Great Words of Salvation: Faith
March 28th, 1961 @ 12:00 PM
GREAT WORDS OF SALVATION: FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-61 12:00 p.m.
The theme of these services is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts and the thirtieth verse: "What must I do to be saved?" [Acts 16:30]. And we are following the words that God hath revealed in that salvation: repentance, and faith, and confession, and discipleship, and atonement. Yesterday, repentance; and today, faith. As I bring this message, you feel at liberty to leave at any time; this is a busy lunch hour for you. Come and stay as long as you can and leave when you have to. And everybody understands, in the middle of a sentence, five seconds before I’m through, however you must leave, we all understand.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a great, great passage on faith. And it begins:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
. . .
Through faith we understand, [and we don’t understand any other way] Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, [by fiat, He spoke them into existence] so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
. . .
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; he 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,
for he that cometh to God must believe that He is. . . .
There are three popular assumptions about faith, about religion, that are cleverly employed but that are nonetheless false. And the first one is this: that in the realm of religion we move in an unreal world; that somehow religion is fictional, and mythical, and make believe.
An old cowpoke in West Texas years ago went to a picture show in the days of the silent movies. And he sat there and watched those old fashioned melodramatic pictures, and the villain with his long black mustache tied the hero to a tree, jumped on his horse, swept the heroine into his arms and rode furiously away. And when he did so, that old cowpoke stood up, pulled out both of his six shooters, riddled the screen with bullets and said, "You coward, you can’t do that." And when he did that, why, they pulled him down and said, "Sit down, sit down. What’s the matter with you? Sit down. That ain’t real; that’s make believe."
That’s the way so many assume about the dynamic, and the power, and the movement of religion. The people are fanatics, and they are living in a world of phantom and hallucination. "There’s nothing," they say, "in this God business. I don’t see it," they say.
Well, neither does the beast of the field or the clod of the ground. A dog in his kennel is oblivious to the great majesty of the firmament above him. And the cow grazing in the pasture has no awareness of the beautiful landscape from horizon to horizon. To the blind God doesn’t exist. To the deaf God doesn’t speak. To the dead God doesn’t live. To many the stars are just planets in their orbits; but to a psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork" [Psalm 19:1]. To many a tree is just bark and wood and fiber and leaf; but to a Joyce Kilmer, "Poems are made by fools like me, but only God could make a tree" ["Trees"]. A flower by the wayside; to many, crushed and bruised, it is nothing. To an Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Little flower in the crannies, I pluck you
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, all in all,
I should understand what God and man is.
[adapted from "Flower in the Crannied Wall"; Alfred Lord Tennyson]
The poet beyond the most fragile and simple of God’s workmanship could find the Spirit of the universe behind it. The eyes of the soul can see Him everywhere.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich, ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod, –
Some of us say that’s autumn,
But some of us say that’s God.
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions, who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod, –
Some of us call it consecration,
But some of us call it God.
["Each in His Own Tongue"; William Herbert Carruth]
In 63 BC, the imperious legionnaire Pompey overran Judea and added it to the Roman Empire. When he came into Jerusalem and marched up to the temple, no Gentile to that moment had ever entered beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies; only the high priest of the Jewish religion once a year [Hebrews 9:6-7]. And when the imperious contumacious Pompey stalked through the temple area, he stood in front of that holy veil and as the Jews cried, offered their necks and their lives, he imperiously pulled it aside and entered in, first time in history a Gentile ever stepped into the Holy Place. When he came out, he looked in astonishment and said to his fellow legionnaires, "Why, it is empty. There’s nothing in it." Yet that is the place where Isaiah said, "I saw the Lord . . . high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple . . . And I heard the cherubim and the seraphim cry, Holy, holy, holy: the whole earth is filled with His glory" [Isaiah 6:1-3]; to the eye of the soul, to those who can see.
Another popular assumption about faith and about religion is this: that in the world of religion we have to do with faith; but in every other area of life, we have to do with facts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In every area of our life, by day, by night, every hour, and every moment, we live by faith. And our world and our life is built upon faith, commitment, trust.
One of the great pharmaceutical houses of America has an advertisement by which they defend the high price of their proprietary drugs. And they say, "We possess," quote, "the priceless ingredient." Well, just what is that priceless ingredient that this far-flung pharmaceutical house puts in their drugs for which they ask us to pay a higher price? They proudly say that priceless ingredient is, "You can use our products with assurance, and with trust, and with faith, and with confidence."
One of the great life insurance companies of America has a picture, wherever you see their tall buildings, and wherever you look at their literature, there’s a picture on it: the Rock of Gibraltar. They would persuade us to believe that if you do business with their company, they have the solidity and the strength of the immovable Rock of Gibraltar; you can trust them. And these banks for which we’re so grateful and proud in the city of Dallas, these banks, these banks are built on the same thing religion is built on; they even have a "trust department." Sometimes they call themselves the "guarantee and trust company," and they use the language and the nomenclature of faith and religion exactly.
One of the women here in this city called the bank, and said, "I want to talk to you about my bonds and securities." And the fellow on the other end of the line, he said to the woman talking to him, he said, "What denomination are your bonds, and are you interested in conversion or redemption?" And she gulped and said, "Say, am I talking to the First National Bank or the First Baptist Church?" Same words, same language, same foundational substance that undergirds the religion of Christ, and the church of our Lord, and every great institution that lives and thrives in this earth. By faith we make a deposit. By faith we accept the check. By faith we pay an insurance premium. By faith we undergo an operation. By faith the farmer sows his seed; a girl enters into marriage. Our life is by faith.
A third popular assumption about religion is this: that the creed of religious people demands faith, but that the creed of irreligious people makes no such requirement. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. It takes as much faith and commitment to be an infidel or an atheist as it does to be a devout believing Christian. In my opinion, in my persuasion, it takes far more faith to believe the creed of an infidel than it does to accept the creed of a Christian. They stretch credulity to an illimitable degree.
One of these teachers one day before his class of junior boys took his watch and he held it up to those little fellows, and he said, "See my watch?" He said, "Nobody made it. It just happened to be." He said, "Upon a day, there came rolling along a case that plopped down. Upon another day came rowing along some wheels, and they plopped in. On another day came rolling along some hands, and they plopped on. Upon another day came rolling along a crystal, and there it sits. Nobody made it. It just happened to be." And one of the little junior boys looked at him in amazement and astonishment and said, "Say, mister, ain’t you crazy?"
This watch is a simple mechanism compared to the infinitely, infinitely removed, difficult, mechanisms that lie back of God’s microcosm and God’s macrocosm. It is as intricate, it is as finely balanced in God’s atomic world with their solar systems of neutrons and electrons and protons as it is in God’s infinite macrocosm above us, when these spheres follow ordered laws by the determinate counsel and by the infinite elective purpose of Almighty God! He made it! [Genesis 1:1; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16]. And we see the fruit and the evidence of His infinite workmanship wherever we touch His vast and infinite creation [Psalm 19:1].
A French atheist was in a camel train crossing the Sahara. And, like you’ve seen many times, and at the appointed hour, his driver got off his camel, spread out his little prayer rug and bowed before God. And the French atheist looked at it in contempt; and when he got up, why, he said, "What you doing?" And the man said, "I’m praying to God."
"Well," said the atheist, "how unusual. How unusual. You praying to God. Well, did you ever see Him?"
"Ever touch Him?"
"Ever taste Him?"
"Ever smell Him?"
"Well, how do you know there is a God?" And that unlettered camel driver had difficulty replying. The next morning when they awakened the French atheist looked around the camp and said, "There was a camel here last night, went through the camp."
And the unlettered camel driver said, "Oh, you don’t say? Did you see him?"
"Did you smell Him?"
"Did you touch Him? Did you taste Him?"’
"Well," said the camel driver, "what makes you think there was a camel here, went through the camp last night?"
"Why, ignorant," said the atheist, "there’s tracks, can’t you see, in the sand."
And the unlettered camel driver pointed up to the sky and to the world around and replied, "I see His tracks in the firmament of the heaven above and in the expanse of the earth beneath."
The creed of a Christian is easy to believe. God made it in infinite wisdom, in infinite purpose, in an elective design that someday shall glorify and honor His matchless name.
I want to take one other moment, if you’ll listen. I want to go with you – and I’m not blasphemous because I try to keep in confidence, in holy, prayerful, earnest confidence, any soul and any problem that’s ever brought to me in my pastors’ study – but I’ve tried to think of some way to do this, and I can’t think of any other way better than to invite you to go with me into the laboratory of life and look at God. Now come with me.
In my humble opinion, it is as easy for me to find God and to show Him to you in the laboratory of life as it is for an astronomer to take his telescope and to find a star in the firmament above, or for a physician to take his microscope and to find a virus in the world of medicine, or for a physicist to take the contraction and expansion of substance and demonstrate it before your eyes, or a chemist will take the elements and combine them in their reaction while you look and observe. I can do the same thing with you if you’ll come with me into the laboratory of life and look and behold our God.
You can cut with a knife a plant, and it’ll bleed, sap will run out, it’ll bleed; it won’t feel. You can cut with a knife an animal, me, you can cut with a knife an animal and it’ll bleed; but it’ll also feel. You can do another thing: without a knife, without a knife you can cut a human soul, and it’ll bleed in the spirit, and it’ll cry in the heart. What an astonishing thing! Did you ever see somebody you love cry? Lonely, or hurt, or lost, or forsaken, cry; their soul cries, their heart cries, their spirit cries.
So, into my pastors’ study, here’s a mother and a seventeen year old boy. And the mother says to me, "I suppose you know all about my boy."
"No," I said, "I never saw the boy before."
"Well," she said, "I know you’ve been reading about him."
"Oh?" I said, "What did you say your name was?" And she told me. And I turned to the boy, "Are you the boy?"
"Yes," he said. "Well, what can I do?"
And the mother says to me, "Last night my boy fell at my feet, fell at my feet, sobbing, and said, ‘Oh Mother, I need God. Where can I find God?’ And I didn’t know what to say; I didn’t know what to tell him. So I went next door to my dear friend, my neighbor, and I said to her, ‘My boy asked me where can he find God, and I don’t know what to tell him. Can you come and tell him?’ And the neighbor said, ‘I don’t know either, I don’t either; but every Sunday I hear the pastor of the First Baptist Church. Take him down there; he can tell the boy how to find God.’" So she said, "I brought my boy to you, for you to tell him how he can find God."
Well, just to sum it up, I take my Book and I talk to the boy out of the Book. I’m just an echo, I just repeat the message, I just say what God writes in the Word. I talk to him out of the Book. And then we get on our knees and talk to the God of the Book.
So, I want you to look at them. We’ll pull ourselves away from any feeling, and we’ll look upon it impersonally. There is a seventeen-year-old boy in our city, and he is sobbing his heart out. And there by his side kneeling is the mother, crying like her heart would break in two. Well, we ought to feed them, we ought to clothe them, we ought to get a fine house for them; they need another automobile. Why, bless your heart, if I were to call their names you might know them. They’ve got houses, they have automobiles, they have food and clothing; they have everything that heart could desire.
"Well pastor, then we ought to put them through a fine course in humanities, and we ought to teach them better mathematics. Well, we might, we might have a better band and music and entertainment for them." Don’t you see, without my saying it, what they need is God. Like Augustine said, "O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we are restless until we rest in Thee." Another car won’t do, and another suit of clothes doesn’t fit, and a bigger banquet – "I’m satiated, and to be entertained is farthest from my soul. What I want is God. What I want is the Lord. What I want is to be right. What I want is to be at peace. What I want is rest. What I want is a great faith!" [Ephesians 2:8]. And a great faith will give us a great God.
Well, that’s it. And as the Spirit of the Lord comes down our souls to greet, that young fellow is a new man, and that mother has a Christian home. And come with me to church, and you’ll see them there on the Lord’s Day, singing hymns of praise and gladness, bowing their heads in adoration and worship. You see they have found God.
May we pray?
Our Lord, humbly we ask that we might be delivered from the crass, empty secularism and materialism of this world. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" [Matthew 4:4]. And when we feed our bodies, and shelter and clothes for our life, there’s still something oh so infinitely more precious: my soul cries, and my heart needs, and I lift up my face to Thee. And with the eyes of the soul I behold the King in His beauty, and in faith and in trust I live, I walk, I talk with the King. God bless us in the way in the Spirit of Jesus, in His name, amen.
And we are dismissed.