Moved with Fear
June 30th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
MOVED WITH FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-30-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. I so love to hear this choir sing. This is our teenage Chapel Choir. They are going to a Methodist church tonight to give a concert, and for one night I would almost be willing to be a Methodist just to be there and listen to them sing. Ah, you children bless our souls. You notice they sing without any books? They just sing. They just open their mouths and sing. That is what I like. That is what I like in a preacher. Don’t read some essay up there. Stand up there, ask God to bless you, open your mouth and preach! That is what God says about Simon Peter: “And Simon Peter opened his mouth and said” [Acts 10:34]. Isn’t that what it says in the Book? And Simon Peter opened his mouth and said. I tell you I go to hear some of these preachers preach, and you would think they were standing up there in some small, stammering, lisping apologetic tone of voice as though they were ashamed of what they had to say.
When a guy gets up and preaches, I am like Abraham Lincoln. He said, “When I go to church and hear a man preach, I want him to preach as though he were fighting a swarm of bees.” That is the way I like to hear you sing. I don’t like these little ‘old soft devotional songs either. I like the ones that make the rafters shake and the foundations quiver. That is what I like. I like to hear them sing when they get blue in the face holding those high notes. And when you all go over there to Europe and sing for those Europeans and all those people in Berlin and Bern and Rome and London and Paris, I want you to sing! I want them to say, “Those Americans are a breed of their own. We never saw anybody like that.” I want you to make an impression on them. In fact, I’d like to open my window on the east side of the house and listen to you as you give a concert in Bern. That’s what I’d like.
Well, the sermon this morning is one about a theological conception that is almost dropped out of modern Christianity. The title of the sermon is Moved with Fear. And it is a message on the judgments of Almighty God. I have three passages in the Book of Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews, Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear,” and that was the title I chose for the message, Moved with Fear, “prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of the righteousness which is of faith” [Hebrews 11:7]. And the other is the last verse in the twelfth chapter, “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]. Almost without exception and almost with one accord, there is a segment of modern Christianity and modern Christian theology that would decry and deny such a representation of God as that—that it would be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Hebrews 10:31], and that our God is a consuming fire [Hebrews 12:29], and that anyone might be moved with fear as he faced the reality of the character and judgments of Almighty God [Hebrews 11:7].
You see, we have in our modern Christianity redefined the personality of the Almighty. I couldn’t be any truer, even though I might not use the language they use, I could not be any truer when I describe the modern God of modern Christian faith as being sentimentally weak, made up of mushy, maudlin love. And the repercussions from that theological conception of God, which is not biblical, the repercussions are amazing to behold. We shall look at them for a minute.
One: regarding God Himself: in this modern theological conception, “God is not one who has any mandates or any binding requirements. He is not a God of law or of justice or of righteousness, but He is a God of cheap sentimentality. Let us apply it to Jesus. Jesus is anemic and weak.” I have such an opposite impression of the Lord when I read the Bible. If ever there was a strong, strong man and if there was ever one who was uncompromising, it was the Lord Jesus. All that the righteous judgment of God delineated for man, Jesus was that incarnate; even down to the last jot and tittle of God’s law [Matthew 5:17-18]. Yet, in this modern theological conception, He becomes spineless, bloodless, anemic, weak.
May I apply it now to God’s people? They become just like that. They have no conviction, and they have no commitment, for the God they serve is one of sentimentality, not one of rigorous and final reckoning and judgment. But soft, got a nose made out of wax, you can just move it and shape it any way you please. In these experimental laboratories, they have guinea pigs and mice and chickens. They take different vitamins away from them in order to experiment to see what it is that gives health to life. And my impression of modern Christian theology is like that; it leaves a people without any vitamins. And they become like those experimental animals; they are colorless and lifeless and convictionless!
Now may I apply it to the message that is preached? When God becomes one of sentimental maudlin weakness, mushy, “dovey love” and that alone, when God is described like that, which is, I say, again, so anti-biblical, as you are going to see as I preach this message. When we describe God in those terms, our message becomes without thrust and power and conviction. Why bother whether sin is black or gray or half white? Why be concerned about sin at all? There is no final judgment of God upon sin. And what is it according to this new definition of God. What is it to die, lost in unforgiven sin? There is not any God out there to judge us, just if He exists, just some maudlin, sentimental old grandfather. So there is no trembling before the Almighty. And there is no fear in rejection and in sin. Our message becomes as anemic and weak and convictionless as our definition of God.
Now may I speak of us? All I want to know is the truth. And if God is maudlin and mushy and sentimentally weak, then let me know that! All I want to know is the truth. What is God like? But I certainly want to know the truth, for my eternal salvation, and my immortal soul, and all of the eternity that is to come for me depends on that truth. “Now tell me the truth, preacher. What is God like? Someday when I stand to face Him, how shall it be with me and my soul?”
I’m exactly as that story told in the twenty-second chapter of I Kings. Do you remember that story? Ahab, who was the king of Israel, and a wicked toad, and Jehoshaphat, who was a good man and one of the best kings that Judah ever had, were visiting together. Jehoshaphat came down to Samaria to see Ahab, and Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, “Did you know that Ramoth Gilead, across the Jordan River on the east side, did you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us, and the Syrians have it? Let’s go take it.” And Jehoshaphat said, “I am with you, and my soldiers are as your soldiers, and my horsemen are as your horsemen. I will go with you” [1 Kings 22:1-4]. Then before they went Jehoshaphat and Ahab said, “Let us inquire at the Lord to see whether or not God will give us victory” [1 Kings 22:5].
So Ahab called four hundred of those prophets, and they all said, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and take it, the Lord will deliver it into your hands.” Now Jehoshaphat was a good man and a godly man. And when Jehoshaphat listened to those four hundred prophets say, “Go take it, the Lord will give it into your hands,” he felt there was a psuedo, there was a falseness, there was a lack of a true ring in those four hundred preachers, all saying that same thing. And Jehoshaphat turned to Ahab, the king, and said, “Is there not yet one other prophet of the Lord in whom we might inquire?” And Ahab said, “There is but I hate him because he prophesied evil concerning me.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so. Call for the man. Bring him before me” [2 Kings 22:5-8]. So Ahab sent a messenger to Micaiah, the prophet of God. And when the messenger came to Micaiah the king’s messenger said, “Micaiah, there are four hundred prophets there standing in the presence of the kings, and all of them are prophesying good. Now, Micaiah, you prophesy good too.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord liveth, what God says to me, that will I say.” And when Micaiah the prophet came and stood before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, “Shall we go to war with Ramoth Gilead, and if we do, will God deliver it into our hands?” And Micaiah said, “I saw in a vision all of Israel scattered as sheep without a shepherd!” Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Isn’t that what I told you? I hate him! He prophesies evil and not good” [1 Kings 22:9-18]. And those four hundred prophets said, “Micaiah lies.” And Zedekiah went over to Micaiah and slapped him on the face, struck him with the back of his hand in contempt [1 Kings 22:24].
And Micaiah said to Ahab, “You go, you go but you will not return in peace nor even alive, and the armies of God will be defeated and scattered” [1 Kings 22:17, 28]. And Ahab said to his henchmen, “Take him and put him in prison, and feed him the bread of affliction and water of affliction until I come again in triumph and in victory” [1 Kings 22:26-27].
So Ahab and King Jehoshaphat, with their armies, went against Ramoth Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan River to take the city out of the hand of the Syrians. And Ahab said, “Now, I want you to dress in your kingly robes going into battle. But I can’t but remember what Micaiah that prophet of God said [1 Kings 22:17, 18]. I am going to disguise myself and put on the robes of an ordinary soldier” [1 Kings 22:30]. Now the king of Syria had said, “Fight with none, little or great, except against the king of Israel, Ahab [1 Kings 22:31], but capture him or slay him.”
And in the battle they saw King Jehoshaphat dressed in his kingly garments, and the army began to pursue him, and Jehoshaphat fled! And when the armies of the Syrians saw it was not the king of Israel, Ahab, they left off from pursuing Jehoshaphat and let him go his way. But a soldier, but a soldier in the army of the Syrians, drew back his bow at a venture, that is, he didn’t aim, he just pulled back his bow and let the arrow speed. And that arrow found a joint in the harness, in the armor, of Ahab and pierced his heart. And his blood flowed out into the chariot. And he said to his driver, “Take me out of the host, for I am wounded unto death.” And he died there in the chariot [1 Kings 22:32-35]. The rest of the story is according to the prophecy of Elijah, God’s servant [1 Kings 21:19]; they washed the blood out of the chariot at the pool of Samaria, and the dogs came and licked up his blood [1 Kings 22:38].
All I want to know is the truth, and there are many, many today who hate God’s true servants. “We don’t like that kind of message. We don’t like to listen to that kind of preaching, and we don’t like those denunciations, and those callings to repentance, and those harsh and tragic realities. We don’t like that. Make it soft, preacher. Make it maudlin. Make it sentimental. Make it sweet. That’s the kind of preaching we like, and that’s the kind of theology we love.”
As I say, all I want to know is the truth, for my soul depends upon it, and my eternity of the eternities out beyond that grave depends upon that truth. “Preacher, tell me the truth.” All right, let’s look at it.
What is God like? What is God really like? Now in one brief message like this, and our time is gone before we hardly start, in one brief message like this, I could not begin to present the full roundedness of the glory of the personality and being of Almighty God. I’m just taking one little facet of His character, one little facet of the revelation of the Almighty in this Book.
And that facet is this: that if God is anything at all presented and revealed in this Bible, always He is a God of holy righteousness and of judgment, always from the beginning of this Book to the end of this Book. And that’s why time and over again you will find it written in that Book, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” [Psalm 111:10], the reverential awe and respect to the great God Almighty. “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” [Proverbs 9:10].
Now in just the little time that remains to me, let me follow that revelation of God through the Book. We will start with the first and go to the last and just see it here and here and here.
First, to begin with: and God said to our first parents, “In the day that you eat thereof thou shalt surely, surely, surely, surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And Satan came and said, “Yea, hath God said, ‘thou shalt surely die’?” [Genesis 3:1-4]. God said, “Thou shalt surely die,” and Satan said, “Yea, hath God said.” The first lie concerned the word of Almighty God. And I need not follow the story that follows after [Genesis 3:6-7], when death and all our woe entered into our world: “Thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. That’s what God said. We must hasten. Let’s take it in type.
God looked down from heaven, and the earth was full of violence [Genesis 6:11-12], like it is today; and the earth was full of violence, and men blasphemed the name of God. There were atheists everywhere. There were whole nations that were committed to atheism and blasphemy, just as it is today. The Lord God looked down from heaven, and the earth was filled with violence, and God said, “A hundred and twenty years, a hundred and twenty years. My Spirit shall not always strive with man; a hundred and twenty years” [Genesis 6:3].
And righteous Noah found grace in His sight [Genesis 6:8], and God said to Noah, “I shall destroy this earth and every living thing that breathes on the land [Genesis 6:7], including all of these wicked of mankind, a hundred twenty years. Now you build an ark” [Genesis 6:13-14]. I can just see that day. It wouldn’t take much imagination to see that day. There a hundred or more miles from any water to float it, Noah began to build an enormous boat! And I can see the people laugh, “Ha, ha, ha, come and look, come and see.”
But Noah hammered away on that ark. And at the end of a hundred twenty years according to the word of Almighty God, nothing weak or maudlin, or mushy, or sentimental about this; at the end of that one hundred twenty years, God said to Noah, “All right, Noah, bring your family.” And Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives, entered into the ark, and the Book says God shut that door! God shut that door! God shut the door [Genesis 7:1, 7, 13, 16].
And the judgment fell [Genesis 7:17-24]. That’s the type of the whole message of God. When the Lord allowed Samaria and Israel to be destroyed, He said of Assyria, “They are the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5]. When the bitter Chaldeans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, God said, “I have ordained them for judgment; and established them for correction” [Habakkuk 1:12].
Now we come to the Lord Jesus Himself. Who was it that told us the story about Dives lifting up his eyes in hell, being in torments? Who told that story? [Luke 16:19-31]. Who is it that, in all of the pages of literature, uttered the most scathing denunciation of hypocrisy and sin that is to be found in human speech? It is from the lips of Jesus in the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-36]. Who told the story of the separation of the sheep from the goats? In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, it was the Lord Jesus [Matthew 25:31-46].
And I hasten to the last book in the Bible. That’s why I had you read the opening of the sixth seal:
And when the sixth seal was opened I saw the heavens part as a scroll when it is rolled together:
And the captains and the great men and the mighty men of the earth cried for the rocks and the mountains of the earth to fall upon them, and to hide us from the face of Him who 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]
My brother, in God’s Book and in this Bible, you have a revelation of a God of righteousness, and of holiness, and of judgment [1 Peter 4:5], and sin has to be reckoned with and atoned for and forgiven [Hebrews 9:22], without which forgiveness no man shall stand in the presence of God and live [Hebrews 12:14].
And that’s why the preaching of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God; we are in a tragic state in our sins. We are lost and condemned without God [John 3:36], and because of the tragedy of the lostness of our estate, Jesus came to die for our sins, that we might be saved in His atoning grace and blood [Hebrews 10:4-14; Leviticus 17:11; Matthew 26:28].
And that’s why my text. “And Noah, warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear” [Hebrews 11:7], moved with fear. “For it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Hebrews 10:31], for our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29]. And to tremble in the presence of God is a man’s rightful place. To bow before Him in reverential awe and respect and fear, and to plea the mercies [Titus 3:5], and grace [Ephesians 2:8], and the atoning love of Jesus [Galatians 2:20], that he might be saved; that is what this Book is about. And that is the message of Jesus, the Son of God [Romans 10:9-10]. And if that message is brought to our hearts and we turn and look in faith and repentance to Jesus, God’s mercy has found its ultimate purpose and reason in the saving and delivering of our souls [Titus 3:5].
In one of these books I read of a young man who had been in a severe accident. And in a ward in a hospital where he had been rushed, he did not know the extent of his injuries, he just knew that he was in terrible pain and seriously hurt. And while he was lying there, a nurse came into the ward and put a screen around his bed, and he knew what that meant! They were expecting him to die. And the nurse put that screen around his bed. They were expecting him to die. And the young man was stricken with fear. He was no Christian. He hadn’t made peace with God. And the whole life of sin and rejection passed before his eyes.
He heard the clock chime, and before the clock chimed again, he knew he’d be dead. And he wasn’t prepared to meet God. And in his agony of soul, lying there on that bed with a screen around him so he could die shut out from the other men in the ward, his eyes wandered upward and happened to see a motto, a Scripture text on the other wall, and it read, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]; from the words and invitation of Jesus.
And he knew enough about the gospel to know that if we trust in Christ we can be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. And as he read that text and as the convicting power of the Spirit moved in his soul [John 16:8-15], the young fellow cried out aloud, “Lord Jesus, I do come. I do come. I come to Thee, Lord. It’s not too late, is it Lord? I come.” And the fellow in the bed next to him, hearing the fellow cry beyond the screen, said, “Poor fellow, poor fellow, he’s delirious, he’s delirious.”
But on the inside of that screen, there came peace, and gladness, and rest, and joy, and forgiveness, and salvation. And as the boy lay there, waiting death, he said to himself, “Oh, I wish I just had time to live to tell my friends and to tell my brothers what has happened to me. Jesus has come into my heart.”
And upon that the nurse came and took away the screen, and turned to the young fellow and said, “Young fellow, I apologize so greatly and deeply. I apologize. I am so sorry. I put the screen around the wrong bed.” And to the amazement of that 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 what I’m preaching about. The greatest thing that can ever happen to a man in his life is to realize that he is lost without God [John 3:36], and bring himself to Jesus. “Lord, I need forgiveness of my sins [Colossians 1:14]. Lord, I need intervention and grace [Ephesians 2:8], and mercy from heaven [Titus 3:5]. Lord, I need Jesus in my soul.” That’s the greatest thing that can ever happen to a man. There is a reason to come to Jesus [Matthew 11:28; John 10:27-30]. There is a reason to trust in the Lord [Acts 16:30]. There is a reason to confess our sins to God [1 John 1:9]. These are facts I’m preaching; facts that I read in the Book, and facts that I know in human life and in your experience.
We must close. And while we sing our song of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give himself to the Lord, come and stand by me. “Pastor, I am a sinner, and I know it. I fall short of the glory and expectation of God [Romans 3:23], and I know it, and today I am looking in faith to the blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. I want Jesus to forgive my sins and to wash my soul clean and white of the stain that is in it [1 John 1:7, 9]. Now, I want the Lord to come into my heart. I want to be saved [Romans 10:13]. And here I am and here I come. He promised if I come to Him He would not cast me out [John 6:37], and I am coming.” As God the Holy Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Make it this morning. Do it now. On the first note of that first stanza, come, and the Lord bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.