The Power of a Person
November 12th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
2 Timothy 1:3-7
THE POWER OF A PERSON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:3-7
11-12-72 7:30 p.m.
And if on the radio you are sharing with us this hour, we invite you to open your Bible and read the passage out loud with us. Second Timothy chapter 1, verses 3 through 7; now all of us reading it out loud together:
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
[2 Timothy 1:3-7]
Now will you turn to the third chapter of 2 Timothy? The third chapter of 2 Timothy, and we shall read chapter 3, beginning at verse 14 to the end of the chapter. Chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, beginning at verse 14 through 17. Now together:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
[2 Timothy 3:14-17]
There is something in both of those texts that presses upon my heart tonight—“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith, the undisguised faith, that is in thee, which dwelt in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice, and now in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:4-5]. For three generations there, Paul names the devotion of that devout family, living in Lystra, discovered by the apostle Paul when he preached the gospel in that Galatian church, and on his second missionary journey, asked the young man to come and to give his life as a fellow witness and missionary by the side of the great apostle [Acts 16:1-4]. For three generations here Paul names the devotion of that family; grandmother, mother, and now in the lad himself [2 timothy 1:5]. Then in the second passage Paul refers to that early childhood devotion again. “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” [2 Timothy 3:15].
You know, there were several things that happened to me in life as I listened to preachers and as I heard the marvelous testimonies of some of the people who had unusual and outstanding conversions. As time went on, and I began to preach when I was seventeen years of age, I was out in the country, and we’d have grove prayer meetings. Before the revival, under an arbor, under a tabernacle, they would gather together men in one place, women in another place, and they would have what they call grove prayer services; try to have them under a tree in a grove.
And some of the conversions that I heard were the most remarkable; they were astonishing to me! Then as the days passed and I began to preach and go to conferences and listen to some unusual evangelist, he would describe many times the life of sordid sin in which he lived, and then the remarkable grace of God that turned him from a life of the underground, of the underworld, of depravity, of extreme wickedness into the glorious light of the gospel of Christ.
And in those days I used to lament––not one time, not two times, but for years––I used to lament that I had been saved when I was a boy, that all of my life I had known no other thing than to love God and love the Scriptures, that I’d been brought up in a Christian home, that I’d been in Sunday school from the days of my infancy, that I had attended church and prayer services on Wednesday night, that I had no marvelous and amazing and unusual testimony to recount.
I used to think––not one time, nor twice, but for years––I used to think, “O dear God, that I had been a dope addict and that I had been saved from a life of infamy and sordidness.” I used to think, “O God, that I had been vile, a murderer, a rioter, a seditionist, an evil person, and that I had been sent to the penitentiary, and that I had found the Lord.” Why, it was astonishing to me as I review it, how my heart turned listening to these stories of dope addicts who had been converted, of murderers who had found the Lord, of convicts who had been saved on death’s row, of men who had lived in the sordid, seamy, dreary, cesspool side of life. And I would think, “Oh, what power I could have! And what astonishing success would attend my evangelistic appeals if I could stand up and recount those marvelous conversions that I had won, and that I could show to the people how sordid it is, how depraved it is to live a life of sin and wretchedness, and then how glorious it is to live a life in the light of the knowledge of the grace of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. When I look back over those days and those years, I can hardly believe that I could ever have fallen into such unbelievable, immeasurable, unfathomable error. That is sheer idiocy! It is unadulterated foolishness! It is adolescent, immature thinking!
For one thing, out of the multitude of dope addicts and dope pushers, there are very, very, very, very few who ever really find the Lord. Had I been in that kind of a life, the great chances are I had never been saved, never known the Lord, never be a child of God. And for another thing, the life of sordidness and evil and iniquity leaves indelible and eternal scars upon the soul and upon the life.
For however the life may be from conversion on, you can’t go back beyond the conversion in the days of its darkness, and relive it, and remake it. It is infinitely better, it is immeasurably better, it is heavenly, celestial better for the child to be reared in a godly home, for the child to know the Scriptures from the days of his youth, for the child to listen to the voice of God and find Jesus as Savior, and in my heart and life, as in some of yours, to feel the call of Christ to be a minister of the preaching of the gospel that saves our souls from sin, from death, and from hell. O Lord!
A thousand times am I asked, “When were you called to preach? Was it some unusual occasion? Was it some great catastrophic event? Was it some marvelous, phenomenal experience?” No. I cannot remember when I was not preparing to be a preacher, a pastor. I can’t remember when I was not studying to get ready to be a pastor and a minister in the church. As far back as my memory will go, I was studying and preparing to be a preacher. I was so when I was a little boy in elementary school, in high school, and then, of course, in college when I began to preach.
There has never been a time in my life when I have not been preparing to be a minister. Am I ashamed of that? O Lord, forgive me that it ever entered into my mind that I wish I had lived a life of sordidness! No, Lord, I thank God that from my childhood and youth I was taught in the Holy Word of the Lord, and when I was a junior in a revival service, at the invitation of the preacher, I gave my heart in faith and trust to Jesus. I am glad for that. I did it when I was a child.
Then, when I was twelve, in a revival meeting, under a tent in the center of our little town, at the invitation of the preacher, I went down the aisle and publicly and openly stated before men and angels that I felt God had called me to be a minister of His grace, and of His Word, and of His truth, and of His salvation, and of His love, and of all of those good things that God hath given us in Christ Jesus. As I look back over those days, could it ever have been that I regretted that I had not lived a life of misery, and shame, and sin, and depravity!
O Lord, I thank Thee ten thousand times beyond what word could ever describe that as a child I heard the voice of the Lord, I answered God’s call with my life, and I have known no other thing through the years and the years but to walk in the way and in the service of our blessed Savior.
And that is my appeal to you tonight, first to the father and the mother. What better choice could you choose than to rear your children in the love and nurture of the Lord? [Ephesians 6:4]. I would not want my child to fall into dope. I would not want him to fall into the hands of the underworld. I would not want him to live a life of depravity and sin, never, ever! I would want my child to know the Lord from the days of his youth, to know God’s Word as a child, and to be trained in the will and way of the Savior all the days of his life. The best thing you can ever do for that child is to rear the lad in a Christian home, he know no other thing than to love God and to give his heart to Jesus. Better than riches, better than fame, better than all in the world you could bestow on the lad or the lass is to rear the child in the love and nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The second appeal, to you who are young; to the boy, to the girl, to the teenager, to you. Does God speak to your heart? Does He? Does God say something to you? Does He? The finest thing that can ever come to your life is that you answer that call in your heart: “Lord, here I am. I hear Your voice, and I am answering with my life.”
Just before I came to this service, there’s a fine man in our church who brought to me his eleven-year-old boy. The lad had made a decision for Jesus, and he’d brought the little fellow for me to talk with him and to pray with him. The father’s a big fellow, much bigger and taller than I, and the lad is growing up. He’s going to be like his father, a big man someday. And as I went to the door of the office and bid them goodbye, and God bless them for coming, the father said to me, he said, “Pastor, you can’t know how happy I am about this. For,” he said, “this is the greatest decision that my boy shall ever make in his life.” And I said to the son, “Son, you’re father is right. The greatest decision you’ll ever make in your life is the decision to let Jesus come into your heart. Then, all of the rest of the decisions you’ll ever make in your life will follow after in their time, in their place, having made the first great decision to open your heart in faith, in trust, in acceptance of Jesus our Lord” [Ephesians 2:8].
That is our appeal to you tonight. A family you to come to Christ, to put your life in the circle and circumference and fellowship and love and communion of the church, come. Or a couple you, or a one somebody you, or a lad you, or a lass you, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, in a moment, when we stand up to sing our song, if you’re in the balcony, down one of those stairways at the back, at the front, and there’s time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “I’m coming tonight, pastor. The Lord has spoken to me. God has said something to me, and I’m answering with my life. I’m coming now.” What does God say? What does the Spirit whisper in your heart? Whatever it is the mind of Christ revealed to you, will you answer tonight? Will you come now? On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways or into the aisle and here to the front: “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming now,” whatever decision God would place upon your heart. Does God call a youth tonight into full time service for Him, as I felt it as a child? Would you come? Whatever God shall say, I cannot say it. It would be a man speaking if I did. Whatever God shall say, if the Lord whispers an appeal to your heart, will you answer that call now? On the first note of that first stanza, come. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing the appeal, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle, answering with your life. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.