Bearing Much Fruit
December 26th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
BEARING MUCH FRUIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-26-65 7:30 p.m.
Now will you turn to Mark chapter 4? I am going to read the text out of John chapter 15, but the background of the message will be Mark chapter 4. This is the text: John 15:8, “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Fruit Bearing, Bearing Much Fruit. And the text, John 15:8: “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” Now the reading of the background of the message is Mark 4, verses  through 20 [Mark 4:3-20]. So if you listen on the radio, get your Bible and read it out loud with us. And all of us in this great congregation tonight, we shall share our Bibles with our neighbors and read it out loud together. Mark 4, verses 3 through 20, now reading together:
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable.
And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they had heard the word, immediately received it with gladness;
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
The sermon tonight is an introduction to the tremendous emphasis to which our church shall give its energies in the new year. Ordinarily I would have begun next Sunday morning, but I thought, “Why begin next Sunday? Why not begin now?” Our church shall devote all of the energies of its organized life, all of the fellowship of its separated groups, every union, every class, every circle, every organization, every thing of this church shall be poured, beginning this new year, into a tremendous “Tell Dallas” campaign; a tremendous effort to move this city God-ward, to win lost souls to Jesus. So the message tonight is an introduction to that glorious assignment that we have received by the Holy Spirit from heaven.
Now do you notice that in this parable, so fine and so splendid, do you notice in this parable that there are unfruitful fields, but there are fruitful fields? And in the great consummation, we pray that we shall offer unto God in ourselves, and in our church, and in our lives a fruitful field unto the Lord. But no such thing is abounding and prolific without toil and effort. Never is a fruitful field offered unto God by fiat from heaven. When the Lord assigns us a task, and promises to give us victory, He does so with the understanding that we enter into it with toil, with consecration, with devotion, and with labor. Sometimes it makes me afraid for God to give us anything.
For example in the Book of Joshua, the Lord God says to that young warrior and leader:
Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I give them, unto the land which I give them;
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
[Joshua 1:2, 3]
Well now, just exactly what does God mean by that?
The whole land of promise, I have given it unto you. I swear it unto your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I swear it unto Moses; and now I swear it unto you, Joshua. And the day has come; arise, take these people over Jordan, and every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given you.
[Joshua 1:2, 3]
Well, just how does God give us anything? I would have supposed, wouldn’t you, that when the Lord God said that, Joshua would lead his people across the Jordan River, and all the enemies would disappear, and the whole land would be vacated, and everything would be immediately placed into the hands of the people of God; all the vineyards, and all the fields, and all the houses, and all the cities, and all the towns, and all the land, the whole countryside; I would suppose that.
But when I turn the pages over here in Joshua, there he is meeting the sons of Anak [Joshua 11:21]. And I turn the pages over here in the days of Joshua and there he is meeting giants [Joshua 12:4]. And I turn the pages of Joshua and there he is fighting battles; every inch of that land was contested by war and by battle [Joshua 11:16-23]. Yet God says, “I give it to you [Joshua 1:2-3]. You go over there and take it, Joshua.” That’s the way God does things. “I promise you victory,” says the Lord God, “And I promise you all of these marvelous things” that only the benedictory gracious hands from heaven could bestow upon us, but every one of them have to be seized. They have to be taken. They have to be won in conquest [2 Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 6:12].
So in this parable that we just read, here is a field, fruitful, that we pray we may offer unto God. And “Herein is My Father glorified,” said Jesus, “that ye bear much fruit, that you do a glorious work for Jesus” [John 15:8]. But every step of the way has to be one of toil, and dedication, and commitment. Now that means failure, lots of failure, endless failure. As I read this parable of our Lord there are those sowing the Word, and the seed falls on stony ground, on hard hearts, and there is failure [Mark 4:5]. Then I read further in the Word, and the seed, the good seed of the Word of God, is sown on thorny ground. All kinds of tares and the enmeshments of this world choke it to death [Mark 4:7]. And then I read where some of this is fallen by the way side, and Satan comes who is as busy as God’s people are, and Satan comes and he takes it away [Mark 4:4]. And the Word has no opportunity to bear fruit unto God at all. I judge by that, that in this effort and in this dedication, we are going to know what it is to fail; lots of failure.
Browning said, “Most progress is most failure.” He one time said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” There is no such thing as doing a great work in this world without knowing what it is to fail, and we’re going to have failure. But, but, that is no reason not to try. God help us, we’re going to try. We’re going to work. We’re going to do our utmost for God, the Lord helping us. This sower went forth to sow, even though three-fourths of his labor came to naught. And maybe three-fourths of our effort will come to naught but that’s no reason not to try.
I heard about an old farmer. And a fellow a-walkin’ down the road stopped and there he was a-sittin’ in a rocking chair on the front of his porch. And he says, “How are things old farmer?” And the farmer said, “Well, well, well, well.” And the visitor said, “How’s your corn crop?” And the farmer said, he said, “Feller, I ain’t planted no corn. I’m afraid of the drought.”
“Well,” said the stranger, “how’s your cotton crop?”
“Well,” said the farmer, “I ain’t planted no cotton; I’m afraid of the boll weevil.”
Well, the visitor tried again, “How’s your potato crop?”
“Oh,” said the farmer, “I ain’t planted no potatoes neither. I was afraid of the tater-bug. To tell you the truth visitor,” he said, “I ain’t planted nothing this year. I was playing it safe.”
We recognize the drought. We recognize the boll weevil. We recognize the tater-bug. We recognize all of the possibilities of failure, but that is no reason not to try. Same in this parable: when the birds take away some of the seed, and some of it falls on stony ground, and some of it falls among the thorns, but some of it will fall on good soil. Some of it will fall on hearts prepared and it will yield a harvest, gracious, benedictory unto God [Mark 4:3-8]. I’ve never seen that fail in my life. There’ll be maybe half a dozen families who’ll tell me, “We’re coming down that aisle.” And maybe those half a dozen families do not come. That is, when they say they will come, but you wait a while, you wait a while. Some time down the way, there they’ll be coming down that aisle. And in the meantime God will give us somebody else if we try. If we try, God will lend us the harvest [Mark 4:8, 20].
Now I want to talk for a minute––and we have to do these things so hastily––I want to talk for a minute why the tremendous commitment of our souls, and our prayers, and our love for God, why this tremendous dedication to this appeal of trying to move our city God-ward? I listened to an address by the chairman of our Dallas Crime Commission. And after his address, I went up to him, shook his hand. I said, “I never dreamed of anything like this. I never dreamed of anything like this. In my wildest imagination, I never thought of such a thing as this.” I said, “Would you be kind enough to send me this in writing that I can have it in my hands?”
Now you listen. Last year, last year, in one year, in one year, there were 29,701 juveniles, teenagers, arrested in Dallas for crime. And they stop what they call a juvenile at sixteen years of age. This doesn’t count the seventeen year olds. This doesn’t count the eighteen year olds. This doesn’t count the nineteen year olds. And to me a youngster is still a youngster, a child at twenty and twenty-one. But last year, in this city of Dallas, 29,701 teenagers, youths, children were arrested by the police for crimes. There were 24,393 boys and 5,308 girls. And when you read that list of offenses, it’s murder, and it’s assault, and it’s forgery, and it’s theft, and it’s grand larceny, it’s everything that a hardened criminal would do; 29,701 in one year in the city of Dallas.
And in the letter that accompanied it, the chairman of the Crime Commission said, “I want you to notice an alarming trend. The number of girls being arrested is greatly increasing.” Then he continues, “I think, pastor, we have too many people today who are afraid to use the word ‘God’ in public in a reverent way. I hope I’m mistaken in this impression because I think the reverse is true, that people today are ready to hear from Christian laymen and are ready to participate and become a part of church activities.”
Then he speaks of how we ought to involve ourselves in these church programs of Sunday school teaching, and recreation, and getting a hold of these boys and girls. Then he ends his letter, “If this is not done, this nation is through!” And that closes his letter. “If this is not done, this nation is through!” For you can’t build a nation on godlessness, and crime, and debauchery, and riot, and atheism, and blasphemy! We don’t have any future unless there is a turning on the part of our American people. Well, we have different ways to help. God bless any man who can choose a way to try to turn the godlessness of our people. But in our church, our way, and our method, and our approach is trying to win people to Jesus.
Now I have a second reason and of course this pertains to us. We who believe that Book, who pore over its pages, we who have felt the Spirit of God in our souls, we are persuaded that sin, and rejection, and unbelief do not end in this life. It enters the life to come. If a man could reject God and blaspheme God and then die, maybe we could just say, “Well, in this life, it was an unfortunate thing.” But, oh, oh, oh! The Book says, God says that a man is not just this life and this house of clay, but a man is an immortal soul and shall some day stand in the presence of the Almighty to give an account for the things that are done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And when a man stands at the judgment bar of Almighty God in unforgiven sin, and without a Savior, and without a Christ, and without a Lord, then what? [Revelation 20:11-15].
The graphic description of what it is to be damned in the Bible is beyond imagination. And when a modern theologian, a liberal who rejects God’s testimony, says, “But I don’t believe in damnation, and I don’t believe in hell, and I don’t believe in future punishment”; and he says, “These things that are said in the Bible are just alliterations. They’re just hyperbole. They’re just simile. They’re just parable. They’re just things that are descriptive but not in reality.” Oh, my friend, I hope he’s right! I hope these things that God says in His Word are not true when it comes to the description of the damned.
But I don’t know that they’re not true, and I don’t know that God lies to us, and I don’t know that the Holy Bible is misrepresenting this great and awesome revelation to our souls. “It is a fearful thing,” says this Book, “to fall into the hands of Almighty God” [Hebrews 10:31]. And that’s why, that’s why the pouring of our energies into this appeal: one, to save our nation, to save our city, to save our people, to save our government, to save our America; and second, to save our souls at the judgment bar of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15].
Now we must hasten; I say, “How are you going to do that, pastor?” In two ways, in two ways. Oh, sometimes I feel we are in such a small minority! The floodtide of paganism, and heathenism, and liberalism nearly drowns us and overwhelms us. But we have two mighty instruments of power and of recourse, two. First, first, we can pray. We can pray! Ask God, we can ask of heaven, we can pray. And I haven’t time to expatiate upon that. I shall take this section of my sermon and maybe we can speak of it later. We can pray. We can pray. Second––and of this I shall speak for a moment––second, we can look to heaven for an infilling, for a visitation of the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
What I pray for our own church, I am praying for our glorious state of Texas. And it is my understanding, Dr. Freeman, it is my understanding that our evangelistic conference for the state, held here in Dallas within a few weeks, two or three weeks, that that conference is going to be given to an appeal to heaven for the infilling, for the outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit upon us. Oh, there is such a difference! There is such a difference in just nominal Christians and Christians who are moved by the power of the Spirit of God, who are powerful to the throwing down of the very thrones of the evil one.
For example, I’m showing the difference between just being a Christian, or just being a church member, or just being a nominal follower of Jesus and one that is powerful unto God. Now here’s one:
And the Lord said to Simon, Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat;
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Why man, wasn’t Simon Peter already a Christian? Wasn’t he already saved? What does the Lord mean here when He says, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren?” [Luke 22:32]. Well, He is talking about a very plain and simple thing that is demonstrated in the lives of thousands of men. One day, there will be walking by a man—just walking by, a nominal man, a nominal Christian—and then you look at him the next day, and he may be a flame, and a fire for God. What’s the matter? He’s been converted as the Lord used the word here. He has turned to look in power to the Lord God of heaven and he’s not the same man anymore. He used to be a nominal follower of Jesus. He used to be a far-off follower of Jesus. He used to be just a member. He used to be just somebody who took these things for granted and let them pass. Then he turned into a fire for God. “When thou art converted, or when you turn, strengthen thy brethren” [Luke 22:32].
I’m going to turn the page again, “And the Lord said to the disciples, Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but you wait in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endowed with power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. Why, weren’t they already saved? Weren’t they already Christians? Hadn’t they been baptized by John the Baptist? What is this thing? “You wait until ye be endued and filled with power from above” [Luke 24:49].
Just to be a Christian is not enough. There must be an infilling, there must be a visitation from God. And I turn the page and there I see this same thing. “Being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me” [Acts 1:4]. Then I turn the page again and there is the power of the visitation at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]. And then I hear Simon Peter quote the promise. “This is that which God said, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, all flesh, all flesh” [Acts 2:17]; not just a minister, or not just a deacon, but all flesh! There’s not a man in divine presence tonight that God cannot use powerfully to achieve this marvelous assignment, when God baptizes his soul from above. Oh, what a difference! What a difference, what a difference.
These things are somewhat exaggerated I know. And as they pass from mouth to mouth and generation to generation, sometimes it’s hard to know the truth of what actually happened. But I heard this about B. H. Carroll, the pastor of the First Baptist Church at Waco, the head of the Bible department at Baylor University, the man who took the Bible department out of Baylor University and took it to Forth Worth and created there, out of the Bible department at Baylor, our Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. B. H. Carroll lived in a day––as some of you know, and if you’ve read anything of the history of our Baptist people you are very cognizant of it––B. H. Carroll lived in a day when infidelism, infidelity, blasphemy was rampant in Waco; blatant publications, newspapers, editorials, men standing up denying God and blaspheming the name of heaven. And upon a day, B. H. Carroll, the pastor of the First Church at Waco, B. H. Carroll issued a challenge to the infidels to come to church that Sunday morning. And they accepted his challenge. And the people gathered in the service for the Sunday morning hour in the First Baptist Church in Waco.
If you know anything about that church, the study of the pastor was right there and the door opened out on the platform. When I held a revival meeting in Waco, from that study we opened the door and came out on the platform. The people were gathered there. They were jammed into that building to the last space, for things were tense, and the preacher had challenged the infidels. And they were to face one another at that hour on Sunday morning. And the service progressed, and the worship hour proceeded, and there were songs, and there were prayers, and there were announcements, and there was Bible reading, and no B. H. Carroll, no B. H. Carroll. And he didn’t come out of his study. And they continued to sing, and to wait, and to pray, and no B. H. Carroll. And they waited, and they waited, and they sang, and they waited.
And finally, the door opened and B. H. Carroll stepped out of that study and onto the platform. He looked like Moses anyway, about six feet four inches tall with a beard that went clear down to his waist. And they told me, that when B. H. Carroll stepped out of that study and onto the platform, after giving himself in agony before God for the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, they said it seemed to them as though his face shown like that of Moses when he came down from the mount [Exodus 34:28-30, 35]. They said the man of God strode across the platform and took his place back of the pulpit. And before he could say a word, before he could say a word, one of those most blatant, and vociferous, and vocal of all the infidels stood up in the congregation and said, “My God, sir, what must I do to be saved?”
There is no thing impossible in the power of the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. God can shake; God can move; God can change. God can lift a nation off of its hinges and swing it in another direction. God can intervene in human history. God can touch human souls and human lives. God can convert. God can change.
So we give ourselves to the ministry of prayer, and to the ministry of the Word, and to await upon the possession of the Holy Spirit of us, our church, our people, all to which we shall give ourselves in the name of Jesus, trying to get men, women, young people, children, fathers and mothers, families to Jesus. And God help us in it. The Lord stand by us, and walk with us, as we face this glorious new year in His name and for His sake.
We sing our song of appeal; somebody you tonight, give yourself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], come, and stand by me. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple, a youth, a child, one; as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the invitation to your heart, come [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Make it tonight. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” In this balcony round, on this lower floor, “Preacher, I give you my hand. Tonight, I give my life to Jesus and here I am.” However God shall lay the invitation upon your heart, “Pastor, I’d just like for you to pray with me tonight.” You come and we’ll have a prayer. As God shall say the word, as the Holy Spirit shall open wide the door, make it tonight. Come. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.