Refusing God with An Excuse
June 3rd, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
REFUSING GOD WITH AN EXCUSE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-3-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Refusing God with an Excuse. And the reading of the Scripture is in the Third Gospel; and let us all turn to it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14; and we shall read from verses 15 through verse 23, 24. Luke 14, and if you are listening on the radio, get your Bible and read it out loud with us. And all of us in this great auditorium, reading it together, the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, beginning at verse 15 and reading through verse 24. Now let us everyone read it together:
And when one of them that sat at meat with Him heard these things, he said unto Him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.
Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out unto the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
Can you imagine such a thing? Can you think of such a thing? Yet our Lord told that parable as a characterization of the vast majority in this world. For God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s forgiveness, and God’s love, and God’s salvation is like a vast, marvelous, interesting, sumptuous, luscious banquet; and when God invites men to share His grace, and His goodness, and His love, and His mercy, and all the bounties of life, most men turn Him down with an excuse.
One of them said, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused" [Luke 14:18]. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Buy a piece of ground and he hadn’t even seen it. Not many people do that; but this guy says he did it. "I can’t come to the banquet; I’ve bought me a piece of property and I haven’t looked at it. I got to go see it now that I’ve bought it, after I’ve bought it." Isn’t that an amazing thing? Then the other fellow says, "I can’t come: I pray thee have me excused. I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them, to see whether they can pull or not, see whether they work or not" [Luke 14:19]. Isn’t that an amazing thing that a man would buy five yoke of oxen, and he doesn’t even know whether they plow or not, or whether they work or not, or whether they pull or not? Why, they may be, they maybe like the cow I bought: she didn’t have any teeth. You just don’t know what can happen when you buy things and you don’t look at them. "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused." But this other guy is a humdinger; he takes the cake. The third one said, "I have married a wife, therefore I just cannot come. I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" [Luke 14:20]. Whole lot of fellows do that, whole lot of fellows do that; all kinds of excuses, but the one that’ll really stump you is when the fellow’s got a wife and he says, "Preacher, I just can’t be there. I can’t be there." She’s got him out doing this, and she’s got him out doing that, and she’s got him out doing the other thing, and the rest of his life she’ll be having him out doing those things, and he can’t come. Well, these are all, as the Lord has described, they are all excuses; they’re not reasons, they don’t hold water, they don’t stand at the judgment bar of God, and the Lord can see through the flimsy misty cheesecloth fabric of every one of them. They’re just nothing. Yet they give the reason to God, the excuse to God, why a man doesn’t come to the Lord.
Now I used to wonder at that. How in the earth is it that men can know of God and know of the gospel and of the good things that God has to offer, freely given away, and yet refuse them? How is that? And the plain and simple answer is found in an Old Testament prophet by the name of Zechariah, in the third chapter of his book and the first verse: "And God showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him" [Zechariah 3:1]. That’s why: whenever a man comes face to face with God, and the Lord appeals to his heart, right by the side of that man is Satan trying to undo every invitation God gives, and trying to gainsay and repudiate every invitation the Lord makes. And there’s nobody that stands in the presence of the Lord and hears the invitation of Christ but that has that conflict in his heart. While God is pleading, Satan is resisting, and he’s saying all kind of things in your heart why it is you ought not to respond.
Now the sermon tonight. Just as quickly as I can say these things, and as long as we have time, I want to point out to you some of those things that Satan says in your heart, these excuses that he puts in your mouth. When a man bids you to Christ in the name of God, Satan resists, and he whispers these things in your heart, and here’s what he says. The first thing he’ll say to you is this: "Now you listen to me, now you listen to me," says the devil, "now you listen to me," says Satan, "Now you listen to me: he’s just trying to rush you. You don’t want to make that decision now. You don’t want to give your heart to God now. You don’t want to be saved now. He’s just trying to rush you. You’ve got lots of time; you’ve got plenty of time. Man, think it over. Man, put it off. Man, do it some other day, some other time, but not now: this guy’s just trying to push you into it; he’s trying to rush you."
Well, that’s a strange thing in the kind of a world in which we live; because this world is like a sinking ship; this world is like a planet on fire; this world is filled with the judgment and the death of an almighty God. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment" [Hebrews 9:27]. And there’s not a man that lives who does not realize that and does not know that. We stand in the way of a flood and of a storm and of a furious raging judgment; and for a man to stand facing these things and not make preparation for them is the most unthinkable thing that mind could conceive of. What would you think if a man ran to his friend on a sinking ship and said, "Man, this ship is sinking, the lifeboat, the lifeboat," and the fellow replied, "Oh, you’re just trying to rush me, you’re just trying to rush me"? What would you think of a family that stood in the way of a flood, the dam has broken, and the great tidal wave is coming down the valley, and you ran to warn the family, and they said, "Oh, you’re just trying to rush me; you’re just trying to rush me"? What if you were in the path of an atomic bomb and somebody came and said, "Escape for your life"? "Ha, ha, you’re just trying to rush me; you’re just trying to rush me."
I was in Hiroshima, as some of you know, not long after that bomb was dropped. And the awful scars that holocaust made in that valley there where that city is built: they were everywhere evident. And [Buntaro] Kimura, the pastor of our Baptist church in Hiroshima, in the days of the war, was conscripted and he was working in a factory outside of town at the edge of the city. And as you know, that bomb burst in the very heart of the city, over the city hall. And Kimura said, when I asked him, "What was it like," he said, "We were working in the factory where I was conscripted and sent by the Japanese government, and I was working in a munitions factory." And he said, "Suddenly it seemed as though the sun burst! It was a brilliant, blinding flash of light, and then soon a blast that knocked us all to the floor." I said, "What did you do?" He said, "Immediately, the Japanese authorities sent us all into the city to minister to the dying, and the bleeding, and the wounded, and to try to get them to hospitals and to doctors wherever we could find them in this part of Japan." And I could imagine as that preacher Kimura went to these who were bleeding and dying, wounded sore, and say, "We must take you to the doctor, we must get to the hospital," and these who were dying say to Kimura the preacher, "Oh, fellow, don’t get excited, we’ve got lots of time. We’ve got lots of time." Bleeding to death, but we’ve got lots of time. Facing death, but we have lots of time. "Don’t try to rush me. You’re trying to get me into a decision, and I’ve got all of my life." Yeah, isn’t that interesting.
In the Talmud I read this story. One of those fellows went up to the rabbi and said, "Rabbi, how long do I have to repent to get right with God?" And the rabbi said to him, "You’ve got the rest of your life; you’ve got the rest of your life."
"Well fine," said the fellow. "Well, Rabbi, how much is the rest of my life? How long am I going to live?" And the rabbi said, "Sir, nobody knows, and you don’t know; and that means you better get right with God now. You better repent now." That’s a flimsy excuse that Satan puts in a man’s mind to push him away from Christ: "You just wait a while, he’s trying to rush you; he’s trying to rush you."
Here’s another excuse that Satan puts in the heart of a man when he’s invited to come to God and to believe in Christ. Here’s another thing Satan will whisper in his heart, and he’ll say to him, "Now you listen here, you listen here: there’s a whole lot of things you don’t know anything about. There’s a whole lot of that that you don’t understand. There are a great many mysteries in this thing that are inexplicable. This thing they call the new birth, being born again [John 3:7-18], and the atonement of Christ [Hebrews 2:17], and all of those things; you don’t know all of those things, you don’t understand those things. And you just wait until you understand them, and then you can give your heart to God."
Oh man, and that’s a cogent thing; I meet it all the time. And yet, I tell you verily, with all the things that we don’t understand, and with all the mysteries that we can’t explain, yet I tell you verily there’s not a man in this world that doesn’t know the plain duty that God has for his life. Every man ought to get right with God. Every man ought to turn and repent [Ezekiel 33:11]. Every man ought to accept Christ as his Savior [Acts 16:30-31, 2 Peter 3:9]. And there’s no mystery at all about what a man ought to do. That’s plain and simple. Then about understanding these things in life, man, you don’t understand anything finally and actually: all you do is just observe it, all you do is just watch it; but you don’t understand it, and you can’t explain it. But that doesn’t keep you from doing it. And if you didn’t you’d die; you couldn’t live in this world. The things you don’t understand are everything. And what you do understand is nothing. And all you do is just observe it.
There’s not a man in this earth that can explain to me eating, nobody can, nobody can. The most brilliant men who ever lived or shall ever live can’t explain that thing of eating. How in the earth can you take matter, dead inert matter, there it is on the table, and it becomes you; it’s turned into heart and soul and mind and life that can love and hate and respond and think and live, you? That’s you. As I look at you, that’s what you are. Beans and potatoes and steak and gravy, that’s what you are. Oh, you say, "Preacher, you got me down wrong; that’s not what I am." Well, you just leave eating off for a while, just quit eating for a while, and let’s see what you look like. Yet there’s not a man in this earth that can understand the mystery of eating, of assimilation. You just don’t; but you just eat anyway. Can’t understand it, don’t know what it’s all about, but man let’s eat, let’s eat. All of life is like that.
One of the most inexplicable mysteries in this world is the birth of a child, the birth of a baby. Little old cell and then it’s two cells; those two make four, and those four make eight; and pretty soon there’s a little bud here, little bud there, and there’s a leg, and here’s a leg, and here’s his brain, there’s his backbone, and give it time and by and by there comes into this world somebody like you – the Lord help us – somebody like you, a reproduction of you, an amazing thing. And how does it come to pass? Nobody can understand. Those carpenters in there making teeth buds, and those chiselers in there making all kinds of bones, and those sculptors in there framing a skull, it’s an amazing thing, and nobody understands it; but there it is all around us. We see it every day: the mystery of life.
When I was in Melvin Carter’s home town of Boston, I went out to Harvard University to look at the great Agassiz botanical museum. Why, that thing is beyond, it’s beyond imagination. Those men, those Agassiz men, they had taken glass and they had made flowers, flowers, flowers, the roots and the stems and the buds and the flowers and how it grows, and it’s room after room after room. You never in your life saw anything like that, sea flowers, and land flowers, and tree flowers, and bush flowers, and every kind of vegetation you can imagine, all in glass. And when you walk through that museum at Harvard – there’s just almost miles of it, it seems – when you walk through that museum, every one of those things looks alive; it looks just exactly like it is out there in the world. And yet it lacks one great eternal mysterious thing: it lacks the breath, the germ of life. And as great as those Agassiz scientists were and as ingenious as they were in making these things, they couldn’t put in it that marvelous mysterious thing of the germ of life. And yet I’ve got a weed in my backyard that can produce more seed than it takes five men to mow, and to cut, and to dig, and to keep out, those bloomin’, everlasting, no-count, good-for-nothin’, but smartest things in the world, weeds making seeds, making seeds, putting God’s germ of life on the inside of the thing. Why, it’s an amazing thing, it’s an astonishing thing, and you don’t understand it, you don’t explain it.
I tell you these smart-aleck fellows who know more than God, and more than anybody else, and too smart for the Lord, they are a sight to behold. I read about one of them that was driving through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, and he got lost. And he stopped, and there was an old codger there leanin’ on a hoe in a field. And he got out of his car and walked over to him, and he said, he said, "Old codger," he said, he said, "Do you know where this road goes?" And the old hillbilly looked at him and said, "Well, well I’ve been living here about forty years and it ain’t gone nowhere yet." And the fellow looked at him and he said; "Now listen, I’m trying to get to Little Rock. Do you know where Little Rock is?"
"No," he said, "I don’t know where Little Rock is, but I got a mighty biggun’ in the back of my field; we can find that." And the guy looked at him and said, "Listen, you’re not very far from a fool, are you?"
"Nope," said the old codger, "just about three feet." And the city slicker looked at him and said, "Listen, you hadn’t got enough sense to know straight up." He said, "That’s right, mister, but I ain’t lost."
Any time a man struts by, and he says, "I’m smart, I got the answers, man, ask me, I can tell you all about it. I know more than God" – they don’t believe there is such a thing – "and I know more than the creation in the universe; I can explain how it all got here and how it all works." That man the Bible says is a what? A f-oo-l: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" [Psalm 53:1]. What does the Book say? "The beginning of wisdom is the fear, the reverential awe of the Lord" [Proverbs 9:10]. That’s the first sentence; that’s the first grammarian’s rule; that’s the first principle; that’s the first foundational statement; that’s the first corollary; that’s the first axiom; that’s the first great revelation. "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1], and we start from there, and are educated in His school.
But we’re talking about these things that Satan whispers in a fellow’s heart, and whispers like this, "Now you just wait. Don’t you listen to that preacher, don’t you come down that aisle, don’t you give your heart to the Lord, now you just wait. You’re coming along good, you’re doing good, you’re just coming along fine. Conversion is a progressive thing, and by and by you’ll get there."
Now you listen: conversion is a beginning and a beginning is never progressive. We either start or we don’t start. We either begin or we don’t begin. We do or we don’t do. We say yes or no. We’re in the kingdom or we’re out of it. We’re saved or we’re lost. It’s one or the other; there’s no such a thing as a middle ground between the two. And a man either obeys the gospel of Christ and does what Christ says, or he doesn’t obey the gospel of Christ and he doesn’t do what Christ says. And it’s that plain and that simple. And that’s what it is to be saved: for a man to say yes to God and to say "yes" to Christ, and "Here I am, and here I stand, and here I come." It’s that simple, it’s that plain.
Some of you all have had this experience: your child, and they all go through these things, your child gets angry, you interdict or you say something and it doesn’t please the youngster, and so he may slam the door as he goes out of the room, or pick up a book and slams it down on the floor. All right, what do you do? Okay, there’s the book slammed down on the floor, and you say, "Now, come here, honey, come back here. You see that book on the floor? Now you pick up that book real nice and set it on the table."
"Well, well, well, let me pray about it, let me pray, I need to pray."
"No, pick up that book and put it on the table."
"No, let me mourn about it for a while, let me be burdened about it for a while."
"No sir, you just pick this book and put it on a table."
"Yeah, but let me, let me do some other things for you. Let me wash the dishes or shine your shoes or sweep the floor. Let me do something else."
"No sir, you pick up that book and put it on the table." And until that child does that, there’s no obedience in the heart of that youngster; and it’s that plain and that simple. God says to bow. God says to confess. God says to trust. God says to come. God says to confess. God says to give your heart to Jesus. Until you do it, nothing is done, however you pray, however you mourn, however you seek. First obey what God says. Pick up that book, put it on the table nice like; then all the other things will follow after.
And Satan whispers in your mind, and he says, ‘Don’t you listen to that preacher. Don’t you listen to that preacher. Listen, I got lots of things that are just as good, lots of things. Be altruistic, philanthropic, be generous. Or give to these civic things and all of the needs, and live a fine moral life, and join the clubs, and join the fraternities, and be active in the work of ministering to needy people, and you’ll get to heaven all right. Anything except give your heart to God, anything," says Satan, "except bow before Jesus and accept Him as your Savior."
I went to see a man who was dying in the hospital; and the family asked me to go see him and pray for him and try to get him to the Lord. And so I went and talked to him and prayed with him and begged with him. And you know what that man’s eternal answer was to me? And he died saying these words: on his finger he had a ring of a fraternal organization, and when I pled and begged for Christ, he held up his finger and he pointed to that ring and he said, "That ring will get me into heaven." He died that way. Oh!
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Christ, I am a sounding brass and a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not Christ, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Christ, it profiteth me nothing.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3]
The all in all of God’s heaven is the Lamb, His Son and our Savior.
And in this last little moment – I tell you thirty minutes goes by before you just get started, doesn’t it? And in this last little moment, as the preacher pleads for Jesus, he [Satan] whispers in your heart, "Now wait, you’re not ready to come. You’re not ready to come. Man look at this in your life, and look at that in your life, and that, and that, that, that. Now you patch those things up first; you patch that up, you patch that up, and you patch that up. And then some of these days, when you get good enough, and when you’ve got it all patched up, why, then you go down that aisle and give your heart to Jesus, and be baptized, and belong to His church." And you follow that advice and you’ll never come. Do you remember the old, old song?
Come, ye sinners,
poor and needy,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms
["Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy," by Joseph Hart]
Do you think Jesus calls us because we’re good? Do you think He loves us because we’re lovely? It’s just the opposite: it’s because we’re unlovely, and because we’re lost, and because we’re sinners that He came to this world to die for us [Matthew 1:21; John 12:27; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And He bids us come to Him [Matthew 11:28], sin and all, dirt and all, filth and all, lostness and all, "Come just like you are." God bids you; God wants you, just like you are.
In the days of this last terrible World War, as you know, at Temple, Texas they built a hospital there for amputees, McCloskey Hospital. And we had in our church, and one of our deacons, an illustrious doctor, and he had taught in the medical school in Dallas. And one of his students, a medical doctor, was the head of McCloskey Hospital, the colonel down there. And the physician here in our church said, "Preacher, come with me and let’s go down and visit the hospital and see my old student."
So we spent the day down there in that hospital. Made an impression on my soul I’ll never in this earth forget. And out of those boys that we saw – some of them like stumps, hands and legs and just pieces – one of them was a young officer who in his terrible wounds, he’d lost his eyes; shrapnel had taken out his eyes and he was blind. And we visited with him in his room. And as we talked to him, somewhere, somewhere on the West Coast there was a wonderful young wife, and she sent him words of encouragement and wrote him letters of love and cheer. And the young fellow said as we visited with him, he said, "Oh, I’m so happy." He said, "Just think: three more weeks, three more weeks, and I’ll see my wife – three more weeks, three more weeks." Well, you know, I got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm of the boy that I never caught it at the time; but as I walked away, I happened to think, "Why, he said, ‘Three more weeks and I’ll see my wife.’" Why man, he’s blind. He’s blind! "Three more weeks and I’ll see my wife." And then the whole thing came before me: why, that blessed girl, wherever she was, and whoever she is, that blessed girl had so made that young man wanted and loved that he’d forgot he was blind. "Three more weeks and I’ll see my wife." He’d absolutely forgotten of the tragedy of the war.
That’s Jesus. Man it’s because we’re blind, and because we’re crippled, and because we’re sinners, and because we’re lost that God bids us come [Luke 19:10]. That’s the reason for coming to Jesus. And let’s do it now. Let’s do it now. While we sing this hymn of invitation, somebody you, give your heart to Christ. Somebody you, putting your life in His blessed hands, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, while we sing the appeal, make it tonight; "Preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God, and here I come, and here I stand, and here I am." Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.