Billy Graham – Starting Life Over Again
I want us to turn to the second chapter of John’s Gospel, beginning with verse twenty-three. Jesus had been traveling throughout the land of Palestine. He’d been in, now he’s in Galilee. And then he went on his way to Jerusalem, to attend the feast of the passover. And “When he was in Jerusalem at the passover in the feast, many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them because he knew all men”. “And needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man”.
These people believed in Jesus, these were very religious people they were religious leaders, but they didn’t believe on Jesus as their Lord and their Savior. And they’re thousands of people here tonight that believe in Jesus Christ with your mind, you believe enough to go to church, you believe enough to engage in even Christian work, and good works. But deep in your heart, you really don’t know Christ as your Lord and your master and your Savior. A newspaper article in great Britain carried a headline a few weeks ago that said, “A new world is being born”.
Yes, Jesus said it’s possible to live a new life. He said in the next chapter, the third chapter of John, “You must be born again”. He said if you’re not born again you’ll never see the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, “I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. When Jesus said that to this great religious ruler who was a pharisee and rich, he was in the revivalist movement of that generation. He belonged to the Sanhedrin, the highest ruling body in the nation. He was also a rich man, we find out. He was a pharisee and the pharisees were considered the leaders of the country.
Now Nicodemus was the kind of man that most churches would be glad to have. But Jesus said, “Nicodemus, all your good works and all your religious knowledge is not enough, you need something more”. Jesus knew that man was capable of lying and cheating and hate and prejudice and social inequality. He said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and murders and adulteries and thefts and false witnesses and blasphemies, these are the things,” he said “Which defile a man”. The Bible always describes the disease that we have as the free act of an intelligent, moral, responsible being.
There are many words in the Bible that are translated sin. Many words. Transgression is one of them. Transgression means that we’ve broken the Ten Commandments, and every person here tonight has broken the Ten Commandments. Somewhere along the line you told one lie. And the Bible says if you’ve broken one commandment, you’ve broken them all. So that means that you’ve broken all the commandments. And we haven’t lived up to the sermon on the mount. We’re missing the Mark, “All unrighteousness is sin,” the scripture says, in I John 5:17. Then there’s iniquity. Iniquity means there’s a turning aside from the straight path. “All we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned every one to his own way”.
The Bible teaches that the spirit is dead toward God. We have a body but living inside is our spirit and it’s that spirit of ours that is going to live forever either in heaven or hell. And the difference will be the decision that you make about Jesus Christ. Mark twain was once asked, what are the two greatest words in the English language? And he replied, “Not guilty”. The two greatest words, not guilty. And that’s what God is going to say to you at the judgment, if you know Christ. If you don’t know Christ, if you haven’t had this relationship with Christ, you’ll be declared guilty and suffer the consequences. Well, what is the new birth? What does it mean to start over? Nicodemus asked that question, “How can a man be born when he’s old”? He wanted to understand it. But Jesus indicated to him that there’s a mystery about it, he said in John 1:13 “Which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God”.
You can be born in a garage but that doesn’t make you an automobile. You can be born in a Christian home but that doesn’t make you a Christian. He didn’t say that you could be baptized and that would get you to heaven. Oh, you should be baptized after you come to Christ. Simon the sorcerer was baptized by Phillip after having intellectually believed, but Peter told him your heart’s not right in the sight of God. You need Christ. Or confirmation, or whatever practice they have in your denomination, in your church. The conditions of belonging to the church were that you must first be saved. Some of you might have been saved at confirmation, and some might not have been. Only the Holy Spirit knows when a person is born again. When that line is crossed.
I believe a person like Becky that spoke to us a few moments ago, she would say that day that she made that decision was the moment she was born again. I believe I know the day I was born again, but my wife doesn’t know the day. She knows she’s always loved Christ. She cannot remember the day that she didn’t love him and she can’t remember the day when she didn’t put him first in her life. Frederick the great of Prussia was a professing Christian. He once invited Voltaire the famous atheist to a banquet. And during the toast, Voltaire said, “I will barter my seat in heaven for one Prussian Mark”. After a silence a fellow guest spoke up and said to Voltaire, “Sir, in Prussia we have a law that says before we can sell anything, we have to have proof of ownership. Can you prove that you have a seat in heaven”?
I ask you this, can you prove that you have a seat in heaven? The only way you can get a seat is to come to the cross and confess that you’re a sinner and receive Christ as Lord and Savior. And come to the empty tomb and believe that he rose again from the dead. Voltaire was speechless, he didn’t know what to say. To be born again means to be born from above. The Holy Spirit of God comes in and gives you a new heart. You see, your old nature is no good. You have to have a new nature, you have to have a new heart. “A new heart also will I give you and new spirit will I put within you,” says Ezekiel 36. In acts Peter called it repenting and being converted. In Romans Paul speaks of it as being alive from the dead. In II Corinthians he calls it being a new creation, old things have passed away, everything becomes new.
Has that happened to you? It could happen tonight. It can happen right here. You don’t have to wait some other day, you don’t have to put it off. In Colossians Paul calls it “Putting off the old man with his deeds and putting on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”. Just before I came here a man in the city of Asheville near our home in North Carolina pulled a gun on the teller who handed him the money as instructed. But that man did not know that the bag also contained a dye bomb. And when it exploded it covered the money, the bag and his hand with this dye and he couldn’t get it off. And when they caught him the dye was easy to see. And because of sin we have dye on our souls and we can’t wash it off. Because of this dye we’re easily spotted and caught and brought to the judgment. But Jesus can cleanse the dye with his blood.
The only way to cleanse the dye of sin is by the blood of Christ, “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin,” the scripture says. And that’s what you need tonight. Now what happens? Nicodemus asked Jesus, he said, how can it happen? What happens? Jesus said there’s a mystery to it. He used the analogy of the wind, he said, “The wind blows where it listeth,” you can’t see it. You can’t catch it, but you can feel it. You can see the effects of it. The Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and gives us a new nature and you can’t pick it up and analyze it with your hands or put it in a laboratory. It’s the work of the Spirit of God in you when you say yes to Christ. There’s the analogy of the new birth. There’s the moment of conception, there’s the nine months of gestation, then there’s birth. And the scripture says there’s the reception of the Word of God, “Being born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever”.
You hear the scripture quoted here tonight, you say yes to Christ, conception or it may be one other step in gestation or it may be birth. I don’t know, only God would know that. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. There’s something about the Word of God that has to do with your salvation. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching”, (or declaration or proclamation), “To save them that believe”. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, you see, he convicts you of sin. You become conscious of the fact that you’ve sinned. You’ve come short of what God requires. That’s the work of the Spirit of God inside you. Then when you receive Christ he comes to indwell. He will indwell you. He will live in you. You don’t have to leave here to live a Christian life which you can’t do by yourself. You have the Holy Spirit living in you to help you to live the Christian life.
I couldn’t live the Christian life an hour without the work of the Holy Spirit. And I’m a failure. I feel my sense of failure all the time. I’m not a great giant saint of God. People put a person who is publicized a little bit on a pedestal, I don’t belong there. I belong in the gutter with all the sinners that have been saved by grace. I’m a sinner saved by the grace of God. Jesus uses an interesting illustration, he reaches over to the Old Testament and the people of Israel when they were on their way out of Egypt, had all been bitten by serpents, snakes. And they were dying and suffering and screaming.
And so Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness made of brass and he said, “If you look at that serpent you’ll be saved, you’ll be healed”. Well, that was absolutely foolishness, there’s no saving qualities or healing qualities in that brass. To just look and be saved, think of it, that’s all you have to do. And thousands of them did and they were saved. But thousands of them didn’t, they thought it was too foolish and too ridiculous and too simple. And that’s the way some of you think about the Gospel of Christ and you think about the cross and the resurrection. It’s too simple. It can’t possibly be true. What Becky said can’t be true. What has been sung here tonight can’t be true. It’s too easy, it’s too simple.
See, you come to Christ, that’s easy in a way because you have to repent of sin, that means that you have to say to God, “I’m sorry, I’m a sinner. I’m willing to turn from my sin but Lord I’ll need your help, even when I give these things up I can’t do it by myself. I’m caught in those chains that was sung to us a few moments ago. Chains of habit. And I’ve tried to break them and I can’t”. Tell God that. And let the Holy Spirit come in and break them for you. And he will do it and he’ll do it tonight.
About seven or eight years ago, a little plane was going from Miami to Nassau and it crashed in the ocean. And the pilot survived the crash but had blood on his forehead which attracted sharks. And he spent hours, if you can believe it, he spent hours kicking those sharks away, as he was floundering around in the water. After he’d been in the water ten hours he saw an aircraft and waved his orange life vest at the aircraft. The pilot spotted him and dropped a smoke canister and radioed a coast guard cutter that was twelve minutes away, and said, “Hurry, there’s a guy out there that’s surrounded by sharks”. The coast guard cutter came and they helped him to scramble up the rope ladder. Nothing less than the outside intervention of that coast guard cutter could have saved that man from a terrible agonizing death.
God will intervene tonight in your life and in your heart and take you away from those sharks that want to destroy you. You see, that man didn’t need better techniques, he didn’t need encouragement, he needed to be saved. And that’s your position tonight, you need to be saved. And you can tonight by opening your heart to Christ. I’m going to ask you to do something that we saw hundreds of people, over 3,000 last night do. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform and say tonight, “I want to open my heart to Christ. I want to have this encounter with Christ in my life”.
You may go to church or you may not. You may be a believer with your mind but somehow you’re not certain that Christ has control of you, is in heart. If you come from that top stand up there, it’s gonna take about two minutes extra for you so start now. Hundreds of you, thousands of you that need to come, young and old. If you’re under ninety-nine years of age, you are a person that needs Christ. And you may not be sure. You may even be a clergyman. We’ve had clergymen in almost every crusade that come forward, and say, “I’ve been preaching for years but I’m not sure that Christ really has me. I’m not certain of my relationship to God and I want to be sure”. You get up and come. And after you’ve come I’m going to say a word to you, have a prayer with you, then you can go back and join your friends.
If you’re with relatives or friends, they’ll wait on you. If you’ve come with a group, they’ll wait. It will only take a few moments and what a beautiful evening to come. You get up and come. We’re going to wait on you. Why do I ask you to come? Jesus died publicly on the cross for you, publicly. He said if you’re not willing to acknowledge me before your fellow man, I’ll not acknowledge you before my father which is in heaven. There’s something about coming forward and standing publicly that makes it genuine in your life. You get up and come from all around. It’ll take a few moments because this is such a large place, but we’re going to wait on you. And everybody here is going to be praying for you. You come while the rest of us pray.
I want to say a word to all of you that may be watching by television. We’re not on live anywhere but this will be shown some months later, perhaps somewhere. And I want to say a word to you and tell you that hundreds of people have come here in Cleveland, Ohio in this great stadium, to make their commitment to Christ tonight. And you can make that commitment where you are. Just say yes to Christ. Say:
Lord, I do repent of my sins as best I know how, I don’t understand it all. But what little I do know, I act on it. I come to the foot of your cross and I say, oh God, I’m a sinner, help me, save me. Forgive me.
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