This I Know: The Power of Personal Testimony
March 6th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
THIS I KNOW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-6-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio, as with us here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, if you will turn to the fifth chapter of Mark, you can easily follow the message this morning hour. Mark chapter 5, the title of the sermon is This I Know or The Power of Personal Testimony.
The fifth chapter of Mark, the fifth chapter of Mark is the story of our Lord when He came over into the other side of the sea. Always the "other side" is the eastern side, from the west to the east. "And when He came out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, not even with chains" [Mark 5:2-3]. Then it describes when they bound him with fetters and chains, he broke them as though they were pieces of string.
Neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshiped Him.
Then follows the story of the Lord and this demented and possessed man. Jesus asked him, what was his name? And he said, "My name is Legion: for we are many" [Mark 5:9]. And those demons besought the Lord that they not be sent into the abyss before the day of their judgment, but that they might be sent into a herd of swine eating close by. And in some way that was best, best for this man, best for the testimony of the Christ, best for the good of the message of God, the Lord allowed such a thing. And the swine, possessed, ran down a steep place violently, and were drowned in the sea [Mark 5:9-13].
When they who kept the hogs went into the city and told what had happened, and the people in the town came out to Jesus. And the first thing they saw was him that was possessed with the demon and had the legion of demons, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with those demons, and concerning the swine. And when the people in the city saw the loss of their hogs, they besought the Lord to depart out of their country.
Now, when the Lord prepared to leave and when we dismiss the Savior, He never abides, it is in our volitional choice.
When He was come into the ship, when Jesus got into the boat, he that had been possessed with the demons prayed Him that he might accompany Him
– be one of His disciples like the Twelve –
Howbeit – and this is the text – howbeit Jesus suffered Him not,
but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all – you have in italics there – all men
– all women, all children, all young people, everybody –
Now before I close this sermon, we shall look at an astonishing thing that came as a result of this man’s personal testimony. And he began to publish abroad in Decapolis, that’s the name of the league of the ten great cities on the other side, on the eastern side of the Jordan and of the Sea of Galilee, everywhere, he began to say what great things God had done for him, and everybody who heard him, every town, and city, and village, and countryside, and farm home, and individual, marveled at the marvelous story this man had to tell about Jesus [Mark 5:20]. And that’s what we’re going to speak about this morning.
In the seminary at Louisville in the days when I was there, there was a fellow student who came to me and said that he had heard Dr. Truett, the great far-famed pastor of this church, that he had heard Dr. Truett for the first time. And that the great pastor had made a lifelong, deep impression upon that seminary student. And I asked him, "What was it and how is it that the great pastor so moved you?"
And the seminary student replied, he said, "I never heard anything like that. I never felt anything like that." Well, I said, "Just give me an example. What did Dr. Truett say that seemed to you so moving and mighty?"
"Well," he replied that it was like this: "Dr. Truett mentioned in his message of his preaching in India, and the great pastor described a meeting of the Brahman leaders of the Hindu religion. And they came to the convocation with skepticism; they were opposed to the Christian faith, and they had so many things against the preaching of the gospel of Christ in India. And Dr. Truett described his standing before those men, and the message that he delivered, it was one of personal conviction and testimony and assurance; what Christ meant to him, and what Christ had done for him. "And the great pastor said," so this seminary student was telling me, "that when he finished the description of his message to those Brahman priests in India, that he sat down, waiting, for discussion and criticism. And after a long pause, the pastor said one of those Brahman leaders stood up and turning to Dr. Truett avowed, ‘Sir, we have no fault to find with your Christ. We have nothing but love and respect and reverence for your Lord.’" The seminary student in telling me what the great pastor said moved my soul. How wise he was in what he did. Not a polemical address, not a discussion of theology or comparative religions, but he had spoken on "What Christ means to me." And that’s the subject of this message, This I Know, The Power of Personal Testimony.
Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things God hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he,began to publish in all Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him, and all men did marvel."
First: the method, "Go and tell how great things God hath done for thee." And the Lord never changed that method in His life, in the days of His flesh, in His life in the days of His resurrection. Whether He spake then, or raised from the dead, or from heaven today, it is the same method. In Acts 1:8:
Ye shall receive power, after that the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out upon you; and ye shall be witnesses, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, wherever God shall send you.
Now the Lord uses a court term there, a judicial term. It is taken out of the proceedings before a judge. "And ye shall be," the Greek is a martoi, martus, martus, a martus. In the courts of the ancient Roman empire and in the Greek civilized world, a martus was a man who stood up and told what he had seen and what he had heard and what he had experienced; a witness. And because so many times the Christian witness, martyr, laid down his life for his testimony, the word martus became "martyr." As in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul says, "And when the blood of thy martyr…" The Greek word is "witness," martus. "When the blood of Thy martyr – Thy witness – Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and they laid down their clothes at my feet" [Acts 22:20].
In the second chapter of the Book of Revelation, the Lord writes to the church at Pergamos where Satan’s seat is and refers to "My martyr, Antipas" [Revelation 2:13]; "My witness," the Greek is. So oft times did a Christian lay down his life in his testimony that the word "witness" became the word "martyr," but they are the same word.
And this has been Jesus’ method from the beginning, after His resurrection, and now, and to the end of time. The tremendous propagation of the gospel of the Son of God is by the personal witness and testimony of God’s people. So tremendous, so tremendous was the impression made upon the sainted apostle John of this method of our Lord, that when he writes – you look at the writings of John – that when he writes, he will say those things as Jesus described in these mandates He gave to those who believed in Him.
Now you look at John. In the first chapter of his first epistle, he starts off with, "What our hands have handled, the Word of life, that which we have seen and we have heard, declare we unto you" [1 John 1, 3]. Not some hearsay, not what somebody else thought or experienced, but "what I have seen, and what I have heard, and what my hands have handled."
Then when we turn back to the Gospel of John and just read the story of the Lord as it unfolds, John writes this in his old age: Peter has been dead for a generation. Malchus is dead whom Simon Peter sought to slay when Jesus was arrested [John 18:10]. All of them had been dead so long that, when John writes, he calls them by name. There is no possibility of anyone being arrested or tried for assault and attempted murder now. These things have happened a generation past when John writes.
And as John writes of the days of the flesh of the Son of God, what does he remember? He will start off with the testimony of John the Baptist. And that was the first time John saw the Lord Jesus and was introduced to the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, and John says, "And it was ten o’clock in the morning." He remembers the exact day, and the exact hour, and the exact time, and the exact place, at ten o’clock in the morning [John 1:39]. And he and Andrew are introduced to the Lord Jesus by John, the great Baptist.
Then he describes the personal witness and testimony of Andrew [John 1:40-42]. A preacher came back home one day and said, "Today I preached on Andrew." And a friend said, "Well, why?" And the preacher said, "Because there is something remarkable about him. Wherever he is mentioned in the Word of God, he is introducing somebody to Jesus." And after John describes the personal appeal of Andrew, then he describes Jesus’ personal appeal to Philip, then he describes Philip’s personal appeal to Nathanael [John 1:43-46]. Then you turn the page and Jesus is talking to Nicodemus [John 3:1-21], who, later on, in the descent from the cross came and helped bury the body of our Lord [John 19:38-42]. Then you turn the page, and he describes at great length the personal appeal of the Lord Jesus to the woman at the well at Sychar [John 4:1-42]. Then you turn the page, and he will be describing the testimony of the blind man, whom the Sanhedrin sought to break but who avowed, "This one that thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I can see!" [John 9:25]
The impression made upon the sainted apostle was one of this man to this man, and this testimony, and this avowal, and this conviction, and it became his own method: "This which my eyes have seen and my ears have hear, and my hands have handled" [1 John 1:1-3].
Hearsay religion is futile and vain religion. What do I know? And what have I experienced? And what has God done for me? And what testimony have I to lay at His blessed feet and in His dear name? You will find that method picked up by the other Gospel writers. Luke, for example, will describe the Lord Jesus going to the exact town where a sinner lives, and on the exact street where his house is, and to the exact tree up which he has climbed to see the Lord, and calls him down and says, "Zaccheus, today have I come to spend the day and to break bread with thee in thy house. Come down, Zaccheus, I have come to see thee" [Luke 19:5].
And when the Lord died on the cross, He did not die alone. All the Gospels are very careful to say that He was crucified between malefactors, and when the Lord bowed His head and gave up the Spirit and entered into Paradise, He did not enter by Himself. Arm in arm, He walked through those pearly gates and down those golden streets with a converted thief by His side [Luke 23:39-46].
And when the story is continued in the Book of Acts, the acts of the Spirit of Jesus, it is the same method. And the Holy Spirit said to Philip, "Arise and go down into Gaza." That is a place that is desert, "Why there, Lord, leaving this great revival in Samaria?" And standing by the side of the road, there came by the treasurer of the nation of Ethiopia, and the Spirit said, "Go, join thy step to this man and tell him about Jesus" [Acts 8:26-39].
May we look in these few brief moments, may we look now at the place that our Lord said to this man to do his witnessing and his testifying. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee" [Acts 5:19]. Go home; he wanted to go with Jesus and on the other side of the lake, and to another people, and to another country. No, said the Lord. "Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, ‘Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.’"
You know, there is a certain psychology, a certain turn of our minds that is very unusual. Sometimes we have the feeling, "You know, if I could go way over there, if I could go abroad, if I could go as a missionary some far off place, I believe I might be able to testify of the Lord. But here the message is so trite; it’s on radio, it’s on television, it’s in every church, it’s just so common among us. But if I were somewhere away, I believe I could tell about the Lord."
John Wesley thought that. A precise little Oxford don, growing up in a church-related institution, Oxford, he thought within himself, "If I went to America to the heathen Indian, I could tell them about Jesus." And he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a day of great difficulty, and landed in Georgia, and sought to do work among the American Indian in Georgia, and in failure and discouragement returned back to England.
I was talking to a Muslim missionary, a Christian missionary to the Muslim world, and discouraged, he said to me, "I do not know of one single woman Muslim convert in the world." And he said, "I only know five or six men who have ever been converted to Jesus out of Islam, and there is a missionary grave for each one."
Oh, the difficulty, the difficulty, the hard difficulty of witnessing for Christ across the seas in Hindu, and Buddhist, and Muslim, and animistic lands! You think it is hard here? It is a thousand times harder to get people to Jesus across the sea. No, there are some that God sends to Nineveh, there are some that God sends to Philippi, and to Phrygia, and to Tarsus, but for the most, for the most part, the assignment of our Lord is as it was to this man in Gadara: "You go home, and tell thy friends what God has done for you."
And I can expatiate here by the hour upon the need of that. I so well remember in one of my early pastorates – you know people look at a young minister and look at a young man, and sometimes just seeing, just weighing, just scrutinizing – well, in this town, there was a reprobate, and he died drunk in an automobile accident. And everybody was there, everybody, everybody was there. "That young preacher is on the spot now. He certainly will be embarrassed now. This vile and filthy reprobate who died drunk, just what will he say now?" And they were all there, everybody.
You know what I said? I said, "This man died drunk, as all of you know. And this man lived a vile life, as all of you know. But what I want to know is this: how many of you sought out this man to pray for his soul? How many of you went to see this man and invite him to the blessed Jesus? How many of you testified to this man of the grace and goodness and mercy of Jesus? How many of you called his name before the throne of grace in prayer? How many of you loved him for Jesus’ sake?"
Well, when that service was done, you would have thought that the time had come for the mourner’s bench and for a personal scrutiny of our own souls and our own lives. It is not for us to judge other people, never, never. As the Lord said to James and John; "Lord, let us call fire down and burn up the Samaritan village," and the Lord said, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save men’s lives" [Luke 9:54-56].
It may be for the liquor industry to destroy men, and for the carping critic and the pharisaical to judge men and criticize men; let’s you and I give ourselves to praying for people, and loving people, and encouraging people, and inviting people to the blessed Lord. That’s our business and our assignment, and let the destruction of men’s lives and souls be the work of the devil and his angels. But for us who love Jesus, we’re in the business of helping people, and encouraging people, and saving people, and witnessing to them of the grace and mercy of our precious and living Lord.
Now, we must hasten. I want to show you something. I have spoken of the method of our Lord, which is a witness. I have spoken of the assigned place of our Lord, which is where we are so greatly needed, that I haven’t time to begin to touch the hem of the garment of the need of our witness and testimony. Now may I speak of the results?
You don’t see this because it is not actually named, but when you turn to the eighth chapter of the same Book of Mark, the Lord is back over there in Gadara. He is back over there on the eastern side of the lake. Now, when the Lord first was there, the people came to Him and begged Him to leave. "Lord, depart out of our coasts. Leave; Lord, leave" [Mark 5:17]. But when Jesus comes back again to Gadara, there are such multitudes about Him, such thousands and thousands about Him, that the people, that the people tarrying do not even leave to find bread to eat, they are so enraptured, and so thrilled, and so drawn, and so enticed, and so blessed. Then Jesus performs the feeding, the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand [Mark 8:1-9]. Where did that come from? Why, bless the name of the Lord, when that Gadarene demoniac got through telling what Jesus had done for him, when Jesus came back, they surrounded the Master and welcomed Him by the thousands and the thousands and the thousands. That never fails. That never fails.
Oh, I have such a flood of things that I want to say! I conclude with one little emphasis, it never fails, it never fails: the effort, the dedicated Word, the witness, the testifier, he never fails – this miraculous thing, it never fails.
Do you remember a summer or two ago, we held a revival meeting out in a coliseum? Do you remember that? There was a young man in this church who brought his friend, another young man, to that coliseum Crusade for Christ, and after that preacher had preached his message and was making an appeal for Jesus and we were singing that invitation hymn, that young man pled with his friend to come to Jesus, talked to him all the time the invitation was going on. And the young man refused to respond: "No. No. No. No!" And after the young fellow who belongs to our church had done his best and his friend said, "No, no," there was a girl, a little girl, seated in front of him who turned around to the young man in our church and said to him, "Would you go with me to the pastor? Would you take me to the preacher?"
Now, the young fellow, amazed but not knowing what else to do, said, "Why, yes. Why, yes." And that young fellow brought that girl to me and said to me, "Pastor, I have no idea who she is. I never saw her before; I have no idea who she is or where she came from, but she said to me, ‘I want to go talk to the preacher,’ and, ‘Would you take me? Would you go with me?’ So I told her I would, and here she is."
And do you know what that little thing said to me? She said, "I was seated in front of him as he was talking to his friend." And she said, "The friend wouldn’t take Jesus, and he refused, but as I heard him plead, I said, ‘I’ll take the Lord.’ And I turned and asked him if he would bring me to you and come with me when I make this confession of faith in Jesus."
I think God’s Word is true, "My word will never return unto Me void," never! [Isaiah 55:11] The fruit of it may be after I am dead and in heaven, I may never see the harvest and the reward, but no testimony, and no word, and no appeal will ever fall to the ground; never, never.
Let me take time just to say one other: I buried a man this week. Not any of the family belongs to the church, not one, and when I looked on his face, I recognized him. I had seen him in a store downtown and had spoken to him. And because of that one kindness and that one testimony, he said to his wife, "When I die, I want you to have the pastor hold my funeral service," out of that one kindness! I just happen to know that, but there are ten thousand things that we say for Jesus that bring a harvest to God that we never know. It has its infinite reward, "My word will not return unto Me void, it will accomplish that for which I purpose it."
So sweet and blessed people, with the love of Jesus in our hearts, let us say and let us tell what God means to us, and let the Lord water it, and cultivate it, and bless it that it bear fruit a thousandfold unto Him.