Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-04-79 7:30 p.m.
Thank you, choir and orchestra. And once again, a welcome to the uncounted thousands of you who from Wyoming to Florida, all through the southern tier of states in continental America, are listening to this service on KRLD, and also a welcome to the other thousands in the metroplex who are listening to the hour on KCBI. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Saved Forever.
One of the unusual things is the choice of this Junior division that the message would be one on Christian assurance. It is based on a cry from the cross: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit” [John 19:30]. “It is finished.” What is finished? The atonement He came into the world to make for our sins, that our sins might be forgiven [Hebrews 10:5-14].
No man, no one, shall ever stand in the presence of God and live in unforgiven sin. And how do we forgive our sins? How do we wash the stain out of our souls? It is only Christ who can do it. And, when He cried, “It is finished,” He referred to the completion of the atonement, the sacrifice, the provision for the forgiveness of our sins. When He cried, “It is finished,” He was referring to the life of grace and assurance that we have in our pilgrimage in this earth [1 John 5:11-15].
No man in himself, no one in himself, is equal to the ravishment and the deceptions of Satan. He plows us under. He oversows God’s field. Even Michael, the archangel, dare not rebuke him [Jude 9]. No one of us is equal to Satan. How can we, therefore, achieve any measure of success in a Christian life? We do so in the love and grace of our Lord, “It is finished.” It is finished: that refers to our assurance of heaven [John 19:30].
How do we know but that between now and that great judgment day we shall yet fall into the pit? How do I know I will ever make those pearly gates and walk on those golden streets? [Revelation 21:21]. Altogether in the promise and the assurance of Jesus our Lord; “It is finished” [John 19:30]. We shall certainly make it to heaven. Jesus has provided the way for our appearance. We are saved, therefore, first because He has completed the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He did it.
We are not saved by what Christ has done and then what I can do also. We are saved altogether by what He has done, not the blood of Christ and my good works, not the blood of Christ and what I can do, or have done, or hope to do, or think I might do [Ephesians 2:5-8]. But our sins are forgiven altogether in the blood of our Lord. First John 1:7 avows, “The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sins,” and 1 John 2:2, avows, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
“It is finished” [John 19:30]. There is nothing to be added to the fully completed work of our Lord. It is done. It is done forever, and it is full and complete. He does it.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin has left a crimson stain,
He washes it white as snow.
[“Jesus Paid It All,” Elvina M. Hall]
Altogether in the hands of our Lord; He gives to us that gracious, sublime gift of the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. He does it [Romans 6:23].
Last summer, I stood on the shore of the Bay of Manila in the Philippines, and right across, I looked at Corregidor and to the right the Peninsula of the Bataan. And I lived again the days of the Second World War when our forces were destroyed in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur, and the remnant found escape in Corregidor, a fortress on the other side of the bay—and finally, they themselves were forced into submission. And for the years that followed after, the American soldiers were prisoners of the Japanese in Bataan; the death march, all the horrors of the years of imprisonment, incarceration, awesome days of trial and hardship in which most of those American soldiers died.
Then, upon a glorious and triumphant hour, the American army, under General Douglas MacArthur, returned to the Philippines. The first thing they did was to make their way to the American prisoner of war camp, and with snippers and pliers that were prepared, they cut those barbed wires. When the soldiers began to destroy the gates, the American war prisoners inside the camp thought the Japanese were coming to destroy them, and they panicked. And our American men said, “Don’t be afraid! The Yanks are here! We’ve come.” They were liberated!
I talked to some of the men that were in those awesome camps. What did they do to free themselves? They were incarcerated. They were imprisoned. They were behind barbed wires. They were under the sights of machine guns. They were helpless, and, being helpless, freedom and deliverance had to come from the outside. And when our American soldiers arrived, they broke those bonds. They tore apart those iron bars. They opened wide the gates. They liberated those prisoners—helpless, and help had to come from the outside.
But think of the cost in that war of liberation. Think of the number of our ships at the bottom of the sea. Think of the number of our planes shot out of the sky. Think of the number of rivers dyed red with their blood and the shores of islands washed with their sacrifice. At how great a cost! But our American men did it, and gladly laid down their lives for their comrades.
That is what Christ has done for us—helpless, imprisoned, bound down in sin, unable to live above it. At a great sacrifice, He paid the price on the cross and brought freedom and deliverance to us. We are saved forever, not because of our ableness or our addition—we are saved because of His complete, fully satisfactory atonement: “It is finished” [John 17:1-4, 19:30].
Number two: we are saved forever because of what Christ has led us into; namely, the family of God. John 1:12: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He right to become the children of God, even to them that trust on His name” [John 1:11-12]. We are born—according to John 3:5, we are born into the family of God. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we become a member of God’s household.
And we cannot unborn a child. He’s our child. He’s our child forever and ever. However providence may follow after, you cannot unborn your child. And no one who is ever born into the family of God is ever unborn. He is a child in the family of the Lord forever and forever [Romans 8:16-17]. The child may be wayward. The child may fall into prodigality, but he is still your child, and someday he’ll come back home [Luke 11:15-32].
If one is ever born again, regenerated, born into the family of God, he never ever goes beyond it, gets over it. It’s always in his heart. The seed of God, as 1 John says, abides within him [1 John 3:9]. He’s a child of the Lord forever. He’s like a sailor. He may fall on the deck time and again, but he doesn’t fall overboard. It’s like the mercury in a thermometer. It will go up and down, but always in the thermometer. If one has ever been a member of the family of God, there is something in him that he can never escape or forget or drown. He is a child of God!
I remember holding a revival meeting in a town, a little city, here in Texas. And, on the outskirts of town was a tavern—a cheap dive, a sorry joint. And some of the people in the church asked me if I would go talk to the man who owned and ran that tavern. I said, “Of all of the foolish and wasted moments that one could imagine, I couldn’t think of one more unprofitable than to go out there on the edge of that town and talk to that fellow running that dive, that joint, that beer parlor.”
“Well,” they said, “we’ve been praying for him, and some of us have him in our hearts. Would you go talk to him?” So I went out there and walked into the bar and asked for the owner and was introduced to that man. I said to him who I was, that I was holding revival meetings down at the church, and some of the people loved him and prayed for him and wanted me to come out and see him. And I said, “I want you to know, before I talk to you, that I suppose this is one of the poorest missions that I’ve ever gone on in my life. I don’t expect any response from you at all, running a dive like this.”
Well, I think he was kind of surprised and kind of shocked, you know. And he said, he said, “No, oh no!” He said, “If you don’t mind, would you come to the back and talk to me?” So we went to the back room, and he had a little cubbyhole of a kind of an office back there, shut out from everybody. And he closed the door and sat down with me. And you wouldn’t believe what he said.
He said to me, he said, “I was reared in a Christian home, and I had a godly father and mother. And I was converted when I was a youth, and I was baptized in the Baptist church back home.” And he said, “I have strayed away, and away, and away, and have gone down, and down, and down until finally you see me as I am, running this dive, this joint. But,” he said, “there has not been a more miserable man that lives in this world than I am. I’m in the wrong place. I’m doing the wrong thing, and I am unhappy and miserable in it.”
“Well,” I said, “fellow, that’s the sure sign that you’re a child of God. Anybody who lives in a steamy, gutter world and enjoys it has never known God, but if you’ve ever belonged to the family of the Lord, and live a life like that, you are miserable, no matter who you are, because you’ve been born again.” And I said to him, “Fellow, why don’t you come down to the church, and when I give the invitation, walk down that aisle and stand there and face those people and tell them what you are doing, and ask them to stand by you as you give up this life and begin anew with the Lord. Then sell this place—get rid of this thing, give it away—and follow God’s will for you in this community and in this church.”
He said, “I will.”
And that night when I gave the invitation, down the aisle came that tavern owner. I asked him to testify to the people, and he told them what I told you. “I was saved. I got into this miserable life. I’m so unhappy, I don’t know what to say. But,” he said, “I’m getting rid of that, and I’m starting again with the Lord Jesus.”
You will never get away from the conversion that brought you into the family of God. If you have ever been saved, ever been converted, you may drift into the farthest, prodigal country, but you will come back. The seed of the Lord remains in you [1 John 3:9]. When you are saved, you are saved forever [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. “It is finished” [John 19:30].
Number three: we are saved forever because of what Christ is doing for us in heaven [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. He is not dead. He is alive. He is more alive now than He was in the days of His flesh, when He walked by the side of the Sea of Galilee [Matthew 4:18], when He died on the cross [John 19:16-34]. Jesus is alive [Luke 24:5-7]. The choir sang that gloriously as they opened this service: “He Lives.”
The apostle John on the isle of Patmos saw Him glorified [Revelation 1:9-16], and he fell at His feet as one dead. And the Lord put His hand upon him and said, “Fear not; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. And I, I have the keys of life, of Death, and of the Grave” [Revelation 1:17-18]. We haven’t trusted a creed. We haven’t trusted in an institution. We haven’t trusted a sacrament. We have trusted a living Christ! And in heaven He there makes intercession for us:
We have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, through He without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Then, the greatest verse that I know in this part of the Bible: “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” [Hebrews 7:25]. We have a great High Priest with the omnipotence of all power in His hands [Matthew 28:18; John 5:221-22], and He holds us and He keeps us: “Wherefore He is able also to save us to the uttermost we who have come to God by Him” [Hebrews 7:25].
Number four: we are saved forever because of the promise of our Lord. “It is finished” [John 10:27-28, 19:30]. There’s no “peradventure.” There’s no condition. There’s no “if.” He said: “He that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. He said: “Verily, verily, truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, into judgment; but is passed from death into life” [John 5:24]. And He would not lie. He will not deceive me. He will not mislead me. He said if I will trust Him, He will give to me eternal life [John 3:15-16; 10:28]. And I have trusted Him, and the gift is mine.
Ephesians [2:8-9]: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast”; lest he should say, “I did it.” It is a gift of the Lord: eternal life. If I had in my hand a thousand-dollar ring, and I say, “Come, I will give it to you: a gift, this thousand dollar ring.” And you come and you say, “No, I don’t want to take it. I have fifty cents in my pocket, and I’ll give you fifty cents.” And I say, “Fine.” And you take the ring and you go home and you say, “Look, what a bargain! I bought this ring for fifty cents—or a dime, or whatever we could offer”—it’s not a gift. If you gave a penny for it, it’s not a gift. A gift is without money and without price. A gift is not that I worked for it or did something to deserve it. A gift is, it is yours—from my heart to you.
That is the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus [John 10:27-28]. I don’t buy it. I don’t work for it. I don’t deserve it. It is a gift of His grace and love. And anything that I do for Jesus now is just because I praise Him for His wonderful goodness to me. Not a life of work in order to achieve salvation, but a life of praise and glory for what He has done for me: eternal life—a gift, a promise. And He will not lie.
Last: it is an eternal life because He is up there in heaven preparing for our coming. There have been more tears that have fallen on the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John than upon any other leaf in the Bible: “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” He is building for us that beautiful city. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:1-3]. He has promised us heaven. He has made that promise, and He will open the door. Nobody else; He will do it. When the hour comes for me to die, it will be His gracious nail-pierced hands who opens the door.
There are many providences in life, but I’ll not die until He says so. Our lives are immortal until our work is done. And when that hour comes, it will not be some vile, satanic demon or some cruel and tragic providence that opens that door. It may seem that way to the world. They may say, “It’s cancer.” Or, they may say, “its murder.” Or, they may say, “It’s an accident.” Not God; all of the providences of life are in His hands, and when that day comes, it will be His hand that opens the door for me. And that is His promise for heaven [John 14:3].
As long as I’m in this house of clay, I can’t see God’s face and live [Exodus 33:20]. I’m too sinful. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” [1 Corinthians 15:50]. Death is the door by which we enter into heaven. And Jesus has promised that in the sacrifice, in the tearing of the veil of His flesh, He opened a way for us through death into glory [Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 10:19-20]. And when I die, it will be His sweet voice that welcomes me home. It will be His gracious hands outstretched in love and tender welcome. And it will be the house that He has built that will be my address forever and ever [John 14:1-3].
That is the whole doctrine of election: God has promised the Son, “If You will die for the sins of the world, You will have a people.” His death will not be in vain. God has promised the Lord Jesus a people. And those who, in the death of Christ, find forgiveness of their sins and promise of heaven are called the elect [Mark 13:27]. God hath spoken. The Lord has touched their hearts. The Spirit has wooed them to the faith, to the confession, to the giving of their lives to Jesus, and they belong to the family of God [John 16:6-15]. And they will someday be with our Lord in glory [John 14:1-3]. “It is finished” [John 19:30].
All that I need is Jesus—nothing of me, all of Him. And our whole lives are like that. If it could be for us, less and less of us and more and more of Jesus until finally it is nothing of us and everything of the Lord Jesus; that is the life beatific and beautiful.
And that is our invitation to you tonight: to accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior, not coming down that aisle because I am the best person in the world; not coming down that aisle because I’ve got money to buy my salvation; not down that aisle because I can stand in the presence of God and defend myself; no; down that aisle because Jesus has promised me the gift of eternal life—”If I will trust Him and believe in Him, He will come into my heart [Ephesians 3:17]. He will write my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 17:8; 20:15, 17, 21:27]. He will make me a part of the family of God [Ephesians 1:5], and I accept His promise, and here I am.”
You youngsters, what did you do to be born into your home? You didn’t do anything. You were just born into the house and into the family and into the home where you live. Who did that? God did it, through your father and mother. Your life is a gift from heaven. The breath you breathe, everything that you experience, is a gift from God. It is exactly so when we are born into the family of God. Our eternal life is a gift from Him [Ephesians 2:8]. And He uses us in the church to bring to you this message of glory and salvation. It is for us to accept it. “Lord, I believe. I trust. I bow. I open my heart. I receive. I come, and here I stand. Blessed Jesus, remember me, save me.” And He will. He will not deceive us. The door is open, and He opens it.
In a moment we’re going to stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, a junior boy, tonight, to accept Jesus as his Savior; come and stand by me; a precious junior girl to give her heart to the Lord Jesus, tonight, come, stand by me. Maybe father and mother, maybe a couple without children, maybe a couple going together, maybe just one somebody you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle, and down to the front: “Pastor, tonight I’ve decided for God, and, here I stand.” Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles: “I want to accept Christ as my Savior.” Or, “I want to be baptized as God has said in the Book” [Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38]. Or “I want to join the church. I want to belong to these dear people that belong to God, and here I stand. Here I come.” Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle: “Here I am, pastor. I’m on the way.” God bless you, and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
A. What is finished?
II. Because of His finished, completed
atonement for our sins
A. There is nothing to
be added from me (1 John 1:7, 2:2)
B. Corregidor, Bataan
III. Because of what He has made us
A. A member of the
family of the Lord, children of God (John 1:12,
B. Cannot unborn a
C. The regenerate never
get over it (1 John 3:9)
1. Texas tavern
IV. Because of what Jesus is doing in heaven
have trusted a living Christ (Revelation
is at right hand of God interceding for me (Hebrews
V. Because of His immutable promise
is no condition (John 6:37, 5:24)
is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9)
VI. Because it is God’s sovereign, elective
purpose to take us to heaven
A. He prepares a place
for us (John 14:1-3)
B. Death is the door by
which we enter heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50)
C. Election – God
promised His Son a people (Romans 8:29-30)