The following is adapted from a message Billy Graham preached on “The Hour of Decision” radio program July 9, 1961. That month, Cold War tensions were extreme as hundreds of East German refugees crossed daily into West Berlin to escape communist rule. Just a few weeks later, construction began on the Berlin Wall, which would stand as a barrier between East and West Berlin for nearly 30 years. Although conditions have changed, Billy Graham’s message is as relevant today as when he first preached it.
The human race continues to rush from crisis to crisis. The world situation continues to deteriorate, and war clouds hang low as we tremble once again on the brink of disaster.
One leading editorial asked, “What shall we do to be saved?”—almost the very question the jailer at Philippi asked the Apostle Paul. This 20th-century writer could find no answer to this all-important question.
Sir James Orr, one of the world’s greatest scientists, wrote: “The whole race is crumbling to destruction. The nations are insane.” He sounded like the Prophet Jeremiah, who said, “The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged” (Jeremiah 51:7). History has proven how right Jeremiah was.
Isn’t it strange how the books of Daniel and Revelation, dismissed so easily in the early years of the 20th century, are now furnishing those who survey this hour with their most effective phrases?
Not only is the world itself facing crisis, but Christianity beholds giants rising to contend with it—more powerful, more worldwide in the influence they are able to exert than any the church has known since the downfall of paganism in Europe 1,500 years ago.
An anti-supernaturalistic philosophy is being taught to students in universities and colleges; God is denied and man is deified. Long ago, we were told by the Apostle Paul that the day would come when mankind would turn away their eyes from the truth and believe a lie. This naturalistic attitude can be found in much of our contemporary literature about Christ Himself. The virgin birth is denied; the bodily resurrection of Christ is proclaimed a myth. They say Christ was a good man, but that He was not God.
A television commentator asked me if I could prove that Jesus was God. I answered: “If Jesus was not God, then He was the greatest liar and the most immoral man that the world has ever known. Jesus Christ claimed to be God. No good man would deliberately deceive the people. No good man would deliberately lie. Either Jesus Christ was all that He claimed to be, or He was one of the most deceptive men the world has ever known.”
Naturalistic philosophers refer to the miracles of the Bible as “miraculous magic” and “oppressive absurdities.” They are trying to hammer away at the very foundation of Christianity: faith in Christ as the Son of God.
Their philosophies are the basic cause of moral deterioration throughout the Western world. If there is no such thing as a transcendent God who is interested in the affairs of men, then there is no moral law, and each person has a right to do what he or she pleases. We have sown to the wind and are now reaping a whirlwind of cheating, lying, dishonesty and immorality on a scale that has not been known in the history of this nation.
A second giant that confronts the Christian church today is communism. There are those who think that if communists take over the world, they will be tolerant toward religion. This is a deception. When communists no longer need to worry about world opinion, they will do all in their power to destroy all religion. If this should happen, all freedom of religion will have disappeared. Thus, the church is faced with one of the most aggressive anti-God religions the world has ever known.
Third, the church also faces a Trojan horse from the inside. On the one hand, there is a Pharisaism that is orthodox, holding strictly to the letter of the law but knowing little of the spirit of love or the Christian graces that belong to a Spirit-filled life. They are busy fighting, bickering and arguing over small, nonessential points. They have little love for the souls of lost people or for the misery of their fellow believers. They have omitted the social consciousness that was typical of Wesley and Whitefield. They are so busy defending the faith that they have little time for soul-winning.
On the other hand, there are the Sadducees who deny the essential doctrines of Christianity. They deny that the only way of salvation is through the cross of Jesus Christ. They deny that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the sins of people or that it has any soul-saving power. They deny the historic doctrines of the church. They have a humanistic philosophy that is little different from the ethical standards of Buddhism. They have denied the miraculous character of the Scriptures and have openly rejected the fundamentals of the true Christian faith.
I believe that if Christ were to come in person today, He would scathingly denounce both the modern Pharisees and the Sadducees. He would once again call them hypocrites, blind guides of the blind, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. We hear His thundering words: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26). We hear His words again: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
The strife and division caused in the Christian church by the Pharisees on the one hand and the Sadducees on the other has been a stench in the nostrils of God and has grieved the Spirit of God to such an extent that true revival is impossible unless Christians will confess their sins and yield themselves to God in a new spirit of love.
In the face of these foes and many others, both inside and outside the church, what are Christians to do? What are we to expect as the outcome of these conflicts? Certainly greater battles loom on the horizon as Satan, realizing that his time is drawing to a close, pulls all the stops in an all-out effort to destroy the effective witness of the church.
First, we are told to stand fast in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul at the close of his Ephesian letter has exactly the right words for embattled soldiers of Christ. After listing the evil powers regimented against us, he immediately commands in the Name of the Lord, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
Greek scholars remind us that this phrase, the evil day, refers to a particular hour when evil will be manifested in an unusual way in the thought, activity and pursuits of humanity.
Second, we should reexamine the foundations of our faith and know more of the abiding, unshakable rock of historic truth on which our faith and hope rest. We should learn, study and digest the great facts of our faith. The supreme fact is that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19), from the incarnation to His glorious resurrection.
Again and again the writers of the New Testament set forth mighty truths that we may know with certainty. We are not to guess about this business of life and death. We are not expected to take some leap in the dark. We are to know, the Bible says. As John said at the close of his first epistle, “We know that we are of God” (1 John 5:19). In the same epistle we read, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
My wife and I feel that our children may be called upon to endure persecution and hardships on a scale never before seen by Christians in American history. Therefore, we are urging them to memorize as much Scripture as possible, for it has been shown that those who have committed large portions of Scripture to memory have been able to withstand brainwashing.
Third, we Christians ought to remember that the Word of God predicted just such a time as this. No other book in the world utters such accurate prophecy as the Bible. Neither Plato, nor Aristotle, nor Cicero, nor Plutarch, nor any of the ancients, tells us of such a day as this, in which we see a tumult and upheaval of world conditions.
With prophetic foresight, Jesus predicted in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 such days as these. He said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6-7). Then He warned the Christians: “They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). And He also sternly warned that because iniquity will abound, the love of many Christians will wax cold. But then He cautioned, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
The tragic days in which we are living do not take Christians by surprise. The reason so many professing Christians are worried and wringing their hands, and crying, “What shall we do? What shall we do?” is because they have neglected the study of their Bibles. They have spent more time watching the latest television program or reading their newspapers than they have reading the Bible. They have neglected the spiritual services that lead to growth and solidarity in Christ. Therefore, they are caught off guard by these swift-moving events.
A moving of the Spirit of God that would issue in true spiritual awakening must take place if we are to be spared the storm that is gathering on the horizon. Today you could come to Christ, repenting of your sins and receiving Him as your Savior. Your life can be changed; your soul can be saved. And there can be a new joy and peace in your life, a whole new dimension of living. Will you receive Christ today? ©1961 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Russ Busby/©1961 BGEA