The Bible says we cannot be neutral. Lots of people try to be neutral. They say, “Well, I’m not for God, I’m not against Him. I just don’t take a stand.” But God says you have to take a stand. You have to choose — you have to choose which road of life you are going to go — a broad road or a narrow road. The narrow Road leads to heaven, the broad road leads to hell, and you must make the choice.
And so this young fellow got to thinking one day, and it’s a good thing when you start to think about yourself. He began to think, and the Spirit of God began to speak to him, and he began to think about his father back there on the farm. He thought to himself, “What am I doing here in these rags, in this dirt, in this filth, eating with hogs when my father has a beautiful farm back there with many servants and many cattle, and I could go be there and be a servant of his. What a fool I’ve made of myself.”
You know the Bible teaches that sin is a form of insanity? The Bible says if our Gospel is hid or veiled, the veil must be in the minds of those who have spiritually died. The spirit of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe and who prevent the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining in there. Notice, “The spirit of this world.” There is an evil spirit in our world that blinds us to the reality of what God can do. It blinds us to our own condition. Then the Holy Spirit comes along and convinces us and disturbs us of our sins, and we sit and think about it and we are disturbed and unhappy about our condition. We don’t know where to escape. We don’t know which way to go. But this young fellow decided to do the right thing. He decided to get up and go back. He said, “I have sinned against heaven.” He didn’t just say, “I have sinned against my father.” He said, “I have sinned against God.” That’s your problem. Your problem is not a family relationship. Your problem is not really a race problem. Your problem is a problem with God. You get the problem with God straightened out, and you will have a new perspective on how to straighten out some of the other problems. That’s the real problem. The real hangup in your life is what to do about God, what to do about Christ. Let Him come and change and transform your life and see the fulfillment and the power and the strength you will have.
This young fellow reflected; then he made a resolution. He said, “I will arise and go to my father.”
Sixteen thousand young people in Miami the other day arose and demonstrated for decency. Thousands of people followed an Olympic track star down the streets of Toronto the other day, to witness for Christ. They called it, “A mile for morals march.” When are we going to wake up? When are the young people in this country who believe in God finally going to start carrying their flag? Maybe we are going to see a great tide turned, but we will never turn unless we are willing to make Christ the very heart and the very center of our lives. There is nothing else in the arena of American philosophy and thought today except Christ. It is either Christ or it is chaos. Which is it going to be?
The Beatles’ latest controversial record is called, “Oh, Christ, It Ain’t Easy,” and it’s not easy to follow Christ. It is not easy to be a Christian. It’s not easy to live in New York or any of our other great metropolitan areas and live the disciplined life for Jesus Christ. It’s not easy for a young person to resist the temptations of this hour.
Jesus said, “Sit down and count the cost. If you want something easy, then go somewhere else. I’m not the man; I’m not the one.” He said, “Count the cost.” He said, “It’s going to mean death to your self — your own self-interests, your own self-pride.” He said, “It’s going to mean a cross. You may have to be crucified.” He meant that not only figuratively; He also meant it literally. It is going to have to mean less of you and your desires and your ambitions, and Christ is going to have to be first, and He’ll test you; He’ll take you to many Crosses, and He will see if you are willing to go there without flinching. That is what it will cost to follow Christ.
This fellow said, “I will arise and go.”
He started back home, and while he was a long way off, his father was watching for him. Now notice, this is a picture of God. Jesus is telling a story to illustrate a spiritual truth. Here is a picture of God watching for you all the time. He sees you coming down the road, and the son is filled with shame, and dirt, and filth, and sin, and rebellion. Was his father apathetic to his condition? Was his father indifferent? No. The Bible says that he was watching, waiting for his son to return, hoping and praying he would return. And when he saw him, he ran down the road and threw his arms around him and the son blurted out in tears, “Father, I have sinned against you. I am sorry. I have come home to be a servant.”
But the father said, “Nothing doing.” He said, “Bring the ring and put it on his finger, the ring of the authority of sonship. Give him a bath and put on the finest clothes, and then kill the fatted calf. We are going to have a barbecue, we’re going to have a party that will be the greatest party we ever had. My son that was lost has been found. My son has returned.” The Bible says, “There is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents.” That is why Madison Square Garden is worth all the expense and all the trouble and all the work if just one person comes to Christ. If you knew the value of one soul, if you knew it made heaven rejoice over one person returning to the Father, you would receive Christ. You would return to the Father. You say, “But Billy, you don’t know my sins. You don’t know how rebellious my heart has been. You don’t know how many lies I’ve told, how many immoralities I’ve committed, how many drugs I’ve taken. You don’t know all I’ve done. I couldn’t possibly come.”
You are the kind of person He is really looking for. He receives you tonight. Jesus receives sinful men. That’s why He died. That’s why He rose again — to receive you.
But then out in the field there was his brother. He hadn’t seen his younger brother for years. He was working out in the fields and he heard all the shouting and all the commotion, and he said, “What’s going on?” One of the servants said, “Your brother has returned.” He said, “That scoundrel? You mean that reprobate, that sinner has returned and he expects us to welcome him?”
You see this fellow had been in his father’s home all along, but his loyalty wasn’t really to his father. His loyalty was to his own selfish interests. And it is possible to be in the church and be lost. It is possible to be in the church and be without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And there is many an elder brother here tonight. You are a member of the church, you haven’t yet left home, but even while you are at home, in the church, your heart is not right with God. You need to repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Lord and as your Savior.
Lincoln — before he was killed — was asked how he would treat the rebellious Southerners, and he answered, “As if they had never been away.” That is how God will treat you if you receive Christ tonight — as if you had never been away. He forgives all the past. He writes your name in His Book. You have the assurance that you are going to heaven. Now it is complicated, and it is hard to live the Christian life. I don’t want to fool you. I don’t want you to come under false colors. It is not easy to be a Christian. It means reading your Bible daily, it means spending time in prayer, and it means persecution.
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” the Bible says.
We are to live disciplined lives, under the Lordship of Christ. That is not easy, but let me tell you something. The Holy Spirit comes to live in your heart to help you live the Christian life, and then He begins to live through you and in you. It is no longer you living. It is Christ living in you, and it becomes a life of joy. Problems? Yes. Difficulties? Yes. But a life of joy and peace and forgiveness. He can change your life tonight.
There is a man here in this audience who I saw here a moment ago. Maybe you saw me put my arm around him when I came into the Garden. His name is Jim Vaus. Jim does one of the great social jobs here in New York City. Twenty years ago this year, Jim wandered into a tent where we were holding a meeting in Los Angeles. Jim — he wouldn’t mind me saying this — was Mickey Cohen’s wire tapper, had been written up as one of the great criminals of the West Coast. That night Jim found Christ. He and Alice and their children are here tonight, they love the Lord with all their heart, and Jim speaks all over the world. Thousands of people have found Christ under his ministry. What Christ has done for Jim Vaus He can do for you tonight if you put your faith and your confidence in Him. I am going to ask you to do it tonight. You ask, “What do I have to do, Billy?”
I am going to ask you to get up and come.