THE WORKS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-14-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Works of God. On the radio and here in this great auditorium, turn with me to the ninth chapter of John. John the ninth chapter and we shall read together the first five verses. And if you do not have a Bible, in the pew rack in front of you, you will find one. All of us sharing the Scripture together, reading it out loud; the Fourth Gospel, John chapter 9, and we shall read the first five verses.
In the morning I am preaching through the Book of Daniel, and at night I am preaching in the life of Christ. I have been doing this for years. I shall continue to preach in the life of Christ at the evening service as long as God gives me strength and breath. Every Sunday night I preach a message from the life of our Lord. I go through these Gospels, and when I get to the end of John, I will go back to Matthew and start over again. For the years and the years I have been doing this. And the message tonight is from the fourth verse, which we shall read together. Now reading out loud John 9, 1 through 5, all of us together:
And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
And the text again: “That the works of God should be made manifest” [John 9:3]. And in our King James Version that we just read: “I must work the works of him that sent Me” [John 9:4]. These ancient manuscripts, with unanimity, read it, “We must work the works of Him that sent Christ.” The works of God, we must work the works of God.
There has been no generation, nor has there been any century when the servants of the Lord have not struggled in the world. They have confronted the kingdom of darkness from the day of creation until now, and according to the words of prophecy shall continue to do so until the consummation of the age. As the twelfth chapter and the twelfth verse of the Revelation avows, Satan cast out of heaven has come down to earth; and woe to the inhabitants of the earth . . . for he has come down having great wrath [Revelation 12:12].
And there is not any generation of God’s people that have not confronted that enmity and bitterness of the kingdom of darkness. It was so in the days of Noah and the antediluvians that filled the earth with violence and unrighteousness [Genesis 6:5, 12-13]. It was so in the days of Abraham when the whole earth was given to idolatry [Joshua 24:2-3]. It was so in the days of Moses when he struggled to present to mankind the articles of the Lord [Exodus 24:3]. It was so in the days of our Lord as He faced an impossible and sterile religion [Matthew 23:13-39].
It was so in the days of the apostle Paul as he struggled against Judaism. It was so in the days of the apostle John as he himself was exiled because of the bitter confrontation of Caesar emperor worship [Revelation 1:9]. It was so in the days of Athanasius. It was so in the days of Savonarola. It was so in the days of John Wycliffe. It was so in the days of Wesley and Moody and Finney and in our day. There is no generation without its confrontation with the kingdom of darkness.
We who are seeking to do the works of God have tremendous struggle! And it is so with us today. It is not easy to be a Christian, and to work for God, and to do the Lord’s assignments in the earth in our time and in our generation. No easier than it has been in any other time or any other generation. But this is God’s call to us.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies,
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed thro’ bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the tide?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To carry me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I must reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
We are never but one generation from paganism and darkness. Every generation must be won to Christ and must be taught the Word of God. “We must work the works of Him that sent Me” [John 9:4].
Now may I delineate that work in our time and in our generation? One: it is a social work. We cannot escape it. Wherever there is a missionary across the sea, or wherever there is a pastor in the homeland, or whether there is a church of Jesus Christ, there is in our hands the responsibility for the people and the community in which we live. It is also a social assignment. But how do we face the social obligation and responsibilities that the Lord God hath laid upon us? We face it in the name and in the power of the Lord. And the social problems of our day, and time, and generation, and nation, and world will never be solved in other way except in Christ! For example, people that are in slums, my observation has been—in my life—you can take them out of their economic poverty and place them anywhere, and they are still the same because their hearts are not changed.
I listened to a radio program here in Dallas as I was driving around visiting in the city. And one of these men from the government, one of these sociologists was saying that ghettos and slums and poverty were the breed of all of these economic ills. Then they had an opportunity for the people to call in on the telephone, and a plumber called in on the telephone. And he said, “Is this that man from the United States government in Washington down here in Dallas saying that we can solve all of these problems by lifting up the economic level of these people?”
And the man said, “Yes, I am he.”
Well, the plumber said, “You listen to me. I am a plumber and I have been for years in the houses of these what you call slums. And,” he said, “In the city of Dallas the government sent millions of dollars down here and built for those people nice places in which to live. Then,” he said, “I am still their plumber, and when I go into these nice places where they now live, they are as filthy, and they are as dirty, and they are as unkempt as they ever were, and these new apartments are just as slum-like as their old ones were.” That’s what the plumber said. I didn’t say that, the plumber said it.
All right, again. A few weeks ago I was in St. Louis, Missouri, preaching. I haven’t been to St. Louis to look at it in several years. And all of you who are acquainted with that city know that down there on the river was an enormous slum, a vast slum. So the United States government came in, and they cleared out all of those slums. If you go now you have a great archway there, a vast civic redevelopment program there, an urban renewal program, all of the slums are cleared out.
Now it happened to be that I had cause to visit in a certain section of the city of St. Louis. When I was there before, that section in which I went to visit was one of the elite sections of the city of St. Louis. It is now one of the most bedraggled and slum-like and filthy places I know in America! And I asked the pastor with whom I was preaching, I said, “I can’t understand what has happened to this beautiful section of St. Louis.” And he said, “All of those people that were down there in the slums, the government moved them out and gave them enough money that they could come into this affluent section of the city of St. Louis,” and he said, “now they have just moved the slums from this section of the city to this section of the city, for slums is in the heart!”
Ah, preacher. Listen: I grew up poor, and when I began my ministry, I began in the days of the Depression. And for years I was pastor of tenant farmers. If my father ever made more than $125 a month I am not aware of it. And when I began my ministry I started there with farmers who sold their cotton for five cents a pound.
I have been guest in their homes world without end, and sometimes my poorest people were my cleanest and my finest and my noblest! And now that I am a pastor in an affluent city some of the dirtiest people I know live in the mansions in the city of Dallas. They are dirty inside their hearts. They are dirty in their lives. They are dirty in their speech. They are dirty in their imaginations. For the slummier is he who is that in his soul and in his heart, and that is why the gospel message is addressed to a man’s heart. Like our six missions, the city of Dallas every year pours thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars into the poor sections of this city. And the United States government comes along and pours other millions into it. And after they get through pouring those millions and millions and millions, the people are still the same, and they will always be the same. And the relief rolls get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and the burden of the country gets heavier and heavier and heavier trying to wrestle with this problem of slums and poverty.
Well, what’s the matter? We think we can heal it and cure it by economic processes. I know a better way. I know a way that will work. Our six missions goes out there among those people, and they preach the gospel message to them. Let me illustrate. Several years ago, we haven’t done it since and I don’t know why. Several years ago down here in this church our six mission pastors brought men and families that they had won to Jesus, and the program for two solid hours was nothing but a presentation of those men and families who had been won to Jesus.
And I sat there, I’ve cried a lot of times in services, but I never cried as deeply or as lengthily as I did that night. I cried for two solid hours. I can’t describe the effect it had upon my soul, as those men stood up one after another for two hours and said, “I was a drunkard, and I was a whoremonger, and I was a thief, and I was a liar, and I was in the gutter, and this pastor” and then point out a mission pastor, “and this pastor came to see me and preached to me the gospel of Jesus, and I found the Lord, and I am a new man! And I have a new family and my children have a new father!” And as they described that, two hours, I couldn’t help but melt before the Lord in gratitude. Now are those people slumming? Those men have good jobs. They are not even in the missions anymore. They’ve moved in another part of the city, and they walk with dignity and glory. That is the assignment of the church that is our social responsibility, turning them to Jesus.
Second: we have a moral responsibility. We must work the works of God [John 9:4]. We have a moral responsibility, and we cannot escape it. We have an obligation before God, a responsibility to answer for the souls and the lives of our people. We have a moral obligation. I’m going to let you vote on it yourself. Better this way than my expatiating upon it for an hour; a moral responsibility. There is a moral equation in that Book and in the preaching of the gospel that we cannot escape.
All right. Let’s see. Friday, last Friday, I received a telegram from United States Attorney General Mitchell. And he said he was sending the telegram in behalf of the president of the United States. And in the telegram he said the president is asking you to come to Washington next Friday, Friday of next week, and to eat lunch in the White House. He is calling together some of the leaders of America and he wants to talk to you and he wants to have some of his cabinet members talk to you about the tragedy of drug abuse. Well, I am a minister. I’m not a politician. I’m a minister; I’m not a medical man. I’m not a physician. I’m a minister. I’m not a social worker. Yet, the president says he would like to have you come and be there for a discussion of drug abuse. Is that the part of a minister?
This tragedy; as Dr. Estes says to me privately, it is increasing and increasing and increasing among our school children and among our youngsters. Is that a responsibility, a moral responsibility of the pastor and the church and the message of Christ? Do we have an obligation before God to answer for the souls and the lives of these youngsters? All right, let’s just vote on it. All of you who think I ought to accept that invitation and go to Washington next Friday, hold up your hand. Thank you. And as I say, we never have a negative vote. You see I have already accepted the invitation.
But immediately it becomes apparent. Will you forgive me if I parenthesize here for just a moment? There is a hypocrisy in American society and in modern culture about our attitude towards drugs and its abuse that to me is as high as heaven and goes down to the deepest abyss. Is alcohol a drug? It is! Is alcohol a devastating drug? It is! So here is a man or a teenager and he drinks alcohol, which is a drug, and out there on the highway he drives and he kills your father and your mother and your brother and your sister, and the slaughter on the American highways is unimaginable! And liquor has a part in thousands of those disasters.
But here is one of my boys in the church. And he is caught with a little marijuana cigarette. And where is the boy? He is in the penitentiary. That’s downright hypocrisy of the worst kind!
I don’t know anything about marijuana. I’ve never saw it in my life. Wouldn’t recognize it if I saw the weed growing on the highway. I’ve never seen a marijuana cigarette. I’ve never seen anything about marijuana. I’ve never heard of anybody smoking a cigarette made out of marijuana and going out there on that highway and slaughtering somebody because he is drunk. I never heard of that. I haven’t read it yet in any paper. But that is a part of American and world hypocrisy! Oh, how we pass laws to abet and increase the drunkenness of our people and then wrap our self-righteous robes around us and send one of my boys to the penitentiary for smoking a cigarette of marijuana.
I’m not saying I have an answer that anybody would accept. Brother, I would close down those bars. I’d lock up those saloons! I’d tear down those distilleries in five seconds if it were left to me! But I don’t run the country and can’t. But it’s a moral problem.
The works of God; I must hasten. Just look at one other. Did you know I remember the first time I ever heard the word “hippy?” That may be because I am stupid and just wasn’t in the right circles. But I remember the first time I heard that word “hippy.” And I was out in San Francisco. And somebody took me to a certain place, and I looked and stood there and watched. And those kids seemingly paid no attention to my presence at all. There they were, bed by bed by bed by bed, this boy and this girl. This boy and these two girls, these three girls and this boy; man, they are giants in the land, I tell you. And just trade about; lie down here, lie down there, lie down yonder. Free love; free love as though love were free. As though it didn’t cost you your life, and your heart, and your tears, and a dedication, and a commitment that is as long as life and as deep as the soul is deep! But to them it is free. Ah, the tears and the horrors and the heartaches that follow after! Does the church have an obligation? Does the preacher have a responsibility? The works of God, they are moral.
And hastily, what are the works of God? They are always and deeply spiritual. Listen to the Word of the Lord. They said unto Him, the blessed Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” [John 6:28]. Now that’s plain an answer. Isn’t it simple, direct? Nobody could misunderstand that. “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom God hath sent” [John 6:29]. This is the work of God which if a man does, what does he do? He loves, believes in and trusts the blessed Lord Jesus. That is the work of God! When a man does that, a new heart does he have, and a new home does he have, and new children does he have, and a new work does he have, and a new hope, and a new vision, and a new dream, and a new ambition, and a new life. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. This is the work of God, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ whom God hath sent [John 9:4].
We link our lives with him. We live with Him. We bow in His presence. We love the Lord. We die with Him, and someday we will reign with Him.
Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the faithful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword
But His truth is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies
He was born across the sea
With a glory in His bosom
That transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy,
Let us live and work to make men free
While God is marching on.
Our lives linked with the life of our glorious and triumphant and reigning and coming Lord; sing that chorus with me.
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Our God is marching on.
[from “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Howe, 1861]
Do you believe that? We can’t lose. In the will of Christ with His message on our lips, the Lord Himself and the angels in glory and the stars in their very courses work and fight for us: doing the works of God [John 9:4].
Now in a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. A family you, to give yourself to Jesus, will you come and stand by me? A couple you or just you, one somebody you, in the balcony round, down one of these stairwells, at the back, at the front, and on either side; on the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I have decided for Christ, and here I am.” Do it now. Where you are seated make the decision in your heart, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. Into that aisle, down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I am coming tonight.” A family, “This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming tonight.” Just you, if God speaks, answer with your life, “Here I am and here I come.” Do it now. Make the decision now. And in a moment when you stand, stand up coming. God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WORKS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-14-71I. The struggles of the people of God
A. There is not any generation of God’s people that have not struggled against the kingdom of darkness
B. No easier today than in any other time to do the Lord’s workII. The work that awaits us in our day
A. A social task
1. “Slums is in the heart”
2. Our missions
B. A moral task
1. White House invitation
2. Hypocrisy of differing attitudes toward drugs and alcohol
3. Free love movement
C. A spiritual task (John 6:28-29)
1. Our lives and souls linked to God