Billy Graham: Count the cost and follow Christ

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God is to be first and foremost in our lives at all times, even above your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, or even your life. Christ is to be first. And He said if you’re not willing to make that decision, and not willing to make that choice, you cannot follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:27-30).

In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you’re going to follow Me, sit down and count the cost.”

On this occasion, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. He was on His way to Jerusalem to die on the cross for our sins.

One mistake the older generation has made is that we haven’t clearly presented to the younger generation what it costs to follow Christ, and the joy and the thrill and the excitement of following Christ and knowing Him and having your sins forgiven. What a message we have to give!

And we find it difficult to understand the lack of commitment today. That’s really what I find among many people—they really haven’t committed themselves to any philosophy or ideology or religious faith. They’re just hanging loose, sort of waiting for a wind to come along and blow them in any direction. I’m asking you to commit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ. Count the cost. Surrender it all to Him. Let Him be your Lord.

And what I would beg of you most of all is get to know the Bible. Whatever your vocation, get a knowledge of the Bible first.

There are three problems that people face when it comes to the Word of God. First, there’s an intellectual problem. The intellectual problem that I faced when I was in school is one that many of you face. I had to decide who Jesus Christ is. Is He the Son of the living God, the way, the truth and the life? Is He the embodiment of all truth—scientific truth, psychological truth, moral truth, spiritual truth—as He claims? Or is He a liar who deserves to be put in a mental institution? Which is He? That’s the decision that you have to make.

The Bible has a lot to say about the mind: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The mind is important. But remember that the mind has been affected by sin. And you cannot come to Jesus Christ intellectually alone. The last step has to be taken by faith. And so by faith I say, “Lord Jesus, I believe You are who You claim to be, the Son of the living God, the Creator of the universe, who died on the cross for my sins and rose again for my justification. I believe You’re coming back to set up Your Kingdom. I want You to be my Savior, and by faith I accept You.” When you do that, He changes your life and comes into your heart and makes you a new person.

The second problem that people face in coming to Christ is a moral problem—meeting the high standards of Christ. Because, you see, Christ demands first place in everything. And you have to come to Christ realizing you’ll have to pay a price. You can’t drag those dirty sins with you. You’ll have to quit your lying. You’ll have to quit sleeping with that person who is not your spouse. You’ll have to quit cheating in school. You’ll have to take some responsibility and work.

All of these things are costly. Are you willing to pay them? That’s the moral problem. His standards are very high, and He doesn’t change to accommodate Himself to our generation and its changing, permissive standards. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

I don’t believe you can keep His standards without Christ. Sex is thrown at you from every angle. Peer pressure. You can’t live a clean life today, except with Christ in your heart. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The Scripture says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14). There was a time when sin ruled in your life. But when you come to Christ, sin no longer rules. Christ rules.

You’re not going to become perfect. Suppose you accept Christ and you slip and fall; what then? Immediately, if you really know Christ, you will get on your knees and say, “O Lord, I’m sorry. Forgive me. I turn from that sin. I don’t ever want to commit it again.” You confess it, acknowledge it. And He’s faithful and just to forgive you your sin (see 1 John 1:9). So if you’ve sinned, come back to Him and say, “Lord, I have sinned. I’m sorry. I surrender.”

And then there’s the emotional problem. Because, you see, we’re made of mind and will and emotion. He wants Lordship over your career, your marriage, your friendships, your morals—everything is to be surrendered to Him.

Nobody says you have to cry when you come to Christ, or you have to laugh when you come to Christ. But I’ll tell you this. You can’t look at that cross very long and realize its deep significance without being moved that God would send His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to shed His blood and die for you so that you might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and know that you’re going to Heaven.

Now, God makes three calls to you. First, He calls you to the person of Jesus Christ. “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’” (Isaiah 1:18). They can be made white as snow because of the cross. So He calls you to Christ tonight. It’s not a church call, it’s not a family call, it’s not a national call. It’s a call to the person of Christ.

Second, God calls you to consecration. The word consecration means to set apart. We do the dedicating, but only God can consecrate. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God”

(Romans 12:1). Think of your life as a house. You’re the owner of the house. You have a ring of keys. And when you respond to the call of Christ, you give God the key to the front door of your house. You commit your life to Christ as Savior and Lord. And when you respond to God’s call to consecration, you take off the other keys from the ring and give them to God. For a mother or a father, it means that you go to the nursery and give your baby to Christ. For a student, it means that you give God the key to your education.

For a business person, it means that you give God the key to your business. You give God the key to your romance. You give God the key to your future marriage. He becomes Lord.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). How do you receive Christ? You receive Him by faith. Now walk according to faith. Give Him all of the keys on that key ring.

And then, third, God calls you to training. I’ll tell you, I wish we had a million young people right now who would say, “I’ll go where You want me to go and be what You want me to be, Lord.” God is looking for nurses and doctors and business people, and—yes, Christian politicians and Christian leaders—who are ready to step out and pay the price and serve Christ.

I’m calling you to join His army. March with Him under the banner of the cross, with His love in your heart. But first you’ll have to take that first step, and say, “Yes, by faith I receive You, Lord, into my heart.”

I’m going to ask you to do it right now. Say, “I receive Christ. I want to follow Christ. I want to give Him all the keys in my ring—no matter what the cost. I’m willing to pay the price tonight, whatever it is.”

Don’t let this chance escape. The Bible says, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). You may never have another moment in all your life when you’re so close to the Kingdom as you are right now. This is your moment and your hour.  ©1979 BGEA


Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

Photo: Russ Busby/©1982 BGEA