The Harvest Fields at Home
September 14th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
THE HARVEST FIELDS AT HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-14-69 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing, all of you who listen on the radio, the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Harvest Fields at Home. And the sermon is prepared with two intentions: one, we are, this week, beginning our week of prayer for our state, for Texas; and second, our church is increasingly dedicating itself to a ministry of personal witnessing and soulwinning. And in the providence of God, both of these commitments in prayer and discipleship converge on this Sunday in September.
Now, I haven’t time to read the rather detailed story of the healing of this Gadarene demoniac in the fifth chapter of Mark. But in the middle of the chapter and the marvelous description of the healed man, beginning at verse 15, are these words:
And these people–out of all the city and country roundabout–they came to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with a demon, and had the legion, a legion of them, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind . . .
And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the demon . . .
And they began to pray Him, to beseech Him, to depart out of their country, to leave their coasts.
And when Jesus was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the demon prayed Him that he might go with Him.
Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee…
And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
I shall recapitulate the story. On the other side––on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee––a side that is bounded by precipitous cliffs, Jesus is in that Greek territory. Decapolis is a Greek word meaning ten cities. And there were ten Greek cities over there occupying that part of Palestine that had bounded themselves together for defense, mostly for trade. And the Lord, over there in that country, was on His way toward one of those Greek cities called Gadara.
Now, as he was going toward Gadara, there met a violent man and more than usually was he violent. His hideous cries kept the people awake a night. The ferocity by which he would attack made the roads sometimes impassible. And they could not bind or tame him. He was a wild, wild, giant of a man [Mark 5:1-5].
And when Jesus came, the demoniac recognized Him [Mark 5:6]; that spiritual sensitivity that comes to some––some clairvoyant, some of these people who can predict the future. We hardly are able to touch the spirit world. We know somewhat about the material world, but that spirit world––the you that’s on the inside of you. If you were just dust, it would be relatively easy to explain you, but there’s something in you beside the dust out of which your physical frame is composed [Genesis 2:7; Psalm 103:14], and that spirit world, the demon world, the angelic world, is mostly unknown to us. But intuitively he recognized the Son of God.
And the Lord said, “What is your name?” And he said, “My name is Legion, because there art many of us” [Mark 5:9]. This man was possessed, not only with an unclean spirit of violence, and anger, and hatred, and attack––just like men can be possessed with demons that are unclean, all kinds of them. I see it every day of my life. You do too. He was filled with unclean spirits. And the Lord healed him [Mark 5:10-13].
There is a miracle in the fourth chapter of Mark, of the healing, of the quieting, the calming of the waves in a storm on the Sea of Galilee [Mark 4:35-41]. But that miracle is nothing as glorious; it is not comparable to the miracle in the fifth chapter of the Book of Mark, the healing of this wild, vicious man, filled with unclean spirits.
So the people who saw it––the keepers of this herd of hogs––they told the city of Gadara, they told the country, and they came out to see what was done. And when they came to behold this sight, there this man was, clothed [Mark 5:14-15]. He’d been naked. Whenever you read about these people that gather and take off their clothes, that’s an unclean spirit in them that does it. It’s a vicious, vile, evil thing.
If you are normal, you will be very sensitive to take off your clothes in the presence of others. You just will. But unclean spirits can reach a man’s heart, make him different, make him dirty. It’s everywhere. I’m not saying anything that you don’t know better than I. But this man, clean, cleansed, forgiven, seated there at the feet of Jesus, clothed, in his right mind, and it was a marvelous thing [Mark 5:15].
Well, wouldn’t you have thought that there would have been rejoicing in that part of the earth? If they had a doxology then, don’t you think they would have sung it? If there were words of praise––if they knew the Hebrew word, Hallelujah––don’t you think they would have shouted it? And don’t you think seeing it, they would have gathered up all the possessed, and all the diseased, and all of the crippled, and all of the blind, the lame, and the halt, and brought them to Jesus? Wouldn’t you have thought that?
No, it is the opposite. When they saw what had happened, they besought Jesus to leave their country, and the reason for that was, in the process, they lost some pigs [Mark 5:16-17]. They lost some hogs. And when they balanced their pecuniary loss of pigs, hogs, against the saving of a man, why, they didn’t even discuss it or hesitate about it. They begged Jesus to leave because it was costly [Mark 5:17].
Now, don’t you think that that is peculiar? I see that all the time. Who wants Jesus around when He interferes with profits? “I’ve got heroin to sell,” or “I’ve got marijuana to trade or to sell.” Or, “I’ve got LSD.” Or, “I’ve got liquor.” And Jesus interferes with the business.
Why, I see it all the time. There are men who bow Jesus out of their establishments; it interferes with trade. There are men who bow Jesus out of their office; it interferes with profits. There are young men and women who bow Jesus out of their lives; he interferes with so-called pleasure.
Well, that’s what they did here. It wasn’t profitable to have Jesus around when He was saving men, for when you get a man right with God; you’ve lost him to the pornographer. You’ve lost him to the liquor establishment. You’ve lost him as a drug addict. When a man is in Christ and added to Christ that means he’s subtracted from them. And that’s what happened here. So they begged Jesus leave. “We don’t want Him around.”
Well, that man said, “I don’t want to stay in such a land, in such a town, in such a city, and among such people. Lord, when You leave them” and He does leave. You don’t have any coercion from God, not the lifting of a finger. Jesus left. And when the Lord left, this man begged that he might accompany the Lord. “Lord, let me go with You” [Mark 5:18].
And Jesus suffered him not. “No,” He said. “You go back to those people, back to them, and you tell them, anybody who will listen to you, how great things God has done for thee” [Mark 5:19]. And he turned, and went back, and began to publish in all Decapolis, not only Gadara but the other nine Greek cities and countrysides too, the whole area, what great things Jesus had done for him [Mark 5:20].
Well, what do you think about the Lord as He refused this man to accompany Him, to leave his town, to leave his people, and to go across to another land and another people and to witness for the Lord there? What do you think about that? Do you think the Lord denied this man a mission and a calling because He asked him to stay at home? Do you think God denied this man a fully-surrendered life because He refused him on a foreign field but asked him to stay in the fields at home? What do you think?
Well, I have some very deep persuasions about this. And the first is, no longer are spiritual frontiers geographic, they are internal. They go down every town, and every lane, and every street, and every countryside, and every village, and sometimes through every house and every home.
There was a time when you would say, “This is home and Christian, and, that is foreign and heathen.” But it isn’t that way any longer. Our spiritual frontiers are everywhere. They’re in the business world. They’re in the academic world. They’re in the school world. They’re in the entertainment world. They are everywhere.
There was a time when we sort of looked upon home as being Christian. America is a Christian nation, and we looked upon our land as being filled with godly people. And we thought of missions as being over yonder, across the sea, in other continents. We sent missionaries to China, and we sent missionaries to Africa, but home was Christian.
And yet, the day has arrived when, as we were thinking of home as Christian and missions as being something afield and afar, we became increasingly aware, and especially now and today, what has happened to us at home. There is a degeneracy, and a depravity, and a departing, and an apostasy here at home that is frightening!
Theological liberalism, the denial of the supernatural and the making of that Book like any other book, has infiltrated our ranks. Rationalism has seized us. Rationalism: that is, that a man’s mind is capable for all truth necessary for the salvation of a man, we don’t need any revelation from God—rationalism.
Humanism: that is, the dethroning of God and the deification, the enthroning of man. Materialism: that is, that the whole universe is just matter, physical; that matter is eternal, and that all objectives are material, not spiritual. And secularism: that is, we don’t need worship, or prayer, or faith, or religion.
These things have come in like a flood in America. And if there are heathen in Africa, there are heathen in America. If there is paganism in Rangoon and in Calcutta, there is paganism in New York and in Dallas. And if there is spiritual darkness in South America or in Indonesia, there is spiritual darkness in Texas. No longer, I am saying, are our spiritual frontiers beyond the seas. They are here at home. They are everywhere. And we find ourselves attacked from every flank and from every side.
So Jesus said to this man, “You go home, and where you live, you tell how great things the Lord hath for thee” [Mark 5:19]. I ought to point out one thing here in this text. It says that when they came—all the people in Gadara and all the people in the countryside—and looked, they saw this man sitting at the feet of Jesus [Mark 5:15].
Now, all of us who love the Lord, all of us would say, “What a heavenly position. What a divine and holy posture.” Think of it, to sit at the feet of Jesus: to listen, to adore, to be enraptured, to worship, to meditate, to be quiet, to sit at the feet of Jesus. And all of us are enticed, and our spirits respond to such an opportunity. That’s what Simon Peter said on the top of the mountain [Mark 9:5]: “Lord, it is good to be here. What a marvelous place to be. Let us make a tabernacle for Thee, then one for Elijah, and then one for Moses, and let us just stay here, Lord. Ah! What a place to be.”
But at that time––you remember the story––down there in the valley, there were the rest of those disciples, nine of them down there, who were wrestling with a demon [Mark 9:14-27], and with so much that needs God down there in the valley. And the Lord said, “No, let us go. Let us go.”
And that’s what the Lord is saying here. To sit and to meditate, to be holy, all of it has a place in life, but there is more to the Christian duty and service than just sitting, or meditating, or praying, or communing with God. It has another facet. There’s another side to it. To sit, to meditate, to be close to God is a marvelous practice, but it must also be followed by a great personal service and devotion and discipleship.
So the Lord said to him, not that he sit and meditate, as beautiful and as necessary as that is, but, “You witness and testify what God has done for thee” [Mark 5:19]. “And he departed, and began to publish abroad in all Decapolis what God had done for him” [Mark 5:20]. Now that is God’s best way of the propagation of the faith, just saying something good about Jesus. Why, bless you, it’s just a way, it’s God’s method of evangelization.
Like that little servant girl in the house of Naaman, she, in a humble and sweet and precious way, said something good about her Lord down there, and the preacher in the land of Samaria [2 Kings 5:2-3]. No argue, no finding fault with where she was or with the people, she just said something glorious about Jehovah God and His preacher down there in Samaria.
Just like that blind man in the ninth chapter of the Book of John; they hedged him on every side, and those intellectuals and those theologians put him in a corner, and he finally said––this is the most eloquent thing I think any man ever said––he said, “Whether He is a sinner or no, I am not able to say: but one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I can see” [John 9:25]. Testimony; witness and this man did it zealously, and gloriously, and triumphantly, and convincingly, and beautifully, and appealingly.
Let me ask you something. When people see you, would they say, “You know, I’d like to have what he has. I’d like to be like him.” Well, that’s what it is. That’s what it is. That’s the way the faith is propagated. That’s God’s program of evangelization, is you and your testimony. And when people hear it, ah! Do they say, when they look at you, “Ah! That must be wonderful. That must be glorious.” That’s the way it ought to be, and our churches ought to be that way. They ought to be vibrant and alive and full of the Spirit of God. And when people come to the service, they ought to go away, saying, “I felt the Lord in that place.”
That’s just the way we ought to be. God is light, and life, and things ought to be vibrant and quickened where God is. And that’s what the devil did to our churches, and that’s what the devil does to religion all the time. He takes the life out of it. He takes the vibrancy out of it. And he loves to get our people into a ritual and into a ceremonial way where they just go through the motions.
Ah! Dear Lord! That’s what killed the Jewish religion. They became bound down by the tradition of the elders, and that’s what Satan did to the Greek churches, and that’s what Satan did to the Roman churches. He killed the churches, and they just began going through the motions and just going through the rituals.
Like that boy reading Latin, studying Latin, and he wrote in his book, “Latin is a dead language, as dead as dead can be. It killed all the Romans, and now it’s killing me.” And that’s the way some of our churches are, just dead. Ah! “And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him” [Mark 5:20].
Now I’m going to turn the page. I must close. I’m going to turn the page, and when I do, over here in the eighth chapter of the Book of Mark, Jesus is in that same place. He is in that same spot. He is in that same country. And it starts off with, “In those days the multitude being very great” [Mark 8:1], just thousands of people around Him; that’s what came of this man’s witnessing in Decapolis [Mark 5:20], just thousands of people. Why, He had been over there just before, and they begged Him to leave their coasts [Mark 5:17]. When Jesus comes back, they are there by the thousands [Mark 8:1].
“I want to see Him.”
“I want to hear Him.”
“Ah! Could there be such a glorious Somebody as this Savior, the Lord, Jesus?” All due to that man’s witnessing [Mark 5:20]. I’ll show you another thing just like it. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, it says, “When Simon Peter got through preaching [Acts 2:14-40], the Lord added three thousand souls to the church” [Acts 2:41]. Then in the third chapter of the Book of Acts, there is the witness and the testimony of that lame man that is healed [Acts 3:1-16]. And when that lame man got through testifying and glorifying God, it says here in the fourth chapter, that the people who heard his word, and believed; the number of the men, beside the women and children, was five thousand [Acts 4:4].
It just works that way. It’s in our personal testimony and witnessing that God blesses and saves. With you over there, and I’m over here, and the rest of us are out there, and it’s just a paean of praise, and of glory, and a magnifying the Lord, and exaltation of Jesus everywhere. That’s what does it. That’s what God blesses.
I say again I have to close. I want to tell you a testimony I came across. These things just move my heart. There was a man who was destroyed by drink, always go by the bar on the way home, always take his paycheck and spend it on drink. Finally, as you know, people like that fall into financial difficulty, mortgage not paid on the house and their furniture repossessed. And in those days, the guy got saved. He got converted. And it never fails, when a man is converted, when he’s saved, why, God blesses him. He just does. And God blessed this man. And they had their house; and they got their furniture and put it back in the house.
Well, this man met one of his old cronies, one of his old drinking partners. Then he said to him, “I hear you’ve been saved. Yeah, that’s what I hear, that you’ve given your heart to Jesus. That’s what I hear.”
“Yeah,” said that fellow. “I’ve been saved. I’ve found the Lord. I’ve given my heart to Jesus. Yeah.”
“Ah!” he says, “How stupid can you get? Do you believe that old stuff there in the Bible,” he says, “like that story about Jesus turning water into wine? [John 2:1-11]. Do you believe that?”
And the man humbly replied. He said, “Sir, I’m an unlearned, and I’m an ignorant man, and I don’t know how to argue with you, and I don’t know what to say. All I know is this. That Jesus has turned beer into furniture, and that’s good enough for me.” How do you like that?
Man, He always does it. He never fails. Try Him. You give your heart and your life to Jesus. Open your heart to the blessed Lord God, and you see if you don’t start singing and praising the Lord, if God doesn’t bless you. He just will because that’s the Lord, and He made it that way.
And you testify to God’s grace in your life, and see if God doesn’t bless others. People will love seeing you come. They will love being around you. “Why, this is a glorious day. I’ve never lived through this day before.” That’s God, abounding grace and love in us [Romans 5:5].
Well, we got to sing about it, and while we sing this song––isn’t it bringing in the sheaves, sowing in the morning, sowing in the evening, sowing in the noonday and at eventide? Whatever it is sowing, God blessing it, bringing in the sheaves––and while we sing this song of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord, to come to the Savior, to put your life with us here in this wonderful church, while we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, come. “Pastor, this is my wife, and these are our children. All of us are coming today.” Or just that somebody you, make the decision now, and when you stand up, in just a moment, stand up coming. We’re looking for you. God bless you, as you walk down that aisle and here to the pastor. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.