The Responsive Heart
May 27th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE RESPONSIVE HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-27-62 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 seven-thirty o’clock evening message entitled The Responsive Heart. And with the great group in this vast auditorium, turn with us to Matthew, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 13, and we read the text, beginning at verse 10 through verse 17; all of us sharing our Bibles together, reading, Matthew, the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, verse 10 through verse 17. Now all of us reading it together:
And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see these things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
What is needed is the responsive heart; for what was ordained of God to eternal life, they have turned into rejection and into death. In Romans 7:10, "And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." And in 2 Corinthians, the second chapter, "For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, to them that are saved, and to them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life" [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]. This thing of the turning of the gift of God into an instrument of judgment and death is found in all of life. Things that are ordained, that we might live and that we might be saved, are in misuse and sometimes in rejection turned into instruments of death.
These sulfa drugs, when they were first placed on the market, these antibiotics, saved so many of us from disease and from death, but I buried a man in this congregation to whom the doctors gave those sulfa drugs, and in a reaction against them he died; and I buried him. What was ordained to life and invented, and used, and discovered for health was turned into destruction and into death. And these machines that men have invented for the good of mankind sometimes destroy us as they turn and are used against us. So this thing of the gospel of the Son of God: it can be used marvelously for the saving of the soul, or it can be turned into judgment and into death.
Well, how is it that a man can hear and hear and hear, and never hear? Or see and see and see, and never see? [Matthew 13:14]. For one thing, it comes because of familiarity: the thing is used, it’s like a round stone, a pebble that’s been going down the river bed over and over and over again until finally it loses its sharp edge and its incisive barb. So it is with the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God: a man can hear it, and hear it, and hear it, and hear it, and hear it, and finally he never hears it any longer; it’s a used and familiar thing. You can see a thing, and see a thing, and see a thing, and see a thing, and finally pass it by and never be cognizant of it, never see it at all.
That thing happened in the house of Abinadab, in Kirjathjearim, where the ark was placed after it was brought back from Philistia [1 Samuel 7:1-2]. Abinadab had two sons, one named Ahio, and one named Uzzah. And Uzzah had grown up with that piece of furniture in the house. He had seen it all the days of his life. And when David sought to bring it up to the city of Jerusalem, they placed it on a cart, and Ahio the older boy was leading the oxen that carried it along, and at a rough place in the road the oxen and the wagon shook the ark, and it looked as though it might fall off, and Uzzah put his hand on it to steady it; and God struck him dead there in that place [2 Samuel 6:2-7]. God said, "You must never touch that ark" [Numbers 4:15]. God said, "It must be borne on the shoulders of the priests" [1 Chronicles 15:14-15]. These people were taking it to Jerusalem, even David, like the Philistines do. And when Uzzah disobeyed that commandment of God, the Lord took his life [2 Samuel 6:6-7]. Now, to Uzzah it was a common piece of furniture; he’d seen it all of his life, he was familiar with it. But to God it represented the covenant of the Lord; and God said, "You shall not touch it, lest you die" [Numbers 4:15]. But familiarity took away its sanctity and its meaning.
That same thing, the dullness of hearing, sometimes comes to us because of a gross and abysmal indifference. A man could preach the gospel with the tongue of an angel, and there’d be no response. A man could speak the gospel in the power and unction and glory of an apostle Paul, and still a man not obey and not listen; absolutely indifferent. One of the most startling and astonishing things to be found in the whole Word of God is this: when the magi came from the East, following the star, it led them to Jerusalem, the city of the great king; and naturally they made their way out to the household of Herod and said, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" [Matthew 2:1-2]. And all Jerusalem was disturbed and moved at the inquiry of these magi from the East [Matthew 2:3]. And King Herod gathered together the scribes and the Pharisees and these doctors of the law, and said, "Where is it that Christ is to be born?" [Matthew 2:4]. And they turned to the prophet Micah and read, "He is to be born in Bethlehem: For thou Bethlehem, out of thee shall come the great Governor and Ruler of My people" [Micah 5:2]. And the scribes and the Pharisees said to Herod, "You will find the King born in Bethlehem" [Matthew 2:5-6]. And the king called the magi and said, "There in Bethlehem will you find Him." And they sent the magi [Matthew 2:7-8]; but not a single man among the scribes, and not a single man among the Pharisees, and not a single man among the doctors of the law, and not a single man of the temple, and not a single man of the court of Herod bothered to go the five miles over there to see Him who was born King of the Jews and the Savior of the earth [Matthew 2:1-2, Luke 2:11]; the vast indifference of a depraved and lost human heart. I can imagine the days of Noah: that old man out there, making an ark, a hundred and a thousand miles away from enough water to float it; and they passed him by every day. And for a hundred twenty years, Noah preached righteousness to a gainsaying and unbelieving world, as they scoffed and they laughed at the old man and the gospel that he preached [Genesis 6:3; Hebrews 11:7]. We are dull of heart and slow to hear because of our vast abysmal indifference.
Then sometimes it comes because of the lessening of the impression upon our hearts; we grow less pervious, we grow less sensitive, and finally we are not sensitive at all. I know of a man who came to church, and God moved his soul and he wept during the invitation. And then he came back again, and he stood there in the pew at the invitation and held on to the back of the bench in order not to respond. And then watching that same man, I saw the day when he came to a service, listened to the greatest appeal that a preacher could make, absolutely unmoved and undisturbed. There are times when men are on the hearts of God’s people who cry in agony unto God for their salvation; and finally you never hear their names again. As the days pass, their hearts become less sensitive, less sensitive, less sensitive, until finally they go beyond the pale of the grace and mercy of God; they die lost and unsaved.
And that leads to this thing that finally happens to the man whose heart is not responsive, and that is, finally, he becomes crystallized in his character. He says no, and no, and no, and no to God, until finally he becomes a negation itself: "No, and that’s a forever no." All life has a tendency to crystallize. Whatever you do, you become concerned in that thing; whether it be good, whether it be bad. And a man in his life and in his character will follow it, will find it following a certain channel and a certain course. And when you go in that channel, and when you follow that course, finally, life becomes crystallized; a character becomes solidified in that thing.
One of the most unusual experiences I ever had in my life was a woman who lived on the edge of town where I pastored, and she asked me to come and see her invalid husband. He had been afflicted with a stroke, and he was paralyzed. So I went up there to see him. And when I knocked at the door, his wife came and invited me in. And when I went in the bedroom, there he lay on the bed.
I walked over to him and I said, "How do you do mister," and called his name. And he said, "Goldang." Well, that astonished me. I wasn’t looking for it. So I said, "How you getting along?" He said, "Goldang." Well, everything I said to him, he said, "Goldang." After my visit a while, why, I was so flustered, and so flabbergasted, and so dumbfounded, and so stupefied that I stood up to leave, and when I did he pointed his finger up to heaven and said, "Goldang, goldang, goldang, goldang, goldang, goldang."
Well, I turned to his wife in amazement, and she said, "He wants you to pray." Pray. Well, I knelt down there by his bed, and I started praying. And while I prayed he’d say, "Goldang." Then I’d say something else; he’d say, "Goldang." And when I said, "Amen," in my prayer, he said, "Goldang." And so I stood up and I shook his hand, and I said, "Goodbye," and he said, "Goldang, goldang." And I left.
Now what happened was, that man had a habit in his life of saying, "Goldang"; and when he was paralyzed, and he lost all of his faculties of speech and of movement, he had so said that word and he had so reiterated that word until finally it became second nature to him to say it; and when he couldn’t say anything else, that remained with him. And he died saying, "Goldang." And I presume that meant, "Lord, receive my spirit." It’s amazing. It’s astonishing. It’s the most overwhelming thing in this earth.
I stood by the side of my father one time in a revival meeting. My father was the kind of a man that read the Bible every day, and believed every syllable of it, and every word of it, and every sentence of it, and every verse of it, and every chapter of it, and every leaf of it, every page of it. And he believed that a man could go beyond the day of grace; he’d call it "the unpardonable sin" [Mark 4:28-30]. I stood by the side of my father one time in a revival meeting, and they were working with and pleading with a man in that congregation in our little town. And my father said to me, "Son, you see that?"
"Son, that man will never be saved. He’ll never be saved. He’ll never be saved. He’s gone beyond that day. He said no to God for the last time, and he’ll never be saved." Now I don’t know about the theology of my father. I just know that that man died in the years thereafter lost and unsaved. For you can say no to God, and no to God, and no to God, and no to God, until finally your heart turns to rock inside of your body. You’ve lost the sensitivity to listen to the call of God.
Then what is needed? What is needed? What is needed? What we need is not, what we need is not another sermon. "Now preach me another sermon." What we need is not another day. "Now let’s have another Sunday." What is needed is not another argument or another explanation or another exegesis or another appeal. What is needed is one thing. It is needed that a man respond, "O God, by Thy grace, here I am, and here I come. God receive me. I cast myself into Thy arms. Here I am, Lord, here I am." That’s the thing that a man has to do when his heart turns hard and he doesn’t feel, and he’s not sensitive, and he can’t cry, and he’s lost all of those things that you’ll find in the heart of a little boy or a little girl when you talk to him or talk to her about Jesus. You need to move for God.
In Louisville there was a fire in one of those tall buildings, one of those tall apartment buildings. And everybody apparently had been, had been rescued and everybody was saved. And to the consternation and amazement and horror of the firemen and the people gathered round, there way up in one of those top stories, there appeared a woman, and holding her hands out of one of those top story windows, she cried for rescue and for help. And the firemen did the best they could as that thing blazed and burned. They got a life net and they spread it there on the street below, and they called to her to jump, to jump, to jump. And she’d come to the window and look down and scream and cry for help. And they’d pull that net tight and would holler, "Jump, jump, jump." She never did. Overcome by smoke, and overcome by fear, and overcome by reluctance to cast herself into the life net way down below, she died and burned in the building.
What you need to do is to jump. What you need to do is to move. What you need to do is to come. We don’t need another sermon. We don’t need another explanation. We don’t need another prayer. We don’t need another song. We don’t need another invitation. We don’t need another Sunday. We don’t need another sermon. What we need to do is to respond. "Lord, here I am, and here I come. I’ve heard enough sermons, I’ve heard enough about Jesus to save the world. Here I am, Lord, and here I come. I make it tonight." And when a man does that, he’ll be saved [Matthew 11:28; Romans 10:13]. His heart may be hard like a rock; God will make it flesh. A man’s hearing may be dull that he can’t hear; God will touch his ear and he can hear. A man may be blind that he can’t see; but God will touch his eyes and he can see. What we need to do is to respond: "Lord, here I am, and here I come."
Bowie – God bless the memory of the men who made our Texas free for us – Bowie, when they were going across the line to stand by Travis in the defense of the Alamo, Bowie was on a cot, unable, sick. Bowie said to his comrades, "Pick up my cot and set me across. Put me across. Take me unto this side of the line – move me!" I’ve preached in services where a tottering old man touched the hand of a neighbor and said, "Would you help me down the aisle? Would you help me down the aisle?" And the neighbor helped the old tottering man down the aisle; put his hand in mine, "Preacher, today, I take Jesus as my Savior" – walking, coming to God, to move. I’ve been in services where the blind man would say to his wife, "Wife, lead me down the aisle. Lead me down the aisle." And down the aisle the wife leads him; puts his hand in mine, "I give my heart to God."
In this very service not long ago, there was a little girl in a wheelchair, just right there. And the little girl said to her father, "Wheel me down the aisle to the pastor. Today I take Jesus as my Savior." And they wheeled the little child down to the pastor. What we need to do is to move; it’s to move, it’s to move. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:9-10]. We need to move. We need to move. As the dying thief on the cross turned his head to Jesus, "Lord, remember me" [Luke 23:42], all that he could do, "Lord, remember me," and it is enough. And it is enough [Luke 23:43].
While we sing this invitation hymn, somebody you, giving your life to Jesus, come and stand by the pastor. A family you, to come, "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming. Here I stand, and here I am." In this balcony round, down one of these stairways at the front or the back, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I give my heart to Jesus. And I take Him as my Savior tonight the best I know how. I may not be able to understand it all. No one does. I may not have strength in myself but there’s strength in God. And I offer Him the devotion, and the worship, and the commitment, and the trust of my soul and my life tonight. Here I am, and here I come." Will you do it now? Will you make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE RESPONSIVE HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. What was intended for life can be turned into death (Romans 7:10, 2 Corinthians 2:16)
B. Gospel can be for the saving of the soul or turned into judgment and death
A. Nothing new; same old story
B. Uzzahand the Ark of the Covenant(2 Samuel 6)
1. Familiarity took away its sanctity and meaning
A. Magi understood and knew the importance of the Messiah’s coming(Matthew 2)
B. The people of Jerusalem did not travel the three miles to see Him
IV. Incapacity to feel, be moved
A. Unresponsive heart, hard and calloused
B. Branding of the cattle
A. Character set, hardened
B. Man paralyzed by a stroke could only respond "Galdang"
C. My father believed a man could go beyond the day of grace
VI. What is needed
A. Not another sermon, Sunday, exegesis or appeal
B. A response of faith
C. Woman caught in a fire who wouldn’t jump