STOOPING TO CONQUER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-14-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Stooping to Conquer.
If you remember your English literature, that is the title of one of Oliver Goldsmith’s famous dramatic presentations. But it fits the message exactly, Stooping to Conquer, humbling yourself in the presence of God that He might exalt you in His grace and goodness. Now the reading of the passage is in the ninth chapter of the Psalms, Psalm number 9, verses 1 and 2:
I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all Thy marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High.
Now beginning in verse 8:
And He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.
Now the last part of verse 12: "He forgetteth not the cry of the humble" [Psalm 9:12]. And the last verse: "For the needy shall not alway be forgotten" [Psalm 9:18].
The text, "He forgetteth not the cry of the humble" [Psalm 9:12], all of us who live in this world are very conscience of two parts in it. There is good and there is bad. There are rich and there are poor. There are the proud and there are the humble. There is a kingdom of light in this world. There is a kingdom of darkness. There is a kingdom presided over by Satan. There is a kingdom presided over by the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are all in one of those kingdoms or the other.
To us, things sometimes are gray. They are sometimes in between, but not to God. In God’s sight the thing is either right or wrong. In God’s sight we are kingdom’s citizens. In the world that belongs to Satan or the world that belongs to Christ. We are either in or out. We are on one side or the other. We are with Christ or we are against Him. Now, those two kingdoms differ so drastically.
Satan said the kingdom of this world is his, and he offered it one time to the Lord. And if that were not true, that the kingdom was his, it was no temptation for Christ to take it from his hand. It was an offer to Jesus to become the Lord and ruler of all the earth, without the suffering of the cross [Matthew 4:8-9]. So, there is a kingdom in this world that belongs to Satan. It has glory. It has grandeur. It has riches. It has the attractiveness of everything that the world can offer.
There is also a kingdom of Christ in this world, a kingdom of love, and grace, and forgiveness; a kingdom of life and light and immortality. And there are characteristics of this kingdom of our Lord as there are characteristics of the kingdom of Satan.
The kingdom of Satan is a world of lust for power and greed for advancement and finally resolves itself in the darkness of war and slaughter. All of the dark things that we read in the newspapers and hear on the radio, all of that is the sowing of Satan and all of it are component parts; violence, and bloodshed, and murder, and greed, and pride, and lust for power, and vain ambition, misery, heartache, tears, trouble. All of that is a part of the kingdom of Satan.
There are many characteristics of the kingdom of Christ, and I am going to speak this morning of two parts in it; the characteristics of the kingdom citizens, those who belong to Jesus. Then I am going to speak of the keys of that kingdom, how we enter into it and how we touch its power.
First: the characteristics of kingdom citizens. What kind of people are they who belong to Christ and who are citizens of the kingdom of light? In your passage this morning that we read aloud, our Savior characterized the citizens that belong to His kingdom.
First, they are happy ones. Isn’t that what you read? Or maybe the translation of the word hid its real meaning. For you read it "Blessed are the poor in spirit" [Matthew 5:3]. The word is makarios, makarios. And the word makarios is the ordinary Greek word for "happy, glad." "Blessed, makarios, happy are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 5:3]. "Makarios, happy are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" [Matthew 5:4]. Isn’t that an unusual thing? "Happy are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." "Makarios, happy are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" [Matthew 5:5].
What an amazing come to pass! Happy are the citizens of the kingdom of our Lord. Happy, happy are they being poor. Happy are they even when they mourn. Happy are they, the meek. Happy are they that hunger and thirst, makarios, happy. Whenever you see one of God’s children all down in the dumps and all down in the mouth and all discouraged and sitting under a juniper tree, he’s just that much not like a kingdom citizen. He just misses it that far. And when you are that way, you are just that much farther away from God and from our blessed Jesus; makarios, happy, happy, the blessed ones, the happy ones are the kingdom citizens of Jesus.
Now I’m going to read you a poem, not because of the sentiment of the poem so much though it is one of the most preciously beautiful in sentiment that I have ever read. But I am reading you this poem because the man that wrote it was an infidel! He was an atheist. But there was a washer woman who made an impression upon him. Now I want you to listen to this poem, "The Washerwoman’s Song":
In a very humble cot,
In a rather quiet spot,
In the suds and in the soap,
Worked a woman full of hope;
Working, singing, all alone,
In a sort of under tone:
"With a Savior for my friend,
He will keep me to the end."
Not in sorrow nor in glee
Working all day long was she,
As her children, three or four;
Played around her on the floor;
But in monotones the song
She was humming all day long:
"With a Savior for my friend,
He will keep me to the end."
It’s a song I do not sing,
For I scarce believe a thing
Of the stories that are told
Of the miracles of old;
But I know that her belief
Is the antidote for grief,
And that Christ will be her friend
Who will keep her to the end.
Just a trifle lonesome she,
Just as poor as poor could be;
But her spirits always rose,
Like the bubbles in the clothes,
And, though widowed and alone,
Cheered her with the monotone,
Of a Savior for her friend
Who would keep her to the end.
I have seen her rub and scrub,
On the washboard in the tub,
While the baby, sopped in suds,
Rolled and tumbled in the duds;
Or was paddling in the pools,
With old scissors stuck in spools;
Still humming of her friend
Who would keep her to the end.
Human hopes and human creeds
Have their root in human needs;
And I would not wish to strip
From that washerwoman’s lip
Any song that she can sing,
Any hope that songs can bring;
For the woman has a friend
Who will keep her to the end.
["The Washerwoman’s Song," James C. Malin]
What you think about that for an infidel? I am just saying that it is not nearly so much these sermons we preach and these high founding theological persuasions that we are supposed to represent in the church. I am just saying that what makes impressions for God on people who don’t believe in Him is how we are in our lives. And I ought to exhibit and to represent and dramatically portray and present all my life an up-ness. I just ought to do it. I ought to do it.
And when I am down, Lord, forgive me. I need to go aside and have a little talk with Jesus. When I am discouraged or blue, I need to get to myself and tell the Lord all about it and let Him put me a song in my soul. "He forgetteth not the cry of the humble" [Psalm 9:12]. Blessed, happy are His kingdom citizens.
All right, another characterization of them. Not only are they happy, but the great ones in His kingdom are unusual people, very unusual, the great ones. Now when I think of great men, great citizens, why, I look up you know and see all these people that rule the nations of the earth and that preside over the assemblies of God’s creation. But the great ones in this kingdom are so different; the kingdom citizens, the great ones among them.
Now, you have that very meticulously portrayed and outlined in God’s Book. It came about like this. Those disciples were very persuaded, and I am too, that Jesus has a kingdom and they were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, sitting on twelve thrones [Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30], all those things. The Lord Himself told them so and I believe that. I believe every word of that Book. And some of these days, every one of those things will come to pass just as our Lord said it here in that Book.
There is a kingdom and Jesus is going to be King [Hebrews 1:8]. It will be King Jesus someday. And there will be those who sit on His right hand and on His left hand [Mark 10:37-40]. There will be a prime minister and a chancellor of the exchequer. There will be authority rule. There will be governments. I think this whole universe is going to be rejuvenated, all of it. I don’t mean just this planet. I mean the whole creation. I think God says so [Romans 8:21-22]. And if God says so, someday that is coming to pass. And I think the government of the whole creation is going to be placed in the hands of God’s saints. He has a kingdom and He is going to reign visibly and personally and we are going to be with Him and we are going to share in that authority and that government [2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 22:3-5]. We are going to sit with our Lord, with Him on His throne.
Now it was that kind of a thing as the Lord had spoken to the disciples that brought a controversy among them, an altercation among them. For when they gathered for the Last Supper, they didn’t know it was the Last Supper. Today we know it as the Last Supper. Well, there was a quarrel among them as to who would be greatest in the kingdom. Now that quarrel was precipitated by what they were doing. They were seating the disciples at the Last Supper table. And the Lord of course was seated here in the center. So, as they chose their places and assigned them, why, somebody had to sit next to Jesus the Lord on this side, and somebody had to sit next to Jesus on this side. And in that arrangement of who is going to sit next to the Lord, why, those disciples fell into that bitter, acrimonious discussion as to who was going to be greatest in the kingdom [Luke 22:24].
Well, you can’t have church where the deacons are all jealous of each other and when the people are all bickering. You can’t have God’s Spirit among us when we are envious of each other or jealous. You can’t. Envy and jealousy will just drive the Holy Spirit out and away.
So, the first thing the Lord did was, they had no servant there, the Lord and His twelve disciples. And as you know in a Jewish household, your guest would come and they would wash his feet. That was a part of the religious ritual of having a guest in your home. The servant would wash your feet. Well, there was no servant there in that upper room, so the Lord took a basin, a bowl, and poured it full of water and took off His clothes [John 13:4]. And I don’t care in what group or language in the earth, there is not anything as humbling as when you take off your clothes. With our clothes on we can be very proud, and it gives us a complex of a peacock, which most of us need I’m sure. But, when you take off your clothes, it just is amazing how much we are all alike. We are just folks.
He took off His clothes and He girded Himself with a towel, put a towel around His waist. And He began to wash the disciple’s feet, doing the service of a servant; He began to wash the disciples’ feet. And after He had washed their feet, including Simon Peter’s who said, "Lord, You are not going to wash my feet. Not mine, not mine." And the Lord said, "Simon, if I do not wash your feet, you will have no part with Me." And Simon said, "Lord, if it takes that to be with Thee, not my feet only, but wash my hands and wash my head. Wash me all over." That’s when the Lord said, "He that is washed needeth not save but to wash His feet, but is every whit clean, whole" [John 13:4-10].
Do you ever think about what these Scriptures mean? This is what that means. If a man is saved, if he is washed, if he has been saved, he never needs to be saved again. He never needs to be washed again. All he needs is just to wash his feet. That is as you walk through the day you become sinful, polluted, tainted, you get dirty. Every day you need to take yourself to God and say, "Lord, forgive me my sins." You are taught to pray that way [Luke 11:4]. And as you walk through the day, your feet get dirty and you need to wash your feet. But you don’t need to be saved again. You are saved one time. He that is washed, he that is saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5], is every whit clean. He need but save to wash his feet. Every day coming to Jesus say, "Lord, I didn’t make it today, didn’t quite measure up today. Lord, I made a mistake here and I fell short there." And take your sins every day to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you, washing feet.
Well, anyway, when He had washed the disciple’s feet, He said, now look at this. "If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet" [John 13:14]. Now the old timers "in them thar hills" take that as a commandment for an ordinance. The reason that is not an ordinance in the church is the Holy Spirit by the apostles, so Jesus said, would interpret what Jesus meant [John 16:13]. Now, the Holy Spirit by the apostles did not make an ordinance of that. There are two ordinances in the church, the ordinance of baptism, the initial ordinance [Matthew 28:19-20], and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, the recurring church ordinance [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 23:23-26]. By the Holy Spirit through the apostles in the Book we know there are only two ordinances, so this is not an ordinance, washing feet. It is something that Jesus did to tell us what I am trying to say now. "If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet" [John 13:14].
All right, now the next verse, makarios are ye. Makarios are ye if ye do as I have given you an example. Makarios, happy are you if you are like that [John 13:15-17]. I don’t know what to substitute for washing feet, but I have been thinking of it for years, and years, and years. I wish there were something that I could come up with whereby as a church when we met together we showed one another our love and deference. I wish I knew how. And if I knew how to do that, we might have a service down here where we wash one another’s feet. But it wouldn’t have the meaning for us that God would have it to mean, so I don’t try.
But what does the Book say? Makarios, happy are you if you are like that [Matthew 5:5]. Who are the great ones in this kingdom? The great ones in the kingdom are those who bow, those who are humble, those who serve. You are a servant for Jesus’ sake.
"Can I do something to help? Ask me. I don’t want to be personally exalted or uplifted. But if I can help, ask me," that spirit. And when I look at some of God’s servants who are great in the kingdom I am amazed at how they are like that. Every once in awhile, why, you will see somebody cross the ecclesiastical stage, proud and lifted up and apparently better than anyone else and many, many other things. But they are not the great ones in the kingdom. I want to pick out a great one.
William Carey is a Baptist saint. He was the founder of the modern missionary movement. I went over there to Calcutta, that’s where he landed, first modern missionary. He couldn’t continue his work in Calcutta because of the East India Company. The British company wouldn’t let him. They didn’t want those natives bothered. They wanted to make money off of them. So, he went up the Ganges River, about eighteen miles to Sarampour, to a Danish colony, and there he built his college and did his work.
So I went up that eighteen miles on the other side of the river from Calcutta to visit that college. And as I walked around, why, I went into the library, and there on those shelves, oh, I just cannot describe to you the overwhelming feeling that I had that one humble man could do so much; one man! There were grammars and lexicons and translations in twenty-eight different languages, and he had made the Word of God open and available to three hundred million people; a phenomenal thing. And the learnedness of that shoe cobbler with those dictionaries, and lexicons, and grammars, and translations, the library was full of them. It just overwhelmed me.
Well, after I walked through the library and looked at it, why, I went out on to the campus of the college. And he is buried on that campus. So, I went to his grave and stood there at the grave and read that writing on the headstone. And this is the sentence that he wrote for his headstone. "A [wretched poor] and helpless worm on Thy kind arms I fall." I repeat it, "A [wretched poor and] helpless worm on Thy kind arms I fall," one of the greatest men who had one of the most far reaching influences of all of the species of humanity. Think of it. Think of it.
The kingdom citizens, they are happy. They are servants. Now a third thing: how they are who are honored of God in the kingdom. What kind of people are they? Well, let’s look at them. They are very faithfully delineated in God’s Word. The Lord presents two in contrast. Here is an elder brother who says to his father:
Never at any time did I ever transgress one of thy commandments. I have been here in this house. I have worked all day and all night and I have been faithful in all of my assignments and never at any time have I ever transgressed one of thy commandments. But this brother of mine who has wasted his substance with harlots and has squandered his inheritance has come back and you kill for him the fatted calf and you have given him musical instruments to rejoice with and a party and all of these things and you are making merry when he ought to have been shoved down the sewer and pushed out in the gutter.
I don’t know how or why but there is nobody in the earth that reads that story but that has sympathy for that prodigal boy coming back home. Why? Because, because in the kingdom of our Lord pride and pharisaical superiority has no place. But that prodigal who wasted his substance in riotous living came back and said, "Lord, I am no longer worthy to be a son. Make me a servant" [Luke 15:18-21], the kind of people that God honors in His kingdom.
Well, let’s take it again. Jesus said two men went down to the temple to pray [Luke 18:9]. And the Pharisee lifted up his face to heaven and said, "Lord, I thank Thee I am not like other men" [Luke 18:11]. Then he described all those other people around him, all of that flotsam and jetsam around him. "I thank Thee, Lord, I am not like other men." Then he happened to notice that publican down there, and said, "Lord, I thank Thee especially that I am not like him" [Luke 18:11]. Well, that’s way he prayed. But that publican beat on his breast and would not even lift his face to heaven, but bowed his head in God’s presence, and said, "Lord, be merciful to me the sinner" [Luke 18:13]. And that’s the Greek of it, the sinner, as though nobody else had sinned. "Lord, be merciful to me the sinner." The Lord said that publican went down to his house justified, that is declared righteous [Luke 18:14].
Let’s take it again. Jesus is seated at a banquet and Simon the Pharisee is giving it. And while He is eating there a street woman, a prostitute, came in and bathed His feet and dried them with the hair of her head. And the Pharisee was offended, and he said, "If that man were a true prophet He would know what kind of a woman that is that touches Him" [Luke 18:39]. And I haven’t time to follow the conversation through, but Jesus blessed makarios, blessed that street woman who had found hope and haven in the love, and mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus [Luke 7:36-50].
Well, let’s take it again. As He died on the cross, on one side of Him was a robber, a traitor, a blasphemer, a malefactor who was dying, who cursed. But on the right of Him was a malefactor, a murderer, a traitor who said, "We deserved this condemnation and this judgment." Then turning to Jesus said, "Lord, someday when you come into Your kingdom, remember me." And Jesus said to him, "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:39-43].
Just once again. And Simon Peter said to the Lord, "Lord, all these disciples may deny Thee, but I will never deny Thee." And the Lord said, "Simon, before that cock crows twice, the cock crows first at midnight, second at the dawn of the morning; before that cock crows, twice you will thrice deny that you even know Me" [Mark 14:29-30]. You know the story that follows. And when the Lord Jesus talked to Simon Peter after He was raised from the dead, Simon Peter was hurt that the Lord said, "Lovest thou Me?" and said, "Lord, You know everything. I am not saying anymore that I am stronger or better than anybody else. But You know, Lord, that I love Thee." And that’s when the Lord commissioned him to feed the flock and to shepherd the people of the Lord [John 21:15-17].
Who are the great ones in the kingdom? And who are the honored ones in the kingdom? They who bow, they who are humble in His presence. They who are servants in God’s household of faith. Makarios, blessed are you if knowing these things you are like that. Master, help me to be like that. O Lord, as I walk in and out, help me to be like that, and help thee to be that way. And that is what fills the church with love, preciousness, life, glory, happiness. That’s what does it.
And that’s what makes this church great. If there are any cliques in this church, I don’t know it. If there are any folks in this church that feel that they are better than anybody else in this church, I don’t know it. Sometimes we do get kind of discouraged, I know. Sometimes we have a little difficulty in singing and praising God because the way is not always easy, and troubles sometimes multiply. But that is all right. Give us a little time maybe to have one of those little visits with Jesus, and we will be all right. We’ll be singing again. We’ll be up again. We’ll be a worthy kingdom citizen again.
Well, I am halfway through my sermon. What shall I do with the other half? Just what shall I do with the other half? I just feel so happy in my heart today. I don’t know why. I am just so grateful to God today. He is so good to us. God blesses us. I close. "It is the goodness of God that leadeth thee to repentance" [Romans 2:4]. That’s what the Book says. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.
If God has been good to you, tell Him so. Open your heart to Him. Give Him your life. Come down this aisle and tell me so where men and angels can see you, "Lord, every day that I have been away from Thee has been a lost day, a day that is gone, but beginning now I give my whole heart and life to Thee." Do it, and come. A family you to put your life in our dear church; a couple you, or one somebody you, while we sing this song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
STOOPING TO CONQUER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Kingdom citizens
A. The blessed man
B. The great ones
C. The honored ones
II. The keys to the kingdom, content with God
A. Source of power
B. Seat of salvation
C. Vision of God
III. What contrition, humility, lowliness will do
A. Save a nation
B. Save a city
C. Save the souls of men
D. What it will do for a church
E. What it will do for us
F. What it will do for the lost