THE CALL OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-21-76 7:30 p.m.
We praise God together for His marvelous salvation extended even to us. Now in our Bibles let us turn to John chapter 11; the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, and we shall read from verses 20 to 29, all of us reading it out loud together. John, the fourth Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—chapter 11, beginning at verse 20 and reading through verse 29. Sharing our Bibles, all of us reading together out loud, beginning at verse 20 through verse 29, in chapter 11; now, read it together with me:
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.
The title of the sermon is Christ Is Calling for You. And the text is in John 11:28, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.”
The Gospel of John is an unusual and an amazing array of the presentation of the credentials of Christ as the Son of God and as the Savior of the world. He concluded the gospel with this word, “There are many other semeion,” not miracles. Not one time does he use the word “miracle” to refer to Christ. He always uses the word semeion, sign. “Many other signs did Jesus… that are not written in this book, But these are written, that ye might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” [John 20:30-31].
What the apostle John did was, out of the marvelous and extensive and intensive life of our Lord, he chose seven great miracles. He calls them signs. They point out—they mark out Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And following each sign, he will have a long discussion.
For example, Jesus healed a man born blind [John 9:1-11]. Then John will write, “Jesus as the light of the world” [John 9:5]. Then he’ll pick out a miracle, call it a sign: the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:1-14], followed by the discussion of the Lord Jesus as the manna from heaven, the bread of life [John 6:31-58]. But one of the most stupendous of all the signs that John chose is this one of the raising of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. And it gave rise to the presentation of our Lord as being “the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25].
In my humble judgment, the profoundest words and the profoundest sentence that was ever said by man is this one in this passage: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die” [John 11:25-26]. Death to the Christian is just a translation, a going home, leaving this world of woe and tears and sorrow, and waking up in the glory of the new life in heaven [Philippians 1:21].
Now, it was in the story of this marvelous sign of the raising of Lazarus from the dead that this occasion brought our text. Martha, having listened to the Lord [John 11:20-27], went immediately to her sister and said to her secretly, quietly, furtively, because of the mass who were around, commiserating with them in the hopeless and helpless sorrow that overwhelmed them in the loss of their brother, Lazarus, she said, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” [John 11:28]. What a marvelous, wonderful, glorious, happy, glad thing: that Jesus could be present in an hour of great need and great sorrow! So, coming to the home filled with grief and tears, He sends Martha, who met Him outside the town, to say to Mary, her sister, that, “I am calling for thee” [John 11:28].
“And as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came to Jesus” [John 11:29]. Could you imagine anything else? To me, it is unimaginable that the Lord should call us and we not go; the Lord should speak to us and we not respond. “The Master is come, and calleth for thee,” and immediately—“as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him” [John 11:29]. Why tarry? Why think up excuses not to go? The presence of the Lord means life for us. It means strength. It means health. It means wisdom. It means courage. It means everything of salvation in this life and at the judgment bar of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5]. And why should I tarry, thinking up excuses why not to go? Just as she was, hurriedly, Mary made her way to the blessed Jesus.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
[“Just As I Am Without One Plea,” Charlotte Elliott]
Come, ye weary and laden. Come to the Lord Jesus [Matthew 11:28]. Just as I am, I will go.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Saviour,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
[“Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” Hart,1759]
“The Master is come, and calleth for thee. And as soon as she heard it, she arose quickly, and made her way to Jesus” [John 11:28-29].
The Lord Jesus is here in this world in His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus [John 14:16-18]. He is as much present with us today as He was with the disciples in the days of His flesh. Our Lord is here, closer than hands and feet, and nearer than breath, and He calls to us to Him today [Matthew 11:29-29]. He calls for faith and trust and commitment to Him [Matthew 16:24]. He always knocks at the door of the human heart: “Come and follow Me” [Matthew 19:21]. I know every time that I speak for the Lord, every time I extend an invitation, every time I witness to the grace of Jesus, I know that the Holy Spirit works with me. He is for me, and He tugs at the heart of the one to whom I bid invitation to come to the Lord [John 16:8-11].
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of the Acts, Paul is standing before Felix, who was a cynic and an unbeliever. And as he reasoned of righteousness, and judgment, and the world to come, Felix trembled and answered: “Not now, some other day” [Acts 24:24-25]. But the Holy Spirit of God stood by Paul when he preached [2 Timothy 4:16-17].
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul is standing before Agrippa and Festus, the Roman procurator. And as he speaks, the Holy Spirit of God, pleading with that king—he said, in the King James Version, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” [Acts 26:28]. The Greek of it is en oligos, “in a little, in a nutshell, in a summation.” And, Paul replied, “Whether en oligos kai megalō—whether in little or in much, I would to God, that every man was such as I am, except for these bonds” [Acts 26:29]. When a man speaks for Christ, always the Holy Spirit is by his side, tugging at the human heart, there bearing witness to the Savior of the world [John 15:26-27, 16:7-15].
One time in one of the great, great universities, one of the famous state universities of America, I spent a week speaking to the student group, along with other men who were invited to come. It was held at a field house that held thousands and thousands of those students. The service, the meeting, the convocation was in the morning. And at high noon each day we met, the speakers met with the leaders of the university and shared a dinner together. And one of the strangest things happened at one of those dinner meetings that I ever shared in, in my life. One of the men who spoke in that convocation to the university students was a blatant and a known unbeliever; a blasphemer; a man who refuted Christ and every one of His claims and of His words. And at that dinner that man turned to me and said, “I would like to know “—and he was so moved that he could hardly speak—he said, “I would like to know if that preacher does what he does in the power of God upon him, or is it something that he has learned? Is it a reaction that he has practiced, and does he speak as he does and does he do what he does because of the profession he is in, or is it because of the presence of God upon him?”
You think about that for a moment. Here is a man who is a blasphemer and an unbeliever, so moved by the power of God that he could hardly talk as we sat there in the dinner together. Always I know that, when I name the name of Jesus and when I extend the invitation of the Lord, always the Holy Spirit is working with me [Revelation 22:17]. He is speaking to that man’s heart; he is tugging at that man’s will. “For the Master has come, and He calls for thee” [John 11:28].
He calls not only to faith and to confession and to acceptance, but He also calls to an open avowal of our commitment to Christ. Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Mark 8:38: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words . . . of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of [His Father with the holy angels].” And in Romans 10:9-10:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He liveth, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
This is the way of God for us; to walk into the kingdom and into the golden city of heaven, openly and publicly, unashamedly before men and angels to avow our faith in the blessed Lord. Does God have a reason for that public acceptance of the Lord, for that coming down an aisle, for our standing before men and angels? I think so.
One is this. When I come forward, I encourage somebody else. Someone else is watching. Someone else sees. And when I confess the Lord Jesus, they are encouraged to do the same. Again, there is a reason for it in my own heart. It blesses me to speak a word for Jesus. It strengthens me to stand up for the Lord. And when I come down an aisle openly and publicly to avow my faith in Him, I am strengthened in my own soul and in my own life.
And then once again, I think God asked that of us because it is a response that is normal to us. When the Lord has saved us and when we accept the Lord as our Savior, there’s just something on the inside of us that wants to say, “I have done it. And I praise God that His love and grace have reached even unto me.” Like that demoniac that the Lord healed in Decapolis [Luke 8:26-37]; he went all through that Greek territory telling, witnessing what God had done for him [Luke 8:38-39]. We’re that way. There’s something on the inside of us that wants to say it.
I remember a man who was as far away from God and as hardened a sinner as I ever met in my life. For the years, and the years, and the years, and the years of his life, he had refused every invitation to accept Jesus as his Savior. In a service that I conducted, in the service, down the aisle one night he came, accepting the Lord—one of the happiest converts I ever saw. When I gave the invitation the next night, down the aisle he came again. When I gave the invitation the third night, down the aisle he came again! And I said to him, “Sir, you don’t need to come but just one time, and this is the third time that you’ve come.” He answered me. He said, “Preacher, I’m so happy in my heart, I’m so grateful to God, I’m so glad that Jesus has saved me that every time you give the invitation I want to come.”
You know, I have felt that way a thousand times. In a service, I wish I could come forward for every lost man there. I just would love to do it. The Lord has been so good to me. God bless His name. And to stand up and say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and let the whole world hear it is the fullness of the heart of one who has found in Him a friend and a Savior.
The Lord is calling us into the fellowship and the communion of His church. In Matthew 16:18, He said, “On this rock I will build My church.” The Lord never said, “My wife.” He was never married. He never said, “My child.” He never had a baby. He never had a child to love. He never said, “My home.” He did say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” [Luke 9:58]. He never said, “My home.” But He did say, “My church.” In Ephesians 5:25, He said, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” In Acts 20 and in verse 28, Paul says to the pastors of the church at Ephesus: “Take heed unto yourselves, and to the church, over which God hath made you pastors and overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He hath bought with His own blood” [Acts 20:28]. The Lord loved the church. We were taken out of His side [Ephesians 5:30; Genesis 2:23]. We were born in His sobs, and in His tears, and in His suffering, and in His cross [2 Corinthians 5:15]. And for us to belong to the household of faith and the church of God is the highest privilege God could give unto us.
Somebody asked me the other day, “Do you have to belong to the church to be saved?” What a strange question. What a strange question. The reason I want to belong to the church of God is because He built it [Matthew 16:18], and it was born and brought into being for my encouragement and my blessing. Out there, we may have a hard time being a Christian. We need to belong to the household of faith that we might encourage each other in the pilgrimage from this world to the world to come. We sing together. We pray together. We read God’s Holy Word together. We listen to the preaching of the Word together. We lift up our hearts and hands to God together.
Why wouldn’t I want to belong to the church? These are the people of God, and I love God. These are these who have been saved, and I have been saved. This is the family of Christ, and I belong to the family of our Lord. If I love my family, would I not want to be with them? I would rejoice if I love them; this is my family. Shall I not therefore also rejoice to be with the family of God? I love coming to church. I love being numbered among those who call upon the name of Jesus. I love the congregation of the fellowship and communion of the blessed Savior. I want to belong to the church.
Our Lord calls for us in consecration and dedication of life [Matthew 16:24]. An addition to us ought to be a subtraction from the world. In loving God, we ought to love the things of God. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation”; he has a new heart, a new love, a new vision, a new hope, a new tomorrow. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]—maybe having loved the world, loving God now; maybe having walked in the world, walking in the pilgrim way now; maybe having been entertained by the things of the world, carnal, dark, now in the light of the love of our Savior, worshiping at the shrine of Him who makes all things pure, and good, and holy, and righteous, and heavenly, and glad, and happy, and victorious, and triumphant!
Man, you don’t lose taking eternal life from the hands of God. You gain everything now, tomorrow, and forever. “The Master is come, and calls for thee. As soon as she heard it, she arose quickly, and came to Jesus” [John 11:28-29].
Would you do that this holy and heavenly hour? “I’ve heard His call in my heart, and I am responding with my life. God has spoken to me, and I am coming. I am doing it now.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and there is time and to spare. If you are in the topmost balcony on that farthest row, come. Make it now. In the throng on this lower floor, into that aisle, down here to the front, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life.” Is it to accept Him as your Savior? Come. Is it to put your life in the church? Come. Is it to follow the Lord Jesus in baptism? Come. Is it to answer God’s call to special service? Come. Is it to dedicate your life to a new assignment under His gracious hands? Come. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and in a moment, when we stand up to sing, stand, coming down that stairway or walking down that aisle. May God bless you, strengthen you, encourage you, as you come, and may the angels attend you in the way. God speed you as you answer, “Yes, here I am, O God, I make it now. I’m on the way. Here I come.” While we stand and while we sing.
A. Gospel of John
presentation of signs of Christ (John 20:30-31)
of Lazarus a presentation of Lord as “the resurrection and the life” (John
C. Jesus calls for Mary,
who comes quickly
1. Why find
excuses not to come?
II. Calling to your heart
a man speaks for Christ, Holy Spirit works with him (Acts 24:25, 26:24-29)
B. University convocation
III. Calling to an open, public confession
A. Command of God (Matthew
10:32-33, Mark 8:38, Romans 10:9-10)
B. God has a reason for
the public acceptance
encourages others watching
encourages you as you stand up for Him
C. It is a normal response
IV. Calling for His church
A. Jesus never said “My
wife, my child, my home” (Luke 9:58)
1. He did say “My
church” (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 5:25, Acts 20:28)
B. Do you have to join
the church to be saved?
V. Calling for consecration and dedication