Tonight I want you to turn with me to the 10th chapter of the Gospel according to Mark. Now, I want to use this text tonight and Saturday night. I could preach ten sermons or twenty sermons from this text, but tonight I want to preach one sermon on it. Here is one of my favorite passages in all the New Testament.
"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up [thy] cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions" [verses 17-22].
Here we have a picture of Jesus going about the land making the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; the lame to walk, the dead to rise, feeding five thousand people on one occasion with five loaves and two fishes. Everywhere, the Bible says, He went about doing good, and wherever He went He also taught the people. [See Acts 10:38.] He taught them a revolutionary doctrine. He taught them something new, something they had never heard before. And in His great Sermon on the Mount He explained the law of Moses--what God really meant in this law of Moses [see Matthew 5].
Here, as He is teaching one day, a great crowd of people are gathered. And there came a young man. The Bible says in the Matthew account that he was young [see Matthew 19:20]. The Bible indicates that he was handsome and that he was wealthy. He was a young ruler. That meant that he was an important man in the community. He was the lord of the manor. A young lord, if you please, came running to Jesus. And he fell down before Christ; and he asked Christ, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said, "Keep the commandments." He said, "I have kept them."
Then Jesus said, "There is one thing you lack. If you are to enter the kingdom of heaven, there is one thing you still need to do." The Scripture says that the young man looked very sorrowful. He had come to Jesus with light, and expectation, and excitement. He was looking for adventure. He was looking for something in life that could satisfy the longing of his soul, and he came running to Jesus with all of his expectation. Now he is rudely awakened and shocked by what he heard. This young man was wanting a short cut to heaven. He was wanting Jesus to give him some magical formula by which he could get into heaven. He wanted to get to heaven the easy way.
The young man wanted something. He wanted something that he had never found before in life. Thus, he came to Jesus to find it. And Jesus said, "You can have it. You can have joy, and you can have peace, you can have forgiveness, you can have heaven--if you are willing to pay the price." But the young man was not willing to pay the price. He went away sorrowful and sad, and he chose the things of this world instead of Christ.
Now, Jesus, I want you to notice, never bargained with him. The average church today would have welcomed the young man, and said, "Why, come in. Of course, we want you." But, you see, Jesus was not interested in statistics. He was not interested in numerical figures. Jesus Christ was more interested in quality of discipleship, and He never watered His message down. He lost a prospective convert, but He didn't lose His Gospel. Jesus would not lower the standards to let this fine young man in to His company of disciples. He refused to parley, He refused to bargain, He refused to water down.
I want to tell you that Jesus loved this young man, and Jesus loves you. But Jesus is not going to lower His standard to let you, or me, or anybody else into His kingdom. General Eisenhower, on the day before D-Day, addressed his troops. And he made this statement: "There is no victory at bargain prices."
My wife--I should not say this because she is not here tonight; maybe it is a good night to say it--my wife will spend fifty cents for gasoline to go across town to get something that is marked down five cents. Then she'll come home and tell me what a bargain she has got. All women are alike. And you know, a woman is not meant to be understood. You will never understand a woman. You just love them, but don't try to understand them. They are wonderful people. I don't think we men could get along without them. But they love a bargain, and so do we men.
I remember when I was at Wheaton College. The first year I did not have much money in my pocket. I might scrape together five dollars, but that was all. I was working on a little trucking firm, carrying suitcases, carrying furniture in and out of homes, and so forth, and so on, trying to make a few extra dollars. They told me about a wonderful place down in Chicago called Maxwell Street. I went down to Maxwell Street. And they told me if you get there early in the morning, that you can get a better bargain. What you do is start high, and stay there several minutes, and you argue the man down. So I went in. I found a suit, and he had it marked up to fifteen dollars. After walking out three times, and telling him I did not want the suit, I finally got it for $4.95. Well, the next Saturday I took my girlfriend, who is now my wife, to a football game. And that day it poured rain, and I was in my new suit. Your imagination can tell the rest. The suit didn't come from Ivey's or Belk's, or any of the other stores. I thought I had a bargain, but I was mistaken.
There is no such thing as success at bargain prices. Mickey Mantle hit two home runs today. Boy, what a guy! I met him one day and shook his hand, and I thought it would have the grip of a vise. And, you know, it was just limp. I don't know why, but he can sure hit that baseball! He hit two home runs. Well, I want to tell you that Mickey Mantle would say you can't hit two home runs in one game in the World Series without some practice and hard work. He has worked on his baseball ever since he was a kid.
If you go get a doctor's degree to become a professor at the university, it costs something. Hours and hours, and days and days, and months and years, of hard work and study to have a doctor of philosophy degree. It costs something!
The Bible teaches that it costs something to enter the kingdom of heaven. First, I want you to see tonight the high price of sin, how much sin costs. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7]. The Bible says that sin costs a great deal. Job said in 4:8, "Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." The Bible indicates that you cannot buy sin for cash [see Psalm 49:6,7]. Why, if you could pay for sin all at one time, it would not be so bad. But when you sin, you pay for it from now on, throughout eternity. It's on the installment plan. You pay for sin by the installment. Day after day, and week after week, and month after month, year after year, and millennium after millennium, you are paying for sin.
Sin costs you something. In order to go out here and commit adultery, it costs you something. In order to cheat on your income tax, it costs you something. You have to pay for it. Not only now, but forever you pay for sin [see 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9].
Is it worth popularity at the expense of losing the smile of God? Is it worth gaining pleasure to lose fellowship with God? Is it worth being successful if, in the process, you lose your own soul? You can climb to the top in the world, and trample on other people in your greed and in your ambition, and set aside the church, and God, and the Bible. But is it worth it? No, you cannot buy sin for cash. It is only by the installment plan.
A girl in Black Mountain, the little town I live near, married the wrong man against the advice of her parents and minister. Four months later she came to our home and said, "Mr. Graham, I am already living in hell." Is it worth it?
One of the most famous pilots during the war came from North Carolina. He was one of the most decorated men we had. His picture was on the front of Life magazine. He was tall, handsome, a terrific fellow. Many of you probably know him. But the publicity went to his head. He began drinking. He began going to the wrong type of parties. He began having a wild fling. He lost his wife; he lost his children. He began losing his reputation; and, finally, he lost himself. He came to my study some months ago, broken and weeping. He said, "I played the fool." I said to him, "Was it worth it?" He shook his head, and the big tears rolled down his cheeks. He said, "My God, no!" I am glad to say tonight he has been converted, and he is one of the finest Christian citizens of the state of North Carolina. His family is back, and he is one of the happiest men in the world.
I have a friend down in Jackson, Mississippi--some of you know him--by the name of E. O. Spencer. Mr. Spencer is an oil man and a hotel owner, and he is on our board of trustees at our Association. He told me one day, "You know, when I was a young man, I decided to pattern my life after an older man who was the most successful man in Mississippi. I began to do everything he did. I began to pattern my life exactly after him. Why, that man became almost a father to me. You know, that man did not believe in God very much. He did not believe in the church, and he never went to church. And I didn't go to church. I followed that man, step by step, until that man was struck down by a heart attack. And he was on his deathbed, and he called me in. That man was the richest man in Mississippi. And that man held me by the hand; and he said, 'Enoch, I have been wrong! Turn back, turn back. Don't go the road I've gone, because, when you are lying on your deathbed, the only thing that counts is God, and I don't have much of God.'" Was it worth it? No!
I talked to a man some time ago who was the wealthiest man, I guess, in the world--at least everybody says he is. And there he sat behind his desk--hard-faced, hard-eyed, bitter, condemning everybody, frustrated, confused, miserable, unhappy. There he was sitting on top of his millions, afraid somebody was going to get a few dollars from him. And I thought to myself, was it worth it? With all of his millions, he can buy anything. Yet his soul is lost, and his heart is as hard as steel toward God. Was it worth it? I tell you, throughout eternity he will be saying, "My God, my God, I'd give all my fortune for one drop of water to cool my parched palate." That is what the rich man cried when he went to hell [see Luke 16:24]. Was it worth it? The Bible says, "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" [1 John 2:17].
A famous actress was in her hotel suite one night some time ago. After receiving one of the greatest ovations of her career, she was in tears. And a friend said, "What's the matter?" She said, "I'm afraid I'm getting old, and there will not be many more such scenes of enthusiasm and applause as I've had tonight." Yes, the world stars burn out, its idols fall, its favorites wane, its glamor fades, its popularity passes, its days are numbered. The world system as we know it will entice you and lure you, but in the end it will pass away. Now, if you have put all of your time and energy into things of this world to the exclusion and the neglect of the development of your soul, the Bible says you will pay for it throughout eternity.
Satan will seek to trap you. And when Satan goes fishing, he always has a beautiful lure. And he throws his lure out; and you come along and say, "My, isn't that lovely. I can have a good time tonight. I can kick up my heels and have my fling. It won't matter very much. It will be over in a couple of days." Yes, Satan throws it out, and you catch it for a moment. The Bible says it tastes like honey; and then the Bible says it turns to gravel in your mouth [see Proverbs 20:17]. And after awhile it chokes you, and damns your soul. The Bible says this world's system is controlled by Satan. And the Bible says that Satan deceives the whole world [see Revelation 12:9].
Bryan Green of Birmingham, England, made a statement in Melbourne, Australia, today that was on the Associated Press this afternoon. Canon Bryan Green said the hope of the world is not in this world, but he said the hope of the world is in the second coming of Jesus Christ. He said, "I do not see any other hope."
Ladies and gentlemen, my hope is not in this world. My hope is not in a bank account. My hope is not in the things of this world. My hope is in eternal things. My hope is centered in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if your hope is not there, your soul is not anchored there. When you were created, God gave you a will of your own. And you can live any kind of life you want. But God warns that in the end there will be judgment and hell. Yes, sin pays wages, and the wages of sin is death.
Secondly, there is the price of salvation. Salvation costs a high price. When God looked down from heaven and saw this little planet spinning out into space in the midst of one of His universes, God saw that we were lost. He saw that we had rebelled against Him. He saw that we were separated from Him. We were lost, confused, deserted, about to burn ourselves up. God said, "I will save the human race. I will save men. I will save them from their sins. I will save them from hell." But in order to do it, it cost God something.
You say, "Well, Billy, why didn't God just come along and wipe out all of our sins, and kill the devil, and get it over with?" Well, I want to tell you. Some day, the Bible says, He is going to bind the devil [see Revelation 20:2]. And I will be glad when that day comes, because the devil is on me every day, and he is on you every day. He is tempting us at every turn. The Bible does predict that some day he is going to be bound in a bottomless pit [see Revelation 20:3]. Some day he will be cast into the lake of fire. The Bible predicts that.
But, at the moment, the devil is alive. The devil is the master mind behind the godless world system in which we live. The Bible tells us that he is the god of this age [see 2 Corinthians 4:4]. He has tremendous power. Certainly, today he is going to do all he can to keep you out of the kingdom of heaven.
When God created us, God created us because He loved us. God loved, and God had to have an object to love, and so He created man. He created the human race. But when He created it, He gave us the gift that He did not give to His other creatures. He gave to us the gift of the freedom of choice. We are free moral agents tonight, created in the image of God [see Genesis 1:27]. You have a body with eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet. But living down inside of your body is a soul, created in the image of God. That soul of yours has the ability to choose.
One day our first parents, Adam and Eve, decided of their own volition to rebel against God [see Genesis 3:6]. You and I as their sons and daughters have made the same identical choice. We have decided to live our own lives the way we want to live them. We are all sinners.
God is a holy God. God said, "If you rebel against me, if you sin against me, if you break my laws, you will have to pay for it. I am a holy God. I am a righteous God. No sinner can come into my presence. No sin can stand in my presence. I am a holy God, and a righteous God." You will never understand the Old Testament until you understand that God is teaching holiness and righteousness. The Old Testament is given to show one thing, that God is a holy God. He is a righteous God. He is an impartial God. He is an unchanging God.
The Bible teaches that God is so holy, and so pure that His eyes cannot even look upon iniquity [Habakkuk 1:13]. He can't even stand to look upon iniquity. He is so pure and so holy, we cannot comprehend it. Our little peanut-size, sinful brain cannot take in the mighty God. The fact is, He is so pure that the new-fallen snow would look black, and dirty, and grimy compared to the holiness and righteousnes of God. Because God is holy, when we sin we are immediately cut off from God, so there is no life within us. We are dead towards God. We are alive physically, but our souls are dead.
Here is a plant right here. Suppose I cut this leaf off. And when I cut it off, it looks beautiful and green. But it has been cut off from the source of life. It is green, beautiful. You say that is a perfect leaf. Yes, but it is cut off. And within a day or two this leaf will wither and die. It is already dead. You look fine tonight, but down inside you are dead. Now, what you need is new life. You need an infusion of God's life. You need to come back to God, but how could God do it?
God must keep His Word. God cannot come along and pat you on the back and say, "You are all right, fellow. I forgive you. Try not to do it again." God would not have been true to His Word. He would have tumbled from His throne. He could not do it. So what did He do? He decided to give someone who had the capacity to die for us all, to take our judgment and our hell. There was only one person in the universe who could do it, and that was God Himself in the person of His Son. And so Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the object of God's affection and God's love, the object of all of God's affections--He gave Him to die on the cross for us [see Romans 5:8].
When He died, He died in our place. "He [was] made . . . sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Because Christ died, God can now say, "I forgive you, not because you deserve it; you deserve death and hell. I forgive you because of my Son. I forgive you because of what my Son did on the cross. I forgive you. And in order to prove it, I will raise Him from the dead." [See Romans 4:25.]
God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive evermore, interceding for us at the right hand of God tonight--our intercessor, our representative [see Romans 8:34]. "It has cost me my Son. I have given Him on the cross. His blood has been shed for you."
Now, thirdly, the high price of commitment. You think you can come tripping along into the kingdom of God. You think you can walk down a church aisle and get into the kingdom of God. You think you can walk down this aisle and get into the kingdom of God. Walking down this aisle does not get you into the kingdom. That is only a symbol of your heart being given to the Savior. You cannot get into the kingdom of God easily. It cost God His Son, and it will cost you everything. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross . . ., and follow me" [Luke 9:23].
It will cost you your sins. You will have to give them up. It will cost you your pride. In order to come into the kingdom of God, you have to stoop. If you go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and you want to go down the street where they say Jesus was born, the door is only about twenty or thirty inches high. Everybody has to get on their knees and crawl through. If you want to come to Jesus, in your heart you are going to have to get on your knees in humility.
Oh, you are a big man in this town. It would take a lot of doing for you to do that. You are a social leader. It would take a lot of humility for you to do that. That's the reason Jesus said in the next verse it is hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven [see Luke 9:25]. Jesus knew that when you are an important man, and a rich man, it is hard to humble yourself. However, that is what is needed--humility.
You may be a leader over at the high school; but if you walk down this aisle tonight to give your life to Christ, the other kids would see you. What would they say? That is the cost you have to pay. You have to be willing to go back to the high school and live for Jesus Christ. It means that you are truthful, that you are honest. It means you are not ashamed of the Bible, not ashamed of prayer. It means that you begin witnessing for Christ. It means that the church is your number one spot of fellowship. It means that Christ has become first in your life. It will cost you something.
It may cost you some friends, some of the old gang that you have been running around with. You won't drop them, but some of them may drop you. Because you won't feel at home with some of them anymore. The Bible says, "Old things [have] passed away; behold, all things [have] become new" [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You make a choice for Christ, and immediately a change comes. Things are different. Some of the old relationships will drop away. Everything will become new.
When Borden, who was heir to the Borden millions, was a student at Yale University, he, the dairy king of America, gave his life to Christ. He renounced his millions, and left for Africa as a missionary, and died before he was thirty. It cost him his money, it cost him his prestige, it cost him his friends, it cost him some of his family. And it cost him his life. But tonight, I believe if young Borden could stand here in my place, he would say, "It was worth it!"
I have a friend in England by the name of A. G. B. Owen, a very close friend of Cliff Barrows. He has probably the largest private industry in the British Empire. When he was a student at Cambridge University, young Owen was converted to Jesus Christ. He decided to go all-out for Christ, and he gave his life completely to Christ. In the midst of his education, his father dropped dead. And all of a sudden he found himself head of one of the greatest industrial empires in the world. He walked into the first board of directors' meeting, just a kid out of Cambridge; and he had in his hand a Bible. And the board of directors was sitting there drinking, laughing, telling their off-color jokes; and they wondered what this young kid was going to say. The first thing he did was to put his Bible down, and put his fist down, and say, "Gentlemen, this company from today on will be run as a Christian company." He instituted new labor relationships. And everybody in England will tell you that he has the finest management-labor relationship in all of England, and has never had a strike. He told those men, "You will never drink at a board of directors' meeting again, and you will never tell your dirty jokes in my presence again. And if you don't like it, you can get out." He laid the law down. He has quadrupled his father's business empire, and he has kept it as a Christian company. He has forty corporations tonight with its tentacles all over the world. It can be done, but it will cost you something.
If you are willing to pay the price, God will give it back to you in a thousand ways you never dreamed of. Because Jesus promised, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all [other] things [will] be added unto you" [Matthew 6:33]. You can't out-give God when you give up your sins.
When I was a boy here in Charlotte--a teenager going to one of your high schools here in Mecklenburg County--and walked down that aisle, and gave my life to Jesus Christ, some of my friends thought I was crazy. In fact, one of the teachers called me "Sunday School Graham," just laughing, kidding. Some of the fellows--not all, but some of them--didn't know quite what to think. Some dropped me. I wasn't quite as popular at the parties anymore. It cost me something, because I was trying to live for Christ.
I was a failure in many ways. I wasn't the perfect Christian, by any means, but I was trying. My life had been changed. I had been going in one direction, and now I was going in another. I never dreamed twenty-two years ago, for the little bit I was giving up for Christ, that He was going to give it back to me ten thousand times. It's been my privilege to travel all over the world and meet the world's great, and to talk with prime ministers, and queens, and kings, and presidents, and to be friends with many outstanding citizens in the world. I never dreamed what God had in store for me.
Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and He will add all of these things to you. I tell you, it will cost you something.
This rich young man wanted to bargain with God. He said, "Jesus, can't you lower the standard a little bit? I'd like to have you, but I'd like to have the world too." Jesus said, "No, you can't serve two masters--it's either me or the world" [see Matthew 6:24]. The young man said, "Well, I can't give up the world." Jesus let him go.
There are many of you who are facing the identical choice tonight, and before you leave this coliseum you will have to make the choice. Are you willing to give everything you have got to Jesus Christ tonight? And say, "By the grace of God, I will start to read my Bible and to spend time in prayer. I will be faithful and loyal to the church. I will put Jesus Christ first. I will live a clean life for Christ. I will walk with Christ. I want Him to change my life. I want Him to forgive my sins. I want a new life and, by the grace of God, I will follow and serve Him."
I tell you, the communists are demanding all of that from their youth. And we in America are going to have to give the same to Jesus Christ if we are to be saved. Have you given yourself completely to Christ? If there is a doubt in your mind that you have had this encounter with Christ, that you have received Him, that your sins are forgiven, that you are going to heaven, that you have put Christ first, I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, hundreds of you, right now. Get up out of your seat, and come and stand right here. And say tonight, "I want Christ. I am ready to pay the price. I am ready to renounce my sins. I'm ready to receive Him as Lord and Master and Savior. I'm ready to follow and serve Him. I don't care what it costs. I'm ready by God's grace to pay the price."