Let us turn tonight to the book of Ezekiel, the 22nd chapter, verses 30 and 31. How many have your Bibles? Lift them up. I want to ask how many of you here tonight during this crusade have come forward to give your life to Christ sometime during the crusade. I want you to stand up. Many people have stood all over the place.
Now let us look at these words: "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God."
In this passage of Scripture, God is saying, in effect, I am trying to find a man to stand in the gap, to make up the hedge for me that I may not destroy the land by my wrath. The sins of the people have been so great that the only alternative is judgment unless He can find a man to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. And then comes the answer. God says, "I found none."
I believe in 1958 on this night in October in this city God is looking for a man or woman who will be God's man or God's woman. At this tragic hour of history, God is searching for young men and young women whose hearts are aflame, young people who have caught the fire and enthusiasm and the reality of consecration and are willing to pay the price to follow and serve Christ whatever it might cost.
The world today is engaged in a titanic struggle. We are engaged in a struggle with communism. But we are engaged in this country with another kind of a struggle, though the source is the same. We are engaged with the forces of evil, the forces of darkness. And there is today a design, a master design, for the destruction of this country. The design is planned by the devil himself, and we see the forces of evil on the march in America.
We see crime increasing. Every day you pick up your paper and you read about some other big robbery--bold, daylight robberies by young people. We read in our papers of the most terrible crimes possible, committed many times by young people. Fifty-two percent of the crimes last year in New York City were committed by teenagers. We see the forces of evil stirring up racial tension all over America. It is not limited to the South. It is not limited to the southern part of the United States. It's all over the whole world.
That is the trouble in Cyprus, a race problem. That is the trouble in the Middle East; it is race. That is the trouble in India today. One of the great problems of India is race. It is one of the great problems in New York City tonight--race. It is a problem in Chicago. It is a problem everywhere. And it seems as if the whole world is a pot and the devil has a big stick stirring everybody up. Why, he has even got the church all stirred up. There is strife and jealousy, backbiting, even Christian people against each other.
The devil is working. And God says that "the only alternative is judgment, unless I can find some people who are willing to pay the price to stand in the hedge and make up the gap for God."
The communists tonight are apparently winning the world because they are dedicated. The forces of crime in this country are winning because they are dedicated. They have their own code, and they are dedicated to it. They are willing to die for it. They are willing to go to prison for it. There is a dedication on the part of the followers of the devil tonight. They are out to win the world for their own selfish ends. They are going to win our country unless we young people are ready to stand in the gap and make up the hedge and pay the price of following Christ.
We must make our influence count for civic righteousness in this country. It is going to take courage. It is going to take dedication. It is going to take everything we have got.
The communists demand from their followers--everything. A young communist, a lieutenant, came into a village in China where some missionary friends were and he captured the town. Then he said, "I am going to take that town tonight, about a mile away." And my friend, the missionary, said, "Listen, they have got ten thousand troops over there. You have only got five thousand. You will die tonight." This communist lieutenant, in perfect English--he had been educated in America--stood to his full height; and he said, "I would gladly die that communism might advance one more mile."
I was in Korea during the war. I remember up on the front lines on Christmas Eve, holding the hand of a handsome young marine from the University of Virginia who had just had a mine explode, and he was dying. And I thought to myself, this young man is paying with his blood and his life that the American flag might fly over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
What are we doing back home? Who cares back home? Everybody is making money, filled with pleasure; who cares about "Heartbreak Ridge"? Who cares about the thousands who have shed their blood to give us what we have got tonight?
I have walked over some of the great battlefields like Valley Forge and Gettsyburg and other places, and I have thought about the men who died there. Do we have the same kind of stock? Do we have the same kind of dedication that they had for Jesus Christ?
Every year it is my pleasure to give the Christmas message at West Point. There was a wonderful article in the issue of This Week magazine about a cadet at West Point which every kid ought to read. It was about Pete Dawkins. I know Pete. He is a great giant of a fellow. West Point never had anybody like him. He is the next General MacArthur, so they say. He is really something. He is captain of the football team. He is head of everything at West Point. You talk about discipline. Boy, they've got it at West Point! Now, there is a gang that works. When you finish West Point, you really must have something, because they eliminate the boys there. Only the men can take it.
I want to tell you that Jesus Christ demanded no less. Jesus Christ demanded everything of the people who followed Him. God said to Abraham one day, "Abraham, all right, you claim you believe in me. You claim that you are going to follow me. All right, Abraham, let us see how much you really believe. Here is what I want you to do. I want you to take your son, your only son, and take him up to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice." Now, I've got two boys. And suppose God would come to me and say, "Billy, I want you to take your boy and offer him as a sacrifice." That is putting you to the test.
But Abraham did not flinch. He did not ask a question. He took his son three days' journey to Mount Moriah, tied his hands, bent him over the sacrificial altar, pulled out a long knife and was ready to plunge it into the heart of his boy when God stopped him. [See Genesis 22:1-14.] No wonder Abraham is called a man of faith [see Hebrews 11:8]. No wonder Abraham is called a "friend of God" [see James 2:23]. Would you be willing to give God that much, you older people here tonight? What would you do if God said, "I want your boy to be a missionary"?
I know a boy who came to me in this town three days ago; and he said, "I just told my parents I wanted to be a missionary." He said, "They wept nearly all night. They said they were not going to let me go. They want me to take over the business of my family, and I want to go to Africa as a missionary." Those parents were not ready to pay the price.
Look at Moses. "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" [Hebrews 11:24-27].
Moses was more than just a son of Pharaoh's daughter. He was a prince. He was to have been heir to the throne of Egypt. Moses was a mighty military man. There are many traditions that tell us Moses was a military conqueror. And yet Moses, when the chips were down, gave up all of Egypt to go on the back side of the desert to be God's man.
Are you willing to give up the world and the flesh? Are you willing to give up the pleasures of this world that are wrong? Are you willing to give up everything to follow Jesus Christ?
Look at Daniel. When Daniel went into the lions' den, he thought he was going to be chewed alive. Daniel did not know, but he was willing to stand up for God. He did not care whether the lions ate him and swallowed him and digested him that night or not. And when he walked into the lions' den, going all the way with God, even to death, God spared him and brought him through triumphantly as He always does. [See Daniel 6.]
Look at Paul, when Paul decided to follow Jesus Christ and give Him everything he had. [See Acts 9:1-16.] He never dreamed what was coming. He says in 2 Corinthians 11:24, "Of the Jews . . . received I forty stripes save one." Think of it. They would take long leather thongs with steel pellets on the end, tie him up, strip him to the waist, and lash him thirty-nine times on the back. Then they'd pour salt on it. He had that happen to him five times.
"[Three times] was I beaten with rods" [2 Corinthians 11:25]. He was left for dead. Have you ever been stoned? Had sticks and stones thrown at you and hit you in the body until you are left for dead? That's what Paul had to do.
"Three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I've been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the heathen, in perils of the cities, in perils in the wilderness, in perils on the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirst and fastings, and in cold and in nakedness -- I've followed Christ!" [See 2 Corinthians 11:26-27.]
That's the kind of fellows and girls Jesus wants. People who are ready to suffer and bear and die. People that are ready to march under His flag. People that are ready to march in His army.
Young people in Egypt tonight and in the Arab world are marching under Nasser's banner. The people in the communist world, young people--dedicated, going to universities, studying, planning for the day when they will take over the world--marching under the hammer and sickle. Young people from countries where nationalism is running strong, marching under a hundred flags.
Why couldn't we tonight as young people march under the flag of Jesus Christ? The trumpets are blowing, the band is playing. Hail to the colors! Come! And instead of guns, let us carry Bibles. Instead of hate, let us have love. Instead of fighting and bickering and jealousy, let us have love of our neighbor. Let us go out with love in our hearts--dedicated, surrendered, disciplined, following Christ--young people aflame with the flame of Christ.
This is what Christ taught. He said unto His disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" [Matthew 16:24].
You know, Jesus had a crowd of young people following Him one day. And He said, "Now, wait a minute. You guys are following me. All right, if you want to follow me, you are going to have to deny yourself and take up a cross." About ninety percent of them excused themselves. "Will you just excuse me, Jesus? I didn't know you meant self-denial. I thought we were going to have a big time, and we were going to sit on a throne, and we were to live in a palace. I didn't know we had to go to the cross first. I did not know we had to deny ourselves first. Please excuse me. I don't think I can pay the price."
When the chips were down at the cross where He was dying for sin, only a handful stood there of all the thousands that heard Jesus. Of all the thousands that followed Him when He was in His popular day, only a handful stood by Him at the cross. Only a handful were willing to pay the price of His rejection. And tonight, if the truth were known and the chips were down and your life depended on it, thousands of you that think you follow Jesus would forsake Him and desert Him. You would betray Him.
And some of you betrayed Him today. Some of you young people betrayed Him at the school. You cheated in order to get a better grade. You told a lie in order to deceive someone. You cheated down at the office today on the time you put in, and you betrayed Jesus. When the chips were down and it was going to cost you something to be a Christian and to live like a Christian, you folded up. You gave in.
You were not willing to stand for Him even if it cost you your job, if it cost you even a friend, if it cost you popularity. You know that you should not have done what you did at the party the other night. You know you shouldn't have gone as far as you did in that parked automobile the other night, and you betrayed Jesus. You forsook Him. There was no self-denial. There was no self-discipline. There was not any cross-bearing.
Well, I want to tell you, when you follow Jesus there is a price to pay. It costs something to be a Christian. Don't let anybody tell you it is easy to be a Christian. It is hard to be a Christian. It costs something. Oh, it is easy to belong to a church. Some of our churches are just like a social club. If the preacher talks beyond 12 o'clock, you are ready to look for a new preacher. You don't want too much religion. One fellow told me the reason he likes his church is because there is no mention of politics or religion. That is a fact; he really told me that. I will not tell you what denomination; I would be ashamed to tell you.
Oh, yes, go to church; it doesn't disturb, it doesn't cost you anything. Oh, you throw in maybe a dollar in the collection, or you flip the Lord a fifty-cent piece on Sunday. You throw a little tip to the Lord and say, "Here you are, Lord. I'll tip you."
There is no real following Christ, no real surrender, no real dedication. You have not really met the Savior in a real encounter with Him. Oh, listen, in the midst of the battle and the strife of life, and in the midst of the battles on the mission fields to which God may call some of you, there will be peace and there will be joy in your heart. But it will be rugged and it will be tough and it will be hard. Satan will fight. He will tempt. He will throw every roadblock in your way that is possible. It will be a battle and a struggle all the way. But I want to tell you, in the end there will be victory and triumph.
Christ lays down the conditions, and only a few can meet them. It is a way of discipleship and renunciation. These words are found in the New Testament: "fight," "wrestle," "run," "work," "suffer," "endure," "resist," "agonize," "put to death"--these are New Testament words. A Christian is a soldier who must suffer hardships [see 2 Timothy 2:3]. A Christian is a boxer who masters his own body and practices self-restraint. The Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 9:25, "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." The Bible teaches that a Christian is an athlete. Christ said, "Come unto me . . . and learn of me" [Matthew 11:28-29].
To be a Christian there is, first of all, a personal encounter with Christ. There is a crisis. There is a decision. There is an acceptance. There is a committal. There is a personal relationship with Christ. There is trusting Christ the Savior first. There is a receiving of Christ. Then there is doing and wrestling and striving. We come to Christ first, then He sends us into the world. When Christ said, "Go ye . . . into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" [Mark 16:15], I don't think that He meant just the geographical world, just to go to Africa and China. He meant all of that, but He also meant the vertical world--the world in depth.
He meant the sports world. Some of you fellows play football. We have had a number of football players to come forward and give their lives to Christ in this crusade. He wants you to go back to that football team and witness for Him. That is going into all the world. Some of you businessmen who have come down this aisle to give your life to Christ, He wants you to go back to that business and witness for Him. That is going into all the world. That is your world. He wants some of you school teachers who have come forward to witness for Christ in the class. He wants some of you university students to go back to the campus and witness for Christ. He wants you to go into your neighborhood, back to your homes, and live for Christ, no matter what it costs. That is your world. Go into all the world; go to Africa and China, yes, if He calls you. But, folks, you can be a missionary right here in your little world.
Christ said, "If any man will come after me." And Christ does not compel anybody, for you have a will of your own. You do not have to follow Christ if you do not want to do so. You are not compelled to believe in Him. You have a will of your own. You can live any kind of a life you want. When you were created, He gave you a will of your own; and nobody can tell you what to do. You don't have to live for God. God gave you that ability to choose. But if you choose to follow Christ, if you choose to serve Him, it is going to be a fight and struggle, and it is going to cost you something. But, oh, the joy and thrill and adventure and the excitement it gives you. He takes you out of the old monotonous rut of living. He takes you out of the boredom.
Do you ever hang around a drugstore and talk about Elvis? Elvis said himself that he sometimes got so bored that he just stared at the walls. Do you ever listen to this rock-and-roll that they have now? Somebody asked me, "Do you know what rock-and-roll is?" I said, "Yes, I rode on the train the other night, and I rocked and rolled all night." Man, how people can take some of it I don't know. I'm glad they got over the Purple People Eater. That nearly drove me crazy, although I sort of liked it. Now they've got one, I believe, called Pussycat. I don't know what they will think of next. I think they are getting low in the barrel. Maybe they will start over and go back a few years ago and get some of the better ones like "Alexander's Ragtime Band" or something like that.
But when Christ comes in, He takes you out of all that. He gives you a new life, a new destiny, a new dimension for living, a new thrill, and a new joy. Suffering? Yes. Hardship? Yes. Trouble? Yes. A fight? Yes! It is not easy, but He gives you grace and power. And it is supernatural power.
While the world is going one way towards judgment, you, living for Christ, are going towards heaven with Christ in your heart. And someday, Jesus promised, you will sit upon the throne with Him. That is the promise and that is the hope, when His kingdom shall sweep the world. He prayed the prayer, "Thy kingdom come" [Matthew 6:10]. And His prayer is going to be answered because His kingdom is going to come, and He is going to be King of kings and Lord of lords. And we are going to be with Him.
But before the crown there will be a cross, and Jesus went to the cross in our place. When I see Christ hanging on the cross and dying in our place, He is calling on me to take my stand at the cross with Him. He said deny ourselves. Selfishness is characteristic of young people. We are all selfish, and the essence of sin is selfishness. "Me," "I," "my," and, "If you don't let me be the pitcher on the team, I won't play." Everything centered around yourself. That is the essence of sin--self-love, self-will, self-seeking, self-pride.
I want to tell you, it takes self-denial to turn off the television and spend an hour in prayer. It takes self-denial and discipline to get up an hour earlier to spend time in Bible reading. Christ said there must be the denial of self. And Paul said, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." "Yea doubtless, and I [counted] all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I . . . suffered the loss of all things, and do [but] count them [as refuse], that I may win Christ" [see Philippians 3:8].
"Oh, were the whole realm of nature mine," said the songwriter, "that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
Lord Jesus, when I see thee hanging on the cross, dying for sin, when I see your blood being shed, when I see those spikes going through your hands and that crown of thorns on your brow, when I see those whips lashed across your bleeding back, when I see you dying for me, I come to this cross and I say, "O Lord Jesus, the world--all of its charms--disappears. I relinquish my hold on the world, and I give myself to thee." Have you ever said that? Have you ever come to Christ? Have you ever entered His army? Have you said, "I'm going to follow Him, no matter what it costs"?
Then, secondly, Jesus said that you must take up the cross and follow Him [see Matthew 16:24]. It is voluntary. You have a free choice in the matter. The cross that He is talking about is a cross of punishment for sin. It is not a cross of gold or ivory or silver that you carry around. It is not poverty or sickness or the loss of friends. It is not the common annoyances and vexations of life. It is not doing unpleasant duties. The cross was a place of torture and shame and execution. To take up your cross means to associate yourself with Christ in His rejection. The cross was a place of execution. It would mean the same as though I would say to you, "Take the electric chair and follow me."
"Well," you would say, "wait a minute now, Billy. An electric chair, gas chamber--no, I couldn't do that. Why, I'll do anything but that. That's a symbol of execution. That's a place where criminals go." That is exactly what Jesus meant. It was a symbol of His execution. And He said, "You have got to be willing to come with me." He says this in John 15:19, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Jesus said that the world system, the present evil world system, will hate a true Christian.
There will be moments when the world will turn on you for being a Christian and living a Christian life. We have not seen so much of that in this country. I believe we may see it in days to come. I know places where I have been in India, in South America, and also in the Far East where when a man comes down an aisle to give his life to Christ, his family throws him out. They stone him, and some of them are beaten to death because they dare to take their stand at the cross of Christ. Are you willing to take the scorn of the high school gang? Are you willing to go back and live for Christ? Are you going to refuse the gang when they take that drink? That is your cross.
You are going to refuse to engage in immoral practices. You are going to refuse to live an unclean life. You are going to refuse to swear. You are going to refuse to go to some of the things you know are wrong. You are going to start reading your Bible. You are going to start making Christ the center of your life. That is what He means--cross-bearing.
You might not be invited to a lot of things that you were formerly invited to. It will cost you some social standing and some social prestige if you give your life to Jesus Christ. If you are not willing to pay it, then forget the whole business. Forget about going to heaven, forget about eternal life, because you cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ. He said that you cannot be a disciple unless you are ready to deny yourself and take up the cross. The world system will not like it. There will be friction and there will be strife. You will be going against the grain of the world. Jesus said, "Follow me. Follow me whatever it costs."
One man said, "Well, Jesus, will you wait a minute? My dad just died and I would like to go bury my father." Jesus said, "Let the dead bury the dead." Even the sacred duty of burying one's own father is not to interfere with the higher obligation of following Christ. [See Matthew 8:21,22.] Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth [a] son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" [Matthew 10:37]. In other words, Jesus said nothing is to interfere with your relationship to Him.
When Jesus put the proposition to the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, who wanted eternal life, Jesus said, "All right, sell all you have, burn your bridges behind you. Come all out and follow me." And the young man would not pay the price. The Bible says, "He went away sorrowful" [Matthew 19:22].
I am asking you tonight to follow Christ in a disciplined life, to begin prayer, to begin Bible reading, to discipline your mind, to crucify your tongue, to redeem the time, to plan each day as if it were the last day.
Lenin once said, "A communist is a dead man on furlough." It means keeping your body under control. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [see 1 Corinthians 6:19]. The Bible speaks a great deal about the control of your body. Let the Holy Spirit control you. Turn your life over to God. Turn it over to Christ. I am asking you to follow Christ by enlisting as a soldier in His army, by giving yourself to Him unreservedly.
How do you enlist in His army? You enlist by being willing to repent of your sin, being willing to present yourself to Jesus Christ tonight without any reserve, without holding back one thing. When you do, He will come into your heart, transform you, change you, forgive you, start you in a new direction. When you go back to the old gang tomorrow it may be hard, but He will go with you. He will give you supernatural power to witness and testify and to live. You cannot deny yourself by yourself. You cannot bear your cross by yourself; but, oh, the Holy Spirit of God is there to help you. Jesus said, "And, lo, I am with you alway" [Matthew 28:20].
It won't be long till Jesus comes. It won't be long till we stand before Him. And there may be a cross to bear for a while. There may be self-denial for a while. But at the end it is glory and heaven and triumph and victory. Go on the way you are going and it may be the easier road, but Jesus said the end of it leads to hell. The road to heaven is narrow. It is hard and it is rough and it costs something.
But I am asking young men with red blood in their veins, I am asking young women who want to go all out in this generation to believe in something, to follow something, to give your life to Christ tonight. I am going to ask you to get up out of your seats right now, to get up out of your seat and stand right here. And say tonight, "I am giving myself to Christ as best I can. I am willing to renounce my sins. I am willing to deny myself. I am willing to take up my cross. I am willing to follow Christ no matter what the cost."