The Barrier Between
June 6th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE BARRIER BETWEEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-6-76 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this service over WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, and over KCBI, our own station. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Barrier Between. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 57 and chapter 59. And the message is a presentation of the Word of God in the last two verses of chapter 57 and the first two verses of chapter 59.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
And the first two verses of chapter 59:
Behold, look, behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
There are three things in those two passages that by revelation present to us our most holy faith, the Christian religion.
Number one: it is moral and it is ethical. For me to say that today is trite. We are so taught that morality and the worship of God are inextricably connected that to suggest they might be divorced is strange to our ears. But it was strange the other way around in the ancient world, for to the ancient world there was no connection between religion and morality. Could I illustrate that?
Go with me, say, a thousand years before Christ, to an Egyptian temple. There is a courtyard and a wall around it. Going through the door, going through the gate, in the courtyard we’d see an altar where the sacrifices are burned. Then we’d see a laver where the priest washes his hands. Then we’d see a naos, a sanctuary. Going through the door into the sanctuary, we would stand in a holy place, and there would be sacred furniture. And separating the sacred place from the most sacred there would be a veil.
I take my hand and pull aside the veil and look into the sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies. And there is a sacred ark, and on the ark, the heart of the pagan religion. What do I see? There in the holy of holies, the object of worship and adoration, there is a sacred ibis, or a sacred crocodile, or a sacred cat, or a sacred serpent, or a sacred cow.
Go with me now to the temple of God in Jerusalem. There is a court with a wall around it. We’re familiar, we’ve seen it before. There is an altar upon which sacrifices are offered, burned. We’re familiar with it, we’ve seen it before. There is a laver in which the priest bathes himself. We are familiar with it, we’ve seen it before. There is a naos, a sanctuary, and we walk in the door, and there in the sacred place are articles of furniture and a veil. We are familiar with it, we’ve seen it before.
I take my hand and I pull aside the veil and there is an ark in the Holy of Holies. I’m familiar with it. I’ve seen it before. But I look inside that ark of the holy and heavenly God, and what do I see? A sacred ibis? A heron? A stork? A cat? A serpent? A crocodile? A cow? No. What I see are the Ten Commandments of Almighty God, written by the finger of the Almighty on two great tables of stone [Exodus 31:18]. The heart of revealed religion is always ethical and moral. It has to do with God’s character, whose name is qadosh, Holy, separate from sin and iniquity [Habakkuk 1:13].
A second thing about our most holy faith; it is not only ethical and moral, the very substance of it is holiness and righteousness, it is also a faith that presents and preaches a God of mercy, and forgiveness, and salvation. The hand of the Lord can save, and the ear of God can hear when His people pray. Always in the revealed Word, the faith, the religion of God is ever presented in terms of mercy and pardon.
Isaiah begins his great prophecy, the first chapter, verse 18, “Come now, and let us reason together…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]. Or, Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye…for why will ye die?” The religion is always merciful and full of grace and pardon. Behold, look, take heed, “the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that he cannot save” [Isaiah 59:1]; God is able and willing to save. “And His ear is not heavy that He cannot hear” [Isaiah 59:1]; God bows down His ear to hear the least of His people when they pray.
Well, then why are we not all saved? And why is it that our prayers are not also answered? In the revelation of God we are also told a third thing about our most holy faith. It is also judgmental. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; His ear is not heavy, that He cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” [Isaiah 59:2]. God’s religion is judgmental. It carries penalty with it for disobedience and violation.
When a man turns from God, and he rejects the salvation of Christ, and he spurns the overtures of grace, and he tramples under foot the blood of the covenant, and he does despite to the wooing of the Holy Spirit [Hebrews 10:29], when he turns aside from God and from the salvation of Christ, wouldn’t you suppose he turns to something better? “I have an alternative. I have a choice: I can choose God, I can choose Christ, I can choose salvation, I can be a Christian; or I can follow my own defiance—I can reject God, and I can reject His call to faith and to repentance [Acts 20:21], and I can live my own life.”
What does he find when he turns aside from God and from the faith? “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” [Isaiah 57:20-21]. And if a man can find rest and peace from God and in sin, there is no God, and this universe is not governed by the law of the Almighty. There is no peace. There is no peace. There is no peace, saith God [Isaiah 57:20-21]. There is no rest. There is no rest. There is no rest, saith God. But like the troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt, so the man lives who lives in defiance to the call and laws and will of God.
I speak first of open, and flagrant, and carnal transgressions. “No rest, no peace, saith God.” Here is a man who is consumed by avarice, by greed. There is no rest. There is no peace, ever. He has so much and he covets more. He gains that, he seeks more. He achieves that, and he grasps for more. There’s no rest. There’s no peace [Isaiah 57:20-21]. It means more and more and more; and if he had the whole world he’d covet the moon and the stars.
I knew a doctor who said to a surgeon, “You say you have no time for God. You’re making money, and you’re making money, and you’re making money, and the more you operate the more money you make. You’re going to be the richest surgeon in the cemetery.” The surgeon died of a heart attack. He’s buried in the cemetery. He’s the richest doctor in the cemetery. “There is no rest. There is no peace, saith God.” When we turn aside from Him there’s trouble like the waters of the angry sea [Isaiah 57:20-21].
Carnal sins: ambition, ambition; selfish ambition that rises over others, no regard for others, just selfish ambition, aggrandizement, promotion, what about others? What about others? What about others? There’s no care for others. It is self, and self, and self. And there’s no limit to the grasping of personal ambition, and its trouble, and its restlessness like the waves of an angry sea. Praise, covet praise, desire praise, seek for praise; there’s no end to the longing and thirsting after it. If you seek praise, and love praise, and covet praise, a little will help, but you grasp for more. More will help, but you grasp for more. You’re never satiated; its trouble, and its restlessness, like an angry sea casting up mire and dirt. “There’s no peace, there’s no rest, saith God, to the wicked” [Isaiah 57:20-21].
Lust, carnal lust; when a man gives himself to indulgence, to passions evil, there’s no rest, there’s no peace. “I’ll be satisfied with this conquest”; it just whets the appetite. It just turns the brain to fire. It turns the heart to passion. There’s this conquest, and then this one, and then this one, and then that one, and then the other one. And the man is consumed by lust. He’s driven by his passions. “There’s no peace, there’s no rest, saith God, like the waves of an angry sea casting up mire and dirt” [Isaiah 57:20-21].
Anger, anger, anger; God says, “Let not the sun rest upon your anger. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” [Ephesians 4:26]. By the end of the day ask God to take it out of your heart. But these who are given to anger, bearing a grudge, hatred, will return, will pay back in the coin of revenge. There’s no rest. There’s no peace. There’s no quiet, just anger and hatred.
Envy, jealousy; there’s no rest. There’s no peace. “Somebody has more and I want more.” More money, or more honor, or more prestige, or more acceptance, or more praise, or more everything or anything. Envy, envy drives a man with a cruel and Satanic whip. “And Saul heard the women of Israel returning from the battle, and they sang, Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” [1 Samuel 18:7]. And from that moment on, Saul eyed David and hated him [1 Samuel 18:9]. And the rest of Saul’s long reign was destroyed by his awful jealousy and envy of young David. And the Book says, do you remember it, “And the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” [1 Samuel 16:14]. No rest, no peace, saith God.
Pride; a false over-estimation of yourself, pride, pride, there’s no rest. There’s no peace. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel it says that Satan, because of his beauty, in pride lifted up himself [Ezekiel 28:17]. Pride, there’s no rest. There’s no peace.
Drugs and drink; there’s no rest in it. There’s no peace in it. This pill and then another. This drink and then another. This shot and then another. This trip and then another. There’s no rest in it. There’s no peace in it. “Like the waters of a troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt” [Isaiah 57:20].
God says, “I am angry every day with the wicked” Psalm 7:11. God is at war with sin forever. “There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked” [Isaiah 57:21].
“But I’ll find it indulgence.” God says, “No peace, no peace, no peace.”
“But I’ll find it in pleasure.” God says, “No peace, no rest, no peace.”
“But I’ll find it in drugs and in drink.” God says, “No rest, and no peace…The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” [Isaiah 57:20-21].
The law-abiding and respectable person: “I’m no drug addict, and I’m no breaker of the law. I am an upright citizen.” But he’s a man who spurns the overtures of Christ [Hebrews 10:29]. He’s a respectable transgressor. And turning aside from the Lord, he sins against light, and he sins against the Holy Spirit [Matthew 12:31-32], and he finds no peace and no rest [Isaiah 57:20-21].
“But you don’t understand, pastor, I will find it. I will find it. Not in Christ, and not in the acceptance of the Lord, and not in the humble confession of sin in Christ Jesus’ forgiveness and pardon. I’ll find it. I’ll go to church.” But he’ll find no peace and no rest, even in attendance at church. “But you don’t understand. I will bow down. I will genuflect. I’ll take the sacraments.”
“No peace, no rest, no peace, no rest, saith God” [Isaiah 57:20-21].
“But I’ll be upright. I’ll pay my honest debts. I will live as a fine citizen.” God says, “No peace and no rest.”
“But I will take part in fine civic opportunities. I’ll make my contribution to the upbuilding of the citizenship. I will be known as a man who is civic minded and who thinks of those in need.” God says, “No peace and no rest.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a man could find his salvation and find peace and rest in just being upright? But he’s troubled.
“I buried my law partner today. Am I ready to die? I buried my best friend yesterday. Am I ready to die? Will my death be triumphant?” and he’s troubled. There’s no rest, there’s no peace.
“But I will someday. I don’t intend to die damned. I don’t intend to fall into hell. I don’t intend to die lost. I’m going to be saved. I am planning to accept Christ as my Savior, and I’m going to be saved.” Had somebody said twenty years ago, ten years ago, “you would still be saying that,” you would have replied, ‘I cannot imagine such a procrastination.’” But the days pass, and they become months, and the months become years. And we’re still lost. Almost make a decision. Almost come to God. Almost bow in His presence. Almost move to accept the Lord and then don’t. A man who is almost honest is a liar and a rogue. A man who is almost saved from the fire is burned. A man who is almost healed is dead. A man who is almost reprieved is hanged or in the gas chamber or in the electric chair. So the man who is almost saved is lost. The man who is almost a Christian is not a Christian. The man who almost found his way to heaven is in hell.
Almost cannot prevail;
Almost is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail—
Almost, but lost!
[from hymn “Almost Persuaded,” Philip P. Bliss, 1871]
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my Lord, to the wicked” [Isaiah 57:20-21]. As long as a man turns his back on God, and refuses the overtures of the grace of Christ, he consigns himself and condemns himself to trouble and to restlessness [Hebrews 10:29]. He’ll never find peace and quiet, and he will die lost.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that He cannot hear” [Isaiah 59:1]. God is in the business of listening to His people pray. And God is in the business of saving souls. It’s just the barrier between: “I won’t repent. I won’t forsake. I won’t confess. I won’t bow. I won’t come. I won’t humble myself. I won’t ask for pardon. I’d rather die in my iniquity and my unconfessed sins than to come to Christ and be saved.” That’s why the lament of the Lord:
As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the unrepentant, the rejecting, the wicked. But as I live, saith the Lord, I would they turn
Come now. . .though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white like the snow; though they be red like crimson, they will be as wool
But I must come. I must confess. I must pray. I must ask God [Romans 10:9-10, 13]. I must trust [Ephesians 2:8-9]. I must open my heart. I must receive Him. I must ask Him to come in. Will you? “I have said no to Christ for the last time, and I’m coming today. I have rejected the invitation for the last time; I am coming today. I’ve said no to God for the last time. I am turning my heart upward and God-ward today.” Do it now. God says now. “Behold, now is the day of salvation; behold, now is the accepted time” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. “Here I am, pastor, look, look at me. I’m walking down that stairway, here I am. I’m walking down that aisle, here I am. This day I make the decision for God.” There will be some to whom the Holy Spirit bids into the fellowship of our precious church, come. A family, a couple, or just you, make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come, do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A.
Christian religion is moral and ethical
A. Grounded in the
character of God
B. Ancient religions
separate from morality
Christian religion is soteriological
A. God of mercy and
salvation (Isaiah 1:18, Ezekiel 33:11)
1. Ready, willing
and able to save (Isaiah 59:1)
2. There is
unanswered prayer (Isaiah 59:2)
Christian religion is judgmental
A. There is penalty and
judgment when we turn from God (Isaiah 57:20-21)
B. Overt and flagrant sins
1. Avarice and greed
2. Ambition for self
3. Covet praise
6. Envy and jealousy
(1 Samuel 18:6-8, 16:14)
7. Pride (Ezekiel
C. The holiness of God
burns against sin (Psalms 7:11)
D. Moral, respectable,
1. Have heard the
gospel, yet refuse appeal of Christ
2. Life without
Christ is like a troubled sea