He That Cometh to God
May 24th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-24-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled He That Cometh to God. It is a baccalaureate sermon addressed to the graduating class – their parents and friends and all who listen to this service – of the Woodrow Wilson High School.
I have been preaching through the Bible for the last fourteen years, and am in the Book of Hebrews. I thought, therefore, in keeping with the messages that are, Sunday by Sunday, delivered from this pulpit, I would pick the text out of the Book of Hebrews. Reading from the great, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
The text and the subject is Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is," "he that cometh to God must believe that He is." Without faith it is impossible to come; the vital, all-important foundation upon which any knowledge of God is built and granted lies in our persuasion that He is. So oft times, there is, if not the expressed, the unexpressed attitude and persuasion that religion is composed of fancy and myth; it is make-believe. It is fictional and unreal.
I one time heard of a cowpoke in West Texas, a long time ago in the days of the silent movies, who went to see "one of them thar things" for the first time in his life. It was an old-time melodramatic silent film in which the villain, with old black handle-bar mustaches, seized the hero, tied him to a tree, got on his horse, picked up the heroine in his arms and, with her, drove furiously away. When that scene happened on the screen, this old West Texas cow-poke stood up, pulled out both of his six-shooters and blazed away, crying, "You low-down coyote. You can’t do that." All the fellas around him yanked him down and said, "Sit down, partner. Sit down. That ain’t real. That’s just make-believe."
That is so often the expressed or unexpressed attitude toward religion. "Sit down, fella. There is nothing there to get excited about. Sit down, partner. This is all just fictional. This is just make-believe. There is no actual reality to it. It is born out of fancy, and it is woven out of stuff myths are made of."
"I don’t see anything in this God business. I’ve never touched God. I’ve never found God. I’ve never seen God. There is nothing to it, I can’t see it." Neither does the beast of the field, or the clod of the ground. They don’t see it either. The dog in his kennel is absolutely and utterly oblivious of the glorious firmament above him. The cow grazing on the meadow is utterly without awareness of the glorious landscape about her. To the blind, God does not exist. To the deaf, God does not speak. To the lifeless and the dead, God does not live. To many, the vast glories of the firmament above us are just so many magnitudes of miles and so many orbits and Milky Ways. But to the psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament exhibits His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge [Psalm 19:1-2].
To many, the trees are just so many pieces of botany: roots, and bark, and branch, and limb, and leaf, but to a Joyce Kilmer:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God could make a tree.
["Trees," by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, 1913]
To so many, a flower is not even to be noticed. Walk on it with a heavy heel, crush it in the ground, never see it. But to an Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, all and all,
I could understand what God and man is.
["Flower in the Crannied Wall," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
In his zealous heart, he saw the secret of the universe. To the eye of faith, God can be seen everywhere:
A haze on the far horizon, –
The infinite tender sky, –
The rich ripe tint of the corn-fields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden rod, –
Some of us, say, "Why, this is Autumn."
But some of us say, "That is God."
A picket frozen on duty –
A mother starved for her brood –
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And many who, humble and nameless:
The great hard pathway trod, –
Some of us say, "Why that is consecration."
But some of us say, "That is God."
[Adapted from, "Each in His Own Tongue," by William Herbert Carruth]
In 63 BC, the proud imperious, contumacious Roman General Pompey added Palestine to the Roman Empire. And when he – at the head of his marching, conquering legionnaires – captured Jerusalem, Pompey, their proud leader, stalked up to the holy temple, into the Holy Place. And with his hand, reached forward to pull aside the sacred veil that sheltered the Holy of Holies, into which sanctuary no heathen had ever entered, nor any other man but the high priest with blood of atonement once a year, and when Pompey deigned to enter the temple, the Jewish people prostrated themselves before him and pled that their lives be forfeit, but that their holy sanctuary not be defiled. In indifferent, in contumacious scorn, Pompey walked through the Court of the Priests, into the court, the Holy Place, took the veil, pulled it aside and stalked into the Holy of Holies. When he came out, he said in amazement to those around him, "Why, why, why, it is empty!" he said, "There is nothing in it at all, just darkness." Yet that is the place where the prophet Isaiah said:
And I saw the Lord,high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
Above Him stood the seraphim,
Each cried to the other, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts: the whole earth is filled with Thy glory.
The eye to see, "Ah, but preacher you don’t understand. I am a skeptic, difficult to convince. I don’t believe anything. I don’t accept anything that I cannot understand. It has to be fathomable to me before I accept it."
Ah, my dear friend, what an unusual position to take in the world in which you and I live. You don’t understand anything. Nobody understands anything. We just observe it, what God hath wrought, what the handiwork of God hath done. But no man understands or is able to fathom any slight part about anything.
For example, one time I stood in China. And it seemed to me when I stood in China that I was standing straight up. My feet were down and my head was up. Seemed that way to me. Sky was above me and the earth was below me. Then I came back here to the United States where I am right now, and I have that same feeling. I’m standing straight up, seems to me I am. My head is up here, and my feet are down there, and the sky and roof are above me, and this earth and this house are below me. I’ve stood on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and it seemed to me that sky was above it and the great ocean was held in the arms of the beaches. And sometime after that, I stood on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, and it seemed to me the same thing there, the sky was above it, and the great arms of the Gulf were holding the vast waters.
Then I looked at a globe and absolutely, if those people are standing on their feet in China, I’m standing on my head right here. And absolutely, if the Gulf of Mexico is held in the talus of the arms of the earth, the Indian Ocean is upside down. It’s held and pressed against the sky.
Well, to any schoolboy that would posit a problem. Why don’t those people fall off of this earth? Because he or I, a Chinaman or I we are upside down, one of us is. We’re just like that. If he is up, I’m down. If he is down, I’m up. And why doesn’t one of those oceans spill out, because one of them is upside down? If this one is up, that one is down. If this one is down this one is up. Why doesn’t that water spill out?
Well, I would go to a very learned man. And I would say, "I don’t understand what holds these people on this earth and what keeps this water in those basins? Why doesn’t the water spill out and why don’t things fall off of this earth? What holds this earth together?" And that great and learned man will say to me, "Well, preacher, you don’t understand. What holds this earth together is gravity. That’s what holds this earth together."
Why, how very simple. Why certainly, gravity holds this earth together. "But by the way, mister ‘learned genius,’ "What is gravity?"
"Why," he says, "Don’t you know, preacher, what gravity is? Gravity is what holds this earth together."
You have no idea what it is. Why does one piece of matter have an affinity and is able attract another piece of matter? You have no idea. Yet, the whole system of God’s creation is built upon that affinity. The orbits of the planets around the sun all follow those definite mathematical rules that God has made. They are attractive to each other. Why, we have no idea, nor can any man begin to explain. Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. Yet, when the trees bow down their heads the wind is passing by, and the mystery of life.
I’m a pastor, have been over thirty years. The more I observe it, the more phenomenally, miraculously is every syllable of it. These little babies that are born into these homes, how does one cell,? And those two make four, and those four more makes eight, and those eight make sixteen. And thus geometrically multiplying, some go as little carpenters and you build teeth. And others go and gather materials for all the skeletal structure. And others go and form mind and heart. "Why, that is the process of mitosis, preacher?" That’s just word; that’s just syllable. That’s just language. We don’t understand. It is the mystery of life.
And as a pastor, there is hardly a week that goes by that I do not stand at the bedside of the dying – alive, and then, in a moment, just corruption and dust. What has happened? I do not know. I cannot understand. It’s the elective choice and purpose of God. And I just see it and observe it. I just know it’s His handiwork. So with all of the great things of life, without faith, without belief, without acceptance, without eyes of the soul that can see beyond the physical, life is impossible, and the world as we know it, is not.
When the farmer sows his seed, he does it in faith. When he plows, he plows in hope. Somebody must make the germ to sprout and the grain to grow. When the doctor operates he can make an incision, sew it with sutures back again, but somebody must heal. All of life is in that pattern.
Without faith no institution is built. The greatest bank in America, the greatest bank in Dallas could be destroyed tomorrow if the people who deposit money in it lost faith in it. It is built upon faith. These homes that young lovers put together are built upon that same persuasion and that same confidence. Faith plows the ground, sows the seed, sails the sea, builds our institutions, makes our homes, rears our children, believes in God, accepts Christ, walks down the aisle, is a member of the church, enters into heaven, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is."
All of the great advancements made in our life have been posited on that same commitment, "I believe, I trust, I am persuaded." Columbus sailed westward and westward, and always westward: "I believe. I believe." Fulton worked on his steamboat: "I am persuaded. I believe." The engineers built the impossible this Panama Canal: "We believe. We believe." Edison worked on his incandescent lamp: "I believe. I believe." Doctor Best hurts and experimented to discover insulin: "I believe. I believe."
All of the great contributions of advancements that have blessed humanity have come through a great commitment of the unseen. Why, young people, all the marvels that have come in your lifetime, all the miraculous things that have astounded the world in this twentieth century – radar, television, radio, jet propulsion, penicillin, nylon, a thousand other things – have been here from the beginning of the world. It is just now that men with eyes of the soul have been able to see the ether waves, and to take advantage of the great thrusting power of jet propulsion. We didn’t make them; they were here from the beginning. And it is just now with eyes of faith we are beginning to probe into the invisible, and to bring out of them these marvelous blessings of modern civilization.
The wisest man of all time, King Solomon, wrote in his book, "There is nothing new under the sun; but what is has been from of old" [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. And how true that is. We add nothing. We take away nothing. All of it is here, the product of the creative hand of God, "And when the Lord rested from His labors on the seventh day" [Genesis 2:2-3], at the end of the sixth, all of it was done.
The steam that runs our great engines escaped unnoticed from the pots of the cooking vessels of the antediluvians. The electricity that flattened our forefathers is now harnessed to bring all of the blessings of modern life and modern civilization. The jewels that adorn our person, the medicines that heal our diseases, the metals that enrich our nation, the minerals that make possible our mechanical age, yea, the very marble that is carved into our gravestones, all of it lay in the damp, dark earth beneath the feet of Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:1-2]. And when the Lord God formed the first man and woman [Genesis 1:27], and they walked out of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:23], they walked with all of their faculties, not one of which we have added to to this present day. We just observe what God has done, and we take what God has made, and we either bless Him or curse Him with it. It’s all of Him.
When I was a student in the university, I went with a group: a trek across the nation to an assembly on the Atlantic Seaboard. And in the journey crossing the country, the leader of our group of students, eighteen of us, wanted to stop by an institution and introduce us to a great world-famed chemist. When we walked into his laboratory, he was so gracious and humble. And for the better part of an afternoon we listened to that incomparable genius describe the miracles that he had wrought in chemistry. I never dreamed of such things as that man could do with chemistry.
And when the afternoon had worn away, we all gathered around him, and one of our number asked, "Professor, how is it you have been able to do these marvelous things?" And the old professor held up a long finger, pointed to heaven, and said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. He had found the true wisdom.
Back of that universe is God; back of that atom is God. Back of this life, so teeming and complex, is God. Back of the elective purpose through which you are called is the Lord God who made you and formed you. And he has found the true wisdom who has found the Lord. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is" [Hebrews 11:6]. And the hand that touches Him and the eye that sees Him is the hand and the eye of faith. "I am persuaded" [2 Timothy 1:12], and God bless that holy and devout commitment in your life now, tomorrow, and to the end of the way.
We are going to sing our invitation hymn now, and while we sing that hymn of appeal, somebody you, this morning, to give your heart to the Lord; somebody to put his life in the fellowship of this church, while we make this appeal, while we sing this hymn, would you come and stand by me?
In this great throng in that balcony round, down that back stairwell here at the front, on this lower floor, in the great throng of people here, in to the aisle and down to the front, would you come today? "I give my heart to God, and pastor, to you I give my hand." Or a family you, or one somebody you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, while we make appeal and while we sing this song would you make it now. Our people by the hundreds and hundreds prayerfully would rejoice to see you come. I know it is a special occasion, but the presence of these graduating groups just make it the more solemnly serious and the more blessedly precious. To give your heart to the Lord today, "I take Him as my Savior, I give Him my heart and my life in faith and in trust and here I am." Or to put your life into the fellowship of the church while we sing this song, would you make it now? Would you come on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing?
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. He that cometh to God must believe that He is(Hebrews 11:6)
A. Texas cowpoke
B. There are those who in scorn, rejection do not believe anything about God
1. Neither does the beast of the field or the clod of the ground
2. To the blind, God doesn’t exist; to the deaf, He doesn’t speak; and to the dead, He doesn’t live
3. The stars to manyâ€¦.but to a psalmistâ€¦ (Psalm 19:1-2)
4. A tree to manyâ€¦but to Joyce Kilmerâ€¦ "Trees"
5. A flower to manyâ€¦but to Alfred Lord Tennysonâ€¦ "Flower in the Crannied Wall"
B. Eyes of faith can see God everywhere
1. Poem, "Each in His Own Tongue"
2. Pompey saw nothing in the Holy of Holies – Isaiah saw God(Isaiah 6:1-3)
II. The skeptic demands demonstration
A. We don’t explain anything – we just observe the mysteries of God
1. Nature – what holds this world together?what is gravity?
2. The wind
3. Miracle of birth
III. It is only by faith
A. Key word in all of our life and existence – faith, belief, trust
B. All human discovery, progress and achievement is by faith
C. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
1. God finished His work of creation – never been anything added to it
D. Only true wisdom – to learn at the feet of God, coming to Him
1. George Washington Carver(Philippians 4:13, John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 15:10)