The Desperately Determined
November 21st, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE DESPERATELY DETERMINED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-21-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas; God’s most dedicated and consecrated congregation. We have just been given from our blessed Lord the most fantastic stewardship victory that I have ever heard of in the annals of Christendom. And this is just the beginning of what, by His grace, we shall do in His blessed name. Now with us on the radio, with the great congregation here, let us turn to Matthew, the First Gospel. Matthew, chapter 11, and we shall read the first fifteen verses; Matthew chapter 11, the first fifteen verses.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Desperately Determined, the "victory of the violent"; and the text is the twelfth verse: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]. Now let us read the context, all of us out loud together, Matthew chapter 11, the first fifteen verses, together:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
And said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And the text, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12].
As you would suppose, there are about as many interpretations of the meaning of that saying of our Lord as there are commentators who will write concerning it. For example there are some who will say that refers to the violence against Jesus, and the disciples, and the kingdom by the enemies of our Lord. They took our Lord, and His preaching, and His ministry, and they violently assailed Him; both by words and by vicious and cruel hands. They say that is what the text means when Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]. It refers, they say to the enemies of the Lord who violently destroyed it.
Then there are others who will say this refers to those who sought to posses the kingdom of God by carnal means, by force, by violence; say, like Mohammedism, which was spread by the power of the sword. They say that not understanding that the kingdom of God was in meekness, and in patience, and in submission, and in longsuffering, that these carnal sought to seize it by force, and to bring into the kingdom of God those ulterior, extraneous means of coercion that are foreign to the Spirit of Jesus. And so they say, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence by those who misunderstood it, and sought to wrench it away from its meek, and submissive, and patient, and godly foundations.
Well, there’s no need to go on; it could be extended indefinitely almost. What we preach tonight is what we think that it means and this is my persuasion. When the Lord said, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12], to me what He was referring to is this: that the kingdom is like a city taken by conquest. Only the ardent and only the zealous seek to posses it. And if one is indolent, or if he is nonchalant, or if he is ease-loving, or if he is worldly, or if he is scornful and supercilious, he will not attempt its ramparts. But the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who in arduous zeal and in supreme dedication posses it, take it, seize it, win it, conquer it. Now I’m going to expatiate upon that idea for a minute and then apply it as the Lord applies it here in the Word of God.
First, the idea, that the idea that the Lord was speaking and referring here referred to that violence that is found in the earth in the introduction of the kingdom of heaven, and only the arduous and only the zealous will attempt it. You see, the introduction of Christ, and the introduction of the gospel of the kingdom in the earth, came like a catalytic agent. If you studied chemistry in school, you remember there can be a solution that is perfectly quiet, and perfectly still, and apparently stable, but if you introduce another element into it, called a catalytic agent, all kinds of violent chemical reactions will take place, and things separate, and boil, and fume, and smoke, and sometimes explode. Jesus is called the dunamis of God. He is called the dynamite of God, the power of God. And the introduction of the kingdom into the earth precipitated that kind of a conflict.
For example, the early disciples: Peter and John stood up with those by them and they found themselves in a tremendous altercation with the Sanhedrin and the leaders of the temple [Acts 4:1-22]. It wasn’t long after that until Stephen, standing in the Cilician synagogue, found himself the target of the vicious and murderous responses of those to whom he was seeking to deliver the gospel of the message of Christ [Acts 6:1-7:60]. The same thing happened to Paul in the city of Ephesus as he preached Jesus, and as he introduced the gospel of the kingdom, he found himself the center of a vicious and a violent riot [Acts 19:1-41]. And it has been that way ever since. From the days of John the Baptist until now, it has been that way. You have the story of Wilberforce in England and Livingstone in Africa battling against the human slavery of the world. You have the story of Frances Willard and Carrie Nations as they battled the tragedy of the open saloon in America. And it goes on, and on, and on.
"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]. Our Lord spoke of that in several places. For example, just across the page in the previous chapter here in Matthew, He says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth, I came not to send peace, but a sword" [Matthew 10:34]. I turn over here to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12 and verse , and He says, "I am come to send fire, I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?" [Luke 12:]. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and it is only the arduous and the dedicated who seize it, and who take it, and who posses it [Matthew 11:12]. Now that’s the idea. Now we’re going to apply it.
"The Lord said, as they departed, He began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out for to see? What went ye out for to see?" [Matthew 11:7, 8, 9]. Who are these people that posses the kingdom of God? What do they look like? How do they act, and what kind of people are they? Well, the Lord’s going to describe them to us. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]; what kind of people are they? Well, let’s look at them. "What went ye out for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?" [Matthew 11:7]. Are these the kind of people who storm the ramparts of the kingdom and who posses the kingdom of God? Are they like reeds that bend all together when the wind blows that way, and bend all together when the wind blows that way? And however the wind blows, there they are bending before it, following all the popular surges and fads of the day? Is that the kind of people they are? Are they like reeds who bend in doctrine, and dedication, and commitment and with every passing, changing season? Are they that kind of people? "No," says Jesus, "no." The kind of people who storm the kingdom of God are those who are unshaken by any wind of doctrine, or by any fad of passing and particular fancy.
I think of John Bunyan. When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the first thing he did was to put that Baptist preacher in jail. And he stayed there until 1672, twelve long years. And again, and again, and again they came to John Bunyan and said, "Any day that you will promise you will not preach the gospel of Jesus, this prison door will be opened and you will be a free man." And every time John Bunyan replied, "I had rather that moss grow on my eyelids than that I buy my freedom at so contemptible a price." A reed shaken by the wind? [Matthew 11:7]. "No," says Jesus. The kingdom belongs to those who are dedicated and arduous, who take it by force and commitment by violence [Matthew 11:12].
Well, the Lord says again, "You went out into the wilderness, what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold these dilettantes are found in the courts, in kings’ palaces, not out there preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 11:8]. Soft raiment? No, no, these are they who have paid the price of supreme dedication, and their whole souls, and their whole lives, and their every vision and their dream belong to the possession of the kingdom of heaven. Soft, easy? No, says God.
And no, says the entire world in which we live and are acquainted. There is no such thing as entering in triumph in any kingdom without an arduous commitment to it. It’s a great privilege to be a number one citizen in any kingdom, any worthwhile kingdom. The kingdom of athletics; the man who enters the kingdom of athletics has to do violence to lots of things. He has to do violence to ease, and to appetite, and to dissipation, and to pleasure. And he must try, and he must arduously, zealously seize the great rewards of triumph.
You know when I was preparing this sermon and came to that thought, I remembered when Baylor University, Dr. White, went down to New Orleans to play the University of Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. And do you remember what happened? The University of Tennessee had the number one team in the nation. And they were almost invincible and undefeatable. And of course, Baylor was – – I say of course they were second in the conference – – they happened to be second in the conference that year.
Well, anyway, anyway down there in New Orleans the University of Tennessee went to play Baylor, and everybody said, "Why, the University of Tennessee will just roll over them. University of Tennessee will use them like a doormat. The University of Tennessee will squash them like you would an insect." So the University of Tennessee’s football players went down to New Orleans, and they threw everything. Man, it was wide open! And the night before, they were up and down Bourbon Street, and they were doing all kinds of things that are unspeakable and unnamable. And they were having the time of their lives!
And the next day, out in the Sugar Bowl, Baylor squashed them like a big juggernaut running over a little toad frog. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something? If you’re going to excel in the kingdom of athletics, you have to take it by violence. You have to be dedicated to it. Only the arduous and the zealous seize it and conquer it. And you have to say no to the ease, and the soft, and the pleasure loving; if you triumph, if you win it.
The same thing in the world of art and of music. I do not know of any section of the interests of mankind that demands so much as those who enter the world of the arts. The years of planning, and training, and studying, and practicing, and practicing, and practicing; if you would enter it, you must seize it by a superlative dedication. Same thing in the world of wealth, in the world of business; oh, the acumen, and the astuteness, and the planning, and the programming, and the dedicating, and the watching, and the waiting, and the working, and the hours and hours of thought and reflection. Oh, what enters into the success of a man who would attain in the business world, and the responsibility that goes with it!
Same thing in the world of the intellectual – – all the days and the years that multiply into the study of those who would win and seize victory and conquest in the world of the intellectual. Do you remember the story of the young Ptolemy? He was the son of the king of Egypt, the young Ptolemy. And Euclid the great geometrician was teaching the young fellow mathematics. And as Euclid the far famed mathematician was trying to teach the son and the heir to the throne, the young Ptolemy, the young prince said to Euclid, "But sir, surely there is some easy way by which a prince could learn geometry." And the famous reply of Euclid to the young Ptolemy was this, "My young prince there is no royal road to learning."
Whether it’s on a king’s throne or whether it’s the peasant’s son, the kingdom of intellectual achievement is won by violence, by study, and dedication, and arduous zeal. Now that is what Jesus is referring to here in this passage. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and it is the violent who take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]. The nonchalant, and the dilettante, and the uninterested, and the supercilious, and the scornful, and the proud, and the ease loving will never seize it. They will never posses it. It belongs to those who dedicate their lives to it.
And one of the most marvelously unusual presentations you’ll find in all literature you can read here on the pages of the Word of God. The kingdom of heaven was preached and Jesus the Messiah came in the midst of human kind, walking up and down their streets, and their villages, and their countryside; their lanes, and highways, and lakes and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. And multitudes surged around Him. Multitudes pressed Him on every side [Luke 8:45].
And there were the Pharisees, and there were the Scribes, and there were the doctors of the law, and there were the religious rulers of the nation, and there were the officers of the temple, and there were the learned in all of the statutes and the judgments; and they looked upon the Lord Jesus with prideful scorn [John 7:47-]. And they found fault with everything that He did. And they castigated Him for every word that He said. And they withdrew in antagonism and antipathy from Him.
But while they, in their supercilious, and prideful, and superior scorn were casting Him aside, there were those who were pressing to reach, and to touch, and to learn, and to see, and to be saved, and to be healed on every side. What an amazing sight. The publicans, and the tax gatherers, and the sinners, and the drunkards, and the lepers, and those that were sick, and those that were lost, and the outcast, and the undone, and the harlot, and the promiscuous pressing into the kingdom of God on every side. And it is those who violently touched Him, and sought Him, and came to Him, it is they who were healed and received the blessing.
Why, do you not remember? "Pressed on every side, there were four men who took a paralytic on top of the house, and they tore up the roof, and let the paralytic down at the feet of Jesus" [Mark 2:1-5]. It was the arduous, and it is the zealous who posses the kingdom of God. Do you not remember it?
And Bartimeus cried saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And they said, Shut up your mouth, He is too busy.
And blind Bartimeus cried all the more, Jesus, Jesus have mercy on me.
And the Lord stopped and heard him, and called him;And he cast away his beggar’s garment and ran to Jesus, finding sight, and healing, and recovery in his zealous arduousness.
Why, do you not remember it?
And Zaccheus was short and small of stature and he heard Jesus was passing by;
and he ran ahead where Jesus would pass, and climbed up in a sycamore tree that he might see the Lord.
The arduous take it [Matthew 11:12]. Do you not remember? And a woman with an issue of blood – Jesus, thronged and crowded – elbowed her way in, until finally she came and touched the back, touched the hem of His garment [Matthew 9:20]. The supercilious, the scornful, the prideful, the superior; they don’t see it and they don’t take it. But the arduous, and the zealous, and the devoted, and the consecrated, it is for them.
And so it is – and we must close – and so it is with the kingdom of God today. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [Matthew 11:12]. It is the dedicated and the arduous who receive it. It is they whom God shall bless with its reality.
In preparing the sermon this week, I read a story that just thrilled my soul. A. J. Gordon, his Clarendon Street Baptist Church is right down there from Treemont Temple, just right down there. And A.J. Gordon became pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in 1870. It was a closed, ivy-clad, smug, complacent congregation. One of the deacons in that Baptist church reprimanded an officer in the church because he had dared to put on a religious circular, "Strangers, welcome to the Clarendon Street Baptist Church." And Sunday by Sunday, smug, and complacent, and self-satisfied, they gathered there in their mutual admiration of one another, and all of the fine things that pertain to the elect who worshipped God in the saint’s everlasting rest; namely, the Clarendon Street Baptist Church. That went on for seven years.
And in 1877, in 1877, the whole earth exploded, and the heavens opened, and fire came down. You know what happened in 1877? Within three hundred feet of the door of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church, Dwight L. Moody cast his tent and preached there for six solid months. Oh! Oh! Can you imagine what happened? Three hundred feet to the front door, there’s a tent, and Dwight L. Moody, for six months preaching the gospel of the unsearchable riches of the Son of God. Drunkards began knocking at the door. Harlots began knocking at the door. Evil men, thieves, and murderers, and outcasts, daily being saved, began knocking at the door. And that continued, and that continued, and that continued, and continued. It plowed up the old church. It changed the complexion of the whole world. And it made out of A.J. Gordon one of the great, world-famed preachers of Jesus of this last nineteenth century.
That’s what it’s talking about. Not the complacent, not the ease-loving, not the worldly-minded, not the restful; the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who take it, who seize it, who by conquest call it their own. And when God sees people like that, heaven overflows, the fire falls, the glory comes down, and God blesses incomparably and immeasurably His people; the kingdom of heaven suffering violence, and the violent taking it by force; the desperately determined [Matthew 11:12].
By God’s grace, we seek a blessing. Lord, send it in Pentecostal power, in heavenly visitation. O Thou King of glory, come down, come down, come down.
And while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, "Here, pastor, I come, and here I am; give my heart to Jesus tonight; give my life to the Lord tonight, and here I am, and here I come." Somebody you, consecrate your life to the Lord; "Been following afar off, pastor; I’m drawing nigh, and here I come." A family you, into the fellowship of the church, by your side and in this great throng of believing, godly people, "Here I come, and here I march, pastor; I’m making it for Jesus tonight." Come, a family, a wife, children, a couple, a child, a youth, one somebody you, while we sing the song; while the Spirit pleads and makes invitation, decide for Christ tonight, and come. In the balcony there’s a stairwell on either side, front and back, and there is room and to spare. On the floor, into the aisle, down to the front, "Here I am, preacher, I give you my hand, and I’ve given my heart to God. I take Jesus as my Savior." While we sing this song, come. As we stand up, stand up coming, "And here I am, preacher"; while we stand and while we sing.
THE DESPERATELY DETERMINED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The meaning of the text (Matthew 11:12)
A. Some say it refers to violence against Jesus, disciples and kingdom by His enemies
B. Some say it refers to those who sought to possess kingdom of God by carnal means
C. Jesus meant that the kingdom is like a city taken by conquest: only the ardent and zealous seek to possess it
II. The idea
A. Introduction of Christ and the gospel like a catalytic agent
1. Peter and John vs. Sanhedrin
2. Persecution and martyrdom of Stephen
3. Paul in Ephesus
B. Violence and the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:34-36, Luke 12:-53)
III. The idea applied
A. Reeds shaken by the wind?
1. Those who storm the kingdom are unshaken by any wind of doctrine or passing fancy
B. Clothed in soft raiment?
1. They have paid the price of supreme dedication
C. True in any kingdom – it belongs to those who dedicate their lives to it
2. Art and music
IV. The victory of the violent
A. Pharisee, scribes stood aloof in prideful scorn
B. Common people thronged Jesus on every side
1. Those who violently sought Him were blessed, healed (Matthew 9:2, 19:20, Mark 10:47-50, Luke 19:4)
C. A. J. Garden