The Works of God
October 8th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
THE WORKS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Works of God. And our Scripture reading is in the ninth chapter of John, the first eleven verses, and if you listen on the radio, turn to this passage and read it out loud with us; John, the Fourth Gospel, John chapter 9, the first eleven verses. Now the message is on a text—I preached on the story, the passage a Sunday night or so ago—the message tonight is on a text; it is the fourth verse in this passage. Now let us read the context, all of us out loud, ninth chapter of John, the first eleven verses. Now 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.
Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
He answered and said, A Man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received my sight.
Now the text, John chapter 9, verse 4; in the version, the King James Version out of which we have read it, it reads, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” [John 9:4]. I would suppose that all of the most worthy and ancient manuscripts will write here a plural, personal pronoun, “We, we must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day [John 9:4]: the night cometh when no man can work.” We must work the works of God, we, our Lord and us. And this is the plural pronoun that Jesus used; “We must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day.”
There has never been a time, or a generation, or a century, or an era in which the saints of God did not face a vast, and illimitable, and apparently insuperable assignment. In the days of Noah, in the antediluvian days, he wrestled with a generation given to blood and to violence [Genesis 6:5-6, 11-12]. In the days of Abraham, he wrestled with a generation that was polytheistic and idol worshiping [Genesis 12:1; Joshua 24:2-3]. In the days of Moses, all the assignments God laid upon him to make out of a people enslaved a great and holy nation, dedicated to God [Exodus 3:7-10]. In the days of Joshua, leading the elect families of the Lord into the Promised Land [Joshua 1:1-9]; but what giants he had to face, and what battles he had to fight. In the days of the prophets, oh! how they inveighed against the social injustices and the iniquity and the idolatry of the land! [Isaiah 5:8-10, 44:9-20] In the days of the Lord Jesus Christ, bearing the burdens of the sin of the world, yet ministering to a people who had lost the reality of their religion in formalism and spiritual hypocrisy [Matthew 23:13-29]. In the days of the apostle Paul, seeking to plant the seeds of the gospel in the civilized Roman world, but opposed by state, by Judaizers, by violent and vicious men [2 Corinthians 11:23-27]. In the days of the apostle John, facing emperor worship, with all of its patriotic connotations, as though a man who opposed it opposed the Roman Caesar himself, exiled to die of starvation and exposure on a lonely and rocky isle [Revelation 1:9]. In the days of Athanasius, wrestling with those Christological controversies, whether Jesus was more than a mere man. In the days of Martin Luther, with the tremendous implication of the Reformation, the repercussions of which are like tidal waves over us today. In the days of John Wesley, refused the pulpits of the churches of England and out on the commons, on the riverbanks, wherever men gathered, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. In the days of Roger Williams, standing for freedom of conscience and religious liberty. And in our day, the tremendous spiritual and social and moral problems that we face in our time and in our generation.
Am I a soldier of the cross?
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease.
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign-
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the cross, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Isaac Watts]
“We must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” [John 9:4]. And as we face the problems of our generation and of our lives, we are under God to do it fearlessly, faithfully. There is to be in us a resounding and a positive answer!
Now may I speak briefly of these tremendous assignments that God has laid upon us, the problems we face in our time and in our generation? I have named three of them: social problems, moral problems, and spiritual problems. First, social problems; we are more conscious of these problems in our time, I suppose, than in any other generation that ever lived in the story of mankind. We are all socially conscious. The government makes us so; the radios make us so; television makes us so; the newspapers make us so; the editorials make us so; the studies in the humanities in our colleges make us so; everywhere we are made conscious of the social problems that we face in our generation. Now there is no doubt, it is undeniable, but that there are social overtones and repercussions and corollaries in the Christian faith. Wherever the gospel message of Christ is preached, there are inevitable social revolutions that accompany it.
As the gospel was launched out in that first Christian century, it faced a world of slavery, it faced a world of the exposure of children, it faced a world of the degradation of womanhood, it faced a world of indescribable sorrow and agony for the criminal and the man incarcerated. And wherever the gospel message of Christ has been preached, these great social revolutions have followed after. Slavery has been driven practically from the face of the earth. Womanhood has been exalted. Children have been loved and cared for. And men who are guilty of crimes have been looked upon not as hopeless creatures to be buried to rot in dungeons, but men who are to be rehabilitated for a better, finer place in society. All of this is Christian and a thousand other corollaries beside. In a journey that I made one time around the world visiting our mission fields and other nations where we have no missions, I could not but be oh so deeply impressed with the attendance, the addenda that follows the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. Wherever the name of Jesus is named, there will you find a schoolhouse, there will you find a hospital, there will you find an orphan’s home, there will you find a church with its spire, its steeple pointing up to God.
Which reminds me, did you see our steeple out there? Well, Earnest Filter and Ray Crawford brought to me a picture tonight of the most beautiful steeple you ever saw in your life! And they said, “Pastor, all we want is just your approval, and we’re going to put it up here on the top of this church.” Well, they didn’t need to ask me my approval, I tell you.
Those little churches, wherever they are in the world, with a little steeple, and a little spire, or a cupola pointing up to God in heaven. These are undebatable: the blessings that have attended the Christian faith are the sweetest and dearest that mankind has ever known. Now, we face the social problems still, and in our time, and in our day, and in our nation, and in our state, and in our city of Dallas, we have social obligations under God to the people. Well, how shall we meet them?
Well, here is a place where some of us may differ. It is the persuasion of the American government—and I suppose the government reflects the persuasion of most of our people—it is the persuasion of the American government that the solution to all of our social problems lies in money, money, money! What we must do is to legislate greater appropriations and pour money and money into these ghettos they call them. That’s the most misused word in this earth; there are no ghettos in the United States and in our cities, in these marginal areas. And we shall solve it with money. Don’t you wish we could? Oh, how simple just to appropriate monies, and monies will solve all the social problems that we face: the delinquent child, the gangs, the festering crime breeding centers, all the rest that attends it.
I could not help—you know there’s a mean streak in me that I pray about to God every once in a while; most of the times I just feel that way, don’t pray about it at all—there’s a radio that has a program they call “Comment,” excuse me WRR, there’s a radio called “Comment”; and on that radio they had a man this day who was a sociologist. So he gave his little speech on radio, and I listened to him. And he was talking about how all of the things that we see in city life, dark, delinquent, criminal, filthy, dirty, that all of it was due to lack of money to change the environment of the people. And this sociologist was saying that if we had the money, that we could remake all of the people in all of these cities; that if they had better housing, and if they had better appliances, and if they had better gadgets, and if they had more possessions and more things, they would be better people. Well, you know, on that “Comment” program, they say, “Now you can call in and talk to the fellow.” Well, here’s what I tell you, oh man! I’ll never forget this. A TV repairman called in. And the TV repairman said, “Are you such and such fellow, sociologist, who says all this and all this?” And the man said, “Yes.”
“Well,” he said, “I want to ask you something.” He said, “I am a TV repairman.” And he said, “Down there in South Dallas I went into those homes. Now they’re supposed to be poor and poverty stricken, but,” he said, “they’ve all got TV’s. I went into those homes to repair the television sets.” And he said, “I’ve been doing it for years. Now,” he said, “in those homes so many of those people are dirty, and they are filthy, and their children are unkempt, and their houses are not clean.” Then he says, “That’s the kind of a house that I think of when I go down there as a TV repairman in South Dallas.”
“Now,” he said, “the government came in in a certain section of that piece of Dallas, and they said, ‘Now we’re going to put money into this area, and we’re going to change the complexion of this area, and we’re going to change the people in this area.’ So,” he said, “the government put hundreds of thousands of dollars in a project down there in South Dallas and moved all of those people into those fine and beautiful surroundings and apartments built by the United States government.”
“Now,” he says, “I’ve been going down there and repairing their TV’s in those beautiful, fine apartments built by the United States government.” And this TV man said to this sociologist, he said, “You know what I have found, and I’ve been doing this for long time now,” he said, “Those same people that were filthy, and dirty, and their children unkempt, and the houses unclean in those squalid places where they used to live,” he says, “in those fine apartments built by the government, they are just as dirty, and just as unclean, and just as filthy, and the children are just as unkempt as they were when they lived there in those other places! Now,” he said to that sociologist, “I want you to explain that to me.” And the sociologist said, “Well, well, blah, jibberish, blah blah, blab, blab, blab.” And the man who was presiding over it said, “Well, we’ll go to the next telephone call.”
Brother, had I not been a pastor for years and years out in the country and in the days of the Depression—my first salary was twenty dollars a month. And they said “If you work hard, we’ll try to pay you twenty dollars a month.” I lived for years and years and years and years among the poor, I mean the poor of the poor. And I saw a tremendous difference in those people; but the difference was not in the amount of money they had, or the spaciousness of their house, or the broad acres that surrounded their home. The difference was in the heart, in the heart, in the people themselves. Let me tell you, I’m not exaggerating, let me tell you, when I was a teenage pastor in those country places and visited in those homes, some of the sweetest, cleanest houses I have ever been in in my life, and some of the dearest, cleanest, sparkling children were tenant farmers who barely eked out a miserable existence. That’s why that, as we face the social problems in our day and our time, we do it in our seven missions. I think you can pour money forever into those people, and they’ll be the same kind of people after you poured money into them as they were before. But if you can ever get that man right with God—say, my brother, what a regeneration!
I came down here one Christmas time when our mission department had our missions at a banquet, and they had a testimony service. I don’t think I can remember when I ever cried so much as I did that night as I sat there and listened to those mission pastors present one family, husband, father, after another. And he’d stand up, and he’d say, “I was in the gutter, I was in the gutter, and my wife was like a widow, and my children were like orphans. And I found the Lord. And I was baptized into,” then he’d name one of our chapels; “And since that day, I have a new home, and a new life, and a new hope.” Then he described how God had blessed him in his job, and how he was paying for a home, and how the whole world seemed right now, with God at his side. That’s the way, that’s the way; we have social problems, I know, but God has given us a way to meet them! And that way lies in the call, and the appeal, and the invitation for a man and his wife and his family to give themselves to the Lord Jesus. And if they get right with God, you’ll find them beautifully right in every other area of life.
Well, we’re just getting started good. Moral problems, moral problems; oh, how we face them! First, alcoholism, alcoholism. I imagine you got this, Dr. Hendricks. This week, there’s a paper, religious paper placed on my desk, nothing new, just reflecting what they’ve been saying for years and years now, “Alcoholics are not to be labeled sinners.” And that’s what the headline said in the paper that I had. “Alcoholics are not to be labeled sinners.” Then when you turn over and read the article, that same old thing, that alcoholism is a disease, just a disease; alcoholism is a disease. And you don’t label a man who has tuberculosis a sinner because he’s tubercular; you don’t label a man who has arthritis a sinner because he has arthritis; neither should you label a man who is an alcoholic a sinner because he is an alcoholic. Well, and on, and on, and on that stuff, over and over again.
Well, the thing that I cannot understand is this: if we have tuberculosis, do you know an agency that dispenses tubercular germs where you can go buy them and where you can distribute them around? Don’t we fight tuberculosis if it is a disease? If diphtheria, if scarlet fever, if arthritis is a disease, do you have dispensing agencies for the disease where you can go buy it and distribute it around? Why, it’s unthinkable! If alcoholism is a disease, how is it that throughout the length and breadth of this land they are distributing the tragedy of that awful hurt and illness and sickness? I don’t understand it.
And if I had thought of this in preparing this sermon, before I came here to church, long enough before, I’d have tried to find some statistics; but I didn’t have time to dig it up. There are two hundred thousand alcoholics in New York City alone, that one town. There are more than a million family members who are affected by it. I wonder if there are two hundred thousand tubercular patients in New York City. I doubt it. Are there two hundred thousand people who have diphtheria and scarlet fever in New York City? Do they have typhoid and tetanus? I would say that for every one tetanus, for every one typhus, for every one on the list of them, there are a hundred or a thousand alcoholics. If alcoholism is a disease, it is a floodtide in this nation. And yet, we’re in the act of dispensing it and scattering it abroad.
Now what makes me sensitive to this thing is this: it is against the religion of the Mohammedan to drink; it is against the religion of the Hindu to drink; one of the signs of the Christian faith is drunkenness and the scattering of alcohol. And it just kills me. I want to illustrate that to you.
I was just reading in a magazine and came across this conversation. There was a ship going from Bombay, India, around the coast, around Africa to Great Britain. And this man on that ship was dying for a drink of liquor. And the ship coming out of India, they never had any liquor on it; it’s against the Hindu religion to drink alcoholic beverages, and there wasn’t any on the ship. So he was talking to a friend of his and said, “Oh, what I’d give for a drink!” And one of the other men said, “Well, the ship is going to land at Zanzibar”; now that’s a Mohammedan island on the other side, on the eastern coast of Africa, “it’s going to land at Zanzibar, it’s going to stop in Zanzibar, and you can get a drink there.” And another man said, “Oh, no you can’t, no you can’t because Zanzibar is a Mohammedan island, solidly; and you can’t get any liquor in Zanzibar.” And then another man spoke up and said, “Oh, but wait.” Do you know what I’m going to say? “Oh, but wait, but wait. If you will sign an affidavit that you are a Christian, you can get all the liquor that you want in the port of Zanzibar. Just sign an affidavit that you are a Christian; you can buy all of it that you want.” That is the Christian faith. And that’s the way the Mohammedan looks upon it; and that’s the way Islam looks upon it; and that’s the way the Hindu looks upon it. And the sheiks of the desert, and those great Arabic nations where the oil comes from, looks upon the coming of Americans as they look upon a plague because they bring with them, because they are Christians, liquor by the case and the case and the case. Talk about social problems, we face them. And there are some of the finest members I have in this church that will argue me down anytime I’d ever raise the question that we ought not to drink liquor.
Well, just getting started good, but I’ve got to quit. Social problems, sex, sex. Oh! I had a lot to say about that; isn’t that too bad I’m not going to have time to say it? That’s awful: sex. Not in all in this world put together was there ever such a day as ours when sex is glorified in the theater, in the vaudeville, in the television, in the radio, in the magazines, in the stories, on the billboards, in the papers, everywhere, sex. It’s a new day. Well, I must sum up briefly just a word or two about it. I read these magazines on the airlines, it’s the only time I ever read them; but seated there on these airlines hour after hour going from here to yonder, well, I get those magazines, and I read them on the airlines. And believe me, there’s a lot of things in them make your ears burn. Well, here’s one of the articles, here’s one of the articles written by a madam in one of those houses of prostitution in Paris. And if you’ve ever been to Paris, well, you don’t walk out your hotel but that you walk into the arms of those young Parisian girls who are soliciting; and the houses are all up and down the street, blocks and blocks and blocks of them. So this is a madam, a madam, who runs one of those bawdy houses, and she is writing about sex. And she says, out of a whole lot of other things, she said in this article that there are men who come and pass go, come and go, they come and go, they have regular patrons; but these are men who come and go, and come and go. And she says they are seeking something mysterious about sex; and they try here, and they try here, and they try yonder, and they’re that way, always seeking something mysterious connected with sex. Then the madam said, “If there were anything mysterious about sex, the man who could discover it would make one million dollars every day of his life.” That’s what she said in that article. There is nothing mysterious about sex, nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing. And I read yesterday where these hippies who live in free love colonies, as the men the madam were talking about, as they went from house to house, so the hippies go from bed to bed to bed; and the article yesterday said that their lives are so barren and so sterile that they themselves face breakdowns, have to take drugs; for all of their lives are fruitless and flowerless and loveless because of that cheapness of from bed to bed to bed. Sex.
I have never given myself to lectures and to messages in sermons for this simple reason: all that is to me is morbid curiosity. “Let’s discuss it, let’s get all these young people together and talk about it, and let’s announce it and get us a big crowd here to listen.”
You listen to me: I can tell any boy in this world as he’s growing up in five minutes all that he needs to know about sex, in five minutes. And I can tell, though I’d rather a dear sainted woman would do it like her mother, I can tell a girl in ten minutes all that she needs to know about sex. When the boy reaches puberty, his dad ought to talk to him. And when the girl reaches puberty, her mother ought to talk to her. And in five minutes that dad can explain to that boy everything that he needs to know. And in ten minutes that mother can explain everything that that daughter needs to know. Except, when time comes for them to marry, and then I tell them, “You go to a doctor and let the doctor talk to you about all of the precious, marvelous, glorious happinesses that await you.” And that is enough. And the rest of it is just the same morbidness over and over and over, rehashing. We don’t need anything other else beside than just these holy commandments of our Lord. It is something that God intended for those who give themselves to one another in a lifetime of love and devotion and embrace. When you are married, when the time comes, a physician will explain to you all that you ought to know and need to know. And as a boy, just one or two little things; and as a girl, just some little things that are plain and simple; and the rest of it is a living in the love, and obedience, and mercy, and commandment of the Lord. But that’s our generation; it feeds itself upon morbidness, and because of it, there is a cheapness about our modern generation that is almost inexcusable in the sight of God and man.
I must hasten to a close. These things that we face in our generation, we must work the works of God [John 9:4]; social things, moral things, spiritual things. Ah! The commandment and the assignment that God has given to us: soulwinning; this is our great dedication [Matthew 28:19-20]. Lord, Lord, to bring men, and women, and families, and children, and teenagers, and young people to Jesus; and to enlist them into the fellowship of God’s church. O Lord! So much hath the Lord laid upon us; God make us able, make us adequate, and bless us as we face the tasks and the assignments the Holy Spirit hath laid upon us. “We, God and you and I, we must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” [John 9:4].
We must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, while we sing it, a family you, or a couple you, or one somebody you, to give yourself to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to take the Lord as your Savior, publicly before men and angels, to avow your dedication to Him, as the Holy Spirit shall open the door and lead in the way, come and stand by me. “Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God.” However the Lord shall say the word, come, make your decision now, right where you sit. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming; tonight, now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The struggles of the people of God
is not any generation of God’s people that have not struggled against the
kingdom of darkness
No easier today than in any other time to do the Lord’s work
II. The work that awaits us in our day
A. A social problem
1. Where gospel
is preached, inevitable social revolutions accompany it
2. Persuasion of
American government that money is the solution
3. Difference is
in the heart
a. Our missions
B. A moral problem
C. A spiritual task