The Christian Extra
October 21st, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-73 10:50 a.m.
It is indeed a happy privilege for us in this dear First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome a multitude of hundreds of thousands of people throughout five states to this service who listen on radio and who watch on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christian Extra: 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?
One: "I will take the cup of salvation."
Two: "I will call upon the name of the Lord."
Three: "I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all of His people."
Four: "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving."
[Psalm 116:12-14, 17]
In so brief a while as this worship service I have opportunity just to say a small part of the beautiful meaning of this text. Just before it, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:17].
The question is rhetorical, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12] The psalmist is persuaded that any man who is right thinking, who is morally sensitive, who has a responsive soul would seek to bring to his Maker-God, a token of thanksgiving and gratitude. So he asks the question, not should we do it? But what shall I do? "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" Not one of God’s mercies should we leave out. All of them are to be remembered; they are to be named in His presence. And we are to thank Him for them. To omit one of God’s mercies, and forget to thank Him for that one would be like omitting a note in a symphony. It would be missed; it would mar the beauty, the euphony, the symphonic melody of the whole. So what shall I render unto the Lord for all of His mercies toward me? Remembering them, every one.
In the sixteenth chapter of 1 Chronicles there is the most unusual thing described, what David did in preparing the worship of the people of Israel. He divided the Levites, the priestly tribe, into three parts. One part was to minister before the ark, to prepare the sacrifices and offer them, and to do all of the things that pertain to the beautiful ritual and communion with God [1 Chronicles 16:4]. One third of the Levites were to minister before the ark.
The second group he calls recorders, recorders. The original Hebrew of the word has the connotation "these who bring to remembrance." Those Levites were to write down the mercies of God, to record them lest one be forgotten or overlooked or omitted. They were to write them down, all of the remembrances of heaven, and they were to compose psalms and songs and hymns of praise, thanking God for all of His remembrances, His blessings.
Then the third group, into which David divided the Levitical priests, they were to sing songs and they were to praise God with musical instruments [1 Chronicles 16:4]. What a God-inspired and beautiful thing David did. Here are they who minister before the ark of the great Jehovah God. And here are they who record God’s mercies lest we overlook just one of them. And here are they who are taught to sing the psalms, and the songs, and the hymns of praise of these who record the mercies of God [1 Chronicles 16:7].
It is so easy to overlook the remembrances of our heavenly Father. For example, I wonder how many of our people were conscious of this. In the newspapers this week there is a picture of a young man. He’s Richard B. Estes; son of Mrs. Betty Estes, the top-ranking cadet of the United States Air Force Academy. He is shown here receiving the Wing Commander shoulder boards signifying his rank. A young man, how fine looking he is receiving from the head of the United States Air Force Academy its highest reward. You could not help but look at him and be proud of America and proud of the men who sustain the liberties our people enjoy, who defend them with their very lives. I saw that in the paper this week.
But how many of our people remembered, I have a picture here of the pastor standing behind this sacred pulpit and right here is a little boy, a little junior boy, and the pastor is putting his hand on the little fellow’s shoulder and congratulating him for being the star camper in our junior camp. Here is the little boy that belongs to Millie Kohn’s Junior Camp. And here is the fine young cadet who has received the first distinguished reward in the academy as he takes his place to defend our country and our nation. There are ten thousand sweetnesses, remembrances, blessings of God upon our people and upon our church. Don’t you wish we had recorders to write them all down? And don’t you wish we had inspired psalmists to compose those beautiful hymns of praise, thanking God for His remembrances?
Now the psalm that I read is one of the psalms that those Levites wrote who had the task, the assignment, of recording all of God’s mercies. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:12, 17]. Another one of the psalms those Levites wrote, who recorded the mercies of God, is the ninety-sixth Psalm, "Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary, Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" [Psalm 96:6-9].
Here the psalmist is thinking of those two massive pillars that Solomon built as part of the porch of the holy sanctuary, "strength and beauty are in His sanctuary" [Psalm 96:6]. One of those columns, as you Masons know, was named Jachin; and one of them was named Boaz [1 Kings 7:21]. They were tall and majestic and their capitals were embellished with beautiful figures and carvings of lilies and pomegranates and wreaths of chain work. And the psalmist, in the imagery of that holy temple, says "strength," Jachin, "and beauty" [Psalm 96:6], Boaz, glorify the temple of the Lord. And between them, bring an offering, and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness [Psalm 96:8-9].
I know therefore, that when I come before the Lord, it is as much a part of worship to bring an offering into His presence as it is to bow down in prayer or to sing a hymn of praise or to lift up our hands in thanksgiving or to stand up and speak words of praise and testimony. The offering that we bring coming into the courts of our Lord is an act of worship. It pleases God that I appear before Him with something in my hands.
Will you notice again that the offering I bring is to be one of thanksgiving? "What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me? I will offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:12, 17]. It is an extra of love and gratitude. You see, the tithe is commanded of the Lord [Leviticus 27:31-32; Malachi 3:10]. It belongs to Him; it is not mine; it belongs to God. I am not to touch it; I am not to use it; I am not to steal it; I am not to appropriate it; it does not belong to me. It is commanded, mandated of God. It belongs to Him, and He collects it, He never fails.
There is no man wise enough yet to escape the mandates of God. He may think that he steals it; he may think that he appropriates it; he may think that he uses it; that he keeps it for himself. He cannot. There is no man able to take God’s tenth and keep it. He cannot do it. It belongs to God and the Lord collects it. Here is a man that has one hundred million dollars. In his stupidity, in a providence he never thought for, in a bad judgment, in a poor investment, he’ll lose ten million of it. There is man that has one hundred thousand dollars and he seeks to keep it for himself. He is not that smart. In a stupid providence, in a bad judgment, in a poor investment he will lose ten thousand dollars of it, you see the tithe belongs to God. It isn’t mine. It is His and I am not to take it, and I am not to steal it, and I am not to appropriate it, and I am not to use it. It belongs to God; that has been a mandate of heaven from the beginning of time.
Abraham paid a tithe of all that he possessed to the great high God, Melchizedek [Genesis 14:20]. Jacob, who was named Israel, said, "That of all that God shall give me, surely the tenth I will return to Thee" [Genesis 28:22]. In the Mosaic legislation, God – by inspiration, coming down from the mount where the Lord spoke to him face-to-face, Moses wrote it in the law, here it is in the Book: the tithe is holy unto the Lord [Leviticus 27:32] and a man is not to change it; and if he seeks to change it he adds the fifth thereunto [Leviticus 27:13]. These things a man does by mandate, by commandment.
The Christian extra is: if I bring an offering and lay it at His blessed feet, the Christian extra, the sacrifice, the offering of gratitude and thanksgiving. You see Jesus said to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the temple leaders who tithed so meticulously, He said, "This ye ought to have done" [Matthew 23:23]. That belongs to God, that is the mandate, that’s the commandment of the Lord, but this other is something sweet and dear and precious to do, the Christian extra. The Lord said, "When a man compels you to go a mile," let it be a Roman legionnaire walking down the road carrying his armor and his pack, he sees a Jewish man here and he compels him to carry the load for a mile, "When he compels you to carry the load for a mile, go with him twain" [Matthew 5:41]. Don’t follow behind him like a dog murmuring against the oppression power and the iron fist of the Roman Empire. As a Christian, walk by his side, talk to him. Tell him about the Lord and when the milestone is passed and your duty is finished, you put the armor down, and you put the shield and sword down, and you put the knapsack down, your task is done. He can’t compel you to go more than a mile! As a Christian extra, say to the Roman legionnaire, "I love talking to you. I want to know further; do you have a, maybe a little baby at home? Do you have a little boy? And does he look like you? And where do you live? And we love you for Jesus’ sake. And I would like to talk to you more about the Lord." Go with him twain. Go with him twain, the Christian extra.
When the Lord healed the ten lepers, by commandment, by mandate, by the law, the Lord said to them, "You go show yourself to the priest." And as they went, they were healed and one of them turned back and fell at the feet of the Lord Jesus and praised His name and thanked Him; that glorified God that he was clean, the Christian extra [Luke 17:12-16].
What we do by commandment, by mandate, by law, that is one thing. What we do beyond, out of gratitude and thanksgiving: the extra. I read the most amazing thing. In the town, the church and the pastor, they were looking for a custodian, a sexton, a janitor, they couldn’t find anybody.
Finally, the pastor came before his deacons and said, "I don’t know anything to do but to hire that young Anderson fellow, ne’er-do-well, shiftless, dirty, sorry, lazy; but he is the only one that I know that is available." And the suggestion of the pastor was met with stony silence, just like so many times I do when I talk to the deacons, they just look at me, stony silence!
Finally, one of men spoke up and said, "But can’t we find anybody better?"
The pastor said, "I cannot."
So the days passed and the months passed. Finally the pastor came back and said, "I have no other choice but to hire that shiftless, no account, lazy young man Anderson." So the pastor hired him.
It wasn’t long until people noticed a change in him. He cleaned up himself; he washed himself; he put on clean clothes. And as the days passed, the pastor saw him seated at the back of the church. And then, as other days passed, he began to sit closer to the front and he listened attentively to the message. And upon an evening the young fellow came to the pastor’s home and said, "Pastor, I have found the Lord. I have found the Lord, and I wanted to know if I could join the church." He made his confession of faith before the congregation as we do here, and the pastor baptized him. And after about a year he came back to see the pastor, and he said, "Pastor, I wonder if I could be entrusted with a class of little boys to teach them." And the pastor gave him a class of little boys to teach.
It was then that the pastor was called away to another church. And after ten years he came back to that town to visit that church. He was met at the station by the chairman of the board of deacons. And the chairman of the deacons said, "I am going to take you to the home where you are to be guest for the night. It is a palatial home. It is the home of the president of the First National Bank, and it was the home of Mr. Anderson."
And the pastor said, "Anderson? The only Anderson that I remember in town was that shiftless boy that we hired to be janitor of the church."
"That’s he," said the chairman of the deacons, "That’s he." He said, "Pastor, it is hard to believe, but a rich uncle saw a change, saw the marvelous new life in that boy. And the uncle left to his nephew his fortune and he is now president of the First National Bank. And he is the most loved and the most respected of all the men in our little city." But he said, "Pastor, it is this that is wonderful. You can hardly believe it when I tell you. Pastor, he still teaches that class of little boys. And pastor, he is the still the janitor of our church. He supports the church beyond almost all of us put together, but he’s still the custodian of the church. And when you ask him, ‘why is it, wealthy, honored, you still sweep out God’s house,’ he will say to you, ‘When I was dirty, and sinful, and lost, God cleansed my heart and God cleansed my soul, and as long as I live I am going to keep God’s house swept and clean.’" The Christian extra.
Not only by commandment and by mandate, but out of gratitude, offering some what to God. And the more humble it is, and the more menial it is, to me, and I think to God, the more precious it is. That’s why those old time Baptists who washed feet had a beautiful thing to express to their brothers and to their sisters, the Christian extra. But as I read my text and look at God’s Word, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12] I see in my text that when I bring before God my offering, my extra, it is not only an act of worship, like prayer, like praise, it is not only an act of thanksgiving, of gratitude to God, but, I read also, it is to be a sacrifice. "What shall I render unto the Lord For all of His benefits toward me? I will offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving" [Psalm 116:12, 17]. It will be something that costs.
As David said to Araunah, when Araunah said to the king, "You have come to offer before the Lord, here I give it to you, I give you my threshing floor. I give you my oxen for sacrifice. I give you the implements of agriculture for wood for the burning. It is all yours oh, king, I give it to you" [2 Samuel 24:22-23]. And David, in nobility, no wonder God loved him, a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], David said to Araunah, "Not so, not so, but I will buy it of thee at a cost, at a price. For I will not offer to my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. "I will not." This is the spirit of the Christian extra. What I bring will be something that costs me.
When I was in the seminary, there came to the city the world’s greatest, most famous violinist. His name was Fritz Kreisler; Viennese born. As a child he was famous in continental Europe as a concert violinist. And I sat there in that big civic auditorium and listened to Fritz Kreisler play. Oh, I did not know a violin could sound like that. It was like heavenly harmony. And when the concert was over, we clapped, and clapped, and clapped, and applauded, and applauded. And he came back, and he played for us several encores of his own composition, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Sometime after that, I read a reporter’s interview with the great musician, and I copied it out of the paper. This is what Fritz Kreisler said, quote,
I was born with music in my soul. I knew musical scores instinctively before I knew my ABC’s – at the age of ten he was a famous concert violinist in continental Europe – 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 the minimum. I feel morally guilty in ordering a costly meal for it deprives someone else of a slice of bread; some child perhaps of a bottle of milk. You know what I eat, 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.
And as a young man in the seminary, I wrote at the end of that quotation, I wrote, "I wish I had applauded louder. I did not know that when I heard the great musician play. I wish I had clapped louder!"
The Christian extra: this I am supposed to do, to give a tithe to God, to set aside a tenth of all that I have, I am supposed to do. But this is the Christian extra; it is the sacrifice of thanksgiving; it is the offering of gratitude and appreciation and thanksgiving to God [Psalm 116:17]. Shall I thank God that I have bread to eat and others starve? Do I thank God I have a shelter under which to abide and others are exposed? Do I thank God that I have clothes to wear and others are naked? Do I thank God that I am saved and others are lost? God forbid! God forbid! I thank God that I have bread to eat that I can share it with somebody else. And I thank God that I have the blessings of life that I can share them with someone else. And I thank God that I have been saved that I might share the glory of His blessed name with somebody else: the Christian extra. This Jesus says, I am supposed to do [Matthew 28:19-20]. And this I do out of the fullness of love and gratitude and thanksgiving to God.
My sweet people, when we are like that there is a beauty in life. There is an aura of saintliness and heavenliness with which God crowns His dear people. It is a pilgrim way, a glory way, that when we walk in it each moment is sweeter; each step of the way is dearer, as with our precious Lord we pilgrimage from this world to the world that is to come, from this life to the life in glory.
And that is our appeal to you this blessed Lord’s Day morning. A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down an aisle, "Pastor, I have made a decision for God and here I am and here I come." Maybe you, accepting Jesus as your Savior; maybe you, placing your life and letter in the circle of this precious church; maybe answering a call that the Holy Spirit has pressed to your heart, whatever God shall say the Spirit shall lead. Make it now, come now, angels will attend you in the way as you come. On the first note of the first stanza, take that first step, and the Holy Spirit will open the way as you respond and answer with your life. Do it now, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.