The Harvest Fields at Home
September 14th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
OUR HARVEST FIELDS AT HOME
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
9-14-69 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And that is one of the great privileges of a lifetime. If I lived in Timbuktu, in Kalamazoo, in Seattle or Bangor, Maine, I would pray God to put me in television distance of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And if I lived in Dallas, I would go to the First Baptist Church; other than that you might as well live in Fort Worth. The great privilege of living in Dallas is to come to this church. And if you live in Fort Worth, come and visit us; you are close enough, some of you, to join us. And welcome. This is a great part of the earth, the metropolitan districts of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Well, I’m happy in the Lord today. I’m just like that fellow, he was an operator on an elevator; he ran the elevator. And he had a bunch of grumpy passengers, as most of them are. Just look at them on an elevator when you ever get in there. Ah! He had a bunch of grumpy passengers! And while he was taking them up there to the forty-ninth floor he began to hum, just a sweet little tune. And one of the passengers said, "You seem to be happy." He said, "I am. I ain’t never lived through this day before." Isn’t that all right? Yeah.
Remember Bob Coleman, you old-timers like Jack down there? That was one of the best, sweetest men that ever lived, Brother Bob Coleman. And his favorite verse was, and he would quote it again and again, "This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" [Psalm 118:24].
Well, all that is just a little extra. Now, turn in your Bible to Mark 5; I’m going to preach out of this chapter in the fifth chapter of the Book of Mark. There are two things that have converged on this week that have made what I thought was imperative that I preach a sermon like this. The title of the sermon is Our Harvest Fields At Home. This is the week of prayer by Women’s Missionary Union in Texas for our state. And tomorrow evening we have a tremendous commitment to visit here in this city. Down here at about five o’clock, all our deacons, our Sunday school superintendents, our teachers, our officers, the leadership of our church, we’ll all be down here, ready to go out tomorrow evening. And in behalf of that commitment, the pastor has prepared the sermon today.
Now, I haven’t time to read the whole story, but I’m going to pick up at the fifteenth verse. They who lived in that country of Gadara – on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, on the east side – they came to Jesus and they looked at that man who was possessed. And he had so many evil spirits in him that his name, he said, was Legion [Mark 5:9]. And there he was, seated, clothed, in his right mind; and they that saw it told how it befell to him that was possessed. And the people who looked at it asked Jesus to leave, depart out of their country [Mark 5:15-17]. So the Lord left as He always does; you don’t want Him, He is not there. And when He got into the ship to go over on the other side, that man who had been marvelously saved and restored asked that he might accompany the Lord, that he might go with Him. But Jesus suffered him not, "No," He said, "but you 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 all Decapolis," that is a league of ten Greek cities on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He departed and began to publish in all Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel [Mark 5:18-20].
Now what happened was, as you remember the story, when the Lord went over there across the sea and in that country of Gadara, the capital city, Gadara, why, He met a man, and the man was filled with unclean spirits [Mark 5:1-2]. Just like you meet people today; don’t think, "Oh! This is peculiar, or different from what it is now." Just the same, I see it every day of my life, and you do too: men who are filled with unclean spirits. There are men who are just as filthy as they can be; animals are not as filthy as they are. They are filthy in their language, they have an unclean spirit in their tongue, they have an unclean spirit in their thoughts, they have an unclean spirit in their lusts, they have an unclean spirit in their attitudes. Some of them have the spirit of gambling, some the spirit of swearing, some the spirit of drinking. Ah, in a thousand ways I see it everywhere! After all, a man is not just dust, He is not just ground, He is not just ashes; there is something on the inside of him. And many times that something on the inside of a man is evil; he has an evil spirit.
Well, Jesus met this man, and healed him and the people came out to see the sight. Ah, what a sight it was! This man had made every night hideous with his heinous crying, ah! He had made the roads impassable by the ferocity of his attack. He must have been a giant man; and being a mad man filled with evil, he made life miserable for all that were in the country. And they had tried to bind him and to tame him, and he just tore chains as though they were nothing [Mark 5:1-4]. He was another Samson, only vile, and vicious, and volitive. Well, they came out to see this marvel that had come to pass, and it was a glory, it was a miracle. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Mark, you have the miracle of the stilling of the tempest, the storm [Mark 4:35-41]. Then in the fifth chapter you have this miracle, and of the two this is far greater. To calm a sea is a miracle, I know, but to change a man’s life is a greater miracle, and this man was gloriously delivered [Mark 5:6-13].
Well, I want to ask you: had you thought through this story, wouldn’t you have put down, "And the people came out, and looked, and praised God?" Ah! If they had any doxologies in that day, that would have been the time to sing them. If they knew the Hebrew language and the word "praise God" in it, that would have been the time to say, "Hallelujah!" And if they had any other who were possessed, or mad, or evil, or vile, or lame, crippled, blind, halt, gather them together and bring them to Jesus; that would have been the time to do it. But it didn’t happen that way at all, because in the unusual account of the story, there were some hogs that were lost, there were some pigs that were destroyed [Mark 5:12-13]. And the people in Gadara put on one side the loss of their pigs and on the other side the gaining of this man, the saving of the man. And when they made the choice, there was not any comparison in their minds: to save a man was nothing, but to lose pigs was everything. So they asked Jesus to leave; He was an unprofitable guest. And the Lord left [Mark 5:14-17].
Well, I say, don’t get in your mind that these are peculiar days, or unique, or separate, or different from what they are today. It is the same thing today, just exactly. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book oft Acts, Demetrius, the silversmith in Ephesus found himself going out of business because people were turning from gross idolatry to the faith of the Lord. And Demetrius the silversmith, finding the gospel of Jesus unprofitable to idolatry, raised a riot in the city [Acts 19:24-34]. Well, you have the same thing today; just look around you. Who wants Jesus when he is publishing and purveying pornography? He interferes with business. Who wants Jesus when you are selling liquor? "My soul! How are we going to increase the sale of this water that burns like fire and destroys men’s minds, and lives, and jobs, and homes? We don’t want Jesus around in this business." What of the dope pusher, and the heroin peddler, and all of the rest of the vile, iniquitous, dark, creeping creatures in this earth who make money out of sin? They don’t want Jesus, not one of them; because He interferes with business. There is many a man that invites Jesus out of his establishment because He is not good for the trade. There is many a man who dismisses Jesus from his office because He interferes with profits. And there’s many a young person that dismisses Christ out of his life because he thinks He interferes with pleasure; just the same thing; no different at all. And that is what they did: the loss of pigs – some hogs, some swine – in the healing of this glorious man, so they asked Jesus to leave [Mark 5:17].
And when Jesus left, that man came to Him and said, "Lord, I do not want to stay in any such country, or with any such people. I do not want to live in this land; I want to go with You. Let me go with You. Let me be one of Your disciples and witness and testify over there on the other side, in that other country where You come from. Let me go with You." And the Lord said, "No. No, you go back to your people and your city and your town and your country, and you tell them what great things the Lord hath done for thee" [Mark 5:18-19].
What do you think about that? Do you think that in refusing that man the opportunity to go to another country, and another language, and another people, and testify to them of the grace of God, and when the Lord said, "No, you stay at home; and you witness and testify where you are," what do you think of that? Do you think that the Lord denied this man the field of service? Did He deny him a fully surrendered life? What do you think? Because he didn’t have a foreign mission, did he have no mission at all? What do you think? Well, the Lord never makes a mistake. Now, He calls some to be foreign missionaries, but I know that He also calls some to be home missionaries, home witnesses, and this man is one of them. "You go home, and tell your friends, and people, and land, and city, and country, you tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee" [Mark 5:19].
Now I want to make a comment right here that I think is everlastingly true, especially in our generation. There used to be a time when missions almost always was identified with the word "foreign," "foreign missions," and missions was on the other side of the sea, on the other side of the world. It was in the isles, it was in darkest Africa, or among the heathen Chinese; that was to us missions. But today, mission frontiers are no longer geographical, but they are spiritual. They cross every threshold, they go down every village, and city street, and they cross every continent and every ocean. Mission frontiers today are everywhere, and they are here just as much as they are over there. There was a time when we used to think of America as a Christian nation and we used to think of it as being a godly people. And we sent out missionaries across the seas to other lands, to other tongues and tribes; but here at home we had a great spiritual Christian base. That is no more true now than if it had never existed. America is essentially a pagan, secularistic nation; it is today. And while we were looking abroad, and while we were praying for the missionary enterprise across the sea, something has happened to us here at home, we’ve been infiltrated! We have been surrounded by fifth columnists, and they have penetrated even into the very heart of our Christian churches themselves. Today, here at home, we are destroyed by a thousand enemies that have honeycombed, have eaten out the very foundation of our Christian witness and our Christian nation.
We are afflicted with rationalism. Rationalism: that a man’s mind and his own thinking processes – without the help of divine revelation – can solve all of the problems that we face and we need no "God’s intervention" or "God’s revelation." Rationalism: the man can think it out himself. Theological liberalism: there’s no such thing as the supernatural; and that Book is just like any other book, written by men. Humanism: the dethroning of God and the enthroning and deifying of man, humanism. Materialism: that the whole creation is just material, and that matter is eternal, and our objectives therefore must always be material and never spiritual. And secularism, that is, there is no need for prayer, or faith, or God, or worship, or religion. These things have come in like a flood and America has been destroyed by it. We are not anything the nation that we used to be.
You think of heathenism as being in Africa. That is where the people don’t wear clothes and that is where their minds are filled with all kinds of aberrations. Heathenism is in Africa. Oh! But heathenism is in America also, just as heathen. We think of paganism as being in Rangoon and in Calcutta, there is paganism in New York City and in Dallas, Texas; paganism. We think of atheism – blasphemous – as being in Moscow and Peking; it is just as blatant here in the United States of America. And we think of darkened, superstitious minds as being in all of those areas to whom we send foreign missionaries; there are darkened, superstitious minds here in America just the same. You can just go around the world and look at it, and the filth you find over there, you will find here. And all of those things that to us are unspeakable that we see abroad, you will see right here; and sometimes not very far away, no further than Lewisville. This is America today. So I’m just saying to you what is a God’s truth: that our mission frontiers have changed and they are all around us. They are everywhere, there’s no place where they are not.
Well, this man was given a great commission [Mark 5:19]. Look at it: "And when they came, they saw this man who had been possessed, they saw him seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed, clothed" [Mark 5:15]. Isn’t that something? Whenever an evil spirit gets a hold of some people, they want to unclothe themselves: that is a vile and evil spirit; it is a spirit of uncleanness. If you are godly – I can go further, if you are normal – when you undress in the presence of other people, you are of all things self conscious. Yet, they will take these girls in Hollywood and teach them, and teach them, and teach them, to unclothe themselves before a camera and all the men who are operating it, and be perfectly normal. You have to teach that, you have to invite such a spirit of uncleanness into your heart and into your life. And when you see these filthy people, anywhere – the fan dancers, the bubble dancers – now I’ve never seen them, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I just hear of them. Whenever you see that, that is uncleanness, the spirit of dirt and filth; and this man was possessed and he took off his clothes. But when he was saved, and when he was right, he put his clothes back on [Mark 5:15]. I say, without any fear of being wrong in my judgment, that any movie star, or any Broadway player, or anybody that has to unclothe himself or herself in order to get an audience is a poor workman, a poor craftsman, a poor actor or actress. I just can’t imagine such stuff! The spirit of evil in the world; and this man was afflicted with that spirit. And when the Lord cast it out and he was saved and restored, he put his clothes back on.
So, he was seated there in the presence of Jesus [Mark 5:18]; now was not that a marvelous thing? Just imagine sitting in the presence of Jesus, and looking up into His face and hearing His voice. Now that is a consummation, devoutly to be wished. Simon Peter was that way, when on the Mount of Transfiguration he saw the Lord Jesus, and Elijah, and Moses talking with Him, Simon Peter said, "Lord it is good to be here" [Matthew 17:3-4]. And that is right; it is good to be here. Oh, Lord! That is right. Imagine it: Peter said, "Let us stay. Let us build a tabernacle, a dwelling place for Elijah; and let us build one for Moses; and let us build one for You [Matthew 17:4]. And let us stay here on top of this mountain, and just let us, Lord, look at You and hear You." Oh, how fine! But there was work there in the valley; there was a demon-possessed boy there in the valley, there were parents – a father and mother – whose hearts were being broken by the affliction of that boy [Matthew 17:14-18]. The Lord said, "No, we are going down there where the folks are; we are going down there where the people are" [Matthew 17:9].
And that is God’s will for us; you go home and tell the people what God has done for you [Mark 5:19]. To sit, and to meditate, and to be holy has its place. There is a time when you ought to close the closet door and talk to God, time when we ought to be quiet and seated before the Lord, time when we ought to pray and meditate. But my brother, there is another side to the Christian faith beside personal holiness: there is a time to do, to serve, to witness, to testify, to get involved down there where the people are. And where they are the filthiest, there we ought to be; we just ought.
I want you to know that there is a weakness in my own life and testimony; that is the hardest thing in the world for me to overcome it. I don’t like to be with filthy people, I don’t like their smell, I don’t like what they drink, I don’t like to listen to their conversation, I don’t like filthy, dirty people, I just don’t. But – but, it is so easy for me to get pharisaical about it. Well, I will just gather my garments about me, and just go to the other side of the pigpen. No, I ought not to do that, I just ought not. I ought to love them. Jesus died for them. No matter how vile or how filthy, God loves them and sent Jesus, His Son, to die for them and I ought to love them, too. You know you can love a man and not love his sin. You can love an actor and not love the filth and the dirt that he is portraying or saying. You can love people, I don’t care what they are doing, you can love them, and that is what we ought to do. Wherever there are people, there we ought to try to witness to the grace and goodness of God.
So the Lord sent him out and set a fire in his soul, and he just went out witnessing and testifying to the grace of Jesus [Mark 5:19-20]. Well, that is all God asks us to do. He does not ask me to argue, nor does He ask me to coerce, or to force. What He asks me to do is just to say what God has done for me, that’s all. I am just to witness to Him, and that is the instrument that God uses to bless, and to move, and to woo, and to win, and to convict, and to save, and to convert. And when people look at you, do they say, "Oh! I wish I had what you have?" Do you? Do you do it that way? O, Lord! If I’m ever glum, or down, or discouraged, Lord, Lord, help me out, help me to be up. That’s what it is to be a Christian and to shine for Jesus – Lord, help me out, to be up – so when people look at me, we want them to say, "Ah, I wish I had what he has!" That’s what I want, and that is God in us. Our witness, our testimony, "And he began to tell the whole earth what God had done for him" [Mark 5:20].
Well, he did it triumphantly and gloriously. When I turn over here to the eighth chapter of the Book of Mark, Jesus is in that same place, and He is thronged by a vast multitude [Mark 8:1-2]. Well, where did those people come from? These are the same people that just a little while before asked Jesus to leave [Mark 5:17]. And now He is over there in that same place and a great multitude surrounds Him [Mark 8:1-2]. Why, when that man got through testifying to the grace of God, the whole earth around Gadara wanted to see Jesus come back again. It is just wonderful, just wonderful! Just like when I turn to the Book oft Acts, in the second chapter of the Book oft Acts, is Simon Peter’s sermon, three thousand added to the church [Acts 2:14-41]. The third chapter of the Book of Acts is the testimony of that lame man that was healed [Acts 3:1-8], and when I get to the fourth chapter, when that man got through testifying what God had done for him, there were five thousand men that were added to that church [Acts 4:1-4]. And if there were that many men, think of the wives and children – must have been twenty-five thousand people – it is just wonderful! It is just wonderful. Not arguing, not trying to coerce, not anything but just shining, just glorifying God, just what God has done for me, how He blessed me. That’s all God needs.
I want to share a story with you that I read. Sometimes little old things, little old things turn, you know, just fasten themselves in my mind. Well, this is one: there was a man who was in the gutter. He was in the gutter; he can’t pass by the bar. He takes his salary, his check, and he spends it on the way home at the bar. And the family is in need and want, and finally they come and possess the furniture in the house and take it out. Well, you can see the sadness, and the tears, and the heartache that comes to a wife and a mother, and the children, and the family, when the husband gives himself to that kind of a dissipated life. Upon a day, the guy got saved; he got religion! He gave his heart to Jesus, he was saved. You don’t ever give your heart to God but that God blesses you. He reaches down and touches everything around you and blesses you. And you prosper, you just do. It is no unusual thing that God’s people prosper, they just do. Why, think of the stuff that you could spend your money on – that we who are Christians don’t spend our money on that – think of the habits that destroy your health, and we don’t have those habits. Any man that has those worldly habits will be sick ten times more than a fine Christian will. That is just a statistic, God blesses him. Well, God blessed this man, He just blessed him.
And it was not long till he had the furniture back in the house. And there when he came home was his wife, and there were his children, and there was the furniture in the house, being paid for. Oh, what a new life! Well, he met one of his old cronies on the street. And one of his old drinking cronies said, "Ha, ha, I hear you’ve been saved. I hear you got religion."
And that fellow said, "Yeah, yeah, I’ve been saved. Jesus has saved me. I’ve got the Lord in my heart; I’ve been saved."
"Ha, ha," said that guy, "Oh, so you believe all that stuff?"
"Yeah," he says, "I believe it all, everything, everything Jesus did."
"And you believe," he says, "that silly story about turning water into wine, you believe that?" [John 2:1-11].
Well the guy replied, he said, "You know, I’m an ignorant and I’m an unlearned man, and I can’t argue with you about turning water into wine. All I know is this: that Jesus turned beer into furniture and that is good enough for me."
Ah, man! We can’t lose, we’ve got it made. Why, you can just sing, shout, praise God, love Jesus every day of your life. When you get sick, there He is to help you – send a godly physician to pray for you – and when we come to the end of the way, it is all of this and heaven, too. Have the best time in the world, never have an old hangover or a dark brown headache, but every day is a glory day. May God’s Spirit bring life and light to our eyes and our souls, that we might see it. Why would a man hesitate to love God? Why would a family hesitate to take Jesus into their home? Why would a soul tremble in decision and go away when Jesus is able to bestow ten thousand blessings on us in this life and see us through, across the Jordan – stormy dark and deep – when time comes for us to go on the other side? Why, man! To choose the Lord, to bring your family to God, to bow before the great Maker and love Him and serve Him is the highest glory and duty of man. Isn’t that right? That’s right.
And that’s why we preach, and that’s why we gather in convocation; that is why we pray, and that’s why we sing: hoping God will put in your heart to come, to respond. Do it now. Do it today. In a moment we’re going to stand and sing a hymn. Going to sing "Bringing in the Sheaves"; and while we sing the song, a family you, to come. "Pastor, my wife and my children, all of us are coming today, here we are." A couple you, or just one somebody you, while we wait and while we prayerfully sing this hymn, you come. If you are in the topmost row of that top balcony, there is a stairwell on either side at the front and back, and there is room and time to spare. You come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front. "Here I am, preacher, I’m making it now." Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.