October 31st, 1971
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I need not hide the simple conflict of deepest emotions that I always feel when I come to a service like this. It is one of praise and thanksgiving. It is also one of deepest dejection and sorrow. I presume the best thing by which I could illustrate it would be a man who is in the prison cell on death row. He is a guilty man. He knows that he is guilty. He is a man facing judgment. He has been tried, his own peers have said that he is worthy of death. And in that cell he awaits execution.
Then out of the mercy and kindness of a compassionate governor, because the man has confessed his sin, owned himself worthy of death, and because he has made appeal to him who only could commute the tragic sentence, the compassionate governor commutes his sentence, pardons him of the wrong that he has done, opens the prison door, and he is free. He has life instead of death, liberty instead of imprisonment. And there he stands a condemned sinner, worthy of the judgment passed upon him, but in the compassionate mercy of a good governor he lives, he is pardoned, he is free. So, in this service all of those conflicting emotions pour through my soul.
Lord, Lord, could such a thing be? That not only in grace and mercy am I forgiven, but the great Governor took my penalty; and the judgment that should have fallen upon me fell upon Him? For it couldn’t be by the signing of a signature or the filing of a document; my sin had to be paid for, atoned for, somebody had to die. "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]; "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely, surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. And He came and took my guilt, made sin for me, died in my place that I might be free [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18].
Then I also have other rational thoughts that pour into my soul. How is it that this is personal for me, that Christ died for me? [Romans 5:8]. How could that be? I can understand the story. Somewhat like two thousand years ago, in the Roman province of Judea, a prisoner was hailed before the procurator. And there being judged and delivered for crucifixion, the quaternion of soldiers lifted Him up between the earth and the sky, and He died [Matthew 28:32-50], like thousands of others who were also crucified by the Roman soldiers died also.
How is it that that was for me personally? It happened so long ago, and there are so many billions of people in the world who’ve lived since then, and live now. How is that for me personally? He died for me personally. How is that? I have an answer for that. It is the same and identical answer as how is it that God, the great Lord of the universe, even the stellar telescopes cannot begin to find the limits of this illimitable infinitude of God’s creation.
There are galaxies, there are systems, there are Milky Ways beyond and beyond. And the great Lord God presides over that infinitude that is beyond my human imagination. Now that’s God. He is greater than His creation. He made it [Genesis 1]. And He invests the whole infinitude of the chalice of the skies above me. And yet, all that there is of God is with me.
When I lie down at night, there He is. When I rise in the morning, there He is. And when I walk down the street, there He is. Nor do I flee or escape from His presence. All that there is of God is with me, all of Him. There’s not a piece of God out there on that star, and then another piece of God out there in that Milky Way; nor is there just a piece of God over there at your house and then I have a piece of Him at my house, no. All that there is of God is with me. And all that there is of God is with you. It is a mystery. Yet, it is true.
And that is what happened in my salvation. "Christ, being in the morphos of God," whatever the morphos of God is, whatever the form in which God is,
Christ, being in the morphos, the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God:
But poured Himself out, emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
That’s the Lord, dying on that cross [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And that’s the Lord, all of Him, in my heart [Ephesians 3:17]. And that is a personal atonement for me that He made on that cross [Romans 5:11]. And it is a personal salvation that I possess when He comes into my heart [Revelation 3:20].
God paid for our sins on the cross [1 Peter 1:18-19]. For you, for me, for us individually, He died for me as though there were no one else in the world to die for. It is personal. And just as God, the eternal One, the infinite One, lives in my heart [John 14:23], all of Him, all of God that there is, is present, just so the same compassionate, loving Lord, personally died for me.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup . . . when He Himself first had drunk of it, saying, This cup is the new covenant, the new promise, in My blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death, you portray it, symbolize it, till He come, till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
"And He took bread: And gave thanks, and brake it" [1 Corinthians11:23-24]. Our Lord, this unleavened, unrisen bread, a symbol of the purity of the offering made for our sins, the Lamb without spot or blemish [1 Peter 1:18-19], nailed to the cross, suffering in agony [Matthew 27:32-50], not only in physical frame, but God shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]. So much did God value the death of His Son that for His sake we’re all forgiven who look in faith and trust to Him [2 Corinthians 5:19]. We owe Thee, Lord, our life; every dream and hope of that better day that God hath promised us in Christ Jesus [Hebrews 11:40]. And our Master, as we break bread together, and as we share this broken body in symbol, in dramatic form, may floodtides of new love and thanksgiving overwhelm our souls, remembering what Jesus has done for us. Amen.
"This is My body, which is given for you; take, eat, in remembrance of Me" [Matthew 26:26; 1 Corinthians 11:24].
"And after the same manner also He took the cup, He blessed it, and they all drank of it" [Matthew 26:27; 1 Corinthians 11:25].
Our Lord, we lift up this cup before Thee. The red, crushed fruit of the vine, bringing back an emblematic and symbolic form to our minds, the pouring out of the crimson of life that stained the ground at the foot of the cross [John 19:34]. He is dressed in a vesture dipped in blood [Revelation 19:13]. He has trod the winepress of the judgment and wrath of Almighty God, and rich, red blood poured out [Revelation 19:15].
And our Lord, when I try to remember that God did all this for me, personally, that I might be washed clean and pure and white, and that someday I could stand in the presence of the great Glory, without fault or blemish [Ephesians 5:27], I who am so sinful, and the Lord so high and pure and holy? O Christ in heaven, and the Christ of my salvation and hope, how could I ever say the word or sing the song or do the deed that could adequately express my soul’s thanksgiving for so great a sacrifice? Dear Lord, all we can do is just thank Thee and love Thee for it, and ask God to help us to show in daily life and thought and remembrance our deepest gratitude. And all of us, Master, who drink of this cup together in compassionate mercy and goodness, may the Lord hallow and sanctify the commitment of our lives to Thee this evening hour in Thy dear name, amen.
"This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:25].
Now before we sing our sweet song of mutual love and remembrance, I wish Dr. Robert Naylor, the president of our Southwestern Seminary, whose sweet daughter Dr. Rebecca Naylor Is a member of our church, I wish he’d come up here and stand by me. Dr. Naylor. And as he comes, would all of the men in the congregation, stand up, just you, all of the men in the congregation? I’m going to ask you to do something because it is easier for you than it is for a woman. If we had kneelers all of us could share in this consecration but it’s easier for a man to kneel flat on the floor.
In a moment I want Dr. Naylor to lead us in a prayer of dedication and recommitment of our lives to the Lord. And all of our men, you’ll have to come to the aisle, let’s all kneel before God, and Dr. Naylor will lead us in that prayer of consecration. All the men who are standing, just come to the aisle, and we’ll kneel together; and then after the prayer of commitment, we’ll all stand and join hands and sing our sweet song of love and remembrance. Dr. Naylor.
(Dr. Naylor) Our blessed Lord, the Book talks about a blood-washed throng, the people of God, and it’s with some such sense as that, that we come again before Thee to confess our sins and our forgiveness, to thank You that the cleansing of the blood was all cleansing, and that all that we are, all that we have, all that we desire, all that we hope for is in Jesus. Our Father, it is unto Him we bring our lives, our love, our loyalty, our new promises, our confidence of faith. Wilt Thou use us, that this world may know Jesus, and that we may gather together again in Thy presence, in Jesus’ name, amen.