Billy Graham – The Eternal Contemporary
Today, I want you to turn with me to the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel. But in the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel, beginning with verse 16, we read these words, “And Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up. And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read, and there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, and set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister and sat down and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him”.
This is the inauguration address of Jesus Christ. He had just been baptized by John the Baptist. He had been tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Now he goes back to his hometown of Nazareth, and it says, “As his custom was, he went to the synagogue”. Notice as his custom was, he went to the synagogue. Now the synagogue was a very important beginning because it spread out the worship of God in many parts of the ancient world. They used to worship God high up in the hills or they worshiped God at the temple where the sacrifices were made. But now they built synagogues so that people could worship any where, any time. And Jesus went to the synagogue and here’s what he said. He said, “Here’s why I’ve come. To preach the gospel to the poor”. He not only meant the physically poor and there are many poor people in the District of Columbia, and many wealthy people.
And there are many poor people throughout the world, but the poverty that we see here doesn’t compare to the poverty I’ve seen in a place like Bangladesh or India, or some places in Africa where there so much poverty, but Jesus was also talking of spiritual poverty. You can be a rich person with material possessions, with the big bank account and be poor toward God. And many of us here tonight are poor toward God. And then he said, “To heal the broken hearted”. How many people here today have broken hearts. You feel alienated, you feel you don’t belong. Some of you have come to Washington for a job and you haven’t gotten over that loneliness yet. It’s to you that Jesus comes today to speak. He has a message for you. Or to preach deliverance to the captives.
Who is this that can bring peace to the heart? The scripture says that in that little synagogue in Nazareth, that the eyes of all them that were in the building were fastened on him. Fastened on Jesus. They looked at him and they saw in him the possibility of their deliverance and their healing. The scripture says in Hebrews 12, “Consider him”. Let’s fasten our eyes on Jesus today. I want you to see him as he’s taught in the scriptures. First, he’s the creative Christ. The script says, “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made”. The Bible teaches that God is expressed in three persons. God, the Father, God, the Son, God, the Holy Spirit. One God and three persons, hard to understand.
Somebody has asked me on several occasions to explain it. I cannot. I’ve never heard a theologian explain it adequately to my satisfaction. We’re taught in scripture that God is one God, manifest in three persons. But the scripture says that Jesus created the whole thing. The whole world. It’s hard for us to believe it. God created man and woman, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and put them in a perfect paradise. You look at the world through a telescope. and we’re told today that they estimate there are 8 billion galaxies and an average of 10 to 20 billion stars and planets in every galaxy. It boggles the mind. Our minds cannot comprehend anything like this.
Where I live in North Carolina, I live up on the side of a mountain, almost 4,000 feet up. And the stars are so brilliant at night We go out and look at them. And I think of every one of those stars is a planet in our universe. But think of 8 billion other universes, so that the shots that we’ve sent to Mars or to Uranus haven’t even begun to touch our own universe, much less these 8 billion others. The magnitude of it all. And the scripture says that God made it all. And then not only is he the creative Christ, but he’s the compassionate Christ. The scripture says he went about doing good. He made the blind to see, and the crippled to walk, and the deaf to hear. He took the immoral and cleansed them, cleansed the lepers. Stilled the storms at sea.
Jesus was never asked for help without responding. And we’re a world filled with problems, searching for purpose and meaning in your life. What is life all about? Why are you here? What’s the purpose? Where did you come from? Where are you going? Do you ever ask yourself those questions? The Bible says God created you for a purpose. Why? Because God loves. God wanted other people in the universe to respond with love to Him. We are created in God’s image. In other words, we are little gods in the image of God. And he loves you. You are important to God. And if you forget everything else that is said this week, remember two things. You are important to God, and God loves you. And God wants you to love your neighbor as yourself. Remember those things.
And then there’s fear. The Philippian jailer was afraid when the earthquake came and the walls of the jail came tumbling down and he thought the Roman authorities would kill him for allowing the prisoners to escape. But the apostle Paul, who was one of the prisoners said, “Don’t harm yourself. We’re still here”. And this jailer fell down trembling and said, “What must I do to be saved”? HG Wells said before he died at Oxford, he said, “That’s the greatest question of the 20th century? What must we do to be saved”? Because he said, “I have very little hope that we’ll live out the 20th century as a human race”.
What must we do to be saved? Paul gave a very simple answer. He didn’t give a very complicated scientific mathematical formula. He simply said, and he was one of the most brilliant men of his day, he said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved”. That word believe means commitment. I commit everything I’ve got to him. Just as I stood on this platform, I committed my weight to it. I’d never stood on it before in my life. But I believed that the people that built it were committed to building a platform that would hold a man. And so, I commit myself to Christ for my forgiveness, for my salvation, to fill my empty heart, to give me purpose and meaning to my life.
Then there’s spiritual diseases that people have. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. And Jesus said to Nicodemus, one of the most religious men of his time, “You must be born again if you’re to see the kingdom of heaven”. He said, “You must”. He didn’t say I think you ought to. He said, “You must”. And then the third thing about Jesus, he was not only the creative Christ and the compassionate Christ, but he was also the crucified Christ. I remember being in Ireland and we walked down the street on Sunday morning at 10 30, where the bombs were going off and where they were shooting. And then we saw a church, a Protestant church on this side and a block away, a Catholic church. And we knelt down in the middle of the street between the Protestants and the Catholics, and we said, “Oh God, bring peace to Ireland”. And that’s still my prayer because on top of the Protestant church and on top of the Catholic church was a cross. And that’s one thing we have in common.
We believe that the cross is the central fact of Christianity, that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Let me tell you, Jesus did it all on the cross. When he bowed his head and he said, “It is finished”. It’s finished. And you, you cannot buy your way to heaven. You can have all the money in all the world, and you couldn’t even get a glimpse of heaven. You could do all the good works. You could have yourself nailed to a thousand crosses. That wouldn’t get you to heaven. The thing that gets you to heaven is what Jesus did on that cross, shedding his blood for us on that day at Calvary. Why did he die? Not because he had sinned. He died in our place. The scripture says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”.
Think of it. He was made sin. He became guilty of your sins. He became guilty of adultery, of murder, of lying, of envy, of jealousy. He became guilty, took all the guilt on him, and because he did that, God says, “I can forgive you”. Now why couldn’t God forgive everybody anyway? If God had forgiven everybody anyway, he would not have been God, because God had said to Adam and Eve in the day that you break my law, you’re going to suffer and die. They broke God’s law deliberately and they passed it to Cain and Abel and Cain became a murderer. They passed it from generation to generation, to generation down to you and me. And we’re all guilty. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. And that sin is going to keep us out of heaven. It’s going to cause us to endure the pangs of hell. What can we do? Nothing. It’s done for us by Christ.
And God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son on that cross for us. He was crucified in our place so that we might be made the righteousness of God. Think of it. That you can be as righteous as God in the sight of God, because of Christ. How glorious that is. The Bible says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all”. Because of the cross, God offers you today forgiveness, justification, just as if you had never sinned, peace, joy, a new nature, eternal life, the Holy Spirit, eternal glory is all yours because of Christ. Jesus Christ didn’t just risk his life in a treacherous sea to save you. He died on the cross and you must come to the cross and confess that you have sinned and say to God, “I’m sorry. I’m willing to change my way of life”. Are you willing to do that? You can’t do it by yourself, but God will help you, if you say that you’re willing. He was not only the creative Christ, the compassionate Christ, the crucified Christ, He’s the conquering Christ. Paul wrote, “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us”. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead. He’s alive. I do not preach a dead Christ. He is alive now.
In Time Magazine on April 14th of this year, they quote Pope John Paul in his newly released pronouncement entitled, “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation”. He says this, “That the basis of liberation is the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ which have freed us from the most radical evil, namely sin and the power of death”. Everybody in Jerusalem that day said he’s dead, but the scripture says he was buried, but he rose again on the third day. And Jesus said in Revelation 1, “I’m He that liveth and was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore and have the keys of hell and death”. Think of it. I’ve got the keys of hell and death. You don’t ever have to see eternal death and eternal hell because I have the keys. I’ve come to deliver you. Let me. I’ve come to pardon you.
I remember one time I was in Tennessee and the Governor of Tennessee at that time was named Frank Clement. I’ll never forget that. And he took me out to the prison to speak to 21 people on death row. And I spoke to them, and he spoke to them, and I asked him, and I said, “Governor,” I said, “If you pardoned one of those men and he rejected it, would it still be a pardon”? And he said, “No”. He said, “We had an example of that, that was before the court some years ago in this state”. He said, “If you offer a pardon to a man who is condemned, and he refuses it, the courts have ruled that the sentence must be carried out”. God offers you a pardon today, but you must receive it. I’m going to ask you to do that today. To receive it. And then he is also the contemporary Christ.
The most recent Gallup poll of Americans indicate that 68% of Americans profess to having been born again. I don’t know how many of them are genuine, but I do know that whoever is born of God is someone who has repented of sin and confessed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Have you? You can today before you leave here. And that’s what this crusade is all about. And the last point I would like to make is that he’s the coming Christ. Jesus said, “I will come again”.
Do you know anybody that can solve the problems of the world? I’m going to be praying the whole time those men are meeting in Tokyo, but I want to tell you something. No summit meeting has ever solved all the problems of the world. I read today in the paper that there are now 40 wars going on in the world. And then I read a little bit further and they said that does not take into account many more that they don’t talk about. So maybe there are 50 or 60 wars going on in the world today. And in one sense, this new terrorism is a new kind of warfare. It’s war. And do you know anybody that’s going to settle it? All the greatest brains are working on it. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and He’s coming back and bringing peace someday. He’s coming back to save us from bombing ourselves off this planet and set up his kingdom of peace and prosperity.
When Martin Luther King gave that dream speech over here on the mall, that dream of his, he quoted so many scriptures and all those scriptures really have to do with the kingdom age when Christ will be the ruler as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Someone said the other day quoted in the press that America needs desperately a philosophy of hope. Well, our hope is in Christ and you can… Do you know Christ?
You say, “Well, Billy, what would I have to do to know Him? What does God require of me”? Christ died for you. He rose again. He loves you. He wants to help you. He has arms outstretched toward you to take you in his arms and love you and help you and forgive you. But you must do something. You must repent of your sins. And the word repentance means to change, to change your mind about him, to change your mind about yourself. It means that you’re willing to start living a new life. You’re going in this direction, and you start going in a new direction. Now God has to help you even in the repenting because you can’t do it alone. And then the second thing, you must receive Him by faith, by faith. You’ll never understand it all intellectually. If you wait until you can understand it all intellectually, you’ll never come. The scripture says, “By wisdom, men cannot know God”. You come with your mind, but you also come with your heart, but primarily it’s your will.
I remember when I got married. We stood in front of the clergyman, in the little Presbyterian church in North Carolina. And the minister asked, “Will you have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife”? I didn’t say I hope so. I think so. She’s a lovely girl. I’m in love with her. I didn’t say any of that. That all been settled and assumed by the clergyman. I said, “I will”. Not that loud, but I said it. And she became my wedded wife. In the same way you say to Christ, “I look at the cross, where he died for me, and I could love him”. That’s your emotion. And then you listen a little bit further and you say, “Well, it’s logical”.
I don’t see any other philosophy in the world comparable to it. I don’t see any other religion that could do any more. I believe that is the right way. But you really don’t come to Christ until you say, “I will. I’ll follow him, I’ll serve him, I’ll surrender to him. I will, with his help, turn from my sins and receive him into my heart by faith”.
I’m going to ask you to do what we’ve seen thousands do. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now. Hundreds of you. You may be a member of the church. You may be a Sunday school teacher. You may be a good person, but deep inside, you’re not sure. Last night I asked the choir and quite a number in the choir said they weren’t sure of their relationship to Christ. I would like those people to come today. And I want you to come and stand in front of this platform. And as you come and stand in front of this platform, quietly and reverently, you’re saying, “I open my heart to Christ. I want him to give me peace and joy and forgiveness. I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want to know my sins are forgiven”.
If you’re with friends or relatives, they’ll wait. If you’ve come with a group, they’ll wait on you. And after you’ve all come here. I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you and give every one of you some literature that you can take home and study and help you in your Christian life. But you get up and come. Hundreds of you, men, women, young people, whoever you are, black or white, Jew or Gentile, whatever. You come. God is speaking to you today, quickly from everywhere. We’re going to wait. From way back in the back, it’ll take you about a minute, maybe a minute and a half to come, but don’t let distance keep you from coming. You’ve been watching on those screens back there. You get up and come. We’re going to wait.
To you that had been watching by television, you can see here that scores of people, hundreds of people are coming to make their commitment to Jesus Christ here in Washington, D.C. You can make that commitment where you are, in a hotel room, in your living room, in your bedroom, maybe at a bar somewhere. You need Christ and you need him tonight. You commit your life to him. Pick up the telephone and call that telephone number that you see on the screen. And it’s my prayer that tonight you’ll make that commitment along with these many people that are still coming here. May God bless you and help you to do it.
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