CHRIST’S CALL TO THE CHILD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-15-69 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church; and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Christ’s Call to the Child. Now in your Bible turn to the sixth chapter of John, the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, chapter 6, and we shall read together the first twelve verses. This is thestory of a little boy who appears in this miracle, by the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberius. And if on the radio you share the service with us, turn to John, the fourth Gospel, John, chapter 6, and we’re going to read out loud the first twelve verses. Now all of us reading together:
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.
And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do.
Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto Him,
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
This is the background of a message; and the presentation of this lad will be at the end of the sermon. The title of the message is Christ’s Call to the Child.
First, there are tremendous conversions – they are here in the Bible – and we listen to the testimony in history, in story, in pulpit; we listen to the testimony of these who were marvelously saved. I have my Bible here open to the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, and it begins with Saul, a learned young theolog from Tarsus, from the city of Silicia, the capital of that Roman province. He’s breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. So having received from the authorities in Jerusalem, he’s making his way to Damascus, the capital of Syria, in order to hail into prison and to death any that might call upon the name of the Lord. Then I read the story of the miraculous, heavenly vision, and the glorious conversion of this young fanatic from Silicia and his glorious turning. And he preached Jesus in Damascus the name of the glorious Savior who whom one time he cursed and blasphemed – a marvelous story.
Now I turn the pages of the Bible I hold in my hand, and here in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts I read the glorious story of the conversion of the Philippian jailor. He was to be responsible for two of those preachers, the apostle Paul and his companion Silas. And after they had beat those emissaries of the gospel of the Lord, he put them in prison, and he did far beyond the call of duty: he thrust them down in that dungeon, and he made their feet fast in the stocks; then follows the story of those two preachers. At midnight they began to sing and to pray and to praise God, and as they sang, and as they praised, and as they prayed, God sent down one of His angels from glory – and I think the angel foot, when he touched the earth the whole earth trembled and broke apart, and shook under the impact of the step of that angelic foot – and that jailor seeing the walls shake and the doors open and the stocks and manacles crumble and fall off, thinking of course that his prisoners had fled, why he took a sword, raised it to plunge it into his heart, for he was responsible before a Roman tribunal for those prisoners and rather than face execution and disgrace he thought to take his own life with his own sword. Then you have the story of the glorious conversion of that Philippian jailor.
Now when I go outside of the Bible, even this last week, I listened to several of the most marvelous conversion experiences that you could ever listen to: men who were down in the gutter, they were drunkards, and they were dope addicts, and they were vile sinners and blasphemers; and now they are singers, and preachers, and missionaries. And I listened to those marvelous conversions, and I praised God for them.
But what about me? What about me? I had no such experience at all, not at all. I never was in the gutter. I never drank in my life. I never blasphemed in my life. I was reared in a godly home. We came to prayer meeting. I went with my father to choir practice on Thursday night. We were there for Sunday school. And when they organized BYPU??855, I was there; every revival meeting. I never was in the gutter in my life. I never blasphemed the name of Jesus in my life. I have no such startling and tremendous experience.
Well, am I not saved? Have I been saved? Why certainly I have. It took me a long time to learn it and to realize it, but one of the greatest theological truths I ever learned in my life was this: that a man is not saved by some glorious, incomparable, celestial experience, but we are saved by the blood of the crucified One. We are saved by Jesus. I have also concluded – if I might parenthetically say it – sometimes these glorious experiences I hear preachers relate, sometimes I think they do more harm than good because they give people the impression, "I must have an experience like that. If I don’t have an experience like that, I don’t know God and I can’t come to Jesus." There is not a syllable of truth in such a proposition as that. We are saved by looking to the Lord. I looked to the Lord when I was ten years old, in saving faith, and I was saved.John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust, that believe in His name." And I did that the best I knew how when I was ten years old.
Christ’s call to the child. It naturally – and as I think of these things philosophically, I can see the foolishness of some of the persuasions that I thought for when I heard those marvelous experiences – naturally a child would not have the experience of a man who had put others to death, as the apostle Paul; who had beat the disciples of Christ, as the Philippian jailor; or who had been raised out of the gutter, like a Jerry Bacauley, naturally. A child is going to be saved as a child would be saved. And that’s the way I was saved. And if you’re a child, that’s the way you are saved: by opening your heart to the blessed Jesus, and receiving Him as your Savior. Christ’s call to the child.
Now I speak of Christ’s call to the child in service, in commitment of life. In the Bible that I hold in my hand there are some tremendous apocalyptic, heavenly calls; they’re just glorious. They’re all through the Word of God. I point out just two of them. In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, a young man was standing in the temple and he was greatly discouraged. King Uzziah had died, and the nation was falling into apostasy. And as the young man stood there in his discouragement, he saw the Lord. And John in the twelfth chapter says it was Jesus that he saw: Jehovah, His name in the Old Testament; Jesus, His name in the new. Standing in that temple, he saw Jehovah Jesus, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. And above Him stood the seraphim: and each one with six wings; with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, in holy awe before God, and with twain he did fly; the seraphim. And then he heard the voice saying, "Who shall go for us?" And he said, "Here am I, send me"[Isaiah 6:1-8].What a marvelous vision!
Then I turn the pages of the Bible to the fourth [fifth] chapter of the Book of Luke, and you have the story here of the calling of Simon Peter. When Simon Peter saw the miracle of the Lord, he fell at His feet. The Lord said to him, "Simon, stand up, stand up. Fromhenceforth thou shalt catch men" [Luke 5:10]. And in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of John, you have the addendum to that story, the second call of Simon Peter: "Lovest thou Me more than these? Then feed My lambs and take care of My sheep"[John 21:15-17].Think of a calling like that.
But I never saw a seraph, nor did I ever see a cherub. I haven’t seen Jesus in the flesh, or in a boat, or to fall at His feet. I’ve had no vision like that. Yet there is no deeper conviction that I have ever sensed in my life than the sensitivity of my soul in this call to the ministry. It came to me as it came to Timothy: as Paul writes to Timothy, "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice; and now I see it in thee also."
I am asked by these press men so many personal questions, and that’s asked a thousand times: "When were you called to preach?" And the answer honestly is this: I cannot remember when I did not feel in my deepest soul that called had called me to be a pastor. As far back as I can remember I have seen no vision, I have no light from heaven, there’s no angel that has appeared to me; but as a child, as a small boy, as far back as I can remember, my heart was moved Godward and heavenward and Christward in the ministry that I now share. I’ve never been in anywise moved, in anywise, from that conviction of childhood. I’ve never called to be an evangelist, or a missionary, or a president of a school, or a teacher. I have never felt any other thing in my life but that I was to be a shepherd and a pastor of God’s flock; and that came as a child. Christ’s call to a child: a deep, inward conviction that this is God’s will for me.
And last, Christ’s call to the child: "What can we give Him? And how shall we answer?" In the Book that I hold in my hand there are some tremendous gifts that are offered to the Lord, all through the Book. But here’s one: "And King Solomon offered that day of the dedication of the temple twenty and two thousand oxen, beef cattle, twenty-two thousand, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep." What a vast, gigantic gift! Twenty-two thousand beefs, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep in one great celebration, think of it! What a gift to bring to God!
I turn the pages of the Bible, and I read here of the coming of the magi. One offered gold, and the other offered frankincense, and the other offered myrrh. What could a poor child bring to Jesus? And especially one as poor as I when I grew up as a boy, what could he offer to the Lord? Gold? I never saw a piece of gold until I was grown, gold money. All of the other gifts that affluence could dedicate to Jesus, there was one of it in my hands or in my power. And that is the story we read in the life of our Lord. And Andrew said, "Master, there is a little boy here, there’s a little boy here, and he’s brought his lunch." You get a wrong impression by the King James translation of that story. The little boy had a lunch, and he had five, we’d call it little biscuits; the lad had five little pieces of bread, five little biscuits that his mother had baked. And he had two little fish in his lunch. And I can just see that story. Andrew comes to the lad and says, "Son, Jesus, Jesus wants to know, will you give Him those five little biscuits and those two little fish?" And the lad replied, "They belong to Him. They are His." And Andrew laid them in the Master’s hand, and He took the gift of that little boy and He broke bread, and He broke bread, and He broke bread, and He divided the fish, until five thousand men were fed. What God can do in the gift of a lad! Christ’s call to the child.
And that’s the appeal we present to your heart tonight. You and your family, if Christ calls you to take Him as your Savior, answer with your life. If Christ calls you into a special service and ministry, dedicate every unfolding year to Him, all of it. And what we have, such as it is, even as Simon could say, "Silver and gold have I not, but such as I have give I thee"[Acts 3:6]. Dedicate it into the blessed hands of our Lord, and do it now. Will you? Will you? If you will, come and stand by me. There may be a family you, a couple you, a little boy you, a little girl you, make that decision now. If God has called, come, and do it now. Decide now. Then in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.