Full text of evangelist Billy Graham’s sermon titled “Conscience” which was delivered in Memphis, Tennessee in 1978.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Billy Graham – Evangelist
Now tonight, I want you to turn with me to Mark the Sixth Chapter — the Sixth Chapter of Mark, starting at verse 14, these words:
Mark 6:14: “And King Herod heard of Him, for His name was spread abroad…” Now this is… he was hearing of Jesus, all the things that Jesus was doing: making the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and even raising the dead, and King Herod heard about it. And he said that John the Baptist was risen from the dead.
They said, ‘You’ve made a mistake, his name is not Jesus, it is John the Baptist.’ John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, I killed John the Baptist. When Salome danced in front of me I was so taken with her dancing that I promised her anything in my whole kingdom, and she asked for the head of John the Baptist to be brought on a platter. And I regretted it. I liked John the Baptist, even though I didn’t agree with some of the things he was saying, especially when he accused me of adultery. But I didn’t want to have to kill him, but I had made a promise in front of all my lords and ladies, and all the heads of state, that I would give this girl anything she wanted, and she asked for the head of John the Baptist so I had to send an executioner to go and bring his head. And I know he’s risen from the dead, that’s the only explanation for this man that’s going around the country now who’s become very famous. They call him Jesus, but actually he’s John the Baptist.
Why did Herod say that? He said it because his conscience was killing him. All he could think about, night and day, was that head, that bloody head of John the Baptist that he had had brought on a platter because a girl had performed a sensual dance for him and gotten his passions all aroused.
You know, there’s a Conscience Fund in almost every major post office in the United States. If you’ve cheated the government, and your conscience bothers you, you can send it to that Conscience Fund.
All over the world little children know that certain things are wrong, wherever you find them. Who told them?
[Airplane flying sound in background]
Now when the wind is coming from this direction, we get the planes because the airport is right over here and they come right down low over the stadium, and it’s marvelous sound effects for preaching.
But conscience is the moral judiciary of the soul, and conscience does not lay down a law, but warns of the existence of a law.
Think about that a moment. Conscience warns you that there is a moral law. That moral law is expressed verbally by God in the Ten Commandments. It is also expressed verbally by the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. These are laws.
And conscience is put within you to tell you when you are breaking one. Conscience is in the heart of every one of us. There’s a little red light that goes on.
But there’s something in your own heart and your own soul that flashes red and says, ‘don’t do that, you’re wrong’, and most of us go against our conscience time after time, and in a moment I’ll show you how we pay for it.
Because the Bible speaks of several kinds of conscience. First, there’s the evil conscience. Hebrews 10:22, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
In another place, the Bible talks about the defiled conscience. Titus 1:15, “Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”
You can have an evil conscience and a defiled conscience. And here is the thing that shakes me about these Scriptures. The very thing that tells us when we are knowingly wrong itself becomes debauched, like a little bell that is supposed to ring and give us a clear note, becomes cracked so that its note will be false.
And it’s true when you reject the voice of conscience time after time after time after time, after a while the voice of conscience itself becomes defiled and becomes evil, and gives you the wrong signals, so that you too may crash as you approach the runway of a decision.
Because you see, your conscience will begin calling evil good; it’ll call good evil. It’ll put darkness for light and light for darkness, and it will say that bitter is sweet and that sweet is bitter. It becomes evil itself.
When you go against your conscience time after time, there comes a point, a dividing line, when your conscience is no longer reliable at all. In fact, it will lead you in the wrong direction.
And when you’ve reached that point, you have reached a very dangerous situation in your life.
Hebrews 10:2: “For then would they not have ceased to be offered because that the worshipers once purged have no more conscience of sins.”
In other words, there is a possibility that you can destroy your conscience. The bible talks about — the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy talks about people that have a conscience that have been seared with a hot iron, like a branding iron. Your conscience seared!
Your conscience has been driven away as a friend and a counselor, and comes back in the form of remorse, and comes back in so many different forms.
Conscience can even be used by evil spirits. You see, God put it in your heart to help you and to guide you through life. And your conscience has told you not to tell that lie, not to go to that place that you went the other night, and you did it anyway.
Told you not to disobey your parents, but you did. So you make your conscience harder and harder and harder. You see, the Holy Spirit uses the conscience to convict you of sin, and righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit uses the conscience to draw you to the Lord Jesus Christ, and you say no! no! no! no! no! and after a while your heart gets harder and harder, and harder and harder and harder and harder and harder and harder and harder.
God stills loves you, God wants to forgive you. It’s still not too late for anyone here, but I do know people, very brilliant theologians, who think that there’s a line beyond which you can go in which you can no longer be saved.
You become a reprobate, with a reprobate mind, so hardened that you cannot come to Christ. I know that the Bible says that there is a sin unto death, and I also know that Jesus talked about a sin that could not be forgiven: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that total rejection of Christ that cannot be forgiven? I think that’s what it is.
We’re talking about something here tonight that’s very, very sensitive, and delicate, and dangerous. And I know so many people that have some ‘Churchanity’, and they go to church, and they’ve been baptized, but they’ve never really known Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior.
And they’re in danger of hardening their hearts, and hardening their conscience, until they can no longer hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. And if you can come to a meeting like this and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ sung and preached, and it doesn’t touch your heart at all, beware.
Because, you see, you can become gospel hardened. We have so much gospel now in America on television, radio, churches. Thank God for every one of them. I don’t care what they do just so they get people to Christ.
But the danger is that we hear so much gospel that it goes in one ear and out the other, and doesn’t get lodged into our hearts, and we don’t go deep, as Andraé Crouch was talking about a moment ago, and singing about. It must go deep until we become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And I’m delighted to hear how many churches in this city have Bible studies, and Bible classes, and how many preachers in the city preach expository messages, taking people right through the Bible, and teaching the Bible as they preach, because that helps the people to grow.
But we have so many people that they think because they’ve been faithful to the church, or because they have given to the church, or because they’ve done some good deeds, that they are going to go to heaven. And the Bible plainly says you can’t go to heaven by works.
“For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If I could work my way to heaven, Christ would never have died on the cross. If I could work my way to heaven, I’d be working from morning till night, all day long. And still it wouldn’t be enough.
Because I have come short of God’s glory, and that’s why Christ went to the cross, and paid the penalty and the price of my sins, and gave to me eternal life.
And here’s an interesting thing that happened when I accepted Christ, and this will happen to you. You can have your conscience resensitized, and your conscience can become the conscience of a little child again.
Just — and I don’t hold myself up as an example at all, of any goodness, but I can tell you this, I can do something like this or like that, or like the other thing and my conscience speaks to me immediately about little things.
And I believe that a Christian walks that way, the Holy Spirit speaking through conscience, and guiding and directing and instructing.
Oh, to have a conscience that is clear of all offense, (Acts 24:16) the Apostle Paul said. To have a clean conscience, that little light that God has put in our hearts.
Now the Bible talks about a convicting conscience. “And they being convicted by their own conscience went out one by one.” (John 8:9)
And of course, that’s the story of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus had been teaching, and these Pharisees had brought this woman that they’d caught taken in adultery to Jesus and they said, “Lord, you claim to be a rabbi; you claim to be a great teacher from God. All right, what shall we do? Shall we stone this woman? The law says stone her and kill her. What do you say?”
And Jesus wrote on the ground, we don’t know what He wrote, but I think He wrote the Ten Commandments, and they read the Ten Commandments, and He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
They might not have been guilty of breaking the 7th commandment, but maybe they were guilty of breaking the 10th commandment, or the first commandment, or the third commandment, because not one of those religious leaders could pick up a stone and throw it, because they too were guilty.
And the Bible teaches that all have sinned, we’ve all come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Now the Bible teaches also that the conscience cannot heal the wound which it inflicts. It cannot wash out the stain of the soul, it cannot undo the past, it cannot cover up your sins; that’s not its business. Its business it to convict: it is the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection that saves us from our sins.
Christ alone can say to our souls and to our conscience “Be Still!” as He said to the angry sea very long ago.
I’m asking you tonight to come to the foot of the cross and find forgiveness of all your past sins. I’m asking you to come to the cross tonight and receive eternal life.
I’m asking you to come to the cross tonight while you can still hear the voice of the Spirit of God. Because you see, there’s some strange passages in the Bible; it talks about Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.
In other words, Ephraim is so taken up with his playthings, God said, leave him alone, don’t disturb him; let him have a good time, he’s lost.
The Bible says “he that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off, without remedy.”
I do not pretend to know all the meaning of those Scriptures. I dare not tread beyond the teaching of the Word of God. But I’ll tell you that warning is all the way through the Bible.
I remember a story that they used to tell years ago, I think Dr. R.G. Lee used to tell it, about a man at Niagara. And they have a place there, and I’ve seen this place, it’s called Beyond Redemption’s Point. And this man had been able to swim the English Channel several times, so he came to America and he said, “I’m going to swim Niagara river.” At that point that they say “You can’t swim it.”
So a big crowd gathered and he dived in, and he began to swim, powerful strokes, a very strong man, and a fast swimmer. And he came to that place that they call Redemption’s Point, and he waved at the crowd, and dived in, swimming. They picked his body up way downstream.
There’s a point there beyond which you cannot go. There’s a point in your rejection of Christ, or in your neglect of Christ; a point beyond which you cannot go without endangering your eternal soul.
I’m going to ask you tonight to surrender to Christ. You say, “What do I have to do?” It’s very, very simple. You see, God made it so simple that the uneducated, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the educated, people of all races, all over the world can do what God asks. He just asks you to believe.
And that word believe, though, has a lot in it. It means to stand on, to put your trust in, and your confidence in. Totally! And it means that you are willing to repent of your sins, which also means a change in your lifestyle, a change in the way you live, from now on God is first; not your lust, not your idols, not your work, but God. And Christ becomes the Lord of your life, and you receive Him as Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m going to ask you to do something tonight we’ve seen hundreds of people do in this stadium this past week. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now, and come and stand in front of the platform and say tonight, “I’m not sure that Christ lives in my heart. I don’t know whether I’ve hardened my conscience or not, but I want to make sure tonight by letting Him come in. I want to surrender my life to Him as Savior and Lord. I want to make sure of it.”
You get up and come right now, hundreds of you, from all over the stadium.
Why do I ask you to come? Jesus said if you’re not willing to acknowledge Me publicly before men, I’ll not acknowledge you before my Father. He hung on the cross publicly for you. People were laughing at Him, they may laugh at you. They were mocking Him when He hung there, but He did it for you, because He loved you.
Now you get up and come, and stand here quietly and reverently, and say tonight, “I want Christ in my heart, I want to know that He’s there. He’s spoken to me tonight. He’s convicted me tonight. I’ve been disturbed tonight.”
You come and stand, and after you’ve come and stood here, I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you. And we’re going to give you some literature, and you can go back and join your friends. If you’re with friends or relatives, they’ll wait, or if you’ve come in a bus, they’ll wait. Just get up and come, quickly, right now, from all over the stadium, from the choir, from everywhere.
(Just as I am – Hymn)
Just as I am, without one plea,But that Thy blood was shed for me,And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,O Lamb of God, I come! I come!Just as I am, and waiting notTo rid my soul of one dark blot;To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,O Lamb of God, I come, I come!Just as I am, though tossed aboutWith many a conflict, many a doubt;Fightings within, and fears without,O Lamb of God, I come, I come!Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;Sight, riches, healing of the mind;Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,O Lamb of God, I come, I come!Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;Because Thy promise I believe,O Lamb of God, I come, I come!Just as I am, Thy love unknownHas broken every barrier down;Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
I would like to say a word to you that have been watching by television. As you already know, we’re here in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. Some 40,000 people are here tonight, and hundreds of people are coming from every part of the stadium to make their commitment to Jesus Christ.
You don’t have to be here in this stadium to find Christ, you can find Him where you are. You may sitting at a bar, you may be in a hotel room, you may be in your own home, but you can say yes to Christ. He’ll forgive all the past. I don’t care how dirty and how sordid it may be, He’ll forgive it because He loves you. He loves you so much that He died for you.
And I hope that you’ll go to church next Sunday.
Resources for Further Reading:
- Preparing for Hard Times: David Wilkerson (Transcript)
- The Healing of the Troubled Mind: David Wilkerson (Transcript)
- Priscilla Shirer: You’re Right Where You Need to Be (Transcript)
- R.C. Sproul: What Is Evil & Where Did It Come From? (Transcript)
- Israel, Hamas, and End Times: Gary Hamrick (Transcript)