The Power of Personal Testimony
February 5th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
THE POWER OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-05-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on WRR, you are invited to turn with us to the Revelation chapter 12. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the evening message on The Power of Personal Testimony. We shall read the first eleven verses of the twelfth chapter of the Revelation; Revelation chapter 12, the last book in the Bible, chapter 12, and the first eleven verses. Now sharing your Bible with your neighbor and all of us reading out loud together, let us begin; reading the first eleven verses, now together:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Had I been preaching through the Revelation, we would have already followed through a dozen or more sermons. But the sermon tonight which is a presentation of the most vital part of the Christian witness in this earth, the sermon tonight is in a series of Bible presentations. And I’ve chosen this one first because of its very unusual emphasis.
As we have followed through this dramatic symbolism, the dragon, that’s Satan; and the woman, that’s Israel; and the Child, that’s the Savior of the world; and Michael the archangel who stands for the people of God, and his angels who fight against the dragon and against those who follow in his train; and in that train are a third of all of the angelic hosts of glory [Revelation 12:4].
When Paul said, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” [Ephesians 6:12], were our enemies these we could shoot with a gun, or double our fist in strife, we might have an easier warfare. But our battle is not contained in physical delineations. Our warfare is against angels, and principalities, and powers, and spirits [Ephesians 6:12]. And these are not capable of being warred against with guns and tanks and bombs. Well, how do we oppose so great an enemy? And this is the startling and the striking emphasis! And when that dragon, that old serpent, was cast down into the earth, and he drew with him a third of the angelic hosts with him [Revelation12:3, 9], the lament in heaven was in sympathy with us who live in this cursed earth [Revelation 12:10-11].
There is a victory though! They overcame him. They were triumphant over him by, first, the blood of the Lamb that speaketh better things than that of Abel [Revelation 12:11; Hebrews 12:24]. That is our great atonement and expiation in heaven that makes it possible for God to look upon us as though we had never sinned. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11]. What an unusual presentation! Against all of the spiritual hosts in high places, against Satan himself, against all of the angelic hosts that have fallen and who war against us, our victory lies in the death, in the atonement of Christ, and in the word of our testimony. It’s a startling thing! It’s an amazing thing! It’s an unusual thing. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
And in my own life as a pastor, these are my observations. There is no logic; there is no argument so powerful as the loving, tender-hearted appeal of someone who is dear to you. There is no sermon that could ever take the place of a personal invitation to Jesus. There is no tract that could ever be given out or offered nearly so powerful in the hands of God as the tract of a man, a soulwinner on a doorstep. And there is no warfare that is so deadly against Satan and his angelic hosts as the knock of a soulwinner on the door of a friend. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
I was invited by a sister in a family to talk to her brother, a boy, a teenage boy in his early teens. And I went to the home and I sat down by the side of that youngster in the living room. He sat in the chair and I sat in the chair. And I opened my Bible, and I began to talk to him about the Lord and try to convince him of the claim of Christ upon his life. And that lad was so indifferent, I just might as well have been saying the multiplication table as I was trying to persuade him about the things of Jesus.
Well, evidently his sister had been listening in a nearby room, and as she followed the conversation and had evidently seen the response in the face of her brother, she slipped into the room and took a chair just beyond him on the other side of me. And as I continued to talk to that lad about the Lord, his sister buried her face in her hands and began to pray. And soon, between her fingers her tears began to fall on the carpet on the floor. And that youngster would look at his sister as she was quietly praying and the tears falling down through her fingers, and then over at me and listening to the appeal that I made for Christ.
And in no time at all, in no time at all the hard indifferent heart of that teenager was broken. His heart was literally open. And the light of the knowledge of the glory of God came shining through [2 Corinthians 5:6]. And we had the boy down on his knees and in the kingdom, and the next Lord’s Day at the front of the church and that night baptized in the blessed Trinity of God. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
Now I said we were going to follow that through some of these passages in the Bible. And some of these things are astonishing, as astonishing as that! Now the next one I turn to is the third chapter of the Book of Acts. In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, this is the chapter following the story of Pentecost when preacher Simon Peter delivered his great message and that day there were three thousand added unto the church [Acts 2:14-41]. Now the next chapter tells the story of a lame man who was healed. He was born lame [Acts 3:1-11].
And seated, placed by friends at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, he was there with his hand stuck out. He may have had a cup in his hand or some kind of a little container, but was there at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. He was begging alms of the people [Acts 3:2-3]. And Peter and John, going up at the temple at the hour of prayer, three o’clock in the afternoon or at nine o’clock in the morning—they, going into the temple, they were accosted by that beggar there. He stuck out his hand in front of them. And Peter looked at him and Simon said, “Silver and gold have I not; but what I have give I thee: In the name, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” [Acts 3:6].
Well, he’d never walked in his life, and when this stranger came and said, “In the name of Jesus stand up,” he didn’t stand up. He just looked at the man in amazement! And so Simon Peter took him by that right hand in which he was holding a cup or some kind of appeal for alms. Simon Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up [Acts 3:7]. The big fisherman just literally lifted him off of the ground, and when he raised him up, his feet and his ankle bones received strength, and he could stand, and he could walk, and he was every wit whole! [Acts 3:7]. And that man leaping up stood, and walked, and entered into the temple, leaping and praising God [Acts 3:7-8].
I think that’s one of the most dramatic pictures to be found in the Bible. Can you imagine a fellow going to church like that, walking, and leaping, and praising God, just dancing all over the place, just hopping all over the place, just up and down, walking, and leaping, and praising God? Well, he held on with one hand, he held onto John, and with the other hand he held on to Simon Peter [Acts 3:11]. And he published abroad what God had done for him in making him well in the name of Jesus. Now, this is the astonishing thing to me: the story continues through chapter 4 and I want you to look at verse 4. “Howbeit then many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the andrōn, men, was about five thousand” [Acts 4:4].
Now do you see that? When Simon Peter got through preaching his sermon at Pentecost, there were [three] thousand men, women, and children; whoever it was, there were [three] thousand altogether who were added to the church [Acts 2:41]. But when that fellow got through leaping and praising God, when he got through testifying what God had done for him, there were five thousand andrōn. Not anthropoi; anthropoi would be five thousand men, women, and children, just folks, but andrōn is the Greek name for men as distinct from women and children. When that man got through testifying, there were five thousand men who believed [Acts 4:4], and if there were five thousand men, there must have been twenty-five thousand all together. It is a marvelous thing. It is a remarkable thing! That fellow really shook that whole city and everybody that was in attendance in that temple service when he got through praising God and giving his personal testimony of what God had done for him.
Now, I have another one, an amazing one just like this. In the Book of Mark, chapter 5, there is the story of the healing of that Gadarene demoniac [Mark 5:1-17]. This Gadarene demoniac, you remember the fellow that had the legion of demons in him, and he tore off his clothes, and when they chained him he broke the chains. And day and night they could hear the wail of that wild man among the tombs [Mark 5:2-5]. Well, Jesus came and healed that man. And he was clothed and in his right mind [Mark 5:6-15]. He was saved. And when Jesus was asked to leave because there were some hogs involved, and as between healing a man and losing some pigs, why, it was a disaster to them to lose the pigs [Mark 5:15-17]. To heal the man was nothing at all.
That’s just like it is today. As between orphaning children, and widowing wives, and breaking homes, and gathering money off of liquor, why, there’s no discussion. There’s no debate. We would much rather have the sale, and the saloon, and the revenue, and the money, even though we pay for it in orphaned children and broken homes and destroyed lives. That’s this depraved, degraded world. And that is getting to be our state of Texas; same thing. Nature in the human heart, depraved, doesn’t change. So when they lost their pigs, though this man was gloriously delivered, there was no discussion. “Let’s get rid of Jesus. Let’s invite Him out.” So the Lord left. He doesn’t stay, of course, where He is not invited and unwanted. So the Lord left [Mark 5:16-18]. And when the Lord went down to the shore of the sea to leave, why, this Gadarene demoniac, he followed the Lord to the edge of the water, and he said,
I pray thee that I may be with Thee, let me follow Thee.
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
That Greek territory beyond Jordan on the east side of the ten cities, Decapolis:
he began to publish throughout all Decapolis how great things God had done for him: and all men did marvel.
Now that’s the story of what happened. Now let’s turn the page. You turn to Mark 8, Mark 8. You don’t realize this because it isn’t said in the actual word and language. Therefore you miss it. But in chapter 8, Jesus has gone back to Decapolis. He has gone back to those people and to those shores on the other side of the sea. And the story begins, “In those days the multitude was very great, very great” [Mark 8:1]. They are thronging the Lord Jesus. From every side, they are pressing Him, and they won’t leave. They stay with Him all day. They stay with Him all night. His words are veritable bread of life to their souls. And so the Lord feeds them, and He fed that day about four thousand [Acts 8:2-9].
Well, where did those people come from? Why, my dear friends, that is in the exact spot and in the exact place where just a little while before they had invited Him out of their country and sent Him away from their shores [Acts 5:17]. Well, where did that great multitude come from? It came from that Gadarene demoniac. He went all over Decapolis telling the people what Jesus had done for him, and had compassion on him, and had saved him, and had made him well and alive and living again [Acts 5:19-20]. And when the Lord came back––after that man got through testifying––there were thousands and thousands of people that were thronging and waiting to see and to hear the Word of God [Acts 8:1]: the power of personal testimony.
Now I want to follow it with my own word, just by summary because my time goes away before even an introduction. How did our great Christian movement begin? Like that; and John the Baptist standing on the banks of the Jordan River said, “Behold, behold the Lamb of God!” [John 1:36], and Jesus was passing by. And Andrew and John followed the Lord at the personal testimony of John the Baptist. And from ten o’clock that morning they spent the rest of the day with Him [John 1:37]. And Andrew found his brother Simon Peter and brought Peter to Jesus [John 1:40-42]. And John found James his brother and brought James to Jesus. And the next day, Jesus found Philip and then Philip found Nathanael [John 1:43-46]. And the great Christian movement began in those personal words of loving invitation.
And how was the ministry of our Lord? He preached His greatest sermons to congregations of one. The greatest sermon on the new birth He delivered to Nicodemus at night to a congregation of one [John 3:1-21]. And the great sermon on spiritual worship, He delivered to a congregation of one, and that a despised Samaritan woman [John 4:5-26]. And He went to the city of Jericho, to the very street where the lost sinner lived, to the very tree where he climbed. And He called him by name and had him come down and said, “Today, I want to come and spend this day in your house” [Luke 19:1-5]. And He won Zaccheus to the faith of the blessed Lord [Luke 19:6-10]. That’s the ministry of our Savior.
You know all over this land, all over this land they close their churches at night. The churches at night look like mausoleums. They look like sepulchers. They look like tombs. They are so dark and dark. And to my great sorrow, our Baptist churches are falling into that pattern of life. And some of them here in Dallas are dark and closed on Sunday night. The lights are all turned off. It just hurts my heart. Jesus appeared to His disciples at night [John 20:19-23]. And Jesus appeared the following Sunday night to His disciples when He was raised from the dead [John 20:26-29]. And Paul preached to the brethren at Troas at night, clear until midnight [Acts 20:6-7]. And I tell you that is my favorite passage in the Bible. He preached to them until midnight. Oh, I like that!
Last week, as you know, I was preaching through that evangelistic conference in Georgia. And at twelve-thirty o’clock Wednesday noon I was just thundering away. And I didn’t know all this was going on until after it was over, but at the back, on a row of preachers back there, one preacher said to his friend, he said, “I have an appointment at twelve-thirty. Do you know when Criswell is going to stop?” And the man next to him said, “No, I don’t know when he’s going to stop.” And the man on the other side to him said, “And I don’t think Criswell himself knows when he’s going to stop.” And the man on the other side said, “And I don’t think the Lord knows when he’s going to stop”; all that going on and up there preaching the gospel. Preaching at night, preach till midnight, but oh, what a blessedness, what a blessedness!
I read and I read this with my own eyes. The minister of a certain church made the announcement that there would be no more night services, no more services at night. “For,” he said, “it was not worth his while to prepare a sermon for a congregation of less than a hundred.” Oh, how different our Lord who took time to preach the gospel to a Nicodemus, one [John 3:1-21]; to a Samaritan woman, one [John 4:5-26]; to Zaccheus, one [Luke 19:1-10]; to anybody that would listen to Him.
Personal testimony—my brethren, let me tell you something. Whenever you begin to think of people by the gobs, and by the oceans full, and by the buckets full, and by the masses, we have forgotten the whole fabric, and woof, and warp, and nature, and genius of the Christian faith. Do you think God looks upon us like that, gobs, masses, great oceans of humanity? Why, He knows our names; your name. He can call your name, our Lord can [John 10:3; Luke 10:20]. He says that He knows the number of the hairs in your head [Matthew 10:30]. Our Lord does. This is the gospel of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. And we’re not to look upon humanity as just a mass, faceless, nameless, but we’re to look upon people: “This is a boy and his name is John, and he’s been saved as a little boy. Was brought to me tonight, and he’s been saved, and he wants to talk to the pastor.” That’s glorious. That’s great! Got a little boy coming down the aisle tonight, and got another little fellow coming down the aisle tonight. Isn’t that marvelous? Isn’t that marvelous? This is a great church, and it is, and it has many people in it; that’s true. But we’re not faceless, and we’re not nameless. We’re somebody for whom Jesus died [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And to bear the word of testimony, not in the mass and in the many, but in the one, and to the soul, is the very heart and spirit of Jesus [John 3:1-21; John 4:5-26; Luke 19:1-10].
Now we’re going off the air in a minute. I want to close. Isn’t it amazing how thirty and thirty-five minutes will rush away? It’s because you’re interested and because we love the Lord. Time passes in church just like a moment. There is never, and I’m increasingly convinced of this, there is never a word of personal testimony that falls to the ground. You may think, “Well, I guess I failed. God didn’t bless this appeal, this invitation.” But there is no instance but that God blesses it. And once in a while we can see it. It will have a fruit. It will flower, bud before our very eyes.
For example, do you remember when we went out to that coliseum where those rodeos and fat stock shows are held out here on the state fairground? Do you remember about two or three years ago when we went out there? Well, let me tell you one of the things that happened out there. I was down there, you know, and talking to some of those people and receiving some of them. And there came a young man in this church. And he had with him a girl. She looked to be, oh twelve years old. And he brought the girl to me.
And I said to him, “And who is the girl?” I thought she might be his sister or a member of the family. He said, “Pastor, I have no idea who she is. I have no idea. I was just standing there, and she turned to me, and said that she wanted me to take her down to the pastor,” to me, and so I talked to the girl. And do you know what had happened? Why, bless you, there was a boy here in this church who turned to his friend who was seated right back of him and was pleading with his friend to come to Jesus, and the friend wouldn’t do it. He was adamant. He turned down the appeal. But that child, that girl, happened to be standing by the side of that friend to whom appeal was being made to come to Jesus. And he never responded, he never replied, but that girl said to me, as the boy pressed the claims of Christ, it touched her heart, and she wanted to come and to tell me that she had accepted the Lord as her Savior. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? And that boy, making appeal to his friend, never dreamed that right standing right where he could be heard was a twelve year old girl and that God was touching her heart. Isn’t that an amazing thing?
Why, I went to see a man to talk to him about Jesus, and I talked to him until twelve o’clock that night and failed miserably, failed miserably. He never responded. They had a boy in the home, and the mother made that boy go to bed real early so I could be alone with her husband and talk to him. And the next Sunday that boy came down the aisle to me and said that he’d been saved, and he wanted to confess his faith and be received for baptism. And I asked the lad when he was saved, and he said, “When you came to talk to my daddy, my mother made me go to bed. But,” the boy said, “I left my door open and I heard you plead and pray with my father, and my father turned you down and he said no, but,” he said, “there in my bed as I listened to you, I gave my heart to Jesus.”
There is no testimony that God allows to fall to the ground. Once in a while we can see its fruit. God sees it and it never fails of His purpose. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11]. Last Thursday and last Friday nights you had an assembly in this church under our fellow elder, Ralph Neighbors, about witnessing. And I brought this message tonight to encourage us in that personal testimony.
The Lord bless this word under His hands and under ours, and may these services on Sunday be no other thing than great sounding boards to register before men and angels the fruit of our work in the days of the week. And God bless us as we sow the seed; as we say words about Jesus; as we invite men and women and families to come to the Lord. And may the Lord make it known to us here when we sing songs of invitation, and give appeal, and when we rejoice to see the harvest that God sends, adding to His church daily those who are being saved [Acts 2:47].
Now, Lee Roy, let’s sing again. Let’s sing again, and may we rejoice again in these the Lord hath given us tonight. This blessed and precious moment, somebody you, out of that balcony, down to the front, the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, you come and stand by me. “Pastor, tonight I give my heart openly and publicly to the blessed Jesus,” or “Pastor, the whole family of us are coming into the fellowship of the church tonight.” As God shall press the appeal to your soul, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we all stand and sing.