Why Be a Christian?
June 4th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
WHY BE A CHRISTIAN?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 11: 6
6-04-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And if you would like to take your Bible and open it and read it out loud with us, let me encourage you to do so. Turn to Hebrews, toward the back of your New Testament. And we shall read the first six verses together; the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11, the first six verses. The sermon tonight follows a little different kind of a pattern, but one that I pray God will use to be wonderfully interesting, and encouraging, and helpful, and especially to somebody who is considering the claims of Christ. Now out loud, the first six verses of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews together:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
And if I had a general text for the presentation of the message tonight, it would be the last verse that we have read. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that earnestly seek Him." What I shall do tonight instead of sitting in my study, in my library, and poring over these Scriptures and preparing an exposition of a passage in the Word of God, what I shall do tonight, I shall sit down in my study here at the church, and we shall take these questions that are asked me by men who do not believe. Now what does the pastor say and how does he answer? These are questions, affirmations that you will meet in your life as you work in the world, as you meet people who are not Christians. They will say things to you, and they will say them as I shall repeat them tonight. And when they are said, how do you reply? What is your answer?
All right, let’s begin. And these things are things that have been brought to me and have been asked me in the last few days: here is a man who sits down by my side, he has been brought to me by a member of the church. This man is a gifted young fellow. He is a leader in a great technological, electronic complex located here in the city of Dallas. He is an educated man; he is gifted. So the conversation begins, and he starts off like this, "I want you to know, first of all, I do not believe the Bible. I think it is a collection of myths and legends and fables." That’s the first sentence that he says to me. He is not unique or peculiar or separate, there are many, many people who would say that to you. And I doubtless would suppose it has been said to you many times. So the conversation begins, "I want you to know, first of all, I do not believe the Bible. I think it is a collection of myths and legends and fables."
So we start. What do you say? This is what I said, "When you refuse to believe the testimony of the Word of God, you shut out any possibility of ever knowing God at all." And any intelligent man who lives in this world ought to be open enough, and curious enough, and scientifically probing enough to find out whether or not the greatest truth in human life is to be received or to be rejected. And when you shut out the Bible, you shut out the possibility of knowing God, for there is no other way to know God except in God’s self-disclosure of Himself, God’s self-revelation of Himself, and if you shut out the Bible, you shut yourself up to practical atheism and forever.
Then I explained that we live in a glorious world, universe. We see it all around us. We see it in ourselves. We are a part of it. Now, somewhere, sometime, this thing had a beginning or somebody made it or however you would explain it, it’s here. We have to start from what we know, and we know that we are here, and we know this is here. So if you have any curiosity at all, if you have any interest in truth or facts at all, anybody of intelligence would want to know, "Where did I come from, and where did this world come from, and where am I going to, and where’s the whole universe moving to? Does it have any meaning? Does it have any purpose? What is this thing of life and living and the creation around me?"
Well, we open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our minds to understand. So we are seeking purpose or meaning in the universe. Well, as I look, and as I study, and as I probe, and as I read, why, I would know that whoever made this universe was omnipotent. Such a vast, vast creation – our minds cannot enter into the infinitude of the worlds around us. Why, our little galaxy, of which our sun and the planets are a part, is an infinitesimal corner of the great starry heavens above us. Our Milky Way is just one of the many multitudinous galaxies that God has flung out into infinity. So as I look at it, and study it, and read it, and observe it, I would know that where we came from, if it is created, it was done by somebody who was omnipotent. But who is He? And what is His name? I could study the stars forever; I would never know His name, never. You can study and study and read and read of the creation above us and around us, and you would never know who did it; never, never, never.
Well, I can look again and I see many beautiful things in this universe. A sunset – what is the use of a sunset? None at all, it has no utilitarian purpose whatsoever. But it is gorgeously beautiful, a sunset. Or a rainbow – just exactly what specific purpose would you say a rainbow serves? No utilitarian use at all; it’s just beautiful.
Why isn’t everything gray? As I stand here and look at these beautiful windows with colors, the whole world is full of color. As I look at our women so beautifully dressed – red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, purple, nondescript, just all kinds – pretty. Why isn’t it all gray? As I look at the universe, and as I study it, I would know that whoever made it loved things beautiful. He loved color. He loved gorgeous dramatization, painting the whole sky with bursting colors. But I’d never know His name. I could look at a rainbow forever. I could look at a sunset world without end. I could look at flowers and mountains and fields forever and ever, but I would never know God; never, never.
Well, I have one other place to probe; I could look inside of me. I could look outside and see omnipotence; I could look around me and see beauty and pulchritude. I could look inside of me, and I would know that wherever I came from and whoever made me was highly moral. I am sensitive to right and wrong, all of us, and there is no tribe so degraded in this earth but is as morally sensitive as we are. Their mores may be different from ours, but they are as sensitive as we. Whoever made us is morally sensitive, conscious of right and wrong, but who is He? And what is His name? I can never know God by searching, never.
If I am to know God, I am to come to know God in His self-revelation, in His self-disclosure; and if God does not disclose Himself, I can never know Him, never. And if I shut out the Bible which is the self-revelation, the self-disclosure of God, if I refuse the Bible, I can never know Him, never, never. I shut myself up to atheism; stark, dark, black, hopeless, helpless. But if I will receive the Word of God, and the revelation of God, and the Bible of God, if I will receive it, oh, I not only know His name – Jehovah, Jesus – I not only know His name, but ten thousand things about Him; all revealed in the Word of God. So I must begin with that first and fundamental answer.
Do I seek atheism? If I do, then let me shut up the whole universe and its meaning, my life and its purpose; let me be an atheist. But if there is a possibility that there might be something over and beside darkness and death, then let me open my heart to the Word of God, the Holy Bible. I’m ready to listen. Does God say something?
Now, the text for this part: "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." Paul, writing in the Mamertine prison to Timothy in Ephesus, "My coat – it is cold in this dungeon – my coat that I left in Ephesus with Carpus, when you come bring with you. And bring the books," but especially bring the Bible, the parchments, the scrolls, the Word of God [2 Timothy 4:13].
All right, the second avowal and question; why should I find my soul and the truth that I seek in Christianity? Why don’t I be a Buddhist, or why don’t I be a Hindu, or why don’t I be a Mohammedan? Why should I be a Christian? What is there about Christianity above any other religion in the world, now why? Well, the answer is very, very simple, and very factual, and very poignant: Christianity against the other religions of the world, now, you could take hours, but I will sum up the best I can in a moment.
Buddhism, Gautama called the Buddha, the "Enlightened One," had no presentation of God whatsoever. Whether he believed in God, I doubt. He never believed in prayer, he never believed in any personal relationship with an Almighty. Buddha, I suppose was an atheist, and Buddha had nothing as such to do with religion. What Buddha did was this. What Gautama, in after years called the Buddha, the Enlightened One, what Gautama did was this. He was overwhelmed with human suffering. And in the East, the disease, and the poverty, and the memory, and the misery of human life was unbearable to a sensitive soul. So Gautama, an Indian prince, a Hindu Indian prince, Gautama, sought a way of escape out of the sufferings of life. And the Enlightened One learned – that is, he thought that he learned – the Enlightened One learned that human desire was the source of all human suffering. So his answer was, if we can destroy human desire, we can elevate ourselves above all human suffering. So Buddhism is an attempt to destroy all human desire, and if you succeed, and if you succeed, and if you succeed, and if you succeed, finally you can enter the great nirvana of nothingness. Want nothing, feel nothing, be nothing; that is Buddhism. It has nothing to do with God whatsoever. It is just a way of escape out of human suffering. And of course, they began to worship Buddha hundreds of years after his death. Never occurred to Buddha anybody would worship him. He was a philosopher, he was a teacher seeking escape from suffering, and that was the way he found an out.
All right, take another one; Confucianism. Confucius had nothing to do with religion. Confucius was a man who gathered together all of the cultural life of the ancient Chinese people, and he wrote it down, "This is the way to speak, this is the way to talk, this is the way to do, this is the way to act, and this is the way that we must reverence our ancestors and the memory of those who went before us." And Confucianism as such, has nothing to do with God at all. He was just writing down a beautiful way of life that incorporated all of the ancient traditions and cultures of the Chinese nation.
All right, take another one – Mohammedanism. Shall I be a Mohammedan? Mohammed was an epileptic, and in his epileptic fits he saw – he said – certain visions and he wrote certain things. Outside of a fit, he couldn’t write anything; outside of the epileptic seizure, he was incapable of anything. But when he had those fits, why, he wrote these things. Now, the finest thing you can ever do to evangelize in a Mohammedan nation is to translate the Koran into the speech of the people. There’s not anybody in the Mohammedan world that can read the Koran; it lies in an ancient language, and they don’t know what it means, they don’t know what it says. And if you want to help evangelize a Mohammedan, why, translate their Koran into the vernacular where they can read it. It is ninety-nine parts senseless and inane, just as an epileptic would write it. And the result of Mohammedanism is a culture and a civilization that is degraded and always has been. A Mohammedan’s idea of heaven is for every man to have a harem. The Mohammedan’s idea of this life is a man is not to have more than four women at one time. And he can change them anytime that he pleases, just so he does not have more than four at a time. Wherever Mohammedanism is, womanhood is degraded. It is only now that some of them are beginning to rise out of the degradation of Mohammedanism and take away the veil and all of the things that lie in the binding of womanhood. Mohammedanism is in a desert, or it makes a desert wherever it goes. To be a Mohammedan is unspeakable and unthinkable to an enlightened Westerner.
What about Hinduism? Why can I not be a Hindu? Hinduism is the most degraded of all living modern religions. Hinduism is carnal, more carnal than Mohammedanism. No small part of Hinduism is a worship of human fertility; it is filthy, it is dirty, it is unspeakable. There are at least three hundred thirty million gods in India. [Hinduism] is a religion of carnal idolatry, and a part of that worship is the cow, the cow, the cow. Why, in a great city like Calcutta, there will be traffic snarls in that city as far as the eye can see; herds of cows, roaming. Calcutta is a city as big as Chicago: great tall buildings, bank buildings, merchandising marts. Like going down here to the Mercantile National Bank and Neiman Marcus, and you couldn’t get near the door of either one of them for half a mile because of the cows. Cows everywhere! Cows. When I was over there in India, I heard the leader of the congress party that has the prime minister. He said proudly, "I have never worn shoes. I have never degraded, blasphemed the hide of a cow."
Hinduism: if Mahatma Gandhi is in heaven, he got there riding on the back of a sacred cow. They worship the cow, and they worship all other kinds of animal life. They believe in the transmigration of the soul. If you are bad, why, you come back in the form of a monkey. If you are worse, you come back in the form of a spider. But if you are abominable, the worst thing that can happen to you – you will come back in the form of a woman. That is Hinduism. There is no destruction of life in Hinduism. A cockroach, a scorpion, a snake, a spider, you dare not destroy them. If you were in the house in India and a black spider stormed over the floor, you wouldn’t dare step on it, you might be stepping on your grandmother! That is Hinduism.
You can take all of these religions, all of them, to an enlightened mind of a Westerner, it would be unthinkable. As the gospel of Christ was preached in the days of the Greco-Roman civilization, and it was contrasted with Janus, and Jove, and Jupiter, and Neptune, and Venus, and all of the rest of those ancient gods, and Christianity stood high as their heavens above them, it is no less so today. The Christian faith stands higher than the religions, the living religions of this modern world, as the heavens are higher than the earth.
Our time runs away. How shall I say in a minute left? One other, briefly: why must I believe in Christ? Why can’t I be saved without trusting Jesus? Why do I have to accept Him? And why do I have to make a confession of faith in Him? Why can’t I be saved just by being good? Why do I have to accept Christ? From the beginning, from the beginning, wherever there has been mankind, from the beginning there has been the consciousness of sin, from the beginning. And from the beginning, at the eastern gate of the garden of Eden until the centuries and the millenniums past, there has been blood sacrificed for sin. Not just the Hebrew; all of the peoples and the nations and the families of the earth have brought blood sacrifices to God seeking to make atonement for sin.
As you walk around Africa, you will find blood spilled on trees, and on rocks, and on mounts, and on mountains – blood, blood, blood – primitive, animistic people trying to wash away sin. And in the providences of God, that sacrificial system was incorporated in the Mosaic law, in the Mosaic legislation; and a sinner – we, all of us – and a sinner brought to the great altar a sacrifice, an innocent animal; put his hands on the head of that innocent animal and confessed his sins. And in the high Day of Atonement, the priest in behalf of the whole nation took an innocent animal and confessed over its head the sins of the nation [Leviticus 16]. Then the innocent animal was slain, his blood poured out, and his body offered a sacrifice unto God:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood:
And I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.
And the years passed and the millenniums passed, blood sacrifices offered unto God to wash away sin, but the blood, as the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says, but the blood of bulls and of goats could never suffice to wash a man’s soul clean and pure and white, never [Hebrews 10:4]. The blood of bulls and of goats that brought back to remembrance every year that we were still sinners, still ungodly [Hebrews 10:3], they were announcers, they were harbingers, they were heralds, they were types, they were pictures, they were dramatic presentations of God’s way of washing us from our sins. For the blood of bulls and of goats could never suffice to wash us clean. It is only God that can forgive sin, only God can wash our sins away.
But atonement must be made. There is no pardon without atonement. There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]. There is no reconciliation without payment of debt. And the Holy Spirit formed in the womb of a virgin girl a body, an Immanuel, "God With Us" [Matthew 1:23-1:35]. God incarnate came down Himself and inhabited, lived in, breathed in that prepared body and that body was offered for a sacrifice that our sins might be washed away. And when the body of God prepared for death, for sacrifice and every sacrifice in the Old Testament and every ritual of the Mosaic legislation was a looking forward to that tremendous offering of God for our sins; and God came down in human flesh, in a human body and was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. And His blood was poured out into the earth, and He suffered and died for us, for us:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up:
That whosoever believes and trusts in Him should have forgiveness of sin, should not come into condemnation, but should pass out of death into life, might have life eternal, everlasting.
And in that sacrifice, in that shedding of blood, in that pouring out of life, in the sufferings of our Lord, God says, "I am satisfied." He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]. All of my sins are paid for in the death, the suffering, the sacrifice of the Son of God – all of it, all of it. I cannot make atonement for my sins myself.
Could my tears forever flow;
Could my zeal no languor know.
These for sin could not atone;
God must save and God alone.
In my hands no price I bring;
Simply to God’s cross I cling.
["Rock of Ages," by Augustus M. Toplady, 1776]
I cannot make atonement for my sins. God must save, and God made atonement for my sins in His death on the cross; the offering of His body, a sacrifice on the cross.
Well, what do I do to be saved? What I do to be saved is, I receive God’s merciful provision for me. I don’t buy it, I haven’t money enough. I don’t work for it, I couldn’t be good enough. I just receive it; I take it as a free gift from heaven. "Not by works of righteousness which I have done, but according to His mercy He saves me" [Titus 3:5]. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that is a gift of God: not of works" lest a man should say "I bought it," or "I won it," or "I achieved it." It is a gift of God. It is something God does for us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Well then, why do I want to do good works then? Simply out of love for the blessed Savior that’s all, no other reason, just out of love for God. Just like somebody you love; you love your mother. Oh, how you pray to be good to her and to make her happy and to take care of her! All out of the memory of what she’s done for you.
Oh, oh, oh, what He has done for me! Lifted me out of the miry clay, put a song in my soul, oh, oh, oh! What He has done for me! And the rest of our lives is just an outflowing of gratitude to God for what He has done for me. That’s what it is to be a Christian.
We must sing our song of appeal and while we sing it, "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" [William Cowper 1772], while we sing it, you give your heart to Jesus, come and stand by me. A family you, a couple you, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come and stand by me. On the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Do it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
WHY BE A CHRISTIAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. "I do not believe the Bible; it is myth, legend, and fable."
A. When you shut out the Bible, you shut out possibility of knowing God
B. Somewhere, sometime the universe had a beginning
1. Whoever made this universe was omnipotent
2. Whoever made it loved things beautiful
3. Whoever made me was highly moral
C. But we can never know God by searching – except through His self-disclosure and self-revelation in the Bible
II. "Why Christianity?"
A. Buddha had no presentation of God, but sought a way of escape from sufferings of life
B. Confucius had nothing to do with religion, just culture and tradition
C. Mohammed wrote while in epileptic fits
1. Result of Mohammedanism is a degraded culture and civilization
D. Hinduism most degraded of all living modern religions
E. Christianity stands high among the religions of this modern world
III. "Why must I accept Christ?"
B. Blood of bulls and goats cannot wash away sin(Hebrews 10:3-4)
1. But atonement must be made(Hebrews 9:22)
C. God incarnate came down, a sacrifice for our sins (Matthew 1:23-35, John 3:14-16, Isaiah 53:11)
D. We have only to receive the atonement God made for my sins(Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9)