Billy Graham Center

10/25/58 - "Excuses"

Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

What follows is a transcript of the newspaper page above, which appeared on page 11-C of the October 26, 1958 issue of The Charlotte Observer (Sunday). It is a transcript of the sermon which Rev. Billy Graham had preached at the Charlotte Crusade the day before, the twqenty-ninth and final sermon of the crusade. (Rev Graham also preached the next day to 60,000 people at the nearby Fort Jackson military base.) Attendance on Ocotber 25 was 14,500 and there were 856 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.


Now tonight, for my last message here in the coliseum, I have been in somewhat of a dilemma all day as to what I should speak on. I am not going to speak on the subject I had announced because this afternoon I felt led along a different line. I want to speak tonight from the 14th chapter of Luke's gospel; the 14th chapter, beginning at the 15th verse:

"And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

"And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: [and] I pray thee, have me excused. And another said, I have . . . a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

"And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper." [Verses 15-24.]

Here we have a picture of Christ. He has been going along the country making the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak and the lame to walk [see Matthew 15:30]. He had fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes [see Mark 6:32-44]. And if you want to see what Jesus thinks about the world, look at Him as He feeds the hungry people. Half of the world goes to bed hungry at night. I wish you could see the people in India as I have seen them, on starvation diets, and trucks rumbling through the streets of the great cities in India, picking the people up who have died of starvation during the night. I wish you could see the suffering in Korea. If you want to know if Jesus has any concern or compassion, read the stories of Jesus, how He had compassion upon the poor.

Jesus, on this occasion, was eating at the home of a Pharisee, whom I presume was a very wealthy man. A crowd had gathered around Him and the Pharisees. And although skeptical of Jesus, they never could quite understand Him; they could never make Him out. Because, you see, Jesus was a revolutionary.

Jesus was popular with the masses, but He was not popular with the ecclesiastical leaders of His day because He was too revolutionary. He taught something new. He taught that men are to love their neighbor as themselves. He taught that a man is to go the second mile. He taught that if somebody strikes you on one cheek, you are to turn the other cheek. He taught that you are to forgive seventy times seven. He taught a new way of life. He taught a new theology. He had a new system of ethics to offer the world. And Jesus not only taught that God judges on the basis of what we do, but that God judges on our motives and thoughts and intents. The people marveled because He spoke "as one having authority" [Matthew 7:29].

But the Pharisees didn't like it. They invited Him to their house; they wanted to hear what He had to say. Jesus was eating with the Pharisees, and they were asking Him questions. And on a social occasion like this, Jesus always used it in order to preach His message. He was a wonderful storyteller. He always held His audiences fascinated. Why, even the children were interested in stories of Jesus. He was a storyteller.

Abe Lincoln was a storyteller. Alben Barkley was a storyteller. The greatest speakers have been storytellers. Jesus was a storyteller. He never told a story just for a joke; He never told a story just to tell a story.

This time He tells the story of a feast. He tells that a man held a great feast, and he invited his friends and neighbors to come in. But one after another began to make an excuse. Now Jesus in this story is illustrating the spiritual need of the human race. He is illustrating your spiritual needs and mine. He said, first of all, all men are guilty before God. Now we know that whatsoever the Lord sayeth, He sayeth to them that are under the law that all the world might be brought under the judgment of God [see Romans 3:19].

The Bible contains the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and the Sermon on the Mount is only an explanation of the Ten Commandments. That's all the Sermon on the Mount is. The Sermon on the Mount just explains the Ten Commandments. The Bible says that the Ten Commandments became the moral law of God.

But when God gave those rules, He knew that we could not live by them, because we do not have the capacity of ourselves to live up to the Ten Commandments. There is not a person in this room tonight who has ever kept all of the Ten Commandments. In fact, I think I could prove to you tonight that there is not a person in the room who has ever kept one of them. You say, "But, Billy, I have never murdered anybody." Jesus said if you have ever hated anybody, that is the same as murder in the sight of God [see Matthew 5:21,22].

You say, "But I have never committed adultery." Haven't you? Have you ever had lust in your heart? Jesus said if you have ever had lust in your heart, you have committed adultery [see 5:27,28].

Jesus said we are all guilty, and the law was given for this reason. The law was given just like I give you a mirror tonight. Suppose I handed you a mirror. You look in that mirror, and what do you see? You see a reflection of yourself. You see your image. When you read the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, you see yourself spiritually.

As you read it and reflect on it and meditate on it, you begin to say to yourself, "I have not lived that way. I am not that good. I have not lived like Jesus wanted me to live. I have not lived up to the Ten Commandments." And when you say that, you are actually saying, "I am a sinner," because the word "sin" means lawbreaker.

There are many of you who are morally good. You are fine men; you are fine women. You are upstanding. But there is another definition of the word "sin" that means "come short." You have come short of God's glory [see Romans 3:23]. You have failed to meet God's requirements. You might have come close to meeting God's requirements, but none of us has met God's requirements. Because Jesus Christ was everything God meant for a man to be. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He was not only the Son of God; He was the Son of man. He was the ideal man, and if any one of us in this room has come short of what Jesus was, then we are sinners. And that includes us all.

Everyone in this room, including the speaker, has failed to live up to the standards of Jesus. Therefore, we are called sinners. We are lawbreakers. We have come short of meeting the requirements of God.

Jesus says that we are guilty. We are guilty of breaking God's law. Just like you would be guilty of breaking the laws of the city of Charlotte, so you are guilty of breaking God's law. And to be guilty of breaking God's law means that there is a penalty attached, and the penalty is death. The wages, the results of sin is what? Death--D-E-A-T-H. [See Romans 6:23.]

The Bible speaks of three kinds of death. First, there is physical death. We see that everywhere. You go by the graveyard and see physical death. And the Bible says, "It is appointed unto [man] once to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. I don't care who you are. You are going to die.

Every person in this room will be dead, and every fourth person in this room will be dead in ten years. One out of every four in this audience tonight, according to the law of averages, will be dead in ten years. The audience that is here tonight will never gather just like this again. Look at us. Never again in history will we ever be gathered just like we are tonight.

There will be some people who will not live the month out. There will be many who will not live the year out. "It is appointed unto man [once] to die," and physical death is partially a result of sin.

But there is another kind of death. The Bible calls it spiritual death. Spiritual death--what does that mean? That means that my soul--I have a soul living down in my body. My body does go to the grave, but I also have a soul. That is my personality, my intelligence, my memory, my ego. That part of me lives on forever and is called my soul, or my spirit. That part of me, the Bible says, is cut off from God by sin.

Now that is where sin is. Sin is in the heart; sin is in the soul. Sin is a disease. All of us have this principle of sin that pulls us down. And that is what is wrong with the world tonight. You will never have world peace as long as you try to build world peace on a cracked human nature. As long as you have men in the world who hate, as long as you have men in the world with greed, as long as you have men in the world with intolerance and bigotry, as long as you have men in the world who lie and cheat and steal, as long as you have men in the world who murder, you have the possibility of world war.

So what is the great need in the world tonight? It's to find some medicine, it's to find some cure for the human soul, for the human heart that will make men love instead of hate, that will make all men neighbors. That's the need in the world tonight. Until we find that cure, until we find that medicine, the world faces the possibility of anything happening, including the annihilation of the human race. The collective problems of society are only reflections of the individual problems. And the individual problem is sin.

Even those of us who like to do good--we can't do good because sin is present with us [see Romans 7:15]. Why, you told a lie the other day. You didn't want to tell a lie, but you did it. You didn't want to get drunk the other night, but you did. You didn't want to commit immorality the other night, but you did. You couldn't help it. You are in the control of something beyond yourself. You didn't want to get mad at your wife and tell her off the other day, but you did. You didn't want to lose your temper the other day, but you did. Why? Something is pulling you down that is supernatural. You don't have the strength to resist it. What is it? It's the ruling principle of sin, and Jesus said every one of us is infected. And Jesus said that we are all sinners.

But Jesus said, "Wait a minute. I can do something about it." Jesus said, "I can change human nature." That is the most revolutionary statement when He said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again" [John 3:7]. He said, "When ye believe in me, ye shall have everlasting life" [see verse 16]. He meant life here and now. He meant life in the world to come. Jesus said, "I can make men love instead of hate." Jesus said, "I, by a supernatural act, can change you."

But He said, first, you must be forgiven of sin. That is the reason Jesus deliberately went to the cross. The cross was not an accident. Jesus was not killed by one particular race of people. He was not killed by Rome. Jesus deliberately, voluntarily, went to the cross. And it was your sins and my sins that put Him there because the Bible says that God "laid on him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6]. The Bible says He was made "sin for us, who knew no sin" [2 Corinthians 5:21].

He went to the cross to take our sins in order to give us spiritual life. And as a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies and then brings forth life, so Christ had to die on the cross before He could give us life [see John 12:24]. Because of His death and resurrection we can have life tonight. We can have forgiveness of all our sins, be accepted by God. We can turn around. That is called conversion. Just turn around--that is all conversion means. Turn around and start in a new direction. And this time we will have a new dimension to live; we have a new peace in our soul, a new joy. Our hearts are anchored into something. There is assurance, there is peace, there is a security that Christ brings. He gives supernatural ability to live a supernatural life. It is all yours tonight, says God, if you are willing to come to the cross.

Now God says, "I'll meet the human race. I'll meet men and women. I'll forgive their sins. I'll make them new people. But I'll only do it at one place, and that is at the cross. Unless you are willing to identify yourself with my Son at the cross, it won't work."

When God invited men and women to the cross to be forgiven of sins, they began to make excuses. One fellow in the story that Jesus told bought a piece of land, and he had to go see it. Well, he was more interested in his business than he was in being converted. He was more interested in his business than he was in his soul. He was more interested in his business than he was in God.

There are many of you who are so taken up with your business that you don't have time for the cultivation of your soul. You don't have time for the real things in life. You don't have time to read your Bible, to reflect, and meditate, and pray. You don't have much time to go to church. Oh, you go once in a while. You may even be a member of the church, just like you are a member of a social club; but you haven't encountered Christ. You haven't forsaken your sins. You haven't denied yourself and taken up the cross and followed Him. You haven't really received Him. And if you died tonight, you are not sure you would go to heaven. You have said to God, "Lord, I'm just too busy. Excuse me, please. I can't come to your cross. I just don't have time. Please excuse me."

Then there is another fellow who said, "I bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them. I pray thee have me excused." "Excuse me. please, Lord, but I have got to go watch my oxen." It was perfectly legal; it was all right to go see his oxen. But he was putting that before the kingdom of God. And the Bible says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" [Matthew 6:33]. Have you put God first? Have you put Christ first? These other things are all right, but Christ wants first place.

I never find a place in the Scripture where you can come to Jesus and give Him less than everything you have got. The rich young ruler wanted eternal life. He said, "Jesus, I will give it all except . . . ." But Jesus said there can be no exceptions. You must come and leave all. [See Matthew 19:16-22.] Jesus didn't ask you to give up everything. He just wants you to put Him first. He wants you to give Him first consideration. He wants you to give Him the pre-eminent place, the number one place. He demands that! If you aren't willing, you can't be in His kingdom, you can't be forgiven of sin, you can't go to heaven, you can't have this new life that He promises here and now.

Then, thirdly, another fellow said, "I have married a wife; therefore, I cannot come." Now, that man is the only man who had any excuse at all. Yet Jesus said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brother and his sister, he cannot be my follower" [see Luke 14:26]. In other words, Jesus said, "You have to put me even before your family."

The demands of Christ are hard, and that is the reason Jesus said the road to heaven is narrow and only a few find it. He said the vast majority are on the broad road that leads to destruction. He said the gates of heaven are narrow; the gates to the kingdom are narrow. [See Matthew 7:13,14.] You have to pay a price. It costs something to be a disciple of Jesus.

And that's right where communism has got us over the barrel. Communism gives man everything, and I believe that communism is the counterfeit of Christianity. Communism demands conversion. Communism demands repentance of past failures and sins. Communism demands everything that Jesus demanded. It demands that you give up everything to be a communist. Jesus demanded no less. Jesus said, "If you are going to be in my kingdom, you have got to give up everything."

And I am asking you tonight, have you given Him everything? Is He first in your life? Have you really encountered Christ? I would hate to think that this great crusade is closing and you had not really come to Jesus Christ. Because, you see, you can't just decide all of a sudden that you are going to come to Christ and come to Him. You can only come when the Spirit of God draws you. And in a great crusade like this one, the Spirit of God has been working. And thousands of people have had an opportunity in this crusade, and they have not come to Christ yet.

I beg of you to come tonight. The summer has ended, the harvest is past; and you are not saved [see Jeremiah 8:20]. The benediction will be said in a few minutes. The great crusade for which thousands have prayed all over the world will end. The great crowds have come. God has moved mightily in the two Carolinas. The spirit of spiritual awakening is here.

Do you know what God says? God says in Romans 1:20, "They are without excuse." God says there is not an excuse that you can think of for not coming to the kingdom of God. And without exception, He says you are without excuse. Since I have been here in Charlotte, and in the last few years in America, I have heard a number of excuses.

You can improve yourself intellectually and morally and physically, but you cannot improve yourself righteously. The Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God [see Isaiah 64:6]. You cannot work your way to heaven. We do not get to heaven by our works. We get to heaven by the mercy and the grace and the love of God. He loved us so much that He was willing to give His Son to die for us. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" [Romans 5:8].

You'll never get better; you'll never get good enough to be accepted by God through your own strength. If you feel like a sinner and if you feel unworthy, that is the time to come. That is when He receives you with great joy.

Then there are others who say, "I would give my life to Christ, but there are too many hypocrites in the church." How many times I have heard that old lame excuse, and it is the most foolish excuse. "Well, I am never going to see a doctor because there are too many quacks practicing." Is that what you say? There are hypocrites in medicine, too. "I am never going to drink another glass of milk because I've heard of some dairymen who put water in the milk." And don't you ladies ever buy an antique again, because I've seen in Europe an "antique manufacturer."

There are hypocrites everywhere you turn. That is no excuse. God says that won't be an excuse because the Bible says that the hypocrites have their part in the lake of fire [see Matthew 24:51]. The hypocrites are lost; the hypocrites will be in hell. But that is no excuse for you. Oh, sure, the church has its hypocrites; it has its faults. Jesus had a little handful of twelve men. His little church had only twelve, and He had one that betrayed Him [see Matthew 26:47-50]. He had a hypocrite in His little church. There is no perfect church. That is no excuse for you.

Then there are others who say, "Well, if I became a Christian, I would have to give up too much. If I gave my life to Christ, I would have to give up too much." Yes, you do have to give up your sins; you really do. It will cost you your sins. But in costing you your sins, you take on so much more than you give up. And the Christian life is not just giving up. The Christian life is taking on joy and peace and security and assurance. He puts a spring in your step and a joy in your soul. He fills that empty space in your life. He gives you a new dimension for living. It is all yours if you give your life to Christ.

Then there are others who say, "Well, I have tried to live the Christian life, but I failed." Suppose I am going down the road, and I stumble and fall in a ditch. You say, "Well, why don't you get up out of the ditch?" "Well, I tried and failed. I have tried to walk, and I just can't. I am just going to lie here." Well, you don't say that. You get up and try again. You learn to ride a bicycle--you fall off--you try again until you master it and you learn it.

If you have fallen back and fallen away, and if you are a backslider--you have grown cold in your heart and slipped away from the church--He will receive you. He says that we can stop our sins, be faithful, and Christ will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness [see 1 John 1:9].

Then there are many others who say, "Well, I would give my life to Christ, but I can't understand the Gospel, I can't understand religion. I pick up the Bible, and I can't figure it out. I look at all the churches, and there are so many churches I can't figure out which one to join. I just don't understand religion. I don't understand why Christ had to die. I don't understand the resurrection. I don't understand all these things."

Well, let me tell you something. I don't understand how a black cow can eat green grass and give us white milk and yellow butter; but I drink milk. And I certainly don't understand television. There are two little red lights on me right now, and I know that I am talking into the homes of many hundreds of people. I don't understand that; but I still watch television. There are a thousand things you don't understand that you accept every day by faith.

Why, you even had faith this morning that your wife didn't poison the coffee. Sure, sure you did. You will laugh at that, but there was a girl yesterday who had faith in her husband, and got shot. You have confidence in your wife.

There is a certain amount of faith in everything we do, for the Bible is filled with the word "faith." It says you have to accept Christ by faith. "As many as [have] received him, to them gave he [the] power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" [John 1:12]. Come by faith. This business of coming to Christ is not an emotional business. It's not even totally intellectual. As someone said to Beverly Shea, "I don't know much about God, but what I do know has changed my life."

I want to tell you people in Charlotte, I was born and reared in this city. I love the people of this city more than any city in the world. I would gladly lie down and die for this city and for this old north state. I love this state, and I have chosen to live here. I could live anywhere in the country, I guess. I travel all the time, but I wanted to live here. I love the people, and I love the state, and I love all of you.

I wish I could go home and have a cup of tea with all of you and just get to know you and hear your story and get to talk to you, but that's impossible. I would not stand here tonight on this last night, some day having to face God at the judgment, and lead you astray. I want to tell you this: You can only be saved, from the scriptural point of view, by coming to Jesus Christ. And you come by faith--simple, childlike faith. That is the reason Jesus said, "Except ye be converted, and become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom" [see Matthew 18:3]. You have to be as a little child.

There are others who say, "I am afraid I cannot hold out." No, you can't hold out. Suppose you come and give your life to Christ. You couldn't hold out. A lot of people have an idea of the Christian life that we are holding on to something. A life jacket has been thrown to you, and you are holding on for dear life, and do not realize that the strong mighty arms of Jesus are around you. He says, "From tonight on I will be with you all the way, even unto the end of the world" [see Matthew 28:20]. He does the holding. You come and give your life to Christ.

Then others say, "I am going to give my life to Christ sometime, but not tonight." When do you intend to give your life to Christ? Under what circumstances? That is the most dangerous thing you can say. The Bible says, "Boast not thyself of [the morrow]; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" [Proverbs 27:1]. The Bible says, "Behold, now is the accepted time; . . . [today] is the day of salvation" [2 Corinthians 6:2]. The Bible says, "Wherefore, today if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart" [see Hebrews 4:7].

I tell you, it is a dangerous thing to put it off. And at the end of it all, after all the excuses have been heard, God says, "There is no excuse." You can come up to the judgment like the man Jesus told about and said, "Lord, I cast out demons in your name." He will say, "Depart from me, ye cursed." [See Matthew 7:22,23.] There are others who will come with other excuses, and God will say you are without excuse.

The people of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and North and South Carolina during the past few weeks have heard the Gospel. If there is a doubt in your heart tonight that you are ready to meet God, you had better come and give your life to Him on this last night. You may never have a moment like this again as long as you live.

You may be a member of the church, you may be a Sunday school teacher, you may be a choir member. I don't know who you are or what you are, but you need Christ. You may not be a member of any church. But you need to settle this thing with God tonight and make sure your sins are forgiven and that you are going to heaven.

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