Taking Our Case to Christ
June 25th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
TAKING OUR CASE TO CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-25-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on WRR, you are invited to turn in God’s Book to the Second gospel, the Gospel of Mark chapter 9, and we shall read out loud together from verse 14 through verse 29, Mark chapter 9, verse 14 through 29. If you are listening on the radio, read it out loud with us, in this great congregation here tonight. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the evening message. It is entitled Taking Our Case to Christ. Mark 9:14-29, all of us reading it out loud together:
And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.
And straightway all the people, when they beheld Him, were greatly amazed, and running to Him saluted Him.
And He asked the scribes, What question ye with them?
And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to Thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.
He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto Me.
And they brought him unto Him: and when he saw Him, straightway the spirit tare him, and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
And the spirit cried and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
But Jesus took him up by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, Why could not we cast him out?
And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
We are, every Sunday night, preaching through the life of Christ. Unless there is a special program, the message Sunday night will always be one about our Lord taken out of the days of Jesus in His pilgrimage in this earth. And this story we have just read is the incident that followed the transfiguration of our Lord on the mount when Moses and Elijah appeared unto Him, when His raiment became white as no fuller could whiten them [Mark 9:2-3], and His face shined like the sun [Matthew 17:2]. It was in that glorious transfiguration that the apostle Simon Peter said, "Lord let us stay, let us stay; let us build a tabernacle for Thee and one for Elijah and one for Moses, and let us stay" [Matthew 17:4].
And in sympathy with that spirit and response of Simon Peter, all of us would share tonight. O glory, glory! "How marvelous when God comes down; our souls to greet and glory fills the mercy seat," [from "Every Stormy Wind"; Hugh Stowell]. High and lifted up close to God when the Lord comes down, when God’s saints are together, when we sing and pray and our cups overflow, and there’s an abounding of the presence of the Spirit of God. All of us can sympathize with Simon Peter when he said to the Lord, "Let us stay; let us stay" [Matthew 17:4]. There will come a time, there will be a day when our assignments in this earth will be finished, our tasks are done, and we shall sing and shout and glorify and worship our Lord God, world without end forever and ever. But not now, not now.
Up there on the mountain top are our Savior, the Lord Jesus, and Moses and Elijah, and Peter and James and John. But down here in the valley are the rest of the disciples. They are frustrated and defeated and in despair. They are mocked and ridiculed. They have ignominiously and ingloriously failed. And down there in the valley is a multitude around them, and they are filled, that throng around the disciples, with unbelievers and jesters and ridiculers, and apparently a multitude of others who are in the deepest hilarity about the failure of Christ’s followers. And in the midst down there, in that valley, is a broken-hearted father and a son that is torn and rent by an evil and a vicious spirit [Mark 9:14-29].
Now, the Lord says to Simon Peter, "We are going back down there in the valley." And the voice that fell out of heaven said, "This is My beloved Son: hear Him" [Mark 9:8]. And down into the valley, out of the glory of the Mount of Transfiguration, did they go. Jesus, who had just been glorified, Jesus, with those three, to meet and to mingle with a rejecting and scoffing and ridiculing and unbelieving world [Mark 9:9, 14].
Now may I pause there to say something about us? We have a great message and a great gospel, and it brings to us infinite and marvelous joy and gladness. And sometimes when we meet here in this church, my own heart is so filled with overflowing that I cannot keep back the tears. I rejoice in God. I feel His presence. And when the Spirit moves upon the service, and when people are saved, my cup runneth over. But as glorious and as marvelous as is the convocation of our people, and the mountain tops in which we share the blessing of the presence of the Lord; yet, our first and our primary and our tremendous assignment is not in these walls; it is outside, up and down these streets, in these homes where the multitude of the people are who even now pass by the church and the Lord with never a thought and never a song and never a prayer, who are engrossed in the cheap rewards of this world.
You see, the idea unapplied, un-applicated, the idea in itself is never of any power or pertinency. It is the application of it that gives it regnancy and glory and meaning. It is like this. I was in the laboratory of a great scientist, and he had there a little model on a table that he had made. It was concocted out of glass and out of little things and do-ma-jigglers and whatnots and gadgets and stuff around; it was just about this big. And this great scientist, he was a chemist, he was showing me how to crack petroleum, how to take just gobs of black petroleum and crack it, and make it come out gasoline that you can put in your car. And he had it going here and here and through this little thing and burned up here and distilled here, and on and on and on. And I said, "That is just great, isn’t it? That’s just great. But what in the world is it that you do with it?" And he said, "Why, come here, come here." And I went with him to the window of the laboratory – this is one of the great refineries of the world – I went with him to the window of his laboratory, and he said, "Now you stand here." "Now," he said, "do you see this vast installation?" And it was about a half a mile long and must have cost millions and millions of dollars.
He said, "Do you see this vast installation here?"
I said, "Yes, I see this vast petroleum plant."
"Well," he said, "that plant is exactly what you have seen in this little model here. I put this model together, and I thought through all of these things. And then the company implemented the plan, and what you see is what you have just looked at in that little table model that I showed you": the application of the idea.
May I take the opposite of that? One of the strangest of all of the observations in human history is this: that from one side of this American continent to the other, and from the ends of it down there at Tierra del Fuego clear up to Point Barrow in Alaska and the North Pole, there are millions and millions and millions of American Indians who live in the South American continent and the North American continent. And yet in all of those millions and millions of American Indians, not one of them, not one tribe, not one family, not the Aztecs or the Montezumas, not the – not any of them, ever discovered the use of the wheel.
I used to go, when I was pastor in Oklahoma, I used to go in the summertime to the Indian fair at Anadarko, the Kiowas. And they camped there and recreated their life as they had lived for generations before. And when those Kiowas came to Anadarko for their annual Indian fair, they did it as they had done it all of their generations. They put everything they had on poles and dragged those poles to the fair. They, after the coming of the Spanish, you know, they brought the horse over here. The horse is not native to America; they were brought over here. And after the Spaniards brought the horses, why, these Indians would tie those poles to the back ends of the horses and drag them. But they never discovered the use of the wheel. Now to me that was amazing, but what is more amazing is this: some of these Indians had toys for their children, and those toys had wheels! I just can’t imagine it. I can’t’ imagine it. The idea was there, and those children played with it, and those adults saw it, but they never applied it and they never used it.
It is the application of the idea that gives it power and pertinency and regency. Like steam, using it to run a great engine; or the light that comes from incandescent metal, and we have a light bulb; or the fissuring of uranium, atomic energy; it is the application of the idea that makes it powerful.
And it is that in the Christian faith. For us to have something that concerns just us, however glad it may be and glorious it may be, yet, somehow it sours in us. It must be scattered abroad. It must be shared. It must be a part of evangelism. It must be the announcing of it, the application of it, the living of it, the scattering of it, the saying of it, the testifying of it. It must be the carrying of it out that makes it what God intended for it to be. Now that’s what you have so magnificently here in the life of our Lord. Stay up there? No. Come down where these people are [Mark 9:9, 14].
So the Lord comes, and He sees that multitude around the disciples [Mark 9:14], and they are in a heyday; just as the unbelievers are – the communists, and the atheists, and the infidels, and the materialists, and the secularists – just as they are today. How they scoff and scorn! "Ha, ha," they say, "the church is losing its power! Ha, ha!" they say, "There’s no dynamic in the pulpit any longer! Ha, ha!" they say, "Religion is nothing but an opiate of the people, and the sooner destroyed and forgot the better!" Just as here: a multitude surrounding the disciples, and the scribes leading the ridicule and the scorn and the laughter.
But my sweet and precious friend, however the multitudes may scoff, and however the throng may scorn, and however the infidels may lie and reject, you still have that boy in the midst, and he represents all mankind. It is no philosophical abstraction what sin does to the world. And the human heart cannot fill itself with itself. It has to be filled with something else, either seven devils or the seven Spirits of the Holy God. And this lad represents us, humanity, the whole world, and on the back of humanity dreams and rides the old man of the sea. And how do you rid yourself of it, the drag and the curse of sin, of age, of death? You still have this boy [Mark 9:17-18].
So this man said to the Lord, "I brought him to Your disciples, and I asked that these disciples heal him, cast out the devil." And I can just see those disciples as they responded, "Why, bring him to us! Man, we are proficient in casting out devils, we are learned in that, we are gifted in that!" Hath not the Lord sent out the twelve [Mark 6:7-13], and hath the Lord not sent out the seventy? [Luke 10:1-16]. And didn’t they rejoice in their power to cast out devils? [Luke 10:17]. So it never occurred to them, it never occurred to them that they had lost their communication and their contact with God [Mark 9:18]. "Sure! We can do it, bring him to us!" said the disciples, the nine that remained down there. "Bring him to us, we are good at that!" So this father said, "I brought my boy to Your disciples, and asked that they cast him out, and they could not" [Mark 9:17-18]. And that was why the ridicule and the scoffing and the scorning [Mark 19:4].
And I want you to know that I don’t know anything that is more terrible than for a church to be powerless, and it’s pulpit without meaning and significance. And the world points their finger at us and says, "Look at them, they are baffled, they are confused, they don’t have any answers, and they can’t cast out devils! They can’t make holy men out of bad men, look at them, look at them!" So it was they scoffed at these disciples [Mark 9:14].
"Lord," said this man, "I’ve brought him to Thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not" [Mark 9:18]. Then after the story you read, and the Lord had healed that boy [Mark 9:25-27], those nine disciples came to the Lord in the house privately; after everyone was gone, and they asked the Master, "Why could we not cast him out? Why could not we cast him out?" [Mark 9:28].
All right look, "And the Lord said to them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? And they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest" [Mark 9:33-34]. I would think that was precipitated by the Lord choosing Peter, James, and John, and taking them with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. "What was it, ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" [Mark 9:33]. And they wouldn’t answer. "They held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest" [Mark 9:34]. And they lost their power and their contact with God.
And when this man brought that boy and laid him before the disciples that he might be healed, they were powerless and impotent [Matthew 17:16]. When they came to the Lord Jesus privately and said, "Why could not we cast him out?" [Matthew 17:19]. The Lord said, "Because you have lost your contact with God" [Mark 9:19, 29]. Anything of envy, and littleness, and jealousy, anything of self, anything that hides away the Lord, that comes between the soul and the Savior will cut off that wonderful communion and contact and flow of power between us and God. And the Lord said unto them, "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer," and a religious monk in afteryears added, "and fasting" [Matthew 17:21]. And I don’t object to the addition, though Jesus didn’t say it. "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer" and the monk added, "and fasting."
Now, may I say two or three things about that? Power to save souls, to make good men out of bad men, power to move hearts heavenward and God-ward. First: let us be honest with ourselves. There is no power in us to do it, none whatsoever, none. I never feel so helpless in my life, even, as I stand in the presence of a little child, and he comes to me and he says, "I want to be saved." How does one save souls? We cannot. The gift of life is not in us; it is in God! And we must cast ourselves upon the mercies of God; we are dependent upon God. We are in everything.
When you plant a seed it is God that makes it grow. We can cultivate and plant and water, but it is God that gives life. When a wound is made, when a scalpel cuts; the doctor can operate, it is only God that can heal. When a baby is born, it is only God that can breathe into that child the breath of life. Now we can try many things, and sometimes do, sometimes do. We can just holler to the top of our voices. We can just talk and out loud and you could hear us for five miles, and I say sometimes we do. There must be a reason why I am sort of hoarse tonight; there be some kind of a reason. And we get that idea sometimes; "O Baal, O Baal, send the fire!" In that oratorio of Elijah, didn’t you have somebody go, "Baal! Baal! Baal! Baal! Baal!" [1 Kings 17:25], you just round and round that altar, didn’t you do that? Seems to me you did. But it is not in the fury of our speaking; it’s not that.
And sometimes we are persuaded it will come in the learnedness of our wisdom; "I want you to know, church member, we have the most learned minister. Why he has his Ph.D, and his D.D, and his Litt.D, and his LL.D, and his XYZ, and he has got his RFD number1. Oh, he is just the most learned minister that I’ve ever looked upon or heard in my life!" But you could sit and listen to him forever and never know God! And the kind of congregation he has is a pitiful, insignificant, inconsequential gathering of God’ saints. It’s not by our learnedness.
And it is not by our human ingenuity. If human method and program could bring in the kingdom of God, our Southern Baptist organizational life would have brought it in a generation ago. We are dependent upon God [Luke 11:20]. It is God that gives life and power and regeneration; "this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer" [Mark 9:29]. We are dependent, we cast ourselves upon God. Let’s be honest with ourselves. If there is power in the church, and power in the services, and if people are saved, it is because we have looked in mercy and expectancy to heaven. It is God that does it [Mark 10:27].
Second: let us be honest with them, with these that we are trying to witness to. There is not anything in us, nothing. It’s in God, and lets don’t deceive them. There are only two areas in this world where I know that deception is expected and practiced. One is in war. When you go to war you try to confuse the enemy; you try to deceive him. You try to ambush him. You try to surprise him. You try to overwhelm him in every way that is humanly possible. That’s one, it is expected that in war you practice deception. Now the other area in life where it is expected is in love. Does that beat anything you ever saw in your life? There is many and many and many an old boy that goes down the altar with a girl, but if he were to see her with her hair curled up and her face covered with grease and all the other things appurtenant thereto before she goes to bed at night, I don’t know he’d be going down that aisle or not. He says over here, "Preach on!" [Laughter].
It is so strange to me, there will be a girl and she will be at home and she is not looking for her boyfriend, and he just suddenly drives up and you would think the world had come to and end! She just evaporates, "Oh, my! I must,and on and on and on and on. Well, I’m just telling you, that’s legitimate, that’s understandable, that’s a part of life.
But I am also saying that when time comes to meet God, and for tremendous spiritual confrontation, the best thing for us to do is just to be honest with him. There is no power in me, I cannot save, God has to do it [ACTS 4:12].
I was talking to a man. Oh, I never tried so hard to win a man in my life as I did that man. Every argument I could think of, every ingenious approach I could make, in every way that I could humanly beg, plead, make appeal, defend, urge, everyway! And I just fought, and argued, and plead, and cajoled, and begged. Finally, before I left I asked him humbly and simply, I said, "Before I go I want to kneel down here," we were in his living room, "I want to kneel down here and I want to pray, would you kneel by my side?" And we prayed together. Well, I was a guest in his home, and it’s pretty difficult, rather difficult for a man to say, "No, I won’t kneel by your side." So I knelt on the living room rug, and he knelt by my side. In a few minutes, in a few minutes, God had saved him. And he took my hand as we were kneeling together, and said, "I take Jesus as my Savior, I give Him my soul and my life." And I baptized him, and he and his family were wonderful members of our precious church. One word from the Holy Spirit is worth a thousand words from us. One whispered appeal from the Spirit of God is worth ten thousand arguments. It’s God that does it; "this kind cometh out by nothing, but by prayer" [Mark 9:29]. I must close. Let us be honest with ourselves; let us be honest with them; let us be honest with God.
Our Lord we shall try, and we shall work; we shall plan; we shall do our best, our utmost, but Lord, if the Spirit of Jesus does not breathe upon our effort, it is fruitless and barren and falls to the ground. Lord, we are dependent upon Thee. God must work with us; God must help us; God must speak the word; God must make the appeal; the Holy Spirit must convict the heart; Jesus must woo and win. And Master, we are dependent upon Thee. And it is when we are on our knees that we are invincible and impregnable and unassailable. It is God in us and God with us that brings to the world the light and the joy and the glory of the saving grace of the Son of God, "This kind can come forth by nothing, save by prayer" [Mark 9:29].
May all of us share in this prayer together? Our Lord, ten thousand times do we act as though if we have the right plan, it will work of itself. And if we form the right program, it’ll produce the desired results. And if we can just get this machinery turning right, if we can get all of these gadgets just so, why, we will have a marvelous harvest. When all the time He that sits above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22] says, "But without Me ye can do nothing" [John 15:5]. O Lord may the power of the Holy Spirit work with us, Lord, to convict, to convert, to regenerate, to save, to bring to Thee. May it be at the astonishment of the world, that so simple a message and so humble appeal should be so gloriously honored? But God is in it – the people prayed; they looked to heaven; they opened their hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit – and it is God in us, God with us, God among us that does such marvelous things. O Lord, keep us on our knees, keep us, Master, on our faces. May our people be a praying people looking to God, looking to Jesus. And may it be the joy supernal, unspeakable, of our souls to see God work. Oh, may we rejoice in Thee. Master, bless us as we seek to bring the lost people the glorious saving good news of the abundant abounding life in our Lord. Outside of Him, just death, defeat despair, darkness, but the light of the world is Jesus [John 8:12].
Oh come to the light, ‘Tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;
Once I was blind, but now I can see;
The light of the world is Jesus!
["The Light of the World Is Jesus," Philip P. Bliss]
O Master, may we point to Thee, call upon Thee, love Thee, adore, worship Thee, exalt Thee, preach Thee, Lord. And may the Holy Spirit delight to honor our word of appeal. Now Master, bless us tonight with a harvest, and we shall thank Thee for every soul You give us, in the Savior’s dear name, amen.
While we sing our song of appeal, to give your life to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of His church, a family you, one somebody you, as God shall press the invitation to your heart, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. In a moment, when we sing, stand up coming. In the balcony round on the lower floor, "Here I am, preacher, I make it tonight." Is there a youth? Is there a family? Is there a child? Is there you? "Here I come, preacher, I make it tonight."
There’s a stairway on either side, you come. This morning I closed the invitation, and a family had just decided. God bless them, they did something that takes courage to do sometimes; they just came on anyway. If I were to close this appeal and you had decided, come anyway, come anyway. Some of us would stay here all night long if you would come. Make it now; decide in your heart, now. And God bless you and encourage you and keep you every step of the way. If you will take that first step to the Lord, the victory’s won. God will see you through. You may not have the answers, and I know I do not, but He knows all about us. He has every answer. We are so weak and do not know how. He can see us through. He never lost a battle. Come, give yourself to Jesus, put your life with the people of God; make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
TAKING OUR CASE TO CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The defeat, despair and tragedy in the valley
B. The glory on the mountaintop
1. Jesus leads them back down into the valley
C. The idea unapplied is nothing
1. Scientist in laboratory cracking petroleum
2. Indians not using the wheel
D. True in the Christian faith
II. The failure of the disciples
A. Unbelievers and scoffers ridicule and scorn
B. There is still the boy in the midst
1. Represents all mankind
C. The private question, "Why?"
1. Failure from within
III. Regarding power to move hearts heavenward and Godward
A. Honest with ourselves – we are dependent upon God alone
1. Not the loudness of our voice
2. Not the learnedness of our wisdom
3. Not by our human ingenuity
B. Honest with those we are witnessing to