One Thing Concerns You
November 15th, 1970 @ 7:30 PM
ONE THING CONCERNS YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-15-70 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled One Thing Concerns You. It is a message from the last part of the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. So we invite you to take your Bible and open it to John, the Gospel of John, the fourth chapter, the Fourth Gospel, the fourth chapter, and we shall read beginning at verse 46 to the end of the chapter. And if on the radio of the city of Dallas you have joined with us, and you have a Bible, read out loud these precious Scripture passages. John chapter 4, beginning at verse 46 to the end, now all of us reading it out loud together, verse 46:
So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him that He would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
The nobleman saith unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.
And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.
Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.
So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judea into Galilee.
Now the message is in quite a different world from what you might think for as you read the passage. It is a message addressed to the heart of one somebody you, here in this auditorium or listening on the radio, addressed to you, that you might open your heart to receive Jesus as your Savior. It is an evangelistic sermon. And I invite you, if you have never publicly given your life to Christ, and never taken Him as your Lord, I invite you to consider earnestly this message tonight.
It begins with a nobleman who lived in Capernaum, who came to where Jesus was several miles away in another city, in one called Cana. And he came to ask the Lord to heal his child who was so grievously ill. And the Lord answered in a very seemingly heartless and cruel manner [John 4:46-48]. And the man said to Him, “I am not interested in the signs and the wonders that other people expect of You. I am just interested in my son who is sick and nigh unto death” [John 4:49]. And without any sign, without any wonder, without any miracle, without anything at all, the Lord said, “You go back home, the boy is well.” And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken, and he turned and went home [John 4:50-51]. And when he arrived he found that that same hour that Jesus had spoken the word that his boy was made whole again [John 4:52-53].
Now the message: the man came and said to Jesus, “Lord, my son is at the point of death. Come and heal him” [John 4:47]. I live in a world like that. As far back as my memory will go in my pastoral work, it is that kind of a ministry that I especially and poignantly bring to mind when I think of our people. In my first pastorate, a godly man and his young wife came to me and said, “Oh pastor, pray that our little girl will live!” She was about four years old. “We’ll do anything in the world. Tell the Lord we’ll do anything in the world, if He will just spare our child.” Well, of course, I prayed the best that I could. The child died; such a sorrow. So many times does God say no. And the child died, and the mother asked for the privilege of dressing the child and combing the child’s hair. The little thing had long golden curls. And oh, those services, they just break my heart.
And just to say it is to bring sympathy in our souls with this father: his little boy was at the point of death. And he makes that earnest, pathetic request of the Lord, “Lord, that he might live. Come and heal him” [John 4:47].
Now instead of saying, “I am in deepest sympathy with your appeal, I understand the burden of your heart,” Jesus said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” [John 4:48]. Sometimes the Lord will say a thing that has such a cruel repercussion, overtone with it. Do you remember the Syrophoenician woman who asked in behalf of her demented daughter? [Matthew 15:22-25]. The Lord said to her, “It is not meet to take, it is not worthy, it is not acceptable and right to take the bread from the children to give it to the dogs” [Matthew 15:26]. Oh, how apparently cruel that was! To take the bread, that is, He had come to minister to Israel, and to give it to the Gentile dogs…but the Lord, of course, and we haven’t time to enter into that story, the Lord had a marvelous meaning and message in what He did.
And it is the same thing here: when that nobleman expresses such earnest importunity in behalf of his boy who is dying [John 4:47], the Lord says, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” [John 4:48]. That’s what everybody else was expecting of Him. The Pharisees had come to Him and said, “Show us a sign that You are the Messiah. What sign do You give us?” [John 6:30]. And do you remember, after He had fed the five thousand [John 6:1-4], they crossed most of them, around the head of the lake to Capernaum? He was on the eastern side [John 6:24-25], and they said to Him, “Moses fed the children manna in the wilderness. What are You going to do?” [John 6:30-31]. And do you remember again, when the Lord was taken to Herod on that Friday of His Passion, why, Herod was delighted so see Him, for, the Book says, “Herod wanted Him to perform some unusual sign, some unusual miracle” [Luke 23:8], just like a Houdini, just like a man who has a bag of tricks, just like a fellow who pulls rabbits out of a hat. It was that kind of a thing and attitude toward the Lord. He was a great miracle worker, and they wanted to see Him do some kind of a miracle.
Let me tell you: you’re not confirmed in any faith because of any miracle or any sign or any wonder. Faith is born out of another area in life. It is the curious, it is the shallow, it is the cheap who expect signs and wonders, Houdinis and Blackstones and rabbits out of hats. “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” [John 4:48]. And the nobleman said, “Sir, I’m not interested in any sign. I’m not looking for any wonder. I don’t expect anything just for the show or the ostentation. Lord, my boy is about to die. Come and heal my boy” [John 4:49]. And when the Lord saw the desperate earnestness of the request, He said to him, “You go back home. You go your way, for that boy is alive. He is well.” And the father believed the word” [John 4:50]. No sign, no token, no assurance, no anything; he just believed the word of God, and turned and went back home. And at that very moment that the Lord had said to him, “Your son is alive,” at that very moment that the man believed, at that moment the lad was healed, and he lived [John 4:50-53].
Well, that’s the background; now the message to the heart. What are you concerned with? What concerns you? A sign? A wonder? Some monstrous thing alien to the mind of God and strange to the ordinary course of human life? What concerns you? Or is it that you are lost and you need to be saved, and you’re not ready to die? What concerns you?
Why, I can just—these things happen almost every day. Here is a man who is eighty years old, and I’ve been pleading with him to accept the Lord as his Savior, and he says no. And finally I press him, and say, “Why do you not take the Lord as your Savior?” And he says to me, “Well, preacher, I’m just afraid that I could not hold out to the end,” eighty years of age. His concern was not that he was lost, standing at the very brink of the grave, facing God without Christ. His concern was whether or not he could “hold out to the end,” whatever that meant, as though our salvation is a matter of clinging to some kind of a commitment that we make, as though we were saving ourselves; had no God in it at all. The only thing that concerned him was not that he was lost, but that whether or not he could hold out to the end.
Take another man: I press upon him the claims of Christ, and he says to me, “Well, preacher, just to tell you the truth, I’m just as good as any other church member you’ve got down there.” Well, I would not deny that; maybe he is, maybe he is. But what concerns him is not that he’s lost and that he faces the judgment day of Almighty God without Christ and without a Savior, but what concerns him is he’s measuring himself by other men, and being an unhumble man and an unchristian man, most of them are like that: they feel themselves, “Well, I’m just as good as anybody else. I’ll take my own chances. I’ll walk right straight into the heaven, and I’ll lift my head up and say, ‘Lord God, look at me. I’m just fine. I’m just right. See what I’ve done and see what I did?’” That concerns him: measuring himself by other men, and proud of his self-righteousness. His concern is not that he’s lost, not that he faces an inevitable judgment.
Take another man: I press upon him the claims of the Lord, and he says to me, “Well, you know, my problem is I don’t know what church to join. Those folks over there say so and so, and those folks over there say this, and these other folks they say that, and I don’t know what church to join.” His problem is not that he’s lost, that he faces death and the appointed judgment of Almighty God; but his concern is, “I don’t know what church to join.”
Take another man: I press upon him the claims of the Lord, and he says to me, “Well, sometime I intend to be a Christian before I die. I don’t intend to fall into damnation and perdition. I intend to be saved. I intend to accept the Lord as my Savior, but I’m not going to do it now, just some other time, some other day, when it’s convenient.” His concern is not that he’s lost and that he faces death and the great judgment day of God, but his concern is a convenient time: “I have to work me out a season and a day when it is convenient for me.”
I could go on by the hour with these answers that people give. But actually, there’s just one thing that concerns us in life, just one; and it isn’t money, and it isn’t even health, it isn’t even length of days. There’s just one thing that ultimately and finally concerns us, and that is, “Am I right with God? [1 John 2:1]. Am I saved? And when that great ultimate day comes and we stand before the Lord, will I be in His sight justified? Do I have a Pleader, an Advocate at the judgment bar of Almighty God? And when the saints go marching in, will I be in that number? For I am a lost sinner; I know I’m lost” [John 3:36; 1 John 5:12]. And there’s not a man in the earth who is honest with himself but that knows that he is a sinner, and that he’s lost. And that’s the one thing that concerns you.
When a man in the camp of Israel was bitten by a serpent, and Moses lifted up a brazen serpent in the midst of the camp and said, “If any man is bitten . . . if he will look and live” [Numbers 21:8-9]. What would you think of a man who is bitten by a serpent and is dying, the fangs of that little tenuous venomous viper have sunk into him, and the poison courses through his veins, and he’s dying—what would you think of that man if he stopped to speculate about the length, and the size, and the color, and the kind of a serpent that struck him? “Look, man, look! We’re dying; look and live! Look!” [John 3:14-15].
What would you think of a man who would say on the Titanic, or any ship going down, and the call is sounded, “The ship is sinking! To the lifeboats! To the lifeboats!” And the man stops and speculates the size of the boat, and the length of the boat, and the weight of the boat, and the draft of the boat, and a thousand other things he might inquire concerning the color, the weight, the size, the length, the breadth of the boat? “Man, in it! For the ship is going down!”
It is the same way with us: there is one thing ultimately above all of the other considerations of life. There is one thing ultimately that concerns us, and that is, “Am I saved? [Acts 3:19]. Is my name in the Book of Life? [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27]. If I were to die tonight, would I go to heaven?” And we may be called into the judgment bar, into the presence of God any day, any hour, any time, any one of us [Luke 12:20].
At the service this morning, at the 11:00 o’clock service—at the 8:15 o’clock service this morning, there came a mother down here, a young mother; and she has a little girl. And she said, “I want to kneel here and pray. I want to thank God for sparing the life of my little girl. She was struck by an automobile, and we thought she was dying, and God spared her life. And I just want you to pray and thank God for her.” Oh, oh! and as I prayed, I said, “Lord, the life could have been snuffed out in a moment, in a moment.” And that child is no different from you if you are a child, or from us who are mature. There can anything happen to us, anytime, and many times does. “But am I ready? Have I settled this with God?” There is one great overwhelming concern in life, just one: and that is, “Am I saved?”
When a man is dead, what does it matter if I stand above his casket and speak of how many houses he owned, or his wealth, or how poor he was, or anything else about him? Learned or unlearned, wise or unwise, these things are nothing. The only thing that ultimately matters, the only thing that really concerns is, are you saved? “Am I right with God?”
Now look again: what do you want? What do you want? Now here we could go through that same hour after hour as I talk to people about the Lord. What do you want? “Well, preacher, I want God to do some miraculous, unusual, catastrophic thing with me. Then I want a tremendous experience. I want God to reach down from heaven and take both of His hands and just lift me by the hair of my head and set me into the kingdom. I want some marvelous thing to happen to me.” And I cannot tell you the number of people that I have talked to that when they are invited to accept the atoning grace of Christ will reply like that. “I want some marvelous experience.”
Well, I don’t blame a man for wanting some marvelous experience. Why, I can remember the number of times in days past when, how would I say it, not as mature as I am now, not as experienced in the Lord as I am now, I can remember in younger days when I would kneel and pray God for an angel to appear to me. I am ashamed of those things; and when I confess them, I feel I have cheapened the faith and I have kind of affronted and insulted God. And yet I did those things. I would kneel and pray God for an angel to appear to me, for a light to come and shine on me from heaven. I used to pray for those things. I am ashamed of them now. I don’t need any sign, and I’m not looking for any wonder.
What I want, Lord, I want to be saved. I want to be a child of God. I want Jesus to write my name up there in that book of those that love God [Romans 8:28; Hebrews 6:10]. I want to be a Christian. That’s what I want. Like that woman with an issue of blood: “I want to be healed,” and she touched the hem of His garment [Matthew 9:20-21]. Like blind Bartimeus, when the Lord asked him, “What do you want?” he said, “Lord, that I might see. I want to see” [Mark 10:51]. Like the thief on the cross, turning to the Lord, and said, “Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, do not forget me; remember me” [Luke 23:42]. That’s what I want. I want God. I want to be saved. That’s what I want [Matthew 7:7].
Sometimes what we really want is hid from our eyes; the world covers, glazes over, blinds us, and we don’t realize. When I was a whole lot younger than I am now, I used to read “Mutt and Jeff,” “Mutt and Jeff.” Dear me! “Mutt and Jeff.” Well, this was one of those long series, you know. So Mutt and Jeff found out that way across the sea there was a place where they could scoop up diamonds, just scoop them up, put them in bags, arms full, buckets full, scoop up diamonds. So they made that journey in a boat across the sea, and there the diamonds were. Oh, they just scooped them up, brilliant, shining diamonds. Now that’s sure the craziest thing in the earth. Did you ever see a diamond in the rough? They look like greasy, ugly stones. You’ve got to shine them, you’ve got to polish them, you’ve got to cut facets on them, you know. Well anyway, this is a comic strip; he wasn’t thinking about the truth, he’s just lying, that’s all—and getting paid for it. Well, over there in that land, they just scooped them up, diamonds, barrels of them, buckets full of them, bags full of them, diamonds. Oh, that comic strip, it had diamonds in it. So Mutt and Jeff got their barrels and their buckets and their bags and their bunches of diamonds, and got on the ship to come back home, to cross the sea. Well, something happened, and the ship foundered and went down. And so they contrived a little life raft, a little life raft out of the ship, just salvaged that much of it. And Mutt and Jeff were on that life raft with all of those buckets and bags and barrels of diamonds. And do you know how that comic strip ended? Mutt and Jeff are out there under a burning, searing sun, in the middle of the ocean, and the diamonds are rolling off the raft as the winds and the waves toss it around; they’re rolling out of the barrels, and they’re rolling out of the buckets, and they’re rolling out of the bags, and they’re just rolling off the life raft. And Mutt and Jeff are there with their tongues swollen, and their lips dry and parched, and they’re dying of thirst. Isn’t that a funny way for a comic strip to end? “Diamonds, diamonds, we want diamonds.” Really? Actually? What they really wanted was water, a drink of water, just cool clear water!
I think of that man whom they called Dives, who lifted up his eyes in torment, and what he wanted was one drop of water “to cool my tongue” [Luke 16:24]. Isn’t that a strange thing? What actually you want, your eyes don’t realize, and your heart is not sensitive to. What we actually want is God. “I want God. I want the Lord.” These things don’t satisfy: fame will not, money will not, success will not, popularity will not; these things are cheap. If I were looking for someone to commit suicide, I would look for someone gracious, and charming, and talented, and rich and famous in Hollywood! That’s where I’d go to look. We don’t actually want those things. What actually we want is God. “I want the Lord. I want to be saved. I want to have peace in my heart and rest in my soul. I want to walk with the Lord; that’s what I want.”
Last: then trust God for it, and God will do it. Just believe the word of the Lord for it, and it will happen. It will be just like that: “Lord, not looking for any sign, not looking for a monstrous experience, not expecting, Lord, anything except that You will keep Your word, that if I’ll trust You and believe in You [Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10], You will see me through, You will walk with me down that aisle before the church, You will walk with me through the waters of the Jordan, You will walk with me through the trials of the day, You will stand by me in the hour of my death, and You will take me to Yourself in glory [Luke 23:43]. That’s what I believe, Lord.”
And if you do that, God does a miracle thing for you. He writes your name in the Book of Life [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27]. He comes into your heart. He speaks to your soul. He saves you [Romans 10:13]. He puts a song in your heart. He puts a new nomenclature on your lip, a new language in your lips. He makes something else out of you. You go to bed at night and you are somebody different. And you rise up in the morning and the whole day shines. You are somebody else. The Lord is with you. And we grow in grace in His presence. There are a thousand gracious things the Lord helps us to achieve. We have somebody to pray to. We have a great Partner to share in. We can take our problems to Him, lay them before Him. We can ask Him to bless the work of our hands. And we can share with God’s people the love of the Lord. Oh, it’s a wonderful life! It’s a glorious thing! It’s a marvelous miracle! And what is it? It’s just, “And the nobleman believed the word of the Lord, and went to his home” [John 4:50]. Just go out that door trusting Jesus, lying down at night in rest, trusting in the Lord; rising in the morning, trusting in the Lord; living through the work of the day, trusting in the Lord, and as long as we live, loving Him more and more, sweeter as the years go by.
Would you do that? “I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian. I want God to come into my heart. I want to walk with the Lord down that glory road, and I’m coming tonight. I’m trusting God for it.” That’s the way I was saved. That’s the way all of us are saved [John 3:14-18]. That’s the way you will be saved: just believing God’s word for it [Acts 16:30-31]. “And here I am, here I come.” Do it now, make it tonight. In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And when we stand to sing it, on the first note of the first stanza, step into that aisle and down here to the front. A couple of you, you; a family you; or just one somebody you, in this balcony round, down one of these stairways; on the lower floor into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, tonight. I make it now.” As God shall press the appeal to your heart, giving your life to the Lord, answering His call, coming into the fellowship of His church, obeying His voice, trusting Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8], as God shall open wide the door, come in, and welcome. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. The request (John
B. The answer of Jesus
(John 4:48, Matthew 15:26)
1. Everyone else
expected signs and wonders (John 6:30-31, Luke 23:8)
C. The direct
importunity of the father (John 4:)
D. Jesus answers with
no sign given (John 4:50)
E. The nobleman’s faith
II. With regard to being saved, what
A. That you are lost,
or something else?
1. “Holding out”
to the end
2. Measuring yourself
3. Which church
4. A more
B. Blinded to the main
1. Just look and
live (Numbers 21:8-9)
III. What do you want?
B. This man so
desperate wanted just one thing
1. Woman with an
issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-21)
Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51)
3. Dying thief on
the cross turning to Jesus (Luke 23:42)
C. Sometimes what we
want is hid from our eyes (Luke 16:24)
IV. Will you trust Me?
A. Go home believing