Drifting into Damnation
March 6th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
DRIFTING INTO DAMNATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-6-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio turn with us to Matthew chapter 13, Matthew chapter 13, and let us read verses 10 through 17. Get your Bible. If you are in the living room or in the bedroom, get your Bible. I am speaking to those who are invalid and sick because all the people who are well, listening on the radio, would be here tonight.
So all of you who were not able to come, listening on the radio, get your Bible and turn to Matthew 13 verses 10 through 17. Now let’s everybody, sharing our Bibles, read the passage out loud together. Verses 10 through 17, Matthew 13, now 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 those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
The title of the sermon is Drifting into Perdition, drifting into damnation. And the text is the thirteenth verse, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” [Matthew 13:13]. We can lose our faculties and our senses, not only by violence, by volition, by self-immolation or destruction, or by attack from others, or by a tragic accident, but we can also lose our senses and our faculties by just doing nothing with them. My eye, I can lose my eye in violence, a red hot searing iron could be thrust into my eyes and blind me. Or some violent attack could gouge out my eyes, or some tragic accident could destroy my sight, but I can lose my eyes another way. If you were to close my eyes and seal them for a certain length of time, you could take the seal away, you could take the bandages away, and I couldn’t see out of them, nor forever, they have become paralyzed by disuse.
I could lose my ears in violence. The eardrums could be destroyed, or some attack or some tragic accident could take away my hearing. But I also can lose my hearing in the simple way of not using my ears. I could plug up my ears, I could stop my ears and leave my ears stopped and plugged for a certain length of time, then when I take away these stoppages I cannot hear, nor ever; I am stone deaf!
My arm that I can use so freely, I can lose it by violence. A tragic accident could pull my arm from my body, out of its very socket. Some tragic accident could severe the nerves and it lie nerveless and impotent by my side. But I also can lose the use of that arm by disuse. You bind my arm to my side for a certain length of time, then take the bindings away, and I couldn’t raise it to save my life, nor forever, for it has atrophied, it has fallen into paralysis.
That is one of the things that God has made in this world, and that thing that God has done applies to a man’s soul, and his heart, and his life, and his will. We can respond, and we can hear, and we can see, but if we close our spiritual eyes and stop our spiritual ears and refuse to use our volitional, spiritual responses, the day comes when we are stone deaf and stone blind, and we’re like a clod, we’re like a rock. We have drifted in this disuse, into perdition and damnation.
The Christian faith is a great doctrine, it is a great message, it is a great sermon, it is a great faith, but it is also a great committal and a great confession and a great deed. And if I refuse to commit my life and to make a confession and committal of my life, I fall into a spiritual paralysis.
Isn’t that a strange thing? Did you ever look at a man’s faith? Did you ever hold it in your hand? Just exactly what would it feel like if you held faith in your hand? I’ve never seen such a thing, have you? Could you cut it with scissors like you could a piece of cloth? Could you weigh it on a balance scale? Could you put it in a test tube? What color would it have? Does it have an odor, does it smell? What is its texture? What are its chemical formulae? Why, such an idea is extraneous, it’s preposterous, it’s inane, it’s unthinkable! Faith is not something that a man could hold in his hand. Faith is not something that texture of which he can describe. It’s not something you can put on balances and weigh. Faith is something that a man does! It has reference to the way a man goes, how a man lives, how a man is. Faith refers to a committal, a confession, a doing.
For example, in the great faith chapter, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, it says things like this: “By faith Noah” [Hebrews 11:7]. Well, how do you know “by faith Noah”? Because when God said, “One hundred twenty years from now I am going to destroy this world by flooded water” [Genesis 6:3, 17], Noah believed in God. Having faith in the words of God, Noah built an ark to the saving of his house [Hebrews 11:7]. How do you know “by faith”? Because he built that ark [Genesis 6:14-22]. Faith does! Faith moves! Faith confesses! Faith comes down an aisle, faith stands before the people, faith speaks words before men and angels. Faith is a committal! And when I never come, and when I never respond, and when I never reply, and when I never confess, and when I never yield, finally, my spiritual eyes go blind, and my spiritual ears go deaf, and my spiritual muscles atrophy, just drifting; and think of the tragedy of that.
A grizzled old mariner one time was asked, “What is the most dangerous thing in the deep?” You would have thought he would have said the hurricane and the storm that suddenly arises and drives the ship to the reef. You would have thought he would have said, in those days of awesome tragedy when maybe we’ve lost our way, you would have thought the explosion, the possibility of the engine—or you could think of a lot of things he could have said in describing the awesome tragedies that could have wrecked a mariner on the face of the deep. You know what this one said? This one said, “The greatest possibility of accident and danger and destruction as you plow the face of the deep is the derelict; the derelict, the ship floating by without any crew, without any captain, a dead ship. The hull maybe has been burned or destroyed by explosion, or some reason the ship has been lost and abandoned and it just floats on the face of the deep. And the possibility of running into that dead derelict is always there and always probable in the life of a mariner who sails the ocean.” And I suppose it was from that that a poet wrote these words:
There’s a ship that floats by with a swaying lurch.
No crew, no sail, and no spar.
And she drifts from the paths of her sister ships
To wherever the dead ships are.
The song of her crew is hushed for aye.
Her name no man can say.
She drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows
And nobody knows where the derelict goes.
There is a man slinks by with a lurching gait.
No joy, no hope, and no star.
And he drifts from the paths of his brother men,
To wherever the other wrecks are.
The song of his youth is hushed for aye,
His name but he can say.
He drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows
And nobody knows where the derelict goes.
[“The Derelict,” Robert Healy]
Do you ever see men like that? Down a bowery, down a skid row, here on the streets of Dallas? Derelicts! Where did they come from? Where do they go to? What has happened to them? Do you ever wonder?
Most of the time, men lose their souls not by violence. Most of the time, we’re lost and down not by some tragic and vicious and violent volitional choice. Most of the time it is not the story that a man has committed murder and bathed his hands in human blood. Most of the time it is not that the people have lived grossly promiscuously. Most of the time it is not because they live in thievery and in robbery and in assault. Most of the time people are lost and go out into eternity just having never found God, never given heart and life to Christ; just never did. Like a child wandering away and into the woods, and the hours pass and suddenly nightfall comes. And the trees are so tall and dark, they look like canyon walls on every side. And the child is lost, lost, drifting away. The minutes passed and the hours became the sundown and the sunset, and the little thing is lost. And human life so oft follows that kind of a pattern. Didn’t intend to, don’t want to be lost, wouldn’t choose to be damned, but just never confessed, never took the Lord as Savior.
And the weeks passed into months, and they passed into years, and the years passed into a lifetime, and death came, and they drifted into damnation. What a tragedy! Didn’t use their spiritual eyes, didn’t use their spiritual ears, didn’t respond with their spiritual souls; just drifted into death.
What do we need? “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because seeing they do not see; and hearing they do not hear; and their hearts are gross and callous, and they do not understand” [Matthew 13:13-15]. What do we need? What we need is the blessedness of the Lord, the blessedness of your eyes because you see! And the blessedness of your ears because you hear! And the blessedness of your heart because you understand! [Matthew 13:16]. We need to open our eyes, to unstop our ears, and to open our hearts, and to let God speak to us. And we respond with sight having seen, and with hearing having heard, and with our lives having committed [Matthew 13:15b]. Oh, how we need, how we need!
May I speak of that two ways? One: we need to do that, we who are already saved, and already baptized, and already members of a church; we need to do that, but our membership is in some other place, in some other congregation, and God calls us here. We need to respond! We should have responded yesterday, but yesterday is past. I must respond now! I must do so now! For I must redeem the time I have lost yesterday, and here I come, and here I am!
I held a revival meeting one time in one of those large churches in Atlanta, Georgia. And at a morning service, a weekday morning service, there was a woman there, a fine, fine-looking woman. And she made an appeal for prayer for her two sons, and she did so with such feeling and so many tears. And after the service was over I was with the pastor, and he asked me, “Do you remember that woman, that fine-looking woman who made that request for prayer with many tears in behalf of her two sons?” I said “Yes, yes indeed.” He said “Let me tell you about her.” He said her husband died when those two boys were very small, and she left the little country community in which she lived, and brought those two boys to the city of Atlanta to find a job and to rear them in the city.
He said, “She came to our church, and those two little boys grew up in our church, and when they came of junior age, upon a day those two boys went to that mother and said, ‘Dear Mother, dear Mother, the time has come, and we want to give our hearts to Jesus, and we want to be baptized, and we want to be members of the church.’ And the mother said, ‘That’s fine, my sons.’ But the two boys said to the mother, ‘But mother, we want you to come with us, we want you to join the church with us.’”
And the mother replied, “My boys, I could not. My father and mother are buried in that country cemetery, and my husband, your father, is buried in that country cemetery, and I could never take my membership away from that church. You boys go on, but I will stay in membership in the country.” And the little fellows said, “No mother, we’re going to wait for you, and when you come, we will come.” And those boys grew up into manhood, and that mother never came, and those boys never responded.
And the pastor said to me, “Those two boys are now two of the leading businessmen in the city of Atlanta. He said, “Years ago the mother came down the aisle and put her membership in this church, after those boys were out in the business world, and married, and had homes of their own.” He said, “Every time we have a revival meeting she will stand up and with many tears make an appeal for prayer for those two boys.” And he said to me, “I have been to see them, and I knock at their doors, and I go to their offices, and I make an appeal for Jesus. And those businessmen smile, shake my hand, tell me they appreciate my coming, but answer with a final no. No, no, no.”
How do you redeem that time? And how do you go back in the lives of those two little boys and do again over what should have been done in the years ago? “No, no, no.” Oh, how we need to respond, how we need to confess, how we need to stand before men and angels and commit our lives, and children, and homes, and everything we have and are to the Lord. We need to.
And the other: somebody you, lost, lost, lost. But if appeal is made, you answer in the words of Felix, when Paul the apostle of Christ stood before the Roman procurator and pled the cause of God, and he answered, “Go thy way, go thy way, when I have a convenient season I will” [Acts 24:24-25]. Not now, some other time; not now, some other day; not now, some other time. “When I have a convenient season, I will” [Acts 24:25].
“Not tonight, preacher, not tonight; some other hour, some other day, some other time, not now.” And that’s what you said yesterday, and that’s what you said the Sunday before, and that’s what you said the month before, and that’s what you said a year before, and that’s what you’re saying tonight. Some other time, but not now; tomorrow, mañana, some other hour, some other day, some other time, not now, just drifting into death and into eternity. Not doing any thing violent, not cursing God, not blaspheming the name of the Lord, not denying the church. Maybe believe in the Bible and believe in the witness of the preacher about the Son of God, but just don’t respond. And the days and the months and the years pass, and there you are, still outside the fold. O Lord, what we need is not another sermon, and not another song, and not another appeal, and not another invitation. What we need is to stand up and walk into that aisle and down here to the front: “Here I am, preacher. Tonight I give my life to Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10].
In the days of this last war there was a training center in the little city where I was pastor. And some of those boys came to me and said, “You know, one of our men plunged his training plane into the earth.” “Well,” I said, “that’s all so sad. How did such an accident happen.” And he replied, “There was nothing wrong with his plane, and there was nothing wrong with any of the mechanical gadgets that keep a plane going. The only answer is that he froze to the stick, and instead of pulling it back and raising the nose of that plane up and out, in terror he froze to the stick, and the plane plummeted straight and into the ground.”
And when I heard that, I thought how infinitely sad, when all it would have taken to have saved the boy’s life was to pull back on the stick, just pull back. But doing nothing, paralyzed, frozen, plunges the plane into the heart of the earth. You don’t have to do something violent to be lost, some heinous and indescribably dark and black crime to be lost. You don’t have to do anything. Just stay where you are, just freeze where you sit, just drift. And by and by these days will bury us in the ground, destroy us in death, drifting into damnation.
We need to reply, we need to respond, we need to come down that stairway, we need to step into this aisle, we need to come down to the front. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. Tonight, God helping me, I make this open public committal of my life to God [Romans 10:9-10]. I know the message. I’m a sinner [Romans 3:23], I know. And Jesus died for my sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], I know. And He was raised for my justification [Romans 4:25], I know. And someday I shall stand in His presence at the judgment bar of God [1 Peter 4:5], I know. And tonight I am accepting His overtures of grace and mercy and love [Ephesians 2:8], and here I am. I have decided to follow Jesus. Not tomorrow, now; not next Sunday, now; not waiting on some other providence; I’m coming now.”
Do it, do it: a couple you, a family you, one somebody you, while we earnestly pray and sing this hymn of appeal, “Preacher, not waiting another day or another hour, another service, another song, another sermon. I’m not waiting, I’m coming now. I should have done it yesterday, should have done it a long time ago, I’m coming now.” Or somebody you into whose heart God hath brought these words of conviction and appeal: “Preacher, here I am, I make it now, I am coming tonight. Get ready to receive me, pastor; here I am. Put out your hand pastor, because I’m coming.” As God shall say the word, as the Spirit shall lead the way, as the Lord shall open the door, come; make it tonight, make it now; do it, do it. When we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Make your way to one of these stairwells and come, into the aisle and down here to the front; come. Make it tonight, do it now. “Don’t need another sermon; we don’t. Don’t need another explanation; we don’t. We need to respond, to reply, to come, and here I come.” While we stand and while we sing.
I. Destruction of our faculties, senses
through lack of use
A. Losing our senses
1. By violent
acts, tragic accidents
2. By doing
nothing with them
B. Our hearts are the
same – unused, they finally become paralyzed
is a great faith and message; but it is also a great committal and deed
involves action, doing (Hebrews 11:7)
II. Colossal tragedy of drifting into
B. Most of the time men
lose their souls just having never found God
1. Don’t intend
to, didn’t choose to be damned – just didn’t respond
III. The need: to act, move, respond (Matthew 13:13)
A. We need to respond,
those who are already saved
1. Family waiting
for church membership
B. Those who are lost (Acts 24:25)
2. Soldier froze,