The Joyful Way (Real Revival)

The Joyful Way (Real Revival)

August 7th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 8:8

And there was great joy in that city.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

8-7-77    10:50 a.m.



We praise God with you wonderful orchestra and choir.  And it is a joy unspeakable for us to share this hour with a multitude who are listening on the two radio stations that are carrying this service and on the television station.  This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Real Revival, The Joyful Way.

In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in the middle of the eighth chapter, and we are beginning this morning with the evangelistic, soul-winning, witnessing ministry of a deacon.  His name is Philip.  He is a Hellenist.  He is a Greek-speaking, foreign-born Jew.   And upon the death of Stephen, there was a great persecution against these Hellenists.  And they were scattered abroad.  And in chapter 8, verse 4, as they were scattered, they went everywhere preaching the word.


Then Philip, beginning at verse 5, then this layman, deacon,

Philip went down 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, and that were lame, were healed.

And there was great joy, indescribable gladness in that city.

[Acts 8:5-8]


The way of revival.

We are going to look for just a moment by way of introduction to the wording of the Holy Spirit’s description of this intervention and visitation from heaven.  It says that the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  The word "miracle" actually is sign, semeia, signs.  Seeing the signs which he did, God confirmed the truth of the preaching of His Word with signs.  And God will do it today were it needed.  Anytime there is a heavenly demonstration, avowing in God’s purpose, that this is the true message of God, you will have it and you will see it.

But he says here: "Hearing the signs," the semeia, hearing them.  What an unusual way to express it.  I can easily understand seeing a sign, but hearing it?  What an unusual thing!  So, I come to the conclusion as I read it, hearing the signs which he did because, for, unclean spirits, these minions of Satan who purport to be the angels of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], "crying with a loud voice," came out of many that were possessed [Acts 8:7].  That word crying, boonto, normally when you read the passage, you would think that they uttered great agonizing dismay as they were cast out.  Actually the first meaning of that word boonto is to cry for joy, to shout for deliverance!

And I think, as I turn it over in my mind, to me, I think when the Holy Spirit writes these people hearing the sign, what they heard was the shout of joy and deliverance as these unclean spirits, these minions of Satan, who say they are the angels of light and who entice us and woo us and compromise us in sin and in the world, as these spirits came out, these people were delivered, and they shouted their joy of salvation and deliverance!

"And there was" – look at that word – megale, translated here in verse 7: "loud."  Translated here in verse 8: "great," megale.  The word refers to intensity.  These spirits crying with an intense joy, as they were – as the people delivered, shouted with intense joy, megale, and then translated here, great:  "And there was great joy," chara.  There is a little family of words in this New Testament language that is beautiful and wonderful; chara, gladness, joy, happiness, charis.  That’s the word for grace, charisma, a grace gift, charismata, the plural of it.  And they all belong to a family, charis.  If you have a girl named Karen, that’s the accusative form of charis; one of the most beautiful words in our language as well as in the New Testament language, chara, happiness.  There was great gladness and joy in that city.

Now, do you notice that at the very heart of this are those unclean spirits?  That when these in this city of Samaria were delivered, these who found salvation in Christ, shouted for joy, and there was immeasurable and illimitable gladness and happiness, for they had been delivered from and saved from these unclean spirits.  Always the demons, called unclean spirits, these fallen angels are the minions of Satan.  And they present themselves to us as messengers of light, angels of glory.  And they woo and entice us into compromise, sin, iniquity.  And they do it astutely.

They come before us, and they say, "What?  Did God say thus?  How foolish of you to believe in the Lord and to follow the Lord.  For the way of God," the minion says, the spirit says, the evil demon says, "the way of God is dull, and drab, and dreary, and like death.  But come, come, the blandishments of the world are full of fun and frolic and lilt and laugher!  Who wants to follow God and miss all of the fun in life?  Listen to us, and you’ll have a wonderful, happy, glorious, fun-loving time."

So he possesses us.  These evil spirits come into our hearts, and we find ourselves compromised in every kind of iniquity and sin.  But there is something about that.  There is a great God who put this world together.  He created it.  And He made it.  And He followed, and He did it after a certain pattern.  And the pattern is plain, simple.  It is this.   When we do the way God made us to do, when we walk in the light as He is in the light, when we obey the voice of the Lord, we are blessed of all people [1 John 1:7].  We are happy.  We are at peace with God, with ourselves and one another.  It is a glorious way.  But, when we allow ourselves to be deceived by these purported angels of light and we live in sin and in compromise, then it is inevitably followed by agony and by death.  God did that!  God made this world like that.

I remember a quatrain in Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book.


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 made the world just like that.  So we are going to apply it to several areas of our lives, and in each application we’ll follow a definite pattern of four points.  One, what God said.  Two, what these minions of Satan entice us, "Did God say that?"  Three, the agony and death that follows our disobedience, and four, the glory and the joy of our deliverance when we find peace and rest and salvation in Christ.

First, we apply it to courtship and to marriage; that feeling that comes to a young man, to a young woman when they come to puberty, and to adolescence, and to young manhood and young womanhood, and they become interested in somebody else.  God says, "There is one man for one woman."  And in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord confirms that in the beginning God made it one man for one woman, to be pure and to be chaste and to give yourself in marriage to one man and to one woman.  That’s God.  "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, his wife:  and they two shall be one flesh" [Matthew9:4-6].

Then the minion of Satan appears, and he says, "Ha, ha!  What?  Did God say that?  You don’t know what you’re missing.  Sex is a thing to be played with, and marriage is a thing to be tried.  And for one to be virtuous in his life and holy and pure in the giving of himself to a covenant partner in marriage is to miss all of the fun in the world.  Ha, did God say you’re to keep yourself for one woman, and you’re to keep yourself for one man?  Ha!  Such idiocy, such foolishness, when the whole happy world is open before you!"

So we listen to the minions of Satan, these unclean spirits.  And the girl is used and handed down and prostituted.  And the boy is faithless, and virtueless, and fornicating, and adulterous.  And when they come to marriage, it is old hat.  Man has been living in sin for years and years.  And the marriage vow has lost its purity and its sanctity and its beautiful meaning.  And the marriage itself is trial.  We get along if we make it.  If we like it, fine.  If not, dissolve it with a sentence.  The tragedy of America this moment is for the first time one-half of the marriages in America are being dissolved in the courts; one out of two.

And the virtuous young man and the virtuous young woman is coming to be an exception.  Used, abused, listening to the siren voice of these unclean spirits who purport to show us a good time, a happy life, then the agony that follows it.  Always, God puts that together like that.  "Pastor, what about these Old Testament saints?  You say God says one man for one woman?  Look at these Old Testament saints.  Look at them and their lives.  Good!  Look at them in their lives!

The Lord said for the hardness of their hearts, they were allowed to live adulterous and polygamous lives because they were downgraded and degraded.  But from the beginning it was not the purpose of God [Matthew 19:7-8].  Now, look.  Take a good look.  Every time there is a polygamous union in the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament, it is fraught with death!  And there is no exception.  There is no exception!

Abraham and Sarah, his wife, and at the suggestion of Sarah because she was sterile, not believing the promise of God she should have a son who was later called Isaac, "Laugher," Sarah, placed in the bosom of her husband Abraham, Hagar, an Egyptian servant girl, a slave girl [Genesis 16:1-16].  And out of the adulterous union, Ishmael was born, and to this day, we have been cursed with the confrontation of the Jew on one side, the children of Isaac, and the Arab on the other side, the children of Ishmael. There is no escaping, it is the siren voice of deception that says, "Come, come, come."

David, the man after God’s own heart, looking with adulterous lust upon Bathsheba, and God sent Nathan the prophet saying, "The sword shall never leave thy house" [2 Samuel 12:10].  And thereafter the story of David and his successors is written in human blood!  And Solomon, the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines [1 Kings 11:3], an affront to God, and because of it, he gave to his son who inherited the kingdom, a divided empire, a divided kingdom, and he was cut short! [1 Kings 11:11-13]. The promise was made that, "If you obey My voice and walk in My way, I will give thee length of days" [1 Kings 3:14].  And Solomon was cut down at the very apex, at the very zenith and glory and strength of his kingly life.

There is no exception, no exception.  And when that evil spirit, that unclean spirit of enticement is cast out of us, what remains is beauty, and glory, and joy, and light, and life.  There’s not anything more blessed in God’s world than for a clean-cut, pure young man to stand in the presence of the pastor and by his side a sweet, virtuous virgin girl.  And they pledge to one another a love and a devotion that shall last until Jesus comes again.  That’s the happy way, the joyful way, the Christian way.  It is God’s way.

We apply it again to the body, the human body:  what does God say?  God says the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It is the house in which God dwells; the temple of the Lord [1 Corinthians 6:19].  As Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2: "This I beseech you, brethren, devote, offer to God your body, a living sacrifice, holy and pure, and your spiritual service, your reasonable service."  What a man will do if he had a mind of God.  This is God’s purpose for the human body; a house, a temple for the Lord.

Then the unclean spirits come.  These minions of Satan who purport to be the angels of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], and they say, "Ha, what?  Did God say that?  You are to be a temple of God, holy and pure?  Ha, ha.  How much you miss!  What fun you don’t have!  Look, look."  And the pusher comes, and they’re smoking pot.  And the liquor salesman come, and they are drinking pot.  And the body is debauched in a thousand other compromises; and that inevitable judgment of agony and death!

Dr. W. F. Powell, then the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, called me and said, "I am sending you the most promising and brilliant young pastor, young preacher, I have ever known.  His name is John Clifford.  He has just held a revival meeting in our First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.  And the unction of heaven is upon him.  And God’s Spirit was poured out upon the people.  We had a marvelous meeting, and I’m sending him to you."

So he came to see me.  I was amazed at the young man.  He was about six feet three or four inches tall, as handsome as an Apollo, with a shock of curly hair, a beautiful face, a kingly bearing and a marvelous personality.  I was overwhelmed by the young man.  And I was making arrangements for him to come to be with us here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.

He came.  In the after time, he came.  And he sat beyond that back row of pews, there are chairs just in front of those windows, he sat on one of those chairs just in front of that window.  That time I went to the back to shake hands with the people.  I now stay at the front.  I went to the back and after everyone had left, he came up to me and spoke to me.  I didn’t know him.  I didn’t recognize him.  He was dirty and filthy, unkempt, destroyed!  And he died soon after, diseased and of delirium tremens; unclean spirits who purport to be angels of light come, "Look, look, look what you are missing.  Look."  Great God!  And how many homes are broken and how many children are orphaned and how many lives are destroyed listening to the siren voice of the unclean spirit, "Come, drink; come, smoke; come, eat?"

"And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:8].  For many that were possessed, shouted, "God hath delivered me.  God has saved me.  God has made a new man out of me!  Oh, glory, bless His name forever.  He has lifted me up out of the miry clay.  This has He done for me."  No wonder there was joy in that city, unspeakable.  Wives were happy, children were glad, and men who had found themselves stood up straight in the way and walk of the Lord.

We apply it third to honesty and integrity:  God says, commandment number nine, commandment number nine; Thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not deceive, thou shalt not bear false witness.  Commandment number nine: Thou shalt not lie [Exodus 20:16].  It is remarkable to me, in the sixth chapter of this Book of Acts when they were choosing these deacons, the first qualification: men of honest report, whose word is their bond, who tell the truth.  As Paul wrote: "Providing things honest in the sight of all men" [2 Corinthians 8:21].

Then comes the minion of Satan, the purporting angel of life, this unclean spirit and says, "Ha, did God say that?  You don’t know what you lose telling the truth, being honest.  You listen to me, and you’ll prosper, and you’ll gain, and you’ll further yourself, and line your coffers with gold and silver.  Anything to take an advantage, if it is profitable, do it!  In business, in life, anywhere; if deception will gain you furtherance, advantage, profit, do it!"  Then comes the inevitable judgment.

There was a rich man who had a brother, poor.  And the poor brother was a construction worker.  And the rich brother said to his poor relative, he said, "I want you to build me the finest house that money can buy; a beautiful and spacious home.  I want you to build it, you.  Build that beautiful house.  Build it."  And so that poor brother began constructing the house.  Instead of building in the foundation material that he was supposed to use, he put in inferior material, and the difference in price, he put in his pocket, and he said, "I’m smart.  I’m smart."  And the fine lumber he was to put in the house, he put in poorer quality, and the difference in price, he put in his pocket and said, "I’m smart."  And the wonderful plumbing he was to place in the house, he put in inferior plumbing and put the difference in his pocket and said, "I’m smart.  And so through all of the electric wiring and all of everything that went into that house, he made it inferior, and he placed the difference in his pocket and said, "I’m smart."  Then when the house was finished, the rich brother came with his poor brother to look at it.  And looking upon it, the rich brother said, "Brother, this is the love of my heart for you.  The house is yours." There is a judgment in lying and deception that brings with it judgment and death.  God put that together.  And there was great joy in that city [Acts 8:8].  God hath delivered me, tell the truth now to my own hurt, what I say is like my bond, honest, faithful, true.

In my first pastorate out of the seminary, my first full-time church, there was a man, a young fellow, a company’s manufacturer representative who was wonderfully and marvelously saved.  After he had been saved, been regenerated, made a new man, and I baptized him, the months passed, and he came to me, and he said, "I don’t know where to turn and I don’t know what to do."  He said, "In all of these days past, when I went to see my clients, I packed in my case bottles of liquor and poker cards.  And when I went to see my clients, my customers, I gave them liquor to drink, and we played poker together, and we had a wonderful time, and they bought from me."  But he said, "Now that I am saved and I’ve been baptized and I belong to the church, those things don’t seem right.  And I can’t do them anymore and I quit it.  I don’t take any liquor with me any longer, and I don’t take any gambling cards with me anymore."  And he said, "I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to do.  I’m about to starve."  This was in the midst of the Depression.  "My clients don’t want me anymore.  They don’t want to buy from me anymore.  They don’t want to see me anymore.  They don’t want to talk to me anymore.  Since I’ve become a Christian, I’ve lost practically all of my business, and I am facing disaster in my home.  I don’t have money to pay the bills."

I said to him, "Young fellow" – I was only twenty-seven years old then.  How much more would I be able to confirm this avowal now – I said, "Young fellow, if God doesn’t help you and if God doesn’t do better for you, there is not any God!  We just might as well all forget it and go on our dog ways, animal ways."  I said, "You stay true to Jesus and see what God does for you."

The days multiplied into weeks and the weeks multiplied into the months, and upon a day, the young fellow came to me, and he said, "Pastor, it is a miracle.  It is a miracle.  It is a miracle!  I have more business now than I know what to do with!  He said, "What has happened is this.  Word has been passed from heart to heart and mouth to mouth and business to business.  And the word is this, ‘He’s a Christian.  He tells you the truth.  You can count on what he says.  He doesn’t deceive!  He tells us what it is!  If you are to do business with a man that is right and honest, do business with him.’"  And he said, "I have more business now than I know what to do with.  God has blessed me aboundingly and abundantly."

"And there was great joy in that city."  God’s way is a happy way, and a blessed way, a glorious way, a fruitful way, a heavenly way.  It is a way of deliverance and salvation.

In the moment that remains, may I apply it to just one other?  Church, church; God says in His Book, "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" [Ephesians 5:25].  God says in His Book, "Forsaking not the assembling of yourselves together" [Hebrews 10:25], the gathering together of God’s redeemed to love Him in community; to praise God with blended voices; to bow in prayer and call upon His name; to listening to the reading of the Word and the expounding of the message of God: "This is the way, walk ye in it" [Isaiah 30:21].

Church; and the minions of Satan and these purported angels of light say, "Ha, ha, ha!  Did God say that?  Church, to take time out for the gathering of the redeemed in church?  Look at this boat.  Look at this lake.  Look at this lodge.  Look at this car.  Look at these open roads.  What a wonderful time we have Sunday!  Not a holy day, but a holiday, come, enjoy life to the fullness!  Who wants to be bored to death in church?"  And the minions of Satan woo and entice these who are possessed and away they are.  And the inevitable judgment; and the children grow up, and the little boys and girls grow up never knowing the Lord; secular minded, worldly minded.

Strange thing how God has made us: the Bible presents us as being a trichotomy.  The Bible will use the word somatikos.  The Bible will use the word psuchikos.  And the Bible will use the word pneumatikos.  I am a somatikos man; I have a body.  I am a psuchikos man; I have sensuous sensitivity.  I can feel and think.  But I am also a pneumatikos man; I have a spirit made in the image of God.

And if I don’t feed my body, my body shrivels and dies.  And if I don’t feed my soul, my soul shrivels and dies.  The same Lord God that made food for my body, gave manna from heaven for my soul and water of life for my thirsting.  And when I live in the flesh and leave out of my life the care and the feeding and the nurture of the image and the spirit of God within me, I am of all men most profitless, and worthless, and miserable and unhappy.  And I am rearing my children in the same tragic way.  Ah, Lord, what it is.

"And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:8].  Come let us go up to the house of the Lord together.  Our feet shall stand within thy gates" [Psalm 122:1-2].  Oh, come, praise the Lord with me.  Let us be glad together in God’s house [Psalm 34:3].  That’s what it is to walk in the way of the Lord and to be at peace and at rest in our souls with one another and with God.

Not in all, all of the world could I thank God enough for the Christian home in which I grew up.  Every Sunday we dressed the best we could.  We were poorer than anybody that belongs to this church.  But every Sunday we dressed the best that we could, and we appeared before the Lord in God’s house.  And the happinesses that I knew as a boy to me were indescribable.  They were heavenly.  They were precious.  I don’t know where I persuaded myself, but I had the idea as a boy that a boy shouldn’t cry.  He shouldn’t weep.  And yet in the church, in the house of God, there were things happening all of the time that made my heart so glad that I couldn’t express it any other way except to cry.  And what I did was I bowed my head between the pew as a boy and cried tears of joy; just moved by the services of God in the church.

Why, to me, the greatest gift of heaven is the freedom we have in America.  The door is open.  The pastor is uncensored, and the people can sing and praise God world without end.  That is America, and that is the Christian faith, and that is the way of the Lord.

Ah, my brother, my sister, there are a thousand wondrous things God has in store every day for those who walk with Him.  It is the glory road that leads right straight to heaven, through the pearly gates, down golden streets, into the very presence of the King of glory.

And we invite you to pilgrimage that way with us.  Join your heart with ours.  Be numbered in God’s Book of Life among the redeemed of heaven.  Down one of these aisles, down one of these stairways.  "Pastor, I’m coming.  Just look for me.  Look for me down that aisle.  Look for me down that stairway.  I’m on the way, preacher, I have decided for God and I’m coming."  Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand answering with your life.  "I’m on the way, pastor, here I am."  God bless you.  Angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Acts 8:8



I.          The wording of this intervention and

A.  Signs, confirmations
– "hearing signs"

B.  Minions of Satan entice
us into compromise – "Did God say?"

C.  God created the
world to obey certain pattern


II.         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

The agony – polygamy in Old Testament fraught with death (Genesis 16:1-16, 2 Samuel

D.  The joyful way is
clean, pure, married forever


III.        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

The agony – the story of John Clifford

D.  The
joyful way


IV.       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 Christian


V.  The church

A.  Gathering
of God’s people (Ephesians 5:25, Hebrews 10:25, Isaiah 30:21)

B.  Unclean
spirits entice us away

The agony – those who grow up unchurched

D.  The
joyful way – our Christian home