He That Cometh to God
May 21st, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-21-78 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy for me on this occasion to prepare a message that I pray God will wonderfully bless, entitled He that Cometh to God. Now may all of us turn in our Bible to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and we shall read the first six verses together. And you will find the text in the sixth verse; Hebrews, toward the end of your New Testament. And you who are listening on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio station of our Bible Institute, KCBI, we welcome you and invite you to open your Bible and to read out loud this glorious passage with us. Hebrews chapter 11, the first six verses, now all of us reading out loud together:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
And you read the text: “He that cometh to God,” and then the avowal, “must believe that He is” [Hebrews 11:6].
There are those who in scorn and in rejection say, “I don’t believe anything about this God business. I don’t believe in God.” Neither does the beast of the field, nor the clod of the furrow; the dog in his kennel is absolutely unaware of the glory of the firmament above him. And the cow that grazes in the pasture is oblivious to the beautiful glory of the landscape around her. To the blind, the God of light does not exist. To the deaf, the God of revelation does not speak. And to the dead, the God of the living does not exist.
There are those who look into the heavens and see nothing but measurements, and space, and phenomena. But there are those who look into heavens and say, “They declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth forth His handiwork, His lacework” [Psalm 19:1]. There are those who look at a tree and see in it just leaves, and branches, and trunk, and roots. But a Joyce Kilmer will look and say:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet loving breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray…
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God could make a tree.
[“Trees,” Joyce Kilmer]
How many of us pass unceremoniously and unnoticingly by a little wildflower; but an Alfred, Lord Tennyson will see in it the very soul of man and of God:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck thee out of the crannies,
I hold thee here, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I could understand what God and man is.
[“Flower in the Crannied Wall”]
The eye of faith can see God everywhere:
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich, ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the goldenrod—
Some people say, ‘Well that’s Autumn,’
But some of us say, ‘That’s God.’
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod—
Some people say, ‘That’s consecration’;
But some of us say, ‘That’s God.’
[“Each in His Own Tongue,” William H. Carruth]
In 63 BC, the imperious Roman general Pompey, led his army into Judea and into Jerusalem, and added Palestine to the Roman Empire. When he came into the Holy City, he marched up to the temple, the house of the Lord, and entered the Holy Place. And when he saw beyond the Holy Place the veil and the Holy of Holies beyond, he assayed to enter that sacred cubicle into which only once a year did the high priest enter with blood of expiation [Hebrews 9:7]. When the Jews saw that the imperious proud Roman general was about to enter their Holy of Holies, they lay prostrate before him, offered their lives, if only he would not desecrate that holy place. In scorn and in ridicule, Pompey walked by them and over them, took his hand and pulled aside the sacred veil and went into that Holy of Holies. In a moment, he came back out, and he exclaimed, “Why, it is empty! There is nothing there! It is dark!” That is the exact place where Isaiah the prophet said, “I saw the Lord high and lifted up; and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim . . . crying, Holy, holy, holy!” [Isaiah 6:1-3]. With eyes of the soul, we see God.
But the skeptic replies in ridicule and sarcasm, “I don’t believe anything that can’t be demonstrated. It has to be placed in a test tube, it has to be equated in a formula, or I don’t believe it.” How inane and how ridiculous! We don’t know anything, and we don’t explain anything: all we do is just observe the mysteries of God, and that’s all. Into those mysteries no man has entered, no man can enter, and no man shall ever enter. You cannot explain the simplest of the phenomena of the glory of God.
Why don’t the oceans spill out? What holds this world together? And what keeps all of those great planets in their sacred orbits? What is that force that holds it together? They call it gravity. What is it? Nobody knows; nobody can ever know, nobody shall ever know. Why doesn’t that book fall this way or fall that way or that way? Why does it always fall this way? Because of the law of the word of God that holds His universe together. We call it gravity; we don’t know what it is. It’s the mystery of God. The wind, whoever saw it? Whoever saw the wind? Neither you nor I; but when we see the trees bowing their heads, the wind is passing by—the mystery of God.
Assimilation: the simple thing of eating, and it becomes you. What you are, you are McDonald hamburgers and French fries and Coca-Colas and Pepsi-Cola and all the other junk that these kids eat all day long. That’s what you are. And the mystery of assimilation, how the human anatomy can take all of that stuff and make it you who can think and love and hate and respond—you don’t explain that, you just observe it.
Birth, the miracle of birth: all of those little carpenters and little engineers and little workmen down in the womb of a precious mother, and they start hammering, and putting together, and creating that unbelievable new soul and new life. How do you explain that? You don’t; you never will. You just see it and observe it and write it down, that’s all.
And death, what is death? No one will ever know. No one can ever explain. It’s a mystery in the infinitude of the counsels of Almighty God. Here is a man lying before you, everything intact, his whole anatomical system is there, and you can probe him, and cut him up, and you will never find his mind; you will never find his reason; you will never find his soul; you will never find his emotion: it’s a mystery of God. And yet out of that mind will come a glorious poem like “Paradise Lost,” or a drama like Macbeth, or the Constitution of the United States. Where is that? Nobody shall know.
Oh! the wonder of the mystery of Almighty God. With one hand He will fling into orbit a golden ring around Saturn a hundred thousand miles in diameter, and with the other hand He will fashion the point on the claw of the foot of an infinitesimal microscopic animal. One day He will create a sun ninety-three million miles away to blaze and glory, and the next day He will paint the face of a little pansy with all the colors of the rainbow, and drop in its chaliced heart a speck of a perfume that it might allure an insect to fertilize an ovule. How do you explain that? You don’t: you just see it. It is the mystery of Almighty God. “For he that cometh to God must believe that He is” [Hebrews 11:6]. It is by faith that we understand, and it is by faith that we live, and it is by faith that we work, and it is by faith that we build our institutions, and our life, and our nation, and our whole culture and society: by faith. That is a remarkable thing.
And without faith, it’s never done. Faith, belief, persuasion, is the key word in all of our life and existence. By faith the farmer will plow and sow his seed, depending upon God to make it sprout, to germinate, and to grow, and to fruit. By faith, by faith and faith alone will a bank open its doors.
Most remarkable thing to me, when you go to that bank down there, they will use the words that I preach with here in the pulpit, the exact nomenclature, the exact language, the exact vocabulary. A woman called down there to the First National Bank about some of her bonds, and the man who answered the phone on the other end of the line said, “What denomination are your securities? And are you interested in conversion or redemption?” There was a long pause on the other end of the line. And finally, the woman gathering herself together, said, “Sir, do I have the First Baptist Church or the First National Bank?” You can’t build that bank without faith.
My dear people, as great as the Republic Bank is, it’s the largest bank in the South, it would be destroyed in one day if the people made a run on it, and lost faith in it! It is built upon belief and persuasion and faith.
The doctor operates: he doesn’t heal; God heals. A couple fall in love, and they build their home upon trust and commitment and faith in each other. Faith plows the soil, sails the seas, builds our institutions, rears our children, pilgrimage to heaven, enters the glory of God. The foundational word of all words in human life is to believe, to have faith.
And that word has been the great dynamic back of all of the achievements that we see in the world. “I believe, I have faith, I am persuaded, I am committed.” Columbus sailed west, and west, and always west. “I believe,” said Columbus. Somebody made the observation, “Had there been no continent of America, God would have made it just to honor so great a faith.” “I believe. I believe,” said the men, the engineers, who cut the Panama Canal. The world had watched it tried again and again, always with absolute ignominious failure. But the American engineer said, “I believe”; and he brought the Panama Canal into realization. “I believe,” said Thomas Alva Edison, as he worked on the incandescent lamp. “I believe,” said Dr. Best, as he tried to find ways to make insulin.
Did you know, all of these marvels of the twentieth century, every one coming to pass in my lifetime, radar, radio, television, jet propulsion, nylon, penicillin, all of the marvels of the twentieth century have been here since the dawn of creation: but it is just now that men with eyes of faith, with eyes of the soul, have been able to see them and to discover them and to pluck them out, and to bring them to view and to reality. It’s a wonder and a marvel that Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun; whatever is has been before” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. And I think of that.
Once in a while I will look at a tremendous turbine, those vast, vast generating plants that create the electricity of our great cities. And I look at those steam turbines that turn in such rhythmic procession. Did you know the steam that turns those great turbines escaped unnoticed from the dinner pots of the antediluvians? It’s just today we’ve learned to harness that incredible power. Or again, the jewels that adorn our apparel and our hands and fingers, like this one. Can you see that? Some of the people gave me this on my thirtieth anniversary as pastor of the church. It’s a beautiful diamond. The jewels that adorn our apparel, the medicines that heal our diseases, the minerals that enrich our nation, the metals that comprise the basic unit of our equipment, and the very marble that will grace our tombstones, all of these things lay in the cold, damp earth underneath the feet of Cain and Abel in the beginning [Genesis 4:1-2]. We just use what God has done.
And when the Lord God had finished His work of creation [Genesis 1:1-19], the world of plant life brought forth its full quota, each after its kind [Genesis 1:29-30]. And the world of biology, of animal life, brought forth its full quantum of species, each after its kind. And the sea gave forth its full number of fishes and great leviathans and the creeping things on the floors of the ocean [Genesis 1:20-25]. And when the Lord had finished His work, the man walked forth with every faculty, moral, spiritual, intellectual, that he owns and possesses today. There has never been anything added to it; there has never been anything taken away from it. After these thousands of years, there has not been one element added to the faculty of a man: he is as God created him in the beginning [Genesis 1:26-27]. The only difference lies in the arrangements of the elements in our lives. All of those things that make us up, how we put them together, but we don’t create, not one. This is the mystery of the great workmanship of Almighty God.
And what a wonder and what a blessing for a man who is made out of dust and ashes [Genesis 2:7], to stand in the presence of his Maker in reverence, and in awe, and in wonder, and in love and thanksgiving for what God has done for us [Psalm 100:4-5]. How wise is that man who begins to learn in the fear, the reverential fear of the Lord [Proverbs 9:10]; and establishing by faith the priority of the living God, all else follows in a beautiful and marvelous order. God did it; and we’re sitting at His feet to learn of His omnipotence [Job 42:2]. God did it; and we’re sitting at His feet to learn of His omniscience [Psalm 147:5]. God did it, and we’re sitting at His feet learning of His grace and goodness toward us [Psalm 145:9]. Oh, how wonderful is the Lord God and how marvelous is the knowledge He has mediated to us through the Holy Book and through the person and life of Jesus our Christ!
Young people, when I was just—well, I was seventeen—when I was just your age, I made a trip with a group of BSU’ers in a bus to a place in Alabama called Tuskegee, to an institute there, founded by Booker T. Washington, to visit with a world-famed Black scientist by the name of George Washington Carver. When I stood with that little handful of students in his laboratory in the institute, all the way around him, row upon row upon row of miraculous transformations that he had created out of clay—Alabama clay, that orange-red clay, out of peanuts, and out of yams, sweet potatoes, all the way around that—it was the most astonishing presentation I ever thought for. All kinds of cosmetics, every kind you could think of; all kinds of material, basically made out of rubber; all kinds of building materials, just hundreds and hundreds it seems to me, that he had made out of those basic elements of yams and peanuts and red Alabama clay. He was a miracle to the whole world. Industries came down there to Tuskegee and built factories just to be near that genius of a chemist.
Well, being a kid, you can imagine my wonder at what his hands had wrought and his mind had conceived. Well, when we said goodbye, I was standing by his side, tall, slender, kind of stoop-shouldered, white-headed Negro professor. And kind of being close to him, and telling him goodbye, I asked him a question. I said, “Dr. Carver, I have never been so astonished in my life! I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen. How did you ever build these marvelous things?” And very humbly he replied to me, he said, “Young man, I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” [Philippians 4:13]. And then he added to it, “For without Me ye can do nothing” [John 15:5]. That’s greatness. That’s sublimity. “By the grace of God,” said the apostle, “I am what I am” [1 Corinthians 15:10]. If there has been given to me any abilities, He gave them to me. If there are any sublimities, they’re in Him. If there is any hope, it’s in His goodness and grace. And having found Him, we have found the beginning and the source, the fountainhead of all wisdom [Job 12:13]; and everything else in life flows therefrom and thereafter.
How blessed is the child who in early youth comes to know the Lord. How precious is that teenager who makes those final and ultimate decisions in the will of God. And how wonderfully and sun-crowned is that young man and that young woman who walks in the reverential awe and fear of the Lord, and who finds in His wisdom and in His sovereign and heavenly will the highest summum bonum of life, destiny, and every golden dream for tomorrow.
And the word that we say to young people, do we address to all of our hearts: to build your home upon Christ [1 Corinthians 3:11], to rear your children in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4], to sit at the feet of Jesus and be His pupil, to learn from the almighty, omniscient God, to walk in the light of the glory of the Lord, to be a Christian, to be numbered with the redeemed, to be enrolled in the family of heaven [Matthew 11:28-30]. O God, thank You for including me. Precious Jesus, how could I ever say it in syllable or sentence, the overflowing gratitude of my heart that I should be included in that heavenly number of God’s redeemed. And the door is wide open for you. He says, “Boldly, come, boldly come” [Hebrews 4:16], and welcome. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. Come, come, come.
To accept Jesus as your Savior: “I know I’m a lost sinner, and I know I am facing some day inevitable death, and Jesus died to save me, to forgive my sins, to raise me from the dead, and to receive me into heaven. I am coming to accept Jesus as my Savior.”
“I am coming to be baptized. He commanded all, who look in faith to Him [Matthew 28:19-20], follow Him in the ordinance of baptism [Matthew 3:14-17, 28:19-20]. And I am coming to be baptized.”
“We are coming to join the church. My wife, these children of ours, all of us are coming. We’re going to pray together, and worship together, and work together in the family of God’s redeemed in this dear church.” Or, “I’m coming to answer a special call of the Holy Spirit in my heart. God wants me for a special assignment, and I’m answering with my life.” As the Holy Spirit shall lead in the way, shall open the door, shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and when you stand up, stand up coming down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, preacher, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way.” May the Spirit bless you, may the angels of heaven attend your way, as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. There are those who in scorn, rejection do not believe anything about God
1. Neither does the beast of the field or the clod of the ground
2. To the blind, God doesn’t exist; to the deaf, He doesn’t speak; and to the dead, He doesn’t live
3. The stars to manyâ€¦.but to a psalmistâ€¦ (Psalm 19:1)
4. A tree to manyâ€¦but to Joyce Kilmerâ€¦ “Trees”
5. A flower to manyâ€¦but to Alfred Lord Tennysonâ€¦ “Flower in the Crannied Wall”
B. Eyes of the soul can see God everywhere
1. Poem, “Each in His Own Tongue”
2. Pompey saw nothing in the Holy of Holies – Isaiah saw God(Isaiah 6:1-3)II. The skeptic demands demonstration
A. We don’t explain anything – we just observe the mysteries of God
1. Nature – what holds this world together?
2. Eating, assimilation
3. Miracle of birth
B. The wonder of the mystery of Almighty GodIII. It is only by faith
A. Key word in all of our life and existence – faith, belief, trust
B. All human discovery, progress and achievement is by faith
C. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
1. God finished His work of creation – never been anything added to it
D. Only true wisdom – to learn at the feet of God, coming to Him
1. George Washington Carver(Philippians 4:13, John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 15:10)