Read an Excerpt
HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN
By Billy Graham
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Billy Graham
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhy Am I So Empty?
When the Viking landed on Mars, the world exclaimed, "Unbelievable! Magnificent!" The mysterious Red Planet had been penetrated. An ingeniously designed robot which was the result of one billion dollars and the probing minds of hundreds of scientists had accomplished a task that man had dreamed about for generations.
Exploring the great mysteries of the universe, trying to predict the quirks of nature, attempting to predict a trend in society or politics are all modern concerns.
In the business world, for instance, men search for ways to improve their efficiency. On office walls and on bulletin boards of sales organizations we see slogans like "Plan Ahead" or "Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan." Corporations hire firms at large fees to determine how they can improve their planning. Business, world politics, and economics change so fast that in a few days the direction of an entire country can change. Companies called "Think Factories" project thinking a decade or more in advance to keep abreast of the changing times.
In our daily lives we keep a calendar, trying to mark down appointments and schedule our days. If there were no planning, children would never get to the dentist, mothers would never make the community meeting, businesses and labor unions would collapse. We are always searching for ways to streamline our lives, to simplify daily living.
But what about the greater issues of life and death? Do we plan? Do we need to search for answers to the deep moral and spiritual questions so that our lives are more orderly? Man has always thought so, which is why we have philosophers, psychologists, and theologians. Today, however, much of the world in search of knowledge and fulfillment ignores God!
I knew a brilliant young lawyer who did not seem to find a need for God during his intense years of concentration as a student. Later, he began to write a book about a famous person. While he was working on this book we had a conversation during the course of which I detected that he was on a personal spiritual quest. He hoped to find somewhere in the life of the man who was the subject of his book a spiritual fulfillment which he himself wanted. He knew this person believed in God and had accepted Christ into his heart. He also seemed reassured that the one about whom he was writing had doubts from time to time.
This young man who has been searching for so long has now become interested in spiritual things. In my earlier contacts with him I thought he was an agnostic, interested only in gaining knowledge at the university and later at law school. Now I suspect that all through adolescence and his twenties he was searching for God without knowing it.
The Self-made Man
We are taught to be independent, to make it on our own. As we look at an individual we may say, "Now there's someone who's made it!" We admire him and respect his ability to "pull himself up by his bootstraps."
We have even had a well-known TV commercial that says, "Please, Mother, I'd rather do it myself."
And yet within each of us is a deep-seated frustration: "I ought to be better. I believe I was made for something more; there must be more to life than this. Why am I so empty?"
Such feelings, often subconscious, cause us to struggle toward some unknown, unnamed goal. We may try to evade this quest, we may detour into a fantasy world, we may even regress to lower levels of life and seek to escape. We may throw up our hands in disgust and say, "What's the use? I'm okay just working and keeping out of trouble." But somehow, deep inside is a compulsion which invariably leads us to take up the search again.
This is one of the reasons the nation became fascinated by Roots, the product of Alex Haley's ten-year search for identity. My friend Rod McKuen felt rootless and a strange "vacuum" in his heart as he began his search for his true father. The oldest book in the possession of the human race is Job, and Job once exclaimed, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him" (Job 23:3).
This search transcends race, age, economic status, sex, and educational background. Either man began nowhere and is looking for someplace to go, or he began somewhere and lost his way. In either case, he's searching. None of us will ever find "total satisfaction" until we find that our roots are in eternity.
A famous scientist at an Eastern university asked to see me. Somewhat surprised, I met him in a quiet room at the Student Union. Suddenly this brilliant man, admired by many and respected as a leader in his field, broke down. When he regained his composure he told me: "I'm at the point of ending my life ... My home is a wreck, I'm a secret alcoholic, my children don't respect me. I've never really had a guiding principle in my life except to be recognized in my field of physics. I've come to realize that I don't really know the true values of living. I've watched you on TV and although I don't understand all your're trying to communicate, I have a conviction that you know what the real meaning of life is."
He hesitated, and I'm sure the next thing this famous, self-made man said was very difficult for him: "I've come to you for help." It was a desperate cry.
From every culture, every country-from those who cannot read to Nobel Prize winners-there is the age-old phenomenon, the mystery of anthropos, the "upward-looking one," the one who is searching, inquiring for life's deeper and often hidden meaning.
In airports, on planes, in hotel lobbies across the world, people have come to me with serious questions about broken family relationships, ill health, or financial catastrophes. But more often they reveal empty souls. On an airplane flight a man poured out his life story to me. It was a saga of shattered dreams, broken hopes, and emptiness. Before we parted he had said "yes" to Christ. Tremendous relief came over his face as he whispered, "Thank you."
When we landed, I watched him embrace his wife and talk excitedly to her at the same time. I don't know what their conversation was, but from his expression he was evidently telling her of his new relationship with the Lord. I can only imagine how amazed she must have been at the change, because he had told me how his temper and unfaithfulness had just about broken their marriage.
I don't know if his marriage was put back together, because I never saw him again, but his direction was certainly changed on that plane trip.
Fame and Fortune
One of our best-known show biz personalities asked me to come to his dressing room after a show on which I had appeared. He motioned me in and said, "I make people laugh ... but inside I feel like hell. I've been married twice, both marriages have broken up. It's been mostly my fault, I guess, but I don't think I could make a go of a third marriage unless I could find some sort of fulfillment, which I don't know how to get."
He stopped and looked at me. "Do you think what I'm really looking for is summed up in the word God?"
All of his fame and money had not satisfied his searching heart.
A man who was destined to be very influential in the life of Charles Colson, of Watergate fame, was Tom Phillips. Colson writes in his book, Born Again, that Phillips said: "It may be hard to understand ... but I didn't seem to have anything that mattered. It was all on the surface. All the material things in life are meaningless if a man hasn't discovered what's underneath them ...
"'One night I was in New York on business and noticed that Billy Graham was having a Crusade in Madison Square Garden,' Tom continued. 'I went-curious, I guess-hoping maybe I'd find some answers. What Graham said that night put it all into place for me. I saw what was missing-the personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the fact that I hadn't ever asked Him into my life, hadn't turned my life over to Him. So I did it-that very night at the Crusade.'"
Once again a man was forced to examine his soul.
I was in another country at one time and was invited to have lunch with a man who, materially speaking, had everything this world could offer. In fact, he expressed to me how he could buy anything he wanted. He had traveled extensively in business; everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. He was leader of his social set, and yet in his own words he said, "I'm a miserable old man, doomed to die. If there is a hell, that's where I'm headed."
I looked through the beautiful old windows at the snow falling gently on the manicured lawn and thought about others, like him, who had expressed to me similar thoughts about the emptiness of life without God-the meaninglessness of life for a man who has everything to live with, but nothing to live for. My attention came back with a start as I heard him say, "I've asked you here today to read the Bible to me and to talk to me about God. Do you think it's too late? My father and mother were strong believers in God and often prayed for me."
The verse from Matthew 4:4 flashed across my mind: "Man shall not live on bread alone." And Luke 12:15 tells us, "Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
We read every day about the rich, the famous, the talented, who are disillusioned. Many of them are turning to the occult, or Transcendental Meditation, or Eastern religions. Some are turning to crime. The questions they thought were answered are left dangling: What is man? Where did he come from? What is his purpose on this planet? Where is he going? Is there a God who cares? If there is a God, has He revealed Himself to man?
Is the Intellectual Searching?
The men and women who are considered part of the intellectual community are searching for the same meaning, the same sense of fulfillment, but many are hampered by their own sense of pride. They would like to save themselves, because pride nourishes self-esteem, making us believe we can manage ourselves without God.
Famous English writer and philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote prolifically concerning ethics, morals, and human society, trying to prove what he believed were the fallacies in the Bible. When it came to the pride of the intellectual, Russell wrote, "Every man would like to be God, if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility."
From the very beginning of time, man has said, like Lucifer, "I will be like the most High" (Isa. 14:14, KJV).
The search continues. The heart needs filling, and most intellectuals come to a point in their lives when the academe, the scientific community, the business or political activities are no longer enough.
A brilliant analyst of the cultural scene wrote: "Man, being human, however, tries again and again to evade the logic of his own position, and searches for his true self, his humanity, his freedom, even if he can only do so by means of sheer irrationality or completely unfounded mysticism."
We see the results of man searching for his true self in mystic experiences, new cults, and what is called the New Consciousness. "Man today wants to experience God. It is not faith or knowledge which is the key word, but experience."
As the desire for this experience increases, the false philosophers and false gods become acceptable. A European intellectual says: "For centuries there has been the search for the attainment of that ideal which the Greeks called ataraxia, the idea of quiet calm, of deep inner contentment, beyond the restlessness, frustrations, and tensions of normal living. Many searched for this via philosophy and religion, but always there has been the parallel search for short cuts."
An American scholar writes, "As man's search for experiences, new leaders, new hopes, increases in intensity, there will be that continued desire to find an alternative route into what appears to be a dark future."
Men desperately want peace, but the peace of God is not absence from tension or turmoil, but peace in the midst of tension and turmoil.
In Calcutta, India, I wanted to see a great woman of God who is known to the world as Mother Teresa. I arrived early in the evening and the sisters hated to disturb Mother Teresa, because three men had died in her arms that day and she had just gone to her room to get a bit of rest. However, the official who brought me there sent a note to Mother Teresa, and in a few minutes she was there. I immediately had the impression of this saintly woman as a person who has peace in the midst of turmoil. It's the peace that passes all understanding, and all misunderstanding, too.
How desperately we need that kind of peace during a generation which is being torn apart by internal unrest and despair. The daily newspapers are classics in negative outlook. Terrorism, bombings, suicide, divorce, and general pessimism are the diseases of the day, because in his pride man refuses to turn to God!
The honest intellectual, however, the one who keeps an open mind along with his searching heart, is the one who makes a thrilling discovery. Dr. Rookmaaker says: "We cannot understand God fully, nor know His work completely. But we are not asked to accept in blind faith. On the contrary: We are asked to look around us, and know that the things He tells us through His Son and His prophets and apostles are true, real, and of this world, the cosmos He has made.
"Therefore our faith can never be just 'out of the box,' irrational. Faith is not a sacrifice of the intellect if we believe in the biblical account of history."
Who Needs Help?
In the rash of disaster movies in the middle seventies there was one called Earthquake. When the devastating quake hit, two of the main characters in the movie found shelter under a sturdy car from the flying debris and the terror of unleashed nature. At that moment they didn't reason about what had happened; they didn't analyze what they were going to do; they knew they needed help and dove for shelter.
The person who is on the bottom of life's circumstances wants help immediately. He doesn't need to analyze and examine how help comes; he only knows he needs to be saved.
When it comes to the disasters of our inner earthquakes some intellectuals want to know the source of help and all the details concerning that source. The intellectual has a certain set of beliefs which are self-sufficient and he believes his system is complete. Other intellectuals accept blindly the counterfeits which may be veiled in such complex language and thought patterns that the denial of their premises would sound ignorant. It's very difficult for some to say, "That doesn't really make good sense, and I don't understand what is being said."
Nevertheless, many intellectual searchers have opened their minds and hearts to the truth of the good news and found new life.
A young Hindu who was doing graduate study in nuclear medicine at UCLA was just beginning her second year of study when she came to a crusade. At the end of the service she accepted Christ as her Savior and was born again.
A brilliant surgeon who came to a crusade heard me say that if gaining heaven depended upon good deeds I wouldn't expect to get there. He had devoted his life to helping humanity, but at that moment he realized his training, his years of hard work and devotion, his sleepless nights with patients, and his love for his profession wouldn't earn him a place with God. This man, who had seen many births himself, knew what it was to be born twice.
Many people think Christ talked only to down-and-outers or children. One of His greatest encounters during His teaching ministry was with an intellectual. This man, whose name was Nicodemus, had a very rigid philosophical and theological system, and it was a good plan, with God at the center. However, this "intellectual" structured his philosophical religious system without the new birth-found only in Jesus Christ!
What did Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, tell this well-educated man? He said, in words like these, "Nicodemus, I'm sorry I can't explain it to you. You have seen something that troubles you, that doesn't fit your system. You admit I am more than an ordinary man, that I act with the power of God. This may not make sense to you, but I can't explain it to you because your assumptions do not allow for a starting point. Nicodemus, to you it's not 'logical.' Nothing in your thought patterns permits it. You cannot see with spiritual insight until you are born spiritually. You will just have to be born again."
Excerpted from HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN by Billy Graham Copyright © 2007 by Billy Graham. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.