I heard about a man sometime ago who had a watermelon patch, and some young rascals in the community were stealing him blind. So he said, "All right, I'll get 'em." So he put up a sign in his watermelon patch that said, "One of these melons is poison." He went to bed and got up the next morning; and, sure enough, they hadn't stolen a watermelon. Everything was the same, except the sign had been changed. It now read, "Two of these watermelons is poison."
Now tonight is our second youth night. I want to give you not poison tonight, but something that will be helpful and challenging to the young people here. I want you to turn with me to the 6th chapter of Galatians. The 7th verse begins, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" [verses 7,8].
"God is not mocked; . . . whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is an irrevocable law of God. It can never be changed. It can never be altered in the slightest. Whatever you sow in your daily life, you are going to reap. What you young people are sowing tonight in your daily life, you will reap later on in life.
If you are sowing in spiritual matters, later on you will reap character, strength, courage, and virtue. If you sow to the flesh, give in to the desires of your flesh, spend your time in idleness, throw away your leisure time, spend your time in pleasure and amusement rather than studying and development of your soul, you will of the flesh reap corruption, the Scripture says.
One of the greatest illustrations of this is found in the 5th chapter of the book of Daniel. There we have a contrast between two men. One man sowed to the Spirit; another man sowed to the flesh. I want you to see the contrast between these two men tonight.
The names of these two men are Daniel and Belshazzar. Daniel was a prophet; Belshazzar was a king. I want you to see the difference in the lives of these two men as they make up the 5th chapter of the book of Daniel.
When Daniel was a young man about twelve years of age, he was carried to Babylon from Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar had come down from Babylon and captured Jerusalem. [See Daniel 1.] Not until 1947--this is very significant to me--not until 1947 had Israel become a nation again. Ever since 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, destroyed it, carried many captives away, Israel had been under the heel of another nation. When they came to that point in 1947 they were a nation for the first time, since God allowed them to be destroyed for their sins. Many people feel that it was a fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures. Daniel was one of those carried captive.
Now, you remember the story. You should, if you go to Sunday school. You remember how Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, the capital of Judah. There was the northern kingdom in Israel, and there was the southern kingdom in Judah. Israel had fallen 150 years before; and Judah, the southern kingdom where Jerusalem was the capital, was still prospering. God had warned through Jeremiah the prophet who said, "Unless you repent, you shall be destroyed." [See Jeremiah 18:6-23.]
But they didn't believe it. They went on in their sins and in their wickedness. One day, the day of judgment, the day of reckoning came and Jerusalem was destroyed, as was the entire nation of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar carried captives all the way back--1,500 miles back--to Babylon. One of those fellows was Daniel.
At that time Daniel was only about twelve years of age. The lad was taken away from home, taken fifteen hundred miles away. And in those days fifteen hundred miles was a long way; it was like going to China today. They said, "We are going to rear these boys, these young people. We are going to rear them the way we want. We are going to brainwash them first, and then we are going to rear them to worship the gods of Babylon. Perhaps, because they have brilliant minds, we can make them leaders in Babylon. And they will never know anything except Babylonian life. They will forget Jerusalem." [See Daniel 1:3-5.]
I want you to notice Daniel, however. Daniel had godly parents, and his godly parents had reared him to know the Lord. A lot of parents ask me continually, "Should we make our young people go to church and Sunday school if they don't want to go?" Well, I have never seen very many children--at the age of four, and five, and six-- who did want to go. If they ever get there, we've got to take them. Yes, sir, at our house we go to Sunday school on Sunday morning.
We've got little methods of getting the children there. I believe the Catholic church is right when it says that "if you will give us a child until he is seven, then we don't have to worry about him after that." It's before seven, it's before ten, that your greatest work with your children is done. If you haven't given your children any spiritual instruction before they are ten, then nine times out of ten you have lost them. After that, it's too late.
Daniel had been reared until he was twelve to worship and believe in God. They had given him love, time, discipline, and spiritual training; and it paid off. When he got to Babylon, he told the king himself that he would not worship any other gods but the true and living God [see Daniel 3:18]. His faith in God had been established by the time he was twelve.
Sometimes parents tell me, "Well, I have a boy age ten that wants to go forward and receive Christ at the meeting. Should I allow him?" I tell you, I would hate to be in some parents' shoes that would hold a boy or girl back who wanted to come forward to give his life to Christ. You never know what is going on in the heart of that little one. Jesus said it would be better if a millstone had been hung around your neck, than to offend one of these little ones by keeping them from heaven [see Matthew 18:6].
The disciples said, "These children are too young. They don't know what they are doing. Get away." Jesus said, "Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven." [See Mark 10:13-16.] Jesus knew the value of getting a child to come to Him.
Daniel had made a decision for God in his life. He had made his own decision. I don't care how well you rear a child. It makes no difference how well you have been reared. It makes no difference how much of God you've known. It makes no difference how many Scriptures you've learned, how often you've gone to church, what godly parents you have, and what a Christian home you have. There comes a time when you, and you alone, have to make your own choice and your own decision. Your parents can't make it for you.
You can be reared in a Christian home, but that doesn't make you a Christian. You have to come to a personal knowledge of Christ. You must have a personal encounter with the living God. That's the choice that you have to make, and your parents can't make it for you.
Daniel made his decision early in life, and he had "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" [Daniel 1:8]. Daniel had decided he didn't care what came or what went. He did not care what the circumstances, he did not care what the practice, he did not care what had happened. He was going to live for God if nobody else lived for Him.
Daniel also had a devotional life. He lived for Christ by having fellowship with God every day. He prayed. The Scripture says--nine times in one chapter--that Daniel prayed. He knew how to pray. He was on intimate terms with his heavenly Father. He spent nights in prayer.
How long has it been since you've spent a night in prayer? Have you ever spent a whole night in prayer? Have you? Daniel was a man of prayer. Jesus Christ was a man of prayer. Are you better than Jesus? Jesus Christ felt the need of prayer, and He spent all night sometimes in prayer. Are you better than Jesus? You have less need than Jesus?
You may be a high school student, you may be a university or college student; but take time out to pray. If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Think of the King of kings, wanting an audience with you every day. And you say, "I'm sorry, Lord, I'm just too busy."
Suppose the president should ask you to come to the White House. He says, "I only want a few minutes of your time this morning." "Oh, well, I'm too busy this morning, Mr. President. I'm a big man, you know. I'm on the football team in my high school. I'm too busy to see you, Mr. President. I've got bigger things to do." The King of kings wants to see you, and you're too busy. Well, one of these days you're going to need Him, and He's going to be too busy for you.
If you claim to be a Christian young person, you ought to be the best person in the high school. If you are a Christian, I don't think there is much excuse for Ds and Es. Nevertheless, I would rather have E and have it honestly than to have an A and get it by cheating. I believe that a Christian should be a top student. I believe that a Christian should go at everything he does wholeheartedly, if it is right, honorable, and true to God. Give it all you've got. Give life your best. If you are to be a Christian young person, then set an example. Be a glory to Christ.
I think that a Christian ought to look like a Christian. I've seen so many Christians slouch around. That's not God's way. A Christian young person ought to have his shoulders up. He ought to have a clear eye. When he shakes hands with you, he ought to look you right in the eye and grip your hand. He looks like a Christian, and he acts like a Christian. None of this sissy, effeminate sort of business we've got now with these long sideburns and all the rest.
I won't say anything about rock-and-roll. I've rocked-and-rolled myself on the train going from Black Mountain, North Carolina, to New York that rocks-and-rolls all night. I know a little about it. I want to tell you that I don't believe a person can be a Christian without having courage. I want to tell you that it takes courage to live for Jesus Christ on the high school campus today. It takes courage to live for Christ on the college campus.
One of the greatest sins of our time is conformity--doing it because the gang is doing it. "Well, everybody else is doing it." I don't care if everybody is doing it. If it's wrong, don't you do it. If it's a sin, don't you do it. And that takes courage. Any little old spineless jellyfish can float along with the rest of the gang. It takes a real guy, a real girl, to stand up for what is right, what is true, what is honest, what is wholesome, and what is virtuous.
Maybe nobody else at the high school carries a New Testament in their pocketbook, or in their pocket, or a Bible in their hand. Maybe not another person spends any time in prayer. Maybe nobody else is interested in getting together for Bible study and prayer in high school. But you are.
Two years ago one of the greatest football teams in this country was the University of Southern California. Almost every man on that squad was a Christian. What a testimony that gang of fellows had! They could get up and give a testimony just like that. They
carried their Bibles with them. They went to Bible class. They studied the Bible. They prayed. And, boy, they'd get out on the football field, and just knock the other crowd, and get together and pray about it. Boy, that's the kind of Christianity I like. They lived it in front of everybody else, and God used them.
Now I want you to see contrasted to Daniel's life, Belshazzar, the king. His father had led the armies out on the far-flung battlefronts. His grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, had died and now he was in charge. He was heir to the throne. He decided that he was going to have a party, going to have a banquet. He told his servants to get the finest wine, the rarest meats, the best dancers he could find in all the kingdom.
So for weeks and months they worked on the banquet. Finally, the night came. The jeweled chariots came in from every part of the empire, bringing the lords and ladies. Belshazzar, the young king, was dressed in all his finery. What a night, and Belshazzar was king of Babylon! He was the handsome young prince that everyone looked to and bowed to. [See Daniel 5:1-4.]
But I want you to notice something about him. First, he was egotistical and self-centered. He thought he was it. "He that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction" [Proverbs 17:19], says the Bible. The Bible says, "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased" [Matthew 23:12]. The Bible says, "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord" [Obadiah 4].
God hates a proud, self-centered, egotistical person. God despises it as much as any other sin. God hates it, and how many young people today are self-centered. Everybody else has got to get out of the way when you come walking by. That's the type of fellow Belshazzar was.
When I see a person like that, I know that person has not met Christ. Because when you come to Christ, self takes a second place, and Christ becomes first in your life. You see, the very essence of sin is self. And when Jesus comes, He says you must deny self. Have you denied self, your own self? Is your thought first on God, and then on others?
Secondly, he was guilty of excessive drinking. That night he ordered the people to eat, drink, and be merry. [See Daniel 5:1-4.]
I have talked to many alcoholics. We have five million chronic alcoholics in this country, and over sixty percent started drinking when they were in high school. Did you know that? Sixty percent of the American alcoholics began drinking when they were in high school. They never meant to be an alcoholic--not at all. That first drink they took was just for a lark, just to be smart, just to show they could. That first drink has led to millions of alcoholics who are tonight suffering hell, and will eventually destroy their mind, and their soul.
Then third, Belshazzar was immoral. He had women there that night, and not one was his wife. There was plenty of emphasis on sex that night. I said the other night there is nothing wrong with sex. Sex desire is natural, but lust is wrong. When it is in the wrong place, it can damn a young person quicker than any sin I know.
The Bible says, "Thou shalt not commit immorality" [see Exodus 20:14]. You can commit it by a thought, by a look, by an act; and it is sin in the sight of God [see Matthew 5:28]. It damns the soul and sends the soul to hell. If you have committed it, ask God to forgive you. And then say, "O God, from this moment on, my eyes will never look upon that which they should not look, and my thoughts will not be on that which they should never think."
Then Belshazzar disregarded God's law. The golden and silver vessels of God that had been dedicated on the altars to be sacred vessels, he ordered them passed up and down the table, and he told the people to eat and drink. [See Daniel 5:2,3.] And everybody wondered at him defying God Himself, living his own life the way he wanted to live it.
"God, if there is a God, I'm going to eat and drink and be merry and have a good time. I'm going to live for today." Our consciences are dulled, and we have sinned against God. The stench of our sins is reaching His nostrils. And I tell you, it is going to bring judgment. You can't break the laws of God and get away with it. God is not mocked.
Belshazzar, you are living high, wide, and handsome tonight. You are young, and strong, and handsome. The whole world bows to you. Belshazzar, the Bible says, "God is not mocked; . . . whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7]. But Belshazzar answers back, "I can get away with it. That doesn't mean me."
By this time, Daniel was an old man. God had honored Daniel. In two empires he had been prime minister. I tell you, when a man purposes early in life that he is going to live for God, God will take him to the top. There is plenty of room at the top for men who will decide to live for God. God had honored and blessed him, and now he was an old man. Daniel was not at the party that night; he would have nothing to do with it. But Belshazzar and all the other lords and ladies, and the cabinet and military officers were there.
It was getting toward midnight. The dancers were dancing faster and faster, and what an orgy there was that night. Belshazzar ordered the servants to come to him and pour him some more wine. Just as Belshazzar was to take it to his lips, suddenly he turned white. The banquet hall became quiet as death, and the goblet crashed on the table. Belshazzar, the king, was afraid at what he saw, because over yonder on the wall was an armless hand writing in letters of fire, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." [See Daniel 5:5,6,24,25.] God was writing on the wall, and Belshazzar was afraid. The day of reckoning had come.
Now, he thought he could get away with it for a few more years, but now it had come tonight. In the height of his strength, in the height of his glory, at the moment of his triumph, in the midst of his pleasure--it had come! Belshazzar couldn't read the writing. He didn't know what it was. So he called the Ph.D.s from the universities. He called in the astrologists, and the soothsayers, and the Chaldeans. And he said, "Please, read that writing to me. I cannot read it." He said, "Whoever reads that writing, I'll put a gold chain around his neck. I'll put a royal robe around him. I'll make him the third ruler in the empire." But none of them could read the writing. [See Daniel 5:7,8.]
Belshazzar couldn't understand that writing. So, finally, he decided to call in Daniel. He had heard that Daniel had interpreted prophecies before. So he called in Daniel, and Daniel came in. Notice--he wasn't at the party.
The Bible says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [things]" [2 Corinthians 6:17]. The Bible says, "The [love] of the world is enmity with God" [James 4:4]. The Bible says that we are to "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man [loves] the world, the love of the Father is not in him" [1 John 2:15].
Jesus indicated we are to be separated from the evils of the world. That doesn't mean we are to leave the world and live up on a cloud somewhere. That doesn't mean we are to be super-pious and self-righteous in our so-called spiritual life. It means we are to live in the world, but not be a part of it. Daniel was living in Babylon, but he was not partaking of the evil deeds that went on in Babylon that night. He couldn't stand it. But when he was called, he came.
Isn't it strange that Belshazzar called him in that night? Isn't it strange that, when a man gets ready to die, he always calls the preacher? Why doesn't he call the bartender? That's where he spent most of his time. Belshazzar was afraid for the first time in his life. He said, "Daniel, do you see that writing? If you will read it to me, I'll make you the third ruler of the empire. I'll make you a big man, Daniel." [See Daniel 5:13-16.] Daniel said, "Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation" [Daniel 5:17].
"Thou . . . Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: . . . And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God [has] numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou [are] weighed in the balances, and [are] found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians" [Daniel 5:22-23,25-28].
Belshazzar was weighed. Notice that Daniel did not charge Belshazzar with drunkenness, though he was drunk. He didn't charge him with immorality, though he was immoral. He didn't charge him with sacrilege, though he was profane. He didn't charge him with lasciviousness, though he had evidences all around. He charged him with this: "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified."
God had given him everything. He had given him a kingdom, He had given him health, He had given him riches, He had given him a family. He had given him everything; and Belshazzar had not glorified God because of it.
The Bible says, "The goodness of God [should lead] to repentance" [Romans 2:4]. God has been good to you. He's given you a home to live in. He's given you schools to go to. He's given you brothers and sisters and fine parents. He's been good to you. He's allowed you to live in America, when a third of the world tonight does not have the freedom that we have. That goodness should lead to repentance. And if it doesn't lead to repentance, God loves you so much that He is willing to allow you to have adversity and tragedy in your life, and judgment in your life, in order to drive you to Jesus Christ. If you don't come to Jesus Christ, there is nothing else that God can do. God has allowed these blessings to come to bring you to Christ.
Christ loves you. He wants to save you. He wants to forgive you. He warns you tonight--in this very crusade that is being held in the city of Charlotte as a warning to people--that God does not trifle, that you cannot trifle with Him. The Bible says, "Upharsin"--divided. God took his kingdom away that night, and the Bible tells the story of how the Medes and the Persians changed the course of the Euphrates river. They slipped under the walls of Babylon that night; and Belshazzar, the king, was slain. [See Daniel 5:30.]
Among those saved that night was Daniel. When Darius, the Medes and Persian general, marched into the city the next day at the head of his triumphant armies--blood and suffering and death all around--the general, the king of Babylon, marched in the palace. And the first thing he said was, "Send me Daniel, the Hebrew." [See Daniel 6:1-3.] Daniel, the Hebrew, came in and bowed low. And Darius, the emperor who had captured the city, said, "Daniel, I have heard much of thee. I want you to be my prime minister and serve this kingdom, and rule this kingdom as you ruled it under Nebuchadnezzar." [See Daniel 6:3.]
Belshazzar, the wild young guy that was going to have his fling, was dead and gone. Daniel--the man that dared to stand for God, the man that was called foolish, the man that was called religious, the man that was called, "holy Joe," the man that dared stand for God no matter who else stood--lived on to become prime minister in yet another empire.
Which road are you on tonight? Whom are you living for, yourself or God? I'm asking you tonight to live for God--Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this world because God loves you. Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood because God loves you. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" [2 Corinthians 5:19]. And I see Christ hanging on that cross, with nails in His hands, because He loves you and He was thinking of you in 1958. Jesus stayed on the cross, and died for you and me. Now God says if you want to enter the kingdom, if you want to be forgiven of sins, you have to come to this cross by repentance of your sins, and faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Would you like to be forgiven of your sins? Would you like to have all the past wiped out? Would you like to have a transformation in your life such as you have never known before? Would you like to have Christ to touch you? Well, I want to tell you it is hard to be a Christian. It is not easy to follow Christ. It is difficult. It is hard, it is rough, and it is tough. But it is worth it. You see, Jesus will go with you every step of the way. He will go back with you to high school tomorrow. He will go back with you to your business tomorrow. He will go back home with you tonight. He will be there to help you, to guide you, to lead you, to give you strength to face the past--and the troubles, and the difficulties, and the temptations of tomorrow.
I am asking you tonight to enlist in the army of Christ. I am asking you to give yourself to Him, and let Him change your life. And I believe if we can get enough young people to Jesus Christ, that we can go out and change Mecklenburg County. We can change North Carolina if we can get enough young people living and dedicated to Christ.