Moved with Fear
June 30th, 1968 @ 10:50 AM
MOVED WITH FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-30-68 10:50 a.m.
Now all of us realize that on radio and on television you cannot make any comment about any political situation, such as a gambling bill or a liquor bill, unless you work it out with the radio station and the television station: and there must be equal time, whatever they would grant you to say, there must be equal time for the other side to make a comment. So I cannot enter into this because of that ruling. But I can point out to you that if you read the paper and listen to the radio news, why, the liquor bill thus far has been killed in the senate in Austin, and I also can point out to God’s people that they can still pray, and the Lord bless us, as we ask heaven’s guidance and remembrance of our people.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Moved with Fear. In the Book of Hebrews, in the tenth chapter of Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, I have three texts. In Hebrews 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” In Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear.” And that is the title of this message. “Warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” [Hebrews 11:7]. And the third passage, the last verse in chapter 12 of the Book of Hebrews, “For our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29].
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Hebrews 10:31], for our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29]. Modern Christianity for the most part would decry and deny such a delineation and description of God. And there is no small segment of modern Christian theology that would look upon such a presentation of God as though we were making of the great Father of God’s redeemed, the devil himself. They vigorously deny that there is in the character of God anything that speaks of wrath, or of judgment, or of condemnation. And this altered––for it is certainly not the biblical conception of God––this altered conception of the Almighty makes of Him some kind of a weak, sentimental, anemic being. When they get through describing God, they make Him, ninety-nine parts out of a hundred, mushy, lovey-dovey, weak, sentimental, cheaply so.
Now the amazing repercussion of that characterization of God––all love, all weak, all sentimental––that characterization of God has a tremendous repercussion, in all of the areas of Christian theology and Christian faith. It changes the character of God Himself. No longer is He one who sits as the great Lawgiver of mankind [James 4:12], who has mandates and requirements and who shall judge us, to whom someday we are morally accountable [Psalm 96:13]. God is changed into something else altogether, into a maudlin father image without justice and without judgment.
And it changes the character of Christ. If I have any impression from God’s Book at all of what kind of a person Jesus was, He strikes me as being of all mankind, the strongest! His pronouncements are with authority. And He condemns in no uncertain terms, and He calls men to righteousness and to holiness, and He has back of every one of those judgments a certain meeting of condemnation to the soul who does not listen and does not obey. That’s my impression of Christ as I read of Him in the Bible.
And that altered conception in Christian theology has a repercussion in people. They get themselves soft and effeminate and anemic. They become themselves lovingly sentimental. There is no righteous indignation. There is no pointing to the wrath and judgment of God. Our people become convictionless and without strength. They have no particular pronouncements to make about anything, for God to them is some passive father. And it has a violent repercussion in the message that is delivered. If there is no moral accountability, and if there is no judgment to face, and if the mandates and moral requirements of God are not someday to be implemented, why, what does it matter how one lives? What does it matter how one sins? What does it matter how one disobeys God? And finally, of course, there is no such thing as being lost, as being damned, as being shut out if there is no judgment and no moral accountability.
The Bible says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! [Hebrews 10:31]. The Scripture text says, “Our God is a consuming fire!” [Hebrews 12:29], and the text says, “That Noah moved with fear!” [Hebrews 11:7]. But if there is nothing to fear, if there is no consuming fire, if there is no fearful judgment, if there is no moral accountability, then there is no such thing as being lost. Nor is there any such thing as facing our sins someday, somewhere, somehow.
Now, as for me, all I want to know is the truth. Tell me the truth, O God, and speak to me, both in Thy word and in my own soul and conscious. Lord, all I want to know is the truth. If God is a mushy, sentimental, passive, somebody, then let me know that. But if that isn’t true, then let me know that too!
I would say that practically all modern theologians and all of modern theology would decry the element or the moving of fear in religion. We are never, they say, to act out of fear. Never are we to be moved by the threatenings of wrath or of judgment, but rather everything in the matter of our relationship with God is to be one of just love and forgiveness and mercy, and that there is no God of wrath and of judgment, and there is no need to fear of anything.
If I had my observation to make about the response of human life to the facts of life it would be this. Our problem does not lie in our being too fearful and too afraid, but our problem lies in that we are not fearful enough! Why, I can remember when the liberals were saying, “All of this talk about Hitler is just war hysteria.” And they scoffed at the idea that a people should be afraid and tremble before what was happening in continental Europe. I can remember that distinctly.
Well, there is another thing I can remember. I can well remember when the liberals of the world were scoffing at the idea that we ought at all to be concerned or to tremble before what those bearded Bolsheviks were seeking to do in Russia and in other governments and agencies and lands of the world. I can remember those things. I repeat, our problem is not that we are too fearful and too anxious, but our problem is we don’t fear enough! We are not cognizant enough of the tremendous equations that lie in the balance of human life. And how much more so is that when we apply the equation to our own souls? Lord, however anything is, I want to know the truth about my soul and the eternity that lies beyond. I want to know what is God like? And do I face Him someday? Do I stand in His presence someday, and if I stand someday in the presence of God, how is it with me and with my soul? I must know! Just tell me the truth. I want to know what is God like, and what does God say, and what does God demand of me, and how shall I answer in the day of that final judgment of the Almighty [Revelation 20:11-12].
Do you remember the story in the twenty-second chapter of 1 Kings? Do you remember that story? Ahab is the ruler on the throne of Israel in Samaria. And good King Jehoshaphat, one of the finest kings Judah ever had, is seated on the throne in Jerusalem. And upon a day, Jehoshaphat comes down to Samaria to visit with Ahab, who was a toad, vile and wicked. And Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Jehoshaphat, do you know that Ramoth-gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan River belongs to us and the Assyrians possess it? Let’s go take it.” And Jehoshaphat said, “My heart is with your heart, and my men are with your men, and my horsemen are as your horsemen [1 Kings 22:2-4]. Let’s take it. But before we do, let us inquire of the Lord; will God prosper our armies, and will God deliver Ramoth-gilead into our hands?” [1 Kings 22:5].
So Ahab called his prophets together, four hundred of them, and they all prophesied saying, “Go up against Ramoth-gilead, and the Lord will deliver it into your hands” [1 Kings 22:6]. But Jehoshaphat was a godly man, and as he looked at those four hundred prophets that belonged to Ahab, all saying what Ahab wanted them to say, as he looked at it his heart had a different feeling. And he turned to King Ahab and said, “But, is there not one other prophet of the Lord of whom we might inquire?” [1 Kings 22:7]. And Ahab said, “Yes, there is, but I hate him! He prophesies evil and not good.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so. Bring him” [1 Kings 22:8-9]. So the king’s messenger went to Micaiah the prophet of God, and the king’s messenger said to Micaiah when he came to the place where the prophet lived, “Now Micaiah the king has sought for you to ask you about going against Ramoth-gilead. And all of the four hundred prophets there prophesy prosperity and victory to King Ahab. Now, you prophesy the same thing, Micaiah” [1 Kings 22:13]. And Micaiah said to the king’s messenger, “As the Lord liveth, what God says to me, I will say” [1 Kings 22:14].
So Micaiah was brought before the king, and Ahab said, “Micaiah, we are going against Ramoth-gilead. Will the Lord prosper us in it, and will the Lord deliver the city into our hands?” [1 Kings 22:15]. And Micaiah said, “I saw a vision, and all Israel was scattered like sheep upon the hills, without a shepherd [1 Kings 22:17]. It means death to you and disastrous defeat for the armies of God.” And Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Is that not what I told you? I hate him! He always prophesies evil and not good” [1 Kings 22:18]. And Zedekiah, the leader of the four hundred prophets, walked over to Micaiah and with the back of his hand slapped him on the face [1 Kings 22:24]. And Ahab said to his henchman, “Take this man and put him in prison and give him bread of affliction and water of affliction until I come again in triumph and in victory” [1 Kings 22:27]. And Micaiah said, “If you come back at all, the Lord hath not spoken” [1 Kings 22:28].
When they went into battle, Ahab remembered the word of the prophet of God, and he said to Jehoshaphat, “You go into the war with your kingly garments. I am going to disguise myself as though I were an ordinary soldier” [1 Kings 22:29-30]. And the king of Assyria said, “Fight against no one little or great, except against the king of Israel, against Ahab” [1 Kings 22:31]. So when the battle was joined they saw King Jehoshaphat dressed in his kingly raiment, and the army began to pursue him and follow until they found out it wasn’t Ahab. Then they let him go [1 Kings 22:31-32]. But Ahab was disguised in order to preserve his life. But a man drew back a bow at a venture, that is, without aiming, and just let fly the arrow. And the arrow found the place in the joints of his harness and pierced his heart, and his blood flowed out into the chariot, and he died there in the chariot [1 Kings 22:33-35], according to the word of the man of God [1 Kings 21:19, 22:32-35].
And for men to say to us, “Peace, peace,” and there’s not any peace; and all love and no judgment may be well for the theologian as he speaks, and for the modern pulpiteer as he preaches, and for modern theology as it infuses itself over the face of the earth, but I want to know the truth! Is that God, and there’s no wrath and no judgment and no accountability? Is that right? I just want to know the truth. What is God like? And when I stand before Him someday, what shall it be and what shall I say? Tell me the truth, what is God like?
I have the revelation of the Lord there in that Book. This is God’s self-disclosure, and there is a truth in the revelation of God in this Book that never varies. He is introduced to us in the beginning in that way, and through all of the pages of that volume, it never varies and it closes with that same revelation. Let’s follow it through. First, when we are introduced to the Lord God in the beginning and the Lord God said to our first parents, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely, surely, surely die!” [Genesis 2:17]; “Ah,” said Satan, “Ah, God would not do that. Yea, did God say that, ‘Thou shalt surely, surely die.’” “Ah, would God do that? Loving, sentimental, passive, mushy as God is, did God tell you that?” And that was the first lie! Satan questioned the character and the word of Almighty God. And when God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]—the first lie from Satan, “Thou shalt not surely die” [Genesis 3:1-4]. But they died according to the Word of God [Genesis 3:5].
We must continue, as we turn the pages of this Book, in type. This is the whole revelation of the character of the Almighty. And the Lord God looked down from heaven and the earth was filled with violence, just as it is today. And the earth was filled with violence, bloodshed, murder, blasphemy, hatred, war! And the Lord God said, “One hundred twenty years and I shall destroy this humanity off of the face of the earth” [Genesis 6:3, 5, 12-13].
“But Noah, righteous Noah, found grace in the sight of God [Genesis 6:8], and God said to Noah, Build thee an ark to the saving of thy house [Hebrews 11:7], for a hundred twenty years from now I shall destroy this human race off the face of the earth” [Genesis 6:13-22]. “And Noah moved with fear” [Hebrews 11:7] when God said, “I will destroy this humanity” [Genesis 6:7, 13]. Moved with fear, Noah got a hammer and a square and an ax, and he began to hammer and to nail and to build an enormous boat. I don’t know how many miles away from any water to float it, and I can just see, can’t you? I can just hear, can’t you? All of the people of that day gathering around that enormous boat, built on the top of a little hill, hundreds of miles away from any water to float it, and I can just see those people, “Ha ha! Ah, come here, all you engineers, and look at this nut! Come here and look at him everybody. He says God is going to judge us!”
And at the end of one hundred and twenty years, after righteous Noah had preached and warned, at the end of one hundred twenty years, it says and God said to Noah, “Noah, come you and your wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives, and come into the ark” [Genesis 7:1]. And Noah gathered his little family together and brought them in the ark, and then the Bible says and God shut that door [Genesis 7:7, 16]. And God shut that door! And God shut the door! God did it! [Genesis 7:16].
“Oh, but I don’t believe in any such judgment, and I don’t believe in any such God, and that kind of a God to me is the devil!” I am not saying one way or another what you might think or what anybody might think. I want to know the facts. I want to know the truth. Did God do that? Did God shut that door? Did God warn those people a hundred and twenty years, and at the end of a hundred and twenty years when He said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with men” [Genesis 6:3], did God say, “It is enough”? [Genesis 6:12-13]. And did God judge this world? Did He? That’s all I want to know. I want to know the facts?
And as I turn the pages of the Book, I read time and again in the Book of the Judges, “And God delivered the people into the hands of their enemies” [Judges 2:14]. God delivered the people into the hands of the Midianites [Judges 6:1], and God delivered the people into the hands of the Canaanites [Judges 4:2], and God delivered the people into the hands of the Moabites [Judges 3:12-14]. God did it.
And when I turn the pages of that Book and I read about the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom [2 Kings 18:9-12], I hear the word of God to Isaiah as He sayeth, “Those Assyrians are the rod of My anger and the staff of My indignation!” [Isaiah 10:5] And when I read of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple [2 Kings 25:1-11], I read where God says, and He raised up those bitter hasty Chaldeans and established them for judgment and ordained them for correction! [Habakkuk 1:6, 12]. I just want to know, that’s all. I just want to know. Because I am going to stand before Him someday [1 Peter 4:5], I want to know what is He like, and what am I going to say in that great and final hour. That’s all. That’s all.
As I turn these pages and read about Jesus—oh, He is not anything like that mushy, dovey, soft, anemic, sentimental, passive person of modern Christian theology. I don’t see it anywhere. But when I turn these pages and I read about Jesus, I read He is cleansing the temple and driving out the temple traffic and merchandisers [Mark 11:15-17]. In the name of God, there where the Lord is to be worshiped, [they] had booths all over the church in order to traffic in business. Can you imagine that?
To us today it is a horrible thing, as though at that door we had a booth, and at that door one, and this door one, and every time our people came down here, we were trafficking in some kind of merchandise, trying to make money to enrich our coffers and ourselves; that sort of thing. And Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and those that sold oxen and doves and all the rest of it [John 2:13-16]. He drove it out of the temple; all of it! That’s Jesus. He did it by Himself. I’d call that some man; one man against all the temple police, and against the army of Judah, and against all of the rulers. I’d say He is some man! One, just Jesus; a real one, and one that had strength and conviction and courage and character, that’s Jesus!
Whenever you see a picture of Him anemic, bloodless, you don’t have Him, not this One in the Book. Who told this story about Dives who lifted up his eyes in hell being in torments? [Luke 16:23]. Who told that story? Who told this story about the great judgment day when He shall sit on the throne of His glory and divide all mankind? And the Book says that all the nations, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats [Matthew 25:31-33], who said that? The whole presentation of Jesus is one of tremendous and fundamental, moral character and judgment. I must hasten. I turn to the last book in the Bible, that’s why I had you read:
And when they opened the sixth seal, I saw the heaven depart as a scroll when it is rolled together.
And I saw the great men, and the mighty men, and the captains of the earth crying for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them, to hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
[Revelation 6:12, 14-17]
And when I turn to the last chapter in the Bible:
And I saw a great white throne, and He that sat upon it, from whose face the heaven and the earth fled away; and I saw the dead out of the sea, out of the heart of the earth, out of the graves stand before God, and they were judged according to the works that were written in the books. And death and hell were cast in the lake of fire. And all whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of life were cast into the lake of fire.
Lord, is that true? Is that true? Great God, great God, what am I doing? What am I saying? What do these people know? What if you came to the doctor and you had a pimple, and the doctor said, “It is nothing at all, it is just a pimple” and you died of cancer! What would you say? I’d say of all men of any profession in the earth, that doctor is the most unethical. If I go and I have a lesion and it’s cancerous, he must address himself to that malady to save me, he must, he is ethically bound to try. To call it a pimple and brush it aside is to do harm both to his profession and to me, his patient. What if I came to the doctor with a cough, with a cough, and he said, “It is nothing at all. You just have a cold.” But I have tuberculosis and I die of consumption! What of that man?
Dr. Carmen, of all men, that physician is bound both to himself as a professional man and to me as a patient to address himself to the malady that afflicts me and threatens my life. Shall I be less so as a minister of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God? When men are sinful and God says the soul that sins shall die [Ezekiel 18:20], shall I pass over sin as though it were a slight thing? Shall I say there is no moral accountability to God? There is no such thing as being lost and no judgment to face? Shall I? Or shall I preach what God says?
To me, that is the great calling and assignment of the minister who stands in the pulpit and preaches to his people. Sin is a tragic thing, and judgment is an awesome reality, and wisdom begins in the fear of the Lord [Proverbs 9:10]. Lord, what am I to do? And what am I to say? I am a sinner. Lord, Lord, and a dying man, O God what shall I do and what shall I say?
That’s why the Lord called us to preach, and that’s why God wrote the Book, revealing unto us, showing unto us, declaring unto us our iniquities and our transgressions [Romans 3:20, 23]. God points us to Him who can save us from our sins [Matthew 1:21], and deliver us from our iniquities [Isaiah 53:5].
That’s why Jesus came into the world. “He was delivered for our offenses, and He was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25], that sinners as we are, dying as we are, we yet might have eternal life in Him [John 3:16, 10:27-28]. And if there is no damnation, there is no salvation. If sin has no moral repercussion, the atonement of Christ on the cross is of all things puerile and ineffective. And Jesus is no Savior if He does not save us. It is because we are lost, it is because we are sinners, it is because we face a certain judgment, it is because we are morally accountable that Jesus came into the world to die for our sins that we might be saved [1 Timothy 1:15]. And that is what it is to be saved, to look to Jesus, that we might be delivered from the penalty and the judgment of our sins [1 John 2:2].
And that’s what I meant by the title of the sermon, Moved with Fear; coming unto God, asking God to forgive us and to save us, bringing our souls to Jesus, taking our case to the Lord. If you do, God will answer from heaven. He will. That’s why He came into the world [1 Timothy 1:15].
In a book I read, there was a young fellow who was tragically hurt in an accident, rushed to the hospital and placed there in a ward. He did not know the extent of his injuries. He just knew that he was tragically hurt and in great agony and pain. And while he lay there a nurse came and put a screen all around his bed. He knew exactly what that meant. They were expecting him to die. And they put that screen around his bed to close him off from the rest of the men in the ward, that he might die.
And as he lay there on that bed with that dark screen all around him, terror entered his soul! He was no Christian. He’d never confessed his sins to God. He’d never taken Jesus as his Savior. And as he lay there, all of his life of sin and blasphemy passed before him, and he was terrified. He wasn’t ready to die. And while he was lying there in that agony a clock chimed. And he thought, “Before that clock shall chime again I will be dead and in eternity and without God!”
And in his fear as he lay there, his eye wandered upward, and there on the wall on the other side was a Scripture motto, a word of Jesus, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. He read it again and again and again. “Come unto Me.” And then in a great outburst of confession and trust and repentance he said, “Lord Jesus, I come. O God, I come. It’s not too late. I come, I come, Lord, I come.”
The fellow who was in bed next to him listening to the guy surrounded by the screen said, “He is delirious. Poor fellow, he is delirious.” But on the inside that young fellow, lying with that screen all around him, there came a great peace in his heart. There came a great joy in his soul. There came the assurance of forgiveness and salvation from the hands of the blessed Lord. And he lay there.
Ah, he said to himself, “Oh, to die now! I wish I could tell all the fellows I know, and I wish I could tell my own brothers what a wonderful thing it is to have Jesus come into your heart.” Well, while he was lying there thinking those sweet thoughts, the nurse came and took the screen from around the bed, and turned to the young fellow lying there and said, “Oh, sir, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I put this screen around the wrong bed. I am so sorry.” And to the amazement of the nurse, the patient sat up in bed and said, “Nurse, you are sorry? Listen, nurse, that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
That’s the gospel; the awareness of the judgment day [John 16:8]; the awareness of the condemnation of our sins [John 16:9]; the awareness of our need of Jesus [John 3:36]; the awareness of what God has done for us in the delivering of His Son to bear our sins in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. That awareness is the greatest awareness that can ever come to a human soul. The beginning of wisdom is in the fear of the Lord [Proverbs 9:10]. And aware of the judgment of God [John 16:8, 11], aware of our accountability to God to bring our souls to Jesus [Acts 4:12], is the most blessed of all of the decisions that a man shall ever make in his life.
Moved with fear; “Noah warned of God of things not seen as yet, a judgment that was yet to come, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” [Hebrews 11:7]. Will you do that? Will you do that? Are you a father in a home? Will you do that? Will you bring yourself to Jesus, and will you bring to God your family? Will you? Are you a young couple beginning your life together? Will you bring yourself to God and your dear young wife by your side? Will you? One somebody you, will you come yourself? [Ephesians 2:8-9]. “I am a lost sinner, I know it. I don’t seek to hide from anyone’s face the moral accountability I feel in my own soul. I have sinned and come short of God’s expectation” [Romans 3:23]. Haven’t we all? To acknowledge it and to bring your soul to Jesus and ask God to forgive you and to save you for Jesus’ sake [1 John 5:11], is the greatest gift heaven can bestow upon a human heart or upon a human life or upon your home.
While we sing this song in a moment, come, come, come. In the balcony round you, there are steps in the front and the back and on either side, and there is time and to spare. Come. Come. Come. The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, here I come.” Do it now. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Into that aisle, down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I settle it today. I make that decision for Christ now. Here I am and here I come.” Do it. Do it. Do it now. And God bless you and attend you in the way and as you come, while we stand and while we sing.