Dr. W. A. Criswell
The theme this year has been "America, Meet The Master" what matters to America; what matters to me: Moving America toward the Lord, Moving me to my Lord and tomorrow, The Marvelous Message of Jesus. So, today, Moving Me to My Lord, coming to the Savior.
As a background text, the last two verses of the ninth chapter of Hebrews: Hebrews 9, verses 27-28 – Hebrews, chapter 9, verses 27-28:
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was also once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from sin unto salvation.
Why do I need to come to the Lord? Why do I need a Savior? Why does the text speak of salvation and the coming of Christ in judgment? Why do I need to be saved? "Because it is appointed unto me, unto us, once to die, and after that the judgment" [Hebrews 9:27]. It is inescapable, it is inexorable, that I face the judgment of death. It is not a matter of if, or how, it is just a matter of when. I shall certainly die. I have in my members written large the judgment of sin in my physical frame. "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4, 20], and "the wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23].
I die two ways. My body dies and is buried in the ground. My soul dies and is separated from God. The Bible calls that separation of sin that removes us from the holiness of God – the Bible calls it the second death or hell [Revelation 20:14-15]. But hell is such a curse word, it has lost its spiritual meaning. But I have in my members the judgment of death, and I shall certainly die. When we go to the surgeon or the doctor or the pharmacist, they prop up our lives for a day or a week or a year or a decade. But at the end of the propping up, I shall certainly die.
I one time read of a man who, in the days of Queen Victoria, was unjustly cast into prison. And he stayed there for years while his friend on the outside made appeal after appeal that he be pardoned. Eventually, because of the importunity of this friend, Queen Victoria granted the man a pardon. With rejoicing, he took the paper of release in his hand and went to the prison and came to the cell where the prisoner had been for these years and showed it to him and said, "You’re a free man. The queen herself has pardoned you."
There was no response from the prisoner at all. And the friend said to him, "Don’t you understand? You’re a free man. You can walk out of this cell. I have the pardon here. Look at it. Don’t you understand? You’re free."
It was then that, piteously and pitifully and hopelessly, that the prisoner bared his chest to his friend and exposed a deep corrupting, eating cancer and, looking up into the face of the one who had granted him and brought him the pardon, the poor prisoner said, "Go back and ask the queen if she can heal this."
All of us are like that. However the estate of life or the fortunes that overwhelm us, we have in our souls an eating cankerous cancer. It’s the judgment and penalty of death, and I face it. No one can deliver me from it. It awaits me inevitably. That’s why I need a Savior.
A second question presses upon our hearts. When should I come to the Savior? God says, "Now." In the second Corinthian letter, chapter 6, verse 2, God says: "Behold, now is the day of salvation; behold, now is the accepted time" [2 Corinthians 6:2]. Never in the Scriptures does the Holy Spirit ever say tomorrow. All God says to us is that we have no promise of any tomorrow. I just have this moment now. God says the time for me to come to the Savior is now.
The uncertainties of life, the exigencies of life, plead now. I need not expatiate upon it. In my life and experience, as in yours, you have seen a friend and the next time you look at him, he’s silent and still and cold in death. I’ve had a man come to see me in my study, and within a few minutes he was dead. I’ve had young men like these who sang for us say to me, "One of these days soon, I’m going to accept Christ into my heart and life," and then die before that inevitable hour comes.
The exigencies of life, the uncertainties of life, plead now. I have no promise of any tomorrow. If I’m going to be saved, I must be saved now.
The usefulness of life pleads now. Why should we think within ourselves, "I will give my life to the world; to sin or to pleasure or to selfishness or to ambition or anything else that so largely consumes life?" Why should I think, "I will give my life to the world, and then, at the end of the way I shall bring a husk and lay it at the feet of the Lord and ask God to have pity upon me and to save me?"
Why do I not give the strength of manhood and womanhood or childhood to the Lord? Why should not the usefulness of life encourage me to give myself to the Lord now? Is it not right that I should do so?
In a little church where I pastored, there was a man in the county seat town who married a beautiful girl and they had two children: two little girls. And, in the providences of life, he left her. She moved to the edge of the county seat town and took in washing to support her and those little girls.
She cared for them. She educated them. She gave them music lessons and they became beautiful young women. In the passing of the years, that father and that husband came back, found out where she was living; went to the edge of the town to that poor cottage door and knocked. She opened the door and, looking at him closely, finally recognized the diseased and debauched husband.
And he said, "I’ve come home. Will you open the door and let me come home?" To the amazement of the little town, and to all of us who knew of it, she opened the door and welcomed him back and cared for him until he died.
But I’d like to ask you a question. Do you think he did right? Don’t you think that that was the dastardly thing that a man could ever do? To give his life to the whole world of waywardness and prodigality, then come back and bring a corpse at the feet of his dear wife and the mother of his children.
Is it not that way with us? Should we not give the strength and the virtue and every ableness that God has bestowed upon us, should we not offer it to God in tribute, in love, in reverential service. The usefulness of life pleads that now I give my life to the Lord.
There’s one other reason. The blessedness of life pleads that it is now we give our lives to our Savior. George W. Truett preached in this very pulpit for forty-seven years, and I remember one thing that he said preaching in a revival meeting. He was talking about judgment. He was talking about perdition. He was talking about damnation. He was talking about hell.
And in the sermon, as the great preacher delivered it, he spoke of men who did not believe in judgment, didn’t believe in perdition or damnation or hell and, therefore, refused overtures of grace. They didn’t need a Savior.
So Dr. Truett said, speaking to a man who did not believe in judgment and perdition – he said to him, "Sir, if I am right and you are wrong, you have lost your soul forever and ever. But, if you are right and I am wrong, I have lost nothing, because I have lived in the fullness of the blessedness of Christ all through the days and years of my life."
Does a man, does a youth, does a child, does a home, does a family, does a soul lose anything by giving himself, by giving themselves, to the Lord? I do not know of a blessedness that more surely enriches the circle of a family or an individual heart than to invite Jesus as Savior and Lord, a welcome guest. Come in. Come in.
One other: how do I come to Jesus as a personal Savior? Always, always in a personal act of committal; always. That’s the one way God has made for us to be saved. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts is the story of a jailer in Philippi. He had the care of Paul and Silas, two preachers of the gospel of Christ. As Paul and Silas, beat, in stocks and chains, sang praises and prayed to God in the middle of the night, God answered from heaven and shook the very earth, tore down that jail, opened the doors [Acts 16:23-26].
And that jailer, responsible to the Roman government for these prisoners in his care, thinking they had fled – which normally and naturally they would have done – he took his sword to take his own life, to commit suicide, rather than to be condemned to death by a Roman procurator [Acts 16:27]. And when Paul saw what he was about to do, to take his own life with his own sword, he called to him and said, "Do thyself no harm. We, we are all here. Every prisoner is here" [Acts 16:28].
And he came and fell down before Paul and Silas and, on his knees, said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [Acts 16:29-30]. What did he mean by that? Did he mean by that to be saved from the Roman government? There’s no possibility of guilt there, all the prisoners were present. Be saved from the earthquake? He wasn’t responsible for that. That’s an act of God.
When he fell down before Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" he’s talking about his heart. He’s talking about his home. He’s talking about his life. "What must I do to be saved?" And the simple reply: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" [Acts 16:31].
One time I bowed my head in the presence of the great God, and I said, "Lord, show me what it is that word ‘believe’ means. The Bible says the devils believe and tremble. You say here, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ What does that word ‘believe’ mean?"
And I kept my head bowed before the Lord, waiting for God to answer. And He did. In my heart, He said, "2 Timothy 1:12: For I know whom I have believed," and that’s my word – "For I know whom I have believed." And now, its explanation: "and I am persuaded He is able to able to keep that, paratheken, which I have committed unto Him." What does paratheken mean? It means a deposit. It means a thing committed to another person to keep. "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that God is able to keep" that deposit of my soul and my destiny and my eternity, my life. He is able to keep that against the great judgment day that I inexorably have to face [2 Timothy 1:12].
And that was God’s answer to me. Saving faith is a committal of my life and my soul to the Lord. That’s the way you and I live, and we don’t realize it. I deposit, paratheken, I deposit a letter in the post office. I trust them to deliver it. I deposit – and they use the word paratheken, deposit – I deposit money in the bank, and I trust the bank to keep it for me, safe and secure. Paratheken; I set myself in an airplane. I know nothing about flying a plane at all. I completely trust and commit my life to that pilot. I pay an insurance premium. It has no effect until I die and, after my death, I trust the company to be true to its promise. I drive over a bridge, thinking nothing about its structure, trusting the men, the engineers who built it. My whole life is one of paratheken, one of trust and committal.
Do I hesitate to commit to Jesus my Lord what I do every day of my life? Shall I trust others and hesitate before Him? That’s what it is to come to Jesus. To be saved is to place the deposit, the paratheken, the committal of my soul and life to Him.
Do you realize how often you see that in the Holy Scriptures, this Bible? Yesterday, the whole Jewish community in the world observed Passover. Strike the blood, said the Lord, in a form of a cross on the lintel and on either side of the doorpost [Exodus 12:7], and the family that is under the blood will be saved, just trusting God in that act of committal under the blood [Exodus 12:13, 23].
When they were dying, bitten by serpents, Moses raised a brazen serpent in the midst of the camp, and the one who would look, would live; an act of trust [Numbers 21:6-9]. When Naaman was turning back in a rage, after Elisha said to him: "Wash in the Jordan River and your leprous flesh will come again like unto the flesh of a little child"; in anger, because he was insulted at so small and indignant assignment, his servant said, "If the prophet had bid you: ‘Conquer an empire,’ wouldn’t you have brought it? In order to be clean, if he had said to you: ‘Bring five thousand talents of gold,’ would you not have done it? How much more when he says wash and be clean?" And he turned his chariot around and went down to the Jordan River. And when he washed himself, his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean: an act of commitment [2 Kings 5:10-14].
And like the woman with an issue of blood: "If I but touch Him, I will be clean" [Matthew 9:20-21; Luke 8:47]. Or like the thief dying by the side of the Lord on the cross, he just turned his head – all he could do, he was nailed to a tree: "Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, remember me" [Luke 23:42].
"Today," answered the Lord, "shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43].
Always that simple act of commitment, under the blood, trusting God: to look and live [Numbers 21:8-9], to wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10], to touch and be healed [Matthew 9:20-21], to turn and to be saved [Ezekiel 33:11]. Thus it is with us: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that He is raised from the dead, thou shalt be saved" [Romans 10:9].
And the following verse: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:13]. But I must call. I must open my heart to Him. I must confess Him openly, publicly, as my Savior. And when I do, I am in the kingdom. God does something to me. I become a child in the family, redeemed of our blessed Lord. Do it, and find the infinite joy and gladness of living in the light of the glory of God in these days, and finding heaven’s open door in the world to come.
And our Lord, blessed all in divine presence, that without exception of even one, we come to that humble simple commitment of heart and life to Jesus, whereby alone we can be saved, in His precious name, amen.