The following is adapted from the message Billy Graham preached June 3, 1973, to some 1.1 million at Yoido Plaza in Seoul, South Korea.
In 1952, I was here in Korea. It was at Christmastime, and it was very cold. I’ve never been so cold in all my life, and I toured along what is now the DMZ. I was at Heartbreak Ridge, and on Heartbreak Ridge there were 12 soldiers who were huddled together. An enemy sneaked through the line. He threw a hand grenade into the middle of them. It was going to go off in three seconds.
A soldier saw it and jumped on top of it. He grabbed it, held it to his heart, and it exploded. He died, but his buddies were saved. They took what remained of his body back to the United States, and when they held the memorial service for that soldier, the source of the sermon was the same text that I want to use today: John 15:13.
It says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus said this just before He was going to go to the cross to die for the sins of the world. He was having His last meeting with His disciples. And He said, “I have one commandment to leave with you. Love one another” (Cf. John 15:12).
A big tornado hit not far from where I live. It destroyed many houses. One man was in the basement of his house, and he had two little boys. He heard the storm coming. He heard the house falling down. He grabbed his two little boys and put himself on top of them. People found them later. He was dead, but his two sons were alive. He had given his life for his sons.
The Bible says that God loves you. I want us to think about God for a moment. Do you believe in God? The Bible tells us what kind of a God He is. He is the creator of the whole universe. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), the Bible says. God is not only the creator, but God is a spirit, the Bible says. God does not have a body like yours. And because God is a spirit, He can be everywhere at the same time. When I am here in Seoul, I cannot be in New York at the same time because I am limited by a body. But God is a spirit.
The Bible also tells us that God never changes. The Bible says, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The Bible teaches that God is a holy God. And because God is righteous and holy, He is also a God of judgment. There is a Judgment Day coming.
Jesus said, “Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). The Apostle Paul said God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world (see Acts 17:31). You will have to give an account of every word you ever said, everything you ever did, every thought that you ever had.
But the Bible also teaches that God is a God of love.
The reason God created the human race in the first place was because He loved. He wanted some other creatures in the universe to love. So He created man and woman and put them in a beautiful garden. God said, “You can have all the fruit in the garden except one tree. There is one tree in the garden that you’re not to touch. If you touch it you will die” (see Genesis 3:2-3). And Eve looked at it, and then the devil came and whispered in her ear, “Take some of it. It will make you very wise, and it will make you like God, and when God said you would die if you eat it, He didn’t mean it.”
Eve could stand the temptation no longer. She picked up the fruit and started eating. She got sick. Then the man ate it, too, and he got sick. And every person since then has been sick with a disease called sin. It wasn’t the fruit that made them sick. It was the fact that they had disobeyed God and broken God’s law. And the whole human race has that disease. We read the newspapers. We watch the television. We know that something is wrong with the human race. What is it?
The Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
The Bible teaches that there are three kinds of death. There is the death of your body. All of you are going to die. We know that, but you can also be alive and your soul dead. Today there are many people whose body is alive but whose soul is dead toward God. And you don’t have peace, you don’t have joy, you don’t have happiness, you don’t have assurance that you’re going to Heaven. It is your soul that’s dead, and your soul needs God.
The third kind of death is when your body dies but your soul lives on, separated from God. And the Bible says for that soul, the future life becomes one of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. The Bible has many words to describe the future of the lost soul. The Bible uses the word perish. The Bible uses the word condemn. The Bible uses the word punishment. The Bible uses the words everlasting fire. The Bible uses the word hell.
Whatever word is used, this death is a terrible thing: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
But the Bible tells us that God sent His Son to rescue the world in spite of our rebellion, in spite of our sins. God said, “I love you. I love the human race; I want to forgive them of their sins.”
But how could He do it? He said, “If you rebel against Me, you’re going to die.” He had to keep His word, or He would have been a liar. So, what did He do? His Son, Jesus Christ, volunteered to come and live among us.
He made the blind to see and the deaf to hear. But the real reason He came was not to heal. The real reason that He came was not to teach. He came to die. Because on the cross, He took your sins, your death, your judgment, your hell.
They took his clothes off Him. They took long leather whips with steel pellets on the end and beat Him until his back was bleeding. They put a crown of thorns on His brow until His face was bleeding. They put spikes in His hands and hung Him between Heaven and earth. And while on that cross Jesus prayed, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
He loves you so much that if you had been the only person in the world, He would have died for you. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). You’re a friend of Jesus. He laid down His life for you.
And then something else happened. On the third day, He rose again. He is alive! And some day, the Bible says, He is coming back. Someday we will look up, and riding on a white horse will be the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ. And those of you who know Christ, those of you who have given your life to Him, you are going to reign with Him. What a glorious future we have, those of us who love Jesus Christ!
Now, what does He want you to do?
First, He wants you to repent of your sins. The Scripture says, “God … now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). If we are to be saved, if our sins are to be forgiven, we have to repent. Repentance means that you confess you are a sinner and are willing to turn from your sins.
Second, receive Christ into your heart by faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” You come by faith. You cannot buy your way. You cannot work your way. You come by simple, childlike faith—like a little child would come to his or her father.
Third, openly confess Christ. All the people Jesus called, He called publicly. You must be willing to take a public stand for Christ. Would you do that today?
Let Him come and change your life. He will give you a new love for everyone. You will be concerned about your neighbor. It will make you a new father, a new mother, a new boy or a new girl. I am going to ask you today to receive Christ. Say today, “I am willing to turn from my sins; I want Jesus in my heart.”
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.