Archive for July, 2014

Billy Graham on Vinyl, Part 6: “The Climax of History” (1962)

July 15, 2014

The record label of an LP documenting Graham’s 1962 Crusade at McCormick Place in Chicago.

In honor of Billy Graham, a hero of mine, I’m digitizing some of his sermons from long out-of-print records and making them available as MP3s. This sermon is found in a 4-record box set called A Billy Graham Crusade from 1962 (RCA Victor Custom Record Dept. BG4314).

When I preached on the Second Coming recently, I mentioned Jeff, a Sunday school teacher I had once, who said that he didn’t believe in the Second Coming as a literal event. Rather, he said, it was a spiritual event that happens when we are born again and the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. And it continues to happen throughout our lives as we have formative spiritual experiences. I expressed sympathy with Jeff. After all, I have had several experiences like Wesley’s in which I found my heart “strangely warmed.” In those moments, Christ seemed very present to me.

Nevertheless, as I said in my sermon, the Second Coming is something different.

Similarly, in this sermon from 1962, Dr. Graham acknowledges spiritual senses in which Christ “comes again” to us, including the one to which Jeff was referring. Graham also talked about how Christ can be seen in cataclysmic events of history including, he says, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He also believes that Christ often comes to us in death, as he did for his grandmother on her deathbed, when she smiled and said, “There’s Jesus!”

There is a sense in which Christ comes at death. But there’s another sense taught throughout scriptures that he’s coming back at the end of the age. Notice I didn’t say at the end of the world. Oh, the end of the world system, yes, but not the end of the earth. The end of the age. Christ is coming back again.

Notice something here: While Graham, like C.S. Lewis and many Christian thinkers of earlier generations, talks about the afterlife almost exclusively in terms of “heaven,” he clearly understands heaven—at least in its second stage, after the Second Coming—as a place on a renewed and transformed earth. In other words, he doesn’t believe heaven is a place up there somewhere: it’s here. Which goes to show, to Graham’s great credit, that there is some robust biblical theology going on underneath his simple words.

Graham refers to “wild speculations” about the Second Coming that happened about “30 years ago” (in the 1920s or ’30s), which “cause a reaction to set in within the church, so that in order to be intellectually respectable, the average clergyman just didn’t talk about it. Because he didn’t want to be identified with fanatics and extremists.”

Isn’t the same true today? We don’t want to be associated with Hal Lindsey. We don’t want to be associated with Pat Robertson. We don’t want to be associated with Tim LaHaye. So we clergy don’t talk about the Second Coming. In fact, for the sake of “intellectual respectability” we don’t talk about a host of other doctrines, including Satan, final judgment, and hell.


Graham’s primary scripture for this sermon is the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19 and Ezekiel’s reflections on Sodom’s sin in chapter 16. Graham says that the sins of Sodom characterize America in 1962, and I’m sure he’d agree about America in 2014, too. Judgment is coming, he says, and we can see God’s warnings about it through current events in the world.

But for those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, our judgment is in the past: Jesus was judged in our place, which means we can face the future without fear.

Toward the end of the sermon, he says:

What should you do about it? In view of the fact that Christ is coming, in view of the fact that the world is moving toward judgment, what should be your attitude? What should you do? Jesus tells us that, too. He says in Matthew 24:42, “Watch, therefore, for you do not know the hour that your Lord comes.” The scripture tells us we’re to look for that blessed hope. Paul said, “Comfort one another with these words.”

Are you tired, discouraged, disappointed? Comfort one another with these words: Christ is coming.

When you die, that’s not the end of it all. Some of you have suffered. Many of you have suffered persecution for Christ’s sake. You’ve been almost alone in your community and in your home for Christ. “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be ours yonder.” All the way through scripture he says, “Hold on a little while longer. He that endureth to the end, it’s not long before our glory shall be revealed, Christ shall come, and we shall be in the glory with him.” And then in 1 John 3:3, he said, “Secondly, purify yourself, and every man that hath this hope in himself purifies himself even as he is pure.”

In other words, this is the greatest incentive to Christian living I know anything about. One of the answers to the church problem today is to start emphasizing the fact that Christ may come, and we’ll start living as though he were coming. What an incentive to purify ourselves to live for Christ! This is no pie-in-the-sky hope. This is no pie-in-the-sky religion. It affects our daily life here. It affects our attitude in every phase of life. When we live with hope and expectancy that there is a future. This is not the end.

When Eichmann died the other night on the gallows in Israel, his body was cremated and put in the waters of the blue Mediterranean, you said, “Eichmann is finished.” No, Eichmann is not finished. Eichmann still has to appear before a holy God!

Likewise, we will have all have to give an account before God, Graham warns.

Graham concludes the sermon the same way I concluded mine recently, by saying that even if the Second Coming doesn’t happen in our lifetime: “the end of the age will happen for you the moment you die. That’s the end for you. As far as this life is concerned. And then you face God. Are you prepared?”

This is simply a masterful sermon. I’m impressed by how easily Graham relates the problems of the world to the solution found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What an inspiration to those of us who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for a living!

Please note that in Part 2 of my series, Graham preached a sermon from 1964 by the same title, “The Climax of History,” but it was a substantially different sermon. It placed relatively greater emphasis on making the case for the Second Coming.

To listen to sermon, click on play button above, or right-click here to download as a separate .mp3 file.

Click here for Part 1.

Click here for Part 2.

Click here for Part 3.

Click here for Part 4.

Click here for Part 5.

To be Methodist is to be Arminian

July 14, 2014

Roger Olson, a Baptist theologian at Baylor who has greatly influenced my thinking over the past five years, just finished a useful series of blog posts (starting here) on Arminianism, that school of Protestant thought that Wesley himself loudly affirmed. Olson is an Arminian and is probably Calvinism’s loudest contemporary critic. (In his day, John Wesley might have held that title.)

These posts are in the form of FAQs (frequently asked questions). Here’s a nice summary question:

FAQ: Can an Arminian explain the few crucial ideas that distinguish Arminianism from Calvinism for non-scholars? A: Yes. There are three of them. First, God is absolutely, unconditionally good in a way that we can understand as good. (In other words, God’s goodness does not violate our basic divinely-given intuitions about goodness.) Second, God’s consequent will is not God’s antecedent will except that God antecedently (to the fall) decides to permit human rebellion and its consequences. All specific sins and evils are permitted by God according to his consequent will and are not designed or ordained or rendered certain according to God’s antecedent will. Third, salvation of individuals is not determined by God but is provided for (atonement and prevenient grace) and accomplished by God (regeneration and justification by grace through faith).

Two new songs in contemporary worship yesterday morning

July 14, 2014

Here’s a lovely new song I had never heard before last week. We did it in our contemporary service. It’s called “Love Comes Down.”

And I introduced the band to this “oldie” from the Lost Dogs. It’s a classic list song (like “Subterranean Homesick Blues” or R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”) that calls on everyone—literally everyone—to breathe deep the breath of God.


Sermon 07-06-14: “Disney Summer Drive-In, Part 1: Frozen”

July 10, 2014

Disney Summer Drive-In Image

The first film I look at in this summer series is Disney’s Frozen. In this movie, Elsa longs to be free of the fears that control her. Despite her best efforts, however, she remains enslaved—at least until her sister, Anna, shows her the true meaning of love.

Sermon Text: Matthew 11:25-30

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.


After healing Anna, the chief troll warns the family of Elsa’s increasing powers.

[Show Clip #1. Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her ice magic. Their parents take them to the chief troll, who heals Anna but warns Elsa and her parents about Elsa’s growing power.]

The chief troll asks Elsa’s father, the king, about Elsa’s power to create snow and ice. He asks, “Born with the powers or cursed?” The father responds, “Born.” But the truth is, for most of the movie we’re left wondering whether these powers with which Elsa is born are also, in fact, a curse. It certainly feels like a curse to Elsa as she’s growing up. Granted, her parents don’t help the situation by locking her away in her room—isolating her from everyone, including her beloved sister Anna. But it’s clear that for most of her early life, Elsa experienced this potentially great gift—this great blessingas a curse.

The truth is, so many things that happen to us in life—things we’re born with, or things over which we have little or no control—can be experienced by us as either blessings or curses. Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Laura Story wrote her most popular song, “Blessings,” about this truth. It includes these lyrics in the chorus: “What if your blessings come through rain drops/ What if your healing comes through tears/ What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near/ What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?” Read the rest of this entry »

Reading the Bible with a “Jesus tea-strainer”

July 10, 2014

I recommend this first episode of the Mere Fidelity podcast, which in this case is a conversation between three young evangelical theologians about capital punishment. The three are responding to a recent blog post by pastor and writer Brian Zahnd, who not only argues that we Christians should oppose capital punishment based on the teachings of Jesus, but that because of what Jesus reveals to us about God, God never condoned capital punishment in the first place—even though he certainly seemed to do so in the Old Testament.

Andrew Wilson, an English theologian who writes for Christianity Today, argues that Zahnd is guilty of applying a “Jesus tea-strainer” to the Old Testament—an increasingly popular way of reading the Bible. He explains:

So I’ve used the analogy [of the “Jesus tea-strainer”] quite often when people talk about the “Jesus lens.” By which they say, “We’re reading the Bible through the ‘Jesus lens,’ and it’s coloring what we’re doing.” I say I don’t think it’s so much a lens in some cases—it’s more of a tea-strainer: Instead of looking at things from a particular angle and then coloring your view through Jesus, instead you use a particular version of Jesus you’ve cobbled together from bits of the Gospels. And then you turn that into a fine-mesh tea-strainer, which you then try to push the Old Testament through. And only a few bits make it through and the rest of it gets stuck and left on the saucer. And actually even the Jesus in the Synoptics doesn’t fit through the tea-strainer you’ve formed because he doesn’t… he says, as I’ve already said, you read Luke 17 or something and think, “That is very hard to cohere with a progressive-y red-letter Jesus.”

By Luke 17, he means these red-letter words of judgment and divine retribution:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26-30).

As Wilson’s blog post on the “Jesus tea-strainer” makes clear, there are many more such passages from Jesus in the Gospels. Given these passages, it’s hard to explain the image of Jesus so beloved by our culture—as some kind of first-century proto-hippie who went around preaching peace, love, and tolerance!

Nevertheless, the three men go on to make the case that we should approach scripture, especially those troublesome passages that prick our consciences, with great humility. As Derek Rishmawy says, around the 27:00 minute mark, before we say that the Bible writer got it wrong, let’s first assume that we’re the ones who are wrong—that we’re failing to understand what’s going on in the passage.

This is, in my opinion, a helpful approach to scripture. We give God’s Word the benefit of the doubt and assume that the Holy Spirit has inspired the biblical writers to include these difficult passages for a good reason, even when we can’t understand what it is.

“Real manhood is something to be cherished”

July 8, 2014

Let me begin by saying I know next to nothing about New Zealand politics. But I don’t need to in order to enjoy this post from theologian Glenn Peoples, a New Zealander. Here he’s criticizing Labour leader David Cunliffe, who, when speaking to a women’s group recently about domestic violence, apologized for being a man.

To this, Dr. Peoples said:

But Sir, you disappoint me. In response to male domestic violence, call men back to manhood. Embody the man they should be. Show the world what it is like to be a real man. Take them to task for failing as men. Real men have virtue. They love their wives and protect their children. That is part of what it means to be a real man. Men are the solution to this problem. Manhood, real manhood, is something to be cherished, and it does not happen enough. This is not the time to demean manhood further, but to praise it. When women tell their stories of being subjected to violence, they tell us #YesAllWomen. Regrettably and to your shame, Mr Cunliffe, you have responded to domestic abuse by telling us that #YesAllMen should be ashamed because of the actions of a relative few. Worse than that most stigmatised of practices, “slut shaming,” you would have men of virtue apologising out of a sense of shame for actions they have never even committed. If you must timidly bow and do penance for anything, make it something of yours, not mine, sir.

Do not apologise for being a man. If that is your answer, then if I may be so harsh, it sounds like you might be apologising for something you’re not guilty of in the first place. Men who know what it is to be a man are never sorry for being a man. They just wish that there were more of us.

Grow a pair,

Glenn Peoples

Spufford falters on the “problem of pain”

July 7, 2014

spuffordThere’s much to like about atheist-turned-believer Francis Spufford’s apologetic for Christianity, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. He’s a funny, winsome writer and sharp thinker.

In the chapter called “Big Daddy,” he offers an unconventional but compelling defense of God’s existence based on the way that we human beings so often experience God. By the end of the chapter, however, he raises the logical problem of believing in a God-of-everything, as we Christians believe, versus believing in many gods or no God at all. Believing in a God-of-everything means believing that God is ultimately responsible for evil and suffering. Without flinching, he states the problem as well as any hardened skeptic:

But one point at which you can know you’ve started to believe is the point at which the tentative houseroom or headroom you’re giving to the God of everything starts to have emotional consequences of its own. Problematic consequences; uncomfortable consequences; unpleasant consequences. Because if the bastard does exist, if the God of everything is shining patiently in every room, then you can’t escape the truth that He must be shining in some horrible places. He must be lending his uncritical sustaining power to rooms in which the vilest things are happening. There He must be, obligingly maintaining the flow of electrons through the rusty wires that are conducting 240 volts into the soft tissue of some poor screaming soul in a torture chamber. There He must be, benignly silent, as a migrant worker is raped at a truck stop. There He must be, shining contentedly away, in the overrun emergency room where the children from a crushed school bus are dying.

And when you’ve noticed that you’re ready for the next act in the emotional drama of belief we’re following here. Which is, of course, horrified disgust.[1]

What follows in the next chapter is his response to the “problem of pain.” I like this:

Lots of atheists seem to be certain, recently, that this ought not to be a problem for believers, because—curl of lip—we all believe we’re going to be whisked away to a magic kingdom in the sky instead. Facing the prospect of annihilation squarely is the exclusive achievement of—preen—the brave unbeliever. But I don’t know many actual Christians (as opposed to the conjectural idiots of atheist fantasy) who feel this way, or anything like it.[2]

That’s exactly right. Even as a pastor, no Christian doctrine seems less believable to me, in the face of senseless, tragic death, than the doctrine of heaven. It feels like pie-in-the-sky, like escapism. Don’t get me wrong: I come back around to believing in it eventually, but only through intellectual effort. In the face of death, I find comfort instead in the fact that Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died, even though he knew that he would bring him back to life.

No: death is hard on everyone—on Jesus, on ordinary believers like me, and on atheists. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

Beyond these words, Spufford concedes way too much ground to Christianity’s cultured despisers. He sets up many of the traditional defenses of God’s goodness (in spite of the bad stuff in the world) and knocks them down far too glibly. Take this, for instance:

I’ve seen a church newsletter in which the Almighty is thanked for fixing the minister’s car, via a miraculously cheap quote from a garage. But it only takes a little of the cold wind of adversity to blow this stuff away—and only a little thought. For if God was willing to exert Himself over the minister’s spark plugs, but wouldn’t get out of bed to stop the Holocaust, what sort of picture that draw? What sort of loving deity could have the priorities that the cruel world reveals, if the cruel world is an accurate record of His intentions, once you look beyond reality’s little gated communities of niceness.[3]

Not so fast, Mr. Spufford. First, reality is far more prodigal with its “niceness” than you let on here. As N.T. Wright once said, the problem of good ought to be a far bigger problem for unbelievers than the problem of evil is for believers. Why? Because there’s just so much goodness to go around!

When I was in Kenya last year teaching theology and doctrine to a group of indigenous United Methodist pastors, some of my fellow “short-term missionaries” visited a large garbage dump on the outskirts of Nakuru. They went to provide food, clothing, and medicine to families who were squatting there. This wasn’t, as my missionary friend Bill told us, Western-style garbage. No bourgeois “freegan” would be found there rummaging for day-old bread. Yet here were families attempting to sustain themselves in this place that was very nearly hell on earth. (The Bible’s word for hell is gehenna, literally a garbage dump outside Jerusalem.) It was horrifying, my friends reported. It drove them to tears.

But here’s what they also reported: young children in the midst of this garbage laughing, singing, and playing—experiencing joy. It doesn’t seem right, does it—in this place so far removed from any “gated community of niceness.” But there you are. Life is like that. Even at its worst, there’s still so much good. Why?

In his paragraph above, Spufford says that since God didn’t intervene to stop the Holocaust, why would God intervene to help this minister get his car repaired? Well, there it is: reductio ad Hitlerum. Is there anything we can say in the face of the Holocaust’s enormity?

I hope so—because by the standard of the Holocaust, nearly everything that happens in the world is trivial. Certainly, nothing in my little life rates God’s care or attention! Spufford complains about spark plugs, but please… he’s stacking the deck. “If God didn’t intervene to stop the Holocaust, why would God intervene to save the life of a child afflicted with leukemia?” “If God didn’t intervene to save the lives of six million people, why would God intervene to save 300,000 people from the Indian Ocean tsunami?” And forget about 3,000 in the Twin Towers on 9/11!

By this logic, if God didn’t intervene to stop the Holocaust, God doesn’t intervene to do anything. Ever. At this point, the New Atheist are nodding approvingly: “That’s what we’ve been saying for years!”

All that to say, I hope we have some response to Spufford’s logic. Because if Spufford is right, the idea that God answers prayer is a joke—despite what our Lord teaches us repeatedly about the subject. In the face of senseless tragedy in his day, Jesus said seemingly harsh things like, “Unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.” Needless to say, Jesus had a far more robust understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence—and, to say the least, he knew more about these matters than Spufford or I.

So, perhaps the second thing I need to say in response to Spufford is, let’s be humble about what we think we know about suffering and death. This is an important theme of Timothy Keller’s profoundly good book on the subject, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, which came out last year.

Third, we need to remind ourselves, as C.S. Lewis points out, that the scale of suffering is irrelevant to the question of God’s justice.

Suppose that I have a toothache of intensity x: and suppose that you, who are seated beside me, also begin to have a toothache of intensity x. You may, if you choose, say that the total amount of pain in the room is now 2x. But you must remember that no one is suffering 2x: search all time and all space and you will not find that composite pain in anyone’s consciousness. There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it. When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached something very horrible, but we have reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe. The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain.[4]

Lewis isn’t minimizing suffering and evil; he’s merely pointing out that if you’re going to become indignant about six million dying in Hitler’s death camps, you have no less reason to become indignant about six people in a trailer park getting flattened by a tornado.

Also, before we become indignant on other people’s behalf, let’s ask ourselves about believers in God who actually suffered in the Holocaust. Read, for instance, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for MeaningDid these believers experience God as not “getting out of bed” to help them? Of course some did, I’m sure. But many didn’t. Why? What sustained them?

For that matter, what does it mean that the most comfortable suburban Christians (or ex-Christians) become the most indignant about the suffering of others? My pastor friends in Kenya see far more suffering and death there than most of us do here, yet they’re, in general, far more faithful. In fact, in my experience as a pastor, the most advanced believers get the least worked up about their own suffering, often perceiving God’s hand at work in their lives, answering their prayers, and blessing others through them. Would Spufford tell them they’re wrong to feel this way?

Besides, who says God didn’t “get out of bed” to stop the Holocaust? He did stop it, through men like Dwight Eisenhower and the fighting forces of the United States, among many others. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored/ He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.” Amen! This hymn writer rightly understands how God works in history. “The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.”

Speaking of which, here’s another aspect of heaven (and hell) to which Spufford gives short shrift (at least so far): vengeance belongs to God, and he will repay. In eternity, justice will be fully and finally done. Those six million lives lost in the Holocaust will be avenged.

Finally, in my own experience, here’s what I know for sure: most of the suffering that I suffer I bring on myself. It’s not caused so much by external events as my response to those events. As a friend of mine reminded me earlier this year, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is a choice.” In my own experience, I can’t argue with that. Can Spufford?

Maybe he’ll answer that question before the end of the book. I’m not encouraged so far.

1. Francis Spufford, Unapologetic (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 84-5.

2. Ibid., 92.

3. Ibid., 94.

4. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 116-7.

A prayer for Independence Day

July 4, 2014


In my sermon last week I mentioned the plight of a man named Josef, a Christian convert in Afghanistan whose story was recently featured in the New York Times. Josef is currently hiding from members of his own family, who have vowed to kill him because he abandoned Islam and gave his life to Jesus Christ. His worldly possessions consist of a well-worn Bible, a wooden cross with scripture from the Sermon on the Mount printed on it, and a folder containing records related to his conversion.

As I said in my sermon, even though Josef has next to nothing, he has so much more than many of us Americans! Josef is rich because his treasure is in heaven.

When I hear a story like his, I feel both inspired and guilty—guilty that I don’t wake up every morning thanking God for this amazing country in which we live, which ensures—sometimes at great cost—the freedom that we possess to worship our Lord.

With that in mind, I invite you to pray with me this prayer for Independence Day, which comes from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sermon 06-29-14: “Therefore Keep Watch”

July 3, 2014

Wedding Receptions


Every week, most of us United Methodists recite the Apostles’ Creed. When we do so, we affirm that we believe in a doctrine that we rarely talk about: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. What is it, why should we believe in it, and why is it relevant for our lives? How are we supposed to live now, before Christ returns?

Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

In the past ten years of my pastoral ministry, I haven’t one time messed up the names of any bride or groomwhose wedding I’ve performed. I haven’t said, “Stephen, will you have Amy to be your wife,” only to have Stephen say, “My name is Richard! And her name is Cindy!” That hasn’t happened yet, I’m happy to say. At least I don’t think it’s happened!

Once I did a wedding for a bride and groom who had interchangeable names—names that could easily apply to either a man or a woman—something like Casey and Taylor. Which one’s which? And they weren’t members of my church, so it’s not like I knew them very well.

Their wedding was at 6:00 on Sunday evening. Sunday! Which is the worst day for us pastors because we all take long naps on Sunday afternoon! Anyway, I set my alarm to wake up extra early from my nap, in part because I wanted to make sure I had time to learn their names and keep them straight.
Read the rest of this entry »

Billy Graham on Vinyl, Part 5: “David and Goliath”

July 2, 2014


In honor of Billy Graham, a hero of mine, I’m digitizing some of his sermons from long out-of-print records and making them available as MP3s. This sermon is found in a 4-record box set called A Billy Graham Crusade from 1962 (RCA Victor Custom Record Dept. BG4314).

Billy Graham, himself a Southern Baptist and America’s most famous evangelical Christian, has a famously ecumenical spirit. In an earlier sermon in this series, he said that everything he preaches could be found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. (True, although one wonders if the Episcopalians in his audience were surprised by that!) If he were still preaching, he would eschew, I’m sure, taking sides in the recently resurgent debate between Calvinist and Arminian Christians, seeing it as a distraction from preaching Christ crucified.

That being said, his words below capture perfectly the synergistic understanding of us Wesleyan-Arminians when it comes to repentance. As Wesley said, when you experience new birth by the Holy Spirit, “sin remains but no longer reigns.” We receive new power from on high to overcome sin in our lives. Or as Graham puts it:

Now when you give your life to Jesus Christ, sin comes off the throne of your life. No longer does sin rule and control! Christ is asked to come and sit in the throne room of you life and sit on the throne. He now rules and reigns. And sin is under control! It doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes, and you don’t sometimes fall in sin, but immediately you get up and you… God says if you confess, he forgives. But he gives you a new strength, a new dimension for living. A new power is yours in Jesus Christ when you come to him.

Now what do you have to do? You have to be willing to confess that you’re a sinner, give up your sins… I said willing—notice I said “willing.” You can’t do it by yourself. You’re involved in certain things in your life that you know are wrong, but you can’t give them up. You’ve tried! You failed! All right, just be willing. Are you willing? All right, if you’re willing, God will help you! Because, you see, even your repentance, God has to help you to do it. You can’t repent by yourself. There’s not a person that can repent by himself: God has to help you to repent.

And if you’re willing, he’ll help you to repent, and when you face that thing tomorrow that’s holding you back—the sin in your life—God will be there to help you slay the giant!

This sermon was part of “Youth Night” during his crusade. He aims the sermon at young people. To his credit, he doesn’t talk down to them.

To listen to sermon, click on play button above, or right-click here to download as a separate .mp3 file.

Click here for Part 1.

Click here for Part 2.

Click here for Part 3.

Click here for Part 4.