November 30th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-30-69 7:30 p.m.
You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Blessings Abounding. And the text will be when we come to verse 50. Now sharing your Bible and all of us reading out loud and together, beginning at verse 44, now together:
And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And, behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
And the text:
And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into glory.
Blessings Abounding. Like our song service tonight, there is a lift in just the thought of the immeasurable, abounding, overflowing goodnesses that have been bequeathed to mankind and to us through the merciful ministries of our Lord. We take them for granted. We’ve never lived in any other culture or in any other nation. From childhood we have known these gracious beneficences that come from Christ, so we’re not aware of them. We’ve never been without them. And for the most part – and I’ll watch myself in it – when we have service of thanksgiving, and we testify, almost always, as last Wednesday night in my own testimony, we seek some unusual providential intervention of God in our lives. And we are persuaded that, unless the intervention, the answer to prayer, is some stupendous miraculous remembrance, that we have nothing to be particularly thankful for. Yet I would not have to elaborate the point to avow that the most precious of all blessings are those that are most common and most daily shared.
I do not gainsay or belittle, nor would I overlook the unusual intervention, the marvelous, gloriously significant gift that comes once in a while upon an unusual occasion in our lives; but I’m just saying that we overlook those common ordinary gifts that come from the hands of Christ to us who live in a Christian nation, in a Christian home, in a Christian culture. For example, if you were hungry, if you were starving, all the other gifts in life, gold piled up, lands league upon league, riches, all of it would be as nothing; you can’t eat gold, you can’t masticate dirt or land, you couldn’t assimilate a house. Of all of the blessings, if you were hungry, the first and foremost would be bread, it would be food, just something to eat. If you were thirsty, dying of thirst, you might own the great ship upon which you floated, but the greatest blessing would be a drink of water, just water, a cup of cool, cold, clear water.
I remember so many years ago a teacher at Baylor; he told this story. He said that there was a man who coveted diamonds. He loved diamonds, he searched for diamonds, he was inordinately afflicted with the admiration and coveting of diamonds, and someone said to him, "Across the desert there are diamonds, diamonds, diamonds." So he provided himself with provisions to cross the desert, on the other side to find those sparkling and brilliant gems. But he miscalculated, and he had not enough water to cross the desert. So as the days passed and the sun burned down, he found himself famishing for water. Finally was able just to crawl. And in the hot searing and burning sun and in the drifting sands, as he crawled, he saw in the sand a water canteen. With a shout of joy and the prospect of the gift of life, he came to the place, lifted it up, unscrewed the cap, and tilted the canteen to drink of its life-giving flow. But when he opened the canteen and tilted it to drink, instead of water, out of the canteen there flowed a clear sparkling stream of diamonds. He looked at it and watched them pour in the sand, and flung it away, to die beneath the scorching desert sun.
Well, I thought that was a very dramatic story, and as I listened to him, I thought of the professor: now, how did he know how that happened, because that guy died out there in the desert, and there wasn’t anybody to tell about it? I thought a whole lot of things, as these kids think, you know, as they listen to a teacher or a preacher and they get their little pea shooters out, and oh, they think through everything that the teacher says. Well, I was that way too when I was young – thought I knew everything, and didn’t know anything – but the lesson is just the same: it is a story, but it illustrated something that stayed in my head and my heart through all of these years. The great blessings are always those that are commonplace, but no less gloriously precious and necessary.
So when I come to this sermon and speak of our blessings abounding, the gifts of Christ, you’re going to find them very ordinary and very common; but they are blessings that characterize the Christian nation, and the Christian home, and the Christian life. And I begin first with the blessings that have enriched all mankind. "And He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, as He blessed them, He was taken up from them into glory" [Luke 24:50-51]. First: the blessings from the gracious hands of our Lord that enrich all mankind; aren’t we grateful that we’re not animists, worshiping sticks and stones and creeks and rivers and trees? Aren’t we grateful that we’re not idolaters, worshiping thousands and millions of gods and images? As the psalmist said, "Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord" [Psalm 33:12]. As Micah said in 4:5, "Every nation now walks in the name of its god; but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and forever" [Micah 4:5]. Oh, what a blessing just to know the name of God and to have been taught to lift since childhood the precious, sweet name of Jesus!
The blessings of our Lord to humanity; I went, as you know, on a preaching mission around the world one time, for over four months, and the thing that doubtless impressed me as much as anything else was this: wherever you found the church, there you would find the school, there you would find the hospital, and there you would find the orphan’s home. Wherever the gospel is preached and the name of our Lord is named, there you will find those blessed ministries to the people in the name of Jesus. There was a great physicist in America named Robert A. Milliken; he died in 1953. He was a far-famed scientist; he was a Nobel Prize winner. And one time that great scientist, Dr. Robert A. Millikan, said, quote, "Ninety-five percent of all the altruistic humanitarian gestures in the earth find their mainspring in the Christian church." I believe that. The milk of human kindness such as it is, and such as we see in humanity, comes mostly and largely from the spirit and attitude and love of Jesus.
Upon a day, I was the guest of Curtis Askew and his wife in their missionary home in Hiroshima – Hiroshima, as they pronounce it in Japan – and while I was seated there at the breakfast table, there came a knock at the door, and a precise, beautifully dressed Japanese gentleman came, and the missionary couple told me that he was their teacher; he was teaching them Japanese. It was a delight to me to get to visit with him, and he was an amazing man. He had been an officer in the army, the Japanese army that had invaded China, and during World War II he was a commander of a battleship in the navy of Japan. Because of his war record, he was proscribed by law from public office, but he had found a living in teaching Japanese, and especially to missionaries. And to my surprise, he was a Christian. So I asked him how he became a Christian; how it is that a great man such as he was not a Shintoist? How is it he was a Christian? And his testimony was simple, and it ran like this: he said that he was with the invading conquering armies of Japan in China, and wherever those armies went, in every city they sacked and every province they conquered, there followed rape and violence and murder and atrocities. But he said in China he was introduced especially and particularly to the work of the missionary, and he said wherever the missionary went, there was not violence, and murder, and rape, and distortion, and excess; but wherever the missionary went, there was peace, and love, and healing, and ministering. And he said as the days passed, those things that he saw with his own eyes became increasingly impressive to his heart, and after the war was over and he was relegated to civilian life, he said, "I took Christ as my Savior, and I became a Christian because of what I had seen in the lives and ministries of the missionaries."
I think that is true. Wherever the gospel in sincerity and love is preached, there will you find brotherhood and peace. It extends across national borders; it extends across the seas, hands of brotherhood across the oceans. It extends across color lines, language lines, cultural lines, social lines. That’s one of the reasons I love this church. Where you’re seated there may be a millionaire right by your side – it’s not likely, but could be – but you’d never know the difference in our church. The poorest of the poor are in this church, the richest of the rich are members of this church, but we’re all alike in one great brotherhood in the name of our Lord; the blessings of Christ for all humanity.
I must hasten. The blessings of Christ, "And He lifted up His hands, and blessed them" [Luke 24:50], the blessings of Christ upon our people, our country, our land, our beautiful America – you know, when I go abroad and go outside of the orbit of the Christian world, such as in India, or in Pakistan, or in Indonesia, or in Africa, you know, one of the things that I miss the most is Sunday. For in all of those nations, every day is just like every other day. Nothing stops, nothing changes, everything goes on just as it does; one day is just like another day. I miss Sunday. Sunday is a great institution in the name of Christ in our country. Oh, I could pray so earnestly that we shall be able to keep it that; for the heathen do not observe it, and the pagans do not possess it. When men live outside of the pale and will of Christ, that’s the way they are, and America is moving toward that pagan observance of just sweeping away all holy days. O Lord, that we could keep it in our nation and our country, just Sunday, God’s day in Christ, the Lord’s Day, to rest, to cease from our labors, to go to church, to visit the sick or the needy or the lost, to praise God, to gather in His house; Sunday, the Lord’s Day of worship and hallowed remembrance.
And the blessings of Christ in a Christian nation, our little children – why, we see them play, we see them come, go, we think nothing about it at all, but come with me, come with me. In New Delhi, upon a day, a missionary said to me, "Let me show you something." And I went with him over and away and across the city, and he stopped his car, and I walked with him into a courtyard, and there in the courtyard was a foundry, an iron foundry, and to the right of that foundry he took me inside an iron building. And on the inside of that iron building, I stood in amazement; I could hardly believe, I could hardly realize what my very eyes were looking upon. In that iron building were little boys, little boys – I mean boys seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven years of age – there were little boys who were making steel iron hinges: they were working at a forge, they were cutting those pieces of metal, they were boring holes in them, they were putting together iron hinges. The little fellows were black, black, black; they were covered with coal dust and soot. They had never been bathed. As I looked at them and smiled, they smiled back at me, the little fellows, their teeth just as white as snow against that black, black, black dirt. They were working there from sunup till sundown, making iron hinges. And the missionary said to me, "There is not a child that will live beyond thirteen or fourteen years of age. The inhalation, the breathing of that forge and the dirt and the soot finally so destroys their lungs that any kind of disease can take them away." Did you ever see that in America? Did you ever see that in any Christian land? We take these blessings for granted. "And He lifted up His hands, and blessed them" [Luke 24:50]. The preciousness of the gifts of God; wherever there is the preaching of the gospel and the love of the Lord, there you will find the whole fabric of national life changed.
Blessings to all humanity, blessings to a people and a nation, blessings to us personally, individually. "And He lifted up His hands, and blessed them." What a blessing to meet Christ in the springtime of life, as a child. What a blessing to know Christ in the meridian time of life, in manhood and womanhood. What a blessing to walk with Christ in age, down on the other side of the hill and into the great vistas of the ages to come. Whether in childhood we walk with the Lord, or in young manhood and womanhood we walk with the Lord, or whether in old age we clasp His hand and walk with the Lord into the night and into the eternity, it is always a blessing. There is no moment in life, there’s no section of our lives, there’s no piece or partial or part of it, whether private or public, whether in business or at home, whether at play, whether at work, there’s no part of life but that it is a blessing to know the Lord, to walk with the Lord, to claim Him as friend and guest and counselor and guide. The greatest blessing that can come to human life is to know Jesus personally, intimately as Savior, to talk to Him anywhere, just to feel His presence, just to have Him nearby, Jesus our Lord.
I learned that this was a story that was so oft repeated, but the first time I heard it, it made an impression upon me. I went with Dr. Goldie, our missionary, to visit his clan settlements in a great arc through the heart of Nigeria. There is an instance of the Christian faith for the animist, the African. When he finds a member of his family leprous, they push them out into the bush, into the ditch, into the forest, any way to be rid of them. Let them die. That’s what they do in those animistic cultures, those pagan cultures. So our Christian missionary, Dr. Goldie, gathered them together. And instead of calling them leper colonies, he called them clan settlements. And he’d gather them here in a clan settlement, then miles and miles, there in a clan settlement, and there and there, miles away, in another clan settlement, and around in a great arc through the heart of Nigeria. So he said to me, "Would you like to come?" It takes him several days to make the trip, but once a month he makes that arc, visiting all of his lepers in those clan settlements. He asked me if I’d like to go, and I said I would. We got in his little automobile – looked kind of like a jeep – and we went from one to the other to the other to the other. Oh! It made an impression upon me, as it would you.
This week of prayer for foreign missions fills my heart with abounding unending infinite gratitude to God to have a part in so blessed a mission ministry. Who bought that medicine? We did. Who sent out that missionary? We did. Who made it possible to build that clan settlement? We did. Whose love reached out across the seas into the heart of that dark continent and sent somebody to love, and to care, and to minister, and to heal? We did – just to have a part in it.
Well, anyway, in that journey, they told me that at Christmas time, at Christmas time, at this time of the year, at Christmas time they had a meeting, a party, a get together, a social, a gathering in one of those clan settlements. And at that Christmas party where the missionary had made possible little gifts, little remembrances for the lepers, they were having a thanksgiving service of testimony, of gratitude and praise to God, and one of the men stood up and said he thanked God that he was a leper. He thanked God that he was a leper, and the missionary said, "I cannot imagine such a thing. You thank God you are a leper? Why do you thank God you are a leper?" And his now famous reply was this: "Missionary, when I was well, I was a heathen. I worshiped sticks and stones and rocks and creeks and trees. Then I became a leper, and I was brought to this clan settlement, and here I have found the Lord as my Savior. Had I not been a leper," he said, "I would never have found the Lord, and I might have died a pagan, a heathen. But now being a leper, I have found Jesus as my Savior, and I thank God that I am a leper." Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Just the blessing of knowing Jesus, even though it took the curse and the smiting of leprosy to make Jesus known to his heart.
As you know, I came down here from Muskogee, Oklahoma. And on the foundation of one of the buildings of Bacone College is inscribed one of the noblest sentiments, I think, ever penned in American literature. It’s from Charles Journeycake, chief of the Delaware Indians, and it goes like this: Chief Journeycake said, "When we lived in our homes in the east, the white man came and wanted our homes, and he drove us away and took our lands, and our cattle, and our horses, and our houses." And the chief of the Delawares said, "We went far beyond the broad Missouri, thinking to escape from the white man. And there," he said, "Beyond the Missouri, we built our homes and our barns, and we cultivated our lands. But the white man came and wanted our lands and our houses, our cattle and our horses, and the white man took them away. But," he said, "we have no bitterness in our hearts because we ever remember that it was from the white man that we came to know Jesus, our Lord and our Savior." And Charles Journeycake, chief of the Delawares, as you know, himself was a preacher of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. Oh, there is no blessing in life, in death, in this world or in the age to come, like the blessing of having Jesus as your Savior. "And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them" [Luke 24:50].
And wherever those nail-pierced hands are raised, there will you find mercies and abounding goodnesses poured out from the rich larders and treasures of God Himself in glory. And this we share with you tonight. To open your heart to Jesus, to come to the Lord in faith, in love; to bow in His presence, to look upon into His face; to receive from Him forgiveness of sins and promise of eternal life; if you’ll open your heart and come to Jesus tonight, would you make it known openly, publicly? He invites you to do so. Would you follow after in His name, and come tonight?
In the balcony round, that somebody you, on the lower floor, a family you, a couple, or just you, make the decision tonight, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, "Here I am, Lord, I choose God for me; my heart, my life, today, tomorrow, forever, and I’m coming." Make that decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Did you know God Himself will open the way? Did you know the angels will attend you? Did you know when we rejoice in earth, those angels rejoice in heaven when you come? The Book says so [Luke 15:10]. Come, come. Oh, the enrichment, the infinite eternal blessings of God in Christ Jesus, they are yours for the taking, the having, the asking. Open your hands and receive them. Open your heart and let God come in. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Most precious of all blessings are those most common
B. The man who coveted diamonds
II. To all humanity (Psalm 33:12, Micah 4:5)
1. Japanese soldier
B. Brotherhood and peace
III. To a nation
A. Sunday, the Lord’s Day
B. Child labor
C. Human sympathy
IV. To an individual soul
A. Blessedness of meeting Him
B. Dr. Goldie’s clan settlements
C. Charles Journeycake