Bringing Men to Christ
June 8th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
BRINGING MEN TO CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-8-69 10:50 a.m.
Now on the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message. It is an exposition of the passage, an event in the life of our Lord, in the second chapter of Mark. And if you would like to turn in your Bible to the Second Gospel, the second chapter, you can keep your Bible open at the place, and the message is an exposition of this part of God’s Word. Now I shall read it. In the second chapter of Mark:
And Jesus entered into Capernaum . . . and it was noised that He was in the house.
And many were gathered together immediately, so much so that there was no room to receive them, no, not even about the door:
Isn’t that true? When Jesus is in the place. If it is known that God, the presence of the Lord and our Savior is in a church, you will find that church filled.
And Jesus preached the word unto them.
And they came unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this Man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,)
I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it like this in our lives, We never saw it on this fashion.
Nor did anybody. That’s what God is able to do. So let’s just expound God’s Word. Jesus in the house, and a throng pressing Him on every side, so much so that there was no room even at the door. And there came four men holding a pallet, one at each corner. And inside lying on the pallet was, and you have it translated here, “one sick of the palsy” [Mark 2:1-3]. The Greek word, there was one paralutika, paralytic. We’ve taken the word bodily into our language. There was a paralytic, a palsied man, a man who couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. And these men said, “If we can get him to Jesus, he will be saved” [Mark 2:4-5].
And isn’t that true? If we could just get our folks to Jesus everything would be all right. Whether we lived or whether we died, whether we were sick or whether we were well, whether we were rich or whether we were poor, whether we were free or whether we were imprisoned, everything would be well if we could just get our people to Jesus. There is no exception in that. There is no exception in any house, or any heart or any life. If we could just get them to Jesus.
So these four men said, “If we can just get this paralytic to Jesus everything, everything will be well. Jesus can heal him and make him whole again.”
Well, when they came they could not get to the Lord. There was a throng; there was a press even around the door. Now, for most of us, and I am afraid so many times even for me, for most of us, we are easily discouraged. If things do not open up, and if things do not fall into pleasant places, and if things do not work out just as we had planned, why, we are discouraged.
And it would have been so easy for these four men to have said, “We will come back upon another occasion. There will be other times when the Lord is not so busy, when the throngs are not so great, and we’ll just come back at some other time.” But no, these men had determined in their hearts that they were going to bring that sick man to Jesus, and they were not to be discouraged, and they were not to be turned away.
Now that is an encouragement for all of us. If we want to get to God, we can any day, any time, any place, anywhere, anyhow. If I want to see God and make an appointment with the Lord, I can. If I want to take my case to Jesus, I can. If I have something to lay before Him, my troubles or my own soul or my heart and life or others, I can. If a man is determined in his heart to get to God, he can.
In this blessed Book out of which I always preach, there is the story of a very prestigious member of the Sanhedrin. And I would suppose it was beneath his dignity, and certainly because of the unsavory reputation that the Prophet of Nazareth had, it was beneath him; at least he didn’t have at that time the courage to face the criticism that would have fallen upon him. There was this Sanhedrin who wanted to see Jesus. Well, I do not know of any other that came to see Him, but this man did. And he sought Him out and found Him at night [John 3:1-2].
Well, we might say he was a coward. Why didn’t he come out in the broad daylight and visit with Him? But aren’t all of us at times like that? There are just certain things that sometimes we don’t exhibit in the broad daylight. Sometimes there are sessions that we’d like to have with God where nobody can see and nobody knows. We somehow just feel that this is the time when I’d like to have where nobody hears and nobody sees and maybe nobody knows. Well, does God turn a man down who wants to talk to Him alone and in secret? Whatever the motive might be, maybe we’ve got some things to confess to God and to talk to God about that we don’t want other ears to hear. Maybe there are some things we want to say to God that we wouldn’t say to anybody in the world.
Can you get God’s ear if you do that? Is God pleased for us to come? He is! If you want to have a private session with the Lord, you can. Just set the time. In the middle of the night and God will be there to hear. He will bow down His ear for what you have to say. If you want to get to God, you can.
Why, bless your heart, there was a little fellow. And if he stood among men, he was so small he couldn’t see over them. And when they were pressed together he couldn’t see through them. And wherever the Lord was, there were throngs. And he had no hope of seeing the Lord Jesus. But he didn’t despair and he wasn’t easily discouraged. And he saw the Lord; and not only that, but the Lord was so delighted with his determination to see Him that the Lord spent the whole day in his house [Luke 19:1-6].
And there was a timid, sick woman. I don’t think we would have ever known her ailment had it not been that there was a doctor who wrote one of these Gospels. She had an issue of blood, and she lived a life anemic, and weak, and weakening, discouraged. And the doctor says for years she was that way. The fountain of her strength and life constantly poured out. She had spent all she had on doctors. And the doctor Luke who writes it is careful to say that she could be healed of none. It wasn’t the doctor’s fault, the doctor said. There are just sometimes and some places and some things that even the doctor cannot do.
And that poor humble timid woman said, “You know, if these feeble hands could just touch the hem of His garment, I would be well again” [Matthew 9:20-21; Luke 8:43-48]. She didn’t have the courage to come up to the Lord and say something to Him or to stand by His side or to confront Him. So she said, “I will mingle in the crowd and as the throng presses Him and He passes by, without anyone seeing or knowing, I will just touch the hem of His garment as He passes by” [Matthew 9:20-21, Luke 8:43-44].
Oh, how sensitive God is! You would think critters such as we are, made out of dust and ashes, we would have to holler all day long or beat drums all day long. No, the moment her hand touched, the Lord said, “Who touched Me?” And big bold, rough, crude Simon Peter said, “Lord, what a question. Why, they press Thee on every side, and You say who touched Me” [Luke 8:44-45]; ridiculous. But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me” [Luke 8:46]. And she was whole.
If we want to get to God we can. Let him that has ears to hear, let him hear. And God will speak. Let him who has fingers to touch, touch, and God will feel. Let him who has eyes to see, let him see. Let him endure as seeing the invisible. And him that has eyes of faith, the whole heavens are filled with chariots of fire and angels of God [2 Kings 6:17]. If we want to get to God, we can.
So when they could not come nigh unto Him, they uncovered the roof where He was [Mark 2:4]. And when they had broken it up, they let down that man, sick of the palsy [Mark 2:4]. What do you think of that? To begin with, it is a very unusual thing. Ah, I can just imagine. Breaking up the roof of that house, let that man down, doing the unusual. Well, I am not saying that proprieties ought to be violated for violation’s sake, or that conventionalities ought to be disregarded just for the disregarding. But I do know that I am right before God when I say that when conventional propriety stands between a man and God, away with conventional proprieties whatever they are!
It isn’t the infidel and the scoffer and the scorner that hurt the church. We’ve had those infidels and scoffers and scorners from the beginning of creation. But what kills the church are these conventionalities and these proprieties, because they make us humdrum and they keep us in a rut. That’s why it is good, it is good, to say before God. “Lord, we are not tied down and bound down and encased in tradition or ritual or ceremony or custom or practice. Lord, anything that will get men to Jesus, Lord, show us how, and we will do it.”
Is the Lord pleased, and does He accept the unconventional? Well, look. It says here in this blessed Book out of which I preach, it says in 1 Samuel in chapter  that there was a man who was ravenously hungry. And there was no bread to eat except the sacred showbread which was not lawful for any man to eat except the priests. But this man was ravenously hungry and he ate that showbread [1 Samuel 21:1-6] and God said it was well. He did right.
I turn the pages of that blessed Book and in the [thirtieth] chapter of the 2 Chronicles it says that they observed the Passover not according to the way that God had ordained it. They were not able to observe it in the regular way, so they observed it in the way that was irregular [2 Chronicles 30:1-4], the best they could. And they broke the proprieties and the conventionalities, but they observed the Passover in the way they could, and God said it was good and God blessed them [2 Chronicles 30:27]. The Book says so.
And here in this same Gospel out of which I am preaching, the Lord heals on the Sabbath day. And the scoffers and the scorners and the critics said it is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath day [Mark 3:1-5]. And the Son of Man replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” [Mark 2:27].
And that is what these men decided [Mark 2:3-4]. The church is made for man and not man for the church. And these walls and this roof stand in the way of getting this man to God so let’s break it up. Let’s break it up. And they broke up the roof to let that man down at the feet of Jesus; the unconventional and the unusual, willing to do something to get men to Christ [Mark 2:3-4].
Why, bless your heart, I heard of a church that was dead. The church was dead. Nobody saved, nobody won, nobody burdened, nobody interceding, nobody making appeal. The church was dead. And upon a night at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, the pastor went to the chairman of the deacon’s house and knocked at his door. And when the deacon came to the door, and turned on the light, there stood his pastor.
And the pastor said to the chairman of his deacons, he said, “Sir, did you know that Sam Jones is dead?”
And the deacon said, “Why, Sam Jones, my neighbor there, is dead? I didn’t know he was dead.”
“Yes,” said the pastor, “He is dead. He is dead in trespasses and in sins. Let’s kneel down here and pray for him.” And he got the deacon’s family and they a had a prayer for the neighbor who was dead in trespasses and in sins.
And the preacher went to the next deacon’s house, knocked at his door and said, “Sir, sir, did you know that Jim Willingham is dead?”
And the deacon said, “Jim, Jim Willingham, my neighbor, Jim is dead?”
“Yes,” said the pastor, “he’s dead in trespasses and in sin. Let’s pray for him.” And they got the family together and they prayed for neighbor Sam Willingham. And he went to every deacon’s home in the wee hours of the morning and had a prayer meeting. I don’t need to tell you they had revival in that church. The unusual, the unusual.
I had a neighbor pastor one time when I was in a village and he was in a little town down the way. And they couldn’t have revival. And you know what that fellow did? They had a tower in their church with a big bell in it, and early in the morning he started ringing that bell. And he rang that bell all day long, all day long, tolling that bell. And people began to ask one another, and began to talk to one another, and they began to come to the church. And there was that pastor tolling that bell. And they were all asking him, “What is this for? What are you doing that for?” And then he told them how the church needed revival, and how people needed saving, and how the community was dead in its heart, and he was tolling that bell calling people to repentance and to God. And my neighbor had revival.
The unconventional. That’s where the Methodist church came from. There was not a church in Anglican England, there was not a church in the establishment, not one that would let John Wesley preach in it, or Charles Wesley sing in it, or George Whitefield exhort in it, not one. So those young men out of Oxford stood on tombstones and preached to the throngs in the churchyard. And they stood on the banks of the rivers, and they stood at the coalers where they men dug coal, and they stood in the marketplaces and in the squares of towns and cities, and they preached the gospel outdoors. The first time England had ever seen it, and it saved England from the bloodiness of another French Revolution. England never went through that horrible period of history because of the preaching, the unusual, unconventional way of those first Wesleyans.
That’s what God is saying here. They couldn’t get that man to Jesus so they just broke up the roof, the unconventional, and they let him down [Mark 2:4]. And when Jesus saw their faith, you know this is inspired, every syllable of that blessed Book [2 Timothy 3:16]. It doesn’t say He saw their prestige or saw their affluence or saw their station. No, saw their faith [Mark 2:5]. It’s faith that lays hold on the horns of the altar. It’s faith that gets hold of God. When Jesus saw their faith; and isn’t that a marvelous thing that we in our praying and our intercession can get a hold of somebody else? But God says so. When Jesus saw their faith He said to the sick of the palsy, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” [Mark 2:5].
Well now, what a come to pass again. “Thy sins be forgiven thee” [Mark 2:5]. “We haven’t come here to talk to Thee about sins. We are not religious inquirers. We are afflicted men, and I have a paralytic here, Lord, and I’ve brought him to Thee. And here You start talking to him about sins, making a religious turn to this thing.”
Well, finally everything will come down to that ultimate and basic religious turn. Ultimately all of our problems are theological, all of them. We may think, well, they are secular. No. They are material. No. They are academic. No. They are philosophical. No. They are metaphysical. No, no. All of our problems are theological. They have to do with our relationship to God. Whether that is you personally, or whether it’s your house and home, or whether it’s your state, or whether it is your nation, or whether it is this war-weary world, our problems are basically and finally theological.
And our Lord does not deal in ministering to symptoms. He goes to the fundamental basis of all of our problems and says, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” [Mark 2:5]. For all that is awry and disjointed and out of array in this world, all of it is sin. Death is because of sin [Romans 5:12]. And suffering and illness, even though the ninth chapter of the Book of John says in this particular instance that particular thing was not caused by sin [John 9:3] yet through the entrance of sin into the world all of these sorrows have overwhelmed us [Romans 5:12].
As Milton starts off his great immortal poem, “Paradise Lost,”
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into this world, and all our woe.
[“Paradise Lost,” by John Milton, Book 1, Lines 1-3]
That’s correct. Sin, sin. And it is in this place that the world will never yield, and never surrender, and never learn. Our answer to the problems we face is always of the same stripe and kind and type. We say what we need, what we need are acts of Congress to deal with it. What we need are superior legislations to deal with this. What we need is better housing, and what we need are more comforts and gadgets and appliances. And what we need is better ventilation and better drainage and better storage. These are the things, and if we can have them we will solve all of the problems that afflict society. That’s what we think.
But when the houses are built, and the reclamation developments are complete, and all of the legislation is passed, we are still as unutterably lost and undone as at the first.
One of the most amazing things that I read in every paper, and from every editorial and every commentator is this; that the trouble with this new generation in its radical form is this that they are an affluent generation. Why, I thought our problems were we had to have more money, and that we had to have more things, and that we had to have bigger houses and more gadgets. And yet all of these people now are saying the problems with these boys and girls who are way out left is they have never known what it is to be hungry, or to be poor, or to work, or to strive for some goal. It just falls in their laps. Isn’t that a go-round for you?
Always, we never get beyond the wisdom and the revelation of God. Our problems are spiritual. Our problems are theological. And if a man is not right he can be a rich man not right. And if a man is not famous and he is not right, he can be not right infamous. It makes no difference whether a man is poor or whether he is rich, whether he is famous or whether he is infamous, whether he is educated or uneducated. If we are not right with God, the stake, and the prestige, the education, the academic standing, the affluence, the achievement will make no difference at all; none at all.
Our problem lies spiritually, theologically. If we are right with God, if we are right with God we can be as poor as Peter and John. “Silver and gold have I none” [Acts 3:6], but oh, if we could say, “But what I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” [Acts 3:6]. That’s the true riches.
We must hasten and conclude. “This Man speaks blasphemies,” said His critics and they have gathered round, “this Man speaks blasphemies. For who can forgive sins but God?” [Mark 2:7]. That’s right. Their deduction was correct. Who can forgive sins but God? But their premise was wrong. Who is this? Who is this, this blessed Jesus who says, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” [Mark 2:5]? Who is this Jesus? “No one can forgive sins but God” [Mark 2:7]. And their deduction was wrong. “He is not God. He is not the Lord.” So the Lord, knowing what they were reasoning in their hearts, the Lord turned to them and said, “Let Me ask you. Which is easier to say: “Thy sins be forgiven thee or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk?” [Mark 2:8-9] Well, try it some time. Let’s find us a paralytic, paralyzed, and let’s see you raise him up. Just by fiat, by a word, let’s see you raise him up in your name, and in your power. Let’s see you do it.
I can’t forgive sins. And by fiat, in my name or power I can’t raise a paralytic up from his bed of affliction. I can’t do it. One is as impossible to a man as the other. But nothing is impossible with God [Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37].
And the Lord turned and said, “In order that you might know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sin, He turned to the paralytic and He said, Son, I say unto thee, Arise, arise take up thy bed, and walk” [Mark 2:10-11]. And to the amazement and astonishment and to the glory of God, that man who had never moved arose, carried his bed, and I can just see that throng open a corridor of human life, as he walked out and to home [Mark 2:12].
Think of it, what God is able to do. No wonder the story closes, “And they were amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it like that” [Mark 2:12]. Did you know that is what we are going to do world without end, forever and ever? The redeemed of all creation and all mankind, we are going to gather someday in an up and a better world, when this task is done and this pilgrimage is finished, and we are going to glorify God forever and ever.
In fact, the Revelation gives us one of the songs we are going to sing. “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and dominion and power for ever and ever. Amen and amen” [Revelation 1:5-6], glorifying God for what He has done for us.
Come to Him this morning, you. Give Him your heart and life this morning, you [Romans 10:8-13]. A family to come, a couple to come, or just one somebody you to come. While we sing this song and while we make this appeal, would you come now? In the balcony round there is a stairway at the front and the back and on either side, and on the lower floor into the aisle and down here to the front. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make the decision now. Do it now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Come and stand by me. “Pastor, this is my wife. We are both coming.” Or, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming.” Or just you. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. Do it now. In a moment when we stand, you stand up coming. And angels attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.