The Master Calls for Thee
July 14th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
THE MASTER CALLS FOR THEE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-14-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Master Is Come and Calleth for Thee. It is an appeal for a dedication of life to Jesus, trusting Him as Savior, coming into the fellowship of His church, listening to the call of His voice. Now in your Bible turn to John, the Gospel of John chapter 11, and we shall read from verse 18 through verse 29; John, the Fourth Gospel, John chapter 11, beginning at verse 18, reading through verse 29. And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, you share your Bible with him, and let us all read it out loud together. And if on the radio you are listening to the service, get your Bible and turn to John chapter 11, and we are going to begin at verse , reading through verse 29; going to begin at verse 18, reading through verse 29. And all of us, on the radio, and this great throng here tonight, reading it out loud together; now may we read:
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.
The title of the message is the reading of the text, The Master Is Come and Calleth For Thee.
John says that he wrote this Gospel in order that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name [John 20:31]. And in the verse before, that final word of the purpose of his writing, he says, “There are many other signs that Jesus did in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book” [John 20:30]. But John chose seven of them and wrote them here in his Gospel in order, as he says, that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing we might have life in His name [John 20:31]. Now of those seven signs, we call them miracles—of those seven signs that Jesus did, chosen of the apostle John to be placed here in his Gospel, the most stupendous and overwhelming is the sign of the deity of our Lord in the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. It was a stupendous thing, it was an astonishing thing, it was an overwhelming thing, it was an unbelievable thing, for Lazarus purposely had been left to lie in decomposure and corruption in the grave for four days [John 11:15, 17, 39]. And in that hot country, a body unembalmed, untended, laid in a tomb, would disintegrate rapidly. That’s the reason Abraham said to the sons of Heth, “Let me buy from thee this cave of Machpelah, that I might hide my dead out of my sight” [Genesis 23:8-9]. The body decomposed quickly. And Lazarus, one day, and two days, and three days, and four days had lain in corruption in the tomb [John 11:17, 39]. And when in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, the Lord Christ called Lazarus from the grave, and he that was dead heard the voice of the Son of God and came forth, it was the most stupendous sign, miracle, that mind could imagine [John 11:43-44]. And it had that tremendous effect upon the Jewish people. Here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, it says that they who looked upon, that believed on Jesus: “They that had seen these things,” verse 45, “believed on Jesus” [John 11:45]. Then the next chapter, chapter 12, when Jesus came to the Passover, six days before He came to Bethany where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom He raised from the dead, and it says there, “Much people of the Jews came, and they came not to see Jesus only, but also that they might see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead” [John 12:9]. And so great a confirmation of the power of the Lord was seen in that unusual sign, that the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death, not only to encompass the death and destruction of our Lord, but to get Lazarus out of sight, because, it says, “by reason of him many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus” [John 12:10-11]. It was an incomparable sign and attestation to the power of the Son of God.
Now this call of our Lord to faith and to trust in Him is an overpowering witness in every heart. There is no such a thing as a man listening to the voice of God, a man introduced to the power and the grace of Jesus, there’s no such a thing as a man not being moved by it. I always have the assurance that when I preach the gospel of the Son of God, the Holy Spirit of Jesus works with me. Never is a man invited to the Lord but that God’s Holy Spirit is in that man’s heart pleading the truth of the invitation [John 16:13-15]. Now the man may be violent in rejection, and he may refuse in unbelief, he may fight against it, think up all manner of excuses why not to respond, but there’s no such a thing as the presentation of the gospel of Christ and the invitation of our Lord without its accompaniment in the power and unction in the Holy Spirit of Jesus. “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” [John 11:28]. And the word in reply, “And she arose quickly, and came unto Him” [John 11:29]. I could not conceive otherwise, could you? Could you? Could you? “When the Master is come, and calleth for thee, Mary arose quickly, and came unto Him.”
If there are words of hope and salvation in any other philosophy, in any other revelation, in any other religion, in any other book, in any other way, I’ve never heard of it, I don’t know it! I’ve taken these courses like they teach in the university and like they study in the seminary, and I’ve gotten down those books, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita, and the Vedic hymns, and all of those writings of Confucius and Laozi, and Mahavira, and Zoroaster, and I’ve pored over those books by the hour and the hour. Once in a while I’ll prepare a sermon and address and deliver it here about these other faiths and these other religions. It’s like drilling in a dry country; it’s like dipping down in a well filled with sand. They’re like winds that—like clouds that have no water, like winds that sear and burn and dry: there are not any revelations, and there are not any hopes, and there’s not any salvation, and there’s not any true God other than found in Jesus our Lord. I could not conceive of her not responding, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” [John 11:28]. In Him is hope, and if she had any future and if any assurance for herself and for her brother and for the sister Martha, for the family, for all things, it lay in the Lord Jesus. “And she arose quickly, and came unto Him” [John 11:29].
Now, as I cannot conceive of Martha refusing, as I cannot conceive of Mary refusing to reply and to respond, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” [John 11:28], as I cannot conceive of her refusal to reply and to respond, I cannot understand the refusal of a lost man to come to Jesus; I cannot see it, I cannot understand it. “The Master is come, and calls for thee” [John 11:28]; and then sit there and think of all kinds of reasons why not to come, all kinds of arguments why not to respond, and all kinds of things that Satan whispers in the heart that keeps you back and away from the Lord Jesus. I cannot conceive of those things.
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,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
[“Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy,” Joseph Hart, 1759]
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down, thou weary one,
Lay down thy head upon My breast.
I went to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad.
I found in Him a resting place,
And He hath made me glad.
[“I Heard the Voice of Jesus say,” Horatius Bonar]
“The Master is come, and calleth for thee. And as soon as she heard it, she arose quickly, and came unto Him” [John 11:28-29]. I could not imagine otherwise, nor can I understand a man’s refusal of the invitation to come, come, come to Jesus. “And the Spirit of God and the bride of Christ say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, come” [Revelation 22:17] . . . “The Master calleth for thee.”
Now I have three things I want to say about that call. First: the Master calls in our hearts to faith and to trust and to committal of life to Him; the Master calls in our souls [John 11:28]. I repeat what I said a moment ago: He calls to everybody and to anybody. When the gospel message is presented and the name of Christ is named, there is the Holy Spirit of God in that man’s heart affirming and avowing the truth of that invitation [John 16:13-15]. That is true with a hardened unbeliever and a worldly cynic. For example, after those certain days had passed, there came Felix and Drusilla, and they sent for Paul [Acts 24:24]. And as Paul preached the gospel to that worldly infidel, the Book says, “Felix trembled, Felix trembled”; the Spirit of God moved his heart! He didn’t respond; put it off: “When I have a convenient season I will, not now” [Acts 24:25]. But the power of the gospel moved in the heart of that unbelieving infidel. When I turn the page, the same thing about a doubter, a man who believes the Bible, but doubts the great truths of the gospel of the Son of God. And as Paul preached to King Agrippa, who was a Jew himself—Felix was a Gentile, but Agrippa was a Jew; he was a Maccabean, he was a prince, and he knew the law and the prophets—and as Paul preached to King Agrippa, he was visibly moved. And Paul said, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that you believe” [Acts 26:27]. And Agrippa replied, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian [Acts 26:28]. Or maybe, in oligo, in a little, in a summation, you want me to be saved, you want me to be a Christian.” And Paul replied, “Not only in oligo, but in much; not only in a little but in everything. Or oh, I would to God, that not only thou, but all that are with thee were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds, except these bonds” [Acts 26:29]; the moving of the Holy Spirit of God in the invitation extended in the name of Jesus Christ [John 16:13-15].
When I was called as pastor of this church, I’d been here maybe a year or two, and I was invited with a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, and I represented our Protestant faith—I was invited to a great state university for a week of religious emphasis. One of those days in that week, the assembly was held in a gigantic gymnasium. They, all those students there by the thousands and the thousands, and the priest and the rabbi, and that day it was my opportunity to preach the gospel of the Son of God; never tried any more earnestly or prayerfully in my life than I did that day.
Now after each service, and there were two a day, and we shared in all of them, after the service, why, some of the faculty and the three of us met, as we did in a fellowship, meeting the professors and the administration of the great university. When I got through preaching, and turned around and the three of us walked off of the platform, I looked at the Jewish rabbi. He was crying; he was in tears. God had so moved his soul, God had so moved his heart he couldn’t keep back an emotional response; tears, tears. You see, an honest Jewish rabbi believes the prophets and the Old Testament Scriptures. “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know thou believest” [Acts 26:27]. That man believed the Word of God.
Now, one of the strangest things happened I ever heard in my life. When we gathered in the faculty lounge with those university professors and the administration, and the three of us there in a fellowship then to break bread together, why, the presiding officer of the religious emphasis week opened the session with questions that anybody might like to ask, and discussions anybody might like to lead. And that Jewish rabbi stood up, and to my amazement, to my amazement, he said, “I have a question I want to ask,” and turning to me, he said, “I want to know, I want to know, if the thing you did this morning, preaching there in that vast assembly, I want to know if that is the power of God upon you or if it is something you have learned how to do!” He astonished me.
The presentation of the message that God had blessed to his soul and his heart; “Is it something that you learn how to do? Like you learn how to be a watchmaker, and the intricacies of a watch, you learn how to repair a watch, or you learn how to be an engineer and you go into all of those intricacies of measurement and distance, or you learn how to be a surgeon and all of the deft things. Is what you did today something you’ve learned to do? You learn how to move, and you learn how to preach, and you learn how to move hearts and call people to God. Is it something you’ve learned or is what happened today the power of God upon you?”
Nobody in the world would ever ask that but a man like a Jewish rabbi. Of course, best I could, I answered. “Naturally, you learn how to preach, you learn how to take a text or a passage of Scripture and expound it, and you go to school and you study and you learn. But,” I said, “Oh, my brother, when I preach, and God’s power is upon it, I never learned that like a mechanic learns to twist a wrench. I never learned that like a surgeon would learn how to operate. If there’s power in it, moving, saving power, that is the presence of God.” Why, you can just argue and talk and multiply sentences all day long, but it’s sound and furor and clanging cymbal without the presence of the power of Jesus. That’s why you have to pray. That’s why you have to look to heaven. It isn’t words. It isn’t paragraphs. If a man is moved and saved, it’s the unction of God that does it! That’s what the rabbi felt that day, and moved him to tears. Oh, I did my best to talk to him privately. How I prayed that he might have found the Lord; how I prayed. “Master calls,” and when the gospel message is preached in unction and in prayer and in great conviction, why, even an infidel, even an infidel goes away and says, “I don’t know, I don’t know, but there’s something in it beyond what I can explain.”
Now a second thing: the Master calls in our hearts for faith and saving trust in the Lord Jesus; the Master calls for an open and a public confession, a committal unashamed of our lives to the blessed Lord [Romans 10:9]. I am often asked, surprisingly so—I was asked in the last few days—”Why do you ask people to come down that aisle? And why is it that I must publicly, openly confess my faith in Jesus? Now, why? Why can’t I believe right now and that ends it? And why can’t I be a Christian and nobody know anything about any change or commitment in my heart? Why do I have to come down that aisle and publicly acknowledge my faith in Jesus?”
Well, the answer is twofold. The first one is, this is the plan, and the order, and the procedure, and the mandate, and the commandment, and the expectation of God. For example, here in Matthew 10:32-33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny also before My Father which is in heaven.” When a man gets through preaching, he ought to present an invitation: “Is there somebody today who will openly before men and angels, before earth and heaven confess Jesus as his Lord and Savior? Will somebody do it?” That’s according to the Word of God. Now it also goes to a deep, deep spiritual meaning in the soul. Romans 10:9-10:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that He liveth, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
That’s how a man is saved: he trusts Jesus in his heart, and he confesses Jesus unashamedly, openly, gladly, with his mouth. “Here I am, preacher, so help me God. Here I come.” That’s what it is to be saved; that’s what it is to be a Christian.
All right, I have a second reason why Jesus calls to an open confession, and why an open committal of your life to Jesus is a thing that a Christian will do. Well, second—first, because God asks it and commands it [Matthew 10:32-33]—now the second: I never knew a saved man in my life that didn’t want to say it, that didn’t want to tell it, that didn’t want to scatter it abroad and let it be known. It’s a part of the thing itself; that’s what it is. When that Gadarene demoniac was healed [Mark 5:1-15], Jesus said, “You go back home. You cannot follow Me across the lake; you go back,” and then the next verse says, “And that Gadarene demoniac went all over Decapolis telling friend and foe and neighbors and those far off what great things God had done for him” [Mark 5:18-20]. Why, that’s normal; that’s normal. If you’ve been saved, and if you’ve been touched by the power of God, and if you’ve trusted Jesus, you will want to do that, and you will find it in your soul to do that!
One of the sweetest experiences I ever had in my life was holding a revival meeting, and there was a woman in the church who’d prayed for her husband a generation; he was a lumberman, had a lumberyard, and he was as hard and had refused Jesus for those thirty some odd years. And in the goodness of God, in the goodness of God, going to see him at the lumberyard, closing the door and sitting down with a Bible and getting on my knees, I got that man to Jesus. He came down the aisle that night, and gave me his hand, and trusted Jesus publicly as his Savior. Well, the next Sunday, the next night in the revival, the next night when I gave the invitation, down the aisle he came again, took me by the hand, and I said, “What are you coming for tonight?”
He said, “I don’t know, I’m just so happy in the Lord that when you gave the invitation I wanted to come and say I trust Jesus again and anew all over for tonight.” And I want you to know, when I got through preaching the third night of the revival, down the aisle that lumberman came again.
I said, “What are you doing down here this time?”
He said, “I don’t know, but I’m just so happy in the Lord I just can’t keep from coming. And when you say, ‘Come to Jesus,’” he said, “I just want to go, and here I am. Here I am.”
“Well,” I said, “That’s all right. If you want to come every night during the revival, you just come on. It’s all right. It’s all right.” But I knew how he felt.
Let me tell you: if you are a good Christian, every time I give the invitation there’ll be something in your heart saying, “I wish I could go down that aisle again”; you just will, you just will. And if there are lost people around you, you’ll say, like I say every once in a while to somebody who’s not a Christian, “I wish I could go down the aisle for you, I wish I could trust Jesus for you, I wish I could confess Him for you.” That’s the second thing about an open confession of faith in Jesus: if you know the Lord and have given your life to Him, it’s something you want to do, want to do, you want to do.
All right, a third, and briefly and quickly; “The Master is come, and calls for thee” [John 11:28]. First I have spoken, He calls in our hearts to faith and to trust in Him, to every heart, to every heart [2 Peter 3:9]. However hardened and full of doubts and removed, however backslidden, however cynical an infidel, He calls in every heart, every heart. Second, He calls to an open confession of faith in Him, unashamed, where men and angels can see [Matthew 10:32-33]. Now a last: and He calls to church membership and Christian communion and fellowship [Hebrews 10:25].
All right, here’s another question that I am often asked: “Preacher, why is it I have to be baptized, and why is it that I have to join the church? Can’t I be saved without joining the church? And can’t I be saved and not be baptized?” Well, theoretically, philosophically, theologically, metaphysically, yes, yes! But who wants to be saved metaphysically? Who wants to be saved philosophically? Who wants to be saved with all of those intellectual forensic conditions wrapped around it? Who wants to get married that way? Who wants to fall in love that way? Who wants to build a home that way? Who wants to live that way? Why, man, it would seem to me, if you fell in love, you’d want to be with that somebody. And I don’t know why it is, but the last two Sundays we’ve had I don’t know how many young married couples who are beginning their families to join this church. I baptized a young mother tonight who’ll have another baby soon. Oh, it seems to me that it’d be the most natural thing in the world for that man to want to be with the love of his heart, and when God puts in their arms a little child, he’d want to be there with the little baby and the mother. Why isn’t that normal? Why isn’t it normal? Why isn’t it normal? Why, if one is saved, why wouldn’t he want to be with those he loved? Why wouldn’t he? If a man is a Christian, why wouldn’t he want to be in the house of God, with the people of the Lord? Why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he? Why man, to me, the first thing that’d happen to me when I gave my heart to Jesus, and had confessed the Lord as my Savior, “Preacher, I want to be with the family and the people of the Lord.”
Now I have a whole lot of other things that I haven’t time to mention. The Lord asks us to be baptized [Matthew 28:19-20]. There’s not a whole lot we can do for Jesus, but I can do what little I can, and that’s one thing I can do: I can be baptized, like He says. I can be baptized. And that’s the way we enter the church and the family of God in this earth. First Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” That means two things. I think it means, for one thing, we’re baptized by the Holy Spirit of God in regeneration, born into the family of the Lord [Titus 3:5]. That’s something on the inside of us; when God adds us to the saved and redeemed of the family of Jesus, the bride of Christ, writes our names in His book, that’s by the Spirit of God [Ephesians 1:13]. By that Spirit are we baptized into Jesus, into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. But I think it also has that basic meaning from which the imagery is taken: “By the same Spirit of God are we baptized” [1 Corinthians 12:13], physically, into the physical organism, living life of our Lord’s church here in this earth, and here it is around you—baptized into the body of the Lord Jesus. And that’s a normal thing that a man who’s met the Lord would want to do [Acts 8:35-38].
“I’ve been saved, preacher, I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord, and here I stand in open confession. Now I want to be baptized, like it says in the Book; baptized into the body of Jesus, baptized into the fellowship of His church. And in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost [Matthew 28:19], I cross my hands over my heart, I bow my head in supplication and prayer for the forgiveness of my sins [1 John 1:9]. And now, pastor, bury me with the Lord Jesus, bury me, that I might die to myself and the world. Bury me with the Lord Jesus, and then, pastor, raise me up out of the grave in the likeness of His glorious resurrection, that I might walk in newness of life with Him” [Romans 6:3-5].
Why, fellow, that’s what a man answers to God in his heart, when the Master comes and calls for thee [John 11:28]. Would you do it? Would you do it? [2 Corinthians 6:2]. While we sing our hymn of appeal, while our people prayerfully join in this invitation, in the balcony round, somebody you; on the lower floor here, into the aisle and down to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to Jesus. I’m coming into the fellowship of the church on a confession of faith, asking to be baptized in obedience to His command” [Matthew 28:19]. Or “Preacher, I’ve been saved, and I’ve been baptized. We want to put our life, and letter, and lot, and fortune, and days, and prayers, and worship, and love, and devotion with these dear people in this church. As the Spirit of God shall lead in the way, would you make it now? Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.