The Great Invitation
March 9th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
THE GREAT INVITATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-9-75 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing with us the service on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Great Invitation. This will be the fourth message from Isaiah. In these morning services we have dedicated the hours to a presentation and an exposition of the incomparable and glorious revelation and vision of the greatest prophet of the Old Covenant, Isaiah.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken,” what does He say? “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider” [Isaiah 1:2-3]; they do not think. “Come now,” the great invitation, Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
When I hold this blessed Book in my hand, I hold a Book full of great invitations. In the Book of Exodus, Moses lifted up his voice and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26].
In the Book of Isaiah, the fifty-fifth chapter, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money . . . come, and buy without money and without price. Incline your ear, and come: hear, and your soul shall live” [Isaiah 55:1, 3].
I turn the pages of the Book, in the thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death and damnation of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die? [Ezekiel 33:11] When the crimson cross is so nearby, oh why will ye die?”
I turn the page of the Holy Book, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Matthew, the pleading Christ, “Come, come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast.
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He hath made me glad.
[“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” Horatius Bonar]
I turn the pages of the Book. In the first chapter of John, and Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found the Messiah, Him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth.” And Nathanael said, “Can any good thing come out of that evil, wicked, robber-haven city of Nazareth”? And Philip replied, “Come and see [John 1:45-46] . . . O taste and see that the Lord is good [Psalm 34:8].
I turn the pages of the Book; in the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, and the sixth chapter:
We then, as ambassadors for Christ, beseech you in Christ’s stead, as though God did speak by us, Be ye reconciled unto God, for we are fellow workers with Him, and plead in His name, that ye come to the Lord. Do it now, behold now is the day of salvation; behold now is the accepted time.
[2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:1-2]
I turn the pages of the Book and find that the Bible closes with the last great appeal of God: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17].
But out of all of the invitations in the Bible, there is none that is so unusual as this: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 1:18]. Why would one think that this is an unusual appeal? Because in it God says that He argues with the man that He made. That God should argue with a man is the center and thought of the text. And what an amazing come to pass, that God should argue with the man that He made. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Come and think with Me, and listen to Me, and let Me present My arguments. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 1:18]. Religion then, according to this great tenet of Isaiah, religion is not a matter of absurdity or stupidity, religion is not illogical, nor is it fanciful, nor is it magical; but religion is moral and reasonable!
Do you remember the story of one of the filthy, dirty citizens of the Roman Empire? His name was Felix. The great Roman historian, Tacitus, describes the evil, lustful, greedy, craven nature of Felix. Through some kind of a political chicanery he was appointed in Rome as the procurator of Judea. And in one of those strange providences, having persuaded an adulteress to come with him, he sat there in the procurator’s chair in Caesarea, with Drusilla by his side, and Paul the apostle of the blessed Jesus stood before him to present his case [Acts 24:24]. And Felix thought that in the presentation of this esoteric Oriental, maybe far out religion, he might find himself entertained for an hour. But what do the Scriptures say? “And Paul opened his mouth, and as he reasoned, as he reasoned of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled” [Acts 24:25]. And then in a procrastination said, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will hear thee” [Acts 24:25]. Religion is reason, and logic, and moral.
There is in this day a cheap, sorry, dirty, filthy representative and voice of the atheists of America. She calls her name Madeline Murray O’Hair. This is what she said, and I quote verbatim: “I will go to bed anytime, anywhere, with any consenting male, anytime I damn well please.” End quote. That is atheism! But God says, “My reasons, they are rational, and they are moral, and they are fundamental”; that is religion [Isaiah 1:18].
“My reasons for, Thou shalt not commit adultery [Exodus 20:14], thou shalt not be promiscuous—My reasons are that sin dissolves the home, and dissolves the marriage, and it orphans children, and there is no sin that devastates the human heart and the human soul like promiscuity and adultery.” That is religion! “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 1:18]. Religion is logical, and reasonable, and moral.
As the Isaian prophet began his text, he calls as witnesses for the great revelation of God, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth” [Isaiah 1:2]; that is, what God says is founded upon and built upon the moral creation, the foundation upon which the universe rests. And Isaiah says, as he brings the voice of the Lord to bear upon what the people believe and do and think, he says it is the sheerest stupidity for a man to leave God out of his life. It is sheerer stupidity than is found in the dumb beasts that God made. Why even, he says, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib” [Isaiah 1:3]. But for a man to leave God out of his life is for the man not to know and not to consider; he doesn’t think. For example, in the fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet says, “Therefore My people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge” [Isaiah 5:13]. Let me translate that in another way: “because they do not think!” But, isn’t it an amazing come to pass, an astonishing thing, that even though men seek to push God out of their minds, and leave God out of their lives, and leave God out of their plans and visions and dreams, yet God intrudes, God forces Himself into a man’s mind and into a man’s thinking? A man’s mind can no more keep from turning back to the idea of God than the tides of the sea can keep from coming back to the shore. Again and again and again does the idea of God intrude into a man’s thinking, and into a man’s mind, and into a man’s heart; he cannot escape it.
This last week I have been preaching to the Presbyterian churches of Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. And upon one of these days of the last week, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Seattle took me in his car just to see the beautiful city. On this side, toward the west, the snow covered Olympic Mountains, rising out of the blue of the Pacific Ocean; one of the breathtaking sights of the earth. Then we turn to the east, and came to beautiful Lake Washington that pours into the Puget Sound; and then beyond, the Cascade Mountains. To the north, one hundred thirty miles to the Canadian border, I could see beautiful, towering, snow-cone Mt. Baker, and to the south, seventy miles to the south, the great, towering, snow-white mountain, Mt. Rainier, and for the two hundred miles in between, the snow covered Cascade Range.
And when the car came to the brow of the hill, and there before the beautiful Lake Washington and Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Range between, I could not but exclaim, I burst out into words, “Oh glory!” I said. I guess the preacher thought I’d lost my mind. But to a flatlander who lives in Texas, a dry, burnt-up prairie for most of our state, to see that beautiful, wonderful sight, I couldn’t help but cry out, “Oh glory, wonderful, beautiful, what God has wrought!”
And then maybe in self-defense, or explaining my exclamation, my bursting out of wonder in the glory of the sight, I said to the preacher, “When I was a boy, I heard of a bitter, unbelieving, atheistic lawyer who lived in Seattle. He had built a palatial home on the eastern side of the city, facing Lake Washington, and facing the beautiful Cascade Range, with a picture window in his bedroom where he could see that glorious sight every day. Lying in his bed asleep, in the early dawn of the morning, he became conscious of his little girl, standing by the bed, looking into his face. She was a pretty little thing, and with her white nightie and her long, black, curly hair flowing over her shoulders, standing there looking at her father, then quietly, stealthily, turned to the picture window, and looked at that glorious scene with the sun rising over the Cascade Mountains, and the father, pretending still to be asleep, quietly opened his eyes to see what she was doing. And when he opened his eyes, he saw that precious little thing, standing there before the picture window, bowing and whispering softly, ‘Good morning, God. Good morning, God. Good morning, God.’ And the atheist, unbelieving lawyer said, ‘I bowed my head in the pillow, and I cried, O God, let me see You too! O God that I could find Thee too and know Thee too!’ And through the quiet, childish innocent testimony of that little girl, he found the Lord, and gave himself as a disciple of the blessed Jesus.”
There is no escaping the presence and the power and the glory of God to a thinking man. “Even the heavens declare His glory; and the firmament showeth His handiwork” [Psalm 19:1]. “Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 1:18].
I haven’t time to present it, but the whole chapter is in the form of a crown case, a great assize, a trial at court. And you could entitle this first chapter “The Great Arraignment”, when in court God brings His accusation against His people [Isaiah 1:1-31]. But the marvelous thing in the arraignment is that as God reproaches the people, and arraigns the people, and accosts them with their sin and transgression, He closes His trial, His arraignment, His reproach with an appeal: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 1:18]. What separates between a man and his God is the man’s sins:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you, that He will not see and hear.
“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 59:1:18]. And the conclusion of the trial is the appeal of God to the man that he come to the Lord and let the Lord blot out those separations, and walls, and abysses, and hiatuses, and intrusions; that God take them away, and that the man have free access to the Lord God in heaven.
He does it in such an unusual way. He does it as a father would plead with a son: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken.” What does He say? “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me” [Isaiah 1:2]. When a man does wrong, when a man denies Christ, when a man takes his heart, and his house, and his home, and his life, and his business, and the love of his soul away from God, it breaks God’s heart. God made the man for Himself; to love God, to serve God, to give himself to God, and when the man gives himself to the world, or to sin, or to pleasure, or to vanity, or to false dreams and hopes and values, God’s heart breaks. “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.” It’s the same spirit as the father of the prodigal boy, just waiting and hoping and praying [Luke 15:11-32]. It is the same spirit as the Lord Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” [Luke 13:34-35].
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18]. Who does that? How does a man wash himself clean? Who can forgive sins? Who can make me right? Who can give me a new life, a new heart, a new love, a new vision, a new dream? Who can do that? Who can wash me clean and white? God, God, God! When I take myself to God, God can clean me, and cleanse me, and wash me, and make me pure and white. God can do it [Psalm 51:10]. How does God do that? How does God wash us clean and white, make us pure? How does God do it? He does it in the blood, in the sacrifice, in the cross, in the sobs and tears of Jesus Christ our Savior [Matthew 27:26-50]. He washes us white and clean in the blood of the cross [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. By faith and commitment to the Son of God, God makes us new all over again in Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:17]. Every day is a new day in Him. Every life is a cleansed life in Him. Every vision and purpose is sanctified and hallowed in Him. “Come now, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18].
There was a little boy watching the parade of British soldiers dressed in scarlet uniforms. And the father stood there looking at it from their window, and the little boy stood looking at it. And the little boy exclaimed, “Daddy, look, their uniforms are pure white.” And the father said, “Son, they’re not white; their uniforms are scarlet red.”
“No,” said the lad, “they are white, they are pure white.” And the father looked to see what caused the lad to see white in those scarlet red British uniforms. And it was then that the father noticed that in the red band of glass around the window out of which he was watching, the little boy could only see through the red band, and looking at the scarlet uniforms through the red glass, the uniforms looked white as snow [Isaiah 1:18].
Did you know God confirms His gospel, the Book? God confirms the gospel in His other book, in the world of creation. Take a red, red rose, or a red, red uniform, and look at it through a red glass, and it will look as white as snow. That’s exactly what God does with our sins. They may be red like crimson, they may be scarlet like crimson, but when God looks at us in the atoning grace and mercy and love of Jesus [John 15:13], we are white as snow.
God forgives us in Jesus, saves us in His glorious name [Ephesians 1:7]. This is God’s reasoning with a man. It’s the rightest thing that a man can do, to give his heart to Christ. It’s the most reasonable thing that a man can do, to take Jesus as his Savior. It is the finest, noblest commitment that a man can make, to dedicate his life to God. This is the great invitation.
And in the quietness and sacredness of this holy hour, a family you, or a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give himself to Jesus, to dedicate his life to the Lord, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment, when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down that aisle. In the last row of the topmost balcony, there’s time and to spare, make it now, do it now, come now. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-9-75I. The Bible is a book of great invitations
A. Old Testament examples (Exodus 32:26, Isaiah 55:1, 3, Ezekiel 33:11)
B. New Testament examples (Matthew 11:28-30, John 1:43-46, II Corinthians 5:20, Revelation 22:17)II. To reason together
A. Revelation of the Book is rational, reasonable, right
B. Stupidity to leave God out (Isaiah 1:2-3)
C. God intrudes in a man’s lifeIII. God’s reproach turns into pardon
A. God’s arraignment (Isaiah 1:2)
B. Conclusion of the trial (Isaiah 1:18)
1. Personal confrontation
C. Cleansing of our sins
2. How is man’s sin forgiven? (Revelation 7:14)