February 27th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-27-66 7:30 p.m.
If you listen on radio, turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 13, and with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas read out loud verses 10 through 17, in the middle of the chapter, Matthew chapter 13, verses 10 through 17. All of us sharing our Bibles with a neighbor and reading out loud together with the pastor, and let us read together now verse 10 through verse 17, all of us:
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 unto 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 you 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 Spiritual Paralysis, and it is a following of the history of the soul that listens to the gospel message and finally becomes impotent before it. "Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing hear they not" [Matthew 13:13]. They see but they do not see. They hear but they do not hear. Oh, what a come to pass! What a deterioration. What a paralysis, to look and yet not see, to hear and yet not hear.
Now in the few minutes we have, we are going to follow the story of a soul as it deteriorates and finally becomes incapacitated and impotent. First, there is familiarity with the message; nothing new, nothing startling. "I have heard it, and I have heard it, and I have heard, it, and I have yet and again heard it," and it is familiar: the name of Jesus, the gospel message of Christ, the church, the people of the Lord, the household of faith. Read it in a newspaper. Listen to it on the radio. Maybe have a member of the family that talks to us. Maybe have a friend who prays for us. Maybe you have attended church, possibly so all the days of your life. Familiar with it like a used piece, like a worn pebble, all these corners have been knocked off of it and it is smooth and round, being rolled over and over and over in the bottom of the stream; familiar, nothing unusual about it at all, same old story.
Do you remember Uzzah in the Old Testament? In his house, in his father’s house, in Abinidab’s house, was the ark of the covenant of God [1 Samuel 6:21-7:2], the most sacred of all of the pieces of furniture that have ever been made. When Nebuchadnezzar took it away into Babylonia it fell out of sight of human history, but John saw it in heaven [Revelation 11:19]; the ark of the covenant, the most sacred of all of the symbols of the presence of Jehovah. He was called the Lord God who dwelt between the cherubim of that ark [2 Samuel 6:2]. But when the Philistines had carried it away in the days of old, Eli the high priest [1 Samuel 4:10-11, 5:1-2], the Philistines being cursed sent it back on a cart to Israel, and it finally landed in the house of Abinidab. And it stayed there in that house all the years and the years and the years [1 Samuel 5:6-7:2].
And when Ahio was born, and when Uzzah was born, they were born in that house where that piece of furniture had stayed through the years [2 Samuel 6:3-4]. They had looked on it a thousand times. It was a common sight to them, in the morning, and at noon day, in the afternoon, and at night, on Monday and Tuesday, on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday, and all in between; in January and July, in November and December, all their lives they had seen the ark of the covenant. It was a familiar thing to them.
One day David, led by the Spirit of the Lord, sent down to the house of Abinidab to bring up the sacred ark to Jerusalem, and to Mount Zion, and to the City of David [2 Samuel 6:1-2]. So they did the same thing with the ark that the Philistines had done. Do you remember in Leviticus how God said carry the ark? Put the stakes through on either side, and it is to be carried on the shoulders of the priests. But they did it like the uncircumcised, blaspheming Philistines. You know, God’s people always have a tendency and a hankering to copy after the world. Whatever they are doing outside, we try to do also. So they carried the ark just as the Philistines did. They took it and set it on a cart [2 Samuel 6:3, 6], and put oxen in front of it to haul it up to the city of Jerusalem, like any other piece of furniture.
Well, as the oxen was carrying that cart, pulling that wagon, they hit a rough place, some rocks in the road, and the ark began to tremble, began to shake on the wagon [2 Samuel 6:6]. And Uzzah – Ahio was up there at the head of the oxen, and his younger brother Uzzah was back there walking by the side of the ark; and when he saw the ark shake, why, that was just another piece of furniture to him; he had seen it all of his life, familiar, familiar, familiar. And God said that whoever would touch that ark would die [Numbers 4:15]. But it was too common of a piece of furniture to Uzzah. And when the oxen shook the ark, why, he reached forth his hands just like he would touch any other household piece, like a pot or a pan or a dish, to steady the ark. And God smote him there, and they called it "the breach of Uzzah," and he died there on the spot, right there [2 Samuel 6:6-8].
It is very easy to become familiar with the things of God, and we lose that awe and that reverential fear that God expects of His people. Why, the conception of hell: we have joked it out of existence. You wouldn’t hear a man stand up and preach a sermon on hell one time in five hundred thousand sermons. We have lost our trembling and our fear before the sudden wrath and judgment of Almighty God, and the whole story of the gospel of Jesus becomes used and familiar. That He saved us from damnation is nothing; we never think of it. And that we are in danger of hell fire, were it not for the interceding mercy and grace of Jesus, is nothing to us. We have heard it, and heard it, and heard it until we are familiar with it.
All right, the second thing, as we go down, is indifference. "Why should I listen again, and why should I pause? Why should I be bored?" Indifference. An indifference in religion can do the most astonishing and phenomenal things.
Let me give you an illustration of that. The great aspiration and dream and vision of the Jewish nation was the coming of the King. That was their hope, their messianic expectation for the centuries. They comforted their hearts with it, they sang of it, their psalms portrayed it and prophesied it. Their prophets preached about it and announced it, the coming of the Messiah, the King of the Jews, Israel’s expected Prince. And upon a day there came to the city of Jerusalem, wise men, magi, Parsi priests from afar [Matthew 2:1]. And the whole city of Jerusalem was agitated by the announcement, "We have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him." "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" You know why the people were agitated? It was not because there was a glorious announcement of the coming of the King, or that the Messiah was born. What they were agitated about was, whenever Herod the Great had any idea that there was another aspiring to his throne, he slew them all indiscriminately; and the whole city was agitated lest it fall into another bloodbath at the sword of Herod.
So Herod immediately called all the scribes, and all the lawyers, and all the doctors of law and said, "Where does God say this Messiah is to be born?" [Matthew 2:3-4]. And they pointed to the Scripture, as they had ten thousand times, and they made the answer that they had ten thousand times, "In Bethlehem; for thus said the prophet: And thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among land princes of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come who shall be the Governor, the Ruler, the Leader of My people" [Matthew 2:5-6], "whose going forth have been from of old" [Micah 5:2], who was born before eternity, who preexisted before the incarnation of the world [John 1:1-3], who was God our very God, in Bethlehem!
So Herod called those magi and wise men together, and he said, "Over yonder in Bethlehem, there is where He is to be born" [Matthew 2:7-8]. And the magi, when they left the presence of the king, went out and saw the star going before them. And they rejoiced exceedingly when they saw the star, and it led them to the city and stood over where the young Child was, and they came in and fell down and worshiped Him [Matthew 2:9-11].
Who worshiped him? The magi. Did one of those scribes go? No. And did one of the Pharisees go? No. Did one of those Jewish people go? No. Did anybody go? No! No! The shepherds went when the angels appeared to them [Luke 2:8-20], and the magi went, seeing the star in the East [Matthew 2:9-11].
And do you know how long a journey it was from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? It was not as far as from here to White Rock Lake. Yet when the announcement was made and the glorious herald from heaven said, "He is born," and the star led to the place, out of sheer, unadulterated, unmitigated, inexcusable indifference, there was not one single anybody who went to see except the magi, and the shepherds who had preceded them. Indifference, Ah! the declension of the human soul.
Then the next step is incapacity to respond, "Past feeling," as the Bible says [Ephesians 4:19], our heart "seared with a hot iron" [1 Timothy 4:2], calloused in our souls, impenetrable, imperturbable. If you had the end of the world at hand, it would hardly make a difference; just past feeling and past responding.
When I was a youth, when I was a boy, growing up out there on the plains of far West Texas, once in awhile I would go to a roundup where they were branding cattle. Some of my folks in the family circle were cattle people and had ranches, and I would go see them once in awhile. And I noticed, when they round up those cows and the would put the brand of the mother cow on the calf, well, I would notice that the cattle would low when they would smell that burning flesh and that burning hair. And when they would take those cows and those calves and press that hot branding iron into their flesh, you could hear them bawl all over the plains of West Texas. But, after that brand had been burned and seared into the living flesh of that calf or cow, you could take a pin and stick it into that callous and they would never feel it.
That is the way with the human heart: hardened, and calloused, and beyond feeling, and beyond emotional response; could hear the story of the death of Jesus for our sins and never be moved; look upon it as they would some fictional story in some melodramatic play or theatre or TV program; feeling gone, no response at all.
And finally, the last declension: crystallized, and set in life. And if it is a no to Jesus, and a no to God, and a no to the Holy Spirit, and a no to the preacher, and a no to the invitation, the life becomes crystallized, set. It is like rock. It is like concrete. It is like the geological strata that you see in the earth. The pressure above and the time has hardened it into some kind of basalt, solid granite, marble, and the soul becomes like that; crystallized, set. And the character is like that: hardened, difficult, like steel, like granite, like rock, ah, set, set, hardened.
Some years ago I told you of a thing that had one of the greatest impressions upon me of any thing I had ever met in my life; how life can be set in a certain direction, how the habits of life and the passing days can so mold, until finally we become set in those things that we have gone and done in days past. And this is an experience beyond anything I had ever had in my life. Now one of the young men whom I had ordained in Muskogee, who is now on our board of deacons, when I told that story he came up to me and he said, "You know, pastor, I went out there to that house and saw that same thing," and he said, "I also turned away with the most amazing remembrance that I ever experienced in my life."
Well, do you remember it? It was on the edge of Muskogee; there was a family there, a man and a woman. And I was asked to come to have a prayer in the home with the man that he was sick and paralyzed and bedridden, and if I would come and have a little service there, read the Scripture and pray and encourage him in the Lord. So I went to the edge of the city of Muskogee to the address and knocked at the door, and this dear woman and wife came to the door and welcomed me in. And with my Bible in my hand, I went inside and she took me to the bedroom where her husband was lying on the bed.
And she said to him, "Husband, this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church. This is Brother Criswell."
And I said, "How do you do?"
And he said, "Goldang, goldang."
Well, I thought that was very unusual. But I sat down by his side and I tried to say a word to him. "How are you getting along?" You know, the little amenities of life, how are you doing?
He would say, "Goldang, goldang."
And I would say something about his wife, or the room, or the weather, or the house, whatever I could think to say, and he would always say, "Goldang, goldang."
And I asked about reading the Bible, and he said, "Goldang, goldang, goldang." So I read the Bible. "Goldang."
And when I got through reading the Bible, I asked the wife if it would be all right if I kneel by his side, and he didn’t wait for his wife to reply. He pointed up to heaven and said, "Goldang, goldang, goldang, goldang."
So I got down on my knees, and the best that I knew how I poured out my heart in prayer. As I prayed earnestly he would say through my prayer, "Goldang," and then I would pray a little more and he would say, "Goldang." And when I got through praying and said "Amen," he said, "Goldang."
Well, I stood up and I bid him goodbye and I said, "God bless you," and he said, "Galdang, goldang." And I walked away and you know what happened? That man all his life had a little byword, a little word that he said, and the word that he said, the same word that he used was "goldang." And all of his life, since he was a child, he said "goldang." And there came a time when he had a stroke, and whatever is involved in that destruction of the mind and the brain, and he had so said that word, and it had so embedded itself in the very crevices, the convolutions of his cerebellum and his cerebral hemispheres, that when he fell into paralysis and into the stroke, so set was he that the one thing that he could do was say "Goldang, goldang."
Now I repeat, would that not make an impression on you? And it is a parable of life. We become crystallized in our habits. We become crystallized in our attitudes, and it is like breaking up rock. It is like blasting in a quarry to change a man’s heart and his bend and his life when through the years and the years he has gone down from familiarity with the Word of God, to indifference to the Word of the Lord, to hardness and callousness of heart, and finally into crystallization.
Oh, oh! "Therefore," said Jesus, "I speak in parables: because seeing they see not; and hearing they hear not . . . lest they should turn and I should save them" [Matthew 13:13, 15]. Oh, oh, oh. Well, put me in need. What do you need? Is it another sermon? No. Heard sermons and sermons and sermons. Is it another appeal? No. Have heard appeals and appeals and appeals. There is not anything we need except this: "Lord, open my eyes that seeing I can see. And open my ears, Lord, that hearing I can hear. Help me Lord. I am paralyzed and immobile. I am paralyzed in my soul! I am paralyzed in my heart! God, break me and help me! What I need to do is to act, to respond, not another sermon, not another appeal, but to respond, to act, to do, to commit, to come, to give myself to the Lord."
A long time ago the Southern Seminary in Louisville was downtown on 5th Avenue, at 5th Avenue and Broadway. And in those days there was a fire in one of those tall buildings where people lived. And to the horror of the firemen who were fighting it, there appeared a woman in the top story, and she screamed and held out her arms piteously for help. The fire was raging in the center stories of that tall building, and there was no human way to reach her up there on that top floor, out the window pleading for help. So the firemen got a life net, and they stretched it tight, and they held it below, and they cried to her "Jump! Jump!"
And she looked down, oh, how far, how far, through the fire and the flames at that little net below! And she went back into the building and then she appeared again crying for help. And with all of their might holding that life net they cried "Jump! Jump! We will catch you. We will save you. Jump! Jump! Jump." And they told me, the men who watched it and saw it, they said evidently paralyzed with fear she died burned in that building unable to command the decision, the volitional strength to commit herself to the fall below.
Ah, how many souls are like that? Paralyzed, hardened, calloused and dying in the flame. When all it would take for us to be safe is just to commit ourselves to the life net, to the grace and mercy of God, to the arms of Jesus.
Ah, my friend, here in God’s presence tonight, come. We need to come. Not another sermon. Another sermon would but explain what has already been explained, say what has already been said, repeat what has already been repeated. What we need to do is to act. "Lord, here I come, here I am. Down that stairway here I walk. Down this aisle here I am. Preacher, I give you my hand. God help me. I invite Jesus into my soul. He can have me and here I am. Here I come. Oh, save me, Lord, I jump. I commit my life to Thee in this world, in death, in the world to come. Lord, I deposit in Thy graces and saving hands my soul and my life, and here I am, I give myself in trust to Jesus."
Do it. Do it. Putting your life with the fellowship the people of God, a family you, a couple, or one somebody you, as the Spirit shall make appeal, as God shall speak the word, shall open the door, come. "Preacher, I am not waiting for another sermon. I am not waiting for another service. I am not tarrying for another invitation. Preacher, I am coming tonight, and here I am." Do it. When we stand up in a moment stand up coming, the first step is a victory, and the second step is a triumph, and the way is the glory road to heaven. Come. Come. Come. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Nothing new; same
Uzzah – the ark was just another piece of furniture(2
C. Easy for us to
become familiar with things of God
1. Lose our awe and
reverential fear, our trembling before His judgment
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
III. Incapacity to feel, be moved
A. Unresponsive heart,
hard and calloused
B. Branding of the
A. Character set,
B. Man paralyzed could
only respond "Galdang"
V. What is needed
A. Just to respond