Seeking Christ

Mark

Seeking Christ

January 18th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM

Mark 1:35-39

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
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SEEKING CHRIST

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Mark 1:35-39

1-18-76    7:30 p.m.

 

It is a joy to welcome you on KRLD to the evening service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Seeking Christ.  In the two morning services the pastor is preaching through the Book of Isaiah, and the message this morning was in the forty-first chapter of Isaiah.  Next Sunday we shall be preaching in the forty-second chapter of Isaiah.

Now in the evening the pastor always brings a message from the life of Christ.  Every night on Sunday we are bragging on Jesus, lifting up the attractiveness, and loveliness, and spiritual wooing of the Son of God our Savior.  You can always remember that on Sunday night, if you invite a friend, he will hear a message on the life of our Lord.

So tonight we turn, all of us, to the Second Gospel, to Mark, and we shall read together in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark.  And we shall begin reading at verse 35 and read through verse 39, Mark chapter 1, verses 35 through 39.  Now sharing your Bible, all of us out loud, let us read it together, Mark chapter 1, beginning at verse 35 and reading through verse 39; now all of us out loud together:

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.

And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee.

And He said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.

And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

[Mark 1:35-39]

And my text, “And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, ‘All men seek for Thee’” [Mark 1:37], seeking Christ, the attractive Christ.  In this chapter, and I speak now of just a few verses, you find a marvelous turning to the Lord.  In the twenty-seventh verse they were amazed when He cast out an unclean spirit [Mark 1:27], and in the twenty-eighth verse: “And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee” [Mark 1:28].

In the thirtieth verse and following He is healing Simon’s wife’s mother [Mark 1:30-31].  And then the thirty-second verse: “And at even, when the sun was set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased and possessed, and He healed them all.  And the entire city was gathered together at the door” [Mark 1:32, 34a, 33].  And then in the thirty-eighth verse, “He said unto them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also’” [Mark 1:38], a whole world, opening its heart to the blessed Jesus.  And in the fortieth verse: “And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, asking that he be made clean [Mark 1:40].  And Jesus, moved with compassion”—is not that His everlasting and enduring name?  “Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him . . . and healed him” [Mark 1:41-42].

Is that not like our Lord?  He could have thrown healing to that vile and loathsome leper as you would throw a bone to a dog.  But “Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him” [Mark 1:41]. How he had come up to the Lord surrounded on every side is very plain.  Every leper according to the law when he moved among the people had to cover the top of his lip with his hand like this and call, “Unclean!  Unclean!  Unclean!”  [Leviticus 13:45].

And wherever he walked and wherever he went, there was a chilling circle that opened around him.  He could walk anywhere and the people parted on either side as he held his hand over his lip, crying, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  So he walked right up to Jesus, and the people moved in a chilling circle that ever followed the lonesome leper.  The people moved aside and he came right up to the Lord [Mark 1:40].

Why didn’t the Lord move?  Somehow, He just doesn’t.  However our loathsomeness and however our degradation, always a welcome, a kind word of response and greeting in the Lord Jesus.  “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put His hand on him” [Mark 1:41].  Put His hand on Him; I can imagine the crowd gasped as the Lord stretched forth His hand and touched him, put His hand upon the vile and loathsome outcast and said, “Be clean,” and he was clean [Mark 1:41].

All of which reminds me that however we may be in our life, one thing ought always to characterize us and that is this: there ought to be in us a wondrous kindness toward other people.  However they are, whatever they are, whatever they’re doing, there ought not to rise in us anger, and condemnation, and bitterness, recrimination, retribution, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; no.  However, whatever, there ought to be in us a wondrous kindness, a shepherdly care, a pervading and evident love.  Lord, Lord, what a gift from heaven that is, if we can command it from the hand of our gracious Savior, that we love everybody [John 13:34].

Do you remember Sinclair Lewis?  When I was a young man growing up, Sinclair Lewis was oh, the great novelist in American life, and he commanded an enormous literary following.  For example, Sinclair Lewis stood up in a pulpit in Kansas City, Missouri, in a church, and this is what he said: “I don’t believe there is a God.  If there is a God, I defy Him to come down and strike me dead.  Here I stand.  Come down, God, and strike me dead if You are there!”

That was reported in all the daily newspapers of America, and the world applauded.  “Bravo!  Bravo for Sinclair Lewis!  He defies God, if there is a God, to strike him dead, and God never struck him dead.”

At that time I used to read a column called “Today” by Arthur Brisbane, and when Sinclair Lewis did that, Arthur Brisbane wrote in his column, he said, “God has something else more to do than to come down and to fool with and strike down an insect like Sinclair Lewis.”  He said that’s just the same as if an ant were to get on the railroad track of the Santa Fe in Arizona, and the ant stands up on the track, and he says, “I hear that there is a Mr. Storey who is the president of the Santa Fe Railways System.  If there is such a being as a Mr. Story, who is president of the Santa Fe Railways System, I defy him to come down here and run over me with one of the wheels of his train.”  And Mr. Brisbane said, “Mr. Storey has something else to do than to take time out and go to Arizona and run over that crackpot with one of the wheels of his train.”  That’s Sinclair Lewis.

Well anyway, Sinclair Lewis died in a nursing home in Rome in January of 1951.  And just before he died, a newspaper correspondent had an interview with the great American novelist.  And he asked Sinclair Lewis about some of the pressing problems that were overwhelming the world in the 1950’s following the Second World War.  And Sinclair Lewis replied, he said, “Sir, I don’t care.  I have no answers, and I don’t care one way or another.”

Now, the world would not ask that he have an answer, nor would the world ask that he could implement the solution that he suggested.  But I think every man has a right to expect in his fellow man that he cares.  That’s atheism, “What does it matter?  There’s no purpose.  There’s no reason.  I don’t care.”

How different that is from the Christian disciple of the Lord Jesus following his Master, who, moved with compassion when that loathsome, vile, unclean leper came to stand in front of Him, He put His hand upon him [Mark 1:40-41].  You know what I think?  I think that touching of the hand was half the cure.  Why, that leper had forgotten what the warm touch of a human hand felt like.  And when the Lord touched him, it was a new day and he felt new life.  Somehow, love and care, and tenderness, and compassion ever move the human heart.  Now to my text:

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.

And when they had found Him, they said. . .All men seek for Thee.

[Mark 1:35-37]

Could that be true?  Could such a thing be true?  “All men seek for Thee.” I don’t see it that way: peripherally, casually, summarily, that all men are seeking for Christ.  Then I begin to turn the text over in my mind.  “All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].  Then as I think about it, great spiritual truths pour in, flood in on my soul.  I share some of them with you tonight.  All men seek for Christ.  Do they?  They do.  Some of them unknowingly, some of them unexpressedly, they are seeking our Lord.

Far and wide, though all unknowing,

Pants for Thee each mortal breast;

Human tears for Thee are flowing,

And human hearts in Thee would rest.

 [ “The Desire of All Nations,” Arthur Cleveland Coxe]

They don’t express it.  Some of them are not even aware of it, but what they seek for is God.  Many years ago, Rudyard Kipling, the incomparable Victorian poet, visited America.  He went clear through our land.  When he came to San Francisco, they welcomed him with all of the pageantry and drama that a great American city could afford.  While Rudyard Kipling was in San Francisco, he became desperately, desperately ill.  And in the depth of his illness, racked with a raging fever, any moment apparently to die, he began to move his lips.  And a nurse leaned down her ear over the face of the great poet to see what it was that he said.  You know what he said?  He said, “I want, I want, I want God, I want God.”

Poor San Francisco, poor doctors, and poor nurses, and poor city; what do you do with a man whose heart cries out for God?  This, expressed or unexpressed, is the soul cry of every man who ever lives.  “I want God.”  “All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].  The worldly; how could that be?  The worldly, the people who drown their cares in the world, the people who seek in every need to find life’s fulfillment in the world, how is it they seek Christ?  Do you remember this old song?  I copied its stanza.

After the ball is over,

After the break of dawn,

After the dance is ended,

After the stars are gone,

Many the hearts are aching,

If we but knew them all—

Many the hopes that have vanished

After the ball.

[adapted from “After the Ball,” Charles K. Harris]

“Oh,” you say, “an evangelist wrote that.”  “Oh,” you say, “a preacher wrote that.”  “Oh,” you say, “some Jesus freak wrote that.”  No, that is a song out of the ballroom, and the dance, and the white lights, and the world.  There is no emptiness like the emptiness of giving your life to the world.  A man was asked in Birmingham, England, why he drank so much, and he replied, “Because it is the shortest, quickest way out of Birmingham.”

I used to wonder why does the social world drink so much?  Why is it they cannot even talk without a cocktail in their hands?  Why is it they can have no party without liquor?  Why it is?  And then finally, I came to understand.  They have to drink.  Their lives are so empty.  Their hearts are so sterile.  They have to drink!  They can’t live with themselves, nor can they face the issues of life without some kind of stimulant or depressant, something to make them forget.

Pitiful and sad; all of the rewards of this earth leave a man’s heart empty and cheap and left behind.  What he really seeks is God.  “All men seek for Thee.” Could that be true?  What of the vile and the wicked, the wayward and the prodigal?  Do they seek God?  Do they?

When I was a lad a long time ago, I read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.  That’s one of the most dramatic moving stories in literature.  Not pronouncing his name as a Frenchman would but as an Englishman would, the story revolves around a man named Jean Valjean, who is a vile and wicked jetsam flotsam out of an underworld, out of a sewer.  There is a bishop, a man of God, who took him in and kindly entreated him.  Took care of him and in repay, in response, Jean Valjean stole the silver candelabra out of the bishop’s house and fled away.

The police caught him and brought him back to the preacher, to the manor, to the bishop’s house, and said, “This is the thief that stole your candelabra, and here it is.  We caught him with it in his hand.”  And the kindly, godly man looked at the cheap and dirty thief and said to the police, “But sir, he did not steal it.  I gave it to him.  I gave it to him.”

And then Jean Valjean was so overwhelmed by the kindness of the godly bishop that he turned, repented, turned, gave his heart to Christ and spent his life in the service of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.  Even a wretch out of the sewer and a petty thief out of the underworld in his heart seeks Christ.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;

Touched by a loving hand, remembered in kindness,

Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

[“Rescue the Perishing,” Fanny Crosby]

“All men seek Thee” [Mark 1:37].  I must close.  Our broken hearted and our sorrowing seek God.  Where do you turn in an hour of desperate need; to the world with its emptiness, to the amusements with all of their cheap lies; to the entertainment that we look at by the hour?  If your heart is breaking and life is in pieces, where do you turn but to God?

I remember seeing Calvin Coolidge, “Silent Cal”; never spoke enough even to write about in the paper.

He was at a meeting and a girl made a bet with a friend that she could make Calvin Coolidge speak three words.  So she went to the president and said, “Mr. President, I’ve made a bet with my friend over here that I can make you speak at least three words.”  And Calvin Coolidge replied, “You lose.”

Calvin Coolidge came through the city, and I went down to see him.  He stood the entire time on the back of the platform of the presidential car and never said a word.  He just stood there.  Man!  How in the earth could he do it?  I would have had to say something about something, about the election or about the—I don’t know, but he never said a word.

He was a great man, a commoner from Vermont.  In the days of the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, his son, the pride of his life, the apple of his eye, his son died.  And they had his funeral service in the White House.  And Calvin Coolidge spoke and this is what he said.  “The glory of the presidency, the glory of the presidency faded away when my boy died.”  And he went back to his country home in Vermont and spent the rest of his life on his little farm in the Granite State.  “The glory of the presidency faded away when my boy died.”  Ah!  These trophies that we long for and seek for are so fading.  We need God!

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,

O they tell me of a home far away;

O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,

O they tell me of a unclouded day.

O they tell me that He smiles on His children there,

And His smile drives their sorrows all away;

O they tell me that no tears ever come again,

In that lovely land of an unclouded day.

[“The Unclouded Day,” Josiah K. Alwood]

“All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].  And blessed, Lord, among those whose hearts are turned to Thee, is mine.  And among those whose eyes are lifted up to Thee, are mine.  And among those, Lord, who need Thee, is my heart and my life.  And among those, Lord, who come to Thee, am I.  Count me, Lord, among those who kneel in Thy presence, who look up into Thy face, who love and trust Thee.

On this KRLD radio, there are thousands who are listening to this service tonight.  Do you know Jesus?  Have you given your heart to God? [Romans 10:9-10].  Do you know Christ as your Savior? [Acts 16:31].  In the forgiveness of your sins [Ephesians 1:7], in the regeneration of your spirit [Titus 3:5], do you belong to God?  If you have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior, tonight wherever you are, would you open you heart God-ward, and heavenward, and Christ-ward and say, “Lord, come into my heart [Romans 10:13].  Forgive me every sin of my life [1 John 1:9].  Write my name in the book in glory.  Count me, Lord, among those who trust in Thee, who give life and heart in faith to Thee [Ephesians 2:8].  I want to be a Christian.”  Wherever you are, do that now.  Make it now.

If you’re driving along in a car, pull to the side of the road, bow your head over that steering wheel and say, “Lord Jesus, I give my heart in faith to Thee” [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8].  Are you in the living room?  Are you in the bedroom?  Could you kneel by the side of a chair, and could you tell God all about it and ask the Lord to save your soul [Romans 10:13], to come into your heart, to give you a new hope, and a new faith, and a new life, and a new song, a new gladness, a new glory?  “Lord God, give me everything that only heaven could afford.”

And in the great throng in this church here tonight, in the balcony round and on this lower floor, somebody you, a family, a couple, or just you, “Tonight, I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior” [John 3:16].  Down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “Dear God, I’m making it now, and here I come.”  On the first note of the first stanza, answer with your life.  Decide now, make the decision in your heart, and when we sing this hymn of appeal, be the first to come.  God bless you as He welcomes you, as you come, while we stand and while we sing.