Light for the Soul
September 24th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
LIGHT FOR THE SOUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-24-67 7:30 p.m.
Now the sermon tonight, I pray, will be as preciously dear to you as it was to me in preparing it. Turn to John, chapter 9. Turn to John, chapter 9, and if you are sharing with us the services on radio here in the First Baptist Church, turn with us, and we will read it out loud together, the first nine verses of chapter 9, in the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.
In preaching through the life of Christ, we are taking these incidents in His life one at a time. I went to a retreat this week, on Friday, and the divisional leader said that she liked the Sunday night services better than the morning services. She said, “I love Daniel, of course, but I love the Lord Jesus better.”
And every Sunday night I preach a sermon in the life of our Lord, following it through. Now this sermon is entitled Light for the Soul, and we read the first nine verses of the ninth chapter of John out loud together:
And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
The neighbors therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
Then follows—we have not time to read it—a long chapter in which the Pharisees attack, assail, castigate, repudiate, and cast out this blind man because of his firm testimony to the Lord Jesus [John 9:10-34]. It is one of the great stories in the Bible; so let us begin.
The first verse: “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth” [John 9:1]. That is the Lord Jesus. There would be a thousand pass him by on one side, another thousand pass him by on the other side. There would be a Levite go by on this side and a priest go by on the other side.
But the Lord saw him. Wherever the Master was, you could just be assured there would be gathered around Him the sick, and the crippled, and the blind, and the lame, and the halt, the sorrowing and the broken hearted. Jesus noticed them. And as He passed by, He saw this man, blind from his birth. And evidently, as the Lord looked at him and had compassion upon him, the disciples were encouraged to ask Him a question, and they said, “Master, all suffering is due to sin.” That’s what the disciples thought, all of it. “So who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9:2].
Did you know, you have that attitude? I do not know of a more prevalent attitude, persuasion, deduction in the whole circumference of the Christian faith than that: “I have fallen into trial, or I have fallen into trouble, or tribulation, or disappointment, or frustration, or despair, or sickness, or pain, or illness, or maybe death in the family; now, what have I done? What have I done?” And when we see it in other people, we think the same thing. That is one of the grossest misconceptions I know of, according to the teaching of the Word of God. Now, of course, philosophically, metaphysically, ultimately, all darkness and sin and death, all of it is due to our fallen, degenerate nature. It all came from the transgression of Adam [Genesis 3:1-6]. That’s true. But that is true only philosophically. That is only true in the aggregate. It is not true in the specific; that a man has fallen into tragedy and into sorrow and despair is not a sign that he is therein and thereby a great sinner.
That is what Job is written about; the Job’s comforters, all three of them who came to see him in his misery as Job sat in the ash heap and bewailed his loss and his sorrow, those three Job comforters said to him, “You are a great sinner. That is why this evil has overtaken you” [Job 4:7-8; 8:20; 11:14-15]. Now, that is a gross spiritual misinterpretation and deduction. It is not true.
Now there are sins that come from aberrations of the flesh. If you see a man with a venereal disease, why, of course, these things are due to fornication. When you see children who are vile and blasphemous, most of the times it will be a repercussion of the tragic home life in which those children grew up. There are ten thousand instances, I know, where the sins of the parents are visited upon the children, and where the children themselves fall into gross criminology because of a perverted, incorrigible will. I know that. But for us to say, at the same time, that all of our sorrows and all of our trials are due to our sins is a gross misapplication of the Word of God.
Now the disciples had it just as we do. “This man has sinned; look at him. He is born blind” [John 9:2]. And the Lord said, “Not so. Not so. This man has not sinned, nor have his parents sinned that he was born blind: but this has come to pass that the works of God should be made manifest in him” [John 9:3]. He fell into that tragic life in the sovereign, elective purpose of God in order that he might glorify the Lord, that God might do some great thing in his trial and trouble.
Don’t ever forget that sometimes from a pillow of stone we can see a vision of a ladder with angels ascending and descending from heaven [Genesis 28:11-12]. Don’t forget that sometimes in the weary toilsome climb up a Mt. Pisgah, from the heights of Nebo, we can see visions of the Promised Land [Deuteronomy 34:1-4]. Don’t forget that out of the trials and troubles and heartaches of life, God may be working through us some glorious thing for His name’s sake. And He did it here. It isn’t this man that has sinned, and it isn’t his parents that have sinned that he is born blind, but that God might glorify Himself through him [John 9:3]. And the Lord says, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” [John 9:4-5].
This is His way of introducing the fact that He is going to do some great and marvelous miracle. Now when we announce something like that, we’d better be very hesitant, most so, because it may add to our confusion and shame and humiliation. We may say we’re going to do so-and-so; we may not be able to do it, but not the Lord. Ah, the confidence with which He faced all of the problems of life and the impossibilities of life! Look over here in the thirty-second verse: that man says, “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind” [John 9:32]. There’s not an instance of a miracle like this in the Old Testament, not one. There’s not an instance of a miracle like this in the New Testament, not like this. There are six blind who are healed in the New Testament, but not one of them born blind. This is not a healing, this is a creation! The Lord God who made him to begin with, here, in the miraculous power of the Son of God, gives him eyes, gives him sight, gives him light [John 9:6-7]. “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5], and He announces what He is going to do.
Ah, the glorious omnipotence that lies dormant always in the hands of the Son of God! We are so small, but He is so great! We could not light the sun, though we live in its glory. It is not possible for us to have the keys to these great oceans. No man has the key locked up in some iron safe somewhere in his home.
We cannot control the winds. As I think of these tragedies that fell in the furies of nature this last week, as furor hurled its might over Texas, and as those great tidal waves came in, and those oceans stirred and churned, ah, how puny is a wet, drowning man in the presence of mighty God!
We cannot even engineer an eclipse. We can watch it and predict it, but only God can do it. So it is with the omnipotence that lies in the hands of our Savior here: this man has no eyes, he has no sight, he was born blind [John 9:1], but the great Creator can remake him, and give him eyes, and give him sight, and make him a new creation! And He did it [John 9:6-7], and He did it wonderfully, so much so—look at the eighth verse—the neighbors who looked at him, the neighbors who looked at him, this man who before had been blind, they said, “Could this be the same man? Could it be the same man?” [John 9:8].
And some of them said, “Why, it is he; it is that blind man,” and others said, “Why, it could not be, but he is just similar to him. He is like him” [John 9:9]. And the man himself said, “I am he. I am that same man” [John 9:9]. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. And the neighbors know it. If you are saved and baptized and a member of the church, and the people can’t tell any difference in you, man, you haven’t been saved, you haven’t really been baptized, and you don’t really belong in the household of faith. The man who is saved and the light of his eye shines and his countenance is like that of Moses [Exodus 34:29-30, 35], and the whole world is a new creation before you, and you are a new creation before the whole world. “Look at him, look at him,” the neighbors said. “What a different man.” We ought to be like that. We ought to shine, and our eyes ought to glow. O God, how many times am I down and there’s a dull, lethargic, traumatic, despairing, discouraged, juniper spirit about me?
O Lord, I’m ashamed of myself when I fall into those doldrums. I’m not to be that way. I’m to be a triumphant, victorious, overcoming Christian. When Lee Roy says, “Sing,” I ought to be ready to sing, whether I know the song or not. Sing it anyway. God never said make a beautiful song to the Lord; He said make a joyful noise to the Lord. And I can pat my foot, I can clap my hand, and I can make noises, which is pleasing to God. I ought to be that way. There ought to be a song, the spirit of singing in me and a glorious triumph about me, and when people look at me, they ought to say, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a Christian, a glorious thing to be a Christian?” Instead of “Me, me! I believe I’d rather have a dose of calamine and quinine and asafetida rather than try to be a Christian like some I know.” Amen. Shine for God! That’s what this man was a-doing. Sing for God! That’s what he was a-doing. Now, that’s not in the text; I’m just adding that.
Happy in the Lord, and he was. And the neighbors saw it. So, they took him to the professors of religion, the Lord help us. Took him to the professors of religion: they brought him to the doctors of the law and to the Pharisees [John 9:13].
And they looked at him and said, “When were you healed?” He said, “On the Sabbath day,” and they said, “Oh, oh. Oh, oh! Healing on the Sabbath day [John 9:14]. Who was it healed you on the Sabbath day?” and he said, “Jesus, the Son of God” [John 9:11, 17, 33], and they said, “He is a violator of the tradition of the elders, and He is a sinner!” That’s what they said in the twenty-fourth verse: “We know this Man is a sinner!” [John 9:24].
Now isn’t that something? Did you know prejudice is the beatenest thing that you ever tried to wrestle with in your life? Prejudice. In preparing this sermon, I read that there was a king over there in Baghdad by the name of Abdullah, and in the days of King Abdullah, there was a terrible drought that hit Baghdad. And the days passed, and the famine came, and there was no rain, and the people cried for bread, so King Abdullah said, “We must pray for rain.” So he got all of his fellow Mohammedans, and they prayed for rain. And the skies stayed brass, and the earth stayed iron, and the famine waxed more. So finally he grew gracious in his spirit, and he made appeal to the Jews of Baghdad, that they also pray to God for rain. And the Jews and the Mohammedans prayed for rain, and the famine increased. So he finally went to the extremity, and he asked those hated and despised Christians if they also would pray for rain. And the Christians bowed and prayed for rain, and God opened the heavens, and the blessings poured out, and they had a marvelous rain.
So those Mohammedans went to the mufti and said, “How is that? The Mohammedans pray, and the Jews pray, and no rain. But when the Christians pray, it rains.”
And the mufti said, “You know Allah, our great god? He so loves the Mohammedans that when the Mohammedans got on their faces and prayed for rain, God withheld the rain because he loves to hear the importunity, and the intercessions, and the appeals and prayers of the Mohammedans.
“But when those Christians got on their knees, and they asked God for rain, God so hates them and so despises them that God said, ‘I cannot bear to listen to their prayers,’ so He sent rain from heaven just to stop their mouths, so He didn’t have to listen to their intercessions anymore.”
Now I read that. I think somebody ought to give me better books to read, don’t you think?
That’s prejudice. That’s prejudice: “This man is a sinner. This Jesus is a sinner. Give God the praise” [John 9:24], they said. “We know He is a sinner, for He heals on the Sabbath day [John 9:14-16, 24]; He breaks the tradition of the elders.”
And this man answered one of the famous sayings in the Bible, “Whether He be a sinner or no, I do not know: but one thing I do know, whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. Ah, what a testimony!
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
[“Amazing Grace,” John Newton]
“Whether He be a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. One testimony of a man who has found Christ as his Savior is worth ten thousand sermons and ten thousand arguments and ten thousand reasons. I read—now this is a little better reading—I read where an infidel challenged a Christian to a debate, and the Christian accepted his challenge on this basis: “You announce the time, you announce the place, and when the hour and time comes, I will be there with one hundred men and women who have been saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And then you bring one hundred men and women who have been saved by the infidelity that you espouse.”
The debate was never held. Where would you find a man, where would you find a woman who was lifted up into the heavenly places with God by being an infidel? But brother, look around you, all around you: hundreds and hundreds of people who have been saved in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Ah, what an argument, what a reason, what a testimony in itself! “One thing I do know, that whereas I was blind, now I can see” [John 9:25].
Well, we must conclude. “And they cast him out.” Verse 34: they put him out. Verse 34: “And they cast him out” [John 9:34]. You know, there’s something wonderful about Jesus. He takes the responsibility for all of His people. Now isn’t that precious? All of them. All of them. That missionary that falls on the foreign field and is buried in an unknown grave; Jesus says, “I will find him.”
Jesus heard that they cast him out, and when He had found him, Jesus marked the spot. You know, I have a strange feeling in my soul when I stand at an unmarked missionary’s grave in the heart of Africa, or in the heart of Indonesia, or in the heart of India. So far away, and the people have forgot, and even their families are gone, but God doesn’t forget. The Lord marked the place. The least of His little ones that put their trust in Him, He knows, and He found this man that was cast out, and He said, “Do you believe on the Son of God?” [John 9:35].
Now, this man had acknowledged Jesus for all that he could think that He was and stood up for Him, loyal to Him; a prophet, and one that has the miraculous power of God, everything! [John 9:24-33]. And when the Lord said, “Do you believe on the Son of God?” that blind man who had been healed [John 9:6-7], said, “Lord, I do not know who He is; who is He that I might believe on Him?” and Jesus said, “You have seen Him, and it is He that is talking with you right now.” And that man who had been healed fell on his knees and worshiped the Lord and said, “Lord, I believe” [John 9:35-38].
Oh, what a glorious somebody, this man, born blind! So Jesus remarked to him, “I come for judgment, that they who see do not see, and that they who do not see might see” [John 9:39]. And the Pharisees overheard His word and said, “Do You call us blind? You calling us blind?” Jesus said unto them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin: but you say, We see; therefore your sin remains” [John 9:40-41]. Which is another way—if I could put it in my words—another way of saying it, like this: when you say, “I’m sufficient, and I don’t need God, and I can live my own life and die my own death and be my own advocate in the judgment that is yet to come,” then to you there is nothing but blindness, and death, and eternal judgment.
But to those who say, “Lord, I need help, I need the eyes of my soul opened, and I need the eyes of my heart enlightened, and I need my sins forgiven, and I need God’s strength and God’s help; I’m not sufficient for this hour in which I live now, and I’m certainly not sufficient in the hour of my death; and, O God, what would happen to me in the world that is come were it not for Thy grace and mercy? Lord, I cast myself upon Thee. Lord, touch my eyes that I can see. Touch my heart that I might be regenerated. Touch my soul that I might be quickened in the life. Bless me, Lord, as I live through this day, as I rest for the night, and raise me up in strength tomorrow and see me through, Lord, in the days and the years that unfold,” to you, God in Christ is the light of the world [John 8:12].
Ah, what a glory, and what a blessedness, and what a preciousness, casting ourselves in the love, and mercy, and grace, and forgiveness of Jesus! “Here I am, preacher, and here I come, here tonight.”
While we sing our invitation, while we sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, somebody you, to give himself to Jesus, the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come, come. Come tonight, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make your choice and decision now as you sit there; in a moment when we sing and you stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am preacher. I give you my hand; I’m giving my heart to the Lord. I need God. I need Him in my heart, where I live, the real me. I need Him in my life, all of the outward expression of my days. I need Him in my work; I need Him in my play. I need Him in the daytime, I need Him at night. I need God. I need Him in life, I need Him in death. I need Him at the judgment bar of the Almighty [2 Corinthians 5:10]. I know I need God, and that need do I bring to Jesus. Lord, be to me a Savior, and a helper, and a sustainer, and an advocate, and a keeper, a Savior. Here I am, and here I come.” Do it now. Make it now. Down one of these stairways and to the front; into one of these aisles and down here to the front: “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming tonight. I make it now.” On the first note of this first stanza, come. A family you, a couple you, one somebody you, while we sing the appeal, come. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.