Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-17-68 7:30 p.m.
On the radio WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. And we invite you to turn in your Bible with us and read out loud the last part of the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Every Sunday night we preach from the life of our Lord, following the life of our Lord through the days of His flesh. And tonight we begin at verse 25 of Luke chapter 14, and read to the end of the chapter. Last Sunday night we left off with verse 24, tonight we begin with verse 25 of Luke 14 and read to the end. Everybody sharing his Bible with his neighbor who does not have one, and on the radio, read it out loud together. Now together:
And there went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them,
If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and count up the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.
Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?
It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Those are very plain words, very plain, like everything else in the Lord Jesus. And like everything in the Christian faith, it is very plain. It is very pertinent, it is very apropos. It concerns us now and forever. The title of the sermon tonight is Jesus the Christ is Everything or Nothing, and the message is a reflection of the passage that we just read: everything or nothing!
As I turn to read of the Jehovah God in the Old Testament, whose name is Jesus the Christ in the New Testament – as I turn to read of the Lord God Jehovah in the Old Testament, there are three things commanded about Him in the Decalogue, in the Ten Commandments. The first is this: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," [Exodus 20:3]. He alone. Second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . nor shall you bow down yourself before it" [Exodus 20:4-5]. Image worship, icon reverence, bowing down before a likeness of any kind, is prohibited by the Lord God in heaven, and He wrote that commandment out with His own finger [Exodus 31:18]. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any image, neither shall thou bow down thyself before it." And the third commandment was this: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" [Exodus 20:7]. But anytime we mention the name of God, it is to be done in deepest, reverential awe and humility. And then the Lord gave the reason for those commandments: "For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" [Exodus 20:5]. It is He alone, one. It is not one God and half of another, nor is it one God and maybe another, nor is it one God and a thousand others; it is the one Lord God alone. "Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me [Exodus 20:3]. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" [Exodus 20:5]. He, separate and alone.
When I turn to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, I find that same interdiction; it is Christ alone. And as I read of the propagation of the faith, of the preaching of the gospel in that first Christian century and in the immediate centuries that followed it, ah, how the first disciples of our Lord sealed that commitment to Christ with their own blood. The Greek name for a witness is a "martyr," the same word in the English language, a martyr. A martyr is the Greek word for a witness. And the reason it became a martyr in our language, a connotation as one who lays down his life, was because the man that witnessed for Christ in those first Christian centuries usually paid for it with his life. They fed him to the lions in the Coliseum, they exposed him to wild beasts, they put him in boiling cauldrons of oil, they crucified him, they exiled him, they confiscated his property, and the word for witness became our word martyr. Now why? Was it because the civilized world was full of antipathy towards Jesus? Was it because they hated the new religion? Was it because they objected to having another god added to the pantheon? No. Not at all, not at all. Not at all! Not at all. In Athens they had all kinds of gods, any kind you could think of, and they had a monument to him. All those avenues and boulevards were lined with gods, unless they might have overlooked one somewhere. Paul said, "As I walked along, I noticed an altar to an unknown god" [Acts 17:23]. Maybe we’ve overlooked one.
And in Rome, the most beautiful building that has been preserved from ancient antiquity, untouched through the centuries, that stands, is the Pantheon of Rome. Many of you have looked upon it. It was built by Agrippa, the rich and far-famed friend of Julius Caesar. And it stands there today. One of the great buildings and one of the most beautiful of antiquity. Where did it gets its name, Pantheon? Well you go inside, walk around, look at it. It is a great circular building with a marvelously constructed dome. Not a column in it. And as you walk around the Pantheon, in ancient Rome, it is full of niches – here’s a niche, there’s a niche, there’s a niche, there’s a niche – the whole circle is full of niches. And who was in those niches? The gods. The gods. When Rome conquered Asia Minor, they brought to their Pantheon Cybele the god of Phrygia. And when they conquered Egypt, they brought Isis and Osiris and set each one of them in a niche. And when they conquered Greece, they brought Jove and Juno, and set them in their proper niches. And as they conquered the world, there was a place for Dionysius, and there’s a place for Neptune, and there’s a place for Artemis or Diana. And so as the Romans conquered the entire civilized world, they accepted all of their gods, and they built for their gods, plural, that beautiful Pantheon.
And when Christ was preached, and this new religion, and this new faith, as the Greeks heard it from Paul the apostle, why, they said, "What is this new religion? For he preaches Jesus and Anastasis, and Jesus and the resurrection"; Jesus male, and Anastasis, a feminine. And it was a pair of gods they’ve never heard of before. They had been worshiping Jupiter and Juno and Venus and Adonis, and Isis and Osiris, and all the rest of those pairs of gods, but when it came to this pair, Jesus and Anastasis, Jesus and the resurrection, "Look. Who is the new, new god!" And they were eager to know about it.
Well, the whole civilized Roman world was like that. You got a new god, fine. You have a new religion, fine. You have a new faith, wonderful! Let’s take this Jesus to our Pantheon. We have a niche here just for Him. In fact, we’ll exalt Him, we’ll put Him right between Jove and Juno. Yes, sir. Find a place just between Jove and Juno.
Well, why didn’t the Christian go along? "Fine, fine, fine. You’ve got Jupiter there, you’ve got Juno there, you’ve got Dionysius there, you’ve got Cybele here, let’s put Jesus there." That’s what the civilized world said, that’s what the Romans said, that’s what the Greeks said. But the Christians said, "We’ll die first." And that was the matter. There was nothing against Jesus in the civilized world, Greek or Roman. It was because the Christian said, "We will not name His name at the same breath that we say, Jupiter, or Juno, or Jove, or Osiris. It will be Jesus alone."
Why, there’s not a more thrilling story in all literature than the story of the death, the martyrdom of Polycarp, the pastor at Smyrna. And the test was, the Roman procurator of Smyrna, of the province of Asia, said, "Polycarp, if you will say kurios Kaisar you will live." And the old pastor of the church stood before the procurator and said, "It will be kurios Iēsous." "Jesus alone is Lord." And he died. They burned him to death in the public agora, the square, the marketplace of Smyrna.
Well, I want to preach about that. I wish we had five, ten hours. This uniqueness of the Lord, this separateness of the Lord, this aloneness of the Lord. First, we shall look at Him Himself. Our Lord is everything or He is nothing. And when you look at Him carefully, you’ll see that the profound truth of that avowal, "Everything or nothing." He is what He said He was, or He is a foully, indescribably wicked imposter.
· He said, "I am the light of the world" [John 8:12]. Is that so?
· He said, "I am the door to life, to heaven, to God" [from John 10:7]. Is that so?
· He said, "I am the good shepherd" [John 10:11]. Is that so?
· He said, "I am the resurrection and the life: and he that believeth in me. . . shall never die" [John 11:25]. Is that so?
· And He said, "I am the Christ, the Son of the Highest, of the Blessed" [Mark 14:61, 62].
· And they ripped their robes and said, "You have heard Him, He blasphemed, for He says He is God" [Matthew 26:65].
· And upon an occasion when they brought to Him a paralytic, He said to him, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" [Mark 2:5].
· And these who listened to that statement said, "Why, this Man blasphemies, He blasphemies, for who can forgive sins but God; and He said, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’" [Mark 2:7].
· And the Lord knew what they were saying, and He said, "Is it easier to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee,’ or to say, ‘Take up thy bed, and walk?’" [Mark 2:9]. Some day you might try it. Find somebody paralyzed all of his life, and in your name or in the name of anything else, speak the word and see him take up his bed, and walk. Just try it. So the Lord said, "Is it easier to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’ or ‘Take up thy bed, and walk?’" [Mark 2:9]. Then He said, "But that you may know that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins" [Mark 2:10]. Then He said to the paralytic, "I say, take up thy bed and walk" [Mark 2:11]. And he took up his bed and walked [Mark 2:12].
That is, He is God, able to forgive our sins. Is that true, or is it not? He is one or the other. He is what He said He was, or He is the vilest, crudest, imposter this world ever saw.
Well, let’s go the second avowal now. The Christian message that is preached: it is what it is, or it is nothing at all. It is everything or nothing. Look at the avowals of the Christian message. One: there is no other way to be saved but in Jesus. As Peter preached it, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. That’s true, or it’s not true. If it’s true, the Christian message is everything; if it’s not true, it’s a perpetration of a falsehood unspeakable, a misleading, a misdirection, a mistake.
Or the second avowal of the Christian faith: first, "There is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. The second avowal: in Christ there is the forgiveness of sins [Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14], and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, forgives us, washes us clean of all of our sins [1 John 1:7].
The third avowal of the Christian faith, the third avowal: our way to heaven and our hope of eternal life is in accepting Him, and there is no other way. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" [John 17:3]. Not by works of righteousness, not by our being good, not by our striving, keeping commandments, or laws, or ways, or rituals, or anything that we can do. We are saved by our acceptance of the dear Lord, who comes into our hearts and makes new men of us, as God made a new man out of Ben Swacke. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us" [Titus 3:5]. "By grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works," lest any man shall say, "I did it. Look at me, I did it" [Ephesians 2:8-9]. All we’ve done is to go astray. God saves us in the name of His Son [Acts 4:12]; that’s the Christian message. God forgives us for Jesus’ sake [Ephesians 4:32]. And we have eternal life by having received Jesus in our souls [John 10:28].
All right, the [fourth] avowal, and the last one: the Christian interpretation of life; it is everything or it is nothing. What is the interpretation of life, or living, what life means, its purpose, its destiny, its outlook, its living? What is it according to the Christian faith? It is this: that for a man to live in this world and to die in this world is to die forever; forever, a second death [Revelation 20:11-15]. But for a man to live to God is to live in this life and in the life that is yet to come. "For what shall it profit a man," says the Christian faith, "if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul" [Matthew 16:26], having amassed a fortune, having achieved fame and success, and come down to the end of the way and his soul is lost. What has he profited by it all? It took a Christian to write this sentence. To me, it’s one of the greatest sentences in all of literature. A Greek philosopher could not write it, a Roman general could not write it, no man ever thought of writing a sentence like this until a great Christian wrote it. The sentence is this, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. No one ever penned that until the apostle Paul wrote it out of his jail in Rome to the church at Philippi. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain." If for me to live is money, to die is a loss. If for me to live is the world, to die is a loss. If for me to live is pleasure, to die is a loss. If for me to live is sin, to die is a loss. If for me to live is money, to die is a loss. If for me to live is self, to die is a loss. But if for me to live is Christ, to die is a gain [Philippians 1:21]. It’s heaven here; it’s a glory here; it is a heaven to come, and a greater glory beyond; everything good, everything rich, everything sweet, everything precious in the commitment of our lives to the blessed Lord. Now, in youth; now, in manhood; now, in old age; then, in death, and in the world to come the triumph and the glory that God hath in store for those who love Him. "For to me to live is Christ" – victory every day, "and to die is a gain."
"Whether we live, whether we die, we are the Lord’s" [Romans 14:8]. That is the Christian faith. To us it is everything, everything, everything. May He be that to you.
And while we sing this hymn of appeal, you, to give your heart to Jesus; a family you, to put your life with God’s children in the church; in this balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; a couple, a family, or one somebody you, while we make this appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come, come, come. Down one of these stairwells, on either side at the front and the back; on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the pastor. "Here I am, preacher, here I come; I make it now." While you are seated where you are, make the decision now; make it now. When we stand up to sing in a moment, stand up coming. That first step is the step toward heaven. God will attend your way if you’ll come. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
EVERYTHING OR NOTHING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The all-exclusiveness of God
A. Jehovah in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:3-7)
1. The Pantheon in Rome
2. Martyrdom of Polycarp
A. His claims (John 8:12, 10:7, 11, 11:25, Mark 14:61-62, Matthew 26:65, Mark 2:5, 7, Matthew 9:5-6)
III. The Christian message
A. Men are lost without Christ (Acts 4:12)
B. In Christ is the forgiveness of sins
C. The way to heaven and eternal life is only in Him (John 18:7, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8)
IV. The Christian interpretation of life
A. To live in this world is to die in this world (Matthew 16:26)
B. To live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)