The Christian Extra
October 21st, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-73 8:15 a.m.
And along with you who are sharing this service with us on the radio, we in the First Baptist Church thank our young people for the beautiful song of quickening, living grace and presence, "Our Lord Lives." And the title of the message today delivered by the pastor is entitled The Christian Extra or The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.
In the one hundred sixteenth Psalm, beginning at verse 12: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, I will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord. . .I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving. What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12-17]. Not the least of His remembrances, not the smallest of His mercies would we omit. It is like a note in a symphony: all of them are to be played beautifully and in place; and if one is missing, it is incomplete. So we would not omit one of God’s mercies. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12].
In the sixteenth chapter of 1 Chronicles, there is one of the most remarkable delineations of King David you will find in the Bible. There David divides all the Levites into three groups. The first group is assigned the happy privilege of offering sacrifices unto God, ministering before the ark, attending to all of those things that pertain to the sacrificial ritual by which the people approach the great High God [1 Chronicles 16:4]. The second group is a group called "recorders." The literal translation is, they were Levites who were assigned the task of bringing to remembrance all that God has done and is doing. They were to write it down, the mercies of God, to record them all; and then they were to make psalms, and songs, and words, and hymns of praise for thanksgiving to God for all that He had done for them [1 Chronicles 16:4]. Then the third group of Levites into which David divided the tribe, they were the Levites who were to sing and to play musical instruments and to praise the Lord God [1 Chronicles 16:4]. Right in the middle is that group of recorders, those who bring into remembrance and to compose psalms, and songs, and hymns of praise; thanking God for His wonderful goodness to His people [1 Chronicles 16:4].
Now one of those psalms, written by those Levites thanking God for His blessings and His remembrances, is this 116, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [Psalm 116:12]. I will offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:17]. Another one of those psalms that the Levitical group wrote in remembrance of the goodness and the blessing of God, and calling the people to praise and to worship, is the ninety-sixth Psalm:
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. . .
O give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name:
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
And all through those psalms – we haven’t opportunity but just to speak of these two – all through those psalms, when there is brought to remembrance before the people a thanksgiving for God’s goodnesses and mercies, there is always that word of, "And we shall come before Him with sacrifices of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17], we will bring an offering and come into His courts and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness [Psalm 96:8-9].
When I therefore come before the Lord with an offering, a sacrifice of thanksgiving and gratitude, I am in the very heart of the worship of our great High God; it is an act of worship. Just as praying is an act of worship; singing praises to God is an act of worship; bowing down before the Lord God and asking His presence in my heart and life is an act of worship; standing up in praise to God and in witness and in testimony for His wonderful grace that reached even to me, this is an act of worship; and for me to come before Him with an offering of sacrifice and thanksgiving is an act of worship. It is a beautiful thing that the psalmists, the Levitical writers, refer to here in this ninety-sixth Psalm, "Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary" [Psalm 96:6]. That is a reference, and to you men who are Masons, a beautiful thing, "Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary," that refers to the two great massive pillars that Solomon erected before the temple, a part of the temple courts. One of them was named Jachin, and the other was named Boaz [1 Kings 7:21]. They were tall and majestic, and their capitals were covered with carvings of lilies and pomegranates and wreaths of chains [1 Kings 7:22]. And the psalmist says, "Before those two beautiful, majestic pillars, the worshiper comes bringing an offering [Psalm 96:8] and worships the Lord in the beauty of holiness" [Psalm 96:9]. It is right, it is pleasing to God, it is an act of worship when I come before Him and enter into His presence with an offering of thanksgiving in my hand [Psalm 116:17].
Now second, will you notice how he describes that offering? He calls it a sacrifice of thanksgiving:
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will come before Him, I will come into His presence. . .
I will bow down before the great High God with an offering, with a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Just what does that mean? What does it refer to? The tithe was commanded; that belongs to God, it is not mine. I am not to use it, I am not to touch it, I am not to steal it. I am not to take it away from God; it belongs to Him, the tithe is God’s, it isn’t mine. I pay that to the Lord. I just give back to Him what He has mandated, commanded, it isn’t mine, that belongs to God [Leviticus 27:30; Malachi 3:8-10]. And God collects it, He never fails. A man has a hundred million dollars, I see him lose ten million of it; bad judgment, a sorry investment, stupidity. A man has a hundred thousand dollars, he loses ten thousand dollars of it; stupid decisions, providences he didn’t look for, God collects it. No man uses God’s tithe for himself, he can’t do it. A nation cannot, a corporation cannot, a business cannot, you cannot. That belongs to God and I’m not to touch it, I’m not to use it, I’m not to steal it; and if I don’t pay it to God, He collects it. He will do it in your life: you will lose it, there will be a providence, a stupidity, a bad judgment take it away. You will not escape that. God made this world and God runs this world, and the tithe belongs to Him. And I am not to use it, I am not to touch it, and I am not to steal it.
The tithe is the Lord’s, it always has been. Abraham, the patriarch, who received the promises [Genesis 15:4-7], gave tithes of all that he had to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God – El Elyon [Genesis 14:20]. Jacob at Bethel said to God, "Out of all that You give me, one tenth will sacredly be set aside for Thee" [Genesis 28:22]. In the Mosaic legislation, under inspiration from heaven and under mandate from Jehovah Himself, Moses wrote in the law, "The tithe is holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:30, 32], and we are not to change it. And if a man would redeem it he is to add to it fourfold; it belongs to God. This is the Christian extra: the offering of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17]. When I tithe, I just give to God what belongs to Him, I am just turning over to God what is His. The Christian extra is when I bring an offering, when I add to it a sacrifice of thanksgiving and gratitude. I don’t offer anything until first I lay at God’s feet what is His, what He has commanded. And the Christian extra is the offering of thanksgiving that I bring. Our Lord said to the Pharisees, who tithed so meticulously according to the law, He said to them, "These things ye ought to have done," and then the Christian extra, to add to it these other things that magnify and glorify God [Matthew 23:23].
The Christian extra: Jesus says, "If a man compels you to go with him a mile, go with him twain" [Matthew 5:41]; add to it. Of the ten lepers that were healed, Jesus commanded them to do according to the law, "By mandate, go and show yourselves to the priests." The Christian extra was when one of them came back and fell at His feet, and thanked Him, and offered the sacrifice of praise and gratitude for what He had done [Luke 17:12-19]. The Christian extra: the commandment to tithe; the Christian extra, to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
I read a most unusual thing. The church needed a custodian, and they could find no one for the job. In the town was a ne’er-do-well, a young fellow by the name Anderson. The pastor came before the deacons and said, "We have no one for this place, this job, except that young fellow Anderson." And there was stony silence. Finally one of the men said, "Isn’t there anybody else?" They waited, and waited, and waited. Finally the pastor said, "There is no other choice, there is no one here to be sexton of the church except that ne’er-do-well, that trifling young man, that lazy good for nothing young fellow." So, the pastor hired him; he was sexton of the church.
It wasn’t long until people noticed a change in him. He began to clean himself up, to put on clean clothes; and he began to be polite and gracious. And as the days passed, the pastor noticed the young man sitting on the back at the church, one of those back pews. And then he would come up a little closer to the front, and to listen attentively. And as the days passed, the young fellow came to the pastor’s home one night and said that he wanted to give his heart to Jesus and wanted to know if the pastor would receive him into the church. He made his confession of faith before the people, and he was baptized. After about a year, the young fellow came back to the pastor and said, "Do you think you could entrust to me the teaching of a class of little boys?" And the pastor gave him a class of little boys.
The pastor went away for ten years, called to another church. And after ten years, he came back to the church to visit. He was met at the station by the chairman of the deacons. And the chairman of the deacons said, "You are going to be surprised at whose home you stay and who is to be your host." And the chairman of the deacons said, "I am taking you to the home, the palatial home, of Mr. Anderson." And the pastor said, "Well, the only Anderson I know was that young man who changed so remarkably as custodian of the church." And the chairman of the deacons said, "That’s the one." The chairman said, "He is now president of the First National Bank, and he is the most loved and respected man in our town." And the deacon said, "What happened was, a rich uncle observed the remarkable change in the young man, and left him his fortune." Then the chairman of the deacons said to the old pastor, "You won’t believe it. As the richest man in our town, and as the president of the First National Bank, he still teaches that class of little boys. And beside all else that he does for the church, he is our financial leader and our greatest giver. Beside all that, he is still the janitor of the church." And the pastor said, "He’s still the janitor of the church?"
When I read the story I had the same amazing reaction, "He is still the janitor, the custodian of the church?"
"Yes," said the chairman of the board, "He’s still the janitor of the church. For he says God cleaned up his heart, cleaned up his soul, and cleaned up his life, and He did it while he was keeping God’s house clean. And he says as long as he lives he is going to be the cleaner, and the janitor, and the custodian of God’s house; the Christian extra. "This I do under commandment," I am supposed to do it, God mandates my doing it. "But this I do out of love and gratitude," and the humbler it is, the sweeter it is: like washing feet [John 13:3-5].
Last, may I, reading these psalms of gratitude and thanksgiving, may I point out, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:17]. Then it is not only an act of worship, and it is not only an offering of gratitude and thanksgiving, but it is also a sacrifice of gratitude. It is not something that cost me nothing. As David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, said when Araunah offered him the threshing floor:
Take it, and the oxen for sacrifice, take them, and all of the instruments and equipment for wood; take it, I give it to you, to the king.
David said, Not so. But I will buy it of thee, for I will not offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing.
[2 Samuel 24:22-24]
There is to be in the offering that I bring something of sacrifice [Psalm 116:17].
When I was in the seminary, there came to the city the world’s most famous and gifted violinist, Fritz Kreisler, a Viennese, a world famous musician. And I went to the concert and listened to that marvelous musician play as I had never heard anyone play the violin in my life. And when his concert was done we clapped, and clapped, and I clapped and clapped, and he came back and several times gave encores of beautiful pieces that he himself had written. After that concert some time, I was reading about Fritz Kreisler, and here was something that he told and it was published. Quote, "I was born with music in my soul. I knew musical scores instinctively before I knew my ABC’s." In continental Europe, Fritz Kreisler was a famous concert violinist when he was ten years of age. "I knew musical scores instinctively before I knew my ABC’s. It was a gift of God. I did not acquire it, so I do not even deserve thanks for music. Music is too sacred to be sold. I never look upon money that I earn as my own, it is only a fund entrusted to my care for proper disbursement. I am constantly endeavoring to reduce my needs to a minimum. I feel morally guilty in ordering a costly meal, for I deprived some one else of a slice of bread, some child perhaps of a bottle of milk. You know what I eat, and you know what I wear. In all these years of my so called success in music, we have not built a home for ourselves. Between it and us, stand all the homeless in the world," end quote. And as a young man, I wrote underneath that quote these words, "I wish I had clapped harder." I didn’t know that about him. He was a great man. That is the Christian extra.
This we do under commandment, we’re supposed to do this. And this we do out of love and gratitude to God. Not rejoicing that I have bread to eat and others are starving, not rejoicing that I have a house in which to live and others are exposed, not rejoicing that I have clothes to wear and others are naked, not rejoicing that I am saved and others are lost, no! But coming before God with gratitude that I have bread to eat and to share, that I have a house in which to live, and clothing to wear, and salvation in the gospel preached; that in God’s grace I can share and help with someone else; the Christian extra.
And this is the grace that crowns a beautiful Christian life. Not what we do we do by compulsion and coercion and mandate; but out of the fullness of our hearts, coming before God with a sacrifice of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17]. And to a people like that, to a home like that, to a soul like that, to a heart like that God will ever mediate His sweetest and most precious gifts. The windows are open and God just stands there, ready to pour out upon that beautiful life the riches of glory [Malachi 3:10].
Ah, dear people! How sweet to walk in the pilgrim way, loving God, trusting God, believing in the Lord, serving our Savior; there is no way so precious, so beautiful, so rewarding, so blessed. And it is into that way we invite you this holy Lord’s Day morning, giving your heart in trust to Christ, coming into the fellowship of His church; how ever the Spirit would press the appeal to your heart, would you answer now, come now? In the balcony round, a family, a couple, or just you, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, I make the decision now, and I’m coming now." You, or your family, while we sing the appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle, down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, gladly, with thanksgiving in my soul I’m coming." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE LIFE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING: THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Israelites responded to God with praise and thanksgiving
A. Response to great and victorious events
B. Seen in the Passover
C. Levitical offerings
E. Washing ceremonies
II. Our life of praise and gratitude
A. Sweet savor offering
B. Our offerings, gifts to God