Billy Graham – The Greatest Revival in History
Now tonight, the twelfth chapter of Matthew, Matthew, the twelfth chapter. “Then certain of the scribes and of the pharisees answered saying, master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. And there shall be no sign given you but the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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”.
Of course, Jesus was talking about his resurrection. He was rebuking the scribes and the pharisees. They were wanting a sign. Jesus said, “I am the sign. And my death and burial and resurrection will be a sign in every generation, that God loves the world and was willing to give his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life”. But it’s interesting to me that Jesus picked one of the most incredible stories in all the Bible to use as an illustration. It says that God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. In other words, he was custom made by God for the occasion. God prepared a great fish. We know that they’ve found whales that are 70 feet long. We don’t know what kind of fish it was. But God prepared it. And the whole thing is a miracle from top to bottom anyway.
In fact, the little Book of Jonah is a book of miracles. It’s filled with miracles. The wind that came up. The fish that was prepared. The gourd that grew. But the greatest miracle of all was the greatest revival in the history of the world, when one of the greatest cities of all of world history, turned from the king on down to God in repentance of sin and faith in God. Now before that happened, though, God had called Jonah. God said, “Jonah, I want you to go and warn the people of Nineveh to repent of their sins because judgment is coming”. Now the scripture says and Jonah said, “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah”.
Did you know that that expression or a similar expression is found over 2,000 times in the Old Testament? I believe the word of the Lord did come to them. I don’t believe they’d tell 2,000 lies in the Old Testament. I believe that this book, the Bible, is inspired of God. It’s God’s book. It’s God’s message to every generation. The word of the Lord came unto Jonah. And God’s word said, “Jonah, arise and go to Nineveh. Cry out against Nineveh for their wickedness has come up before me”. There comes a time when God can stand sin and wickedness no more. And judgment must come. That’s the danger in America right now. That’s the danger in the world right now. Our wickedness is so great that God may allow judgment to fall unless we as a people turn back to God.
The word of the Lord came unto Jonah. But you know, Jonah wasn’t happy about it. So Jonah decided that he was going to flee. He was going to get away. He was going to disobey God. And the Bible says that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord. And he went down to Joppa. And he bought a ticket for Tarshish because you see, Tarshish was a great resort city. And he thought to himself, “I can go down there and lie on a beach and the Lord won’t even know where I am. I can get away from it all”. And that’s been true all the way through the Bible. Adam and Eve thought they could get away from God and hide in the garden. And hide behind the fig leaves that they sewed after they’d rebelled against God. But God came walking in the garden and said, “Adam, where art thou”?
The Bible says, you can make your bed in hell and you can’t get away from God. There’s nowhere for you to flee from God. And then the Bible says that he went down to Joppa got into the ship and went down into the bottom of the ship to go asleep. Sin always leads us down. Jonah went down. And when you sin and persist in sin it’s going to lead you down. Samson was one of God’s servants. And God put up with his sins for 20 years. The patience, the love and the grace of God toward Samson is one of the great stories of the Bible. But there came a time when God said, “It’s enough”. And Samson was captured and he was blinded. And Samson suffered the judgment of God because of his sins. Sin led Samson down. Sin led David down. David committed adultery, he committed murder. From that moment on his family seemed to get away from him. Some of them revolted against him. And David carried this terrible guilt that you find poured out in the 51st Psalm and many of the other Psalms.
Sin led down. And many of you tonight are down because of sin. And you’re trying to flee from God. You know, we flee by travel. Listen to that airplane up there. There’s a restlessness today. You go to the airports, they’re jammed. Go to the bus stations, they’re jammed. People going everywhere. Go out on the highways and you stop the average person, most of them would tell you they don’t know where they’re going. They just have to go. Everybody’s going. Everybody’s moving. No one seems to have any roots any longer. We’re trying to get away from something and we don’t know what it is. And many are trying to flee from reality, flee from their home situation or their business situation. But many of them without knowing it are actually trying to flee from God. And then we flee into lust. The lust of things.
Did you know that there are compulsive eaters, but there also compulsive shoppers? How many of you shop when you don’t really need anything to buy, you just go to buy something? It’s a habit with you. You’re addicted to it. Now I’m not talking just about women. I’m talking about men too. I know women, they seem to be born to shop. So there’s a little excuse for them. But you’ve seen compulsive shoppers just like shoplifters. Billions of dollars were lifted last year. And much of it was lifted by wealthy people. And people that didn’t need anything. Compulsive to get things. And a great deal of it is fleeing. It’s an addiction.
And then we flee into obsession with sex. We try to forget about it in a few moments of thrill and passion. We flee into mysticism and occultism, Satan worship. All kinds of things people are fleeing to. Some of our famous young people have been going to the far east and out to India to try to find some new Eastern religion that might satisfy, when all they have to do is open the Bible and God has the answer right here. You don’t have to take a trip to India to find peace with God. And those that went there didn’t find it. They came back disillusioned. It’s only found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ can give you the peace and the joy and the rest and the satisfaction you’re looking for. You don’t have to keep running. Just go to the cross. And in the cross God has provided everything that you’ve ever searched for and ever wanted and ever longed for. But all of us have a restlessness. We escape into pleasure.
How many of us have to be entertained all the time because we’re restless? We’re trying to escape. They’re two roads in life. Jesus said one is a broad road. It ends in destruction. He said the other road is a narrow road. It ends in eternal life. Which road are you on? Jonah was on the road down. He was disobeying God. He was rebelling against the word of the Lord. And he went down, down. And the Bible has another interesting thing in the book of Jonah it says, “Jonah paid the fare thereof”. Yes sir, he paid for it. The Bible says, “The way of the transgressor is hard”. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death”.
Immediately when Jonah got on board that ship he became a Jonah. Tragedy began to occur. A storm came up. The sailors began to cry to their various Gods for help. They knew something was wrong. They began to throw their cargo overboard. But still the storm was about to tear the little ship apart. And they finally decided it must be somebody among them that was guilty of offending God. So they cast lots to see which one it would be. And it was Jonah. Jonah thought he was escaping God. Jonah had hidden himself down in the hold of the ship. He was asleep. He didn’t know that God sent that wind. And God sent that storm and God sent that adversity and God sent that tragedy to wake him up. And to get him back on the right path again.
That tragedy in your life. That problem in your life. That disappointment that broke your heart. You thought it was a tragedy. You thought it was by accident. It might have been sent by God. Because you see, your body is not so important as your soul or your spirit. Your body is temporary. It’s going to go to the grave. But your soul, your spirit will live on forever. And God is interested in saving your spirit. And sometimes he allows your body to suffer in order to bring your spirit to himself. You see the apostle Paul cried out three times, “Lord, deliver me”. God said, “No Paul, but I’ll show you what my grace can do”.
How many of you have problems and tragedy and disappointment in your life? Maybe God sent it like he sent this wind to blow up the storm, to wake you up. To cause you to repent of your sins and turn to God while there’s time. Jonah said, “I’ll go where I wanna go and live the way I wanna live”. That’s right Jonah. You’ve got that privilege if you’re ready to pay the price. But I want to tell you the price is tremendous. And then the Bible says that Jonah went to sleep in the boat.
Sin is like that. Sin is a sedative. You know, sin is at first exciting. Then it’s boring. Then after while you lose your conscience and sensitivity to sin. And your conscience becomes dead. And what a terrible thing it is when your conscience is dead. How many of you when you used to hear the Gospel years ago, tears would come to your eyes? Or it made you uncomfortable? Or it pricked your conscience? Now you can listen to the Gospel preached and it doesn’t even bother you. You can just turn it off. When that happens you’re in a dangerous position because God said concerning Ephraim, “Ephraim is joined to his idols. Let him alone”. Wouldn’t it be awful if God would say, “Leave him alone”. Don’t convict him. Don’t speak to him anymore. Let him go. He’s only got another ten years to live, or twenty years to live. Let him go!
Three times in the first chapter of Romans God says, “I give them up”. I give them up. I give them up. There is a sleep, the Bible says, unto death. A spiritual sleep that is produced by prolonged practicing of sin, that deadens the conscience, hardens the conscience. And then the Bible says, “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time”. You know there are not many places in the Bible where it says God gave a man a second chance like he did Jonah. But God gave Jonah a second chance. The Bible warns, “My Spirit will not always strive with a man”. The Bible warns, “He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy”. But God gave Jonah a second chance.
You remember when God spoke to you the first time? It might have been at your mother’s knee. It might have been through a Gospel broadcast that you heard. It might have been through a Bible that you found in a hotel room. I don’t know where it was or how, but God spoke to you the first time. And you almost responded, but you didn’t do it. “Backward oh, backward oh, time in its flight, and make me a child again just for tonight”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn the clock back and go back to those moments that we turned God down when we had a chance?
Tonight God has allowed you to come to this stadium. And this is an hour that God is giving you another chance. Another moment to make your commitment to him. The thief on the cross was dying and he turned to Jesus at that dying moment. He was a murderer, he was a thief, he deserved to die. And he said, “Lord, remember me”. He took his one and only chance. And at that moment Jesus said, “Today thou shall be with me in paradise”. He didn’t have time to even be baptized. He didn’t have time to straighten up his life. He came just as he was. Hanging there naked, guilty of murder, guilty of robbery, guilty of everything. And all he said was, “Lord, remember me”. All you have to say tonight is “Lord, remember me”. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” the Bible says.
Well Jonah didn’t have to hear it a third time. Because the Bible says Jonah began to pray down in the belly of the fish. And what a prayer meeting that was. I want to tell you in a few minutes he graduated from fish university. It says the fish spit him up. And he went out on the beach and he started toward Nineveh where God had told him to go from the beginning. And he went to Nineveh. And the Bible says he began to shout up and down the streets, “Repent Nineveh, judgment is coming, repent, repent”.
And one of the greatest, and strangest and most thrilling events of all recorded history happened. The king, think of it now, the king of the whole nation sat down in sack cloth and in ashes and called the people to fast. Told them to turn from their evil ways. He said, “Don’t even let the animals drink or eat. Let’s show God we mean business”. And a great and mighty metropolitan area, as big as some of our modern cities, repented. And you know what the Bible says? The Bible says God repented. When God saw their repentance, God changed his mind. He deferred judgment. The judgment was about to fall. They repented.
And there’s one thing God cannot do. And that’s judge a man that’s repenting or a man that’s in Jesus Christ. Because you see, the word repentance means change. Change the direction of your life. Change the pattern of your living. Change everything in your life. Because you see, Jesus Christ is a disturber. He comes in to disturb. You can’t be the same again when you’ve met Jesus. You’re different. “Old things pass away and everything becomes new,” the Bible says when you come to Christ. That’s the reason Jesus Christ said, “You better sit down and count the cost before you come to me”. You can’t just come up to me and say, “Here I am, Lord. You’re lucky to get me”. You’ve got to come in repentance. You’ve got to say, “Lord, I’ve sinned. I’ve disobeyed you. I’ve rebelled against you. Lord, I come by faith to receive your son, Jesus Christ into my heart”. And all of Nineveh repented and turned to God. And they never faced judgment in that generation.
I think I hear the blowing of a breeze in America. I think American young people are beginning to say, “We want something more than materialism. We want something more than sex and drugs. We want God”. And so we’re beginning to read stories of young people turning by the thousands to Jesus Christ. Have you found Christ? Does he live in your heart? God loves you. I don’t care what sin you’ve committed. It doesn’t make any difference how far you’ve tried to run from God. He loves you. His eye is on you. He sees you. He sees you in that tenement house in New York. He sees you in that bar in Los Angeles. He sees that you’re trying to run and flee. But he loves you. And he has a plan for your life if you’ll only turn and repent. And maybe God has allowed this emptiness and this disillusionment and these problems to come on you to try to get you to turn.
You’re a sinner. You have to admit it and confess it and acknowledge it. And say, “Lord, I’ve sinned and I’m sorry for my sin. And I’m willing to turn from my sin”. Then you must receive Jesus Christ by faith. It is an act of faith. You cannot come to Christ the intellectual route alone. You have to come with your intellect. You have to come with your emotions. You have to come with your will, your total personality. Your total person must come to Christ and receive him as your Lord and your Savior and your master. You see he died on the cross for you. He died in your place. And God is saying through that death, “I love you. I’m providing a sacrifice for you. I’m providing an atonement for your sins”.
Christ shared his blood on that cross for a purpose. That blood became the cleansing fount where all of us can find a place to wash our sins away. Of course, the blood is symbolic of life. The life that was given for you. Now you must receive by faith God’s offer of mercy and pardon and forgiveness. And then you must be willing to obey him. That means to go back to your school and back to your business and back to your labor union and back to your farm and back to your friends and take your stand for Jesus Christ no matter what the cost. I’m going to ask hundreds of you to do that tonight.
During these past few days we have seen thousands of people come out on this turf to say yes to Christ. And I’m going to ask you to do it tonight. I’m going to ask hundreds and even thousands of you to get up out of your seat right now. And say tonight, I want Christ in my heart. And I’m going to ask you to come and stand in front of this platform. And as you stand there, when you all come, I’m going to say a word to you. Have a prayer with you. Give you some literature. A counselor will say a word to you. Then you can go back and join your friends.
And I’m going to ask those of you that God is speaking to now to come. Some of you’ve been running from God a long time. You may be Catholic. You may be protestant. You may be Jewish. You may not have any religious background at all. Or you may be the deacon of the Baptist church. I don’t know who you are. But you need Christ. You need repentance. You need a change in your life. I’m going to ask you to get up and come right now with these many that have come during the past few weeks. You may be in the choir. You get up and come. Why do I ask you to come? Every person that Jesus called in the New Testament he called publicly. There’s a reason. He said, “If you’re not willing to acknowledge me before men, I’ll not acknowledge you before my father which is in heaven”. You get up and come right now. The choir is going to sing as you come. Quickly, hundreds of you from all over and stand here in front quietly and reverently.
As you that are watching by television can see hundreds of people are coming from every part of this great Texas stadium to say yes to Jesus Christ. You could make that same commitment right now in your home or wherever you happen to be watching. You can say, “Yes, Lord Jesus. I want to receive you into my heart”. And he will receive you. May God help you to make that commitment. And plan to go to church next Sunday. God bless you and good evening.
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