Billy Graham Center
10/10/58 - "Escapism"
Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer.
Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.
follows is a transcript of the newspaper page above, which appeared on
6-A of the October 11, 1958 issue of The Charlotte Observer
It is a transcript of the sermon which Rev. Billy Graham had preached at
Charlotte Crusade the day before, the eighteenth sermon of the crusade. Attendance
on October 10 was 12,500 and there were 516 inquirers. To read the actual newspaper page, click on any of the four quarters of the page above.
In the transcript that follows, any comments by the transcriber are in brackets
. Any asides by Rev. Graham are in parentheses (). The sermon title did not appear in the paper but is from
material supplied by the BGEA. Only the actual sermon is transcribed below. Any
introductory or concluding material included in the newspaper text is omitted.
Let us pray:
Our Father and our God, we pray tonight that Thy Holy Spirit will speak to many gathered here and that many shall come to know Christ, whom to know is Life eternal, for we ask it in His name. Amen.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome the delegation from the A.R.P. [Associate Reformed Presbyterian] Church through out this part of the county. There are about 500 to 600 men who have come. I was reared in the ARP Church and I owe to that church a debt of gratitude which I can never repay.
I spent many of my summers at their conference grounds. I was there again this summer and am looking forward to being there next year. We welcome you in the name of Christ and we are grateful for your presence tonight. We hope you have the greatest convention you have ever had.
Then to the girls of Winthrop [College], we give you a special welcome. When I was about 18 or 19 years of age here in Charlotte, I used to drive down to Winthrop and look you over and the girls in those days did not look as good as you look tonight. We welcome you and all of you who have come, by special delegation.
We have more empty seats tonight than any night since the Crusade began and I am very delighted because I hope you will get the word around town that you don't need any tickets to get in here.
Very Best Seats
That has been the great stumbling-block; everybody thinks he has to have a ticket to come and if he does not get it, then he stays away. For the very best seats here you do not need a ticket.
Tomorrow night I am going to speak on the subject, "The End of the World." Is the world coming to an end? Tomorrow night the service begins at 6:30 and you are out by 8:00 or 8:05 in time to see "Gunsmoke" or "Have Gun [Will Travel]", whichever one you want.
Then on Sunday afternoon 3:00 o'clock, I am going to talk on "The Home", the problems of the home. I announced in Portland, Oregon, that I was going to speak to all the men-a men's meeting only-on the home. 11,000 men came. Then I told the men not to tell the women what I had said, that I would give them the same message the next Monday night. A women's curiosity brought 30,000 women. That's right. 30,000 women came.
Now there will be no service on Monday. We are going to be at Fort Bragg and we are expecting about twenty or twenty-five thousand people down there Monday night, at 7:30. The only sermon topic I am going to announce for next week is Thursday night. I am going to speak on the subject, "Youth Aflame". We want to make that the greatest youth night we have had thus far.
We shall turn now in our Bibles to Hebrews, the 2nd chapter, the 3rd verse: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him."
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? There are three words in this text that I want to use tonight as the basis for what I have to say: escape, neglect, and salvation. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? In other words, if you neglect the salvation that God offers in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, how can you escape?
Wrath Of God
How can you escape in this life? How can you escape in the life to come? How can you escape from the realities, the tragedies, and the adversities of life here and now? How can you escape the problems with which we all must grapple? How can you escape the wrath of God in the judgment that is yet to come if you neglect so great salvation as is found in Jesus Christ?
A few months ago a man in a southern penitentiary wrote me a letter. He said that he and his colleagues had planned an escape. It was a very elaborate plan. But on this Sunday afternoon in his cell block, one of the inmates had his radio on. He tuned it to "The Hour Of Decision." And he said as the message in song and word came, he began to remember his mother. He remembered the old church he attended back in the country. And he said, "Tears began to come down my cheeks; and when the program was over, I got down on my knees in my cell and I gave my life to Jesus Christ." He said, "I threw away my plan for escape."
There are thousands of people here tonight who have plans to escape. You have plans to escape from the realities of life. There is a new word called "escapism" in our dictionary this year. And the dictionary says it is a retreat from reality into an imaginary world, and thousands are held in the clutches of escapism.
Instead of facing up to the realities of sin and defeat in your own life, instead of facing up to the problems of everyday living, you are trying to hide in an elusive imaginary world.
The Bible says there is no possible way of escape. Sooner or later we must leave our dream world and face the facts of life. We must face the problems, the tragedies, the despairs, the frustrations, and the realities of life.
Must Face Sin
We must face God, sin, and judgment as well. The Bible says, "There is none that doeth good, no, not one" [Romans 3:12].
The Bible teaches that every one of you has a body. You have your eyes and ears and nose and hands and feet, but inside of you is your spirit, your soul.
The Bible teaches that your soul was made in the image of God.
I have a watch in my hand. You look at the watch. What do you see? Do you see the watch? No! You only see the case the watch lives in. The value of the watch is unseen.
When I look at you, I do not see you, I do not see your personality, I do not see your ego, do not see your intelligence, I do not see your conscience, I do not see your memory. I do not see that part of you that the Bible calls "soul."
That part of you which the Bible calls "soul" was created in God's image. When I look at you, I do not see the image of God. When I look in the mirror, I do not see the image of God. It is my soul, my spirit, that is created in the image of God.
My spirit and my soul were made for fellowship with God, and my fellowship with God has been broken. It has been severed. It has been cut.
As a result, I, as a human being am filled with a moral disease called sin which brings about tension, strife, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, anger, war, intolerance.
All of these things, said God in the eighth of Mark, come from within a man's soul as a disease. That disease is sin and sin has cut off my connection, my fellowship with God. I am separated from the life of God.
Here tonight is a leaf. I have cut it off from the plant. That leaf looks perfect. It is a beautiful green leaf. But if I leave it here, tomorrow it will be wilted, and in a couple of days from now it will be dry and dead.
Spirit Is Dead
The Bible says you are cut off from God. You look fine; you are filled with life tonight. But your soul, your spirit is dead.
The Bible says that we are "dead in trespasses and sins" [Ephesians 2:1].
There is no life in us. Physical life, yes, but no spiritual life. When there is no spiritual life in me, I am really a monstrosity, I am unbalanced, I am filled with many psychological problems.
What the psychiatrists, by and large, today are dealing with are the symptoms which come from within. They come from that disease we call sin.
Man, as St. Augustine said in the fourth century, is restless. Man is restless; man is on a quest. He is searching for something. He does not know what it is; it eludes him.
A girl thinks she is going to find complete happiness in marriage, but having a marriage outside of Christ she is soon disillusioned. She has acknowledged that it's not all that she thought it was going to be.
Here is a man. He thinks that if he can make a pile of money, he is going to be happy. He gets his pile of money, but he does not find the desired happiness. So he begins searching somewhere else.
He may become an alcoholic. He may engage in some sex experience hoping to find happiness, peace, satisfaction, and joy. Yes, in that experience he can be artificially stimulated, but it is only for a few moments or a few hours. Then comes the hard realities of life once again.
There are many of you here tonight under drugs. You are under sedation, you are under alcohol, or in some other way you are trying to escape. You are trying to find that certain thing which you can only find when you come back to God.
You will only find it when the leaf is grafted back on the plant, and the life flows back into the leaf. You are separated from God's life, separated from the flow of the sap.
Is God's life flowing through you? That is what you were made for and, thus, all of your problems can be solved.
Come back to God through Christ. Give your life to God and immediately God's life begins to flow through you. You are grafted into God's life, and you become a partaker of God's life.
As a result of sin, personalities are warped. Frustrations, fears, nervous tensions, and a thousand-and-one other problems have gripped millions because of the moral disease called sin.
There are no new sins, only new sinners. There are no new crimes, only new criminals. There are no new evils, only new evildoers, no new pleasures, only new pleasure-seekers.
The devil has invented no new gimmicks over the ages. Sin and its accompanying effects are now and always have been the same. The murders you read about in your daily papers are no more shocking than the murder of Abel by Cain [see Genesis 4:8]. The sex perversions which our modern magazines play up as daring and new are only modem copies of the ancient perversions of Sodom and Gomorrah [see Genesis 18-19].
After so many thousands of years of so-called human progress, we are amazed to discover that man is capable of the same vices and sins. As a race, we are little improved spiritually.
We continue to resist the pleadings of Christ when He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" [Matthew 11:28].
Each passing day finds you a little deeper in the pit of despair. Some of you have given up hope of ever finding that little something down in your heart. Your intuition tells you it is out there somewhere, but you haven't found it. So you go on trying to escape.
First, there is the escape of imagination. The Bible says, they "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" [Romans 1:21].
It was evil imagination that lured David out of the path of blessing [see 2 Samuel 11]. It was evil imagination that lured Samson away from God's strength and God's power [see Judges 16].
There are many of you here tonight who find your escape in imagination. It was imagination that led the prodigal son to imagine that the pleasures of the far-off city were greater than the joys of his home [see Luke 15:11-24].
But Satan's dream world has a way of always ending with disillusionment.
The Bible says, "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" [James 1:15].
Thousands of people try to escape the realities and responsibilities of life by dreaming and imagining. There are thousands of people who read cheap magazines and they read cheap novels in order to get a vicarious thrill.
They let their imagination run riot, and they live in a dream world, all the time trying to escape.
The Bible teaches that with Christ in your heart you can face the realities of life, even though sometimes life is hard.
The grace of God will give you greater joy and pleasure than any dream world to which you may try to escape. Let Christ control your minds.
"Let this mind be in you which was in Christ" [Philippians 2:5], says the Scripture.
Christ's mind can take control of your mind, and there can be great relaxation to the nervous system when you give up your mind to the control of Christ.
Caused By Fear
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" [Isaiah 26:3], says the Scripture.
Is your mind on Christ? I am convinced that ninety-five percent of all nervous breakdowns are not caused by overwork. They are caused by worry, fear, and tension.
I do not believe these worries and feelings can dominate a person who is living in daily fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are reading your Bible daily, spending time in prayer daily, depending on God every day for every need of the day, I am convinced that there will be a relaxation which you have never known before.
Secondly, there is the escape of pleasure. So many try the flight into passion, appetite, and desire.
A man wrote the other day and said, "Mr. Graham, I am going to drown my troubles in alcohol."
A harried businessman wrote and said, "I am going to plunge into a lost weekend."
An unfaithful woman said some time ago, "I'll show my husband that somebody can love me."
So the poor frustrated individuals run like frightened beasts into the jungle of worldly pleasure, only to emerge more miserable than ever before.
The Bible talks about the deceitfulness of pleasure. Now, of course, you can have a good time. You can go out here and commit immorality and have a good time for a few minutes.
The Bible says there is pleasure in sin, but the Bible does not stop there. It says there is pleasure in sin, but for a season [see Hebrews 11:25]. Then it's all over. Then you are more miserable than ever before.
Your conscience is fighting. There is remorse.
How many people I have talked to at the end of life and they have said, "My God, how I wish I could live this life again, the wasted hours I've spent in pleasure and riotous living." Jesus wants you to have joy. He wants you to have a good time. That is why the Bible talks about "rejoice, rejoice" [see Philippians 4:4]. The Bible talks about the joy of Christian experience. The Bible talks about "the song of salvation" [see Exodus 15:2].
The Bible indicates that our hearts should be singing all day. There should be a smile on our face even through the tears of life. Christ can put spring in the step, a joy in the soul, and He can give you an inward peace.
Indeed, Christ alone can produce this through the Holy Spirit in your life. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . ." [Galatians 5:22]. You will have love so that you will love everybody. There will be joy so deep that all the problems of life can never disturb. There will be a bubbling joy like an inner spring, always bubbling.
The peace, the peace from God that He gives is all yours tonight but only in Christ, because your soul was made in the image of God. Without God, it is reckless and frustrated and confused.
Do you know Christ? Have you had this personal encounter with this living Christ? I know there are thousands of you who are loyal to your church, but I am not asking you that question tonight.
I am asking you this. Have you had a personal encounter with Christ Himself. I fear that sometimes in our churches we have substituted programs for Christ.
We have substituted organization for Christ. And some of our churches, I fear, have a tendency to become social clubs rather than producing men and women who have a living experience with the risen Christ.
I tell you, this business of being a Christian is a wonderful feeling. It puts fire in your eyes. It gives a purpose in living. It gives a new dimension in living.
It gives a sense of completeness, an inward joy that nothing can take away. Do you have it? The need in the church at this hour is for men and women who are committed to the person of Christ, with the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of the Spirit.
There is the escape of pleasure, and a lot of you have gone into pleasure to try and get away.
Then there is the escape of security.
Thousands of people, especially in this country in these tense times, are settling comfortably down in the security of a few savings, a good job, and luxurious living.
There is nothing wrong with being rich. The Bible does not say anything about it being wrong to be rich. It is not a sin to have money. It is a tremendous responsibility to have money.
When the money, however, possesses you, and when the money buys the security for you, that is a false security. Our only true security is in Christ.
I do not care if you are the richest man in Charlotte. Outside of Christ, you do not have any real security.
There are many things that money cannot buy. It cannot buy the love of a wife. It cannot buy the love of children.
John D. Rockefeller once said to his chauffeur, "I would give half of all I possess if I could exchange stomachs with you."
He had a lot of stomach trouble.
When Charlemagne's body was uncovered some years ago in the moldy tomb in which he was buried when he was king of the Roman Empire in the year 800, they found in his hand a golden scepter.
On the scepter was one verse of Scripture, "What shall it profit a man, if I gain the whole world, and lose my own soul?" [see Mark 8:36].
There are many that have gained the world's good - the pleasure and power and the security that money can buy but they have lost their soul.
Why don't we put values where they ought to be?
As I said last evening, some of you claim to be smart businessmen and yet you spend all of your time on your body - feeding your body - with very little time cultivating and developing your soul.
Some of you tonight are in danger of losing your soul - that eternal part of you which will be living a hundred years from now. You are in danger of losing it.
The Bible teaches that soul of yours will be consciously lost, separated from God, in Hell because of sin.
"What [will] a man give in exchange for his soul?" [Mark 8:36], said Jesus.
Then there is another escape that people have. It is the escape of alcohol, tranquilizing drugs, and narcotics.
Johnny Spence is here tonight. Yes, there he is. This man is one of the world's famous golfers. Maybe all of you have heard of him, Johnny Spence. Fifteen weeks ago he was on his bed, his deathbed, a hopeless, chronic, alcoholic. They had given him up in the hospital.
Johnny Spence gave his life to Christ in desperation, and his life is absolutely transformed. He has even lost the taste for alcohol.
He had tried all the medicines and everything had failed but Christ changed him just like that.
Johnny told me the other day on the golf course when he was getting birdies and I was getting double bogies--he said, "Billy, alcoholism is a disease, but it begins as a sin." I wish we had time tonight to tell you the full story of how Christ has changed his life. Christ can do it; here is the living proof.
On the other hand, I know men who are alcoholics, and I have not been able to get them to bend their will to Christ. They go on suffering this terrible disease, that has its roots in sin.
What God has done for Johnny, He can do for you. Maybe alcohol is not your escapism. It may be some drug that you are taking. You go around in sort of a half daze dream world. You cannot stand to be without it.
The Bible says there is no escape, none whatever. There are others who try to escape by suicide, and you know what the Bible says?
The Bible says, "Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; [and] though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down" [Amos 9:2].
Suppose tonight you wanted to take a revolver and blow your brains out. You don't escape. You've just killed your body; you haven't touched your soul.
Your soul with all its frustrations and tensions, all of its problems, all of its sins, is still in existence, still thinking, feeling and living, still separated from God. Except now there is no hope; now you are lost. You don't escape when you commit suicide.
The moment your heart stops beating you are out in eternity, but still more alive than ever before. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
You neglect giving your life to Jesus Christ. You reject Christ, and the Bible says there is no escape.
You tormented souls--run. Run down your blind alleys. Run into your pleasure. Run into your alcohol. Run into your security. Run into suicide. Run, run, run.
The Bible says there is no security; there is no escape. Eventually, you must face the fact of sin and God and judgment.
The second word--and I only mention it--is neglect. I cannot understand how a man or woman can neglect Christ. Suppose a traveler on the desert is dying of thirst, and someone comes and offers him a glass of water, and he just lies there and neglects it.
Suppose a prisoner is offered a pardon by the governor, and he neglects it. Suppose a sick man is on his deathbed, and he scorns the medicine which the doctor guarantees will cure him. Suppose a poor man is dying of poverty, and he is offered riches and he neglects to take it.
Here we are dead in trespasses and sin. Our souls are separated from God, and we neglect so great salvation. The Bible says there is no escape.
Felix was the governor, and Paul the apostle preached the Gospel to him. Paul told him how Christ died for his sins on the cross and shed His blood.
Paul told him how Christ had been raised from the dead, that He was a living Christ. And he asked governor Felix to repent of his sins and receive Christ. The Bible says the governor trembled.
Now, what made him tremble? Paul was in chains; Paul was a prisoner. He was the governor, but Felix trembled. Why? Because the Holy Spirit spoke to him through Paul. [See Acts 24:24-27.] While I am speaking here tonight, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
Some of you are feeling uncomfortable, and others of you are saying, "That is what I need. That is the medicine I need. That is the cure I need in my own soul." Others of you are sitting there almost trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit. But you know what Felix said?
The Bible says that Felix trembled and answered, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee" [verse 25]. Felix trembled. He was near the kingdom, but he neglected so great salvation.
Here's what happened. Felix called for Paul many other times, but never again was he so close to the kingdom of God. You can come here tomorrow night. You can come every other night of the Crusade, but you may never be so close to the kingdom of God again.
Tonight was the night. This was the moment the Spirit of God spoke to you. This was the moment you needed to commit your life to Christ. You stood on the verge of the kingdom.
You stood close to Christ. You almost touched Him, but you neglected. You put it off, and now it is too late.
"King Agrippa," Paul said, "believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." King Agrippa said unto Paul, "Almost ... thou persuadest me to become a Christian." [Acts 26:27,28.]
King Agrippa was almost persuaded. King Agrippa took the first step into the kingdom of God, and he missed the kingdom by a million miles. Almost he was in the kingdom, for he said, "Almost thou persuadest me." You have gone to church all your life.
You are a good person. But you really haven't had the personal encounter with the living Christ. You have not really committed your life to Him, you have not given Him everything, you have not burned your bridges behind you, you have not counted the cost. You have been almost persuaded at times, but not quite.
Give your life to Christ tonight.
The third word is "Salvation."
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
God says, "I want to save you, not only in the future life, not only from hell and to heaven. I want to save you here and now."
So we find three ways in which God saves us.
God saves us from the penalty of sin. Now the penalty of sin is hell, judgment. "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. There is a penalty to sin, because the word "sin" means broken law. You have broken God's law; you have come short of God's moral requirements.
There is a penalty for the broken moral law, just like there is a penalty for breaking the laws of the city of Charlotte. There is a penalty to breaking God's law, and the penalty is the "second death," eternal separation from God. Hell...that is the penalty.
But there is a penalty to this life also which you pay. God says that if you come tonight to His Son who died on the cross, and receive Him as your own Lord and Savior, "I will take the penalty away."
"There is therefore now no judgment to them that are in Christ Jesus" [Romans 8:1]. There is no penalty to them that are in Christ, says the scripture.
God has also promised that He will save us from the power of sin.
Why, when the Devil comes to you now, it's like the cat I heard about. Every time a person used to come along by the old cat, it had its tail stepped on so many times that every time it heard somebody coming, it just stuck out its tail. It expected to be stepped on.
The devil has defeated you so often that you just think that this is a normal experience; the old routine, the old monotony, the old grind, the old duty. And so you just sit down and say, "Oh, Mr. Devil, come on." No, the Bible says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you" [Romans 6:14]. Sin should not rule you. There should not be an evil habit in the world that could control you.
Oh, the devil will tempt you, and I can see the devil coming right now to tempt me. But I say, "Wait a minute, Mr. Devil. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I am promised that you shall have no dominion over me. You shall no longer rule me. You shall no longer control me because I have a new dynamic, a new power to resist you."
"Before I had this encounter with Christ I had no power to resist the devil; I am just a helpless person. But now I have supernatural power, more power than all the hydrogen bombs in the world put together. I have power to resist temptation."
You may be the biggest scientist in the United States and have the finest brain in America, but you do not have power to resist the temptations of life. Many scientists are breaking down.
Give Your Life
Robert Young, the great railroad magnate, blew his brains out this past winter in his beautiful home in Palm Beach. Why? Because he couldn't face life any longer.
Oh, give your life to Christ. Trust Him as your Lord and Savior. Then the Bible says, thirdly, we shall eventually be saved from the very presence of sin. All of us who know Him are to be with Him. We shall be in a glorious eternal paradise in which sin shall not even be mentioned or named, and we shall be saved from its very presence.
All the joy of being a Christian, the joy of following Christ, the power in your life, it's all yours by giving your life to Christ.
You say, "What do I have to do?" All right, I am going to tell you. Are you willing to forsake the things that are wrong in your life? Are you willing to live for Christ and put Him first?
I am going to ask you to do it tonight. You may be a student at Winthrop. Thousands of students all over America are coming to Christ.
You may be in this convention with the A.R.P. You may be a businessman. You may be a housewife. You may be a high school student--young people all over this place. I am going to ask you to come.
Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 7/7/05
© Wheaton College 2005