Now tonight I want you to turn with me to the 7th chapter of the book of Mark. I have been preaching this past week on the subject of sin. Every night I have been speaking on sin, not because Charlotte is the most sinful city in the world. Actually, this city is one of the greatest church-going cities in the entire nation. There is one church for every four hundred people here. You say, "Well then, Billy, why did you go to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a crusade if there are so many churches in the city?" But Charlotte also has need, as do other great cities. It has its own amount of sin and wickedness, as other cities this size throughout the United States. It has its own particular and peculiar sins.
This week I have been emphasizing night after night the fact that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23]. And tonight I want to speak on the subject--following up what I have already said this week--I want to speak on the subject, "What's Wrong With the World?"
I want to find out how many have your Bibles. Lift them up. Lift them way up and hold them there a moment. Thousands of people here tonight have brought their Bibles.
In the 7th chapter of Mark, our Lord Jesus Christ is speaking. The 20th verse: "And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, . . . foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man" [verses 20-23].
What's wrong with the world? I think every one of us tonight agrees that something is terribly wrong with the world in which we live. This program is being seen tonight live in Little Rock. And today in Little Rock, Arkansas, they had a vote which illustrates the racial tension that is sweeping the nation. Why do we have these tensions in life? Why do we have these explosive problems in every generation?
We also recognize that we may be on the verge of war in the Far East, a war of nuclear weapons that could destroy even civilization itself! Mr. Nehru, the prime minister of India, recently said, "The world stands on the brink of catastrophe." Mr. Truman said some time ago that "the world stands on the very edge of hell." As a nation, as a human race, what's wrong with our world?
Listen to authorities like Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, who has recently warned us that we are facing a crime problem that could lead to national ruin and national catastrophe. Our crime rate is increasing in city after city across the nation. What causes these problems? What is back of it? Why cannot we solve our problems?
We in America have the highest standard of living in the world. We are a prosperous nation. We have educational advantages. We have everything, and yet something is wrong. We are not a happy people. We have more boredom per square inch in this country than any country in the world. Our divorce rate is the highest, indicating our homes are basically unhappy. A psychiatrist recently said that ninety percent of the American homes are unhappy. I think he stretched the point, but it illustrates what many are thinking and what many sociologists know.
We're facing problems within ourselves. Many people today are searching for happiness. They're searching for peace of mind. They're searching for joy, and they're not finding it. They've tried money; they've tried other things in life. But they haven't been able to find the peace, the relaxation, the joy that they want. What's wrong? What's happened? What's wrong with man? What's wrong with the world in which we live?
I believe that the United Nations is doing the best it can, but I believe the United Nations is only dealing with symptoms of something deeper that is wrong with the world. I believe Secretary Dulles is a sincere man, doing the best he can, as well as the other leaders of other countries. I think all over the world men want peace, but somehow peace doesn't come. We put out a fire in the Middle East, and it breaks out again in the Far East. We put it out in the Far East, and it breaks out again somewhere else. And it seems we're jumping from fire to fire.
We're trying to solve the problems of the world, but we make the mistake of treating symptoms. The race problem is a symptom. War is a symptom. Crime is a symptom. The sociological problem is a symptom. Something deeper is wrong. The fact that you cannot control certain things in your life that are wrong is a symptom. Something is wrong. All of these things are symptoms.
What is the cause? The Bible has an answer. Jesus had an answer. Jesus said all these evil things come from within, and they devour the individual and they devour the society. The Bible teaches that something is wrong with human nature, something is wrong with man himself. What is that "something"? The Bible says that man has a disease, and that disease is called S-I-N--sin.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, that is what is wrong with the world tonight. Man's nature is wrong-side-up. Man's nature has a disease. And this disease from within, said Jesus in our passage, produces evil thoughts, adultery, murders, theft. All the robberies, said Jesus, come from within. All the murders come from within. All of these vile things come from within. All the covetousness--that's the greed, the materialism in America that is wrong--all of that, He said, comes from within. Wickedness, deceit, blasphemy, lies, foolishness--when you put all of these evil things together, they produce war and social tension. Jesus said these things come from inside the man.
Now that is where communism and Christianity have a headlong clash. Karl Marx looked at the problems of the world and said, "Something's wrong." And Karl Marx said that the problem of the world is social. He said, "You solve the social problems of the world, and man will be a happy individual. And we can build a utopia on earth; we can build a heaven on earth."
But Jesus said, "You're wrong." He said the problem of the world is not social. The social problems are only symptoms of a deeper problem. The problem of the world is not illiteracy, the fact that millions cannot read and write. The problems of the world are not summed up in poverty. It's not because there are "have not" nations and "have" nations. It's not social injustices, bad as that may be. The heart of the problem is something deeper, said Jesus. He said our problems originate from within. And He called it S-I-N, sin.
And, ladies and gentlemen, the problem of the world tonight is sin!
Well, you say, what is sin? I've read many a book that has given definitions of sin. Some people say that it's "good in the making." I read another one that said it's "the shadow cast by man's immaturity." Another said it's "another infirmity." Another said it's "a constitutional weakness." But the Bible always describes sin as the free act of an intelligent, moral, responsible being asserting himself against the will of his Maker. God says sin is man deliberately, volitionally, rebelling against God. Therefore, God holds us responsible for sin. Individuals that are sinners make up our society, and that causes the tensions and the problems and the wars and the troubles in your life, in the world in which we live. The international problems are only reflections of the individual problems.
There are three words that describe what sin is--in the sight of God. First, the Bible calls sin a transgression. "Sin," the Bible says in 1 John 3:4, "is [a] transgression of the law." What law? Well, the law of conscience. You have a little red light in you that we call conscience. When you do wrong, your conscience speaks to you. When you go against your conscience, you're sinning against God. But many people have a seared conscience. Their consciences are dulled; they're dead. Your conscience is no longer a safe guide. So we had the Ten Commandments given to man [see Exodus 20:3-17]. God says if you break one of those commandments, you are transgressing moral law and you are a sinner [see James 2:10].
And I say this to every person in this audience tonight: Every one of you has broken the Ten Commandments. You've broken them. We've all broken the Ten Commandments. Therefore, every one of us tonight is guilty of original sin and rebellion against God. God did not originate sin. God holds us responsible.
Then there's another word used in the Bible for sin. It means missing the mark, or coming short of your duties, failure to do what you ought to do. That is the sin of omission. You are a sinner whether you commit adultery or not. You are a sinner whether you ever harmed anybody or not. You are a sinner whether you've ever stolen anything or not. The Bible says the sin of omission is equally great as the sins of commission.
Many people have asked me, "Where does sin originate? Where does it come from? Why does God allow it?"
Let me put you straight. God did not tempt or did He cause men to sin. God did not intend man to sin. God did not want man to sin. God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" [2 Peter 3:9].
Then why did man sin, if God created him? The Bible indicates that this is a mystery. God has not fully revealed the origin of sin to us; and, therefore, I cannot go beyond that which God has revealed in His holy Word. It is called the mystery of lawlessness, "the mystery of iniquity" [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. But we do have some hints and have an indication. We are told that sin is of the devil [see 1 John 3:8]. He said, concerning Judas, "Have not I chosen the twelve of you, and one of you is a devil?" [see John 6:70].
Now we do not have time tonight to go into all of the scriptural preaching on where the devil came from. But Satan is the one who originated sin. The human race, being free moral agents, having the ability to choose for themselves, followed the devil instead of God. When the first Adam had a choice between obeying God or obeying the devil, he obeyed the devil, forsook the Lord God; and, as a result, the human race has suffered ever since.
But don't you go and blame Adam. Because the Bible says when you reach the age of accountability--that is, the age of the knowledge of good or evil, whatever age that may be--the Bible says you also deliberately broke the laws of God. You cheated in school, you told a lie, you had an evil thought, there was lust in your heart. All of these were the beginnings; and it was sin in the sight of God, as surely as Adam's sin of disobedience when God said, "Don't eat of the fruit" [see Genesis 2:16,17]. He deliberately did it. That's the origin of sin.
Thirdly, the universality of sin. There are differences in personalities, just as there are differences in every snowflake, differences in the leaves of the trees and the blades of grass, differences in human personalities. There are differences in physiques. There are differences in nationality and in dress and in language and in custom and in outlook. We are all different. But morally and spiritually, in the sight of God, we are all sinners [see Romans 3:23].
When God looks upon this great audience here tonight, God sees only two classes of people--not three, not four, not five. He doesn't see us as white and negro. He doesn't see us with our national background. He doesn't see us as rich and poor. He doesn't see us as educated and uneducated. He sees us as saved or lost. He sees us as on the narrow road that leads to heaven or the broad road that leads to hell [see Matthew 7:13,14]. He sees us serving one master or the other [see Matthew 6:24]. Which road are you on? Which master are you serving? All of us tonight are equally guilty. Whether we're in Africa or India or Asia or America, we are sinners in the sight of God.
And then there are the results of sin, the Bible tells us. Now we see the results of sin all about us. You can pick up your morning newspaper tomorrow morning and see the results of sin. You'll read about murder, you'll read about robbery, you'll read about war, you'll read about lust, you'll read about broken homes. You'll read about all these things. Now those are the results of sin.
Down in your own heart, you know the results of sin. You've got habits that you cannot control. There are habits that you cannot overcome. These are caused by sin. You want to be good, but evil is present with you. There is a principle within you that is pulling you down. You want to be good, but you don't have the strength to be good. There is an evil principle within us.
Jesus said it's down inside of us--in our hearts, in our souls. He said it's a disease, and so this disease called sin darkens our understanding [see Ephesians 4:18]. That's the reason tonight the most brilliant men in the world can smash the atom; but they cannot solve the problem of crime, broken homes, and the desire to kill and to have war.
The Bible says something about that in the first of Corinthians. It says this is true because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men[see 1 Corinthians 1:25]. God had already said, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [verse 21].
Now, what I am doing tonight looks foolish to some of you-- standing up here talking about sin and God and the Bible. You say, "What a waste of time!" God says that He has chosen His foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God"--this appears to be a weak method of solving the problems of the world. Because, you see, at the United Nations they don't really look to God. They don't have any prayer meetings at the United Nations, insofar as I've heard about. They don't open the debates in prayer. Thus, we've been unable to solve the basic problems of the world. You see, "The weakness of God"--that which we have rejected--"is stronger than men. For [you] see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, . . . things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence" [1 Corinthians 1:25-29].
No one man or group of men has brains enough or the wisdom enough, without God's help, to bring peace to the world. They never have in history, and they never will until they turn to God. We don't have the power to solve. We do not have the intellectual ability to solve our social problems, even in rich, prosperous, intellectual America. Why? Because we've rejected God's simple program. We called it foolish. We've discarded it. We're not really living for Christ. As a result, we go on in our blindness, stumbling and bumbling until we may blow ourselves apart.
Then you in your own life; your life's all confused and mixed up--frustration, inner tension, no joy, no peace, no real happiness. You've got money, you've got a fine home, you have a fine family, you have a good business, good job; but down deep in your heart you have an empty place. You haven't found this security and this peace that you've searched for. You don't have a daily walk with Christ. When you wake up in the morning, His presence doesn't fill your room. He doesn't go with you all day long. You are not conscious of the presence of God. Oh, to live for God! To live for Christ in the midst of a world such as we have! To have peace in the midst of fighting and war! The security, the assurance, the joy that He brings!
I'd like to go out there and sort of shake some of you and get you to turn to Christ. Yet sin darkens the understanding. It also defiles the heart. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" [Jeremiah 17:9].
Last summer when we were in New York, a boy killed a man in cold blood. And his mother said, "Why, he was always a good boy." They questioned the boy and he said, "I don't understand myself. I just suddenly had the urge to kill, and I did kill." Why?
You didn't mean to do the thing you did the other day. You didn't mean to cheat. You didn't mean to tell that lie. You didn't mean to commit that immoral sin. You don't understand yourself. Your heart is deceitful; it deceives even you. And then the Bible says not only does it defile the heart, it paralyzes the will so that when you really want to do good, you actually do evil.
You know, people will work hard for sin. Think of the criminals. I've thought of the criminals in America, how hard they work for the money they get. Look at Judas, how hard Judas planned and schemed to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver. He didn't enjoy doing that. There was not pleasure in it. He worked at it.
He suffered torment through it. But there was no control. He was in the grip of something supernatural, beyond himself. [See Matthew 26:14-16.]
Nobody here really wants to rebel against God and sin against God. But you find no strength to do that which you really want to do because your will is paralyzed. Sin has paralyzed your will until you no longer have a will of your own, and you don't have the strength to fulfill that good which you really want to do. [See Romans 7:15-20.] That's what sin has done for you.
But what is the penalty of sin? The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. "In the day that thou eatest thereof," He said to Adam and Eve, "thou shalt . . . die" [Genesis 2:17]. The Bible uses several words to describe the penalty of sin.
I want to tell you something tonight. Every person who has ever committed a sin is going to pay for it. That's what the Bible says. And if the Bible is not true, then the Bible is a liar. Let's burn it up and throw it away and discard it and forget it.
And here are the words that are used to describe what happens to a person who rejects Christ. The word "lost" [Matthew 18:11]--think of spending eternity, a conscious rational being, separated from God, but lost! Have you ever been lost? You can be lost in the heart of a great city like New York or Los Angeles. You can be lost in the country, the desert, the ocean, in a plane. You can be lost. I was in a plane once which was lost. What a feeling of despair and hopelessness and helplessness it is. But to spend millions of years lost!
Jesus said you're "condemned already" [John 3:18]. He said you're "punished" [see Matthew 25:46]. He used such words as "everlasting fire" [Matthew 25:41], "no rest" [Revelation 14:11]--whatever those things mean. It means that man in this life and in the life to come will have to pay for his sins. You're going to stand at the judgment of God someday to give an account of how you have lived this life and what you did with Jesus Christ.
The penalty of sin--you break a law of the city of Charlotte, and you pay for it if you get caught. In God's kingdom, you will be caught and you will pay for it. You're paying for it now by the emptiness of your soul, the lack of destiny and assurance in your life, the incompleteness of your soul. You're going to pay for it forever, unless you turn to God.
Then, lastly, what is the remedy for sin? You are a sinner. That is what is wrong with the world. How can we get rid of sin? How can we do away with sin? How can we deal with human nature that Jesus said is the cause of all the problems and troubles in the world? How can it be changed?
The Bible is a book of redemption, and the Bible--from Genesis to Revelation--is filled with the message of how to get rid of sin. The Bible recognizes that the number one problem of the world is sin. The Bible tells us how to get rid of it, how to be cured of this disease, how to be cleansed and forgiven in God's sight, and how you can have victory every day in your life. The Bible tells us how.
The Bible says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" [John 3:16]. The Bible says that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" [2 Corinthians 5:19]. Do you know what nailed Jesus Christ to the cross? Sin! Your sin, my sin!
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no remedy for the disease that we all have apart from the cross. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7]. There is no medicine in the world that can cure the human heart. You can go to the psychiatrists, and many of you can receive help. You can take all sorts of medical treatments. But I tell you this: The only real cure for the spiritual disease that we all have is the blood of Jesus. If you haven't been to the foot of that cross and been washed in the blood of the Lamb, you cannot say that your sin is forgiven you and that all is right between you and God or that all is right between you and your fellow man.
The Bible says, "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. The Bible says, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6]. The Bible says He "his own self [bears] our sins in his own body on the tree" [1 Peter 2:24]. The Bible says, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust" [1 Peter 3:18].
And when we come to the foot of the cross where Christ died and then partake of His resurrection--the Bible says, "When he had by himself purged our sins" [Hebrews 1:3]--our sins are purged. That means they are done away with.
And then the Scripture says in Isaiah 33:45 [44:22] our sins are blotted out. The Bible also says in Psalm 103:12 our sins are put away. The Bible also says our sins are put behind His back [see Isaiah 38:17]. The Bible also says our sins are remembered no more [see Hebrews 8:12]. Think of it! Your sins that could damn your soul and ruin your life--God says, "I'll remember them against you no more."
Now, when I was here in the city of Charlotte as a boy--and I was reared in this city out here on a farm about five miles away; it was a farm then, and it's in the city now--I remember that I did a lot of things that were wrong. I committed many sins. And as I move about the city of Charlotte, I can remember them. They have come back to my mind, but God cannot remember them! The Bible says God cannot remember [see Hebrews 10:17]. Think of it! The mighty God that fills all of space cannot remember my sins, because my sins were taken to the cross, and Jesus bore them right there. I don't understand all the mysteries of the atonement, and I don't understand all the mysteries of the cross. But by simple faith I came to Him.
I remember Beverly Shea said something this past week that I'll never forget. Somebody asked, "What do you know about God?" This friend that Mr. Shea was quoting said, "I don't know much about God, but what I do know has changed my life." I don't know much about the cross. I don't know all the mysteries of the Godhead. I don't know all of the mysteries of theology. But what little bit I do has changed my life.
When I came to Christ in this town twenty-four years ago, I didn't know much about theology. I didn't even know what was happening to me. But I came by faith--simple, childlike faith--as a young lad and gave my life to Christ, and it changed my life. And tonight just as simply, you can come to Christ. You don't have to understand it all intellectually; you never will. Just come by faith and receive Him as your Savior. And then the Scripture says in Micah 7:19 our sins are cast into the sea.
Now the sea out here on the coast today has been churning up through Helene, the hurricane that is sweeping our coast at the moment and leaving thousands of dollars worth of damage to our seacoast here in North Carolina today. I stood on that coast about a week and a half ago, and I looked out at the sea. And I thought some of the things I had read about the sea, how deep the sea is. And God says, "I've taken your sins, these impure sins, and hurled them in the sea." What does that mean?
In London on the south coast of England, every day except Sunday, they carry from the sewage system of London a shipload of a poisonous substance that would destroy--or just a few drops of it--would destroy anything. They carry it from the disposal plants. Then they take it about twenty miles to where the sea is one of the deepest spots in the world, and they dump it all out of the ship into the sea. But within twenty minutes that water is as pure as when they put this poisonous substance in it.
God says, "I'll take your filthy, dirty sins that are ruining your life here and now and damning your soul. I'll take them and bury them in the depths of the sea, and give you a purity that you've never known."
I'm going to ask you tonight to give your life to Christ. I'm going to ask you tonight to come and receive Jesus Christ who died on the cross. And say, "Tonight, I want my sins forgiven. I want this empty place in my life filled. I want Jesus Christ. I don't care what it costs. I don't care what it means. I am coming to give my life to Christ." Because, you see, God requires not only that His Son pay the price on the cross, but the Bible says that God requires that you repent of your sins and receive Christ. That's what repentance means. It means that you acknowledge that you are a sinner, that you are willing to turn from your sins, and by faith you receive Christ. That is an act of your will. Your will may be paralyzed; but God will help you, and God will reactivate your will. God will resensitize your conscience.
If you come to Christ, you can leave here tonight with the knowledge that every sin is forgiven. I'm going to ask you to come-- you people, fathers and mothers, men and women--all over this great audience.