Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-7-77 8:15 a.m.
It is no less an infinite gladness to welcome to this service not only the visitor here in the sanctuary but the uncounted thousands who listen on radio of the city of Dallas and on the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Real Revival, or The Joyful Way. It is an expounding of the wonderful story of Philip the soulwinner, Philip the evangelist, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. In our preaching through the Word of God, and through the Book of Acts, we are now in the middle of chapter 8.
And I read the passage, “Those that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word [Acts 8:4]. Then Philip,” the deacon layman of the church in Jerusalem, a Hellenistic Jew, a Greek speaking, foreign-born Jew:
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, to a city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed: and many taken with palsies, that were lame, were healed.
And there was great joy in that city.
There is more in that passage, in its wording, than at first we might suppose. We shall therefore first look at what the Holy Spirit has written down in the sacred passage.
“And the people were marvelously drawn to God, hearing and seeing the sēmeia, signs,” translated here “miracles” [Acts 8:5-6], which is all right; but sēmeia, literally is “signs.” These were signs of God confirming the truth of the Word. And any time such a sign is needed to confirm God’s message and messenger, God will always do it. So this deacon, layman, preaching Jesus to this city in Samaria, God confirmed the truth of his message with signs [Acts 8:5-6].
“For,” and then it describes some of those signs, “unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice” [Acts 8:7], possibly that refers to the cry of these that were delivered, as the spirit in agony was dismissed from the poor culprit who was oppressed by that unclean demon. But I have a persuasion of another thing. As I studied the text—and all through the night last night, I turned this over in my mind—as I studied the text, you look at that, “hearing and seeing the signs which he did” [Acts 8:6]. Now isn’t that an unusual construction, “hearing the sign”? You don’t “hear a sign.” That is, ordinarily you see it, you see a miracle. But the Holy Spirit writes here, “hearing the signs which he did [Acts 8:6] . . . For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice” [Acts 8:7]. So let’s put that together: the word here for crying—boaō— can mean, of course, “a cry of agony”; but the first meaning is “a shout of joy and deliverance.” “With a loud voice,” the word is megalē, “a great, intense voice.” So when I put all that together, what it means to me is this: Philip, as he preached Jesus unto them [Acts 8:5], these who were possessed with unclean spirits, lust, hatred, iniquity, sinful ways, these who were delivered shouted their joy of salvation, “crying— boaō—shouting for joy.” And that is why the Holy Spirit writes, “the people heard the signs” [Acts 8:6]. There was a great exultation as these who were possessed were delivered, and saved, and brought into the light and glory of the Lord [Acts 8:6-7].
“And there was great joy,” chara [Acts 8:8]. There is a little family of words in this Greek New Testament, that all are sort of alike. Chara, “joy”; charis is “grace”; charisma, “a grace gift”; charismata, plural of it. If you have a girl named Karen, that’s the accusative form of charis, “grace, joy.” One of the meanings of chara is “an exalted gladness in the Lord.” And one of the meanings of charis, “grace,” which is one of the most beautiful words in the language and in ours, “grace,” one of the meanings is “a beautiful spirit and attitude, a marvelous overflowing heart”. “And there was,” and here again is that megalē, “there was intense joy, gladness, of deliverance and salvation in that city” [Acts 8:8]. Ah! The whole spirit of it is one of marvelous visitation and heavenly intervention and revival.
Now our sermon this morning concerns this unusual thing in the meaning, “For unclean spirits” [Acts 8:7], as they were cast out of those who were possessed, as they were delivered by the regenerating power of the Spirit of Jesus, they cried out for joy, for deliverance. And there was great gladness in that city” [Acts 8:8]. So Satan has his minions who are just like him. Satan turns himself, the Book says, into an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], and his minions, these fallen angels–these demons, these evil and unclean spirits [Acts 8:7]—they are just like their master. They purport to be angels of light; and they come into us and they say to us:
Yea, did God say thus and so?
Yea, did God say you do this and you will die?
Yea, did God say you disobey, you violate, you desecrate, you sin, and these things dark and judgmental shall follow?
Did God say that?
Ha! Ha! Listen, God’s way is a drab, and a dead, and a dull, and a dreary way. Come follow me, have a big time!
For in sin there is fun, and frolic, and laughter, and lilt, and light. Come, follow me!
So we are enticed, and wooed, and cajoled, and tempted, and led astray, and deceived by these—what the Bible here calls “unclean spirits” [Acts 8:7]—these little angels of light who dance trippingly before us. Well, it looks that way doesn’t it? The world is so interesting, and its glamour and light are so wooingly enticing.
But there is something about the way God has made this world that there always follows a judgment when we follow Satan’s deceptions and devices. Somehow God put things together; He created it so that when we follow in the will and way of the Lord, we are happy, we are delivered, we have peace, and we have blessing. But when we violate the will of God, and when we fall into sin and iniquity, there is a judgment of agony and ultimate death that goes with it [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:23]. It’s like Rudyard Kipling’s great poem “The Jungle”:
This is the law of the jungle,
As old and as true as the sky;
The wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
But the wolf that shall break it shall die.
God put this world together in a certain way, and when we violate that way, when unclean spirits entice us and deceive us from it, there is agony, judgmental death; but when we keep God’s way we are delivered, we are at peace, and we are happy in the Lord [Galatians 6:7-8].
Now I’m going to apply that. You can follow the sermon very easily as I pick out some of these things into which vile and evil spirits deceive us. We’re going to follow it first, what God says; second, what Satan says, what these evil spirits entice us to; third, the agony that follows when we are deceived; and fourth, the glory of it when we are delivered, when we follow the way of the Lord. I picked out four of them, four things in which Satan seeks to deceive us.
Number one: courtship and marriage; there is not anything in life, there is not anything in experience in which the unclean spirits who present themselves as messengers of light, and fun, and happiness so deceive us as in that. Courtship and marriage; the urge that comes to a young boy or to a girl, as he grows into puberty—as he comes into young manhood and young womanhood—to be interested in someone else. Now, this is God: the Lord says one man for one woman. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; they two, one flesh” [Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31]. And the Lord affirmed that in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, “In the beginning, one man, one woman, in marriage, in marriage” [Matthew 19:4-5]. And the unclean spirits, these messengers of light,
Ha! Ha! Ha! Did God say that? God said that?
Ha! Ha! Look at the fun you’re missing.
Nothing more interesting than to play with sex; and to be pure and virtuous is to miss all of the fun of life.
Come now, to be prudish and square and virgin, that’s to miss all of the fun and the frolic.
Did God say that? What a dull, drear, drab way!
So the girl is used, handed down, and prostituted; and the boy is faithless and virtueless, he is a fornicator and an adulterer. And the judgment that goes with it: inevitable, because God put this world together in a certain way, and when we violate it, it always bears with it its agony and its death.
One could well say, “But look at those characters, those saints in the Old Testament, look at them. Was there one woman and one man with them in the Old Testament?” The Lord said, in the nineteenth chapter, that same passage in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord said, “It was because of the hardness of your heart, the stubbornness of your will, that such a thing happened in the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament; but from the beginning it violates the will of God” [Matthew 19:7-9]. Now you look. And don’t ever forget it. Every time in the Old Testament there is a man who departs from God’s will regarding the sanctity of that marriage purpose, one man for one woman, every time, every time the man departs from it, there is death, there is trouble, there is agony. Look. Abraham loved Sarah. Sarah loved Abraham. But in an unusual enticement, Hagar was placed in the bosom of Abraham; and out of the union was born Ishmael [Genesis 16:1-4, 11]. And to this day, the world confronts the judgment of that awful sin: the confrontation between the Jew, the children of Isaac, and the Arab, the children of Ishmael. It is a curse and a damnation to this very day.
Or David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], looking upon Bathsheba, and committing adultery with her [2 Samuel 11:2-5], and the Lord’s prophet Nathan says, “And the sword shall never depart from thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10], and thereafter the story of David is written in blood; and to this present day. Or Solomon, with his many wives [1 Kings 11:3-8], he divided the kingdom, gave to his successor a divided kingdom [1 Kings 11:29-37], never again together again. And God said, “If you will obey Me, I will give you length of days” [1 Kings 3:14], and he was cut down in the very strength of his manhood and of his kingdom [1 Kings 11:9-13, 31-40]. You see, these evil spirits entice us, and they woo us, and they purport to be angels of light in showing us a happier way. There is no happy way but the Christian way, none. If that’s not true; there is no God, and you don’t need to worry about anything. Just live like dogs.
But if there is a God, God has made it that in His way there is great gladness and peace and blessedness and joy. An unclean spirit; says they were cast out, the people shouted for joy, and there was great gladness in that city [Acts 8:6-8]. It is not anything finer in this world than to see a clean-cut young man, a clean living young man, fall in love with a virtuous girl, and stand in the presence of the pastor, and pledge to one another a covenant of love that shall bind them as one forever. That’s God’s way, and it is a happy way and a beautiful way.
All right, number two: we are going to apply it to the body. What does God say about the body? God says, “The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” [1 Corinthians 6:19]; it is God’s house, and the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwells in this house. Paul wrote it like this, “I beseech you, brethren, that you present your bodies a sacrifice, holy, acceptable, unto the Lord, a reasonable” [Romans 12:1], it’s the finest thing that a man could think through and do. And what do these evil spirits who purport to be angels of light? “Ha, ha, ha, ha! So God says, you are to keep your body clean, and strong, and healthy, and you are not to take into it things that weaken it and destroy it? Ha, ha, ha! Look at the fun you miss.” So the pusher comes, and you are drinking pot. And the liquor dealer comes, and you are drinking liquid pot. So the house of the Lord is debauched. And does God follow it with a judgment? Inevitably; as certain as the sun shines, as certain as God lives, is there a following judgment when we do violence to the house of the Spirit of the Lord [1 Corinthians 6:19].
Dr. W. Powell, who was then pastor of the First Baptist Church at Nashville, Tennessee, called me and said, “I am sending to you a young man by the name of John Clifford. He’s the most promising young preacher I have ever seen in my life; he has just held a revival meeting for us in the First Church at Nashville, Tennessee and God has poured out His Spirit upon the meeting. I’m sending him to you.
He came to see me. I was absolutely amazed; that was the handsomest, one of the handsomest young men I ever saw. He was about six feet, three or four inches tall, beautiful curly hair, a magnificent specimen, and a man of God. And I said to him, “We shall arrange for your coming here to the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and to lead our people in a glorious revival meeting.” He came. But in those after times when he came, unknown to me, he was seated back there beyond the pews; there is a row of chairs next to those windows. And after the service was over—those days I stood at the back shaking hands with the people—and when everyone had left, one of the most disheveled, dirty-looking, unkempt I ever saw came and spoke to me. He said, “Do you know who I am?” I said, “No, I never saw you before.” He said, “I am John Clifford.” And he died a young man, diseased and in delirium tremens, an alcoholic. It is a way of agony. It is a way of judgment. It is a way of death. This is the way of glory and peace, “And there was great joy in that city, as the people cried for deliverance” [Acts 8:7-8].
I have no desire to do those things; God has saved me. I have no desire to live like that; God has delivered me. Oh! Praise His name, bless His name. I’ve found the Lord, and I’m happy in Him!
Let’s apply it to a third one: honesty and integrity. What does God say? Commandment number 9: “Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt not deceive. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not lie” [Exodus 20:16]. That is God. And as Paul wrote, “Providing things honest in the sight of all men” [Romans 12:17]. One of the most unusual things I know of is in the sixth chapter of this Book of Acts, in the qualifications for a deacon. The first one is this: “a man of honest report, a man of integrity” [Acts 6:3]. And these evil spirits, these minions of Satan who purport to be angels of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], “Ha, ha, ha! To tell the truth? Not to lie? Not to deceive? Man, if it is to your advantage, anywhere, anytime; a shady deal a business transaction, a girl you go with, your father and mother, your friends, the boss, anywhere! If you can deceive, lie, to advantage do it. You gain by it. Ha, ha! Did God say that?” And then the judgment and the agony always follows after.
There was a brother who was rich, God blessed him; and his brother was poor, he was a construction worker. And the rich brother said to his poor brother, he said, “I want you to build me a house. And I want you to make it the finest that money can buy; spacious and large and beautiful.” And the poor brother was delighted, so he started to build the house that his rich brother asked him to build. But he said to himself, “Here’s a chance for me to make money.” So he took out of the foundation the good material that ought to have been in it, and he put in a cheap foundation, and put the money, the difference, in his pocket. “Ha, ha, I’m smart.” Then instead of putting fine lumber in the building, he put cheaper lumber and put the difference in his pocket. “Ha, ha, ha! I’m smart.” And then instead of putting fine plumbing in the house, he put cheaper plumbing, and put the difference in his pocket. “Ha, ha, ha! I’m smart.” And so through the whole house he put cheaper things in it, to deceive his own brother and put the difference in his pocket. “Ha, ha! I’m smart.” And when he had built the house, and it was finished, his rich brother came to him and said, “Let’s go see the beautiful house.” And they stood there and looked at it. And the rich brother said to his poor brother, he said, “Brother, it’s yours; this is a gift of love from my heart to you.” That is as true a parable of life as I know. A man who cheats, and deceives, and lies, is destroying himself. God sees to that.
An experience, if I have time to relate it—in one of my pastorates, the first one out of seminary—there was a man who was marvelously converted, just gloriously saved. His wife was already in the church, but he was not a Christian. And he was very, very, worldly and compromised. He was a representative of a great company in America, and he represented that company, going around. Well, he was saved, marvelously saved, wonderfully saved. God delivered him.
After he had been a Christian about, oh, four or five, or six months, he came to see me. And he said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn.” He said, “Since I’ve been saved, since I’ve been baptized, and since I’ve been a Christian, all of those things that I have done in days past didn’t seem right to me, and I’ve quit them. Didn’t seem right to me to gamble at poker; didn’t seem right to me to drink with my clients. I’ve been saved, and I’m a Christian, and that didn’t seem right.” So he said, “I refused to gamble with my patrons. I’ve refused to drink with my customers.” And he said, “Now I don’t know what to do.” And this is in the deep of the Depression, “I’ve lost my customers. They don’t like me anymore. If I don’t drink with them, and I always carried the bottle in my briefcase, they don’t want to talk to me anymore. They don’t want to buy from me anymore, and I’m coming into destitution. And I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to do.”
I said to him, I said, “My friend,” and I was just a young fellow then, twenty-seven years old then—didn’t have the experience of confirmation as I have now—I said to him,
“If God doesn’t do some great and marvelous thing for you, He doesn’t live. There’s not any God. Giving your heart to Jesus, living as a Christian ought to live; if God doesn’t do that for you, if God doesn’t do a wonderful thing for you, then He doesn’t live, and there is no blessing in the Christian way at all.”
The days passed, and the weeks multiplied into the months. Upon a day, that young fellow came back to see me. He said, “Pastor, God has done a miraculous thing for me.” He said, “It became known that I was a child of God, that I was a Christian, and that I belonged to this church.” And he said, “You know, it has come that these men with whom I deal as the manufacturer’s representative,” he said, “they say to one another, ‘What he tells you is the truth. And when he describes a thing, it’ll be exactly that way. You can count on it.’” And he said, “Now they call and they ask me.” And he said, “I have more business now than I have ever had in my life.” That is God! When a man is known as an honest man and a man of truth and integrity, somehow the people grow to have confidence in him, and want to do business with him. “He won’t cheat me. He won’t lie to me. He won’t deceive me.” And God blesses and prospers that man. “There was great joy in that city; the cries of deliverance” [Acts 8:8].
Sweet people, bear with me just one little bit more. Our time’s already gone, but I want to say it. May I apply that to the church, to the church? God writes in His Book, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25]. And God wrote in His Book, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25]. God said, “This is the way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. And the minions of Satan laugh: “Ha, ha, ha, ha! So He says Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it? So He says you are not to forsake the coming together in the house of the worship of the Lord? Ha, ha, ha! Man, look, look at this boat out here! Man, look at this lodge out here! Man, look at this car out here! Man, look at these highways out there! Man, look at these clubs, look at these dinners, look at these . . . man! What a happy life you can live forsaking the house of the Lord. Why waste time going to church?” Is there a judgment with it?
So the children grow up secular minded, worldly minded. There is manna from heaven to feed our souls; there is water of life for our thirsting spirits. And when I never eat, and when I never drink, my soul shrivels and dies. And the children grow up without the knowledge of the Lord and the fullness of His Spirit in their hearts.
O God, how I thank Thee that I grew up in a home. Every Sunday was a sacred day with us. We cleaned ourselves, bathed ourselves, put on our finest clothes—though we were poorer than anybody that belongs to this church—yet clean garments, the best we had, and we appeared before the Lord every Sunday.
Dear people, I don’t know why I should have thought it, but somehow I persuaded myself that a boy shouldn’t cry. And yet in the services, there were things that just made my heart so happy that what I did as a boy; I would bow my head between the pews, where nobody could see, and just cry. Happy in the Lord. There is not any joy like spiritual joy; no happiness like godly happiness; and no uplift in the human heart like that experience in the house of Jesus.
This is the happy way. This is the glorious way. This is the heavenly way. “This is God’s way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. And it finally leads right straight into the gates of glory, down those golden streets, to the throne of God’s own holy and heavenly presence [Revelation 21:21-22]. Oh, man! Don’t let these minions of Satan rob you of the dearest life in the world. Happy in the Lord, build your house upon the Rock, upon Christ [Matthew 7:24, 1 Corinthians 10:4]; see it stand forever.
We must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, coming into the church; a couple you, giving your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], or just one somebody you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m coming.” On the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Decide in your heart now, then when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle. May the Lord’s angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE JOYFUL WAY (REAL REVIVAL)
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-7-77I. The wording of this intervention and visitation
A. Signs, confirmations – “hearing signs”
B. Minions of Satan entice us into compromise – “Did God say?”
C. God created the world to obey certain patternII. Courtship and marriage
A. The plan and purpose of God (Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:3-8)
B. Uncleans spirits tell us sex is something to play with
C. The agony – polygamy in Old Testament fraught with death (Genesis 16:1-16, 2 Samuel 12:10)
D. The joyful way is clean, pure, married foreverIII. The body
A. The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 12:1-2)
B. Unclean spirits tempt us to defile it
C. The agony – the story of John Clifford
D. The joyful wayIV. Honesty and integrity
A. The will of God for us (Exodus 20:16, Acts 6:3, 2 Corinthians 8:21)
B. Unclean spirits tell us to lie for any advantage
C. The agony – the brother who cheated
D. The joyful way – doing business as a ChristianV. The church
A. Gathering of God’s people (Ephesians 5:25, Hebrews 10:25, Isaiah 30:21)
B. Unclean spirits entice us away
C. The agony – those who grow up unchurched