Living for Somebody Else
January 21st, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
LIVING FOR SOMEBODY ELSE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-21-79 7:30 p.m.
Once again, a gladness to welcome the many thousands of you who are listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas on radio. Two of them: the radio of the great Southwest, KRLD, and the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI.
Now I have a word to say to some of you who are listening out there on radio. There is a great throng of us here in the First Baptist Church auditorium, but there is also a great throng of you who are out there listening on radio. Now I have good news and I have bad news for you who are listening out there. The bad news we will take first: I told you this morning, if you did not come to church at seven o’clock on Sunday night, the Cowboys were going to lose the Super Bowl.
Do you remember I told you that? And sure enough, you are not here at seven o’clock, and sure enough the Cowboys got beat. And it is your fault. That is the bad news.
Now for the good news: that quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, named Terry Bradshaw, is a good, devout Southern Baptist. And that is the reason God heard his prayer. So we congratulate our Baptist brethren up there in that far-off, cold, frozen heathen land, and God bless their witness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Now, all of us here in this great auditorium and you who listen on the radio, turn with me to the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts. It is in this chapter that we are preaching, as we go through this marvelous book by Dr. Luke: the story of the apostolic labors that founded the church under the hand of the Lord in all the Roman Empire.
We shall read together out loud verses 11 through 21. Now the text will be the twentieth verse. And as I developed the sermon this week, I was forced to change the title of it from The Blood Of Witness to Living For Somebody Else. And you will see as the sermon is developed why the change in the name: Living for Somebody Else.
Now we shall begin reading at the eleventh verse and go through verse 21. And when you read the twentieth verse, that’s the text; 11 to 21, chapter 22. Now all of us, out loud together:
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all of the Jews which dwelt there,
Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth.
For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance:
And saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me.
And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee:
And when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
And He said unto me, Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
I read the twentieth verse again as our text. Remember, when Paul is saying this to that throng in the temple court as he stands on the steps of the Tower of Antonio—remember, this is toward the end of his long life as an ambassador and missionary from the court of heaven. And when he speaks to that throng, he goes back through the years and the years and the years. And speaking of Stephen, God’s first martyr, he says, “And when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death”—actually supervising the execution of that godly man—”and I kept the raiment of them that slew him” [Acts 22:20].
What Paul is saying here, is, that in those years gone by, after he was converted on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-9], and after he had accepted the assignment of God to be His preacher and representative among the Gentile nations of the world [Acts 9:15], he came to Jerusalem [Acts 9:26-28]. And in Jerusalem—it was his desire and plan to stay there—the apostles in Jerusalem said, “For your life, you must leave,” and they sent him away finally to Tarsus in Cilicia [Acts 9:29-30], where he came from; but only after Jesus appeared to him personally and asked him to depart: “Make haste, and get thee out quickly” [Acts 22:17-18].
Then Paul says, “I said to the ‘Lord, Lord’”—now I’m going to speak it in my language what Paul said to Jesus—”Lord Jesus, in this place, in this city, in this town, I supervised, engineered the death of Thy martyr Stephen [Acts 22:20]. And in that place where he died, I want to die.”
It is a remarkable thing what happened in the life of Saul as he saw Stephen die. He had never seen a man die like that. As he was beat to his knees, Stephen looked up, and saw the heavens rolled back like a scroll, cried aloud saying, “I see the Son of Man standing on the right hand of Glory” [Acts 7:55-56], and his face shone as it had been the face of an angel [Acts 6:15]. The smiting of the glory of God.
Then as the stones continued to fall upon him, beat down to the dust of the ground, he prayed the Lord to receive his spirit, and asked that this wrong not be laid at the door of those who were casting those murderous stones [Acts 7:59-60]. That’s what Jesus meant when he appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, when He said to him, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:3-5].
That’s what he was referring to. Saul, in his bitterness and in his rage, had never seen a man die like that! And in the nighttime the face of Stephen appeared before him as he tried to sleep. And when he buried his face in a book trying to read, there on the page again he saw the face of God’s first martyr Stephen. And as he tried to pluck out of his heart the remembrance of that deed of murder and death, his heart—it was as vibrant and viable and alive as though he were standing there every moment of every day.
“Saul, it is hard for you to kick against the pricks, to fight against the conviction that’s seizing your soul. This man is God’s man. This man dies as a man ought to die, witnesses as a man ought to witness. Saul, it is hard for to you kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:5].
And in these after years, years and years, standing for the last time in Jerusalem, before that maddened, bloodthirsty throng [Acts 22:22-23], he remembers Stephen. And his avowal to the Lord: “Lord, I want to take his place. I want to live for him. I want to preach for him. I want to do his work. And Lord, I’d like to die in his stead. I’d like to die where he died.”
And it was only at the insistence of the Lord Jesus Himself, “Depart, for I have a great work for thee to do. I am sending you to the Gentiles” [Acts 22:21]. So in acquiescence to the will of the blessed Savior, he became God’s preacher to the entire Roman Empire [Acts 23:11].
But that thought stays in my own heart as I read this address of the apostle to that throng in the court of the temple [Acts 22:1-21]. The blood of Stephen: where he died, I want to die. I want to live for him. I want to preach in his place. I want to do the work he should have done, living, dying, serving, loving, ministering for somebody else.
This is a word of our blessed Lord. In His high priestly prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John and the [nineteenth] verse, He says, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself [John 17:19]. For their sakes”: huper autōn—in their stead, in their behalf—hagiazō, I consecrate Myself. I dedicate Myself. I set Myself apart and aside.
The Lord Jesus, in that beautiful word, says that His life, His work, His ministry, His atoning death [Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11]—all of it, was for us. He lived for us. He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He rose again for us [Matthew 28:5-7]. He ascended into heaven for us [Acts 1:9-10]. He intercedes for us [Romans 8:34]. Someday, He is coming again for us [John 14:1-3]. “In their behalf, for their sakes, I sanctify, I consecrate Myself” [John 17:19]; living, working, dying for somebody else.
Now may we look at that for ourselves. First, consecrating ourselves: living for our family, those who are in the blood circle of our home. “For their sakes, I consecrate myself” [John 17:19], living for them.
I think of a father in behalf of his son consecrating his life to God. Did you ever think of this passage in the fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis?
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years….
And all of the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty and five years;
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” [Genesis 5:24]. Did you
ever meditate upon that verse? “And Enoch lived sixty and five years and begat Methuselah [Genesis 5:21]… And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years” [Genesis 5:22] And all of his days were the sixty-five years until Methuselah was born, and then God gave him three hundred years beyond. But he walked with God after he begat Methuselah [Genesis 5:22].
There are many men who have had that experience: just maybe indifferent; following goals that are peripheral, and worldly, and extraneous, and purposeless, and then a son or a daughter is born. And then there is a great turn in the man’s life, and for the sake of that child he consecrates himself to Jesus.
I asked Herschel Forester, who was one of the finest pro football players in all of these leagues—I asked Herschel, “Herschel, didn’t you play under the great quarterback Otto Graham with the Cleveland Browns?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Well, Herschel, I want to say something about Otto Graham in a testimony that appeared in one of our newspapers. And I just wanted to be sure that the testimony is correct.”
He said, “Pastor, I played with him. He was our quarterback for two years. I played with him for two years. In all of the years that he was our quarterback, he was the greatest that we ever knew. And he was a noble and wonderful Christian.”
So I said, “Herschel, that’s all I wanted to know, for tonight, I am going to read his testimony.” Otto Graham, quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
Question: “When did a personal faith become vital to you?” He was a Christian. And the whole media, the newspaper world knew it. He was a Christian. So they asked him in this interview, “When did a personal faith become vital to you?”
And the quarterback replied, “Soon after our first child was born. After my son Duane was born six years ago, I began to think seriously about the important things of life. I desired my son to have a sense of God in his soul. I saw clearly that my life had some definite reason and purpose back of it that human reason cannot explain. My wife Beverly and I then decided that our children—for we now have two more—would be given the best opportunities in religious training: that we would be conscious at all times of our obligation to God and our need of Him. I am a Baptist.”
Question: “Have you ever had any unusual answer to prayer?”
And he describes a marvelous incident in his life. Then he closes it: “This much I know for certain: I give God complete credit for the wonderful life I’ve had. I believe prayer is the key to successful living, and I want my children to grow up in that knowledge.”
Isn’t that great? Isn’t that great? Consecrating your life for somebody else: “For their sakes, I dedicate myself.” Parents in behalf of children; that I might walk in front of that boy, or that I might live so in front of that girl, that my steps lead them into the fullness of the knowledge of the glory of God [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Now I want to turn it around the other way: a child, consecrating himself in behalf of his parents. There was a great old Puritan—when I name his name, will you remember it? There was a great old Puritan back there in the days of our thirteen colonies. His name was Increase Mather—Increase Mather, and he wrote a tract entitled “The Duty of Parents to Pray for Their Children.”
He had a wonderful son, a marvelous Puritan divine named Cotton Mather. You remember him in history? Cotton Mather. And when Cotton Mather became himself a famous and noted preacher, he wrote a tract entitled “The Duty of Children to Their Parents Who Have Prayed for Them.”
Isn’t that just great. The father writes a tract: “The Duty of Parents to Pray for Their Children,” and then his son writes the tract: “The Duty of Children to Their Parents Who Have Prayed for Them.”
That’s marvelous: the father and mother consecrating themselves for their children, and then the children blessing and honoring God in honor of their parents. This is the first commandment with promise, “Honor thy father and thy mother” [Exodus 20:12].
Do you know when I was a little fellow in my father’s shop, just a little fellow, my father kept the money that he made in a large pouch, a leather pouch, and it had a drawstring at the top. So at the middle part of the day, my father took all of that money that he had made for the week and put it in my hands. I was a very small boy. He put it in my hands, and he said to me, “Son, take this to the bank.”
As I walked out the door, one of the men in the shop, I heard—I overheard say, “Mr. Criswell, do you trust that boy with all that money?” And my father replied. He said, “Sir, I would trust my soul to that boy.”
Well, not much, I know; but as a little fellow, when I overheard my father say that about me as I walked away from the door of the shop I stood ten feet tall. And I felt I had rather die than to betray the trust of my father. He believed in me. He trusted me. And I in turn loved and respected him. I would have died before I would have failed him. Consecrating your life for somebody else: our family.
Number two, consecrating our life, living our life for somebody else: the church. Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it, Ephesians 5:25. Now Ephesians 5:30, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” That’s the most astonishing statement that you could read in the Word of God: “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.”
If Jesus has any feet, they have to be our feet. If He has any hands to work with, it has to be our hands. If He has any tongue and mouth to say words and witness, it must be our tongues and our mouths. We are members of His body.
And as such, each one of us has an important assignment in the work of our Lord. It may be the humblest part that you could think for. It may be the most unobtrusive, and unthought for, and unlooked for thing in this world, but we all have a part, all of us.
And when we are doing God’s work, the body of Christ is strong and well. But if I drop away, the body of our Lord is hurt and weakened. And for the sake of the church, I want to be faithful and true. I must. God depends upon me, and the church depends upon me. And without us, God doesn’t have a witness, and God doesn’t have a church. We make up His body.
You know, another thing I so well remember. When I was a little boy, I went to church all of the time, all of the time; I mean all of the time, every Sunday morning and every Sunday night, every Sunday school, every Training Union—called it BYTU. Every prayer service, every choir practice; there wasn’t anything at the church that I didn’t go to.
But did you know, I sat me down one time as a little boy, and I said, “This is idiocy.” I may not have known what that word meant at that time, but that’s what I meant. “This is crazy. I’m going to church all of the time! I am going to quit that! There is just no sense. There is no rhyme, there is no reason, there is no cause for me to go to church like that. I’m going to quit. So the first place I’m going to start is prayer meeting on Wednesday night. I am not going to prayer meeting anymore on Wednesday night.”
So I sat me down in our house, and I got me a book. In our town, we didn’t have any radio, didn’t have any television. It wasn’t invented. Can you kids believe that?
No, even radio was not even invented, discovered. Didn’t have any picture show. Didn’t have anything. All I had was a book. So I got me a book, and I was seated there in our house, looking and reading that book.
“I’m not going to prayer meeting. Too much church.” So there I was with my head stuck in the book. And over the waves, in the stillness of the night, I heard those people singing down at the church.
“Blast them!” Keep my head in that book. “I’m not going to church all the time! And certainly I’m not going to prayer meeting on Wednesday night.” Keep my head down there in that book, trying to read those words, and that pretty music coming over the waves, in the stillness of the night.
I couldn’t—I couldn’t even understand what the words were. I couldn’t think of anything I was reading. Finally, I just closed the book and got up, and I went to church. Been going every day, every night, ever since, and glad for it—glad for it.
What could a little boy mean in the kingdom of God? Or what would it matter whether I was present or not? I don’t know. Just somehow, that’s the way God puts it together. Each one of us is a vital part in the church of the Lord. And when the church is beautiful and strong and healthy, it is because the parts of His body are also strong and healthy and present. “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” [Ephesians 5:30]. “And Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25].
Number three, consecrating ourselves, living for somebody else: the lost, these who are so indifferent. “Couldn’t care less,” they would say. They are so worldly, so steeped in the things of materialism and secularism, just pass us by, never think about Jesus. The lost: consecrating ourselves for their sake. If they’re ever saved, somebody will have to seek them, love them, pray for them, witness to them, invite them, or they will never know the Lord. Never.
Do you remember the life of our blessed Savior? He made His way to a certain town where a certain sinner lived. And He went down a certain street where that sinner was. And He stopped in front of a certain tree up which that sinner had climbed. And He looked up into the face of that sinner in that tree and called him by his name, “Zaccheus, come down, for today I have come all the way to be a guest in your house” [Luke 19:1-5].
And when Zaccheus climbed out of his tree and the Lord and that little publican went away to eat dinner in his house, all of the people around said, “Look, look, He is gone to be the guest of a man who’s a sinner,” a lost man, a publican, despised and hated. “Look at Him. He has gone to be a guest of a man that is a sinner” [Luke 19:7].
And do you remember what the Lord said? “For the Son of Man,” Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man is come for this purpose, for to seek and to save those that are lost, and to give His life a ransom for their salvation” [Mark 10:45].
That’s what it is all about. When I think of the life of our Lord, it would have been easy for Him had He so chosen. Man, He could feed five thousand from a few little biscuits, and two little fishes [Matthew 14:17-20]. He could raise the dead [John 11:43-44]. He could look at people, and they would fall to the ground [John 18:6]. He had the power of God in His hands and in His voice. He could speak, and the very winds and the waves quietened at His command [Mark 4:37-39].
He had everything, and He gave it up for the lost [1 Corinthians 15:3]. I think about that and us, dear people. It is a wonderful thing, I think, to come to God’s house, and to sing these beautiful songs, and to listen to our choir and our orchestra, and to listen to an exposition of the Word of God, and to ask God to hear our prayers and to strengthen us and help us. That’s wonderful, but there is something more to it than that. We also have an assignment to knock at the doors, to speak a good word for Jesus, to seek out the lost and to witness to them of our blessed Lord. For their sakes, I consecrate my life [John 17:19].
Last, living for somebody else: our family, our dear church, the lost, who ought to be sought out and prayed for. Living for somebody else: for Jesus, for His sake.
How do you close your prayers? Aren’t they always just like that: “And this we ask for Jesus’ sake” or, “This we ask in Jesus’ name.”
What do you mean when you say that? What you mean is this. “The petitions that we lay aside and the requests that we ask of Thee, all of them, Lord, are for Thy glory, for Thy name, that Your name might be known and magnified in the earth. This we ask, Lord, for Thee.”
And He said, “If you ask anything for My sake, in My name, I will give it thee” [John 14:14].
If you would like to have the Holy Spirit in your life, magnify the Lord Jesus. That’s His assignment in the earth. He takes the things of Christ and shows them unto us. His great office is to magnify the Lord [John 16:13-15].
And our assignment, if we’d have the Holy Spirit with us, is to be with the Holy Spirit in that glorification of the Lord Jesus. Lord, Lord, not for me, but for Thee. And for Your sake, Lord, we sing, we pray, we study, we preach, we make appeal, we visit, we knock at the door, we work, we invite. All of I, Lord, is for Thee.
Paul said, in Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
It is for Jesus.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own. You are bought with a price.” And what we have, and the issue of our hands, and every dream and prayer of any tomorrow—all of it for Jesus’ sake. And bless Thou, dear God, the work of our hands. If for me to live is the world, to face God is a loss. If for me to live is self, to face God is a loss. If for me to live is sin, to face God is a loss. If for me to live is ambition, to face God is a loss. If for me to live is pleasure, to face God is a loss. But if for me to live is to magnify the Lord, to exalt the Lord, to dedicate to God whatever gifts I may have, then for me to face God in prayer, in the judgment, in the world to come, is a gain. For His sake, I consecrate myself [John 17:19]. Lord, bless Thou the work of my hands, and if there is any part of it that’s not for the glory of Thee, Lord, change it. Change it! Please, Savior, such as I am, and the gifts You have bestowed upon me such as they are, Lord, we dedicate them and consecrate them to Thee: living for Jesus. Amen.
And that is our appeal to you. Especially tonight I want to make appeal to the young people who are in this service. I want to do it because today young Robert Jeffress said, “Pastor, when you give the invitation tonight, there’s going to be a group of young people who are coming forward representing all of these other teenagers, consecrating themselves to a great soul-winning witness for Jesus.”
And when I thought about that, there came to my mind one of the most amazing stories of a teenager, a high school girl, I ever heard. She was brought up in a very wealthy, rich, affluent home. And her father and mother were worldly, not Christians, not saved. But this girl, wealthy, had been marvelously converted. So in the church where I was, in the church, in a revival meeting, the young people said, “We’re going to have an all-night prayer meeting, praying for the lost, praying for the preacher, praying for the services. We are going to have an all-night prayer meeting.” Well, when the night came for those young people to have their all-night prayer meeting, the father and mother of this rich girl, who had been wonderfully saved, they said to her, “You are going to dress, and we are going to put you in the limousine, and the chauffer is going to drive you to a party ball.” And she said, “But, Dad and Mother, I don’t want to go to any ball! They are having an all-night prayer meeting down at the church, and I want to go to that prayer meeting! The father and mother said, “Dear, you get dressed, and you get in that limousine, and the chauffer is going to drive you to that party ball.” With a heavy, heavy heart, that girl dressed, put on her beautiful evening gown, was escorted to the car by her own father and mother, and they shut the door and told the chauffer to drive her to the ball. Seated back there alone, crying before God, she finally spoke to the chauffer, and she said to him, “I want you to turn around, and I want you to take me to the church, and I want you to leave me there. And you go home, and you tell my father and mother what I have done. “ And he said, “Dear, I cannot do that. Your father and mother will be enraged and incensed against me!” She said, “Sir, I will take the blame. I will be responsible. You turn around and take me to the church, and then you go home, and you tell Father and Mother where I am for the rest of the night.” Dear young people, you can’t imagine what happened when that girl came into that prayer service, dressed up for the ball, with an evening gown, with her beautiful jewels. They looked at her in amazement, and when she gave her explanation, she humbly said this, “I decided in my heart, I will never win my father and mother to Jesus going to the dance. Never! And I decided in my heart I would come to the prayer meeting and ask God to save my father and my mother.” That’s young people! That’s courage! That’s dedication! That’s consecration for somebody else! And please God, bless God, through the beautiful spirit and life and love and testimony of that darling girl, you never saw such a prayer meeting in your life. And you never saw such a revival in your life! And please God, dad and mother are now in the kingdom, and in the faith, and in the love of the Lord. That’s young people! That’s dedication! That’s consecration! For their sakes, I consecrate myself [John 17:19].
Now our appeal. How ever in any way that the Holy Spirit of God presses the appeal to your heart, answer with your life! “Pastor, I’ve just been moved in my soul. The Spirit of God has spoken to me, and I’m answering.” Maybe somebody you give your heart to Jesus for the first time in your life; maybe another somebody you to follow the Lord in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17]; maybe another somebody you to put your life with us in the church; maybe another somebody you to consecrate your life to Jesus in behalf of somebody else. As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and when we stand in a moment, stand answering with your life. God speed you in the way, angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
LIVING FOR SOMEBODY ELSE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Paul’s conversion
B. His desire to stay in Jerusalem – where Stephen died
C. Living for somebody else (John 17:19)II. Living for our family
A. Father for son
1. Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah(Genesis 5:21-24)
2. Otto Graham
B. Son for father
1. Increase Mather and Cotton Mather(Exodus 20:12)
2. My father trusting me to take money to the bankIII. Living for the church
A. Christ for the church(Ephesians 5:25)
1. We are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30)
B. As a boy, at one time I thought I spent too much time at church
1. Couldn’t keep awayIV. Living for the lost
A. Our Savior made His way to a certain town, street, tree, and called that sinner by name(Luke 19:1-5)
1. His purpose in coming was for the lost(Luke 19:10)V. Living for Jesus
A. The way we end our prayer(John 14:14)
B. The way we live(Galatians 2:20)
C. The way we offer our gift to Him(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)