May 15, 1957
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN OPENING SERMON
BY DR. BILLY GRAHAM (EVANGELIST)
TITLE: “THE Christian answer to the world dilemma”
TEXT– ISAIAH 1:1-20 -- 'The vision of Isaiah the son of. Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth. for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick,, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it Is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a cottage In a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorah
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not In the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread MV courts?
Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am wary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
In this passage of Scripture Isaiah the prophet is addressing the people of Israel. For fifty years King Uzziah had been one of the best kings Jerusalem had ever seen; yet in his latter years he had become apathetic toward God. Moral sins had crept back into the life of Israel. The children of Israel were beginning to go after other gods. During the Bible days every time the nation went into a period of spiritual declension, God raised up a prophet. Most of the prophets were bold, daring and dramatic. They got the attention of the multitudes and then proclaimed the message of the Lord to the cities and the nations.
Nineveh was such a city. It was guilty of every type of sin. The judgement of God was about to fall on the city. God raised up Jonah and Jonah, through a series of circumstances, preached repentance to Nineveh. Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God spared the city of Nineveh the judgment that was coming.
Judgment was beginning to fall on Israel as a result of their sins. Already King Uzziah was down with leprosy. It was the day of atonement in the temple, and as the people were gathering for news of their king, Isaiah the son of Amoz came up to the temple that day clothed with sackcloth and with ashes upon his head and with the leper's rag upon his upper lip and with dramatic passion he begins to deliver the message of the Lord to Israel. He warns of impending judgment unless there is sincere repentance. He says that judgment would have already fallen had it not been for a small remnant of people who still worshipped God in sincerity and in truth. He warned them that even their religious feasts and rituals were un- acceptable to God unless it was accompanied by sincere repentance and faith.
He said: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." And then with tenderness he says: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land." And then with flashing eye and his voice reaching a mighty crescendo, Isaiah shouts: "But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." How the people must have listened. The whole city of Jerusalem was stirred as Isaiah the prophet thundered forth the message of the Lord.
The times in which we live are parallel to the times that'Isaiah lived in. What sane person is there among us who would not admit that humanity is faced with a dilemma? Night after night here in this Garden I intend to be only a messenger to give God's message to the people of New York. My messages each evening will be based on the Bible which I believe to be the inspired Word of God. I am not here to give you my thoughts -- But God's thoughts. I will be only a channel through whom God can speak to the people. I am going to ask all of you to bring your Bibles each night and turn through the pages of this Holy Book and find the message of God for the people of New York in 1957. I am convinced that there is a great hunger on the part of the average person to know what the Bible says. The Bible is our best seller. We have It in our homes, but few of us know what it says. We do not realize that Its message is relevant for us today. In the mounting dilemmas, problems, confusions, and bewilderments of the world,, we have been dealing with symptoms. During this crusade we want to deal with causes.
I. THE EXISITNG CONFUSION
On the international scene the cold war Is getting hotter. The smoldering embers In Europe erupt periodically in explosions of rebellion and unrest. The conflagration in Hungary was ignited when freedom-loving men clashed with power-hungry bigots. Such episodes will occur over and over again until enslaved men forget they were once free; and when that day arrives, may God have mercy upon the nations!
The arms race is gathering momentum. Strength seems to be the only known deterrent to war. But a peace that is dependent on armed threat alone will be a shaky one and will only last as long as we are in the ascendancy. The shadow of the H-bomb casts Its ominous shadow over the whole world. No life on this planet can escape its threat of death and annihilation. Power is dangerous even In the hands of God-fearing men; but when the basic power of the universe is hold in the hands of mad men, the world is no longer safe from destruction.
Robert Maynard Hutchens, formerly president of the University of Chicago, said: "The world Is probably closer to disintegration now than at any time since the fall of the Roman Empire. We see the world in which we shall have to live going to pieces before our eyes. The world is collapsing about us."
Harold Wilson, who will be the Chancellor of the Exchequer if labor comes to power In Britain., recently said: "1957 will be decisive for the future of Britain" (TIME., 4/22/57)
The Middle Eastern problem is not solved. At best it is only patched up. The old hatreds still rage in all their fury. The cause of the war has not been removed, and the armed truce could be sparked into a full scale conflict at any 'moment. There are several explosive spots in the Far East, such as the Formosan straits.
World economic problems are mounting. Last year it was my privilege to be in India. India is facing almost impossible economic problems. She has a land area one half the size of the United States,, with over )00 million people, of which over half go to bed hungry at night, and increasing in population at the rate of five million a year. Japan., with nearly 100 million people crowded in a land area the size of California .7 is Increasing one million each year.
Our technological advances are creating problems. When man advances scientifically faster then he advances morally and spiritually, there is danger that his knowledge will be dissipated and destroying rather than used in building a better world.
Speed has become the watchword of the day. Engineers tell us that in fifteen years we will be flying New York to London in sixty minutes. Man is expanding further and further, faster and faster. Speed, power, efficiency are words over-worked in our modern vocabulary. But our progress has been horizontal. We have calculated the distance to the stars but have not measured the distance from man to God. We have explored the mysteries of the universe, but have not solved the riddle of our souls.
Racial problems are mounting all over the world. They are not provincial,, nor are they limited to one geographical area in the United States. Inter-racial tensions are rising in every part of the world. I have sensed It in my travels in many countries. The only answer to this burning question is the cross of Christ where all men are equals.
Educational problems are increasing, and at a time when educational techniques were never so perfect and when the facilities for education are greater then ever before. A Harvard student was recently quoted by TIME Magazine: "There doesn't seem to be any answer outside of religion. We are a generation looking for a creed. Students have to find some meaning for their existence beyond a bad grade. I guess we just have to have a god."
It seems that educators themselves are not quite clear about what life is., nor how educated people are supposed to behave. There is a lack of a coherent conception of life. Confusion reigns on the campuses as never before. This past February it was my privilege to speak every night for a week at Yale University. After one of the evening addresses a young man came to me and said: "We have so much thrown at us., I am in a state of confusion." A university student said recently: "I have two professors who have told me privately that they have contemplated suicide."
There Is a sense of futility and despair abroad, a feeling that somehow we have missed the boat., that we are on the wrong track.
Moral problems are besetting us everywhere. Every investigating committee we appoint in Washington finds snakes. The fact Is, it seems, that few will stand close inspection. Business, labor and government have all come under the searchlight and have been found wanting. We have been taught during the past few decades that morals are relative; now we are reaping the harvest in dishonesty, lying, cover-up, and hypocrisy. This moral sag is reflected in the behavior of our young people. 'Nearly a million teenagers last year committed crimes serious enough to cause them to be picked up by the police. In the last five years teen-age-delinquency has jumped fifty per cent. A Chicago judge recently said: "The teen- age criminals today would make Al Capone's gang look like a Sunday school class." Our newspapers here in New York are filled with unbelievable stories of crime committed by teenagers.
Our generation is filled with nervous tension, a revolt against all restraints and a terrible gnawing fear. We have become a nation of pill takers. We take tranquilizing drugs to keep us steady during the daytime and sleeping pills to sleep at night, with hundreds of aspirins thrown in between. No wonder Sir Winston Churchill said some time ago: “Our problems are quite beyond us.” A foreign correspondent for one of our big city newspapers said recently: it We are living in a night of total crisis.
II. THE FRANTIC QUEST.
All of this brings us to the point of asking, What is It all about? What is life all about? What is the answer? Is there a way out? Is there a solution to our problems? Round and round goes modern man, searching for something he cannot quite identify, looking in every place but where is it? Edwin Arlington Roberson expressed the desperation of our quest when he said, "I cannot find my way out. There is no star."
Life can be sweet., smooth and sassy, like our modern cars, but if we have lost the key, we can't go any place. We have missed it somewhere. 'Instead of our problems decreasing, they are multiplying. The simple truth is we have lost contact with the supernatural, with the harmonizer and coordinator of the universe. Like an aircraft in a storm, which has lost contact with the control tower', we are circling., ever circling with our moral visibility zero. We can't touch our wheels on the ground. Somehow we have lost our anchorage, our moorings, our moral direction, our spiritual sensibilities. There is no point in continuing this purposeless drift, for it can only end in tragedy. In our desperation we are resorting to false and ineffective cures. One of our laboratory technicians recently made the astounding announcement: " We have now a cure for which there is no disease. Many of our remedies we have concocted have no curative qualities for our ills, but men continue to try and kind of panacea that offers a ray of hope." A European leader said last year- "If the Devil offers a panacea ?or the problems of the world, I will follow the Devil." Humanity has its back against the wall. They are prepared to grasp at a straw even if that straw is loaded with arsenic or TNT. Into this terrible spiritual and moral vacuum has moved Communism with a program., a plan, and a way of life. Millions in desperation have grasped for it, only to be disillusioned. They find that they have been led down another philosophical blind alley. The whole world is frantically searching for an answer before we blow ourselves into oblivion.
Philosophers, scientists., diplomats, political leaders and intellectuals are all be- ginning to say with one voice: "We need God." We need God because we can never find our- selves until we find Him.
I read the other day of a half-demented man who was rushing madly from office to office in a government building in Washington. He was searching under tables, rummaging through wastebaskets., ransacking files and looking under rugs. He had a look of desperation in his eye, When asked by a detective what he was searching for, he sighed, and said: " I am trying to find myself.” Someone, commenting on the story, said: “If man must go crazy, there is no finer place than Washington, for there no one would know the difference.” Isn’t this a picture of our psychopathic world? However, I am not so sure the man was crazy. He might just have been looking in the wrong place. He symbolized the frantic, desperate quest of men to find themselves.
There is a growing awareness that we are out of touch with God. That awareness is as old as the Garden of Eden where the first man discovered that being untrue to God and false to one's self were one and the same thing. Saint Augustine, who tried the sensual way of life but turned to God for peace, said: My soul was restless until I@ found rest in God." Job, in an hour of doubt and despair, said: "Oh, that T might find Him." The woes of these ancient man sound fresh and timely, for they express modern man's deep yearnings. The President of Harvard University recently said: "Americans are searching for a creed to believe and a song to sing. 11 The lilt and music is gone out of modern life primarily because we can no longer say from the bottom of our hearts, "I believe."
A new word has entered our vocabulary called escapism. It is the tendency to escape from reality, the responsibilities, the routine of real life. We Americans are adept in the art of escapism. We try to escape into a dream world of dope, drink, tranquilizing pills and entertainment. Even in art,, man is scarcely recognizable. He is portrayed not as we know him as a creature bearing the image of God, but as a blur, an irregular splotch, some- thing abstract. Even our artists see In man something uncertain,, indistinct.
Bent on self-forgetfulness, people flee from themselves to become lost In the crowd. Our literature, despite its pretense at realism, is marked by a flight from reality. The heroes of many of our modern fiction and films are spiritually homeless. Our television programs reflect our pre-occupation with psychopathic problems. We are concerned about the growing abnormalities of modern man. Psychiatrists are so over-worked that they are now going to each other for treatment.
Leading magazines during the last few months have been carrying stories of well known people who are wrestling with psychological problems quite beyond their control. Leading entertainers are confessing that their wealth and fame have not brought them happiness and peace of mind. Many of them are bored and weary of living. A young man just a few days ago said right here In New York, as he was sitting by the river, "To heck with it all" -- and dived in and committed suicide. A man called on the phone the other night and said that he wished he had the nerve of that young man. He said, "I'm a successful business man., but," he said, "I'm the most bored man in town. I have thought of suicide but don't have the guts."
III. The Proper Diagnosis
What is wrong with the human race? The Bible tells us that man has a disease. That disease is called sin. There is evidence all about us that man has a moral disease that erupts in lying, cheating, hating, fighting, murder, and war. No longer are we singing, it Glory to man in the highest." A few years ago we thought that in every circumstance that man was master of his fate and the captain of his soul. Today we are not so sure. Our minds are confused and there is widespread bewilderment. Faith In man to bring permanent peace to work out his own inner problems and to build a better world has been shattered. We Americans have become almost incapable of responding to a deep sorrow or of yielding to a rapturous joy. Emotionally we are unstable. We are incapable of making irrevocable commitments. We lack the will to respond to the demands of conscience. We are content to drift with the drifters, to imbibe with the imbibers, to revel with the revelers, and to sin with the singers-. Because we are out of the will of God we have lost the will to do right. The Bible teaches that h=&n nature is wrong side up; man is morally and spiritually sick. No one wants war, but we have it. Few want an arms race, but we have it. Most people do not want to commit the sins they do, but they do. We seem to be caught in the cross-currents of expediency and a power that is beyond our control, and we go whirling toward the eddy of despair and destruction. Few people really want to do wrong, but they do it. Few want to be sinners, but they are. Few people want to count God out of their affairs, but they do. What is wrong? The Bible calls it sin. How long has it been since you heard somebody talk about sin? The word sin has almost become taboo even In some of our preaching, and it is rarely used in private conversations. Some psychologists tell us that it is not good for people to be too morbidly concerned with sin. They say it is not mentally healthy to fasten our thoughts m our own failures. This has become me of the greatest fallacies of our time. The Bible does not handle sin with kid gloves no more than a physician is sentimental about a disease. The Bible speaks plainly about it.
It says: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds'. and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."
The Bible again says: Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin,, so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
The Bible warns: "Be sure your sins will find you out."
The Bible again warns: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
The Bible in one sweeping declaration says; "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Now the word sin means he have come short of God’s moral standards. This includes all of all of us. Every man has this disease.
David said: If In sin did my mother conceive me. tv In other words, the great king of Israel said, from the moment of birth he was a sinner.
Who teaches young children to lie or to fight their mothers?
The Bible also teaches that we are sinners by choice. When we reach the age of moral accountability we choose to break God's moral laws. Now there are various types of sins. That doesn't mean that we all become drunkards or immoral; but the Bible teaches that selfish- ness, pride and prejudice and intolerance are just as sinful as some of the things we normally call sins. The Bible warns that if we persist in our sins, that it eventually brings judgment.
The Bible says: The wages of sin is death" ... "The soul that sinneth shall die.”
The Bible warns the nation that " Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." Sodom, Nineveh, Jerusalem and Rome -- these and other cities have felt the curse of God's judgment. The wages of sin has an old ring but it has not lost its validity. It is as unchangeable as the law of gravity. The Bible warns that God is angry with wickedness all the day long. Why? Because It Is His nature to want His creatures to be happy, and there is no happiness when sin is in the heart.
Many people say, "But Jesus didn't talk much about sin." Ah, Yes, He did. People that say that have never read the New Testament. For example Jesus said In Luke 13:3 -- “Except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish." Again Jesus said in Matthew 23:33 -- "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell?"
Paul the apostle said, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in righteousness."
Yes, the Bible clearly teaches that the cause of the problems of the human race is sin. I know we don't like to face it. We don't like to admit it. We would like to give it some other terminology that would be easier on our ego. During this crusade I am going to use .biblical terminology. I do not intend to beat around the bush and skirt the basic Issues of life and death. The Bible says the root cause of the problems of the human race is sin and the cure is repentance, turning from sin. That law has never been repealed. As long as men persist in sin- there will be the need of repentance.
IV. THE NEEDED ENCOUNTER.
The do-it-yourself craze has gotten over into the realm of religion. We would like to solve our problems alone, but we nave 1-alled. it is not easy for a proud man to confess his need of an encounter with the living God. All the way through the Bible God is saying to the human race, “Return, return." “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his human race , thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
A Chicago psychologist recently said: "This generation needs converting more than any generation in history."
A British psychologist says: "We are so psychologically constituted as to need converting, and if the church fails to convert people, we psychologists are going to have to do it."
At last the modern mind Is beginning to grasp the meaning of the words of Jesus when He said: "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not see the kingdom of heaven." And, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is why Christ died on the cross. He shed His blood that man and God could be reconciled. You see, sin separates man from God. Sin is the transgression of God's moral law. God is too holy and pure to look upon sin and rebellion. Therefore our sins have come between us and our God. Christ brought man and God back together again, but man must be willing to surrender himself to Christ before God will receive Him. That is why such an encounter is needed. If our bodies change, and they do; if our minds change, and they do; if life is a chain of continual adjustment,, and it is -- what will happen to man if his spirit remains unchanged? Exactly what has happened to us. We in American are becoming a nation of towering intellects. Atlas- like bodies, and shriveled souls. The Bible tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. That is why Christ said, "Ye must be born again." Christ said that He could give us new moral natures, new affections, new objectives, and a new direction to our lives.
Where must this encounter take place? At the cross of Christ. It was there that earth and heaven met. It was there that history and eternity came into contact. It was there that Christ lifted up the world to the bosom of God. It was there that He brought man within reach of God. If we have an encounter with God, it must be by the way of the cross. There is one thing that Catholics and Protestants alike agree upon, and that is the centrality of the cross in the gospel of Christ. On every Catholic and Protestant church you will see a cross. Why? Christ did not die by accident. He died In the providence and will of God that God might have a basis upon which He could forgive the human race of their sins and make them new creations.
How can this encounter take place? It is not a matter of finding God. He has never been lost. We must place ourselves within reach of Him by repentance and faith. When the Prodigal Son became lost in the morass of sin in the far-off city, his father did not come to him. He came home to his father in repentance and humility. God, like the Prodigal's father waits patiently for our return. You can come to Christ tonight. Right now this encounter can take place in the quietness of your seat, or perhaps as you So home and contemplate what you have heard and seen tonight. The moment you are ready to surrender your will to Christ, the Spirit of God comes into your life and gives you a moral transformation and you literally become a new creation in Christ.
When should this encounter take place? Now. The Bible says: "Now is the accepted time; Today is the day of salvation." The Bible says: "Choose you this day whom you will serve." The Bible again says: "In the day ye hear His voice, harden not your heart." The Bible warns that after hearing the gospel there is a danger of hardening your heart. The Spirit of Goa is speaking to many of you right now. Don't wait. Give your life to Christ now. You may never have such an opportunity as this again. Hundreds of times in the Bible God has said to wandering man, "Come." Christ said.- "Come unto me., all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." To all the lonely people He says, "Come." To all those with frustrations and burdens and bewilderments., sins, longings, and boredoms, He says, It Come." To those of you that have a lashing conscience He says, "Come ... take...learn ... and rest." Come for the fellowship your heart craves. Take of the satisfying portion your soul yearns for. Learn the secret of peace your mind seeks. Rest in the confidence your heart desires. When you make your decision for Christ, it is the nation through you making its decision for God. Without Him, the prophet Isaiah says, "Any nation will perish," but society is only so strong as its individuals. Before we can have a better world we must have better men. Christ can make you a better person and thus a better nation.