For Those Who Love God
August 1st, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-1-76 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 64. And the text is Isaiah 64:4, and the context begins at the first verse. It is a part of a noble prayer of the prophet:
Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence.
As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence!
When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at Thy presence.
That’s a description of the Lord on Mount Sinai when, amidst fire and thunder and lightning and great earthquake [Exodus 19:16-18], God gave to Moses the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. And he’s praying that God would do the like again, that He would rend the heavens and come down. "When You did terrible things that we did not expect, and the mountains flowed at Thy presence" [Isaiah 64:3].
Now the text: "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what Thou hast prepared for those that wait for Thee" [Isaiah 64:4]. Our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, our hearts have not imagined what God has prepared for them who wait upon Thee.
First, I have chosen four incontrovertible absolutes that our eyes see, that can be confirmed by what we know in the earth. These are the things that we see. And these are the things that by our senses, touch, or taste, or eye, or ear that we can affirm as being absolutely true.
Number one: existence is an incontrovertible absolute. I know that I am. I know that you are. And I know that we together live in a created universe – an absolute incontrovertible fact. In reading the life of Thomas Carlyle, one time, he was exclaiming about a female philosopher who rejected all truth except one. She said, "I accept one thing: the universe." and Thomas Carlyle exclaimed, "Egad, she’d better!" This is an incontrovertible fact that we are, and we’re in a universe. That carries with it mathematical truth, astronomical truth, chemical truth, physical truth, biological truth, demonstrable truth of every kind. This is something we know, and our eyes and senses confirm the fact of the universe.
Another incontrovertible absolute is that the planet Earth upon which we live is unique in all of God’s vast creation. It is set apart. There is nothing and none like it. It is very interesting to see these men try to find life on other planets, and now in the headlines, upon Mars. All I can observe is this: that if they have life on Mars, they’re going to have to redefine what life, l-i-f-e, is. Imagine life without air, without atmosphere, without water, they’ll have to redefine the word. Mars is like the moon; it’s like these thousands, millions of other planets – barren and sterile.
But this planet is set apart and unique among all of the spheres and planets and stars of the whole creation, if for no other reason than Jesus lived here. Jesus was born here [Matthew 1:20-25]. The Son of God died here [Matthew 27:32-50]. It was this world and this earth that drank up His atoning blood [John 19:34]. It was from this earth that He ascended back into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And it is to this planet Earth that someday He shall victoriously return [Acts 1:11]. It is an incontrovertible fact, absolute, that the earth is separate and apart of all of the spheres of the universe.
A third incontrovertible absolute: the universality of death. There is no escaping it in any area of existence, or of creation. In the dim days of the mystic past when they gathered in a great banquet hall, the leader would put a grinning skull prominently displayed, that they might remember their mortality and never fall into an easy optimism.
Death awaits every created thing. Even the stars burn out. There are planets and former stars world without end that are now dead, cold cinders. And someday, our star, our sun will burn itself out and the whole created universe shall collapse in sterility and darkness around it. Everything that we know, every existence that I can see, faces one inevitable, inexorable conclusion, and that is death. It is universal.
A fourth incontrovertible absolute is the moral sensitivity of all mankind, with no exception to it. There is no family, there is no tribe, there is no people, there is no nation so low, so degraded, but that they have a moral code of what is right and what is wrong. It may be strange to us what they think to be right and what they think to be wrong, but there is no tribe or tongue or family but that has that moral sensitivity.
I remember reading in the life of Charles Darwin when he went around the world in the Beagle, the ship Beagle. And he came to the tip of South America to a country called Tierra Del Fuego, and he wrote that he had found in that tip of a country, a tribe so degraded that they had no moral sensitivity. And he said, "I have found the missing link between the animal and the man. For these Tierra Del Fuegans are without sensitivity. They are animals."
Some of the Christian people in England read that, and they sent missionaries down to Tierra Del Fuego and soon they began to report that the Tierra Del Fuegans were noble in their life, and virtuous in their deportment. They had been won to Christ and they were now disciples of the Lord. And when Charles Darwin found it out, he himself became a subscriber and a faithful contributor to the Church Missionary Society of London, England, who sent out the missionaries. There are no people in the world who have ever lived, or ever shall, in whom is not that spirit of moral discernment.
I have named four incontrovertible absolutes. These are things that we see with our eyes and we can verify with our senses. But there is another world, another dimension. As Aristotle wrote it, when he wrote his volumes on the physical, he added another volume called the metaphysical. Metaphysics – that is, beyond the physical.
There is an unseen world that the senses cannot touch. For example, I can examine a brain, but I cannot examine a mind. We can measure impulses of the nervous system, but we cannot measure thought. We can dissect a cadaver, an anatomy, but you could never dissect a soul. You can verify and categorize the organs of the physical frame, but you could never find or categorize the conscience. There is another world beyond our physical senses, and it has nothing to do with our physical senses.
As a silver coin is absolutely unlike the bread that it buys; as a word is absolutely unlike itself, the idea that it connotes; so there is no relation between the physical of this world and that dimensional unseen world beyond – but it is no less real. For example, the apostle Paul in quoting this verse in Isaiah 64:4 says it like this: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him" [1 Corinthians 2:9, Isaiah 64:4]. And a thousand times – a thousand times have you heard that verse repeated, quoted, said, and always stopping there. "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, heart has not imagined, those marvelous heavenly things God hath prepared for those who love Him."
But that’s not a context. To stop there is to stop in the middle of what the apostle is saying. The next verse says: "But – but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth the deep things of God" [1 Corinthians 2:10]. There are marvelous realities that the five senses of sight, sound, touch, and all cannot ever know, but the apostle avows they are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God. "For the Holy Spirit searcheth the deep things of God" [1 Corinthians 2:10] and opens them to our hearts and to you.
Now, as I have named four incontrovertible absolutes that we learned and can verify by our physical senses, I now name four glorious things that are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit; things that we could never know by our physical senses, unless God revealed them to us.
Number one: that I, that we, are created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27] for the glory of the Lord [Isaiah 43:7]. I am not a fortuitous concourse of animals, and my life is not an accidental molecule that happened in the course of the human development, but I am a creation of God, formed by the hands of the Almighty, made in His likeness and in His image for a definite, God-called, God-assigned and stated purpose [Genesis 1:26-28; Ephesians 2:10].
What a marvelous revelation God has made for us in chapters 1 and 2 in Genesis. We are not accidents. We are not the products of blind impersonal forces, but we are the creation of the hands of God [Genesis 1:27], set here in this earth for a purpose, for the glory of our Lord [Isaiah 43:7]. I do not know of anything more degraded than to teach that we are nothing but blind results of forces that themselves are impersonal and blind. And I do not know of anything more noble than to teach that we are made in the likeness and the image of God [Genesis 1:27] and are set here, every one of us, with a definite plan and purpose in the mind of God [Genesis 1:28; Ephesians 2:10].
How ignoble, how ignominious, how self-defeating is the teaching that we are nothing but blind accidental convocations of atoms and molecules that just happened to meet together, and we happened to come to this place where we now are. How degraded! Could you imagine an angel, an angel from heaven; an angel that stands in the presence of God; could you imagine an angel from heaven being compelled to be a black spider, or a scorpion, or a cottonmouth moccasin, or a rattlesnake, or a scorpion? Degraded – and how the angel must feel were he forced to assume such a posture! I would think if the angel could, he would commit suicide.
Could you imagine a great soaring eagle that rises up to the blue of the sky and the thing is hypnotized and persuaded to believe that he is a slimy worm? He’s a worm, and a slimy worm at that. No longer does he spread his great wings and soar to the heavens. He’s been hypnotized, he’s been persuaded, and now he thinks and believes he’s a worm.
That is exactly what so much of modern teaching is doing to our young people in the schools and universities of today. They’re being taught that they are animals. No purpose; no plan; no God’s likeness; that we are the result of blind generations of evolution from the time we were a green scum; then maybe an amoeba or paramecium, then maybe a tadpole or a frog; then maybe a fish and a marsupial; then maybe a monkey and an anthropoid; and finally, we are Homo sapiens. What a degrading doctrine! And when these young people are taught that they are animals, then we seem to be surprised that they act like it.
One of the revelations of God is: we are made in His likeness, after His image [Genesis 1:27]. And there is nothing so noble and so uplifting as the revelations of the Spirit of the deep things of God showing us, telling us where we came from, why we were made, and the great plan and purpose God has for us.
Yesterday, there stood in front of me the beautiful daughter of one of our fine deacons, and by her side, a Christian young man. And as I married the couple, I said, "In the beginning, when God made the first man, and placed him in the garden of Eden, He said, It is not good for the man that he live alone. And He made for him a helpmate [Genesis 2:18], the last and crowning creation, the woman. And there in the paradise of Eden, God hallowed and sanctified our first home." How noble, how uplifting, the revelation of the Spirit of God! For the Lord intends us to soar, to be like Him, created in His likeness, after [His] image. We must hasten.
A second thing that the Holy Spirit reveals to us: namely, the incarnate God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It was God who loved us [John 3:16]. It was God who in atoning grace came to make sacrifice for us [Hebrews 10:5-14; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. It was God who washes our sins away in the blood of the cross [Titus 3:5; Revelation 1:5]. It is God who shall raise us from among the dead [Romans 4:25], and it is God who shall set us at the right hand of Glory on high. This Jesus is God in human flesh [John 1:1, 14].
This is a revelation that comes from the Holy Spirit. For no man can learn that or know that or believe that or accept that or receive it of himself; it has to come from the Spirit of God. It is a revelation of the Lord to us, unveiling – apokalupsis – uncovering Jesus Christ to us. In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord said, "The Holy Spirit shall not speak of Himself . . . but He shall take of Mine and show it unto thee" [John 16:13-15]. When we magnify the Holy Spirit of God, we’re doing the opposite of that, for the Holy Spirit of God magnifies the Lord Jesus; He always presents the Lord Jesus.
In the sixth chapter of John, the Lord said: "No man can come unto Me, except the Father draw him" [John 6:65]. This is a revelation of God to us; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [Matthew 16:16], the incarnate God, and that in Him we have forgiveness of sins and hope of heaven [Colossians 1:14]. Now, you would think that that would be so unreasonable a thing and so irrational a thing as to be unacceptable and unbelievable, that God should become man and die in His grace and love for us.
But as stupendous as that revelation is, it has been accepted by the greatest minds of all time. Among the Jewish people, all of these first writers of the New Testament, all of these first Christians were Jews. And in the centuries since, the greatest biography, the greatest life of Christ that was ever written is by Alfred Edersheim, a Christian Jew. There is no more beautiful music than by Felix Mendelssohn, a Christian Jew. Nor has there been a greater architect of empire than Benjamin Disraeli who built under Queen Elizabeth the far flung British Empire, a Christian Jew.
Nor would we lack for a long roll of great statesmen: Cromwell, Churchill, Gladstone; and in America, Washington and Abraham Lincoln, devout and humble Christians. Nor would we lack in speaking of the greatest literary geniuses of all time: Shakespeare, Milton, Tennyson, and Browning, humble and devout Christians.
When Strauss, the German rationalist, wrote his life of Christ that decimated the deity of our Lord, Robert Browning wrote in reply "A Death in the Desert"; it’s a poem of the – purporting to be, it’s fictional – a poem of the death of the great and sainted apostle John. And the whole poem is an incomparable defense of the faith and of the deity of our Lord. These men loved Jesus in the faith.
What could I say of the great scientists of the earth? It would take hours to recount it – to speak of the German Kepler, the great astronomer; or the French Pasteur, the chemist and bacteriologist; or Sir Isaac Newton of England, the marvelous mathematician and philosopher. These are incomparable giants among the intellectuals of all time and all of them, and a multitude like them, humble followers of the Lamb. It’s a wonder, but God hath revealed them to us by the Spirit who searcheth the deep things of God [1 Corinthians 2:10].
A third: the miracle of the new birth. Can the leopard change his spots? Can the Ethiopian change his skin? [Jeremiah 13:23]. Can a man who has given his life to sin ever be saintly in his deportment and nature? Can a man who knows no other thing than wrong or violence be a humble child of heaven?
The miracle of the new birth: what God is able to do in the heart of the man – change him. He is a new creation. "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].
Why, it hasn’t been very long ago since a man who was involved in some of the deepest complicities and conspiracies in American political life stood here in this pulpit and said he bowed his head, and wept before God, and asked Christ to forgive him, and he stood up a new born-again Christian. Chuck Colson, you heard him; he said it right here.
Friday, I buried the wife of a faithful member of our church. He brought me a poem he’d given his wife on their thirty-fifth anniversary. And in it, he pointed out a little phrase: "She’s taken the material of me and made not a tavern but a temple." He said, "I want you to look at that." He said, "I was on the road down. I began to frequent the bar and the tavern." And he said, "She won me to Jesus. I could never thank her enough." And his life has been beautiful, and his deportment virtuous and excellent ever since. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle, the ableness of God to change a man. He’s a new creation, done by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the mighty able-ness of Jesus.
I must conclude. One other, a fourth: that is, a coming kingdom. Isaiah 42:4 declares, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, until He hath set judgment and justice in the earth" [Isaiah 42:4]. When you read these headlines and when you look at the depravity of human nature, could it ever be? Could it ever be that there would be a kingdom of holiness and righteousness of heavenliness in this earth?
I cannot see it with my eye, nor can I conceive of it in my heart as I look at our present world. But by the eyes of faith in the revelation of the Holy Spirit of God, I can see it and believe it and hail it. Welcome, Lord Jesus, come! God hath revealed to us there shall yet be a millennial kingdom in this earth; in this earth, where we now live. Do you remember the story, the last chapter in of the Book of Genesis that closes the life of Joseph?
Joseph died and they embalmed him and put him in a coffin in Egypt [Genesis 50:26]; but before Joseph died, he gathered his brethren around him and said: "My brethren, God will surely visit you. God will not forget you. God will surely visit you. And when He visits you," he made them take an oath that they would carry up his bones from hence [Genesis 50: 24-25].
And when God delivered Israel, they carried with them the bones of their brother Joseph. And they buried him in the Land of Promise [Joshua 24:32], in Canaan. In that rich earth in Canaan, there is a richer dust concealed – Joseph. And at the blowing of the trump, at the last day [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], he shall rise in that millennial kingdom and be a fellow heir in his lot in the presence of the great and coming King.
And what God hath said of Joseph in the Book, He says of you in the same Book. My brethren, Paul writes by revelation of the Spirit, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But I show you a musterion" [1 Corinthians 15: 50-51], a great secret God kept in His heart that no man could ever know until He revealed it to His holy apostles.
"I show you a great musterion; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. Then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death . . ." And we mention it as an incontrovertible absolute; death is universal. "Then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory" [1 Corinthians 15:54].
This is the promise of God. This is the revelation of the Holy Spirit who lays before us the deep things of the Lord [1 Corinthians 2:10]. There is a coming kingdom the millennial reign of our living Lord, and in that kingdom we all shall have a part [Revelation 5:9-10, 22:3-5]: Joseph and his brethren, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the chosen people of God, and we who have looked in faith to the Lord Jesus. Oh, blessed day! Oh, precious hope! Oh, glorious golden tomorrow!
We must extend our invitation in His name now. While we sing the song, in the balcony round, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you; in the great press of people on this lower floor, you; as the Spirit of the Lord shall open to your heart and shall reveal to you the wonder and beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus, answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. What the eyes see: incontrovertible absolutes
A. Existence, creation
B. Uniqueness of the planet
C. Universality of death
D. Moral sensitivity of mankind
II. There is an unseen world revealed by Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
A. God created us in His image (Genesis 1, 2)
B. It is God who saves us (John 16:13-14, John 6:44)
1. Greatest minds of mankind have accepted this revelation
C. The miracle of new birth (2 Corinthians 5:17)
D. A coming kingdom (Isaiah 42:4)
1. Joseph’s bones (Genesis 50:24-25)
2. We are all a part (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)