Now tonight, I want you to turn with me to the 22nd chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. How many of you have your Bibles? Lift them up. My, that's a wonderful start tonight. We want to open the pages of the Bible every night to see what the Bible has to say.
"Then one of them, [who] was a lawyer, asked him a question, [testing] him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like . . . it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" [verses 35-40].
Now I want you to turn to Exodus, the second book in the Bible, the 20th chapter and the 7th verse. And we read, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."
I have read to you a passage from the Ten Commandments--the third commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." I have also read Christ's interpretation of the Ten Commandments. In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount is an explanation of the Ten Commandments. You never understand the full impact and the full meaning of the Ten Commandments until you understand and read and study the Sermon on the Mount. And then Christ summed up all the commandments, saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. . . . And . . . thy neighbor as thyself" [Matthew 22:37,39].
About two years ago Mr. Cecil B. DeMille was on top of Mount Sinai, and he asked to be left alone for an entire day. He sat there meditating as he was planning to shoot the picture, "The Ten Commandments." While he was there, he ordered his men to cut out of the granite on top of Mount Sinai two tablets of stone, and he had written in Hebrew the Ten Commandments. He sent me those Ten Commandments the other day, mounted on a beautiful thing; and I have them in my study. Every time I pass through my study, I see those Ten Commandments. It reminds me of what the law says. And it also reminds me of how far short every one of us--as professing Christians--come as to what God meant for us to be as Christians.
I could, and I shall before I leave, preach a sermon entitled, "What Is Right About The Church?" There is a great deal right about the church. But tonight I want to tell you what's wrong with the church. I believe that, basically, the thing that's wrong with us today is that we are neglecting to live according to the third commandment.
We in the church today have an excellent organization. We have the buildings. We have beautiful seminaries. We have Bibles. We have excellent training. We have plenty of money. We have everything. And we should be making a tremendous impact, not only on this nation, but the entire world. But I fear today that the church is not speaking with the power and the authority and the incisiveness to the relevant problems that we face as we should. Why?
In the early church, the men had been filled with the Holy Spirit, went out to turn the world upside down, and in one generation they had turned the world upside down. They were men of fervor. They had a dedication, and a strength, and a power that we seem to lack. They had no preliminaries. They had no church music. They had very little education. They had no printing presses, no radio, no television, no coliseum to meet in. Yet in one generation they shook the entire Roman world. We have everything today, and we are not making the impact on our society that the older church made on the society of its day. Why?
I am convinced that one of the reasons communism is gaining such momentum throughout the world--and it is; I do not know one place in the world tonight in which communism is losing. I do not know one great victory we have won in recent years over communism. It's gaining slowly but surely, nibbling here and nibbling there, a little bit there and a little bit here, and coming ever closer to the shores of this country. The communist radio in Peiping [Beijing] said yesterday, "War could break out at any moment." Why? Because they're dedicated. They are out-dedicating the Christians.
A handful of communists are winning the world, while 600 million Christians are losing the world. Why? Because they believe in something, and they are ready to die for it. They have an ideology and a philosophy and a religion that they are ready to live for and die for. And we're taking it easy. We serve God with our lips and our heart is far from Him [see Isaiah 29:13].
When the communists came into China, I had a friend who was captured. And a communist lieutenant that had graduated from an American university--this young communist lieutenant who had graduated from an American university came to my friend and said, "We are going to take the next two tonight." My friend said, "The Nationalists have ten thousand troops over there, and you've got only five thousand. They'll kill you." This young communist convert pulled himself to his full height and said, "I will gladly die that communism will advance itself one more mile." Ladies and gentlemen, we need this same kind of dedication.
We look into these Ten Commandments tonight, and in the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ we find a secret. We find something hidden in these passages that speaks to us tonight about our failure as a church. We're failing as deacons and elders. We're failing as Sunday School teachers, failing today as a church, collectively and individually. Unless we wake up and unless we recommit ourselves to the Savior, and unless we are willing to go back into society and live completely dedicated lives for Christ, no matter how much it costs, we may lose. The church as we know it today may someday have to go underground as it did in the days of the great persecution, and as it has done in China, and as it has done in other parts of the world.
I look into the law tonight of the Ten Commandments, and I find something there. The law was never meant to save anybody. Now God knew when He gave the Ten Commandments that nobody could keep them. He didn't give the Ten Commandments to save anybody's soul. Nobody can be saved by the law. You can keep all the Ten Commandments and you wouldn't be saved because the law never justified anybody.
God gave the law for one specific purpose. He gave the law to be a mirror. And when I look in the Ten Commandments and read them, and understand them, it shows me how far short I've come. But the law cannot forgive, the law cannot save, the law cannot cleanse me from my sins. I believe before this week is over I shall prove to you night after night that every one of us in this audience has broken every commandment.
You say, "But, Billy, I've never killed anybody. Doesn't the Lord say, 'Thou shalt not murder'?" Yes, Jesus, interpreting that passage, said, "If you've ever hated anybody, you have broken my commandments" [see 1 John 3:15]. Under that comes prejudice, and bigotry, and malice, and contempt.
A Christian leader wrote another Christian leader the other day, and I've got a copy of the letter. He said, "I hold you in utter contempt." You look up the word "contempt" in the dictionary; and it means "I have hatred, I have malice for you."
Jesus said, "Any man who hates his brother is going to hell" [see Matthew 5:22]. I didn't say it; Jesus said it. So we've broken that commandment.
You say, "But, Billy, I've never stolen anything." Haven't you? Did you ever cheat on your income tax, even a little bit? Did you ever cheat in school? You've broken every commandment.
You say, "But I've never committed adultery." Haven't you? Jesus said, "If you've ever had lust in your heart, you've committed adultery" [see Matthew 5:28].
We've all sinned and come short of the glory of God [see Romans 3:23]. You're a sinner, and I'm a sinner. We've all broken God's law, and the law was to show us that we're sinners. I see that I'm wrong, that I'm a sinner. But the law cannot correct; it cannot save. Because salvation came through Christ.
And then the law was given for something else. It becomes a schoolmaster [see Galatians 3:24]. It becomes an usher to drive me to the cross of Christ.
I read those commandments and say, "My God, I haven't kept them. My God, I'm a sinner." And then I hear the thunder from Sinai, and I see the lightning. I hear the judgment of God's thunder and wrath. I hear that the wages of the broken law is sin, and that sin bringeth forth death [see James 1:15]. And I know that every man who breaks that law is lost. And immediately I say, "How can I be saved?"
I find the answer in the grace, and mercy, and the love of God at the cross of Calvary where Christ died and shed His blood for my sins. No one will ever be saved apart from the cross. That's one thing that every Protestant church that I know about and every Catholic church agrees. And that is that the cross is the center of Christianity. There is no salvation apart from the cross.
We're not saved by work. We're not saved by joining organizations. We're saved by the grace of God in Christ at the cross. And you can only come by the way of the cross.
Let's look at one commandment tonight and see where we failed as a church. This was the rule that God gave us to live by. These were rules. This shows us what a man ought to be. This shows us what we ought to be as Christians. We have a new nature. You see, the world doesn't have the power to love its neighbor. That's the reason you'll never solve the race problems until men's hearts have been changed. You can't make people love their neighbors who have never been born again and regenerated and filled with the love of God. Love each other? They just don't have the capacity to love. They have to come to Christ first, and there they have love.
We'll never have world peace as long as there's hatred in the hearts of men. As long as men have hatred, they're going to fight. That's the reason men have to come to Christ and have their hearts changed before you can have world peace.
That's the reason you can't find a solution for your own problems. That's the reason there's inner tension, strife, a sense of incompleteness. You haven't found yourself in life because you come short of God's requirements. You're a sinner, and you won't find the joy and the peace that you have searched for all your life until you come to the cross and give your life to the Savior. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
The Bible teaches us that God is jealous of His name [see Ezekiel 39:25]. The Bible has many names concerning God. The Bible tells us that God is all-knowing. He knows everything. He knows the secrets of your heart. "The [deeds] of [men] are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings" [Proverbs 5:21]. The Bible tells us God is holy. The Bible tells us that God is love. "He that loveth not, [knows] not God; for God is love" [1 John 4:8]. All the way through the Bible there are many names concerning God--who God is, and what God is. And God is jealous of His name and reputation. One of the most grievous sins that can be committed is to blaspheme the name of God.
You will go to any lengths to protect your name. We have laws in the state of North Carolina to protect a man's reputation and a man's name against slander. God is jealous of His name, and there are several ways that we take His name in vain.
First, we take the name of God in vain when we speak slightly or irreverently of His name, or when we use profanity. In Deuteronomy, the writer says, "That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The Lord Thy God" [28:58]. The God that flung the stars into space. The God that scooped the valleys and built the mountains. It's mighty God!
When they would come to it, the writers of the Old Testament would come to His name, they would leave it blank. They were even afraid to desecrate His name by writing it down. And how lightly we take the name of God in vain today. Jesus, when speaking of His Father, said, "Hallowed be thy name" [Luke 11:2].
If you would go to England and you would meet the queen--as it has been my privilege to meet her on several occasions--you wouldn't go up to her and say, "Hi, Lib." I remember the first time my wife and I met royalty. We were invited by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret to Clarence House. My wife and I practiced. My wife was learning to do a curtsy and I was learning to bow properly and to say, "Your Majesty" or "Your Highness," as the case may be. I remember when we got there, my wife went to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth; and she stumbled and nearly fell. I forgot to bow altogether, I was so excited.
When you meet the queen, you call her, "Your Majesty." When you meet the President, you don't say, "Hi." You say, "Mr. President." You respect his title and his office. When you come before God, "Hallowed be thy name." How many times we take His name in vain!
I heard a woman today take His name in vain, in swearing. I heard about a woman who was dressed in slacks some time ago. She was drunk. She was smoking. She got on a crowded bus and, in profane words, she asked if there was a gentleman who would give a lady a seat. The man sitting there said, "You may be a woman, but you dress like a man, you smoke like a man, you drink like a man, and you swear like a man. It seems to me that you could stand up like a man."
You say that you are in the habit of swearing. "I just can't help it." Suppose you told that to a judge. You'd committed a murder; and you say, "Well, Judge, I'm in the habit of murdering; and I just can't help it." The same Ten Commandments that say, "Thou shalt not kill," say, "Thou shalt not take His name in vain."
Secondly, we take God's name in vain when we defile our bodies. Your body, the Bible says, is created in the image of God; your soul is created in the image of God [see Genesis 1:27]. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [see 1 Corinthians 6:19]. And any man that defiles his body, the Bible says, is taking the name of God in vain. You claim to be a Christian? Yet you fill your body with narcotics; you fill your body with drink, or you are guilty of gluttony.
I preached a sermon not long ago on gluttony. About a third of my audience got mad. All I did was preach the Bible. And you look up the word "gluttony" in the Bible and see how much the Bible condemns overeating. Now, some people have glandular trouble and can't help being fat. A fellow like me can eat anything and it doesn't bother him. I can say all this. But Grady Wilson always leaves the platform when I preach on this subject. When you engage in sinful and immoral pleasure, you are taking the name of the Lord in vain.
Thirdly, we take the name of God in vain when we make vows and don't keep them. You took a marriage vow. Have you kept it? Maybe you've forgot how much you promised your wife that night you were married. You were so frightened you didn't know what you were saying in promise. But it was a vow before almighty God. And some of you men have broken it by your immorality. You've broken your vow by your neglect. You've broken your vow by your unfaithfulness. You've broken your vow. I tell you, you took a sacred vow before God. And you took His name in vain. You said, "In God's name, I promise," and you didn't keep your promise.
You took His name in vain when you took that church vow and have not kept it. You took a vow at confirmation, if you are an Episcopalian or a Lutheran. You took a vow at baptism, you took a vow in communion, you took a vow when you joined the church. You vowed that you were going to give a part of your income to the church, and you've never tithed once. You've been guilty of robbing God of tithes and offerings.
I believe that every church member owes a tithe to his own church. I didn't say that you owe a tithe to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I don't believe that anybody has a right to give a tithe to anybody but his own church. But if you want to give above your tithe, give it where you want. But I believe your tithe belongs to your own church. But you haven't kept that vow.
You promised that you would be in the services unless providentially hindered, and many a golf game has come between you and the church. Many a fishing tour has come between you and the church. You have broken a vow that you took in the name of God. And you have taken His name in vain, and you've broken the third commandment.
You solemnly said, "I will pay thee my vows which my lips have uttered when I was in trouble." You took a vow when you were in trouble. Remember in the war? You said, "O God, if you bring me through the war, I'll live a decent life and a better life." He brought you through, and you haven't kept your vow.
Remember when the baby was sick, and you thought the baby was going to die; and you made a promise to God, but then you didn't keep it? The baby got well. God remembers, and God is some day going to hold you accountable for the promises you made and didn't keep. And then we break the third commandment.
We take the name of God in vain when we call ourselves Christians but do not live it. In other words, they profess Christ, Titus says, but in works they deny Him [see Titus 1:16]. When you claim to be a Christian, and are filled with lying and jealousy and malice and pride and lust and hypocrisy, you're dragging the name of God down. You're taking His name in vain.
I'll never forget. We were staying in a certain southern city. I won't call the name of the city, it's too close here. We were staying in a hotel, and I'll never forget they were having a convention in that hotel. And we had to get up and preach the next morning, Grady Wilson and I. My wife was there, and his wife. My wife and I were in one room. And next door to us was a big room, and about fifty people were in there. And they were drinking and singing some of the lewdest songs I've heard on Sunday night. And that went on until about 2 a.m. We couldn't get any sleep.
So, finally, I said, "I'm going to do something about this." I got on my bathrobe, and I went over and I knocked on the door. A woman came to the door; and she had a drink in her hand, and she was half gone. She said, "Whatta you want?" I said, "We would appreciate your being quiet. We're trying to get some sleep." She said, "Why don't you come on in?" I said, "Well, I'm a minister of the Gospel, and I don't see how we can come in. But we would appreciate your being quiet." And she turned around and said, "Hey, everybody, there's a preacher here." And they all stopped and came crowding around. And I introduced myself, and they looked a little surprised. I said, "You know, you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I bet most of you are church members. Here it is Sunday night, half of you are drunk." And I said, "I bet some of you are even church officers." And one man spoke up and said, "That's right, preacher, I'm a deacon." And a lady spoke up and said, "I'm a Sunday school teacher."
They were taking the name of God in vain. They claimed to be Christians, but they were not living like Christians. Suppose my wife took the name of Graham, and yet she was not faithful to me and did not live right, like my wife should live. She would be taking the name of Graham in vain. You've taken the name of Christ. And when you claim to be a Christian and don't live like it, you're taking His name in vain and you're breaking the third commandment.
Alexander the Great had a man in his army by the name of Alexander who was the wild man. He didn't live anything as he should live as a soldier in Alexander's army, because Alexander was a great disciplinarian. One day Alexander the Great had him brought in; and he said, "Your name is Alexander?" The man said, "Yes." Alexander the Great said, "Change your name or change your ways. You can't live as you live and be called Alexander."
I believe that God would say to us tonight as Christians, "Change your name or change your ways." It would be better for you to get out of the church and not even claim to be a Christian, than to claim to be a Christian and not live it. The whole 23rd chapter of Matthew is against the hypocrites. The most scathing denunciations that Jesus ever gave were against hypocrites, people who profess one thing and live another. How many people in this audience are ashamed of Christ? You've taken His name in vain.
I was at a Rotary Club meeting recently. I had a Bible with me. I wasn't a speaker. I sat down at the table with my Bible because all of these men sitting around me were church officers except about two. They all looked so ashamed and so embarrassed when I put my Bible on the table. They wanted to talk about everything but Christ. Think of it! Supposed solid followers of Jesus Christ and ashamed to talk about it.
I've never met a communist who was ashamed to talk about communism and the writings of Marx and Lenin and Stalin. And yet we Christians are ashamed to witness for Christ. There are people in your neighborhood who need Jesus Christ; and yet you haven't decided to go get them and bring them here that they might find Christ. You're ashamed to, you're afraid to, you're timid, you're too shy. Though you're a good salesman--you go out and sell your product. You're a good fellow at the factory. You talk about television. You can talk about the baseball scores. You can talk about the Yanks. You can talk about Willie Mays hitting a home run, but you can't talk about Jesus Christ dying on the cross. You are taking His name in vain.
Dr. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of Churches, said last week, "We have too many Fifth Amendment Christians, afraid to witness for Christ for fear that what they say will be used against them." How many Fifth Amendment Christians do we have in Charlotte tonight, taking the Fifth Amendment?
"I am afraid that if I speak to Christ, it will hurt my business." "I am afraid if I speak to Christ, it will hurt my standing at the country club." "I am afraid if I speak to Christ, it will hurt my position at the school." We need Christians today that will say, "If it will mean my business is ruined, if it means my social standing is no longer there, if it means death, I am ready to take my stand for Jesus Christ, no matter what it costs."
Will you be that kind of a Christian? Will you go back to your church to be a more dedicated Christian, a more consecrated Christian? And then there are thousands of people here tonight that have never met Christ--not really. You got by the minister and you got by the board of the church, but you really never had a personal encounter with Christ. You're not sure that your sins are forgiven. You're not sure that, if you died that you would go to heaven. You are not sure that you're ready to meet God. But you ought to be.
And I ask all of you that would receive Christ and have this encounter with Him, and let Him forgive your sins, and trust Him as your Lord and Savior, to get up out of your seats and come and stand right here. Arise reverently--men, women, young people--and say, "Tonight I want Christ as my Lord and Savior."
You may be a member of a church. You may not be a member of any church. I don't know who you are, what you are. But you're not certain that your sins are forgiven. You're not certain that you are ready to meet God. If you want to receive Him tonight, you want to go home with the peace and the joy that only Christ can give, I want you to get up out of your seat right now and come quickly.