Light for the Soul
February 21st, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
LIGHT FOR THE SOUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-21-71 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 Light for the Soul. And Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5]. It is a story of the healing of a blind man, one congenitally born so [John 9:1]. And we are going to read the last verses in the chapter, verse 32 through verse 41. And in the pew rack in front of you, you will find a Bible given to us by Kenneth Moore. And all of us are to read out loud together. The Gospel of John, chapter 9, beginning at verse 32 to the end of the chapter. John chapter 9, 32 to 41, now out loud—and on the radio you share it with us if you can—all of us reading out loud and together:
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped Him.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If you were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Truly one of the most interesting episodes in all of the Word of God is this ninth chapter of John. It begins, the first verse, “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth” [John 9:1]. That would be very typical of our Lord. A thousand people had passed that fellow by and never bothered to look at him, to notice him, to think of him, much less pause and talk to him. But as Jesus passed by, He saw him. The Lord seemed to live in a world of need. He was sensitive to it, a Man of compassion. “He bore our sins and carried our sorrows; the infirmities and the illnesses of our human lives were laid upon Him” [Isaiah 53:4-5]. And He saw that man [John 9:1].
And His disciples ask Him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9:2]. They asked that question on the presupposition, the a priori conclusion that suffering and sickness and illness is always the result of sin. I meet that, you cannot tell how many times. Anyone that falls into trouble or difficulty or illness will usually ask the pastor, “What have I done that I am suffering this judgment?” That’s one of the most false conclusions that Christian people ever arrive at. There are judgments of God upon sin. For example, if you have a venereal disease, the chances are it is because of your sins. If you fall into other judgments, the chances are they are because of your sin. But to link suffering and sorrow with judgment is folly wide the mark. It is not in the Bible.
That was what the Book of Job was about. Job’s comforters came to him and said, “Look what has happened to you. You are bound to be, you must be, you are manifestly the biggest, vilest, most villainous, wickedest sinner in the world” [Job 4:7-8, 22:5-9]. That’s what they said to him. It was not that at all. It never entered into it.
Well, the disciples had that persuasion. “Master, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he is born blind?” [John 9:2]. It had to be one or the other. Can you imagine a man sinning before he was born? It shows you the extremities to which you will take an argument just to prove your persuasion, you’re a priori judgment. Why, the Lord said, “This man has not sinned, certainly not before he was born; nor have his parents sinned, that he is born blind. This man is here in this sorrowful estate that the works of God should be made manifest in him, that he might know the power of the Lord Almighty” [John 9:3]. Why, there are ten thousand sorrows that the Lord sends upon us that God might be revealed to us; otherwise we might know Him at all.
From how many stony pillows have the saints seen the angels ascending and descending on the ladders of light? [Genesis 28:12]. Oh dear! and how many of God’s servants have wearisomely, toilingly climbed some Pisgah’s height that he might view the Promised Land? [Deuteronomy 34:1-4]. Why, this man has not sinned, nor his parents, that he is born blind; but that God and God’s works might be made manifest, exhibited in him [John 9:3]. Then the Lord announced, “We must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” [John 9:4]. Then He announces what He is going to do: “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5], and He begins to exhibit, to display that marvelous glory, lighting eyes, lighting souls, saving men, blind men. What God can do!
Now you and I have to be very careful what we announce, because if you aren’t you may fall into humiliation. But not the Lord, there’s no limit to what God can do. And when the Lord announces, “I am the light of the world,” and proceeds to open that man’s eyes, this is God! [John 9:6-7]. This is the Lord Himself! We are so limited. We couldn’t light the sun. He did. We just walk in its glory; but God turned the light on, He set it ablaze and afire [Genesis 1:14-19]. We can’t contain the oceans; there’s no man has a key to the Atlantic, there’s no man that has the Pacific in his iron safe. We just use it. But God created it! [Genesis 1:9-10]. There’s no man that can hasten summertime, he can’t melt the snow, he can’t warm the horizon; there’s no man that can control the winds, they blow where, God says, they “list,” they choose [John 3:8].
You know, I don’t deprecate in what I’m going to say: our achievement to go to the moon, it is a fantastic, scientific accomplishment. But did you know it is one of the most minute and tiny little achievements that you could imagine? That moon out there, which is a satellite around the earth, that moon is about two hundred fifty thousand miles away, and the missile that goes to it goes about, say, ten thousand miles an hour, why, did you know some of those closest stars, if you traveled at the rate of a hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second, it would take you a million years to get there? A man to visit that star would have to live to be a million years old, and he’d have to travel at a hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second to arrive at it. And that’s a close one. There are stars out there that are billions and billions and trillions of light years away! And for a man to visit that star he’d have to live to be trillions of years old, millions and billions and trillions of years old; and he’d have to travel at 186,000 miles a second. And we just think we are so somebody because we got a little vehicle that’ll go ten thousand miles an hour, and it went two hundred fifty thousand miles. That’s the difference between a man and God!
I’ll never forget, reading in the life of Louis XIV, the king of France, when he died, and you know he was the great, incomparable monarch, Louis XIV, Adolph Monod preached his funeral service, one of the great preachers of all time. And when he stood up to deliver the oration at Louis XIV’s funeral, the preacher stood there in silence, looking at the casket, seemingly an interminable length of time, then lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Only God is great.” Isn’t that true? Only God is great. “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5]. Our iron muscles just melt away, and our gigantic thunderings turn into hoarse whispers of feebleness and ineptitude before God’s mightiness.
“I am the light of the world” [John 9:5], and this not only refers to the lighting of that man’s eyes, but it also refers to the lighting of his soul. Where is a man who stands up and says, “I wasn’t born blind? Why, I came into this world with all of the spiritual maturity that God Himself processes”? Where is there a man that stands up and says, “You know, I wasn’t born in sin. I am perfectly pure”? I’d just like to look at you. I’d just like to see what you are, and the whole world would like to look at you. You would be a specimen. See, we are blind, we are sinners [Romans 3:23], we are depraved, we are lost [Romans 1:28-32]. The judgment of God is upon us [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]; we just are fallen [Romans 5:12]. And when we come into any consciousness of ourselves, that is the consciousness: “I’m a lost sinner,” and every imagination of the heart, and every mistaken deed of our lives impresses upon us that spiritual fact [Genesis 6:5]: we are blind sinners [Ephesians 4:17-19].
So the Lord brings to this man light. First, He lightens his eyes. It is a re-creation; it’s not a healing [John 19:5-7]. “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind” [John 9:32]. There’s no instance in the Old Testament of any man blind being healed. And in the New Testament, all the other instances—and there are six of them all together—it’s a healing of a man who had gone blind [Matthew 9:27-30, 12:22, 20:30-34; Mark 8:22-25; Luke 18:35-43]. But here is a man born congenitally blind. This is a re-creation! [John 9:1, 5-7] And the neighbors looked at him, saw him; and he’d changed. And they said, “Isn’t that that blind man? Haven’t we known him all his life? Haven’t we known him since he was a child, and he was born blind? Isn’t this he that sat and begged all of his life?” And then finally they walked up to him and said, “Are you that man?” And he said, “I am. I am he [John 9:8-9]. I don’t deny it. Blind, I don’t deny it.” You know it does us good to look to the hole of the pit from whence we were digged, and the rock from whence we were hewn [Isaiah 51:1]. We are blind people. We are fallen people. We are lost people! We are sinful people! For a man to speak and to brag of his fine character and his noble morality—and every lost sinner that you’ll ever talked to will do that—“Now listen, I’m not bad,” and he’ll talk to you about how good he is; that’s because he’s blind and God hasn’t made him sensitive to his own depravity. The nearer a man gets to God, the more unworthy and sinful does he feel; and there’s no exception to that.
This man owned himself to be blind, but God had done a great thing for him. Then as the discussion continues, why, the Pharisees, who, doing all they could to deny the favor and the unction of God in Christ, they finally said, “Why, why, we know that this Man is a sinner [John 9:24]. The Man you say heals you, we know that He is a sinner.” That’s prejudice, and prejudice is one of the most difficult roots to root out, to dig out of a soul that you ever wrestled with in your life, prejudice, it’s in all of us. You know, to the jaundiced eye the entire earth is yellow. And to a gloomy, melancholia, to a gloomy hypochondriac, even the brightest prospects are dark and dim. There are some people that when I see them I try to walk on the other side of the street; they just give me the glooms. Prejudice.
Why, this week, in my reading for this message, I came across a story of Abdullah III, the king of Baghdad. And there was a drought, oh, a severe one. It was oppressive, and the famine was sore. So Abdullah III called all of the followers of Allah to pray for rain, and it didn’t rain. And as the drought continued and the famine was oppressive, finally they acquiesced and allowed the Jews to pray to Allah for rain, and it didn’t rain. And in their dire extremity they finally turned to the Christian dogs, and said, “You pray for rain,” and it came a flood. Well, Abdullah was as much incensed at the rain as he was before oppressed by the drought. So the Grand Mufti called all of the faithful followers of Allah to decide how to look upon what had happened. And here’s what they said, this is their conclusion: they said, and announced, that Allah so loved to listen to the prayers of the faithful that he kept it dry, and shut up heaven, just because he delighted to listen to the prayers of the faithful. But when those Christian dogs began bombarding the gates of heaven and the ears of Allah with their abominable importunities, Allah sent rain, rather than listen to the prayers of those Christian dogs. Prejudice.
Tell you another thing I read this week, preparing this sermon. There was a man who said, “Gold in the new hemisphere is only found in the fields of Mexico and Peru.” And a man brought to him a golden nugget that he had found in California and showed it to him. And the man looked at it, and he said, “Well, it looks like gold. And you say the assayer says it is gold, and it can be used for gold. But it cannot be gold because gold is only found in Mexico and Peru.” Prejudice.
“We know this Man is a sinner, give glory to God” [John 9:24]. And that man who’d been healed, he said, “Whether He be a sinner or no, I do not know; I am not a theologian. Just one thing I know, one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. Just one Christian convert clinches the argument forever.
Why, haven’t you heard all your life about that infidel who challenged the Christian preacher to a debate? And the Christian preacher said, “I accept on this one condition: I’m going to bring a hundred converts who’ve been saved by the gospel of the grace of the Son of God, then I want you to bring a hundred who’ve been saved by your gospel of infidelity.” Why, they never had any debate. Where would you find a man who had been re-created by the gospel of blasphemy, and unbelief, and rejection, and infidelity? Why, I’ll meet any man anywhere and bring a thousand converts any day, any time, any hour on the hour to testify how God has saved and blessed them. “Whether He is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know, whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. Isn’t that what you all were singing about?
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.
[“Amazing Grace,” John Newton]
Oh, that fellow is bold. We don’t have time to follow it here how bold he is. And when a man is genuinely saved, he’s always like that if he has a real case of religion. It’s just the way you are.
Why, I read where there came a lawyer home, and he announced to his wife, “Wife, I’ve been saved. I’ve been converted. Let us put up the family altar!” He just made that announcement to his wife when he came home. And she said to him, “Why, husband, why husband, there are three lawyers in the living room waiting to see you. And if you must pray, why, you come back here in the kitchen with me, and we’ll pray.” He said, “Wife, I never invited the Lord Jesus in my house to be ashamed of Him, or to take Him to the kitchen! We’re going to take Him to the living room!” And he walked into the living room with his wife and announced to those three lawyers waiting to see him that he’d been converted, that he’d found the Lord, and he was establishing and setting up a family altar, and would they go with him to God in prayer? Man, isn’t that it? Dear Jesus, that man was justice of the Supreme Court for years, for a generation. His name was John McLean. That’s it. When you’ve got a good case of religion, when you’ve been saved, you’re not ashamed of the Lord. You’re bold about it, you’re counted, you stand up, you stand out, you just stand.
Well, they threw him out. That’s what the Book says. “And they cast him out…You’re going to teach us, you unlearned sinner? Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they threw him out. And they cast him out” [John 9:34]. My brother, that’s Jesus’ assignment. He gathers up the outcasts and those that were blind. You see, He has special charge of the lost, and the weak, and the needy who place their case with Him. That’s His special assignment. Jesus found him, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe on the Son of God?” And that blind man said, “Lord, I don’t know who He is that I might believe on Him; but I would like to know Him” [John 9:35-36]. Isn’t that an astonishing story? This man had stood up for Him, didn’t even know His name or who He was, He just opened his eyes. He had suffered for Him, he had testified for Him, he was cast out for Him and didn’t even know Him. So he said, “Lord, I would like to know” [John 9:36].
There’s another real sign of a genuine conversion: why, you just never get tired of learning more about the Lord, just never get weary of going to church if the gospel is preached there; you never get tired of hearing a man tell about Jesus, open the Scriptures. Why, I’ve been a Christian for over fifty years, and I do believe I love to go to church now, and I love to hear the Word expounded now, and I love to hear the gospel preached now even more than I did when I was a boy. “Lord, who is He? I am ready to hear. I want to know.” And the Lord said, “It is He that speaketh with thee. Do you believe Him?” And that man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he bowed and worshiped Him [John 9:36-38].
And when the Pharisees saw it, they spoke with contempt and scorn upon it. And the Lord said, “For judgment am I come into the world, that they that are blind could see; and that they which say they see may be made blind” [John 9:39]. If you say, “How good I am, how fine I am, how all-sufficient I am; I don’t need God, and I don’t need Christ, and I don’t need the crutch of religion, and I don’t need to pray, I’ll face God in my own strength and in my own moral goodness,” you do it and your own sinful life will cut you down at the great judgment bar of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5]. But when you come before the Lord and say, “Lord, I’m a blind, lost sinner; and I’m not equal or adequate for any trial or exigency in life, Lord, I need Thee,” when you come before the Lord like that there’s a miracle that happens: light for the soul, eyes that are open to glory, a flood of strength and help and encouragement—God comes in. As the Lord said, He never came to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance [Mark 2:17]. And He never came to call the well, but to heal the sick [Mark 2:17]. And when a man says he doesn’t need God, the Lord has no message for him; He leaves him in his blindness and his lostness. But when we come before God and say; “Lord, how I need Thee. I need Thee in personal life, I need Thee in my house and home, I need Thee in my business, I need Thee in my risings up and my down-sittings, I need Thee when I rest, I need Thee when I work, I need Thee in the day, I need Thee at night, I need Thee in youth, I need Thee in manhood, I need Thee in old age, I need Thee, Lord, in death, and I need Thee when I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [Romans 14:12]; that man is already with one foot in the kingdom; just put the other foot. “Lord, and I take Thee for all You have promised to be,” and you’re in, you’re in.
We’re going to stand and sing in a moment. And while we sing that song, to come to the Lord, do it now. “Master, I open my heart to Thee, and I’m coming tonight. I want to give my life to Thee, blessed Jesus, and here I am.” Do it tonight. The whole family of you, “Pastor, we’re all coming tonight. My wife, our children, we’re all coming.” A couple of you, the two of you, or one of you, in the balcony round and on this lower floor, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, come now, do it now. “Lord, I’ve decided. I choose God, and here I come. I want You to be my friend, Lord, I want You to help me and see me through; and I’m coming.” On the first note of that first stanza, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor, I make it tonight.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.