He That Cometh to God
February 8th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-8-81 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And in a long series of sermons on the great doctrines of the Bible," we are now in the section on theology proper, on the doctrine of God. And in that section, this is a middle sermon entitled He That Cometh to God.
In your Bibles, turn to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, one of the tremendously high mountain peaks of the Bible, one of the great chapters in the Word of God; Hebrews, chapter 11. It is a roll call of faith and you will find the title of the message in the middle of the sixth verse, "For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
You could write up there at the head of this eleventh chapter of Hebrews a caption, a title: "Seeing the Invisible" or "Seeing with the Eyes of Faith." That’s how we see God. In the third verse, he speaks of things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. The Greek of that is the finest statement of the atomic, molecular constitution and structure of matter that you will find in any human speech: The things that we see are made of things which we can’t see – seeing the invisible.
Look at verse 7, "Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet," believed God; faith.
Look at verse 10, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." And the answer in verse 16, "Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that golden, heavenly city" – seeing the invisible.
Look at verse 19. Abraham, offering up Isaac, believed "that God would raise him up from the dead," if Abraham thrust that knife in the heart of his son.
Look at verse 20, "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come," things not seen.
Look at verse 27, one of the finest descriptive verses in the Bible: "This man Moses, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, by faith forsook the throne of Egypt, refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter" [verses 24-25]. Look at the verse, "For he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible" [verse 27] the eyes of faith.
The greatest word in the language, "By faith," the farmer plows the soil, sows his seed, believing God, trusting God for a harvest. He sees the harvest "by faith." "by faith," the doctor opens the body, performs a surgical assignment, believing God, trusting God for the healing. He sees the person made whole by faith. "By faith," the banker opens his doors and invites the depositors to come and to trust him with their possessions; "By faith," without which business and life are impossible.
Did you ever notice how the business world cannot escape using the language of religion, the language of the faith, the language of the church? Did you ever notice that? They use the same nomenclature we use, the identical words. A woman, bless her soul, called the bank about her bonds. And the banker on the telephone asked her, "What denominations are your securities, and are you interested in conversion or redemption?" There was a long pause on this end of the line. And the little woman finally asked, "Am I talking to the First National Bank or the First Baptist Church?"
You can’t escape it. All of life is put together in those words. By faith, lovers build a home, rear their children. Faith plows the soil, sails the seas, builds our institutions. By faith, we see God.
There is a faculty that God has given to man, an inward sight, the eyes of the soul. And with those eyes, seeing the invisible, we come to know God. That is the faculty that distinguishes a man from all the other of God’s creation: his ableness to see the unseen.
All of the marvels of our twentieth century that have made our modern life a wonder are the results of men seeing the invisible. My brother, ether waves, radio, radar, television, nylon, jet propulsion, atomic fission – all of the marvels that come to us in this new world in which we live, all of these things, these marvelous medicines like penicillin, all of these things have been here from the beginning of the creation. It is just now that with eyes of faith we’re beginning to see the invisible and to pluck them out of the unknown.
So it is with God. We see Him with the eyes of our soul everywhere: above us, and around us, and beneath us, and inside of us. But an agnostic, a skeptic, an infidel, an atheist replies, "But I don’t see Him." Neither does the clod in the fresh broken furrow. Neither does the beast in the field. A dog in his kennel is absolutely and utterly oblivious to the glorious firmament above him. The cow grazing in the pasture has no sensitivity to the glorious landscape all around her. To the spiritually blind, the light of God doesn’t shine. To the spiritually deaf, the revelation of God never speaks. To the spiritually dead, the life of God never exists.
The stars, to many, are just planets up there in the heavens. But to a psalmist, they proclaim the glory of God [Psalm 19:1]. To many, a tree is just root and trunk and leaves. But to a Joyce Kilmer:
I think that I will 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, 1919]
Alfred, Lord Tennyson could see the very essence of God in the smallest, most inconsequential flower, a flower in the crannied wall, in the crevice of the wall:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies; –
I hold you 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," Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
Eyes of faith see Him everywhere.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite tender sky,
The rich ripe, tint of the corn fields
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland,
The charm of the golden rod –
Some people say, that’s autumn;
But some of us say, that’s God.
[from "Each In His Own Tongue," William Herbert Carruth]
Seeing the invisible.
But the skeptic and the infidel and agnostic say, "That’s not enough. I want to see Him. I want Him to stand here before me and announce ‘I am God,’ I look at Him standing there in my presence." That’s the egotistical self-exalted man. That’s a strange thing how the imperious of heart can be.
In 63 BC, Pompey conquered Judea and added it as a province to the Roman Empire. He came marching into Jerusalem with his conquering legions, made his way up to the Temple area and into the sanctuary, and put his hand on the veil, to draw aside the Holy of Holies. When the Jewish people saw what he was doing, they bowed down before him and asked that he take their lives but not desecrate the Holy of Holies, beyond the veil of which entered the high priest once a year with blood of atonement [Hebrews 9:7].
Proud imperious Pompey furthered his own imperious program and approached and pulled aside the veil. And, for the first time, a pagan man entered into the Holy of Holies. He walked around. He came back out. And he made the exclamation, "Why, there is nothing in it. It is empty!" Yet, that is a place where Isaiah said:
I saw the Lord high, and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim,
Crying one to the other, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is filled with His glory.
What a magnificent thought that Pompey was seeking to further, "I will take this God of the Hebrews, and I will put Him on a wagon. And, He will grace my triumph as I ride through the streets of the city of Rome, the conqueror of Judea." That’s a man for you. "I want God to be used, to be displayed. I want Him here before me. Let me look at Him and exalt that I see Him." Maybe not just alone does an infidel, does an imperious pagan like Pompey, seek thus to use God.
When you read the Book, it’s almost astonishing that those saints of the Old Testament cried just as some of us do, "Lord, where are You?" Job, in the thirteenth chapter and the twenty-fourth verse, said to God: "Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face?" And again in 23:3: "Oh that I knew where I might find Him! That I might come even to His throne."
David cried pathetically in Psalm 10:1: "Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?" And again in Psalm 13:1: "How long will Thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will Thou hide Thy face from me?"
Isaiah cried in Isaiah 45:15: "Truly, Thou art a God that hideth Thyself, O God of Israel." And again, a prayer – 64:1-2: "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down to make Thy name known, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence!"
In the fourteenth chapter of John, after Philip had been with the Lord for three years, he said: "Show us the Father – show us God, and it will suffice us" [verse 8].
Well, why not? Why doesn’t God stand there before that proscenium and say, "Look, here is God?" Or, why doesn’t the Lord come down in some vast demonstration, say, in the Cotton Bowl, or at some tremendous inauguration and say, "Look, here is God." Why doesn’t He? There are three things that God says and does, in answer.
Number one: God covers Himself, God clothes Himself in creation. "For no man can see God and live" [Exodus 33:20]. As John wrote it, "No man hath seen God at any time" [John 1:18].
Our minds are not able to contain infinitude. Our very brains would burst. Our senses cannot receive the omnipotence of the Almighty. Our sinful natures could not bear the presence of the holiness of God. Why, my brother, we cannot even look at the sun. The only way I can look at the sun is to shade my eyes with heavy glasses. I can’t even look at the sun. How then could I expect to look upon the face of God?
In the thirty-third chapter of Exodus Moses said, "God, let me see You." And God said to Moses, "No man can see Me, and live." His very life would be a cinder.
No man can see Me, and live.
But I will hide you in a cleft of the rock and cover you there with My hand, and My presence will pass by:
And I will take My hand from the cleft of the rock, and you can see the afterglow of My glory.
And God shut up Moses in a cleft of the rock and covered him there with His hand, and the glory of God passed by. The Lord took away His hand, and Moses saw the afterflow of the garments of the shekinah, of the glory of God. We can’t see God and live. God clothes Himself in the marvelous creation around us. They’re His garments.
Why, a man is terrified and devastated just at the appearance of an angel. Any time one appears, always it is with the word, "Fear not," or "Do not be afraid." How much more if God were to appear? He clothes Himself. These are His garments: the glorious creation around us.
With one hand fashioning a golden ring 676,000 miles in diameter to swing around Saturn; with the other hand, fashioning the point of the claw on the foot of a microscopic insect. That’s God! One day placing in the universe a blazing sun, ninety-three million miles away, and the next day, painting the face of a little flower with the colors of His rainbow and dropping in its chaliced heart a little bit of perfume, that it might attract an insect to fertilize an ovule. That’s God! His hands of master workmanship are everywhere. He clothes Himself in this marvelous universe.
In the city of Rome, in the latter days of Michelangelo when the great artist was blind, they discovered statuary buried in the heaps. "It must be Grecian," they said. "Send for Michelangelo." Michelangelo in his blindness, with his sensitive hands felt of the statue; the eyes, the brows, and the forehead, the nose, and the contour of the face, and the shoulders. And blind Michelangelo said, "It is the work of a great master. It must have been made by Phydias."
That’s with us. We follow the contours of God’s incomparable and marvelous creations. It must have been made by a master workman. It looks like the hands of God! God clothes Himself. He hides Himself. God presents Himself in His glorious creations God presents Himself, God clothes Himself with human flesh, the most marvelous of all the miracles of the Lord God; that He became man.
It is a truth beyond what my mind can understand: "the mystery of godliness, that God was manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16].
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten Father, full of grace and truth.
[John 1:1, 14]
God, veiled in human flesh; sometimes, the deity of our Lord shone through, shone through the veil of His flesh. On Mt. Hermon, He was transfigured before His three closest disciples. “And His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength, and His raiment was white as snow” [Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:3] – the deity of God shining through the veil of His flesh.
Or, He would be asleep in a boat. And in the storm the disciples would awaken Him and say: "Awake, Master. Carest Thou not that we perish?" He arose from His sleep and rebuked the wind, and the waves, and the storm, and the sea [Mark 4:38-39] – the deity of God shining through the veil of His flesh.
Or, when they arrested Him they said: "We seek Jesus of Nazareth." And the Lord replied: "I am He" [John 18:4]. And they fell backward and to the ground – deity, shining through the veil of His flesh [John 18:4-6]. And, the Book of Hebrews says that through that parted, torn veil, He entered into glory and made a way for us to follow after [Hebrews 10:19-22]. Ah, the wonder of God’s marvelous revelation of Himself, when He clothes Himself with human flesh.
And last: God clothes Himself in the created world in which He lives. And God clothed Himself in human flesh in our blessed Lord: "God with us" – Immanuel [Matthew 1:23]. God clothes Himself sometimes in the providences and the experiences of life. We see Him, the invisible, sometimes in the tragedies of sorrows and tears of our lives.
Like this: there was a businessman; no time for God, no time for the church, too busy for such trifles and extraneous invitations as that. His little boy went to a Sunday school. One day a little fellow knocked at the door and the big businessman came to the door, and the little lad excitedly said, "Your boy, on his bicycle, down the street – a car hit him!"
The father rushed down the street. There he saw the little boy’s bicycle, all crushed and twisted and covered in blood. And he asked the little group of lads gathered around, "Where is my boy?"
And the lads said, "We don’t know. The car that hit him took him away."
He rushed to his home, and with a directory began to call the hospitals in the big city. "Do you have a little boy who’s just been admitted, who’s been crushed? Do you have a little boy?"
Finally, one of the hospitals answered, "Yes, he’s here."
The father made his way to the hospital. There lay his little boy, crushed and broken. As he sat by the side of the lad and took his hand, the little boy said, "Daddy, pray."
The father said, "Well, son, I don’t pray."
The little boy said, "Daddy, please pray."
And the father said, "Son, I don’t know how to pray!"
The little lad said, "Daddy, in Sunday school, I learned a prayer. Would you pray it with me?" The lad started, "Our Father, who art in heaven."
And the father repeated, "Our Father, who art in heaven."
"Hallowed be Thy name."
And the daddy repeated, "Hallowed be Thy name."
And the little boy prayed, "Thy kingdom come."
And the father, "Thy kingdom come."
And the little boy, "Thy will be done."
And the father refused, "Thy will be done."
And the little lad said, "Daddy, pray, pray it. Thy will be done."
While the father refused, the hand of the little boy went limp. And he looked into his face, and his boy was gone. The father fell down on the floor in an agony of hurt and in a flood of tears and prayed that prayer, "Thy will be done." And instantaneously, in the moment, God came into his soul, and he was marvelously and wonderfully converted. "Well," you say, "that’s extraneous. Does such a thing as that really happen?"
I close with a word from one of the greatest intellects America ever produced. Dr. Charles Hodge, in this last century, for over fifty years was head of the Department of Theology at Princeton University, and wrote doubtless the greatest volumes on systematic theology ever penned by man. From that I quote:
Whatever arouses the moral nature, whether it be danger or suffering or the approach of death, banishes our belief in a moment.
Men pass from skepticism to faith instantaneously, not by a process of argument, but by the existence of a consciousness with which skepticism is irreconcilable and in the process of which, unbelief cannot exist.
Maybe we are self-sufficient in times of our strength in manhood and womanhood – maybe. But in the hour of being crushed or hurt or dissolved in tears, instantly, without argument, we come to see God. My brother, it is a wonderful discovery, seeing God all around us and in us, seeing God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6], the veil of His deity, and finding God in the providences of life.
Lord, Lord, in Thy presence, I bow in humble faith, in quiet acceptance. In Thy blessing, dear God, let me live, let me die, and let me hope for a more glorious and triumphant tomorrow. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord, whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6], speak peace, and rest, and salvation, and hope to our hearts and lives. Lord, give us eyes to see the invisible. May God live in our souls, bringing life, forgiveness, promise, and salvation. And, may God bless these whom we love, who are dear to us. And may God make our lives a blessing to all we will ever know.
And in this moment when we are quiet before God, nobody moving, unless moving toward the Lord here at an altar. As our people pray, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, "Pastor, today we have decided for God, and here I am." Down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "We’re coming, pastor. We’re answering with our lives." God bless you. Angels attend you, as you come.
And thank Thee, Lord, for the precious harvest. In Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing,
HE THAT COMETH TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Chapter 11 of Hebrews could be titled "Seeing with the Eyes of Faith"
B. The great word that builds life, our world – faith
1. Business world cannot escape using the language of religion, of faith
2. All of life is put together in those words, "by faith"
C. God has given to man an inward sight, the eyes of the soul
1. Agnostic, skeptic, infidel, atheist cannot see Him
2. Egotistical self-exalted man wants to see God standing before him
a. Pompey enters the Holy of Holies – "It is empty."
b. This is the place Isaiah saw the Lord(Isaiah 6:1-3)
D. Saints of the Bible desired to see Him(Job 13:24, 23:3, Psalm 10:1, 13:1, Isaiah 45:15, 64:1-2, John 14:8)
II. God covers Himself in creation
A. No man can see God and live(Exodus 33:20, John 1:18)
B. Moses asked to see God(Exodus 33:20, 22-23)
1. God shut up Moses in a cleft of the rock
C. His garments are the glorious creation around us
III. God covered Himself in human flesh
A. The mystery of godliness – God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16, John 1:1, 14)
B. God veiled in human flesh – sometimes His deity shone through(Matthew 17:2, Mark 4:37-39, John 18:4-6, Hebrews 10:20)
IV. God covers Himself in human experience
A. Seeing God in the sorrows, trials of life
1. Father, businessman, no time for God – little boy on his deathbed begged him to pray, "Thy will be done"
2. Charles Hodge