Moved With Fear
February 7th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
MOVED WITH FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-7-60 7:30 p.m.
Would you turn with me to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 10, and would you read with me verses  through 31? Hebrews chapter 10, verses 26 through 31. Do we have it? Hebrews 10 – chapter 10. Start at verse 26 through 31. Now let us read it together:
For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath touted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God
The title of the sermon tonight is The Fear Of God. And the text is Hebrews 11:7: "By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness, which is by faith" [Hebrews 11:7]. And the text is "moved with fear." That certainly sounds strange in this day of the Dewey philosophy of pedagogy and the modern, liberal interpretations of the character and person of God. For we have been taught, this whole generation, that in no wise are we to speak of the dark side, the seamy side, the sewer side, the judgment side, the damnation side of life. "If you do not teach a child about sin, he will never be a sinner. If you do not speak of all of these horrible and frightful things, they will automatically disappear and dissolve away. And as for teaching the fear of God, why, that violates every principle of teaching that modern social order could think of or imagine. We are to be positive in our thinking."
I wonder how in the world the preacher that so epitomizes that – I wonder what he does when he reads his Bible, and to say the Ten Commandments. We are never to be negative, we are to be positive, and practically every one of those commandments start off with a "Thou shalt not": an interdiction from heaven itself. And then, as for theology, why, I don’t suppose there are enough preachers in this world of any repute and standing and acceptance. I don’t suppose there are enough to fill this platform who preach the judgment of God. And on a text like this, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31], the Baptist preacher in this city that has more than any other ministered to this city has never yet preached anything approaching a sermon on hell and the judgment of God. And if it is that way in orthodox Dallas, what would you think of the theology that is espoused and preached and declared by all of these multitudinous pulpits whose ministers have been trained according to the theological complexion of this modern day?
"For we know Him," says this author, "that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me. I will recompense said the Lord. And again the Lord shall judge His people" [Hebrews 10:30]. And then the comment of this author of the Hebrews upon those Old Testament quotations: "For it is a frightful thing, a horrible prospect, a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." And over here in my text, it says that Noah, Noah being warned of God – the thing had not come to pass. God said it would be one hundred twenty years yet. Noah, warned of God of things not seen as yet – went outside and the sky was perfectly clear, not a cloud on the horizon – warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, the fear of God, moved with fear, got a hammer and a saw and a timber and cut down a tree and gathered what boys that he had and built an ark, "by the which he condemned the world." Thereby, it means that when the flood came and Noah was saved, his salvation was found in his belief of God! And all of that multitude of the added antediluvians who laughed and scoffed and scorned at the judgment day of God were condemned; died in the flood! He "became the heir of righteousness, which is by faith because he feared."
I do not exaggerate when I point out to you some of the things that are concomitant of this new modern theology of the love of God, sentimentalizing God, and never speaking of the judgments and terror of the Lord. The results of those theologies, of those teachings, are astounding and amazing in the extreme! Here is one of them: it changes, it alters altogether the presentation of God that is revealed in this Book. It presents the unbiblical doctrine of the Universal Fatherhood of God: that all of us have God in us, have the divine in us, and that we are gods, and there is no such thing as being damned or being judged, for we become like gods. "All we need is just cultivation, not conversion! All we need is instruction, not redemption! God is a great, benevolent, old man of some kind, and everybody is going to be saved," or "God is a God of love, and he would not damn any soul." We have an altogether new idea of the character and person of the Lord; he is no longer the God of moral government, and he is no longer the God of rules and regulations, and he makes no demands. However a fellow is, however a man is, however he may spurn the grace and mercy of the Lord, as this author here says it: "treads underfoot the Son of God, [and] counts the blood of the covenant an unholy thing" [Hebrews 10:29]. He does despite to the Spirit of grace. That does not matter to the new theology, for all of us are divine! All of us are going to be saved if there is any ultimate and final life! They have a new God!
A second, amazing result of that new theology that presents just the love of God, and never the judgment and damnation and fear of the Lord – another one: it is an astonishing thing what it does to the historical person of Jesus Christ! It sentimentalizes Him! It poeticizes Him! He becomes a lovely myth and a far-away big sort of a – of a tradition, a story. We lose the real historical Jesus! The attempt to dissolve the Man of Nazareth into a sentimentalizing, gentle, lovable idealistic has just about succeeded! I do not know that there are any people of any number in world that look upon Jesus as any other than a sentimentalist! We have come to think of Him in ways that make of Him little more than one of history’s loving souls. Now, I have here a copy of a quotation that I have copied down from one of these romantic poeticizings of Jesus found in Ernest Renan’s great, immortal, world‑famous Life of Jesus. Now I quote from him. Now you listen to this. Renan says about our Lord: "His lovely character, and doubtless one of those transporting countenances which sometimes appear in the Jewish race, created around Him a circle of fascination. Tenderness of heart was in Him transformed into infinite sweetness, vague poetry, and universal charm." Well, it is pretty, beautiful – and these men are marvelous authors. When they write, you cannot help but be fascinated by the very poetry of their language. "Tenderness of heart was in Him transformed into infinite sweetness, vague poetry, universal charm." How – how sweet and beautiful and poetic. But they nailed Him to a cross. Why? I wonder why. Because of His universal charm? Because of His infinite sweetness? Because of the vague poetry of His personality? Do you think they crucified Him for that? No! Our Lord was an epitome and a representative of the damnation that He brought down in language and in condemnation upon the Pharisees and the Sadducees’ and the rulers and the religious people of His day. You do not – you do not have any idea of the personality of Jesus when you define Him as "a piece of sentimentalizing sweetness and a piece of vague poetry"! We will come back to that in a minute.
A third thing this modern, sentimentalizing, saccharine theology does: it makes lovesick people – turns people lovesick. That is, they have lost their convictions about anything. They live compromised lives. There is no particular reason to believe anything else or to stand up for anything. All is sweetness and light; all are going to be saved, so the people turn into fine, lovable, mutually congratulatory groups so sweet, so innocent, would not harm the Devil. If they were to see him, they would shake hands with him and pat him on the back and congratulate him for doing a good job. [They] can look upon the worldliness and the sin and the debauchery of the whole world, and be so self-at-ease, and so condescending in their attitude, and so fine in their language and judgments. I do not know of a better definition of modern preaching than a mild‑mannered man delivering a mild‑mannered message to a mild‑mannered congregation on how to be more mild‑mannered! That is the best one I have ever heard.
A fourth thing it does – this sentimentalizing of God – a fourth thing: it takes away the urgency and the immediacy of the message of the Son of God! Why be bothered or why be particularly concerned? There’s no reason. And that word in Hebrews two and three where the author says: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3]. That so great salvation is nothing other than a rich cultural heritage from the past! And why would any man anywhere be particularly concerned or excited or interested in the great historical cultures we have received from the past?
Now this comment: if the God of the new theology of this generation, of this day and these pulpits – if the God of the new theology is a sentimentalizing, poeticizing, complacent, mushy old man, why, then let us find it out. Let us learn the truth, and let us accommodate ourselves accordingly. But what we want to know is the truth. What is God like? And what is God’s government like? What is His character like? What is this thing of the God some day we shall face and before whom someday we shall stand? Preacher, what is the truth? Do not bother about the theology. Do not bother about the great, high‑sounding authority. Tell us the truth! What is God like?
Now, there is such a thing as the fear of fear. There is such a thing as people being overwhelmed when they take counsel of their doubts and difficulties of their fears. But I want you to know another thing, and this thing is far more vital in our present American life than any one of us realizes: if there is a danger in the fear of fear, there is also another danger in the numbing – in the numbing, in the blunting of fear in the presence of awful circumstances and developments! I have seen it twice in my generation. I saw it in the days in the rise of Hitler, in the days of the rise of Hitler when incumbent – when the carry-along corollary, when in that man there was summed up the greatest, greatest, fiercest, most ruthless, merciless challenge to civilization the world ever knew! In the days of the rise of Hitler, when he carried that brood with him, the progressives and the liberals in America were saying, "Well, feel the war hysteria," and they persuaded our American government to scrap our battleships and to mothball our fleets and to destroy our blueprints for defense. And when those awful trials came, America was unprepared! They had so blunted and numbed our fears until it was only the kind, merciful, providential hand of God that has saved us.
And I am seeing that same thing happen again. These National Council of Churches will gather in their executive body in Cleveland, Ohio, and try to persuade America to recognize Red China! "They are just agrarian reformers over there; they do not mean bad." And Russia – "Oh, give Russia a marvelous open door. Share with her all of our atomic secrets," the professors said, the liberal theologians said a few years ago, "Take them in, take them in. It won’t be long until the generosity of the American people and the love and sweetness of our life and religion will overwhelm them! And they also will be sweet and gracious and nice." And they lull us to sleep, and then we just wake up one morning and find out that we are years and years and years behind in an intercontinental ballistic missile program! We ought to be scared! We ought to be frightened. There is a place in the economy of God and in the government of the world for fear and for fright!
And now may I take it out of the realm of the political and the national, and may I apply it to the Lord God? When Ahab called Jehoshaphat to come up and join bands, armies, and go fight against Ramath-gilead, Ahab called all of his false prophets. And they passed before Ahab and said, "There is not anything to fear. Just go down to Ramoth-gilead and take it." And when Jehoshaphat, who was a good king and a man that feared God, when Jehoshaphat saw that long parade of false prophets pass in front of Ahab and speak of the great victory they were going to win – no need to fear, no need to look askance. Jehoshaphat said, "But Ahab, isn’t there one other prophet yet?" "Well," said Ahab, "There’s a prophet of Jehovah, but I do not like him. He preaches damnation! He threatens me with the judgment of God! And I hate him!" [1 Kings 22:8]. I am quoting exactly from the Bible: Ahab said, "I hate him!’ And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so. Call for him, call for him. Let the man be heard," and Micaiah the prophet of the Lord stood in the presence of Jehoshaphat and Ahab. And Micaiah lifted up his voice and he said, "I saw in a vision Israel scattered as sheep over the hills, having no shepherd! [1 Kings 22:17]. You will come back in this campaign without the king. He will be dead!" And Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, "Didn’t I tell you so? That is why I hate him!" Ahab turned to his couriers and said, "Take this man and put him in prison, and feed him water of affliction and feed him bread of affliction, until I come again in triumph!" [1 Kings 22:25-27]. They took Micaiah the prophet of God and put him in a dungeon, and fed him bread and water of affliction until Ahab should come in triumph. And Micaiah said, "If you come back alive, God does not live, nor has He spoken to me" [1 Kings 22:28]. And out in the campaign and in the battle, a Syrian soldier pulled back an arrow peradventure and let it fly without aiming, and the head of that arrow found a crease in the joints of Ahab’s armor, pierced his heart. His blood spilled out into the chariot. He fell down dead. And when they brought the chariot back to Jezreel, they washed the blood out of the chariot, and the dogs licked up his blood according to the saying of the man of God.
He is never presented in any other way in the Old Testament. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, the all and reverential respect due to the great God and our Maker who holds the very nations themselves as fine dust in the palm of His hand. I have said there is no exception to the presentation of the Lord God Jehovah in the Old Testament as a God of judgment, a God of fiery indignation. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord. That story never varies. If I had an hour, we would go through it tonight. If I had two hours, we would add the New Testament to it. May I make just a brief, brief, brief summary?
When Satan said to Eve: "Yea, hath God said – Yes, He would not do that; He is a God of love and mercy, not a God of judgment and damnation! Yea, hath God said, ‘Thou shalt surely die’? You won’t die. Eat" [Genesis 3:1-4]. And they ate, and in the day they ate, they died! And in the course of life, their very bodies turned back to the dust of the ground. God said in the day you eat, you die! [Genesis 2:17] And God is a God of moral government and of judgment. And when they transgressed, they died. And for one hundred twenty years, Noah lifted up his voice and said: The judgment of God falls upon this world. Repent ye and be saved! And for one hundred twenty years, they gathered around Noah, the preacher of righteousness who never won a single convert. For one hundred twenty years, they gathered around Noah and laughed and scoffed! It was the joke of the day. I can read it in the Saturday Evening Post. I can read it in the Reader’s Digest. I can see it on every editorial page as the wits and the critics and the make-believes, as they laughed and scoffed at old Noah, building an ark, one hundred, two hundred miles from any water that could float it. But when the floods came, God shut that door [Genesis 7:16]. God shut that door! "Why, God is love and mercy; He would not shut that door." And when they came and pounded – "Noah, open to us!" – God shut that door! The Book says so.
I am preaching, as you know, in the Book of Judges at the 8:15 o’clock service. And it says in that Book of Judges: "And the Lord sold Israel into the hands of his enemies" [Judges 2:14]. And the Lord sold Israel into the hands of his enemies. In the days of Jeremiah, they gathered in the temple. God wouldn’t let the temple be destroyed, but He did! Nebuchadnezzar burned it with fire and plowed it under with oxen! And in the days of Jesus, who predicted the fall of the temple and the destruction of the nation, Josephus says one of the most dramatic passages in historical literature: Josephus said, "And they thronged into the temple!" God would spare the temple! And one of the Roman soldiers threw through an aperture in the wall – threw a blazing torch into the temple, and the thing lighted and it flamed! And from that day until this, the great temple in Jerusalem is just a memory in a historical Book.
The God of judgment and of damnation; I haven’t the beginning of time to speak of our Lord. Just to concisely say it, listen to the words of the Lord: "I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?" [Luke 12:]. "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; [but rather] the division: For from henceforth there shall be five and one house divided, three against two, two against three. The father against his son, and the son against his father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother" [Luke 12:51-53]; this frightful thing of the division over the great revelation of God in Christ Jesus. When He gets through telling this story of the husband and the vineyard – when the husband says, "Blame these and slay them," the people who heard Him tell the story said, "God forbid. God does not do that," and Jesus replied, He beheld them and said, "What is this that is written" – and he quotes the one hundred eighteenth Psalm, the twenty-second verse – "The stone which the builders rejected the same, has become the head of the corner. Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken. But on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind them to powder" [Luke 20:17, 18]. The judgment day of almighty God. Jesus is saying the same thing this author is saying here that you read: "Vengeance belongeth unto me. I will recompense, said the Lord. And the Lord shall judge people" [Hebrews 10:30]. These who’ve trodden underfoot the Son of God, counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, done despite to the Spirit of grace, God shall hold that man responsible! [Hebrews 10:29]. When he dies in unbelief, he dies for ever and for ever.
I must close. There is no exception to what I preached to you tonight any where in that Book. I come briefly to its great consummation – the denouement of the age, the closing of this dispensation. You have in that Book two things: you have a new heaven and a new earth. But you also have first, first, "And whosoever was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire [Revelation 20:15]. You have first the damnation and the judgment of God upon those who refused Jesus as Lord, and then you have the psalms of the saints and the celestial city of God and the beautiful New Jerusalem. You do not have one without the other. If there is a heaven, there is a hell. If there is a righteous reward, there is a fearful damnation. And if there is a God who lives at all, He has in Him not only love and mercy and peace and forgiveness, but He has also in Him those great governmental juggernauts that bring to those who disbelieve and reject our Lord – that bring the fearful hour of judgment and condemnation, of damnation and perdition. They both live together in the presence of God and in the very heart of this revelation. A man does right when he fears God. A man is heeding the admonitions of Scripture when he thinks of the fires of torment and the anguish of an eternity in hell, and he falls on his knees and on his face and begs God for Jesus’ sake to forgive his sin, to heal his soul, and some day to present him without fault before the great God and our Savior. I am saying that the motive of fear that brings a man to God is of the Lord, and it is of the Book. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
May I close with a thing that I read these last few days? Somewhere – and I do not know where – but somewhere in this country there was a young fellow driving furiously down a highway and came into an awful and terrible accident. They carried him to the hospital, and the boy knew that he was frightfully hurt. And while he was lying there in that hospital bed, the nurse came and put a screen around his bed. He knew what that meant. They were expecting him to die, and they screened him off from the fellows in the ward. And when the screen was placed and the nurse quietly slipped away, the boy fell into an awful, awful despondency: "O God, O God!" And his whole life came before him with its ways of sin and unbelief! And while he lay there behind that screen, high on the wall where those lying on the beds could read there was a passage from the words of Jesus: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" [Matthew 11:28]. And he read it and he read it and he read it, and then he said, he said aloud, "O Jesus, I come. I do come. It is not too late. It is not too late. I come." And the men in the ward, hearing behind the screen, said to one another, "How pitiful. He cries in his delirium, in his delirium, in his delirium." And a peace came into the heart of the boy, and a smile from heaven covered his face. And he was quiet, resting in the Lord. Not long after, the nurse came and took the screen away, and turning to the young fellow, apologized sweetly, saying, "Oh, sir, I am so sorry. I placed this screen around the wrong bed. Forgive me." And the boy sat up and said, "Nurse, ‘Sorry’? Listen! That is the greatest, best thing that ever happened to me in my life!" For in his fear and in the face of death, he had found God! "Nurse, that is the best thing that that ever happened to me in my life."
To a man that faces the judgment of God and the day of our final, final, final – our final ties – that great, awful day before which some day we shall stand in which we are present – for a man who faces that without God, without Christ, without hope – for a man to be filled with fear and agony, O God, save and forgive. That is the best thing that could ever happen to him. For he would be like Noah – warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with fear. Moved with fear, he fell on his knees. He lay prostrate on his face. He cried to God for mercy. And in his tears and in his cries, he found Jesus – a Savior for his soul.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Lord, I know I face death and I know I face judgment; I shall certainly stand in that day in Thy presence, O Lord! Remember me. Lord, have mercy upon me. O God, forgive and pardon me. O God, save me. "And whosoever shall call upon the name of Lord shall be saved" [Acts 2:21]. That is why Jesus died: for you, that in that day, you might stand and be saved.
While we sing this song of appeal, in this balcony round, somebody you, give his heart and trust and faith to Jesus. Would you come and stand by me? On this lower floor, somebody you, anywhere you into that aisle, down to the front, "Preacher, I give you my hand. I have trusted. Tonight I have trusted Jesus as my Savior." Would you come? Would you make it tonight? "Pastor, for the last time I have said no to the Spirit that pleads in my heart, and to the appeals from the pulpit. I say yes tonight. I trust Him for the rest. Here I come." Somebody you, a family you to put your life with us in the church, in the ministry of this work; to pray with us and to help us preach the gospel of the Son of God, the good news that in Christ our sins are forgiven, our names are written in the Book of Life. Would you come and be with us in this ministry? I cannot say the word. God has to do it. It’s the Spirit that makes the appeal. We just pray, and plead, and preach, and sing. It’s between you and God. If the Lord whispers, if He bids you come, would you make it now? "Here I am, pastor. Here I come. Tonight, on the first note of the first stanza, here I am; here I come." Would you tonight, while we stand and while we sing?
MOVED WITH FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The modern liberal interpretations of the character and person of God
1. We are not to speak of the judgment and damnation
2. Teaching the fear of God violates principles of modern social order
B. Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God(Hebrews 10:30-31)
1. Noah was "moved with fear"(Hebrews 11:7)
II. Results of teachings that sentimentalize God
A. Alters the presentation of God that is revealed in the Book
1. Unbiblical doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God
2. He is no longer God of moral government (Hebrews 10:29)
B. Historical person of Jesus Christ becomes a myth, tradition
D. Takes away urgency of the message of the Son of God(Hebrews 2:3)
III. What is God like?
A. No such thing as fear of fear
1. Danger in the numbing of fear in the presence of awful circumstances
B. There is a place in the economy of God and the government of the world for fear and fright
1. Ahab and his false prophets(1 Kings 22)
C. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10)
D. There is no exception to presentation of God as a God of judgment
1. Adam and Eve(Genesis 2:17, 3:1-4)
2. Noah and the ark (Genesis 7:16)
3. Israel(Judges 2:14)
4. The words of the Lord Himself (Luke 12:, 51-53, 20:17-18, Psalm 118:22, Hebrews 10:29-30)
IV. The consummation
A. First judgment of God upon those who refused Jesus(Revelation 20:15)
1. Then the psalms of the saints and the New Jerusalem
B. Boy in hospital, screen with Scripture led Him to Christ (Matthew 11:28)
C. We shall certainly stand in His presence(Acts 2:21)