The True Riches
November 5th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRUE RICHES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-5-61 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Word of God, we are in the Book of the Revelation. And Sunday a week ago, we concluded preaching through the first three chapters; that is the end of the churches. There are no more churches, and the word “church” is not used, and the church is not seen beginning at the fourth chapter of the Revelation until the nineteenth chapter, until the end of the age, when we see the people of God, the bride of Christ, coming in glory with her Lord; our reigning King, our Savior Christ Jesus [Revelation 4:1-19:9]. So beginning at the fourth chapter of the Revelation, we come to the consummation of the age, the unveiling of our Lord of all of those things that shall characterize and that shall come to pass at the time of the end [Revelation 4:1-22:21].
This coming Sunday, the next Sunday and the next Sunday, I am preparing three sermons by way of introduction to this great final denouement of the age. This coming Sunday the sermon is going to be on the rapture, the translation of the church as it is found here in the beginning of the fourth chapter: “And I saw a door opened in heaven…and I heard a great voice saying unto me: Come up hither” [Revelation 4:1], which is a type and a picture of the translation, the gathering together, the raising upward, the catching out of the earth of God’s church, of Christ’s people [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. That will be the sermon next Sunday morning. Then the following Sunday morning, the sermon will be on the elective purpose of God for Israel—the Jew. There is no understanding the Revelation without understanding the translation, the rapture of the church, without understanding the elective purpose of God for His chosen people, for Israel. So that sermon is going to be on the Jew. Then the third sermon is going to be on the double purpose and application and meaning of prophecy. All of these things are grounded and rooted in the character of God. Truth and great moral judgments never change, for God doesn’t change; the same yesterday, today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. And these things that are revealed as coming to pass are the same great principles that operate among nations and in human life today. So when we read these things, we are reading of the here and now, as well as the there and the then. They all have tremendous pertinency to us who are alive now and who some day will be present in those great judgments and denouements that are yet to come, either seeing them as a Christian from heaven, looking upon this earth [Revelation 4:1], or if we are lost, being in those terrible, awesome torments by which the judgment of God is rained upon this wicked world [Revelation 16:1-16].
Now before we begin, next Sunday morning in this great climatic conclusion of the age, I have one sermon I have prepared in the third chapter of the Revelation—one more. “And unto the angel of the church of the of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God”—the originator, the arche, the start, the first cause, the One by whom all things were created—“I know thy works, you are neither cold nor hot . . . you are lukewarm” [Revelation 3:14-16]. Then He says:
Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be fully and really and actually rich.
The True Riches; and when we follow the church at Laodicea and when we understand Christ’s delineation of them and what He says to them, we are looking at ourselves and at our world. To the Laodicean, any man was rich if he possessed what they possess. They said: “I have wealth”; they said: “I am increased with goods”; they said: “I have need of nothing” [Revelation 3:17]. And to them, they were truly and actually rich for they had an abundance of things. Like we do today, compared to the peoples and nations of the world, there never has been, not even these Laodiceans, there never has been a people, a nation with the abundance of things that we have. So, the Laodiceans came to the conclusion that they had no need of anything else—only a more abundance of the things of this world. And that is a picture of all ages and all nations who follow a like persuasion.
The Laodiceans had three things in their persuasion—just like all people have who pant after and look for an abundance of possessions. First: every consideration of life was rooted in this world. Here and now. Second: all of the aims, and goals, and visions, and dreams, and aspirations of the people moved toward materialities, things, possessions. And then third: the inevitable corollary and concomitant; what did not contribute toward the attainment of those material goals is worthless. God, religion, spiritual values, these things are passe. These things are non grata. These things are extraneous and peripheral. They are not central and dynamic and pertinent, for the only things that matter in life are things that contribute toward that great goal of the abundance of materialities in this world.
There is a philosophy today that has scourged mankind. It is the philosophy of economic determinism. You call it the philosophy of communism. The basic underlying persuasion of economic determinism, of communism, is this: that only the materialities of this world matter. And the great aims and the goals and the outreach of men and of government and of nations should be toward those great material possessions! And things that don’t march and reach and contribute toward the attainment of those material ends are worthless. So, they read out God, and they close up the churches, and they thrive in atheistic societies. And a man is not a soul, and he’s not made in the image of God, but he’s a tool, and he’s to be used for the ends of the state: for there are no spiritual realities in the philosophy of materialism.
How opposite is the great teaching and revelation of our risen Lord. He said to the Laodiceans: “You say, you say I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. I say you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” [Revelation 3:17]. And the judgment of our risen Lord spoken to the Laodiceans was no different than His constant and reiterated teaching in the days of His flesh. In the very heart of the great incomparable Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], our Lord said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures in earth, moth and rust corrupting” [Matthew 6:19], but be rich toward God [Matthew 6:20]. “Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?” [Matthew 6:25]. And in that great passage in the twelfth [chapter] of the Book of Luke, that I had Brother Carter lead our people in reading: “Take heed that a life is not consumed with grasping! For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” [Luke 12:15]. Then He gave that parable of the man who thought nothing but to tear down in order that he might build up greater storehouses for himself [Luke 12:16-20]. “So is the man that makes treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God” [Luke 12:21], as though a man’s life consisted in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.
Now, these teachings of our Lord are not far-fetched and unreal and fantastic and other worldly. They can be tried. They are empirical. They are experiential. You can look at them for yourselves. You can see them now. You can test them here. That’s what we are going to do in the sermon of this morning. These things, these admonitions of our Lord, that a man has a soul and an eternity that is yet to come, and a man ought to be rich toward God, and that a man who has things in this world is a poor man, but the man who is truly rich is a man who is rich toward God, these great teachings of our Savior; they can be tried. They can be looked at. They can be weighed. They can be experimented with. They can be tested. That’s what we are going to do now. These teachings of our Savior are not fantastic and unreal, but they are actual, they are experimental.
All right, the first one: wherever, wherever, wherever there is in a nation, in a family, in a life, among a people, wherever there is the philosophy of materialism, there will you find life drab and wearisome, colorless and dull. It has lost its vibrancy, and its meaning, and its sparkle, its shine, its glow, its glitter, its very existence! It turns into drab night and corpse-like death. All right, I have two illustrations of it. First, communism; wherever communism goes, it drags with it that same shroud of death. Whether it is in the Soviet Russia, whether it is among the millions of China, whether it is in Albania or Yugoslavia or Bulgaria or East Germany or Poland or Czechoslovakia; wherever it goes, life turns to dull drabness and weariness! And the people live in oppression because a man’s life consists of naught in the abundance of the things that he possesseth [Luke 12:15]. And they may have the greatest steel mills in the world, and they may have the greatest scientists in the world, and they may have the greatest technical achievements in the world, and they may have a thousand million other things, but life has turned meaningless! And they live a living death; and the country is drab; and the people live in tyranny and in slavery and in a living death. There is no exception to it.
My second illustration lies in the opposite extreme. Whether the pendulum is this way in materialism or whether it is that way in materialism—wherever that pendulum swings, life is the same dreariness and the same drabness and the same death. My second illustration is in the French court; the ennui, the ennui, the weariness of surfeited physical life. And the most pertinent example by which I could illustrate it today, that same thing is to be found in the life of Hollywood. Why do they use narcotics? And sleeping pills? And why do they turn homosexual? And why are they divorced five, six, and seven times? And why do they drink, drink, drink, drink? You have to drink! Life becomes so boring. It’s lost its meaning, its pertinency, its zest, its fire, its glow! They have turned life into a mad race for pleasures and materialities, and wherever that is done, whether in the philosophy of a communist world or whether in the philosophy of the glitter of pleasure, life turns sour and dull; and it has a black draft in the cup, and the dregs are bitter. And they have to drink to cover it up, and finally, commit suicide in the vast oppression of life. And you don’t escape these teachings of the Lord Jesus. Just try them. Just look at them. They are not fantastic. They are real.
Second thing by which you can test them: even compared to this physical life, said our Lord, just compared to this body life, said our Lord, this animal life, the breathing life, the soul life, the psuchikos life, even compared to that, said our Lord, the things of this world are valueless and nothingness! Now, that can be demonstrated. I heard Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, after his descent in the Pacific and on a raft, I heard him speak to the Texas Legislature in Austin one time. And as he was describing his experience in the Pacific, when he and that crew of men were forced down and they lived on a little life raft, “First of all,” he said, “we had to throw overboard and throw out everything that wasn’t vital for the preservation of life itself.” And then he added, “It is surprising how worthless most of the things are that we cherish.”
When I was a boy, I remember the comic strip of “Mutt and Jeff.” And they went across the seas in a boat and found bushels of diamonds. And then on the way back, shipwrecked, and they were on a raft, and Mutt and Jeff were there seated in the middle of that raft, and the diamonds were rolling off and falling into the sea all around them! They weren’t even noticing for they were looking at the sky for rain, and they were dying under the blistering heat of the sun.
Isn’t it strange how even compared to this physical life, as our Lord said, “Is not the body more than [raiment], and the life more than [meat]?” [Matthew 6:25]—even compared to physical life, these things are nothing, diamonds, and wealth, and jewelry, and stocks, and deeds, and bonds, and all of the rest; it is nothing even compared, said our Lord, to a man’s physical life, the psuchikos life, the breathing life [Matthew 6:25].
And how much more are the sayings of our Lord to be found to be true when we compare the things, the things of life to the great spiritualities, the great eternities that are yet to come? There was a rich banker in the far West. And he had a poverty-stricken brother who was a country preacher down in the deep South. And before the rich banker died, he sent a check to his brother, the country preacher, whom he hadn’t seen in many years, that they might visit together before the end. So the poverty-stricken country preacher took the gift and with his family went out to the West to see his rich banker brother. There, the banker showed his brother the broad acres of his great ranch, and his blooded cattle, and the wonderful financial institution over which he presided as president, and all the other abundances of life. And then upon an evening, the families were upstairs visiting together, and the banker and his country preacher brother were in the library; reminiscing about old times; about the old home place on the farm, and about father and about mother. And the banker said to his brother, “Brother John, how has it been with you in these years?”
“Well,” said Brother John, “I have had a very difficult time. I’ve had a hard time.” Back there in that day, as you know, they paid the preacher, they subscribed a ham, and one subscribed a gallon of molasses, and others subscribed a barrel of flour—you know how they supported the preacher then. And that country preacher just barely lived. “But,” he said to his rich brother, “but,” he said, “I have preached the gospel the best I know how, and I have won converts to Jesus, and I have tried to comfort hearts, and to be a blessing to families, and to edify the saints, and to build up the church. But I have nothing to show for it. I couldn’t have come out here even to see you had it not been for the gift that paid our way.”
“Well,” said the banker, “Brother John, when you gave your life to be a preacher, I said you were a fool. And through these years, I have thought you were a fool, for you could have had these broad acres, and you could have had the presidency of a great bank, and you could have had all of these possessions—for you, Brother John, are more gifted and more able than I. But Brother John, but Brother John, I have changed my mind, for I have come to the end of the way, a pauper before God! And you, Brother John, you, your inheritance, your treasures are on the other side, on the other side.”
I am just saying to you that the great teachings of Jesus are experiential. They are empirical. They can be tested. They can be tried, and we can see their eternal truth for themselves. For, for a man to be rich in things is to die a pauper! But for a man to be rich toward God is to possess the eternities of the eternities of the eternities. It’s just to be used for Him, to be turned into the coin of heaven and sent over on the other side—the true riches.
Now may I say a word of those true riches? First, the use of them for God and for Christ brings a gladness and a fullness and a richness to the heart that is incomparable, that is blessed beyond compare. Last August, I spent several days in Philadelphia, just walking around. There’s so many places I wanted to see and to visit, and one of the first places I went and one of the first places I wanted to see was John Wanamaker’s store. It was far more beautiful and far larger than I even thought it would be. It is one of the great mercantile establishments of the world, John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. Well, I just heard so much about him. When he was appointed United States Postmaster, he accepted the cabinet position on one condition, that every Sunday, he could go back to the Broad Street Church and teach his Sunday school class.
And then this; when he was a boy, he worked in his father’s brickyard in Philadelphia. And they had a grand old pastor of the church named Dr. John Chambers. And evidently in that day, everybody paved around his own house. And Dr. Chambers was ashamed of the streets around both sides of his church. They were so shabby and worn out, and it just hurt the looks of the whole situation. And he made mention that he wished they could have a nice new street. And that boy—and he was just a boy—that boy went to the different brick makers, and he got the materials. And then he gathered up all of the money that he could put his hands on, and he paid for the laying of the brick. And then on a Sunday morning after he finished the work, he hid behind the corner to see what the grand old preacher would think.
And, Dr. Chambers, grand old godly saint that he was, was coming to church with his head bowed. He was not thinking about anything except his sermon for that morning. Came to church with his head bowed and stepped out into the street, and when he got up the middle of the street, he looked and he put his foot down on it, pressing it; then he walked around on it; and then he looked up that way, then he looked down that way, and he walked up and down the length of both sides, looking at that beautiful new street.
And unconsciously, the boy got in step behind the preacher and was walking with him. And when the preacher stopped, the boy nearly ran into him. And the grand old preacher turned around and looked at him, and said, “My boy, my boy, John, you had something to do with this. Oh, thank you, my boy,” he said, and hugged him. “Oh, thank you my boy with all of my heart.” John Wanamaker, of course, became famous and became rich. But he said, “I never had such gladness and such joy in my heart, in my life, as I did doing that for my church and my preacher and for my Lord.” And he said, “Since that day until now,” and he is telling the story in his age, he said, “I have never ceased to find that great incomparable gladness in doing it for my church and for God.” Ah, isn’t that fine? God loveth a happy, glorious sweet Christian cheerful giver. Just loving to do it, just glad to do it; and it does something to your soul.
The second thing—the second thing: you know, there is a peace and a quietness of heart; there is a gladness and a quietness of rest about trusting God and looking to the Lord and just being at peace with Him that is beyond anything else in this world. We have a staff member as you know, Libby Reynolds. For six years, all of the time I was in the school, our seminary in Kentucky, I was the pastor of her little church. And her family were the very heart of the spiritual and religious life of that community. They were godly, noble people. Well, it was in the Depression, and I was holding a meeting right after I went there. And on Thursday night, and on Thursday of the revival, the bank closed. It never has reopened. The bank closed and the people were in despair. It was one of the bluest, saddest things I ever experienced. Their homes, their mortgages, their savings, everything—when that little bank closed. And I want you to know that that night, that Thursday night, we had one of the greatest revival services I was ever in. That night—men saved, families won—a great outpouring of the Spirit of God. It changed that community. It changed the face of the earth for us. The gloom and the sadness and the despair were taken away. God came and blessed. Oh, it made an impression on my young life! And look at this, doggerel (I wouldn’t call this poetry):
The bank had closed.
My earthly store had vanished from my hand.
I felt there was no sadder one
Than I in all the land.
My washer woman, too,
Had lost her little mite with mine.
And she was singing
As she hung the clothes out on the line.
“How can you be so gay?” I asked,
“Your loss, don’t you regret?”
“Yes, ma’am, but what’s the use to fret?
God’s bank ain’t busted yet!”
I felt my burden lighter grow
Her faith I seemed to share.
In prayer I went to God’s great throne
And laid my burden there.
The sun burst out from behind the clouds
In golden splendor set.
I thank God for her simple words:
“God’s bank ain’t busted yet!”
And now I draw rich dividends
More than my hands can hold.
Of faith and hope and love and trust
And peace of mind untold.
I thank the Giver of it all.
But still I can’t forget.
My washer woman’s simple words:
“God’s bank ain’t busted yet!”
Now, that’s not going down in literature, I know. That didn’t come from Shakespeare, but it has a homely truth in it. Most of us have known hard times. Some of us, yet, are in a hard place. And there are others of us who shall yet know what sickness and bills, hard times, difficult hours take away from us. But when you’ve got Jesus in your soul and when you’ve deposited in God’s bank, somehow, there is a quiet in it, and a blessedness in it, and a preciousness in it, and a hope in it, and a glory in it that never, ever fades away.
And that leads me to my third thing about it. This third thing is one of anticipation in glory and in heaven. For to us, when we get to the end of the way, to us, the sun is beginning to rise, not set. This is the beginning of life, not death. And as we draw near to that time, our anticipation is filled with glory, glory, with heaven, with all that God hath in store for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9], for our treasures are over there, our inheritance is on the other side of the river [Matthew 6:20, 1 Peter 1:4]; this is the day of our triumph and our victory! “For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain” [Philippians 1:21]. If for me to live is money, to die is a loss. If for me to live is pleasure, to die is a loss. If for me to live in this world, to die is a loss. But if for me to live is Christ, if my pleasures are there, to die is a gain—an anticipation.
I read of a man that had a dream. And in the vision of his dream, a guide was escorting two old people, a couple, to an abyss. It had both ends knocked out, and the guide said, “It’s a grave.” And on the other side was the celestial city and the gates of pearl. And as the old couple approached, they did it with dread and foreboding and sadness, cumbered down and weighted with all the things they were carrying like pack rats. And the guide said, “What is all that stuff you’re carrying?” “Stuff?” they said. “Stuff? Junk?” they said, “Junk? Listen, these are our life’s possessions. We’ve given our lives for these things.” And she clasped to her heart her cache of jewels, and he clasped to his heart his stocks and his bonds and his deeds, “These are our possessions!” And the guide said, “You see that junk pile over there? Put it all on the junk pile. Put it all over there.” “What?” “Put it over there. Put it over there. Can’t take it with you. Put it over there.” And in sadness, all that they had, they put on the junk pile, on the heap—dust, junk! Saved as if by fire, just barely saved [1 Corinthians 3:12-15].
Then the fellow said in his dream he saw another old couple come up to the abyss. And when they crossed over, for God says that death is an incident so small in the life of the Christian, they don’t even call it death, it’s just as a shadow that passes as the sun rises. And he saw the other old couple pass over, and when they approached the gates of the celestial city, there was a great crowd awaiting them to welcome them. And they looked in amazement, in amazement, in astonishment at the throng of people to welcome them. And there were people from other places and other lands and other nations they never heard of—there to welcome them! And when he asked, “Where did I know you and where did I ever see you? And why are you here to welcome us?” They replied, “Why, we were lost in a benighted land, and a messenger came and brought to us the glad tidings of the gospel of the Son of God, and we were saved. And when we came to this beautiful city, we looked on God’s account book, and there we found it written large on the page of life that messenger came from your gracious hand. And we are here because of you.” There were others there whom they had taught the Word of God. And there were others there for whom they prayed. And there were others there who were ministered to by their gifts. And it became their true riches and their godly inheritance forever and forever. God gave it to us, the things we possess, that we might turn it into the coin of heaven and send it on before we lose it here in this life. But there it becomes an eternal endowment, the true riches.
If Jesus should come in the rise of the morning,
When all of the world is engrossed in its care.
How many of you could your Master discerning
Turn in your accounts and welcome Him here?
Or if He should come at the bright hour of noonday,
With a light far more glorious than that of the sun,
How many have eyes that could gaze on His glory
And heart that could say: Even so, let Him come. Let Him come.
If deep in the night when the third watch is starting,
A cry should go forth: the Bridegroom is here.
If upward in rapture the bride were departing,
Could you without fear meet your Lord in the air?
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The stuff of this world, the possessions of this world, the things Thou hast given us in this world, we have used them for Thee, as good stewards in keeping with Thy word: “Occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13]. And now, Lord, we turn in our accounts unto Thee, hallowed, blessed, and sanctified, what we have sought to do in Thy name and for Thy sake. That is the true riches. “I counsel thee to buy of Me coin of the realm of glory, that thou mayest be rich, rich toward God” [Revelation 3:18]. Do it, and may He sanctify your stewardship as unto the Lord [2 Corinthians 9:7, Colossians 3:23].
While we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give your heart in trust to Jesus, come and stand by me. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, the throng in this balcony, there’s a stairway at the front and at the back, there is time and to spare, time and aplenty to come, make it this morning. A family to come into the church, “Pastor, I give you my hand, this is my wife and our children; we are Christian people, and we’re putting our lives with you this holy Lord’s Day.” Or for the first time in your life to take Jesus as Savior, “I trust Him as my Lord, here I am and here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Make it now. These seconds we stand—decide now, “The moment I stand, I’m going to take that step to the Lord Jesus, and here I come, preacher, and here I am.” While we stand and while we sing.
we follow church at Laodicea and understand Christ’s delineation of them, we
are looking at ourselves and our world
supposed they were truly rich for they had an abundance of things(Revelation 3:17)
all who pant after and look for abundance of possessions, the Laodiceans had
three things in their persuasion
consideration of life was rooted in this world
Material values dominate all goals, aims, hopes
does not contribute toward the attainment of those material goals is worthless
Philosophy of economic determinism – communism
and revelation of our risen Lord so different
appraisal of Laodicea(Revelation 3:17)
His teachings in the days of His flesh(Matthew
6:19, 25, Luke 12:15-21)
II. These teachings of the Lord are actual
and can be experienced
drabness, weariness of materialism, worldliness
Communism – wherever it goes it drags with it the shroud of death
The French court – ennui, weariness of surfeited physical life
life of Hollywood – drugs, divorce, suicide
in comparison with the physical life, the ultimate worthlessness of the things
we seek after(Matthew 6:25)
Mutt and Jeff comic
much less value the things of this life in comparison with the spiritual
banker in the West with poor country preacher brother
III. The true riches
life of joy and gladness
My trip to Philadelphia, visiting John Wannamaker’s store
peace and quietness of heart, trusting God
Local bank closing in the Depression – that night we had great revival
Poem, “God’s bank ain’t busted yetâ€¦”
anticipation of glory(Philippians 1:21)
of the two couples
Poem, “If Jesus should comeâ€¦”