July 11th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-11-82 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing a message in the series on soteriology, on salvation, the great doctrine of the Bible. The message today is entitled True Repentance. And the reading of the Scripture is in Luke 22 beginning at verse 54, Luke chapter 22, verse 54:
And Peter followed afar off.
And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with Him.
And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not.
And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean.
And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.
And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
The poignancy of that bitter weeping is found in the nature of that big, boastful, declamatory fisherman. He was presumptuous and self-confident in every way. In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the Lord announced to His disciples that He must suffer and be crucified, this is the will of God for Christ our Lord; Simon Peter took upon himself and began to rebuke Jesus saying, “Such a thing is not possible for Thee. This shall not be unto Thee.” Peter presumes to tell God what to do. And “Jesus turned and said to Peter, You are Satan. Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me: for you do not understand the things of God, but those of men” [Matthew 16:21-23]. The presumption of Simon Peter is startling in the extreme.
Look again at the boastfulness of this fisherman in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord announces to His disciples that they all will be offended in Him, and all of them will forsake Him that night [Matthew 26:31]. Now, verse 33:
Peter answered and said . . . Though all men should be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.
Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.
“All of these others may be offended in You, but I will not. And all of these others may forsake You, but I will not. And all of these others may deny Thee, even John and Matthew and Thomas and the rest, but not I” [Matthew 26:33]. That is the boastful spirit of the big fisherman. Then that night, before a little maid and before a stranger and before yet another, when they said to him, “You were with Him. We saw you.” He said, “I do not even know Him!” [Matthew 26:69-73].
“But your speech betrays you. You talk like Him” [Matthew 26:73].
And Simon Peter says, “You think I talk like Him? Well, listen to this . . .” And he cursed and swore with an oath. “I never saw Him. I do not know Him” [Matthew 26:74]. And as he was cursing and swearing his denial, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked upon Simon Peter. And when the Lord looked upon His chiefest apostle, cursing and swearing, “I never heard of Him; I never saw Him; I do not know Him,” he was crushed and shattered and went out and wept bitterly [Matthew 26:74-75].
All that night, think of the despair of that apostle, and the next day when Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], and all the next day, Sabbath day, Saturday’s day, plunged into abysmal despair. “I was with Him three blessed years, that life of love, and I cursed and swore I never knew Him [Matthew 26:69-74]. I was sinking, and He lifted me up [Matthew 14:28-31]. I was lost, and He saved me, a cursing fisherman. He sent me out in His name [Matthew 10:5-15], and now, I have denied Him. Oh, wretched miserable man that I am!” [Matthew 26:75].
This experience of the wretchedness and the sinfulness of our lives is not peculiar or unique to Simon Peter. Seemingly, as I read the Bible and as I read the saints’ lives in history and as I look at my own soul, the nearer a man gets to God, the more he is plunged into the feeling of the helpless depravity and sin of his soul. In the Bible, Job, God said, was the best man in all the earth [Job 1:8, 2:3]. But in Job 42:5-6, Job cries saying, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
The man after God’s own heart: God said that “He is a man after My own heart” [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. David cries in Psalm 51, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” [Psalm 51:3, 5]. I have been a sinner from the day of my conception, all the days of my life.
Isaiah, the princely court preacher, the greatest prophet who ever lived, Isaiah in chapter 6, when he saw the glory of the Lord, Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5]. He uses the description of the leper in Leviticus 13:45 to describe himself. The leper, whenever he appeared was to cover his lips with his hand and to cry, “Unclean, unclean.” Isaiah says that of himself, “I am a man undone; I am a man of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5].
The glorious prophet-statesman, Daniel, the purest man, in all the record of his life there is no hint or suggestion of any stain in the purity of that young man, who lived to be beyond ninety years of age, God’s servant. In the ninth chapter:
I set my face unto the Lord God…
by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession,
and said, O Lord . . . we have sinned, and done iniquity.
[Daniel 9:3- 5].
The great mighty apostle Paul writing in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do [Romans 7:19]. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” [Romans 7:24].
And what I read in the Bible, I read also in the lives of the saints. Martin Luther cried, “Oh, my sin, my sin, my sin!” Yet in the confessional there was no sin that he could confess. Jonathan Edwards, the marvelous Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards said, “Oh, the infinite depths of wickedness, and hypocrisy, and deceit, and pride in my heart!”
The saintly Dr. A. J. Gordon of Boston, when he was dying, asked to be left alone. And the people overheard him confessing his sins before God in such extravagant terms that they thought he was delirious. The feeling, the conviction of unworthiness, of iniquity, of transgression, of sin is a characterization of the saints of the Lord. And the nearer they approach God, the deeper and more abysmal is that despair.
Thus it was in the life of Simon Peter, this boastful, proud, self-assured, self-confident man denying his Lord with curses and with oaths [Matthew 26:69-74]. And when the Lord turned and looked upon him, as he cursed and as he swore, it broke the heart of the big man [Luke 22:61-62]. I wonder what he saw in the face and in the eyes of our Lord. Whatever it was, it had to be something of love, and tenderness, and care, and forgiveness. For when the Lord looked at him, he went out and brokenly, sobbingly, sorrowfully, wept bitterly [Luke 22:62].
The tender, loving, precious, forgiving spirit of our Lord is seen when He was raised from among the dead. When the women went to the tomb, saw it opened; in Mark chapter 16, verse 7, the angel says to the women, “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before you, and I will see you in Galilee” [Mark 16:7]. Ah, tell the disciples and Peter! I can so well imagine those women running up to the big fisherman and saying, “He is risen from the dead. And He has sent a word to the disciples and to you, Peter! that He will see you in Galilee.” And Peter replies, “Me? He sent word to me?” And the women replied, “Peter, to you, you, you!”
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Dr. Luke says that the Lord appeared privately to Simon Peter [Luke 24:34]. And in the fifteenth chapter of the 1 Corinthians letter, Paul says that Jesus appeared privately to Simon Peter [1 Corinthians 15:5]. There are some scenes in the Bible that are never recorded. That one is one. What happened? What took place in that confrontation, that visit, that appearance, when suddenly the Lord was there and Simon Peter, who had denied Him and cursed doing so, was face to face with that risen Savior. We don’t know. It’s not recorded.
One scene is: the twenty-first chapter of John is an addendum, and it’s a tribute of John the apostle to his old friend, Simon Peter. And it’s the story of our Lord when He invites the seven apostles on the Lake of Galilee to a breakfast at the seaside. And after they had dined, He turns to Simon and says, “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me?” And Simon replies, “Lord, You know I love You.” And when the third time Jesus asked him, “Lovest thou Me? Simon said, “Lord, You know everything. You know all about me. You know that I love You” [John 21:15-17]. This is the tender, and precious, and loving, and forgiving spirit of our glorious Lord.
What does God do with our sins? Extravagant words; every imagery that is possible is used to describe what God does with our sins. In one hundred and third Psalm, verse 12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” [Psalm 103:12]. As far as the east goes east and as far as the west goes west, just so far, infinitely far, does God separate us and remove our sins from us.
In the Book of Isaiah chapter 38, the prophet says, “For thou hast cast all,” Isaiah 38:17, “For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back, behind Thy back.” In Isaiah 43:25, “He has blotted out our transgressions and will not remember our sins.” In chapter 44, verse 22, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins” [Isaiah 44:22]. In the Book of Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 34, “I will forgive your iniquity, and I will remember your sin no more” [Jeremiah 31:34].
A thousand times, a thousand times have I had people come to my study and recount some sin in their lives. They have confessed it to the Lord for thirty, or forty, or fifty years. And I will say to them, “Do you believe God? Do you believe the words of the Lord? Would God lie to you? Would God deceive you? You have confessed your sin before the Lord.”
“If thou will confess thy sins, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:9]. I will remember their sin no more” [Jeremiah 31:34]. When you come before God and confess your sins before the Lord and you come back and confess your sins before the Lord, God says, “What sin? What sin? I do not know what you are talking about.” “Oh! but Lord, back yonder in those years; don’t You remember?” And God says, “I do not remember, I have blotted it out like a thick cloud [Isaiah 43:25]. I have separated it—removed it as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]—I remember it no more” [Jeremiah 31:34]; the mercy of God.
Listen to the Lord as He speaks in the seventh chapter of the prophecy of Micah, verse 19, “I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” all of them. “I will cast all of their sins into the depths of the sea” [Micah 7:19]. Oh, oh! God, in His forgiveness has mercifully pardoned us. That’s the gospel. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus: because He will save us from our sins” [Matthew 1:21].
“These are they who…have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. That is the mercy and the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus, who died, that we might be saved from our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14].
Last week a pastor came to see me. And seated there in my study, here at the church, said, “Before I was saved, I lived with a woman, who is now my wife. And she was not a Christian. She was not saved. And we lived together. And in that union of our living together, she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. After the birth of that boy, out of wedlock, as he says ‘conceived in sin,’ I was saved, and my wife was saved, and we became Christians. And God called me to preach, and I’m now pastor of thus-and-thus church.” He said, “That little baby boy is now a teenager.” And he said to me, “Every time I look at that boy, my heart condemns me. My sin is ever present before me, and I’m crushed. And I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to do.”
It is like that Christian visitor who every day went to the hospital witnessing to a dying man. And the Christian visitor would say each day, “Is there anything that I can do for you?” And the dying man would reply, “No, not anything.” And that continued day after day until the day that the man died. And when that Christian visitor said, “Is there anything that I can do for you?” The man desperately replied, “No, not anything you can do for me, but tell me, tell me, is there anything you can undo? Anything you can undo?”
I cannot undo. The church cannot undo. We cannot undo. But God can! That is the gospel message of Christ! He can undo! He can make us as though we had never sinned. He can wash us clean and white, white as the driven snow, white as wool [Isaiah 1:18]. That’s what He says. And I said to that pastor, “My brother, that’s why Jesus came into the world, to give you a gospel to preach, and that’s it.” Not forever are we buried and laden beneath the burden and the curse and the judgment of our sins. Jesus came into the world to save us from our sins [Luke 19:10], to deliver us from our iniquity [Titus 2:14]. That is the gospel.
One other thing; all humanity, all humanity facing the awesome fierce face of death and of judgment, all humanity seeks to flee away. God calls death an enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26]. Its visage is terrible in the extreme. The corruption, the decay, the canker and the worm; death is an enemy, and it is the judgment of God upon our sin [Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23]. And all humanity flees from before it.
In the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City, I saw a painting that vividly burned itself in my memory. It’s a picture of a race track. The artist had drawn a race track. And there are two horses and their riders who are running. They’re in a race. One is a man, he’s in the front, and his face, his head is turned back. And the second horseman is a skeleton. Riding the horse is a skeleton. It is Death with a scythe in his hand, and the second horseman is gradually winning the race.
All of humanity is like that. No matter who we are, we cannot help but realize that just beyond us, and behind us, and following us is that inevitable judgment of sin and death and the grave. What do we do? We all do something. What do we do? Here’s one thing. There are many, many who facing that inevitable judgment seek to drown it in all kinds of drinking, and entertainment, and amusement, and promiscuity.
“I have just a little while to live, and I must squeeze the most out of this life that I possibly can,” and they give themselves to every worldly compromise, pleasure imaginable; anything to hide their faces from that judgment; anything except to face reality. That’s some.
There are some who seek to buy that harsh judgment, to compromise it with pawns, cheap pawns of outward works, outward goodness, outward righteousness. For example, a thief will take a part of his thievery, his ill-gotten treasure and do penitence by giving some of it to charity. Or the race track will run the seventh race for charity. Two robbers who had killed the president of the bank in their robbery, in fleeing stopped at a joint to eat, and one of them suddenly said, “Today is Friday,” and he pushes the meat away; cheap pawns to buy a compromise, facing that awesome judgment.
I stood in a sawmill in Louisiana and watched that saw receive a crooked, crooked, crooked log, very, very crooked. And it cut the slab on one side and then the slab on the opposite side, then the slab on the top side and slab on the bottom side. And I looked at the log. It was perfectly square and perfectly straight. But I looked closer. But the heart of the log was just as crooked as it ever was! Our self-righteousnesses, and all the reaffirmation of which we’re capable to trim our lives up, leaves our crooked sinful hearts just the same, just the same.
Then, of course, there are those who say, “I will repent before I die. I’ll make it right with God before I die. But I’m going to live in the worldly compromise of this life until then.” But God says you don’t know what tomorrow may bring!
I couldn’t help but think of Friday when Pan American Airways Flight 579 went down in New Orleans, killing one hundred fifty-one on their way to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a good time. They never thought but that, “We’ll land in Las Vegas. And before all of those gambling devices, we’ll bury all of the thoughts of the sin and judgment and death that is yet to come.” I wonder what they think now.
And that same thing, “I’m going to live this life to the full. I’m going to enjoy it.” And Satan says, “They’re trying to push you. They’re trying to make you make a decision. And you’ll miss out on all of the joys and goodnesses of life.”
God says just the opposite. God says that the abounding life, the good life, the wonderful life is the godly life, the Christian life. “I am come,” said Christ, “that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” [John 10:10]. You’re not going to miss anything wonderful and good giving your life to God, following in the way of the Lord.
At a prayer meeting, at a testimony meeting, these different ones stood up saying what they had given up for Jesus. And one of the men stood up and said, “I also have given up for Jesus, to follow Jesus.” He said, “I had a liquor bill. I was drunken. And I had dark brown hangovers. And I was, and I was afflicted with hallucinations. I gave all that up for Jesus.” And he said, “I would come home and look at my wretched wrecked home and my wife there crying with a broken heart; I gave that up for Jesus!”
And he said, “My children, when I would come home, would cringe in fear. I gave that up for Jesus;” And he said, “I was leading my little boys and girls to hell; I gave that up for Jesus!” He said, “I had a filthy mouth and a filthy mind and a filthy heart, and I gave that up for Jesus!” He said, “I lost my paycheck every week in gambling, and I gave that up for Jesus.” He said, “I was in debt, in the devil’s pay, and I gave that up for Jesus.” He said, “I was in chains of slavery, and I gave them up for Jesus.” Now, he said, “I’m a free man; Jesus has saved me.”
My brother, the full life, the abounding life, the wonderful life, the glorious life is the Christian life. It’s God’s way and God’s will. Sin damns! Death damns! The judgment damns! The grave damns! Death damns! The world damns! The flesh damns! But Jesus saves [John 14:6]. The Father saves [John 3:16], the Book saves [Galatians 3:22]. The Holy Spirit saves [Romans 8:2]; the gospel message of Christ saves:
We have heard the joyful sound-
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around–
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free,
Highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory–
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
[“Jesus Saves!” Priscilla J. Owens]
That’s the gospel. That’s the message of Christ; that redeeming love and grace of our blessed and wonderful Lord, that we might have life and have it more abundantly here, now, today, tomorrow, and in that blessed upper world that is yet to come [John 10:10]. Jesus can save. May we stand together?
Our Lord what a wonderful, marvelous, infinitely blessed gospel we have to proclaim! We who are lost sinners facing the judgment of death, Jesus brings life everlasting [John 3:16-17, 10:27-30], and death no longer is corruption and darkness and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:51-57]; it is but the opening of the door into heaven [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And when time comes for us to die, it will be His gracious, nail pierced hands who opens wide the leaves of that entrance and who welcomes us into glory. O blessed Christ, O wonderful Savior, forgiving our sins [1 John 1:9], dying in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3], paying our penalty [Hebrews 10:5-14] and receiving us, forgiven, unto Himself in glory [Jude 1:24]; what a gospel, what a hope, what a Savior, what a salvation! O blessed be the name of the Lord.
And while our people pray and as the Spirit of God makes appeal to your heart, a family you, come. A couple you, come. A one somebody you, “Pastor, today I have decided for God, and here I am. Here I come.” Make that decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, down that stairway if you are in the balcony, down this aisle on this lower floor, “Here I come, pastor.” It will be the greatest decision and the greatest step you have ever made in your life. Do it now. Make it now.
And our Lord, bless these who turn to Thee. As their hearts are open heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward, may the Holy Spirit fill them with joy and life abounding. God bless them as they come, in Thy saving name, amen.
Welcome, while we sing, while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-11-82I. Peter’s bitter experience of defeat, despair
A. Proud, boastful, presumptuous, self-confident (Matthew 16:21-23, 26:33-35)
B. Then this denial – he is crushed, plunged into abysmal despair
C. The depth of depravity, weakness, failure in all of us
1. In the men of the Bible (Job 42:5-6, Psalm 51:3, 5, Isaiah 6:5, Leviticus 13:45, Daniel 9:3-5, Romans 7:19-24)
2. The great saints, men of God of historyII. The mercy, forgiveness and undying love of Jesus
A. Especially Peter (Mark 16:7, Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5, John 21)
B. God and our sins (Psalms 103:12, Isaiah 38:17, 43:25, 44:22, Jeremiah 31:34, 1 John 1:9, Micah 7:19, Matthew 1:21, Revelation 7:14)
1. Pastor to me – baby out of wedlock
2. Christian visiting dying man
C. The ableness of Christ to save (Isaiah 1:18)III. An inevitable turning to flee before face of death, judgment
A. Some seek every worldly compromise, pleasure
B. Some seek to buy off inevitable judgment with outward works
C. Some delay to deathbed repentance
D. Abundant life now (John 10:10)