Billy Graham Center

9/25/58 - The Moral Problem

Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

What follows is a transcript of the newspaper page above, which appeared on page 48 of the September 26, 1958 issue of The Charlotte Observer (Friday). It is a transcript of the sermon which Rev. Billy Graham had preached at the Charlotte Crusade the day before, the fifth sermon of the crusade. Attendance on September 25 was 15,200 and there were 822 inquirers. To read the actual newspaper page, click on any of the four quarters of the page above.

In the transcript that follows, any comments by the transcriber are in brackets []. Any asides by Rev. Graham are in parentheses (). The sermon title did not appear in the paper but is from material supplied by the BGEA.

The Moral Problem

I want to spend this evening on the seventh commandment. The seventh commandment says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" [Exodus 20:14]. The 8th chapter of the Gospel according to John.- (How many have your Bibles with you? Lift them up, way up. Wonderful! A great many Bibles, one of the largest number of Bibles I think we've had in the opening week in a crusade anywhere.)

"Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they [sat] her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said . . . , He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" [John 8:1-11].

Now some of you that have a Revised Standard Version in your hand, you will notice that passage is not in the big text; it's in small type because there has been a debate among scholars for many years as to whether this belongs in the canon of Holy Scripture. I believe this is an actual incident in the life of Jesus Christ, and I believe it is one of the most beautiful illustrious stories of the forgiveness and the mercy of God to be found anywhere in the Bible.

In this passage we find a picture of our Lord. He is teaching on the porch of the temple, and the people are gathered all around Him. The Bible says when Jesus taught, He didn't teach as a normal teacher. Jesus taught "as one having authority" [Matthew 7:29]. He never said, "If, I think, I hope, I suppose." Jesus said, "This is it!" "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh [to] the Father, but by me" [John 14:6]

Jesus said, "This is the road of life. Enter this way. Except you repent, you shall likewise perish" [see Luke 13:5]. He said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven" [see John 3:5]. He was emphatic.

Jesus is teaching the people, and all the people have gathered around. And while He is teaching them--it is about mid-morning--the scribes and the Pharisees dragged before Him a woman whom they had caught in the act of immorality. Now the law of Moses had taught that a person taken in immorality was to be stoned to death [see Leviticus 20:10]. That's how much God hated that sin. He demanded the death penalty. And these Pharisees had brought to Jesus this woman. Her hair was in disarray, her clothes were disheveled, fear and anger were stamped on her face; and they dragged her before Jesus.

They said, "Master, the law of Moses says to stone this woman. What do you say?" They weren't interested in morals. They weren't interested in moral standards. They weren't interested in the fact that the seventh commandment had been broken. But they were interested in the fact of trapping and tempting Jesus. Because if Jesus said, "Yes, stone her," He would be breaking the law of Rome which held in its hands the power of capital punishment. If He said, "No, don't stone her," He would be taken to the Sanhedrin for breaking the law of Moses. So they had Him trapped either way. If He said yes, He was caught. If He said no, He was caught. Jesus was trapped whatever He did.

And so, finally, Jesus, instead of answering them directly, started writing on the ground. Now this is the only sermon in all the Bible that Jesus ever wrote. Many thousands and millions of sermons have been written concerning Jesus. Whole libraries are filled with books about Him. But He never wrote a book, He never went to the universities, and He never wrote a sermon. The only sermon that He ever wrote was with His finger that He wrote in the sand on the ground that day. Nobody knows what He wrote. We can imagine what He wrote. But I want you to see this sin that this woman was guilty of, and I want you to see later how Jesus handled this woman.

We're seeing in America today an emphasis on sex that is unnatural, unhealthy, and, in my opinion, may ruin this country and defeat this country long before communism ever gets here. Professor Sorokin, the head of the sociology department of Harvard University, has written a book entitled THE AMERICAN SEX REVOLUTION. He says that the greatest revolution in the history of the human race is the American sex revolution. He says that it has saturated every area of American life. And he says that it can ruin America just as surely as this emphasis ruined Sodom and Gomorrah and Rome, and some of the other countries of the past. [See Genesis 19:1-25.]

Young people of today are being tempted on every hand. I don't know how a young person can resist it today. They see it in advertising, they hear it suggested in modern music, they see it in the films, they see it on television, they see it in the latest fashion. They see it on every newsstand, until today our newsstands have become so obsessed with it that a Christian cannot go and even buy a newspaper without blushing.

And during the past years, in our education systems we have taught our young people that morals are relative, that they're changeable. We've taught them that there is no such thing as an absolute moral standard and moral code. We've taught them that they're relative. And Mr. Kinsey said that anything that most of the people are doing must be all right. In other words, if most of the people are committing adultery and immorality, then it must be accepted as a general practice and it must be all right. Well, I want to tell you that the Bible has nothing to say about that.

Our young people today know far more about the statistics of Brigitte Bardot than they do about the seventh commandment. We've forgotten the seventh commandment; we've left it out. Unfortunately, we in the church, we ministers, have been reluctant to deal about it. Very frankly, I don't like to preach on it. I don't like to talk about it. But I believe that it's time that some of us in the pulpit deal with this subject that everybody else is dealing with.

The sociologist is dealing with it. The psychologist is dealing with it. The psychiatrist is dealing with it. In our classrooms they're dealing with it. Advertisers are dealing with it. Everybody's dealing with it, except the church! I believe it's time for the church to speak out and warn our young people that the Bible has a lot to say about it. The Bible doesn't adopt any hush-hush attitude. The Bible talks about it frankly, openly, and straightforwardly. I believe that it ought to be dealt with.

How can immorality be committed? The Bible teaches that immorality can be committed in many ways. Mental immorality: In Matthew 5:28, "Whosoever looketh [upon] a woman . . . ," said Jesus, "hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Jesus said that if you think about it, you are guilty. If you have lust in your heart, you are guilty. Every one of us is tempted, and any one of us who stands up here tonight and says he's never tempted along this line is a liar. You are tempted. All of us are subject to temptation.

The Bible says that Christ was tempted in all points, like we are [see Hebrews 4:15]. Elijah was a man of like passions [see James 5:17].

Now the temptation is not sin. When you're tempted, that's not sin. But when you yield to it, that is when it becomes sin. But what is lust? The thought comes to your mind, but instead of putting it out of your mind--centering your thought on Christ and asking Him to help you--you think about it. You daydream about it; you become imaginative in your thinking. That's when it becomes lust, and that is when it becomes sin said Jesus.

Secondly, 2 Peter 2:14 says, "Having eyes full of adultery." Immorality can be committed by the eye. The eyes often set passions loose. Job said, " I [have] made a covenant with [my] eyes; why then should I [look] upon a maid?" [31:1]. Have you made a covenant with your eyes? Have you said, "God helping me, I will not look the second time"? You can't help the first look, but it is the second look that is sin. I have made a covenant with my eyes that they shall not look upon that which is evil and that which is wrong and that which is dirty.

Thirdly, immorality can be committed by the tongue. First Corinthians 15:33, "Evil communications corrupt good manners." A dirty story, an off-color joke, and it is the same as having committed the act in the sight of God. No wonder the psalmist said, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth" [Psalm 141:3].

Fourthly, immorality can be committed in the heart. "Keep [thine] heart with all diligence" [Proverbs 4:23], says the Bible. Jesus said out of the heart comes evil thoughts and immorality [see Mark 7:21].

Fifthly, immorality can be committed in the way you dress. If a woman purposely dresses to entice a man to sin, she has committed it, whether the act is committed or not. I heard about a young woman that accepted Christ, and one night she was going to a party with her boyfriend. She had always dressed to knock the daylights out of the men. This night as she was putting on one of her dresses, she said she looked into the mirror and it seemed the eyes of Jesus were looking at her. She said, "I changed my dress, and now I dress as though Jesus were my escort every evening." Wouldn't that be wonderful if all of us acted as though Jesus were our escort every evening?

Sixthly, immorality can be committed by the company you keep. The psalmist said, "A fire was kindled in their company"

[Psalm 106:18]. The fire of love is many times kindled in bad company.

Somebody asked a friend of mine some time ago how to quit smoking. He was afraid of getting lung cancer. My friend answered, "Carry wet matches." One of the best ways to quit immorality and to turn from it, is to quit the bad company that you have been going with.

Seventhly, immorality can be committed by reading literature, by looking at pictures that are designed to excite the imagination. Many of our magazines today have been almost pornographic. They're indecent! They ought not to be taken by families. Young people should not be exposed to them. Anything that excites the passion--certain television programs, certain songs with their suggestions--I do not believe any Christian young persons should have a part in it.

Eighthly, the Bible says that idleness can lead to immorality. When David was idle on the top of his house, he saw Bathsheba [see 2 Samuel 11:2-5]. The Scripture says, "Make [no] provision for the flesh" [Romans 13:14].

Eight ways that we can commit immorality. What is God's attitude toward this sin? Suppose you did commit it. What does God think about it?

First, God sees this act of sin. Jeremiah 13:27, "I have seen thine [adultery]." Jeremiah 29:23, "Even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord." God says, "I see it." You hid it, thought nobody was near you, but God saw it. God not only saw it; the Bible tells us that God wrote it down. You were in a drive-in movie when it happened in a parked car. You thought nobody saw it. God saw, and God wrote it down.

The Bible says that God keeps a set of books; there are two sets of books [see Revelation 20:12-15]. There is one set of books that the Bible just calls the books. Your name is in there, and everything you've ever done wrong since the day you were born is written in the book. Some day when you come before God, you'll say, "But, God, I don't remember." God will say, "Read it out of the books. On September such-and-such a date, 1958, he did this, he said this, he thought that, his motive and his intent was this. He meant to deceive. He kept in the letter of the law, but he did not keep the spirit of the law. He actually told the legal truth, but he said it in such a way that he deceived somebody. He's a liar." God judges the thought and the intent, and it's all in the books.

That's the reason that the Bible says, when you come to Jesus Christ and give your life to Him, God--because of Christ, not because of you--is willing to blot out your name in the books and write your name in the book of life. And blessed are those people whose names are in the book of life. If your name isn't in the book of life tonight, may God have mercy on you. You be sure; don't you leave here until you know your name is in the book of life. God sees and records the act.

Secondly, God will be a witness against the immoral person. You will stand up your own witness, but God will speak at the judgment.

Thirdly, this sin hardens the heart more than any other sin. We read, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" [Romans 1:28]. Three times the Scripture says God gave them up, God gave them up, God gave them up [see Romans 1:24,26,28]. How terrible to be given up by God! And there are people who, the first little lie they told, found their conscience bothered them so they couldn't sleep for a week. Now they can commit such sins, and it doesn't bother them at all. Why? Because their conscience is hardened. It is feared it is dead.

It's mighty hard for you to come to Jesus Christ. I'll tell you why. Your conscience is so hard the Holy Spirit can't get to you. He can't even speak to you. Even while I'm talking tonight, it makes no impact on you at all. You're not even concerned about your sins. Your heart is hard. So here's how you'll have to come to Christ.

You'll have to come to Christ by faith. And when you are willing to come by faith, then the Bible teaches God will resensitize your conscience. You can have a new conscience and a new heart. [See Ezekiel 18:31.] Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a conscience like a little child?

Fifthly, immorality is abhorred of God [see Proverbs 22:14]. The word abhorrence means God shudders when God sees it, when God reads it in your mind. The Bible says that God shudders, God shrinks from it, it is so terrible in His sight.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 and Ephesians 5:5 and Revelation 21:8, the Bible says immorality leads to hell. God says, I hate it! And any man that is unfaithful to his wife, and any woman that is unfaithful to her husband, any young person that plays with this sin is playing with dynamite, is playing with fire. And it will burn you in this life, and it will certainly damn you in the life to come.

You say, "But, Billy, it's all around us. What can we do? I just can't get victory. I've tried; I just can't resist the temptation." Now the Bible doesn't indicate that sex is wrong. There's nothing wrong with sex. God gave it to you. He gave you sex. Sex is not immoral. Used rightly it becomes a wonderful servant. Used wrongly it becomes a terrible tyrant. And God said sex in its right place, within the bonds of matrimony, can be heaven on earth. Outside of marriage, it can lead to hell. Are you guilty?

Well, the first thing I would suggest to overcome these sins that plague us, these temptations that bother us--first of all, give your life to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" [John 3:7]. You can't overcome this thing. It's impossible. You've gone too far. You are too involved. You are too enmeshed in it. You can't give it up. Give your life to Christ, and He'll change your nature so that you don't even want to do it anymore.

The second thing: Yield yourself to Jesus Christ without reservation. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that [you] present your [body as] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" [Romans 12:1,2]. A consecrated body; use it completely for Christ.

And then, thirdly: carefulness--be careful. Watch your thinking. Don't dally with the thought, saying, "I'll keep the thought, but I'll stop this side of the act." You won't! For in the battle between the imagination and the will, your imagination always wins. And don't put yourself so close to the fire that you get burned. You can expel one desire only by a higher desire.

Keep your mind on Jesus Christ. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace" [Isaiah 26:3]. Train your mind. Discipline your mind to stay on Christ. Then when the temptation comes, immediately direct your thoughts to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I will guarantee you--any young person here tonight--if you will take time out every day to read a passage of Scripture, get on your knees before God and spend five or ten minutes in prayer with Him, if you keep your mind on Christ--your subconscious on Him all day long--I'll guarantee you that you will never yield to this temptation. There is victory! There is complete victory in Jesus Christ.

And then, next, I would suggest that you learn the discipline of the Christ life in cross-bearing. If any man "will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" [Mark 8:34]. The boy or girl who will give up an evening of courtship so that each may seek out an unchurched person and bring him under the sound of the Gospel message, that boy and girl, by their sacrifice have introduced the element of cross-bearing and will find their love widening and deepening.

Deny yourself some things and see what happens, in order to give yourself to Christ. That's what fasting is. You can fast with food, and you can fast with sex. And God honors it, and God blesses.

I heard about a young couple some time ago who, for Christ's sake, postponed their marriage for a year in order to be able to devote their total savings for the twelve months to missionary work. They testified of the joy of the Lord during those months. I tell you, such acts of sacrifice bring Christ very close to our hearts.

The self-denial and discipline involved will also fortify the will and give firmness to the character. This doesn't mean that you become legalistic. Paul said, "I keep . . . my body [under] subjection: lest that by any means, when I [preach] to others, I myself should be a castaway" [1 Corinthians 9:27].

Charles Wesley once wrote, "He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me." I tell you, there is victory tonight for every one of you. Those secret, even perverted, sins that you thought that you could never overcome--there is victory in Christ tonight if you are willing to pay the price in giving yourself wholly to Him.

Jesus stooped on the ground and started writing. This woman had been accused of immorality. She deserved to die. You have broken the seventh commandment and, according to God's Word in the Old Testament, you would have to die by being stoned. And in the New Testament you must have the second death, which is hell.

What hope is there then? Say, "Billy, we're all guilty in one way or another." Yes, we are. Almost everybody here is guilty. Is there any hope? Yes, there is hope!

Jesus stooped and wrote on the ground. And the Pharisees and scribes kept pushing Him and saying, "Tell us, what's your answer? This woman was taken in immorality." Then Jesus turned to them and said something that none of them could ever forget. "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone" [see John 8:7].

The other night they had a program on television, I'm told, in which they interviewed a prostitute and she told all about her business. Many people felt sorry for her, and many people felt smug, "Well, I'm not guilty of that." Ah, but we're guilty. You are guilty. He that is without sin, let him throw the first stone.

What had Jesus done? Jesus had written on the ground, I believe, the Ten Commandments. And He said to the Pharisees, "You may not be guilty of breaking the seventh commandment, but you've broken one of these commandments." And the Bible says if you offend in one point, you are guilty of all [see James 2:10]. If you have broken one commandment, you're guilty of all.

And he that is without sin among you, let him cast the stone at this woman. Yet you've broken the commandment that says, "Thou shalt not steal" [Exodus 20:15]. You've cheated in school once. You've broken the commandment. You've broken the commandment that says thou shalt not tell a lie, because anything that deceives another person is a lie [see Exodus 20:16]. You claim to be a Christian, but you don't live like a Christian. So that's living a lie. We're all liars. We're all sinners.

You have sinned against God, and you may not be guilty of committing adultery. You might have never committed this sin, but you are guilty of some other sin. And God says all are alike in His sight, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23].

Now, when God gave the seventh commandment, He knew we couldn't keep it. He knew we couldn't keep the Ten Commandments. It's impossible for anybody. Why? Because you don't have any strength within you to keep the seventh commandment or any commandment. In one way or another, you are going to break the Ten

Commandments. There is no strength within us because we are born in sin [see Psalm 51:5]. We have a principle of sin at work within us that drags us down all the time. We want to do good, but we don't find any strength to do good. We can't do good even though we want to. We just don't find the strength to do it.

What can we do? You come to Jesus Christ. He gives you a new heart, a new nature, a new mind. Old things gradually begin passing away; everything becomes new [see 2 Corinthians 5:17].

You still have temptations, you still have trouble, you still have problems, but you will find another law at work within you. You will find the Holy Spirit living within you to give you strength and power to overcome the temptations and the sins of life. [See 1 Corinthians 10:13]

Jesus looked at this woman after all these fellows had gone away. These great Pharisees, these religious leaders had to walk away shaking their heads, saying, "We're guilty, we're guilty. We came to condemn a poor woman, and we are just as guilty as she is. Maybe we are not guilty of adultery, but we are guilty of pride." And they went away, beginning at the eldest and even until the least, because Jesus had shown that the Pharisee and all of his haughty self-righteous religious pride was just as guilty as a harlot.

Then Jesus turned to the woman. Always when Jesus dealt with this sin, it was in tenderness, in love, and in mercy. Jesus said, "Where are those thine accusers?" [John 8:10] Oh, I wish you could have heard the music of her soul when this woman said, "No man, Lord" [verse 11]. And that word "Lord" means "my very own Lord." In that moment, this woman had believed. In that moment, she had received Christ. In that moment, she had made Him Lord of her life.

This woman who a few moments ago was weeping, this woman who had fear and anger on her face, this woman who deserved to die and thought she was going to die, this woman who had committed such a terrible sin in God's presence now says, "No one condemns me, Lord." And Jesus said, "Go [thy way], and sin no more" [verse 11].

Jesus not only forgave her sins by saying, "Neither do I condemn thee," but Jesus gave her promise that tomorrow she would have a new strength and a new dimension for a life to give her power to overcome this sin. And it's all available to you tonight. Your past can be forgiven and washed out in the blood of Christ. Your future--the Holy Spirit living within you can give you a new dynamic and a new power. And not only that, but there is the assurance that, if you died, you'd go to heaven.

A resensitized conscience, a sensitive conscience under Christ, a sense of being clean and whole and pure, a sense of a big load being lifted. Christ coming to dwell, a new joy on your face, a new spring in your step, a new thrill in your soul.

Follow Christ and the old boredom is gone; the old dullness in life, the old monotony is gone. Christ has become the center of my life, and for the first time I am satisfied. And you take this tremendous creative energy that God has given you, young people--that which we call sex--and we give it to Jesus Christ. And He, in turn, takes this energy and directs it into the right channels. And He becomes a little dynamo in all of us that will drive you to the top.

Will you give your life to Christ tonight? All of you are members of church perhaps, but you're not sure your sins are forgiven. You're not sure if you died you'd go to heaven. You may be a Sunday school teacher, you may be an officer in the church, you may be a choir member here, you may be an usher here, you might even be a counselor here, but you're not sure that you've had an encounter with Jesus Christ. You've been concerned and bothered about it. Tonight the Holy Spirit has spoken to you, and you know that you need to come to Christ.

You might not be guilty of the sin of immorality such as we've been talking about. But you know that you've fallen short of the glory of God, and the requirements of God, and you need Christ. You want to come and give yourself to Him. I'm going to ask you to come right now.

You say, "Well, Billy, why do you ask us to go down there and stand in front?" When Jesus healed the man with the withered arm, He could have said, "Be healed," and the man would have been healed. But He didn't do that. He asked him to do something as an evidence of his faith in Christ. He asked him to stretch it forth. And when the man stretched it forth, he was healed. [See Matthew 12:9-13.]

I'm asking you to do something. It's an act of your will that God honors in getting up out of your seat as Charlie Pitts did in Toronto, Canada, three years ago. I'm going to ask you.

You may be the biggest businessman in this town. You may be the outstanding social leader at the country club. But you need Christ, and you need God. Soon you are going to have to face God with your wasted life. Perhaps your best friends don't know the inner gnawing and the emptiness of your soul. You need God; you need Christ. I'm going to ask you to come.

You may be a football player at the high school, you may be a top leader on the campus, but you need Jesus Christ to make you, to go with you, to make that completeness in your life, to forgive the past, to give you strength for tomorrow. I'm going to ask you to come and give yourself to Him.

You may not be a member of any church. You may be Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. Whatever your race, whatever your religion, I'm going to ask you to come.

Get up from your seats, hundreds of you, just get up out of your seats and come and stand quietly, right here, quietly and reverently.

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