Now I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Mark's gospel, the 10th chapter, beginning at the 17th verse. I like to preach on this text. It is one of the favorite stories in all the Bible. How many have your Bibles? Lift them up! We want to see how many have brought their Bibles. Thousands of people have Bibles tonight.
All right, the 10th chapter of the gospel according to St. Mark: "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, Honour 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 the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, . . . how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" [verses 17-25].
Here we have a picture of Jesus Christ, our Lord, going about in His ministry. He never traveled more than one hundred miles. All of His travels together would hardly fit into two North Carolina counties. Yet, He made an impact on civilization though He lived to be but thirty-three years of age. It was an impact such as has never been made by any other man who ever lived. Jesus Christ went about, the Scripture says, doing good [see Acts 10:38]. He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise. "He taught . . . as one having authority [Matthew 7:29].
On one of His teaching missions, He was standing perhaps at the foot of a ravine, and hundreds of people were gathered around listening. While He was preaching, a rich man in the community, the lord of the manor, the important man of the community, came running to Jesus, and fell down before Him, and said, "Sir, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said, "Have you kept the commandments?" He said, "I have from my youth, sir." Then Jesus said, "There is one thing that you still lack."
How many of you have kept the commandments? How many of you could say to Jesus, "I have kept the Ten Commandments"?
Now, you would think that a person who had kept the Ten Commandments would certainly enter the kingdom of heaven. You would think that a person who has lived so good a moral and ethical life would certainly be qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus said, "One thing you lack. Go, sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, pick up your cross and follow me." The young man could not pay the price, and so he turned away sorrowfully.
I want you to see several things about this young man tonight. I want you to see that he was like thousands of other young people whom I know tonight. He was searching for something that he had not found. In spite of his advantages, in spite of his education, his wealth, and his importance in the community, this young man was still searching for something. There was a sense of incompleteness in his life, a lack of fulfillment in his life. In desperation he comes to Christ.
I know many like that tonight, many older and younger people who have tried everything in life; and they have not found satisfaction, inward peace, joy, assurance, and security. They are still searching. I find today in my travels that youth are searching for security. They want something to which they can dedicate their lives. They want a challenge, they want an authority, they want something to believe in. And in our generation, they have not found it yet. They want authority.
The communist youth have found something. They have found a flag to follow. They have found an ideology to believe in. They have found a philosophy of life. And they believe that they are going to change the world.
Last Saturday night we had a little dinner after the service, and we listened to a man--a businessman from California who had just got back from the Soviet Union. He said that on the streets of Moscow he had never heard the chatter that he hears in this country. But he said something else. He said he never saw a drunk man. He never saw a lewd picture in Russia. He said he saw written on their faces a dedication. He said those young people were studying and working because they believe that they have the answer. They were going out to change the world.
I find youth all over the world today questing, searching, trying to find answers to the mysteries and problems of life. They need something. They want a control, they want an authority, they want security. I believe that that security, and that authority, and that flag can be Jesus Christ.
I find also that youth today in America are troubled with sex. That occupies a great deal of their discussion and conversation. Their bodies are maturing, and the sex urge is stronger at this period than any other time. And they are troubled about it. They don't know what to do with it.
Then I find that youth today have a feeling that they are also misunderstood by parents and elder people. So many of our young people look on their parents and older people as "squares" who can't "dig the jive."
I find also that thousands of young people are bored with life already. There is nothing exciting, there is nothing thrilling anymore. They have tried all the artificial stimulants, and it still has not given them that challenge for which they are searching. I read about a girl in the paper the other day. She committed suicide at twenty-one. And she left this note: "I have lived through all of the experiences of life, and there is nothing else." She was an old woman at twenty-one! Nothing else to live for.
I find also that many young people are troubled with their consciences. They do not know what is right or wrong. Sometimes they think about death, and they wonder about the future life, and they wonder what life is all about. They wonder where they came from, and why they are here, and where they are going.
I was speaking at Yale University last year, and at night--every night after the service--I would visit various fraternities and talk to the fellows. They would ask questions, and sometimes we would stay until 12 and 1 o'clock in the morning with two hundred fellows gathered around. One of these young fellows said to me, "You know, we have had so much thrown at us that we no longer know what to believe."
I find that young people are confused and mixed up; all over the country, and even all over the world. This young man was in the same boat. He was confused. He was mixed up. He was bewildered. He was frustrated. He was empty in spite of the fact that he had all the material advantages. He was handsome--maybe not as handsome as Elvis Presley, but he was handsome. He was rich, and he had plenty of money. He was morally straight; he was religious, very religious.
I find that people can have "religion"--put religion in quotes--and still not have peace of mind and heart. The truth is that the world is filled with religion. Many people go to church on Sunday and have a form of religion, but they have never had an encounter with the living God. They have never come really to grips with Jesus Christ. They have never come to a point of surrender and dedication to Him.
So this young man came to Jesus Christ. I believe that, first of all, he came to the right person. He came to Christ. Because, you see, Christ was at one time a teenager, too. He was a young man even then. He understood the problems of youth. The Bible says that Christ was tempted on all points such as we are [see Hebrews 4:15]. He had sensations along the same lines that you have. He had the same problems, and the same sorrows, and the same joys that you have. He went through this whole period of growing up. He understands your problems. He understands that sense of loneliness, and that sense of not belonging, and that sense of incompleteness. Those problems that you are wrestling with in your life, He understands all about it.
You know, I have never liked the artist's conception of Christ. Most of the artists have painted Christ as an effeminate sort of a person, a very weak sort of a person. I do not think that is the way Jesus looks. I think that Jesus was every inch a he-man. Because He had never sinned, I believe that His body, His nervous system, His mind was in perfect condition. I think that Christ was probably the strongest man physically that ever lived. He could have been a star athlete on any team. He was a real man with His strong shoulders, His squarish jaw. He was not only man; He was God! He was God incarnate. He was God in the flesh, but His flesh never knew sin. So there was a perfection about His body that you and I have never known. He was the type of man who, if He walked in here tonight, we would all get up and follow Him. He was the type of a leader that we could follow. He was a man who had a flash in His eye, a square in His shoulders, and a strength of character to His face. He was a man of courage and of boldness that the world is so sadly lacking today.
We have, generally speaking, so few men of real moral courage and moral character who are willing to stand for what they believe in, even if it means giving up their lives. Jesus was that kind of a person. He was the kind of a person to whom every young person could give himself in full surrender. Yes, I think they came to the right person because there never was a question put to Jesus but that He had an answer. There was never a moment when He was flustered. There never was a moment when Jesus was embarrassed because He didn't know the answer.
He has the answers to the problems of men today. He has the answers to the philosophical problems that men are wrestling with on some university campuses, if they would only turn by faith to Him. But, you see, Jesus told us to do something that we do not like to do. Jesus said you have to become as a little child before you can enter the kingdom of heaven, and we do not like to do that [see Matthew 18:3]. That's hard on our ego and our pride. That is the reasonChrist said, "You have to deny self." He did not mean you have to deny yourself a chocolate ice cream soda. He did not mean that you have to deny yourself a new television set, though that may be involved in some cases. He meant that you must deny your self, that part of you that is always interested in "me" and "mine," the "I," the ego. He said that "If any man is to follow me, he will have to deny himself, and then he will have to take up a cross. He will have to come and be willing to die with me, no matter what it costs." That was His qualification for being one of His followers. [See Matthew 16:24,25.]
This young man had come to the one who had the answer. But, more than that, he had come to the Redeemer; because Christ, at this point in His ministry, was on His way to the cross. The shadow of the cross hung across His path all of His life, and He was going toward that cross deliberately to die for sin. Because, you see, all had sinned. I do not care how good that man had lived; and I do not care how good you are, and how moral you may be. It makes no difference. The Bible says, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23]. We have all failed to meet God's requirements. Every one of us tonight is a sinner. Jesus knew that our sins had come between us and God. He knew that our sins were leading us to judgment, and destruction, and hell. So Jesus volunteered, because He loves us, to go to the cross and to die in our place, to take our judgment, and our hell, and our suffering on that cross.
Yes, this young man came to the right person. He came to Christ, who had the answers. He came to Christ, who was qualified to lead young people. He came to Christ, who was going to the cross to die for his sins because He loved him. The Bible says here in this passage that Jesus loved him. Yes, He did love him.
Secondly, this young man came at the right time. He came in his youth. Most of the great decisions of life are made when you are young. The decision concerning the person whom you are going to marry is made usually in your late teens. Then there is the decision regarding your career, or your vocation. What you do about God--usually this decision is made before you are twenty-two. Did you know that over half of the people who come forward in our crusades are between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five? The next category is between fifteen and nineteen. The majority of the people who give themselves to Christ today are young people. And the communists know that if you can capture the youth of the nation, you can do anything you want to with the nation. There is enough power among young people in America today to change America, and change the world--if that power were harnessed and given to Christ.
This young man came in his youth, and he was bringing to Christ not only his soul but his life. To live, to work, to lead for Christ--he was in a position where he could have led an entire community for Christ. He could have led a nation to Christ. Because, you see, Christ was a revolutionary. Christ was not a conformist. The greatest sin of our time is conformity. Christ was a noncon-
formist. He was leading men in a great revolution to save the world. He needed this young man, and He wanted this young man. So this young man came, and he was almost persuaded to enter the kingdom of Jesus. Yes, he came at the right time.
Joseph was just a young man when he was made prime minister of Egypt [see Genesis 41:39-43]. Daniel was a young man when he was made prime minister of Babylon [see Daniel 5:29]. David was a young man when he lay out under the stars at night and wrote many of our great psalms [see 2 Samuel 23:1]. They all came at the right time.
Come in your youth, you young people. Give your life to Christ now. A great philosopher said, "Youth is so psychologically constituted that he needs something to believe in." He said, "Believe in something, and give your life to it with all you have got." Oh, listen, you young people, give your life to Christ without reservation. Burn your bridges behind you. Count the cost, and then present yourself completely and unreservedly to Him. Follow Him, and serve Him. And I believe we could change America, following Him. There is something to believe in, there is an ideology, there is a philosophy, there is a flag. Let us follow Him, and serve Him, and give Him our best while we are young.
Then, thirdly, he came in the right attitude. He came running to Jesus, you noted. Running to Christ. You cannot come to Christ just any time you want. Christ might never have gone to this young man's community again, and probably He did not. There was one moment in his life when he had an opportunity to give his life to Christ, and he did not do it.
You have a moment tonight--right now in your home, right now sitting in this coliseum, and over in the other auditorium, or sitting outside watching the screens we have erected outside. You have the opportunity to give your life to Jesus Christ. You may never have it again quite like tonight. Because you can only come when the Holy Spirit draws you [see John 6:44]. The Bible says, "He that hardeneth his neck, being often reproved shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy" [see Proverbs 29:1]. The Bible says, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" [Genesis 6:3]. You can only come when God prepares your heart by the Holy Spirit. There is a little voice that will speak to you. That is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.
Do you hear Him tonight? He is making you uncomfortable. He is challenging you. He is convicting you. He is speaking to you. There is something down inside while I'm speaking that says, "That's it; that's what I need. That's what I ought to do." Right now, you are beginning to count the cost. That is the voice of the Holy Spirit. When He speaks, you had better come because you can only come when He is speaking. You had better not put it off. It is dangerous.
This young man came in the right attitude. He came in an attitude of humility. He fell down before Christ. He recognized his need of Christ.
We have about five percent of our youth in America who are getting into trouble with the authorities every year. Ninety-five percent of our young people are not in trouble with the authorities. And I have never understood why we don't play up the good things that our youth are doing rather than the bad things. Yet, over fifty percent of the crimes committed in America last year were committed by teenagers. So we have a growing problem. They are committing murder, robbery, perversions, drinking, narcotics--all the rest.
We in America are beginning to reap what we have sown. We have told our young people for years that morals were not absolute. We have told them that morals are relative: "Do what everybody else is doing. Do as you please." We have taken religion out of our schools, out of our teaching. What do we expect? We are now reaping it among our young people, and I do not blame the teenager. I blame this generation of older people, and the generation just past, for creating an atmosphere and a world in which our teenagers are growing up.
Actually, I think we have a parental problem. We have an older-people problem. I am finding as I travel around that older people are not nearly so responsive to the Gospel as younger people today. It seems that the older generation has a hardness and a callousness to it. It seems that the older generation is hard to reach for the kingdom of God. But I am finding that the youth of America are responsive to the Gospel. I believe that young people today are more responsive to the Gospel than perhaps any time during the last one hundred years in the United States. That is one of the most encouraging signs on the horizon at the moment.
Our theological schools are filled. Our Bible schools and Christian colleges are jammed, and young people from coast to coast are following Christ. Have you given your life to Christ? Have you decided to enter His kingdom, to receive Him, to follow Him, to serve Him?
Oh, there are a lot of things tonight that I would like to say to young people. I would like to quote some of the commandments to you. For example, one of them says, "Thou shalt not kill" [Exodus 20:13]. Have respect for human life. It is wrong to injure other people, whether it is a prank or whether it is deliberate. Secondly, "Thou shalt not steal" [Exodus 20:15]. Have respect for the property of others. Thirdly, "[Thou shalt] honor thy father and thy mother" [Exodus 20:12]. Have respect for older people. This is the only nation in the world where we have very little respect for our elders. You can go to China, to Japan, to Europe, to Africa; and you will find that the older a man gets, the more venerated he is, the more honor he has from the younger people. But not in America. We have too much accent on youth. Our older people have much to teach us. We are to have respect for them, and we are to honor our father and our mother--if it does not interfere with our personal relationship to Christ.
Then there is respect for the other sex. "Thou shalt not commit [immorality]" [Exodus 20:14]. Treat every girl as though she were your sister. Live cleanly and wholesome. You say, "Billy, I cannot. I have tried." Yes, you can. Not in your own strength, but in the strength of Christ. This is a creative energy that God has given you. It is God-given; it is not wrong. It is when you use it wrong and yield to Satan's temptation that it becomes sin. Use this energy for Christ. Dedicate it to Him, and let Him use this strength and this power for good. He can take it and direct it into channels that can glorify God and touch the lives of your fellowman. There is strength in Christ.
There is much tonight that I would like to say to parents, if we only had the time. I would like to say to parents, "Take time with your young people. Give young people ideals, set an example for them, discipline them in love, center your activities around the home, and teach them about God. And not only teach them, but live it!"
Fourthly, this young man came and asked the right question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" He had a twofold question there. What must I do to have peace, and security, and completeness, and joy here? How can I know that if I die, I am going to heaven in the future life?
I think every young person faces that at some time or another. To what shall I give my life? How can I get the best out of life? How can I know that I am going to heaven? How can I be sure my sins are forgiven? That's the question the young man asked Jesus. That was the right question. It is a natural question. It ought to be asked by every young person. In your quieter moments--if you ever have a quiet moment--you should ask it.
Then, fifthly, he got the right answer. Jesus gave him the right answer. Jesus said, "Young man, give all that you have to the poor, take up your cross, and follow me." Now, does that mean that Jesus wants you to give every possession you have away? No, because Jesus could read that young man's heart. Jesus explained that a couple of verses later. Because there is nothing in the Bible that says it is wrong to be rich, if you have gained it honestly. But the Bible does condemn trust in riches. And the Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil" [1 Timothy 6:10]. All the way through the Bible it condemns materialism, secularism, and worldliness. The Bible says that "Friendship [with] the world is enmity with God" [James 4:4].
All the way through the Scriptures, the Bible teaches that if you come to Christ there are two prerequisites--three, perhaps four. One: You must be willing to repent of your sins. You must be willing to turn from sin. Jesus Himself said, "Except ye repent, ye shall . . . likewise perish" [Luke 13:3]. I want to ask you tonight: Have you ever repented of your sins? Has there ever been a moment when you turned from them? You may not have the power nor the strength to turn from your sins because you have habits that already bind you, and you are already in chains. You are already a slave to certain sins, certain things that are wrong. You are proud, you are egotistical, you are filled with jealousy. Or, perhaps it is a moral sin; perhaps it is something else that has gripped you. But you must be willing to give them up. That is the essence of repentance. It means a change of mind, a change of attitude. It means that you are willing to say to God, "I am a sinner. I have failed thee."
Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. He rose again for your justification. He lives tonight. I am not asking you young people in America tonight to give yourself to a dead Christ. He is no longer on the cross. When He died, He died for sin. He died as the Bible says, "God . . . in Christ, reconciling the world [to] himself" [2 Corinthians 5:19]. And you cannot be saved without the cross. But He is not there any more. He is alive. He's a power in the world today.
This young man lacked something. He lacked a sense of guilt. He lacked faith in Christ, the Savior. He lacked a new heart, and he lacked self-denial.
Then, lastly, this young man did the wrong thing. He turned away from Jesus sorrowfully. He would not pay the price. He said, "Jesus, I'd like to follow you. I'd like to believe in you. I'd like to give myself to you. But, Jesus, I just can't pay the price." And the Bible says he was very sorrowful, and he was grieved when he turned away.
No one ever turned away from Jesus happily. I have never met a man on his deathbed who had rejected Christ, and who was happy. I have never met a man on his deathbed who had accepted Christ, and had regretted that he had given his life to Christ. Not one. But I have met scores who regretted, and were remorseful that they had not given their all to Christ. Give your life to Him tonight. Don't turn away from Him.
We see this young man later; perhaps not the same man, but the same story that Jesus is telling. This young man later has become an old man. He is hard, and cold, and callous. Then we see him later in hell, begging for one drop of water to touch his parched lips. As a young man, he had had his opportunity. He had faced a moment such as you are facing tonight, and he had missed it. He had said no. He had neglected it. He had not taken advantage of that glorious moment. And all through the rest of his life he regretted it. All through eternity he regrets that on that day he didn't say, "Jesus, I will pay the price. I will give myself to thee." [See Luke 16:22-25.]
I'm asking you young people here tonight to give your life to Christ. Then you who are older, you have some gray hairs, and perhaps you think it is too late. But God has spoken to you again tonight, and He is giving you another chance. I'm asking you tonight, the old and the young, to get up out of your seats--hundreds of you right now--and come and stand right here in front of this platform, and say by coming, "I give my life to Christ. I want to follow His flag. I want to serve Him. I want to look at Him. I want Him to have all of me. I don't care what it costs."
You say, "Well, Billy, why do you ask us to come down there?" Because when you come, that becomes symbolic of something that is taking place in your heart. You say to Christ, "I give myself to you. I want you to forgive my sins. I want to know I am going to heaven."
You may be a member of a church. You might even have lived as good a life as the rich young ruler. But you lack one thing. You lack the personal relationship with Christ. You lack repentance. You lack having received Him as your own Lord and Master. You are not sure about it tonight.
You soldiers from Fort Jackson, He can help you to be a better soldier. You people from New York, you people from all over the South who have come here tonight, give your life to Christ.