Now tonight I want you to turn with me to Ecclesiastes, 12th chapter. How many have your Bibles tonight? Lift them up. Wonderful. Thousands of people brought their Bibles. We want you to bring a Bible every night.
The 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers" (substitute the word "hand" now; he's talking about your hand) "when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves" (at your shoulder in old age) "and the grinders" (that's your teeth) "cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened" [verses 1-3].
Now, I'll go over that again because I see a lot of you writing it in. The keepers are hands, the strong men are shoulders, the grinders are teeth, and the windows are eyes. The Bible is very simple when you read it like that, isn't it?
Tonight I want to talk to young people (all of you who are under ninety-nine) especially the teenagers. By the way, how many young people are here tonight, and you are under twenty-five years of age? I want you to stand up. I never knew there were so many gray-headed and bald-headed people under twenty-five. You may be seated. Wonderful.
Someone has said that man's life is divided into three parts: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Adolescence is that transitional period and, in my opinion, by far the most difficult phase of life. Young people today, teenagers, are a generation who have never known depression. They have never known wars. They do not seem to have the stamina or the discipline of the former generations. Their thoughts and reactions are somewhat different, but they have the potential of being better or worse.
I find that teenagers today are baffled by the world in which we live, and they are trying to make up their minds about many things. We haven't given them very much of a lull. And I find in my travels around that to teenagers grownups are squares, and they can't dig the jive. They have a language, and a star, and a philosophy all their own.
I heard about one of these cats who went to church Sunday morning. And when the pastor greeted him at the door, he said, "Dad, you really blasted me this morning. That sermon was neat, reet, and really sweet. You were on the beam. You were really on the beam. You were really true, Dad, I mean true."
The minister gulped with astonishment and said, "I beg your pardon." The teenager continued, "Dad, I mean you were on the beam, and I was reading you clear. That jive was so hep that I dropped twenty-two dollars in the plate. Dad, you were great." The minister looked at the teenager, smiled, and said, "Crazy, man, crazy!"
The language of the teenager is teenage jive. Its philosophers are the disc jockeys, and its lawgivers are rock-and-roll song writers. However, it is a mistaken belief that all teenagers can be typed. There are thousands of young people in this country who have found a cure for the frustrations, the contradictions, and the insecurities of adolescence through accepting Christ and His way of life.
Look magazine, a few months ago, ran an article on the problems of teenagers. And they listed six problems that I want to list tonight, though I must confess that I don't think that teenagers are going to the dogs any more than the last generation went to the dogs. We laugh at their songs. But we forget that we sang crazy ditties in our time too--the zany age when we were best described as crazy, mixed-up kids.
I'm sure that if somebody had seen me as a teenager in Charlotte, they would have thought I was crazy, and off the beam, and going to the dogs, and down to hell. I probably was. I remember driving my father's car down the middle of town on the sidewalk. I remember turning it in the square with the policeman shouting, "You can't do it!" And I said, "I think I can!" I remember riding in a convertible with my girlfriend, standing up in the back of it with a cow bell, in the middle of the town, ringing it. All those things, and a lot more that I won't tell you about.
But we've heard the sociologist and psychologist analyze the problems of youth. And tonight I want to discuss the problems of youth from the point of view of the Bible.
I heard about a father who took his son aside one day and said, "Son, don't you think it's about time you and I discussed the facts of life?" The boy answered, "I sure do, Dad. What do you want to know?" A lot of our teenagers know a lot more about the facts of life than the older people.
Our young people today are living in a changing world, and their own lives are changing. These are the changing, formative years when patterns of behavior are being made and decisions that affect later years are arrived at. It's during the teenage period, usually, that you choose your life companion. It's during the teenage period that you usually choose your vocation. So the teenage period is an important period, and the most important period because it's when you're a teenager that seventy-five percent of us decide what we're going to do about God, and what we're going to do about Christ.
Habits are being formed that last a lifetime. God decides the many perplexing problems in this period of growing up. And the Bible directs many admonitions to young people. The Bible says, "How then shall a young man cleanse his way?" Then comes the answer, "By taking heed thereto according to thy word" [Psalm 119:9].
Solomon, whom we have just read, had tried everything. He had success, he had security, he had tried sex, he had tried amusements. And he said, "Vanity of vanities" [Ecclesiastes 1:2]. It's all vanity.
He said remember God when you're a young person. Solomon had more money than any man that ever lived. Solomon had more sex than any man who ever lived. Solomon had more amusement than any man who ever lived. And Solomon said to the young people of his day, "Remember God while you're young."
We have some problems among teenagers today. First, there is the problem of a search for security. Sixty percent of teenagers today are going steady. Why? Because they're searching for security, so our psychologists tell us. They live in an insecure world. And what youth needs is not to have judgment passed upon them--they need guidance. I am convinced that Christ can give that security that you have been searching for.
I find in my travels that young people want leadership. They want direction, they want a master, they want a controller. Man was built for God. And without God as the center of his life, he becomes frustrated and confused, desperately clutching and searching for security. Christ said, "Ye call me Lord and Master: ye do well" [John 13:13]. Ye do well, for so I ask it.
All over the world tonight young people are searching for security. They want to be controlled, they want a master, they want a center to life, they want something to believe in. I believe that Jesus Christ can become the controller. He can become the Master. He can become the Lord of your life.
In Russia today, young people are disciplined. I have a friend who has just returned from Russia. He's been there for several weeks. He said he never saw a lewd picture. He said, "I never saw a drunk person." He said, "I went to the universities, I went to the schools, and I found dedication and discipline in hard work. Because," he said, "the Soviet Union believes in something." They have an ideology, they have a control, they have a security in their state in communism.
And, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that one of the problems among teenagers today is that they need something to believe in. They need a cause, they need a challenge, they need a flag to follow. They want a master. They want someone to control them, just as Hitler was able to get the youth of Germany, and Mussolini was able to get the youth of Italy, and the communists were able to get the youth of Eastern Europe.
I believe that Jesus Christ can capture the youth of America. Let's march under His flag and under His banner, giving ourselves completely to Him without reservation. I believe there will be an answer to this search for security on the part of youngsters. When you come to Jesus Christ, you must give yourself completely to Him--your intellect, your emotion, and your will. I do not believe that a person is truly converted to Christ until the whole man has been presented to Christ.
There are many people who believe in Christ, but that is not enough. The Bible says, "Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" [Acts 16:31]. And a lot of people go around saying, "Believe on Christ, and you will be saved." No, it is a lot more than that, because you don't understand that word "believe."
That word in Greek means a great deal more than it does in English. The word "believe" means more than an intellectual comprehension of a dogma. It means more than an understanding of a theology. The word "believe" means that not only do I believe with my mind in Christ and allow my mind to be conformed to Him, but it also means that my emotional life is centered in Jesus Christ. It means that I hate sin, and hate is an emotion. It means that I love Christ, and love is an emotion. It means that the very center of your emotional life is Christ.
It also means a surrender of the world, and if you are willing to say to Christ, "I will give myself to thee." Because, you see, every young person--almost every young person--outside of Christ is self-centered. Everything is for self. What can I get out of it? You don't think very often of others. You are not thinking of others continually--always self. Now when you come to Christ, that is inverted. It is Christ first, others second, and self last. That's what Jesus meant when He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny self" [see Mark 8:34]. Let him deny the ego of self-centeredness. And your selfishness and self-centeredness is gone, and your will is given into the will of Christ. Has that happened to you? Has there ever been a moment when, intellectually and emotionally and volitionally, you've given yourself to Christ? Your mind, your emotions, and your will. If there hasn't been, you can tonight give yourself to Christ.
Secondly, there is the problem of sex. Some people today are obsessed by sex, yet they are troubled and often conscience-stricken.
We're living today in a period that Professor Sorokin of Harvard University has called the American sex revolution. He says that it's the greatest revolution in the history of the world--greater than the communist revolution! And he says this revolution will destroy America unless the present trend is reversed. Our literature, our music, many of our films, even our advertising, have become obsessed with sex. And so young people are faced with it everywhere.
Now, there's nothing wrong with sex. It's a God-given instinct. And if it's used right, it's a wonderful service. If it's used wrongly, it's a terrible tyrant. Sex is not moral, or unmoral--it's amoral. But the Bible warns young people, "Flee youthful lust" [see 2 Timothy 2:22].
Now, I know this is one of the hardest problems young people have today. And if you lose the battle of sex, you've lost the battle of life. If you win this battle, you've won the greatest battle in life. If you can take this creative energy that God has given to every normal young person and give it over to Christ, it can be used to take you to the top. If you misuse it, it will damn you in this life and the life to come.
The Bible says, "Thou shalt not commit immorality" [Exodus 20:14]. But Jesus said if you've ever had lust in your heart, you've already committed it [see Matthew 5:27,28]. And you can commit this sin by a thought, by a look, or by an act. And thousands today are guilty of having broken this commandment and sinned against God. And you don't have any power to overcome these habits, and these temptations, and this drive, and this energy that you have. So we try to rationalize and say, "Well, everybody is doing it."
Well, I want to tell you that's not the way God looks at it. God demands that we flee from youthful lust. And there is no victory, young person, outside of Christ. But I guarantee that if you give your life to Jesus Christ completely, He will forgive the past and give you victory and power to overcome the temptations tomorrow. I do not believe there is any power on earth that can keep us free from sin in this direction except Jesus Christ. If you will give yourself to Jesus Christ tonight, He will give you a new dynamic, and a new power, and a new resistance to the sins and the temptations around about us.
Thirdly, young people today find themselves with too much leisure time. "What can we do?" is the theme song of the typical teenager of 1958. Too many of them act like guests at a dude ranch instead of members of a household. But that isn't altogether their fault. They're products of a system called "modern living," and many of them are more to be pitied than censured.
Idleness can play strange tricks on the soul. Much of our delinquency can be charged to too many idle hours. The Bible warns against idleness and tells us to "redeem the time, because the days are evil" [Ephesians 5:16]. You tell me, young person, how you spend your leisure time, and I'll tell you the type of person you are. Many in this generation are wasting their substance of life in gluttonous living, like the prodigal son of old [see Luke 15:11-19]. And the Bible tells us we will pay for our folly.
What is your life? The Bible says, "It is even as a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" [James 4:14]. And the Bible says that life is brief, that it is very short. The Bible says redeem the time. "Number your days, that you may apply your hearts unto wisdom" [Psalm 90:12].
I believe Christ is the answer to idle hours. Your days can be filled with joyous service and purposeful living. You give yourself to Jesus Christ, and I'll guarantee you won't be bored. I have never been bored since I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Every moment of these twenty-four years has been thrilling, joyous, zestful--with new wonders unfolding every day. I have never known a moment I can say truthfully when I was bored, when I didn't have anything to do. The youth who sobs today, "There's nothing, absolutely nothing to do," should join up with Christ. In His cause, there's never a dull moment.
The rich young ruler was like some of you. He was searching for eternal life. He must have felt the emptiness and the boredom coming to young people today. He was rich in possessions but poor in things that really counted. And he turned to Jesus and said, "What can I do to have a new life? What can I do to have eternal life? What can I do to have the joy and thrill out of this life?" [See Mark 10:17-22.]
Young people are searching for a good time. I don't blame you. You don't find in the Bible that God wants us to go around with a long face. We're to have a good time. We're to enjoy life in the right way. You don't have to go out here and get drunk to have a good time. You don't have to go out and park in an automobile to have a good time. You can have a good time with Christ at the center of your life, and there's plenty of activity for young people who know Christ. You won't have enough hours in the day to do the things you want to do if you have given yourself to Jesus Christ.
A young fellow got off the plane many years ago in Illinois to play the violin for me in a youth meeting. He had a dark tie on, dark suit, dark socks, black horn-rimmed glasses, and a big shock of black hair. He never cracked a smile. I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "I'm going to play at the meeting for you." I said, "Not like that. What's the matter with you?" He said, "I've just been converted." I said, "You come with me."
We went downtown and I bought him a red tie, red socks, red handkerchief. I said, "Get a smile on your face." He looked relieved and smiled. A few weeks later I saw him in Minneapolis where he was teaching music in a university. He came up to me, and he had a big red bow tie on. And he had a grin from ear to ear. He said, "How am I doing?" And I said, "Boy, you are cooking with gas now." I said, "That's great." I said, "You look like a Christian." But a lot of people have the idea that a Christian is a very pious person who never smiles, and never laughs, and goes around with a long face. No, that is not a Christian. All the way through the Scriptures, the Bible says we are to enjoy life.
When Paul and Silas were in prison after they had been beaten, they were singing, and rejoicing, and testifying to each other [see Acts 16:23-25]. Christ wants you to have a good time, but have a good time in the right way. Give your life to Christ, and I will guarantee you He will give you peace and joy that you have never known.
Then there is a sense of being misunderstood by parents. How many teenagers have told me that they are misunderstood and their parents don't understand them! I believe that is very often true. I don't think that parents should treat teenagers like children. They should be treated as grownups, and parents need to take time with their young people.
A father said to me some years ago when I was counseling with him, "Well, I buy my kids clothes, I give them an automobile, give them everything they want. What else do they want?" And the kid who was in jail just told me that his dad hadn't spent an hour with him in two months.
I know one father who gave his boy, for Christmas, a little note wrapped up in a beautiful package. He handed it to the boy. And the boy looked at it, a little bit disappointed that he hadn't gotten a bigger gift, opened it up and read the note. The note said this: "I pledge, son, to spend fifteen minutes a day and an hour on Saturdays and Sundays with you alone." The boy ran and put his arms around his dad and kissed him and said, "Dad, that is the greatest Christmas present you ever gave me."
You have no idea how your children are longing to talk to you. And when a child opens up and starts talking, you put everything else aside. Because they may never be open to that subject again, and you will have missed a great thing in their life. Take time with your young people! Love them! They need love during the teenage, adolescent period. They need patience.
You should set an example! You tell them to go to Sunday school, but you don't go yourself. You tell them they ought to read the Bible, but they don't see you reading it. You tell them they ought to believe in God and Christ, but they never see you pray! And young people learn more by watching than they do by listening. And if they hear you cursing and swearing, they are going to curse and swear.
You don't allow them to drink, but you drink. And they are going to do it, because they're going to do and be just what you are.
And then parents need to exercise loving discipline for their young people. I don't mean just spank them, although sometimes that may be necessary if they are young enough. One lady said to me, "All my little boy needs is a pat on the back." I said, "Lady, if it's low enough and hard enough, it'll do some good." But I mean loving, tender discipline.
I have a teenage daughter. Once in a while I have to discipline her. And also I call her in and just spend a half-an-hour loving her. Then I explain what I am going to do to her--going to take away television, or something like that for awhile. Then I love her for about a half-an-hour afterwards. And I have found that the discipline always pays if it's done in the right way. But if it's carried out in anger, it's like a fight between the child and the parents.
And then, give young people a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. I found that confidence and compliments go much farther than pushing and prodding. They long to hear a word of confidence from their parents. Try to understand your teenager.
Then lastly, there is the fact of the young person today searching for a challenge. Dr. Pitt Van Dusen[?] recently said, "Youth cherishes no extravagant ambitions. They are moral neutralists. They are tolerant of almost anything and shocked by nothing, searching for a challenge."
Young people today want a flag to follow. They want something to challenge them. I believe that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they have a challenge. I believe that when you open the pages of the Scripture, its words become a living flame and leap into your hearts. You read in there the story of Jesus Christ, His miraculous birth--this Lord Jesus Christ who went through life making the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.
I can follow that Christ. I can believe in that Christ. I can make Him my pattern and my ideal. I'm not believing in some sissy. I'm not believing in some effeminate character. I'm believing in a real he-man, a real man who had a square jaw and strong shoulders. I believe that Jesus Christ was the most perfectly developed physical specimen in the history of the world. He never had sin to deform His body, His mind was perfect, His nervous system was perfectly coordinated with the rest of His body. He would have been one of the great athletes of all times--every inch a man. I can believe in Him; I can follow Him.
And then I see Him with courage and boldness, and yet tenderness and love, as He goes to the cross. Not for His sins; He had none. He went because He loved you.
We always admire a man on a battlefield who will die for his fellows. We always admire a man who will take the place of another, and go and die if necessary. Jesus Christ went to the cross. He went out of love, and He demonstrated the love of God when He died on that cross. And when His blood was being shed, that blood was being poured out in your place. He didn't have to die, but "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" [2 Corinthians 5:19]--for you.
Now Jesus says, "Follow me. Believe in me. Come after me." He said, "If you want to follow me, you will have to deny self, and take up the cross, and follow me" [see Matthew 16:24]. There's a challenge. There's something to challenge every red-blooded young man and young woman tonight. There's a person that you can follow and give yourself to with confidence, and believe in, though you'll never be able to understand it all intellectually.
If you wait until you can put God in a test tube, you'll never come. If you wait until you put God in a mathematical formula, you'll never come and give your life to Christ. Don't expect to understand it all intellectually. You'll never do it. You have got to come by faith.
I don't understand how a black cow can eat green grass and produce white milk and yellow butter. But I drink milk. I don't understand television, but I watch television. I don't understand a thousand things every day, but I accept them by faith. I don't understand all about Christ. I'll never understand the mystery of the atonement. I'll never understand all about the great, mighty God. But by faith I receive Him.
And I have a lot of people on the university and college campuses. I go to the university. I spend about one-fourth of my time on the university campuses. This year I had the privilege of holding the mission at Vassar and at Smith College. Every year I give the Christmas address at West Point. Last year I held an eight-day mission for Yale University.
This year it was my privilege to be at Stanford University and the University of California where we had eleven thousand people, the largest crowd to ever hear a speaker at the University of California. And I sat up until 12:00 and 1:00 and 2 o'clock with these people, grappling with their problems. They have intellectual problems. And I have never won one of them by argument, but very often when he sees that it is by faith. Some of these people and professors can shatter your faith. If it were not by faith, they can't disturb me in the slightest, because it is my faith. They bring some scientific problem up that I can't understand. I can't get it connected with the Bible, and I say that I accept the Bible by faith. They can't answer that.
That's a dimension that many of them don't know. It's by faith that I give myself to the Christ who died. But, oh, He didn't stay on the cross. He rose again. He's a living Savior tonight. And I tell you this, young people: There is no other flag to follow that offers any hope. There is no other person to follow that offers any hope for the future except the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a living Savior and who has promised to come back again.
It may seem that we are losing. It may seem at times that we are in the minority--and we are. But we have been promised in this book that the kingdom of God shall some day triumph. And I do not believe that communism or any other ism will conquer the world. I believe that Christ alone shall conquer. His kingdom shall be built. We are on the winning side, and some day He is coming back to claim His own. Let's give ourselves to Him, and follow Him, and serve Him with everything we've got until then.
There are three reasons why I ask you tonight to give yourselves to Christ. First, it is a harder way. It is not easy to be a Christian. Don't get an idea that it is easy being a Christian, and you just sort of float along, and all you have to do is believe and that's all. Oh, no! You must receive, you must believe--but that is only the beginning. The step that many hundreds of you, I trust, will take tonight is only the first step. It is only the beginning. You see, you have been going this way in your life, and now, tonight, you turn around. You start in a new direction. When there comes the cross to bear, there come the problems to face--but Christ will be there with you, giving you help as you solve the problems of tomorrow.
You go back to the high school campus or the college campus tomorrow, and you will face problems. You will face the old gang. How will you face it? Christ will be with you. He says He will go with us. He said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to life, and few there be that find it" [see Matthew 7:14].
Now the crowd, the largest crowd, the majority, are taking the broad road. Down that hill is plenty of leisure, plenty of boredom, plenty of noise. But the future is not very promising, because Jesus said it leads to destruction and hell [see Matthew 7:13].
Jesus said, "Young man, young woman, father, mother, take the narrow way because it leads to eternal life." It may be harder; it might be more difficult. It might even mean suffering and death. But in the midst of the battles of life, Christ says, "My grace will be sufficient. My joy will be your joy. My peace will be your peace. I will give you a new dynamic and a new strength for living. You can face the problems of tomorrow and live as a Christian, because I will be with you." Yes, it's a harder way.
Out in Indonesia there was a man, a great giant of a missionary, a university graduate, former all-star football player. And he'd gone out to the jungles of Borneo to give himself in missionary service. One day he got a letter from a big oil company--The Shell Oil Company. The oil company said, "We want to explore the possibilities of oil in Borneo, and we understand that you know more about that inland country than any man in the world. We would like to have your help." He said, "I'm not interested."
So they sent a delegation to call on him. And they said, "We are prepared to pay you seventy-five thousand dollars a year if that's what it takes. We've got to have you. You know the language of these tribes; you know these people. We must have your help." He said, "Your price is all right, but your job is too small. Jesus Christ has called me to preach His Gospel. And so help me, I shall do no other."
Young persons, I am asking you to enter into the kingdom of Christ tonight, to follow Him, to serve Him. Will you do it?
John Mott pulled himself up to his full height. And he said, "Mr. President, this is indeed a great honor. But a few years ago I was called to be an ambassador to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And I shall not stoop to be an ambassador of the United States to Japan, because mine is a higher calling."
Give yourself to Christ tonight. Follow Him and serve Him. Let Him change your life and make you a new person. You say, "Well, Billy, I'm already a member of the church, trying to do the best I can." But have you really come to a moment of commitment in your life? Have you come to a moment when you really have given yourself to Christ? Do you know that your sins are forgiven? Do you know, if you died right now, that you'd go to heaven? Have you really said to Christ, "Oh, Christ, all I have is yours; I want to be yours from tonight on"?
Father, mother--with gray hairs, and bifocals, and bunions, and bulges--have you given yourself to Christ? Are you sure that your sins are forgiven? I want to warn you about something. If God has spoken to you tonight--and I believe that He has spoken to hundreds--don't you put it off. You come tonight.