Billy Graham – The Death and Resurrection of Christ
My message is going to be brief, and my text is going to be Luke the 23rd chapter beginning at verse 42. “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily, I say unto thee, today thou shall be with me in paradise'”. The greatest and most historical event of all of history, was when Jesus Christ died on that cross. And when Christ died on the cross, the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, the darkness came. As the nails had gone into the hands of Christ and a spear had gone into his side and the nails through his feet. And Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth suffering for us.
The soldiers had taken him out of his prison and they put a crimson robe on him, they’d beaten him two or three times. And then they took two or three murders with him. Two of them in particular, who were going to be crucified with him. And then they took him across Jerusalem and they made each one of them bear a placard, or at least herald went before them to bear a placard telling of their crimes. And then Jesus stumbled and fell. He was weak from the loss of blood and they compelled an African to help him carry his cross. And as long as the history of man shall go, we will always remember that it was an African that helped Jesus bare his cross.
There are people today that say that Christianity is the white man’s religion. Don’t you believe it. For all of those who believe in Jesus Christ, He belongs to all people. He came from that part of the world that touches Asia, Africa, and Europe. He belongs as much to the African as he does to the European; and as much to the European as he does to the Asian. Jesus Christ belongs to all people, but an African helped him carry His cross. And then when they got to Golgotha, these soldiers went about their work, nailing the nails in.
These two murderers and thieves that were being crucified with Jesus were yelling, screaming, crying, but Jesus never uttered a word. And they took some medicated wine that acted as a sedative and gave it to the two thieves. And they took it and they offered it to Jesus, and He refused it, because He wanted to drink the very bitter dregs of death in our place for us. He wanted to suffer all of death, showing that God loved the world and God was willing to forgive the sins of the world because of what Christ was doing on that cross. The people that were watching were laughing and sneering. They said, “He saved others, why can’t he save himself”? Come on, you worked great miracles. Why don’t you work one more? You raised Lazarus from the dead. You raised a widow’s son from the dead. Why can’t you save yourself?
Those blind people did not realize that God had foreordained and predetermined that Jesus Christ was to die the death of the cross. And it was only through that death that the world could find forgiveness and salvation. There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. The apostle Paul was an intellectual. One of the most brilliant men that ever lived. And Paul went to Corinth. Pagan, intellectual, immoral Corinth. The university center of the ancient world. And Paul said, “I’m determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified”.
Why did Paul say that? He said that because God has locked up in the cross the secret of the universe. The only way that earth can ever find reconciliation with heaven is by way of the cross. The only way that you can ever get to heaven is by way of the cross. And if Jesus Christ had not gone to the cross, you could have never had sin forgiven. You could have never gone to heaven. And the problems of earth would have never had a solution. Only by the way of the cross can we find our way back to God. That’s why it was important that Jesus stay on the cross. Because you see, man is in rebellion against God. Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden of Eden. And every man since Adam and Eve has broken God’s law and sinned against God. And as a result of that, God and man are separated. And man’s only way back to God is through Jesus Christ.
Man had broken the law. Man deserved death. He deserved judgment. He deserved hell, but God said, “Wait a minute. I’ll give My Son. I’ll let him die. I’ll let him take the judgment and the hell for you. And if you will put your trust and your faith in My Son, I will forgive your sin. I will change your life. I will give you an inner peace and joy and satisfaction that you would never find in any other way”. Jesus was dying on that cross for your sins and your sins.
Some people say, “Why don’t you try to make your gospel relevant”? The most relevant message in the world tonight is the fact that Christ died for you. He died in your place. He shed his blood for you. And without that experience, no one can get to heaven. Yes, Jesus Christ died. And the people laughed and sneered. And two people that sneered and laughed the most, were these two thieves and murderers that were dying with Him. They were both mocking him. But one of them became strangely silent. And finally, this one that was silent turned and rebuked the other thief or the murderer and said, “We’re dying justly. We deserve to be crucified, but not this man in the middle. He’s a good man. He is the Son of God”.
Then he turned to him and asked him what seemed to be an improbable, an impossible question. He said, “Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom”. Will you remember me, Lord? And then Jesus gave one of the most astounding answers in the history of the world. The angels in heaven must’ve been shaken and startled and amazed when they heard what Jesus answered. Jesus said, “Today, today, thou shalt be with me in paradise”. Think of it. Here was a thief, a murderer, a man that had committed every crime in the books, dying, turns to Jesus in his dying moment and says, “Lord, remember me”. He didn’t even say forgive me. He didn’t even say, Lord, take me to heaven with you. He didn’t say, “Lord prefer me”. He just said, “Lord, remember me”. And Jesus answered quick as a flash and said, “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise”.
And to all of you people that think you can’t be converted in a moment and that you cannot be saved at this hour, at this moment, in this rain, in Baton Rouge and have your whole life transformed. You read the stories of the New Testament and the encounters that people had with Jesus. There are many of you that came here tonight in this rain that never dreamed that you were going to meet Jesus. You came out of curiosity or you came because your bus was already on the way, or you had already promised some friends to come, or you’re a student here at the university and you came out of curiosity.
Many of the people of the New Testament that came to Jesus never planned it. They never thought that they would have their lives changed. This thief on the cross that had been in prison, knew that he was going to die on a cross. He knew he deserved it. He never dreamed that before the night came, that day he would be in heaven. He deserved judgment. He deserved hell. I’m going to see that man in heaven someday, by the grace of God. He wasn’t saved by his good works. He didn’t even have time to be baptized. He didn’t have time for anything, but he’s in heaven. That’s the grace and the mercy of God. I want to tell you that the greatest word in all the language of men is forgiveness. That Jesus forgave him of every sin he’d ever committed. Wiped the slate clean and he was in heaven.
There are three things about this passage. The whole gospel is in it. There’s repentance. It’s the only death bed repentance in the whole Bible. I don’t know what led this fellow to ask that question or to make that statement. It might’ve been the prayer that Jesus had just prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do”. It might’ve been what Jesus had said to John concerning his mother. I don’t know what it is or what it was, but the Holy Spirit used it. The Holy Spirit used it to convict him and to convince him that he needed Jesus and he repented of his sins at that moment, and he was saved.
I can imagine the other thief saying, “Why, what have you done”? Have you turned preacher or something? You remember, we strangled that old merchant for his gold. Remember, you kidnapped that little child. Remember that girl you raped. Remember that person you slew. You think God’s going to forgive you? Are you turn a preacher? He can’t forgive you. I don’t care what your sin is. I don’t care how deep in sin you’ve gone. I don’t care what you’ve done. God can forgive you. God can cleanse you. God can make you a new person tonight, if you put your faith and your trust in Him. Yes, he repented.
And the second thing he did was to believe The Bible says, “If we believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved”. The Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved”. “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”. Just repent and believe and then you’ll be saved. He said, “When thou comest into Thy kingdom,” as though he were thinking of some far off kingdom age, somewhere, and Jesus answered and said today, right now, you’ll be saved Right now, you can have eternal life. You can put your trust and your confidence in Christ now. And he did. And that day he went to paradise.
Now it’s the word “remember” that I want you to think about a moment. He said, “Lord, remember me”. Did you know that God forgets? Did you know that there’s a scripture in Jeremiah 31:34 that says, “I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sins no more”. God can forget. God, forget your sin. What does God forget? God never forgets the universe. He sends the rain. Yes, sir. God sends the rain, but the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun comes up on the just and the unjust. God blesses all of us with all of his blessings. He never forgets. Supposed He forgot to send rain? Suppose the sun ceased to shine. The earth would turn into a glacier. Suppose God would forget because the scripture says that God holds the whole universe together. If God ever took his hand off, it would blow to pieces. And then the scripture says that God remembers you.
Tonight, I had in my little office here where I see people, a lady and her children and a mother, and their son and their husband is a prisoner in North Vietnam. I don’t think any of us will ever know what these families have suffered. I don’t think any of us will ever know what those boys out there have probably gone through psychologically and physically, never knowing. And then we had another one come and see us tonight. And her husband, she’s just found out, is alive and a prisoner, but for a long time, she didn’t know. He was only missing an action. But let me tell you this, God remembers them. And when we bowed our heads in the little office and prayed that God would remember them and that His grace and His love would reach out to North Vietnam, to the prison camp and touch them. God remembers them and God answers prayer.
How many times has God been with you? You don’t even know, because you see, you almost had a wreck the other day, but you were saved from it. Why? When you get to heaven, you may find out why. It might’ve been divine intervention. And that happens to all of us. God remembers you. And then God never forgets our sins either. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out”. The Bible says, “God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. The Bible says, “For God shall bring every work into judgment”. God is going to judge every sin that’s ever been committed. What is your sin that so easily besets you? It’s going to be brought to light, all the secret things. God is going to judge it. God never forgets sin. No sin has ever been forgotten by God. God has recorded everything you’ve ever done and all the things you’ve ever thought, from the time you were born, until the time you die. It’s all there. It’s all in the record books. And God will never forget. Nothing is going to be forgotten. How do you stand before God?
But there’s one thing God can forget. He can forget sin because of Christ. The Bible says in II Corinthians 5:21, “He has made Him to be sin for us”. It says in Isaiah 53, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all”. It says in 1 Peter, 2:24, “Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree”. The Scripture teaches that God can forget our sins because of Christ. The sin that would damn us. The sin that would send us to judgment. The sin that would send us to hell. God can forget. In Hebrews 1:3 it says your sins are purged. In Isaiah 43 it says your sins are blotted out. In Psalm 103 it says your sins are put away. Isaiah 38 says your sins are put behind His back. And in Hebrews it says God can remember your sin no more.
Ladies and gentlemen, because Christ died, because He rose again, because of what He did, God cannot remember my sins. I’ve committed plenty of sins in my life. And even if I’d only committed one sin in my whole life, it’s enough to cause me to go to the judgment and be lost, because I could keep the whole law and yet offend in one point and I’d be guilty of all. But God has forgotten my sin. He forgot every sin that I have ever committed. Every one He has forgotten. He’s the only person in the whole universe that can forget. He has the ability to forget.
Has He forgotten your sin? Have you brought your sin and laid it at the feet of Jesus? What a night to give your life to Christ? You may never have another moment like this. The Bible says, “He that hardened his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy”. You’ve sat here for over two hours in the rain. Many of you are soaked all the way through and you’ve done it because you want your sins forgiven, many of you. And others of you have sat there because you’re praying for somebody that needs Christ. And this is your hour and your moment and may never come again like this.
I’m going to ask you to do something that I saw people in London do. I saw people in San Diego do. I saw people in Pittsburgh do. I’m going to ask scores of you to get up out of your seat right now, come across this field in the rain and stand here. And by coming say, “I want Christ in my life. I want my sin forgiven. I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want to know that I will not be at the judgment in that final day. I want my life transformed by the power of Christ”. I’m going to ask you to come right now, men, women, young people, God has spoken to you. You need Christ. And in a moment like this, you’ll never forget.
I met a missionary out in the Far East, a few months ago, said I received Christ one of those nights at Wembley Stadium, in the pouring rain in England, I stood ankle deep in mud to find Christ and said, I thank God, because if it hadn’t been for the rain, I don’t know whether I would have come that night or not. But he said there was something about the challenge of coming forward in the rain that challenged me and it changed my life. Yes, it’s not easy to come, but Christ went to the cross for you. Many people are on the way now. You get up and come and make your commitment to Christ.
Now I want to say a word to all of you that have come. You’ve come tonight to make your commitment to Christ because you want your sins forgiven. You want to know you’re going to heaven. You want a new direction in your life, and you’ve come to make a commitment to Christ because you want him to forget your sin and save your soul. Well, I want to tell you, He remembers you and He loves you and He wants to forgive you. He loves you. Keep that in mind now, that God loves you and is willing to forgive and forget all the past. And from tonight on, there are four things that are very important.
First, read your Bible every day. We’re going to give you a Gospel of John. We want you to read it several times before you read any other part of the Bible. We’re going to give you a Bible study. We’re going to give you some verses of Scripture to learn, memorize. This helps you to grow. “Desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby,” the scripture says. You cannot grow in the Christian life without reading and studying the scriptures every day.
Secondly, pray. God will hear and answer your prayer. You’re His child now. He loves you. Take every detail to God in prayer. He will answer your prayers. Don’t let a day go by but that you spend a few minutes every morning, every evening and all during the day in prayer. And pray about everything, whatever the details are. Nothing is too small to bring to God’s attention.
And then thirdly, witness for Christ. How do you witness? You’re witness by the smile on your face. You witness by the new attitude you have in the dormitory, the new attitude you have toward work, the new attitude you have in the home.
And then you witnesse by going to somebody of another race and going out of your way to be kind and courteous and gracious. And people will soon say, “Well, what’s happened to you, Mary”? And you can say, “Well, I’ve found Christ. He’s changed my life”. That’s witnessing. And then fourthly, get into a church where Christ is preached and get to work for Christ. Get into the church and work in the church. You say, “But I don’t like to go to church”. Jesus went to the churches of his day and they weren’t all they were supposed to be, but He did it to set us an example that we should go to church. Four things, read the Bible, pray, witness, and go to church. Now I’m going to ask that we bow our heads and I want you to pray this prayer out loud after me.
Oh God, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sin. I’m willing to turn from my sin. I receive Christ as Savior. I confess Him as Lord from this moment on. I want to follow Him and serve Him in the fellowship of His church, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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