Billy Graham - The Necessity of the Cross
Tonight, I want you to turn with me to Galatians, the sixth chapter and the fourteenth verse. Just one verse of Scripture. "But God forbid, that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world". But God forbid. This is the Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ". Now, what does the cross mean? Why did Paul say he gloried in it above anything else? Because the Apostle Paul could have gloried in many other things. He was one of the most brilliant men and better educated men of his day. He could have gloried in his education. He could have gloried in his religion. He was one of the most religious men of his time. He was a professor of theology. He could speak several languages. He could have gloried in his Roman citizenship, because he was a citizen of Rome, having been born in Tarsus. Or he could have gloried in other things about Jesus.
Why did he say the cross? He could have gloried in the birth of Jesus, who was virgin born. He could have gloried in the teachings of Jesus, because no man ever taught like Jesus. The greatest professors of our present day say He was the greatest teacher of all time. He could have gloried in His resurrection. He could have gloried in the future glory of Christ when His kingdom is going to rule, but he gloried in the Cross. Now the crucifixion is the most terrible of all deaths. I doubt if there is any form of death comparable to crucifixion. Soldiers entered the guardhouse and brought Jesus, with two other condemned men, you remember the story, and how they were beaten with leather thongs with steel and bone pellets on the end that would cut to the bone. And Jesus was scourged on orders from Pilate. And then a crown of thorns was put on His brow. And a cross, probably the cross beam of the cross, was laid on His back.
And the procession started out of Jerusalem, to the outskirts of the city, where He was to be crucified. And a big following came; a very few friends, most of them were mocking and laughing and talking and having a great time. Jesus was weakened by the loss of blood and He stumbled and He fell. And they chose a man by the name of Cyrene, or, pardon me, Simon of Cyrene, an African, to help Him. And the crowd was milling around. "He saved others, but He cannot save Himself". It's the greatest example of faith in the New Testament. When Jesus turned to one of those men on the cross, that were dying with Him and said, "Today, you will be with Me in paradise".
They were both thieves, murderers. They deserved to die. And they both were reviling Jesus. Laughing at Jesus, making fun of Him, when one of them suddenly stopped and said, "Why are we doing this? This man has done nothing to deserve death. We deserve to die. We deserve to be executed, but He doesn't". Then he suddenly turned to Jesus, and he said, "Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, please remember me". And Jesus turned to him, while he was dying, and said, "Today, you shall be with Me in paradise". Think of that, here's a sinner, a godless man, a man that had broken the laws of Rome, as well as the laws of God, deserved judgment and hell, and all he said was, "Lord, remember me when you come to Your kingdom". And Jesus said, "Today you're going to be with Me in paradise". And many people ask me constantly, "Is there any hope for me? Can Christ save me? Can Christ forgive me"? Prostitutes, alcoholics, robbers, murderers, prisoners write us letters and ask this same question. "Is there any hope for me? Can I be forgiven? Can I know I'm going to heaven in spike of my hypocrisy, and my sin? I'm a member of the church, but deep in my heart something is wrong".
I was reading about an Olympic star a few years' ago, and he was a high diver. And he was visiting a friend in California, and they had a swimming pool. They were both high divers and they built this big board, way up high. And so, about midnight, he decided he couldn't sleep, he would go out and practice some dives. And he went out there, and they had a small light on, and the moon was shining. And so, he decided that he was going to dive and he went way up to the highest board to do his dive, and stretched his arms out this way and as he did he looked down and he saw a cross. And he stepped back and he couldn't figure it out. Then he stepped forward again and put his hands out like that and there was a cross. So, he got down from the diving board and went down to the pool and he looked And there was no water in the pool. The moon had made him look like a cross down below. And he said that he was saved by the reflection of the cross.
A bishop of the church told me that he was uncertain. He said, "I know that Christ lives in me, but I don't have that assurance that I want". He said, "Do you think there's any hope that I can be forgiven for my years of hypocrisy"? And that brings us to the first point as to why Paul said, "I glory in the cross". Because the cross shows the depth of our sins. When I look at the cross, I see myself as a sinner, Because Jesus was bearing my sins. We talk about sin, but we do not know how it offends God until we look at the cross. He wouldn't have allowed His Son to go through all that agony and suffering if sin was something very simple. But sin is a terrible thing in the sight of God. It damns the soul. It destroys the conscience; it helps destroy the mind. It destroys the country. It destroys the world.
What is sin? Many words in the New Testament are translated sin. One means missing the target. 1 John 5:17 says, "All unrighteousness is sin". Sin is a failure to live up to God's standards. Only one person ever lived up to the standards of God all the way, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. A diamond may be perfect to the naked eye, but to an expert jeweler, it has defects. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God". You and I tonight are sinners. We've transgressed the law of God. And then secondly, sin is a transgression of the law. What law? The law of conscience? When you go against your conscience any time, that's a sin. Or the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments? Idolatry. Most of us here tonight are guilty of idolatry. Any thing that comes between you and God, that you think more of than you do of God, is idolatry. Or, honoring our parents. We don't honor our parents the way we should. We should honor our parents all of our lives, but we don't. Steal. Cheating in school. "Thou shalt not steal". Cheating in school or what has been happening on Wall Street.
All those things that go on in corporate work today or in unions or wherever. Or in athletics, where there's cheating, is stealing. And then adultery. "Thou shalt not commit adultery". "But if you look upon a woman to lust after her in your heart, you've already committed it," Jesus said. So, the Ten Commandments are not just for the overt act, but it's the inner thoughts. And the Sermon on the Mount is really an explanation of the Ten Commandments. What they really mean. So, when you break the Ten Commandments, you're not living up to the standards that Jesus presents in the Sermon on the Mount. Bearing false witness, lying or covetousness. So, we're sinners. We were born in sin. David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me". There's the element of sin from the moment you're born. We're also sinners my choice. We reach the age of accountability, which may be 7 or 8 or 9-years-old. And we make a decision to sin. We are sinners by nature. We are sinners by choice. We're sinners by practice. We practice sin.
Now what does sin do to us? It affects your mind. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned". You see, you cannot come to God by your mind alone. You cannot come to God by thinking your way or rationalizing your way altogether. Some people think they can, but they cannot because sin has affected your mind. You cannot think your way to God. It also affects the will. Jesus said, "Whosoever committeth sin is a servant of sin". You want to quit some of the bad habits that you have, and you've tried, but you cannot. You cry for freedom, but there seems to be no escape. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free". And the truth is Christ. Jesus said, "I am the truth". He can free us. Sin also affects the conscience. You become slow to detect the approach of sin.
It's like the story I've often told before about the frog. You can put a frog in hot water and he'll jump out. Put a frog in cool water and gradually heat it, and he'll stay there until he fries. And that's the way sin is. And then there's the penalty for this disease of sin. It says, "the wages of sin is death". Now that's spiritual death and it's physical death. The cross. I look at the cross and it says, "You are a sinner". That's what the cross says. "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all". "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body, on the tree". When Christ was dying on that cross, He was bearing your sins. Everything that you ever did and that I ever did, He was guilty of. Jesus was guilty of sin. He'd never known sin. He had never had an evil thought. He had never committed immorality. He never thought about it. But on that cross, He became guilty of all of our sins. And because He became guilty for us and took our sins, now God can say to you, I forgive you. I forgive you, and I forget your sins. Then secondly, Paul gloried in the Cross, because it shows the love of God. From the cross. God is saying, I love you, I love you. "He commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us".
It's hard for us to understand the love of God. How deep it is, How high it is. How wide it is. There's no end to it. It's called by Jeremiah, "an everlasting love". There's no beginning. There's no end to the love of God. He uses a special word to describe His love, a love the you and I can never know till you come to Christ. When you come to Christ all the way and surrender totally and completely to Him, that love can be yours. And let me tell you, it will do something in your marriage and in your home. And it'll do something in your life that you cannot imagine because He gives you the power to love that which you thought was dead. I've had men tell me that their love had gone dead for their wives and they received Christ, and the love is renewed and they love their wives more, they said, than they ever did in their whole lives because of Christ. Yes. From the cross, God says, "I love you. You've committed sin. You've broken my laws. You deserve judgment in hell, but I forgive you. I love you".
And then the third thing, Paul gloried in the cross, because it's the only way of salvation. The cross condemns every other way of salvation. Now the Bible says there is a way that seemeth right, but the end thereof are the ways of death. There are so many paths it seems that we could go in so many 'isms today. So many roads that are offered us toward salvation and toward peace, but none of them work. None of them worked except this way, by the way of the cross, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me". The Bible says, "Not everyone that's saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven. But he, that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven". Jesus said that in the Sermon on the Mount. There are many people that are going to come and say, "But Lord, I did this. I did that. I did the other. I was a good man". He will say, "I never knew you". Why? Because you did not come the way God prescribed, which is by the way of the cross.
The Bible talks about the narrow gate and the broad gate. The narrow gate on the narrow path that leads to the kingdom. The broad road, the broad gate that leads to destruction and hell and all of us here tonight are on one of those two roads. Which one are you on? You that are watching by television can pick up the telephone and call that number on the screen right now. And there'll be someone there to talk to you, to help you, to pray with you, with your problems and your burdens, and talk to you about your relationship to God. And then Paul gloried in the cross because he knew that it gave a new dynamic to life. Once you have been to the cross, you can never be the same. In II Corinthians 5:17, the Scripture says, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things become new". Everything is new.
I remember when I first came to Christ, I was on the farm milking cows early every morning, I was 16 or 17 years, 17 years of age. And I remember that I came to a meeting like this and I went forward to make a commitment to Christ. I was already a member of the church. I'd already been baptized and confirmed in the church, but I went forward and call it rededication, call it whatever one wants to call it. But something happened to me that night and it changed my life. And I became interested in spiritual things. I became interested in helping people who needed help. I'd never done that before I lived in the south and I began to look at black people in a totally different way than I ever had before. I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know what to do. I'd never... It wasn't discussed much in those days, but God was speaking to me already about the race question very soon after I gave my life to Christ on that night, You can do the same. It'll change your life. It'll change the way you think. You'll become a new creation.
And then the apostle Paul gloried in the cross, because he knew that it guaranteed the future life. The cross was followed by the resurrection. The Scripture says, but God was in Christ. reconciling the world unto Himself. You see we're separated from God. The cross brings us to God Christ dying on the cross. The Scripture says in Revelation 5, "And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals for Thou was slain and has to redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation. And has made us unto our God, a kingdom of priests; and we shall reign with Him on earth," Revelation 5. Do you know Christ in that way? Have you dedicated your life to Him so much so that He comes into your heart? He can forgive you tonight and you can go home with the joy and peace that you never knew before.
Sometime ago, one of our associates and my son were in the Middle East and, my son spent a lot of time in the Middle East before he really surrendered his life to Christ. In fact that it was in the Middle East, that he gave himself to Christ and decided to go into full-time Christian service. But he was in the Middle East. and this actually happened. I think it was in Jordan or Syria, but I'm not sure which, and he was in one of those countries. And a crowd was chasing a boy. And this boy ran into the tent of a sheikh that was visiting from another area. And this crowd came up, and they were yelling and screaming. And the sheikh came out and his soldiers came out with him and he stood there in his beautiful turbine and Arab dress. And he said, "What do you want"? They said, "We want that boy that ran in your tent". "What did he do, what do you want him forl"? "He just killed another boy, and we want to take him out and stone him". He said, "No, as long as he's under my tent, he has my protection. That's our law". They said, "But you don't understand the boy that he killed was your son".
And the Sheikh stood there. He was hit hard by that. He said, "Then in that case, I will adopt this boy that killed my son. He will become my son and heir to all that I have". And the crowd knew that that was the law and that was their tradition, so, they melted away. And that boy became the son of that wealthy sheikh, even though he had murdered his own true son. That's a little bit of an illustration of what God has done for us. God gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. They crucified Him. He died on the cross for you and for me. And when we surrender our hearts and our lives to Him and follow Him and serve Him, he adopts us into His family and we become true children of God. Are you a true child of God? Do you know it? I use certain about it. Or do you have doubts about it? You can settle it tonight. But the real suffering of Christ was not the physical suffering that I described a moment ago. The real suffering was when our Lord said, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me"? In that moment, darkness covered the earth. God had sent a darkness like night, even though it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. And Jesus said, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me"?
In that mysterious moment that none of us understands, no theologian can explain, God laid on Him the sins of us all. And now, because of that, he can forgive us and adopt us, and we become true children of God. Do you know that? Are you certain of that? Some of you have been baptized and some of you have been confirmed and you would like to rededicate yourself. You would like to say, "Lord, I want to keep what I promised at confirmation. I really haven't kept it, but I want to, and I'd like to make this a moment of re-dedication and commitment". To many other people who are not certain about their relationship with God, you can come and make sure tonight. Or maybe you've never received Him into your heart, not really, and you'd like to do that tonight.
I'm going to ask you to do something that we've already seen several hundreds of people do. Several thousands of people do already. 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 open my heart to Christ. I want Him to forgive me. I want to know that all of my sins are forgiven and forgotten". And after you've all come, I'm going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you and give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. Now you come and stand publicly for Him and say tonight, "I surrender myself anew and afresh to Him". We're going to wait on you. If you start from the top rows, it'll take an extra moment. So start now, quickly. And if you're with friends, they'll wait on you. You come.
You that have been watching on television. You can see that many people are coming here in Rochester, New York, to make this commitment to Christ. You can make the commitment wherever you are. Just say yes to Christ. Pick up the telephone and call. There'll be someone there to answer it. and to help you, or to have a prayer with you, or to answer your questions. I hope you'll make that commitment now. We'll be praying for you. And then be sure and go to church next weekend. God bless you.