," says Paul in Ephesians the fourth chapter. Now that's the New International Version, by the way, that particular scripture I just quoted.
Now the Bible teaches in Titus 1 that our minds are defiled. In Daniel 5 it says they're filled with pride. In I Timothy 6:5 it says they're corrupt. In Ephesians 4 it says they're filled with vanity. In Proverbs 21 it says they're wicked. With all of our stockpiles of knowledge, do you know what we've learned? We've learned something that Adam and Eve did not know in the Garden of Eden. We've learned the knowledge of evil. Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of evil when they sinned against God. God never meant that we were to know what evil was. He created us perfect human beings. We were to live thousands of years on this planet. We were to build a wonderful world with God's help, but we rebelled against God. And we gained the knowledge of evil, and now we've reached the point in civilization where with all of our knowledge, we have now invented the atomic bomb, and the hydrogen bomb, and chemical weapons. And computers and all the rest that make it so that man can be wiped out in a matter of hours.
What can we do? Receive Christ! Let him dominate your mind. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus". The scripture says you can be transformed in your thinking. "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind". Give your mind to Christ. Yes, there's going to be peace because Christ is the Prince of Peace. He's going to bring peace, but only through God are we going to find peace. You can have peace in your heart right now. You can have peace of mind right now by surrendering your life and your heart to Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "God made the wisdom of this world look foolish. The world failed to find him by its wisdom, and he chose to save those who have faith in the folly of the Gospel".
Notice he calls the Gospel folly. The Gospel is folly to this world that has its mind blinded and affected by the devil. You see, sin is a disease. It's also a disease of the mind. It's worse than Alzheimer's disease, or any other disease that you can think of. It's destructive, and we all have it. The Bible says, "All have sinned". What can we do about it? Come to the cross. Let Christ forgive yours sins, change your life, turn you in a new direction, and give you a new mind, because Christ can become the Lord of your mind as well as your body and as well as your soul.
And then Solomon was not only the smartest man, and the most brilliant man that ever lived, and the best educated, but he gave himself to great pleasures. In Ecclesiastes 2:1 he said, "I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with laughter, therefore I'm going to enjoy pleasure"! He had every sensual pleasure that you can imagine. The Bible describes in detail all that he had. He had the finest swimming pool you've ever read about. It was flanked by twelve lions of gleaming bronze. He drank the finest wines in golden goblets. He had 700 wives, and 300 concubines. Talk about sex! He had it! More than any of you will ever have. And every pleasure that you could think of was at his beck and call. He did what many of you would like to do but you can't afford it.
Some people are good because they can't afford to be bad. But God doesn't count that. Some sin is expensive. With every imaginable device of pleasure and lust at his fingertips, Solomon sat out under the stars one night and contemplated the emptiness of it all. He said, "Vanity of vanities, it's all vanity"! It's a bubble that bursts! How many of you are crying tonight on the inside? On the outside, you have a mask. Inside, the peace and the joy and the happiness that you've always searched for is missing. Something's wrong in your marriage. Something's wrong in your courtship. Something's wrong in your school. Something's wrong in your life. Something's wrong between you and your parents. Something's wrong between you and your friends. Something's just missing in your life. Do you know Christ? Do you have the joy and the peace that he can bring? Because in him are the pleasures that you can have.
And then Solomon was the richest man in the history of the world. His income was staggering. It's all listed in the Bible. The weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold. That's billions of dollars. Did you know he had a stable of 40,000 horses? But one night he sat on the top of his house in Lebanon and with indigestion, his hand clutched at his empty heart, and he said, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity". It's all a bubble that bursts! It's nothing! All this pleasure, all these riches and everything are nothing!
The Bible says in Psalm 37, "A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked". I'd rather be as poor as Job's turkey, and know Christ, than to be the richest man in the whole world without Christ. In Proverbs 23 he wrote, "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings and they fly away like an eagle". Jesus said, "Beware of covetousness, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth".
And we look on wall street. Sometimes they show those pictures of those men going crazy. Just, I don't know how they keep up with it all. But people go crazy over money. And even poor people long for money. They say, "If only I had a few thousand dollars, I'd be happy". No, you wouldn't. Because you'd want a few thousand more.
And then Solomon had great power. Men like power and prestige. And no nation of the world of that day dared defy Solomon. He has more power than any man of his generation. He had the greatest army, he had the greatest navy in the world of that day. And he looked upon his mighty military power and he said, "It's all a bubble that bursts". "What shall it profit a man," Jesus said, "If he gains the whole world and loses his soul"? Suppose he had all the knowledge and all the wealth and all the power in the whole world today and lost your soul. And many of you are doing just that. You've gained in your circle of world. You've gained all that you can gain, but your soul you're not sure about.
You go to church. You have a name on a church role. You've been baptized, and all of that, but deep in your heart, something is missing. You don't know what it is. The thing that's missing is that personal relationship with Christ. But Paul talked about another power that comes. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind". So Solomon turned to the aesthetic life. He said, "Well, maybe I can do some other things that'll bring happiness and peace and joy to my life". He said, "I made pools of water. I got me men singers and women singers and the delights of the sons of men as musical instruments". He got orchestras, and he got ballet, he got everything. "And whatsoever my eyes desired," he said, "I kept not from them. I had everything I could ever think about or desire," but he said, "It was all vanity".
He developed a love for art and music and culture. He built beautiful gardens. Had musical recitals. Then he said, "I looked upon all the works that my hands had wrought and on the labor that I had labored to do, and behold, it was all vanity and vexation of spirit, and there's no profit under the sun". You see, if you had it all that you're striving after, it wouldn't bring the peace and the happiness you're looking for. Why? Because it's found in Christ. The scripture says, "Behold a greater than Solomon is here".
Now Solomon also tried religion. He vowed to build the greatest temple that the world had ever seen. Solomon's Temple took seven years to build, and was called one of the seven wonders of the world. His temple was an architectural wonder. It was made ready at a quarry, so that when it was built, they didn't use any hammers or axes or any tools of iron was heard while it was being put together. It was so perfect. He overlaid the temple with pure gold. The floor was made of gold. It took 150,000 laborers working seven years to build it.
But religion without a personal encounter with Christ will not save the soul. It won't bring peace to your soul, that your soul longs for. Where is peace? Where is fulfillment? Where is life's purpose and meaning? Finally Solomon came to this conclusion. He said, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, for God shall bring every work into judgment every secret thing whether it be good or whether it be evil". In other words, he said there's a judgment coming and to be prepared for that judgment is the most important thing in the whole world. Come to the cross! That's the only place you can find forgiveness. And Jesus said, "Behold, a greater than Solomon is here". Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".
Jesus said what we see on that sign: "I am the way, the truth, and the life". I am the embodiment of all truth. Think of a man standing in front of the world and saying, "I am the embodiment of all truth". He's either crazy, or he's lying, or he's what he claims to be. Jesus said, "I am the truth". "And I can set you free. Free from your anxieties, free from your troubles and problems. I can give you a peace to go through them". Now he doesn't take your troubles and problems away as dawn told us a few moments ago, but he gives you a peace and a joy that'll enable you to go through them and live through them if you put your trust and your faith in him.
Yes, Jesus was greater in wisdom. It says, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". It's in Christ, in Colossians 2. In Jesus Christ. If you know Christ, you know more than the professor at the greatest university, because that professor is looking for something that you've found. Christ was greater in giving pleasure, because the scripture says in Hebrews 12, "Who for the joy that was set before him". You see, when you receive Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live in your life and he produces in you joy. It's supernatural joy. And there's pleasure beyond anything that you ever dreamed in Jesus Christ.
I remember my mother was dying, a few years ago, up here in Charlotte. And the last words my mother was heard to say was in a loud voice at five o'clock in the morning. She'd been in a coma. She hadn't said a word, she hadn't moved. And she was a great woman of God. But she suddenly sat up in bed, the day she died, and shouted out! Psalm 149:5, "Let the saints be joyful in glory and let them sing upon their beds". Can you imagine that? I think she was already in heaven. In I Peter 1 it says, "Whom having not seen you love, in whom though ye now see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory". "In thy presence is fullness of joy. At thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore," the Bible says, Psalm 16:11.
Do you know that? Do you know that kind of joy? That's something that's supernaturally produced. You can't find it anywhere else. You can't find it in sex experience. You can't find it in drugs. You see, the whole country's on a quest for something. In drugs, in sex, in entertainment. We want something. We don't quite know what it is. And it's illusive. We don't find it. Oh, you can go out and have a good time at a party and prom is gonna be around the corner. You can have a great time on your prom night, if you get the right guy. But... something'll be missing.
All of a sudden, in the midst of a crowd, in the midst of a dance, in the midst of the orchestra playing, in the midst of the band playing, your face will suddenly have a little cloud over it. Just for an instant. It's just a moment in which it seems that it's not all put together. The puzzle is not put together, and then you forget it and you go on. But it's there, and it'll grow through the years. He was also greater in riches. It says, "Though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor that ye through his poverty might be rich". There's no riches compared to the riches in Jesus Christ. Come to Christ, and he gives you the real things of life.
And then he was greater in power. It says, "All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth". And the Bible says that someday he's going to come back in power and great glory, and his holy angels with him. No wonder the apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes". Do you know that power? Has that power come into your heart? Have you received him? I'm going to ask you tonight to make sure of your relationship with Christ. I'm going to ask you to enter into his force, and march under his banner, under his flag, and say, "From this moment on, I'm following Christ," like dawn said a few moments ago.
Do you know him? Are you sure of it? I'm going to ask you to come and stand in front of this platform and say by coming, "I want to come to Christ with all my heart. I want to surrender to him. I want to make sure". You want to receive him into your heart, or you want to rededicate your life to him, you get up and come and stand here. And after you've all come and stood here, I'm going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you, then give you some literature to help you in your Christian life.
You say, "Well, why do you ask people publicly"? Well, the reason I ask people publicly is because every person Jesus ever called, he called publicly. He hung on the cross publicly. He said, "If you will not acknowledge me before men, I'll not acknowledge you before my Father which is in heaven". The scripture also says, "He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy".
You may never again in your whole life have a moment like this tonight. What a gorgeous evening. There may never be another moment when you're so close to the kingdom as you are tonight, and the Bible warns time after time, "Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation". You have no promise of tomorrow. You have no promise that your heart will be feeling the way it feels tonight. God is speaking to you. You're making a choice tonight. You're making a choice between Christ and all that the world has to offer and you're saying, "Lord, I'm putting you first from this moment on. I want to get on your side". You get up and come right now, hundreds of you.
Now to you that have been watching by television, you're seeing that here in Columbia, South Carolina, in this great football stadium at the university, there are hundreds of people that are making their commitment to Jesus Christ. Many of them young people, finding purpose and meaning in their lives, and direction in their lives. They're choosing Christ. I'm asking you to make the same choice wherever you are. In your hotel room, in your home, wherever. Give your heart and your life to Christ where you are. And pick up the telephone and call that number on the screen. There are people standing by to talk to you.