January 21st, 1945
WHAT MATTERS TO ME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-6-82 12:00 p.m.
The theme for the pre-Easter services this year, as is has been announced by Mr. Bristow, is "America, Meet the Master": yesterday, What Matters to America; today, What Matters to Me; on Wednesday, Moving America to the Master; on Thursday, Moving Me to My Lord; and on Friday, The Marvelous Message of Jesus; today, What Matters to Me. In Mark 8:36: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36: what matters to me – "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" And a companion text in Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
What matters to me is my soul. "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
He did not come to condemn the world.
He did not come to blame.
He did not only come to seek,
It was to save that He came,
And when we call Him Iēsous, Jesus, Savior,
We call Him by His name.
"For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
It has been said, "Apply that word lost to anything, and it spells tragedy." Here is someone who has lost his sight, and he gropes throughout life in darkness. He has lost his sight. Apply that word lost to one’s health, "This man has lost his health." He’s no longer able to support himself or his family, and he lives in illness and invalidity all of his life – he has lost his health. Apply that word to the mind, "This one has lost his mind." One time, I listened to an asylum guard describe to me a visit of a young wife. He had opened the cell door, and she walked in to visit with her husband. And after the time was spent, the guard said he opened the door to escort her out. And when he opened the door, he saw her on her knees, bowed before her young husband, crying piteously, "Husband, don’t you know me? I am your wife. Don’t you recognize me? I am your wife." And the guard said no light of recognition came into his eyes at all. He had lost his mind. But as infinitely tragic as that word "lost" is applied to the human body, the eyes, the strength and the health, the mind, it is no tragedy compared to when you apply that word to the soul – a lost soul.
One of the dear families in a community where I pastored had a wayward, prodigal young man: their son. And he died in a drunken automobile accident. And the family called me and said, "We will have the memorial service here in the home. But, don’t call his name. Don’t read a Scripture. Don’t present an obituary. There will not be a song. Just have a prayer and we will bury him out of our sight" – a lost soul, a lost boy, a lost son, a lost daughter.
Let’s say that a Christian loses his money. He loses every possession that he has, and when he dies, in heaven, all the treasures of God are his. Even the streets on which he walks will be made out of solid gold. But here is a lost man, who accumulates the wealth of the world, and he dies, what is riches, like Dives, who lifted up his eyes in hell, being in torment [Luke 16:22-23]. "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" [Mark 8:36].
Here is a Christian who loses his health. He is broken on the wheel of illness and pain, and he dies; there are no sick, and no crippled, and no aged, and no infirm in heaven [Revelation 21:4-5]. But here is a lost man who walks in strength all the days of his life, and he is cut down, as a tree is chopped down. What is strength or health in damnation and perdition? The grave is the end of all that are crippled or blind or sick, but it isn’t the end of the soul.
A liberal theologian, one time, wrote – and I quote him – he said: "If the doctrine of damnation – of perdition – of hell – of judgment – were written on every page – of every leaf – of every Bible in the world, I would not believe it." Well and good, I would not think there is a child of God who ever lived who would rejoice over the lostness, the perdition, of these who turn aside, who spurn the mercies of our dear Lord. But I do say this: I do not know in my reading, in my observation, in my experience – I do not know of a truth that is darker or more tragic than this: that men are lost without God!
An unbeliever is lost in this life. He has no God to pray to and no Savior to see Him through. I can well understand why culture, and civilization, and national life, and social life, family life, are drowned in drunkenness, in liquor, in alcohol, in drugs; any way to escape the harsh, dark realities of life where there’s no God and no Savior. We just face the inevitable providences of life in ultimate despair. The unbeliever is lost in death. There is nothing that faces him but the impenetrable darkness of an everlasting midnight, lost in death.
When I was a young man, I visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. And in that cave I saw the mummified form of a little girl. She looked to me to be about twelve years of age. In a tragic providence that I didn’t know, and concerning which there was no explanation, that child was lost in that endless cavern. And wandering in the blackness of night, the little thing had finally laid down to die. And as I looked at her mummy, she had died with her face buried in her hands. And as I looked at that little thing, I thought of the terror of having been lost in that endless cavern and finally to die in the dark. That is but a picture of the impenetrable darkness that awaits the unbeliever who faces death as one who would face the endless night.
And the unbeliever is lost in the great judgment day of Almighty God, for we all shall stand someday in the presence of the great Lord who created us and placed in us our sensitivity to Him and to His call for faith and salvation. We shall all stand – all of us one day shall stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God. And what shall the unbeliever say in that awesome and terrible day?
I can just imagine the man who has rejected the overtures of God’s grace, and spurned our blessed Savior, and said no to the appeal of our Lord. I can just imagine his standing before God in that final judgmental day. And God turns to the recording angel and says, "Open the Book of Life and see if you can find his name." And the angel turns through the Book of Life and announces to the Lord, the Judge of all the earth, "I cannot find his name. It’s not in the Book of Life. It has not been written in heaven."
And the lost man turns to the Lord and says, "But, O God, give me a moment to explain.
And God says, "The Judge all the earth will do right. You have eternity in which to explain."
And the lost man says, "O God, it’s like this: I was too busy – I was too busy for God. I was too busy for Christ. I had a boat on the lake, and on Sundays I was busy. And I had my business in the weekdays, and I was too busy. I was too busy."
And the Lord replies, "But, did I not write, ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment?’" [Hebrews 9:27]
"And," he cries, and he says, "But O Lord, hear me again. Hear me again. O God, look at my good works. Look at what good I did in this life."
And the Lord said, "Did you not read in My Word, that in My presence, in the holiness of heaven, ‘your righteousnesses are as filthy rags’" [Isaiah 64:6].
"But, O God, hear me again. Listen to me, Lord. The reason I was not saved is because of all the hypocrites in the church."
And the Lord God said, "Did I say ‘Put your eye upon the hypocrite to be saved. Did I not write, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else’" [Isaiah 45:22].
"O God," said the lost man, "Listen to me. Please listen to me. O God, the reason I was not saved is because I never had the feeling. I was waiting for some great emotional experience to lift me up and set me into the kingdom of the Lord."
And God says, "Did I say anything to you about feelings? Did not I say, ‘Believe – trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?’" [Acts 16:31]
"O God," says this lost man, "hear me. Hear me. There were so many cults and so many denominations. I didn’t know where to turn."
And the Lord God shall say, "Did I say anything about cults? Did I say anything about denominations? Didn’t I say ‘Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’?" [Acts 16:31].
"O God, listen to me one more time, one more time. "Dear God," says the lost man, "I intended to be saved. I intended to confess my faith in Jesus. I meant to be saved."
And the Lord says, "Did I not write in the Book, ‘Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation?’" [2 Corinthians 6:2].
And the recording angel opens the book and writes beside of that man’s name the most tragic word in the human language: L-O-S-T – lost; lost: in eternity, forever and ever and ever.
And my mind being finite cannot enter into the infinitude of that "forever." I’ve read so many little words of explanation of what eternity might be. One of them I read, "If the earth were a solid granite ball, and one time every ten thousand years, a little bird passed it by and brushed it with his wing, when he had worn this solid granite earth away, one second of eternity would not have begun.
O God, I have my soul, and that’s all. Everything else that I have, including this physical frame, shall dissolve into the dust of the ground. "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" [Mark 8:36]. God, be merciful to me and save me – what matters to me; my soul.
When the choir has sung its last anthem,
And the preacher has prayed his last prayer;
When the people have heard their last sermon,
And the sound has died out on the air;
When the Bible lies closed on the altar,
And the pews are all emptied of men;
And each one stands facing his record,
And the great Book is opened – What Then?
When the actor has played his last drama,
And the mimic has made his last fun;
When the film has flashed its last picture,
And the billboard displayed its last run;
When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished,
And gone out in the darkness again;
And the trumpet of ages is sounded,
And we stand before Him – What Then?
When the bugle’s call sinks into silence,
And the long marching column stands still;
When the captain repeats his last orders,
And they’ve captured the last fort and hill;
When the flag is hauled down from the masthead,
And the wounded a field checked in;
And a world that rejected its Savior,
Is asked for a reason – What Then?
["What Then?"; J. Whitfield Green]
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" [Jeremiah 8:20].
"What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" [Mark 8:36]. That’s why the gospel of Christ: He came into the world to seek and to save us who were lost [Luke 19:10].
Our Lord in the presence of such awesome truth, dear God, without loss of one, may all in divine presence be saved. May we open our hearts heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward. May it be the joy of our souls to have Jesus as our friend and companion through the pilgrimage of this life and to open the door of heaven to us in the beautiful and better world that is yet to come, in His saving name, amen.