The Burning Heart
November 23rd, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
THE BURNING HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-23-69 7:30 p.m.
Just to think that God has in the earth a lighthouse and a witness like you. Thank you, David; thank you, dear men; thank you, the whole congregation; and especially the superintendents and teachers and leaders of our Sunday school, who bear the great responsibility of seeing this thing to a triumphant, glorious victory. On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Burning Heart. It is rather an experience of grace; it is my own feeling about the religion that I got, which is the only kind that I know, the kind that I got. The Burning Heart: heartfelt religion. Now let us read a text together in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, Luke chapter 24. We shall read verses 28 through 35. Luke, the last chapter, beginning at verse 28, reading through verse 35. Now let us all read it out loud together, sharing your Bible with a neighbor. Luke 24, beginning at verse 28, reading through verse 35, all of us together:
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made as though He would have gone further.
But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.
And the title of the message you can easily see from the text: "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" The Burning Heart: the religion of the burning heart, heartfelt religion.
I would not be able, of course, to enter into the experience, except by listening of what other people have felt in religion; but I know what I have felt as I have lived in the faith and trusted in the Lord through the years since childhood. And the kind of religion that I got, and the kind of a faith that I accepted, and the repercussion of my encounter with Christ in my own soul was one of a deeply moving, emotional, feeling nature. I grew up, as you know, in a little tiny church, a little crackerbox of a church house. And out of a thousand memories, things that I can see when I close my eyes and review those days of the long ago, I remember one Sunday morning, my father coming down the aisle, seated on the front row, and he had a white handkerchief, and he buried his face in that handkerchief, weeping. I was so very small. I can remember that as vividly as though I were there now. When I went home, I asked my mother why it was my father was seated there and weeping. And she explained to this childish heart and mind that there had been a great spiritual experience in the family, and my father was weeping for joy, tears of gladness and gratitude.
When I was saved, I was saved like that: I could hardly see the preacher for the tears when I walked down the aisle to give the preacher my hand and to tell him that I was accepting the Lord as my Savior. It was heartfelt. When I see a child, as I often do, moved to tears in coming to confess Christ as Savior, I relive that experience all over again.
When I would go to the services at the church, they were so oftimes filled with tears. I can remember those experiences and those hours vividly. When I was saved, the first prayer meeting, the first Wednesday night after the service, I stood up to testify, to say to the people how much I loved God. I got maybe one sentence out, and choked up with tears; finally sat down, couldn’t speak, for it was something of the heart and of the soul. It was not words, it was not language; I couldn’t put it in words, I couldn’t say it in language. It was something that I felt in my heart: heartfelt religion.
And since those days, in the years of my ministry – forty and two now as a pastor – I have not time, it would take a library of books to describe the high, holy services over which I have presided, in which I have shared, through which I have preached, what I have seen with my eyes, and heard with my ears, and felt with my soul, the glory of the presence of the Lord.
Now, today that is so much discounted. The world has a strange attitude about feeling and emotion. I think it is perverted. I think Satan has oversown us. For the world seeks after a cheap, and a tawdry, and a melodramatic experience. They search after the thrill. They like the feeling. They do anything for the emotion. But they do it in an infidel, and a sarcastic, and a blasphemous way. If we sought the fullness of feeling and life and emotion in religion, it would be one thing; but because the world discounts it, and looks with scorn and sarcasm and contempt upon feeling in religion, being feeling creatures and emotional animals, what the world does is they pervert it, and they do every kind of an unspeakable and unthinkable thing to seize it. For God made us this way: we do feel, and want to feel. We do have emotions, and we like to use them. We’re creatures of color and sound and music. But instead of the world finding the fullness of its soul in the faith, they are cheap and tawdry, iniquitous and sinful in what they do.
"We want a trip! We want the feeling!" And there’s a pusher with his dope and his pills and his hypodermic needle. You see, they don’t deny feeling and emotion, but they pervert it and seek it in another world and in another way.
Here is a melodramatic situation, cheap; and they have all kinds of color, and sound, and light, and every imaginable thing to play upon the eye and the ear and the heart that the ingenious producer can conceive of, in order to elicit out of the people some kind of an emotion. Yet, when time comes really to feel, really to be exulted, really to take a trip to glory, ah, "That’s fanaticism! That evidences emotional instability and intellectual weakness." And out of the cheap sarcasm of an iniquitous and vile world, they have forced religion to be dry and wrung it out like a potsherd. Consequently, when you come to God’s house, in practically all of the churches of the world, it will be a dull, formal, ceremonial service. You play at religion. You go through the certain things, and you say certain things, but there’s no heart in it, and there’s no soul in it, and there’s no feeling in it, and there’s no power in it, and there’s no converting grace in it: for the world has denied to us the fullness of the cup that overflows, that runs over, and has left us with just the shreds, the potsherds, the dry emptiness of a sterile faith.
How different when I open the Bible and read of God’s saints and of the Lord Himself from these sacred pages. I turn the pages of the Book, and Jesus is weeping. He is weeping over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41]; He is weeping at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35]; in the garden of Gethsemane, with strong crying and tears, He is interceding and praying [Hebrews 5:7]. But I am not to feel in the faith.
I turn the pages of the Book, and I read in the life of the apostle Paul. He is speaking to the elders at Ephesus, and he reminds them that by the space of three years, for three years, day and night, he warned from house to house, with many tears, pleading repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, with many tears [Acts 20:20-21, 31]. And the story ends: "And they knelt down and prayed, and they fell on Paul’s neck, and wept, and cried [Acts 20:36-37]," deeply moved in the faith. And Paul writes a letter to the church, saying, "Being mindful of thy tears" [2 Timothy 1:4]. It was a feeling religion: it had heart in it, it had soul in it, it had moving in it! And as I follow the faith through the years that have gone by, these great men of God were men who evidenced a moving response to the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.
John Wesley wrote in his journal, in despair, having gone back to England from America, gone over there to convert the Indian, he said, "But who," he said, "will convert this hard heart of mine?" Going to a little chapel on Aldersgate in London, there was a man reading from the preface to the Book of Romans by Martin Luther, and John Wesley wrote in his journal, and as he listened, his heart was strangely warmed, and he felt that he truly believed; that he was saved. And that commitment, that avowal, that acceptance of the Lord was accompanied by a moving feeling in his heart.
Our great theologian in the western part of our denominational Zion was B. H. Carroll: a giant of a man every way, physically, spiritually, morally, ecclesiastically, theologically, a giant of a preacher. One of the sermons that he preached that I wish everybody could read is entitled "My Infidelity and What Became of It." He was an infidel; an avowed, blatant atheist. And in the services of a revival, in a glorious, glorious meeting, held by the pastor of this church, Spurgeon Harris, in a revival meeting conducted by Spurgeon Harris, the first pastor of this First Baptist Church in Dallas, B. H. Carroll was gloriously saved. He says in that sermon, "My Infidelity and What Became of It," that after the service, that he went home, he walked home, and walked through the kitchen and upstairs to his bedroom, and in the kitchen was his mother who’d been praying for him, and a little nephew. And when B. H. Carroll walked through the kitchen, the mother had her back. And when he went through the room and upstairs, the nephew said to B. H. Carroll’s mother, the little fellow said, "That’s so strange. Uncle B. H. just now walked through the room, and he was singing, and he was crying at the same time." The mother stopped, ran up the stairway to her son’s room, and opened the door. And there he was on the bed, with his face covered with his hands. And the mother went over to the bed and took away the hands of her boy, and looked long into his eyes, and then said, "Son, you’ve been saved. God saved you. Son, you’ve been converted" – singing and crying, whistling and crying at the same time.
Isn’t that a strange put-together in the faith? It said in the passage a little further on, that, "they could not believe for joy, they wondered for joy, they wept for joy" [Luke 24:41]. You couldn’t describe it; you’d have to feel it. So happy it’s not expressed in laughter or in smiles; but it is expressed in tears, tears of gladness, of thanksgiving, of rejoicing – the religion of the burning heart: heartfelt religion.
And if ever anyone had right to be glad, to rejoice, to overflow in soul and heart, it is we who have gone to Jesus for refuge, for the forgiveness of our sins, for the hope that we cherish in this life and for the heaven we envisage in the life to come. O Lord, how much it means to us!
Why, we could be here for the days and the nights to recount for us what God means. One of the great chapters of the Book is the eighth of Romans; and it closes in a passage that all of us have memorized: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,nor any other creation, shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" [Romans 8:38-39] Think of it. However I may do, whatever I may say or think, I’ve been saved, and nothing can ever come between me and my Savior, nothing! All the devils in hell, the prince of the power of the air himself, Satan, Lucifer, the experiences of life can never drag me down to damnation and torment: nothing can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh! what a comfort! And what an assurance! And what a blessedness of salvation!
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen could ever tell.
It reaches to the highest star
And down to the lowest hell.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.
["The Love of God is Greater Far"; Frederick M. Lehman]
The stars shine over the land
And the stars shine over the sea;
The stars look down on you
And the stars look down on me;
The stars have shined a million years,
A million years and a day;
But Christ and I shall live and love
When the stars have faded away.
[author and work unknown]
The eternal security, the possession of the gift of salvation in the love of God, nothing can ever part us or separate us; and death now is but an open door, a translation into the more glorious life that is yet to come. And it is ours: God, the Lord, the fellowship, the experience, the fullness, the overflowing, the riches, the possession, all of it is ours in the Lord Jesus. How rich we are, though we may be poor. How rich we are, oh, our possessions, innumerable, unnumbered; like the stars in the sky for multitude: uncountable, innumerable!
I was over there in Jefferson City in that hotel; we had a staff meeting there. And they showed me the signature of Jay Gould, the richest man in the world at that time. And I remembered something Jay Gould said: he said, "I suppose I am the most miserable man in the world."
I was in New York City and went to the home on Fifth Avenue of Andrew Carnegie; it is now kind of a museum. And there are big iron gates that lead down into the home. And as I stood and looked at those iron gates, I remembered a story that I read about Andrew Carnegie, who in his time was the world’s richest man. Andrew Carnegie, with a beautiful coach and beautiful horses drove out, at a certain time, of his palace on Fifth Avenue to go down to his office in lower Manhattan. And at the gate every morning stood a newspaper boy, and he sold Andrew Carnegie, every morning, he sold him his newspaper. And the little boy was always there with his newspaper, to give to Andrew Carnegie, when he drove out those iron gates in the beautiful coach, with the beautiful horses. And upon a day, when Andrew Carnegie died, and as you know, he was not a Christian, he was not a Christian – when Andrew Carnegie died, there was a beautiful coach, this time a hearse, drawn by beautiful horses, that went through those same iron gates, carrying the great magnate and tycoon to his last resting place. And that newsboy was standing there at the gate, as he had always done. And the little fellow, ragged and poor, turned to his friend, and said, "You know, I am richer than Andrew Carnegie today." And the little friend turned to him and said, "You? What [do] you mean?" And the little newspaper boy said, "I’ve got fourteen cents in my pocket, and Andrew Carnegie, he ain’t got nothing."
The little boy had no idea of the profound theological truth that he enunciated: because Andrew Carnegie died a lost man, without God, without Christ, without salvation. And of course, he left it all behind. How much does a man leave? Everything. Everything. He was rich in this world, the richest man in the world; but he was poor toward God! Our possessions, why, my brother, think of them, think of them, think of them: they are indescribable, they are beyond poetry or song, they’re beyond sermon or word or language to delineate – what Christ and what God means to us.
At the Southern Baptist Convention, I said something presiding over one of those services, that I found picked up and repeated in so many of the news magazines, our state Baptist papers. There was a glorious sermon delivered at the convention. It was delivered by a colored man; a marvelous sermon, a glorious sermon. And when he was done, of course, I had to stand up there to preside over the concluding benedictory moment of the convention. And when I stood up to follow that glorious sermon, that marvelous, marvelous peroration and exaltation of Jesus, I said, as I held the gavel in my hand, "Will somebody hold this gavel while I shout?" It was picked up, the little sentence, and used many times.
The idea came from a story that I heard when I was a boy. There was an old colored man who’d get happy in church, and he would shout. Well, that bothered the service, that bothered the preacher, that bothered the sermon, so they appointed a committee from the church to go wait on him, so he wouldn’t disturb the services shouting, praising God in the midst of the sermon. So the committee went out to wait on him, and found the old colored man, with his mule plowing out there in the field. So they announced to him why they had come. And there that old colored man was, standing between the handles of his plow, with the reins of the mule holding in his hand. So when they said to him, "We’ve been appointed by the church to wait upon you. And you’ve got to quit that shouting and praising God. You’re disturbing the preacher, and you’re disturbing the congregation, and you’re disturbing the order of service. You’ve got to quit this praising God." And the old colored man said, "That’s right. That’s right. I mustn’t do that. I mustn’t do that." But he said, "You know, it’s like this," he says, "I get to thinking about what Jesus has done for me. There’s my cabin up there, and it’s mine; and this field, and this old mule, and this plow. And He gives us bread to eat, and clothing to wear, and shelter under which to abide. I get to thinking about those things." Then he says, "I get to thinking about Jesus, how He died for my sins, and how He saved me from death and damnation and hell. And I get to thinking about Jesus and what He means to me. Then I get to thinking about heaven, and the mansion He has gone to prepare for me up there in the sky, and the glory that is yet to come." And the old colored man turned to the committeemen, and said, "Here, hold these reins while I shouts! Hold this mule while I praise God!"
I feel like that. Lord, Lord! How do you remain silent and still and unmoved and untouched when you begin to recount the innumerable blessings of God? It’s like that old song, that Kentucky association began to sing, weeping and shaking hands with one another:
My heavenly home is bright and fair
And I feel like travelling on
No harm or death can enter there
And I feel like travelling on
O the Lord has been so good to me
I feel like travelling on
Until those mansions I can see
And I feel like travelling on
Would you sing it with me? Yes:
I feel like travelling on
I feel like travelling on
THE BURNING HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Real to me since childhood
A. My father weeping into handkerchief
B. My conversion
C. My first testimony
D. Spiritual services
II. The question mark the world places after religion uses emotion
A. Not around other things – cheap melodrama
B. But around religion – emotional instability, intellectual weakness
C. The search for the real thing
1. Concerning Jesus
2. Concerning Paul (Acts 20:17-37, 2 Timothy 1:4)
3. Concerning others
a. John Wesley
III. The religion of the burning heart
A. The great fact of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)
B. The great possession
1. To have money, fame, fortune
a. To have God
2. To have reason, arguments, logic
a. To have the Lord Jesus in our soul