HED:Graham assures audience God will forgive
By John Armistead
There was an intensity in Franklin Graham's eyes and an urgency in his voice as he gripped the sides of the pulpit Tuesday night for his final sermon.
"Today, I want to be brief," he said to the 7,800 assembled before him. "For many of you, this will be the most important night of your life."
He then read St. Matthew's account of the rich young ruler, said a prayer and explained simply what sin was all about.
"Murder is a sin," he said. "And sex outside of marriage is a sin and I don't care what ABC or CBS or Disney says. All I care about it what God says, and God says sex outside of marriage is wrong."
Loud applause erupted from the audience.
Graham turned his attention to alcohol.
"Some of the most clever commercials on TV are beer commercials," he said. "They're funny, especially that frog with the long tongue. Yes, Satan shows you that frog with the long tongue, but he doesn't show the car wrecks and the broken homes. 'Do not be drunk with wine but with the Spirit.'
Graham continued to walk through several of the 10 Commandments, punctuating the fact that sin against God could never bring peace of mind or fill the emptiness in a person's life.
"Whatever comes between you an heaven is a sin. Whatever you love more than your own soul is a sin," he said.
"It's Jesus who died for you, and some of you are going to turn your back on this truth just like that rich young man who walked off the pages of history and into the flames of hell."
He emphasized again, as he has in each of his sermons, that a person's only hope is to immediately ask Christ into his life.
"If you want to come tonight, God will forgive you," he said. "Wherever you are, get up and come."
Seeing people walk down the aisle and affirm faith in Jesus Christ is what every Graham crusade - Billy's or Franklin's - is all about. That is the reason 3,500 Northeast Mississippi volunteers have expended so much time and energy making this crusade happen.
"It's a joyous feeling just to know this person is making that total commitment, leaving the old life and stepping into the new," commented Tupelo's Melvin Ambrose when asked how he feels seeing someone walk forward during the invitation. "This is the business we're all in, to see souls saved."
Bill Sisk, also of Tupelo, agreed.
"It makes you feel so good to know people are responding," he said. "You get excited at a ball game, but seeing someone go down and accept Jesus is far above that."
Country singer Paul Overstreet, wearing a wide white hat, in a plaintive voice sang "Amazing Grace" just prior to Graham's sermon.
Earlier, Rick Stanley, a Baptist minister who once served as a personal aide to his step-brother Elvis Presley, told of his own conversion to Christ after plunging into a life of drugs.
And when Graham finished his message, The Praise Band began to sing: "Come, just as you are, hear the Spirit call. Come just as you are, come and see, come receive, come and live forever."
And, as on the two previous nights, they came.
As the crowd in front of the platform began to thicken, a man and his elementary school-age son, both dressed almost identically, came down an aisle and joined the others.
The man stood behind the boy and placed his hands on the boy's shoulders. Both were looking up, and both were smiling.