Calling for Thee
May 16th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
CALLING FOR THEE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-16-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message, which is an appeal, entitled Calling for Thee. On the radio and here in our great auditorium, will you turn to the Gospel of John chapter 11? John chapter 11, John chapter 11; we shall begin to read at verse 23 and close at verse 29, John chapter 11, all of us sharing our Bibles and all of us reading out loud together. John chapter 11, beginning at verse 23 and reading through verse 29. Now all of us out loud together:
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha said unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.
John states the purpose of the writing of his Gospel. He closes it with these words, “There are many other signs, semeion, signs.” He never uses the word miracle, always signs. “There are many other signs which Jesus did, which are not written in this book” [John 20:30]; but John chose seven of them. And then he gives the purpose of it, “And many other signs did Jesus, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing you might have life in His name” [John 20:30-31].
And the tremendous and overshadowing of all of the signs that Jesus did, the miracles the Lord wrought, that John chose to place in this book, “that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life in His name” [John 20:31]; the great overshadowing sign is this one of the raising of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. So tremendous was this miracle––he had been dead four days without embalming [John 11:17], and in that country to be buried meant disintegration of his physical frame––so tremendous was that sign, that miracle, that the whole nation began to believe on the Lord [John 11:48, 52], and it precipitated the counseling for His destruction by the leaders of the people [John 11:53].
Now in this sign, Martha herself, standing before the Lord, said, “Lord, not to roll away the stone; by now his disintegrating body is unthinkable, it is not possible in decency, his body, decaying, could be exposed to view” [John 11:39].
And the Lord said, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou shouldest believe, thou shouldest see the power of God?” [John 11:40]. There are those who scoff at such a miracle as this, but there’s no man who ever lived that could describe what is possible in the presence of the personality of Jesus the Son of God. You could not know what could happen, and these miracles happened in the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit all of the time [John 14:12].
In a revival meeting that I held at the Walnut Street Church in Louisville, Kentucky, which is the first church in Louisville, when Dr. Pedigrew was there––who is now with the Lord in glory––there came to that service a hard, hard young husband. He said he was an atheist, but his wife had become a Christian. She was saved in those days, and miraculous even to her that he’d do that, he came to church and sat by her. And as he sat there in the service, he turned to his wife and said, “You’ve given your heart to the Lord?”
“And you’re going to be baptized?”
Well, he said, “I’m going to do the same thing.”
And she thought he was joking, and she turned and quietly said, “You must not scoff and ridicule sacred things.”
He said, “Dear, I have never been more serious in my life, nor can I explain it.” He said, “I’ve been an atheist, and I’ve been difficult, and I’ve been hard, and I’ve been an unbeliever, and I’ve been a Christ-rejecter. But,” he said, “for some reason I cannot explain, I have come to believe tonight all of these things that heretofore I have rejected. And I’m going down with you, and I’m going to be received for baptism.” And both of them came.
You cannot tell, you cannot know what is possible in the power of the presence of God. So it is here, and as my Greek professor said, the profoundest words that ever fell in human speech and from human lips is this word of the Lord:
I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he died, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never ultimately die.
And it was in that framework that “Martha left and secretly called her sister, saying, The Master is come, and He calls for thee” [John 11:28].
And that’s the text to our hearts tonight. The Master is here, and He calls for you. He calls to give our hearts to the Lord. He calls for faith and trust. He calls for commitment to Christ. I feel that tug always in my heart, and I always have this assurance that when I speak for Christ and plead for Him, I know that the Holy Spirit is in the heart of that listener, pleading my cause. It’s not only in my heart, it is in yours, and all of us feel it; the call of the Holy Spirit. And that call is to make an open and unashamed commitment and confession of our faith in Christ.
That is one of the things that you find so earnestly and consistently presented in the revelation of God: the appeal of the Lord, openly, publicly, unashamedly to avow the commitment of our lives to Christ. Our Lord said in Matthew 10:32-33:
Whosoever therefore shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father in heaven. But whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.
The apostle Paul wrote it as the very heart of our salvation, in Romans 10:9-10: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness”—God’s righteousness, not our righteousness, not a man’s moral scheme but God’s righteousness; with the heart one believeth unto that kind of righteousness that saves us to heaven—“and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
And the most remarkable thing to me in all of my Christian life and ministry is this: how gloriously, and how marvelously, and how wonderfully our young people and our youngsters can respond to God’s call. The whole framework in which a young man and a young woman lives, a boy and girl lives, is an astonishing thing to me, the capabilities that are in them, the things to which they can respond and what they can do, and the depth of that consecration. As the poet wrote:
So nigh is grandeur to our dust;
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, “Thou must”;
The youth replies, “I can!”
[“In an Age of Fops and Toys,” from Voluntaries by Ralph Waldo Emerson]
One of our deacons, one of our older deacons, sent me something that he had found to be true with his own eyes. In the days gone by, as you know the great West—part of which is we, a great western portion where my people live—the great West was opened up in the days of the covered wagon, called a prairie schooner. And this wagon train with its cattle, and the men in the saddle were riding into the western sun. And out there in the West they came to a ravine, a steep declivity down and across, and went up. And this wagon driven by this man, as he went over the rim and down somehow lost control of the team, and the wagon turned over.
The wife and the children were caught in the canvas of the covering; but the man himself, when the wagon overturned, was pinned underneath the heavy frame, and by the time they were able to extricate him he was dead. What should they do? They decided to camp that night. And as they were around the campfires, some of the men heard the mother talking to that teenage boy, the eldest son, in that wagon where the father had been killed. And the mother was saying to that teenage boy, “Son, we must turn around. We must turn around. We’ve got to go back. We cannot go on without your father. In the morning, we’ll turn around and go back.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, no! No, we knew where Dad was going, we knew exactly what Dad intended to do. And Mother, when the sun rises, we’re going right on, right on.”
When the morning sun arose, the men saw that boy get a pick and a shovel and there on the prairie begin digging a grave for his father. They helped him. And when the grave was done the boy, with helpers, wrapped up the body of the father in a blanket and tied it with ropes, and let it down in the grave. And they stayed with him till they saw that boy tap with the back of his spade the dirt on the top of the grave. Then they saw the lad take a piece of a board from the wagon and carve in it the initials of his father, and the date of the birth and the date of his death, and place it at the head of the grave.
Then they saw that boy take his mother and help her up into the wagon, and take his brothers and sisters and help them up into the wagon, and then climb up into the seat himself where his father had sat and take the reins and throw out the whip over the team, and drive that wagon into the West. And that night when they were gathered round the campfire the men looked at that boy. In one day and in one decision he had become a man. What was it the poet said?
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, “Thou must”;
The youth replies, “I can!”
A hundred times have I said in these recent days that I see revival on the horizon. Why? Because of our young people, because of our teenagers; from one side of this continent to the other, I see the marching, and the singing, and the playing, and the witnessing, and the testifying of our young people, and it means the rebirth of America! It’s our hope for tomorrow. There is revival in their souls and in their hearts.
Our invitation will be in two parts tonight. First, I am asking our organist to play a hymn of consecration. And while he plays that hymn of consecration, you—if you are a Christian and you know it, and you belong to the church and you’re grateful for it, and you would like to reconsecrate and rededicate and recommit your life to the blessed Lord Jesus—while he plays this hymn of appeal, I want you to come. In the balcony, everywhere, kneel down here, and we’ll have that prayer of commitment. Then you can go back to your seats. And the second part of our invitation will be, “Tonight, I accept the Lord as my Savior, and I openly and publicly avow that confession of faith and commitment in Him, and I’m coming to accept the Lord.” And others of you, “And I want to be baptized.” And others still, “I want to come into the fellowship of the church”; those two invitations.
The first one, in a moment, when the organ plays, if tonight you’d like to recommit, and rededicate, and reconsecrate your life to the Lord, in a moment I want you to get out of your seat, wherever you are—upstairs, downstairs, side to side—just get out of your seat and come down here and kneel in sign and in token of the recommitment of your life to Christ. “I feel in my heart, pastor, I’d like to do it.” If you feel that way in your soul, while the organ plays, just get out of your seat, down one of these stairways or into the aisle and down here to the front, and kneel, and in a moment we’ll have that prayer of commitment and consecration. While the organ plays, come.
A. Gospel of John
presentation of signs of Christ (John 20:30-31)
of Lazarus climactic sign (John 11:40)
Presents Jesus as the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26)
C. Jesus calls for Mary,
who comes quickly
II. Calling to your heart
a man speaks for Christ, Holy Spirit works with him
III. Calling to an open, public confession
A. Command of God (Matthew
B. The heart of our salvation
IV. Young people responding to God’s call
A. “Voluntaries” by