Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-15-70 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message from the first chapter of John and the eleventh verse, My Life is Not My Own.
But before I begin delivering this message from God’s Word and before we read it together, I have something that I want to say. As you know, I have been back from a five week mission, preaching, evangelistic tour of East Africa. I have been back just a few days. There are three kinds of people in Africa. There are black people, there are Negro people, and there are colored people. The black people are like the Ethiopians who are Hamitic and like the Sudanese and some of the tribes of central Africa that are Nilitic, they come from the Nile. They are black people. There are Negro people: they are a great tribe that proliferated over the southern part of Africa a few centuries ago. There are Negro people. Then there are colored people. They use the word “colored” there to refer to the mixture of the races as between the Asians and the Negro, or between white people and black people. But the word “black” is used all inclusive. That includes the Negro, it includes the Ethiopian, and to some extent it is becoming to include those who are colored, mixed race.
Now wherever I went in Africa, there I met the damning influence of the communist world; and they now, as you know, are joining hands with the Arabic world. And by day and by night there is a ceaseless and relentless war against the image of America. In every publication, in every personal contact, in every business venture, America is besmirched, and belittled, and ridiculed, and damned, and oh, in words that are as vile and vicious as the communist world is able to name them. Consequently, one of the things that you find in Africa, the communist world constantly holds up to the black people of Africa the racial crisis that we have in the United States. And there’s no incident, there’s no turn, there’s no daily contact of any description gracious, vile, explosive as between the white and the black people but that the communists blow it up. And, of course, they use it as a constant damning of America. Wherever I went, therefore, after a question or two, when a newspaper reporter would speak to me, when a head of state would talk to me, no matter where, after a few questions, always they’d come to this question: “In your church, can a black man come to your church?” I said, “Why, certainly. I preach to them all the time.” Then the next question, “Could a black man join your church?” And I say, “He’d be welcome any time, any day, any black man would come, he’d be welcome.” And they are so surprised, so surprised. Well, I want to show that to you tonight.
All of you black people, all of you Negro people, all you colored people, wherever you are, in the balcony, on the lower floor, back there where you can’t get a seat, I want you to stand up. All of our black people stand up. All of you, I want you to stand up. I want you to remain standing. I want you to stand up. Good. Amen. All right. I want to count you, because I’m going to write back and tell them. One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72—I saw some up there—73, 74, 75, 76, 77, [speaking from audience] yea, 78, 79, 80. There are eighty of you here tonight. [speaking from audience]. All right, 81, thank you, thank you, thank you. And the Lord bless you. You have a great destiny. You are a great people.
And the most astonishing thing, I think, in human history is this: that there is no anti-white sentiment in black Africa, none at all. There has never been such exploitation in all the story of humanity as the white man has exploited the black man in Africa. And there’s no anti-white sentiment at all. We’re welcome, and they open their hearts to us, and their homes to us, and their governments to us, and their cities to us. And they’re happy to have us, and look upon us as friends and brothers. It’s an amazing thing to me! O may God bless our missionaries. And dear Lord, bless our witness as we’re preaching the gospel, and the black man is listening. And they’re building churches, and the black man is responding. It’s a great thing just for your eyes to look upon it and to have some share in it, some part in it. It’s like a piece of God’s assignment itself.
Now the message, briefly. Turn to John; all of us turn to the Gospel of John. Turn to the Gospel of John, and we’re going to read the first thirteen verses; John 1:1-13. And let’s all read it out loud, sharing your Bible, sharing the Book, all of us read it out loud together. John 1:1-13, now let’s read it out loud together:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Now the text: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11]. My Life is Not My Own. “He came unto His own.”
We—and this is according to the Word of God, the whole attitude of the Bible is just like this—we do not belong to Satan, and God is trying to steal us away. But the whole attitude of the Bible is this: we belong to God, and Satan deceives us, and destroys us, ruins us, damns us. We belong to God, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11]; whether we take Him or not, believe in Him or not, receive Him or not, we still are God’s. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” We belong to God by creation. He made us. “It is He that hath made us,” the Bible says, “and not we ourselves” [Psalm 100:3]. God did it in the beginning, with His own hands [Genesis 1:27]; God made us, and God breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, and we became a living soul in the image of the Lord God our Creator [Genesis 2:7]. He made us in the beginning, and He makes us when we’re born into this world.
The most fantastic, unbelievable of all of the miracles, I think, in God’s world is the miracle of the fashioning of a new life, and a new body, and a new soul, a new spirit. When a child is born, there’s no miracle in the earth like a living soul. God made us. In the one hundred thirty-ninth Psalm is one of the most magnificent tributes to the creative power of God in forming us in our mother’s womb to be found in human language. God looked upon us. He saw our substance as it was being formed. And the Lord shaped us, and all of our members were written in His holy book. We belong to God. He made us [Psalm 139:13-16].
Second: we belong to God because He has redeemed us. Not only did He create us, not only did He make us, but God has bought us again, He has redeemed us [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. That word “redemption” is one of the most meaningful to be found in this Holy Book. You see, in the days of the long ago and ancient days, when armies raided other nations, they took whole cities, and whole populations, and families, and tribes, and sold them into slavery. In the ancient day, in the medieval day, and even in the modern day men were sold because of debt. And their properties were lost, and their family inheritances were lost. And that’s where that word “redemption” came from: to redeem. When a man was sold into slavery—and all through Africa you’ll see those tokens and historical sites where men, other nations, Portuguese, Arabs, would raid the tribes, bind them in fetters, ship them down to the sea, and sell them in the slave markets of the world—in those days of man’s inhumanity to man, and violence, and tearing apart villages, and homes, and families, and children, and fathers, and mothers, in those days there was such a thing as redemption: a man could be bought, he could be redeemed and set free. Or a man’s property could be redeemed, it could be bought back and given to the family. Or a man in debt could be redeemed, his debts could be paid, and he’d be set at liberty. And God used that idea and that word of reclamation, of freedom, of redemption, and He used it with regard to sin. For sin ruins us, and sin binds us, and sin imprisons us, just like debt or like slavery.
And on that awesome night in Egypt, when the Lord God said, “The death angel will pass over,” every family that was in sin, all of those families, the firstborn should die [Exodus 11:4-5, 12:12]; a judgment of God from heaven. And that meant the firstborn in the Egyptian family should die; and it also meant that the firstborn in the Israelitist family should die, “For we all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. The Book says so. It isn’t just they have sinned, and yonder they’ve sinned, but we all have sinned. It isn’t just that the Egyptian has sinned, but the Israelites sin too; and the judgment was upon all people. But the Lord God said, “The one who will take a lamb, and slay it, take its blood in a basin and sprinkle the blood on the front of the house in the form of a cross, here on the lintel, and on the doorposts on either side [Exodus 12:3-7], when the death angel passes over, when he sees the blood, there will be no visitation of death in that home” [Exodus 12:21-23]. And the image of that remained throughout the whole Word of God, for the firstborn in Israel belonged to the Lord [Exodus 13:2, 34:19], and had to be redeemed by the sacrifice of innocent blood [Exodus 34:20].
And our lives are like that: we are redeemed from sin, and the judgment, and the wrath of God upon our iniquity, we are redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One [1 Peter 1:18-19].
I remember one of the most dramatic stories I ever heard in my life. There was a southern preacher of great age. He described a sight in America when a beautiful colored girl, one-one sixty-fourth Negro, was sold on the auction block. She was a beautiful person. And a white man bought her. And when he did, all of those who were at the auction were speaking of the lascivious and lustful and lecherous life that lay ahead for him. And when the girl bought was brought to him, was brought to him, she expected that kind of an unspeakable and horrible life. That’s slavery. But to her amazement, he took the bill of sale, and manumitted it; and gave it to her, and said she was free. And he’d bought her for that purpose, to free her for manumission. Redemption! And you know, in those days, that was often done by godly men and women; a paper of manumission. In those days, when a black man would walk up and down the streets of a city, or travel to some other place, always he was accosted—he might be a runaway slave—and he’d have that letter, and that bill of manumission, signed by the owner. He’s free. He’s free. He’s a freedman. He’s free.
And you know, when I read history, and read that in the books, I think about our own souls: sold under sin, and under the wrath of God, facing an eternal judgment as we stand someday in our own iniquity and transgressions at the bar of Almighty God. But we have a paper of manumission. We have a paper of redemption signed by the blood of God Himself. And I hold it here in my hand. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:12-13].
And when I stand at the judgment bar, and the Lord God says, “By what right do you enter My beautiful city, and walk on My golden streets, and mingle with My redeemed in heaven?” I’m going to point to that verse, and I’m going to say, “Dear Lord, You said there in Your Book, that as many as received You, to them You give the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in Your name [John 1:11-12]. And when I was a little fellow ten years of age, I went to a revival meeting, and the preacher preached a sermon, and the people stood up to sing, and while they were singing, my dear mother turned around with tears and said to me, ‘Son, today will you take Jesus as your Savior?’ and with many tears, I said, ‘Mother, today I will take the Lord Jesus as my Savior.’ And I went down the aisle and gave the preacher my hand and told him that I’d given my heart to God.” I’m just depending on the Lord to honor that blessed, that blessed promise. This is my paper of manumission. This is my paper of redemption. Like the slave who was free would hold it in his hand, and it meant freedom, and it meant liberty, it meant life, it meant everything, so does our manumission from God mean the blessing of heaven to us today and forever.
We belong to God by creation [Genesis 1:27, 2:7]. We belong to God by redemption [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. And we belong to God by—and I have tried to find a word that would say that, and I still haven’t been able to find it, and I’ve been through the dictionary, and my mind’s thinking—we belong to God by consummation, by reaching that purpose for which He made us! Now I’ll have to explain what I have in my heart. Everything is made for a purpose. Everything: a saw, a hammer, it’s made for a purpose. A beauty parlor is for a purpose. A dentist’s chair is for a purpose. A concrete mixer is for a purpose. And if you were to put the concrete mixer in the dentist’s office, or if you were to take the saw and the hammer in the beauty parlor, things don’t fit. They’re made for a purpose. So it is with our lives: God has made us for a purpose [Ephesians 2:10]. And when we achieve that purpose, we’re doing what God made us for. And we belong to God in that will, and in that destiny, and in that plan that the Lord has chosen for us. And when I’m outside of it, and when I deny it, and when I turn away from it, then I do violence to God’s creative work in me. But when I give myself to it, oh how wonderfully does my life fit—every part of it is in the will and goodness and glory of the Lord.
You see, when Satan has my life, he damns me, he destroys me, he ruins me; like Samson, like Saul, like Judas, like the thousands untold of men and women all around us. But when God has our lives, He makes us precious and wonderful and God-blessed; like Joseph, or like Jonathan, or like John, or like Paul, or like the saints that you know. You see, God made us to love Him and to serve Him [Hebrews 13:20-21]. And when I do that, I have reached that glorious purpose for which the Lord made me; fellowship with God, to think God’s thoughts after Him, to love the Lord, and to serve Him.
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 the Lord and I shall live and love
When the stars have faded away.
God made us for Himself. “He came unto His own,” and whether we receive Him or not, we belong to God. And we’re out of God’s will, and we’re out of God’s purpose when we’re in the world and serving Satan. But how precious, and blessed, and full, and rich, and deep, and everything wonderful when we love the Lord, walk in His will, call upon His name, pray to Jesus, loving one another, loving Him.
Oh, the sweetest open door God could ever set before a human being is to love Jesus, come into His faith and fellowship. Do it tonight. In a moment we’re going to stand and sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or a one somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to dedicate your life to the Lord, however God shall say the word and open the door, do it tonight. Come tonight, make it tonight. On the first note of this first stanza, come. In a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. Down one of these stairwells, press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming tonight.” Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.