The Price to Pay
May 20th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE PRICE TO PAY
Dr. W A. Criswell
5-20-79 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are listening to this service on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio station of our Bible Institute, KCBI. This is a service dedicated to young people, and especially to these who are being graduated from our First Baptist Academy. The title of the message is The Price to Pay, and the text is in Hebrews 12, the first 3 verses [Hebrews 12:1-3].
And we invite you on radio to open your Bible and to read the passage with us, reading it out loud. Oh, the Bible was written to be read out loud, all of it. And together, we shall read the first 3 verses of Hebrews, chapter 12.
Now out loud, together:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds.
The background of the reading of the text and the background of the writing of this letter to the little church of the Hebrews, somewhere in the Roman Empire, is a tragic situation of suffering and tempted apostasy. What had happened, this little congregation, somewhere in the Roman Empire, giving itself to the Lord Jesus, following in discipleship the promises of God in Christ, but they were enduring such “contradiction of sinners” [Hebrews 12:3], as he describes it; they were in such suffering and persecution that they were contemplating turning aside from the faith, renouncing the Lord, and going back into the life that they knew before they became Christians.
And this letter, addressed to that little church, somewhere in the Roman Empire, is an appeal to them to pay the price, to be faithful unto death, to look unto Him, the author and finisher of our faith [Hebrews 12:1-2]. And in writing that letter of encouragement, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, he recalls those in these patriarchal and prophetic days past who laid down their lives for the faith.
Toward the end of that chapter, he speaks of those who had cruel, cruel mockings and scourgings, bonds, and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn asunder. They were tried. They were slain by the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world is not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth [Hebrews 11:36-38]. Then, having listed the noble example of these who had endured faithfully to the end, like that dear sweet little family you saw just now, he comes to the climax of his exemplary appeal, naming our Lord Jesus Christ. He endured the cross, despising the shame; He paid the price, and He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 12:2].
The use of the illustration of the faithfulness of our Lord is always beautifully and encouragingly appropriate. It is hard for us to enter into the awesome descension of our Savior from the heights of the glory in heaven, where He reigned as Prince over all God’s heavenly hosts. And down and down and down and down He came, to be made in the form of a man of the dust of the earth [Philippians 2:7]. And being found in fashion as a man [Philippians 2:8], He was tempted by Satan to obviate and to escape the cross of death [Matthew 4:1-11], for which He came into the world [Hebrews 10:5-14].
In the Sunday school lesson this morning, some of our groups in the youth divisions studied the temptations of our Lord [Matthew 4:1-11]. And can you imagine this one? In a moment, in a miraculous moment, Satan showed our Savior all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And Satan said, “All this will I give You, if You will bow down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. That is, “Don’t die, don’t go to the cross, don’t suffer, don’t pay the price. I’ll give it to You if You will just compromise and bow down and worship me.
Or, look again, in the [sixth] chapter of the Book of John. After the Lord had wrought that wonderful miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and [two] little fishes [John 6:9-13], they came, John says, by force, to make Him a king [John 6:15]. That is Satan again. When they saw the might and the power of this Lord Jesus from Nazareth, here is a man that could lead armies to world conquests. Why, if one of the soldiers was slain, He could raise him from the dead. He could raise the dead [John 11:43-44], and He could feed a vast army with just a few loaves and just a few fish [John 6:9-13]. And they sought to make Him general, king, emperor, all of which would have meant no suffering, no death, and no cross [Matthew 27:26-50; John 19:16-30]. Had the Lord acquiesced, we would have been yet in our sins [1 Corinthians 15:17], and Satan would be ruler over all God’s creation.
The Lord Jesus, contradicted, spit upon, despised, outcast, numbered with transgressors, executed like a felon and a malefactor, dying the death of an executed Roman criminal: paying the price [Matthew 27:29-38, 50]. And thus, the author of the Hebrews uses the example of our Lord to encourage us [Hebrews 12:2-3], for the Christian faith and the Christian pilgrimage is always like that: every inch of the pilgrimage is contested by Satan. He draws a line, like General Travis drew a line in the Alamo. He draws a line, and he dares us to cross the line. Every inch of the Christian life and pilgrimage is contested by Satan.
It’s a strange thing. God said to Joshua: “I have given you the land of Canaan. Every place on which your foot shall set, I have given it to you for an inheritance. Now cross this Jordan and inherit the Promised Land” [from Joshua 1:1-11]. So the children of Israel crossed the Jordan to inherit the Promised Land [Joshua 3:14-17]. And what a strange thing God does: He gives them the Promised Land. It’s their inheritance forever, but every inch of it they have to conquest and conquer. There were giants there [Numbers 13:33]. They lived in walled cities [Numbers 13:28], which terrified these who never looked upon such fortresses. They had to fight for every city and every acre of ground and every field and every hill and every mountain and every meadow. That’s the way God does with His people. It’s a strange thing. It’s the same and identical contest and contradiction and fight in the Christian pilgrimage [Ephesians 6:12].
I suppose all of us, either because we had to or because we wanted to, I suppose all of us have been introduced to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian has turned his back on the City of Destruction, and introduced to the Lord Jesus, has found himself in the grace and in the saving love of our Lord. So, he starts off on his Christian pilgrimage. You would think that flowers would be strewn in the way; that everything would be beautiful and happy like the birds singing in springtime. But the story of Pilgrim’s Progress is the awesome conflicts and confrontations that the Christian pilgrim faced. Every kind, every inch of the way is contested. And it is thus in our Christian life. When we suppose, having given our lives to the Lord, everything now is easy and soft and abounding and abundant in all of its superfluities and indulgences, folly wide the mark.
Paul wrote in the last letter to Timothy, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2 Timothy 4:10]. It is a renunciation. It is a dedication. It is a consecration. It is a fight and a war of conquests; the Christian life and the Christian pilgrimage.
In these days gone by, we were eating dinner in the home of a gifted and godly deacon. They had one child at that time, about sixteen years old, a girl named Ruth Helen. And in the early evening, when we arrived, why, the girl went out on a date. She was an older teenager. So we stayed there through the dinner hour and then visited with the family, seated in the living room, after the dinner was done. And in the late evening, this girl Ruth Helen quickly walked through. She had returned and walked through the living room, and didn’t speak to us, didn’t speak to her mother or father, just quickly walked through the room and went into her bedroom.
And I was seated on that side of the living room, and I could hear her crying in her bedroom. After a while, it became apparent that the mother was aware of the weeping of that sweet, beautiful Christian girl. So she excused herself and walked in front of me and into the hallway to the door that led to the girl’s bedroom.
After a while, she came back out. And the mother sat down by my side, and she said, “I am sure that you have heard her cry.”
I said, “Yes, I have been listening to her cry.”
And the mother said, “It’s one of those common things that young people endure. She was with the group, dating. And because, as a Christian girl, she refused to compromise her Christian life and her Christian commitment, they put her out of the car. And she has walked home.”
Don’t ever think that because you are a child of God and a follower of the Lamb, that things are easy for you. Satan makes them hard. He contests every inch of the way. But that is the Christian life, and that is the price we pay. First: there are personal sacrifices and personal commitments that we make when we follow Jesus as our Lord. And some of them are deep as life itself.
A young fellow gave himself to be a missionary. And of course, they’re all examined by the physician, and the doctor said to this young fellow, “You cannot go on a foreign field. You are physically unable. And if you go, you will soon die.”
And the young fellow said, “That’s fine. That’s all right. That’s in God’s hands. He has called me, and if I die, that’s in His grace and will.”
And the doctor remonstrated and said, “But, I tell you, you are not physically able to go. You will soon die!”
And the young man replied, he said, “Doctor, every great bridge is built upon stones in the foundation that are hidden deep in the earth. You never see them. And you’re not aware that they’re there. But were it not for those great stones hidden in the earth, the bridge could not stand.” And the lad replied, “Doctor, if God wants me to be one of those hidden stones in the heart of the earth, I am more than willing.”
Calling, answering, he left and soon died. But the devotion and the example of young men like that are the foundation of the faith. It is personal sacrifice to answer God’s call and to give ourselves to the Lamb of God. Not only is it a sacrifice, personal, but in the world in which we live, with increasing regularity and increasing universality, is there hardship and anguish and persecution as God’s people are oppressed. You had a vivid, vivid instance of that in that sweet teen family who has just escaped from Cambodia.
I hold in my hands a leaf that I tore out of a fortnightly magazine that I regularly read. It is Christianity Today. Let me read out of this magazine:
While newspapers and television document cases of a few famous persons subjected to arrests, one‑sided trials, long sentences, American Christians should not forget that there are literally thousands and thousands of others who receive no publicity in the outside world.
Then, he names Hines Reiniche, 37‑year‑old sculptor in East Germany. He once belonged to the ruling Communist Party there. But he soon became disillusioned, and he gave himself to the blessed Jesus. And doing it, he wrote an open letter challenging Enrique Honicker, the head of the communist state in East Germany. He was quickly arrested and is now serving his sentence in Brandenburg prison for speaking out of his conscience. That’s this minute.
Another one: Mycola Plock Hotnuke, a physician who graduated with honors and worked in a children’s sanatorium, he published in the Ukrainian Herald a Christian article. The authorities detained him in a psychiatric hospital and for years and years, he has been there, under harsh conditions. His health is steadily deteriorating.
I just take one other: international church leaders wonder what has happened to the well‑known Christian scholar, Mauricio Lopez, an official of the World Student Christian Federation in Argentina. Because of his work on behalf of refugees, he was dismissed from his post as rector of the state university of the San Luis province. Lopez was abducted in 1976 at Christmas. There has been no news of him since that day from the military government.
Thousands and thousands and thousands, over this whole earth, pay the price of loving the Lord and following our blessed Savior. Should I, therefore, stumble at the small thing that I might do to follow that same blessed Savior?
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or to blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To carry me on to God?
Sure, I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord,
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I A Soldier of the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
It is not easy to be a Christian. There is a price to pay. God has an elected purpose in every life: for me to be a pastor; for someone there to be a missionary; for these to be a laborer with hands; to be a builder, or a professional, or a housewife and a mother or to work in the business world. God has an elected purpose for every life, and all of us make up the body of our Lord. And when we answer God’s call, God blesses in a beautiful and a wonderful and a precious way.
If I could have the temerity to do it, one day, in the springtime, in Louisville, Kentucky—and the winters there can be so harsh—in the springtime, the blue grass just as emerald, the sky so clear and blue, and the flowers bursting into bloom, and the whole earth filled with the resonance of the melody of the presence of God. As a single boy, a single theological student, I lived in Mullins Hall, and it is built in the form of a “U.” And in the middle of it is a courtyard. And it is raised a little bit, and there are a few steps leading down to the walkway and the street in front of it.
Well, it was such a beautiful day, and everything was so filled with the presence and glory of God, that when I walked out and came to the little few steps that led down from Mullins Hall to the walkway below, I stood there on the steps in the courtyard and sang a song, just to the top of my voice, just feeling happy in the Lord. And the song was “It Pays To Serve Jesus.” And do you remember the chorus?
It pays to serve Jesus, it pays every day,
It pays every step, every step of the way,
Though the pathway to glory may sometimes be drear,
You’ll be happy each step of the way.
[“It Pays to Serve Jesus,” Frank C. Huston, 1909]
Well, I just standing there in that courtyard—just standing there, singing that song to the top of my voice. Years after that, years after that, I was in Virginia, speaking at a state convocation. And one of the pastors of the one of the finest churches in Virginia came up and visited with me. He and I were in the same class. We were in the seminary together through the years that I attended the school. And he said to me, he said, “I want to tell you something, and should have long ago. But, you’ve never had any idea, never realized such a thing came to pass.”
He said, “In the seminary, in the springtime, I was so discouraged. Things at home broke my heart. And my own studying there in school was not what it ought to be, and I was discouraged.” And he said, “I had my clothes packed, up there in that room where I was living as a student. I had my clothes packed and was getting ready to leave. I was leaving the ministry, and I was leaving school, and I was turning my back on the call of the Lord.” And he said, “As I was finishing packing my clothes, ready to renounce the faith and to resign my call and to quit the ministry,” he said, “I heard somebody singing out there in the courtyard.” He said, “I went to the window and stuck my head out the window. And there, like a mockingbird on a tree limb, you stood in the middle of the courtyard, singing a song.” And he said, “I’ll never forget it. The song was,
“It pays to serve Jesus, it pays every day,
It pays every step, every step of the way,
Though the pathway to glory may sometimes be drear,
You’ll be happy each step of the way.”
He said, “When you got through singing that song, I went back into my room. I knelt down by my bed, and there,” he said, “I recommitted my life to the will of God for me. I unpacked my clothes. I put them back and I started all over again in the Lord. And now here I am.” And he finished school. And these years in the pastoral ministry in Virginia. Ah, didn’t that bless my soul?
Young people, everybody is blessed when you walk with the Lord. Everybody is encouraged when you give your life to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. The whole earth is filled with the presence, and the encouragement and the blessing and the power of God when we give our lives to Him. It doesn’t mean there are no tears. It doesn’t mean there is no loneliness. It doesn’t mean there is no price to pay, there is, but God is in it and God is with us. And the Lord makes it a triumph for us when we pilgrimage with Him in His will, answering His call with our lives.
And that is our appeal to your heart this blessed night. To give your life to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; to answer God’s call for you; a family you, “I am going to rear my children in the love of the Lord and in the circle of this wonderful church.” A couple you, a one somebody you, and especially a youth, a child. In a moment we will stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, from the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; down one of the stairways, down one of these aisles, “I am on the way, pastor. I have decided for God. He has spoken to me in my heart, and I am answering with my life” [Ephesians 2:8]. We will all stay, and pray, and wait for you. There is time and to spare. If you are on the topmost row of seats in that topmost balcony, there is time, there is waiting, there is prayer for you to come. Do it now. Make it now. And may angels attend you and God encourage you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.