Why Must I Publicly Accept Christ?
October 24th, 1982 @ 7:30 PM
WHY MUST I PUBLICLY ACCEPT CHRIST?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-24-82 7:30 p.m.
God bless the great throng in the sanctuary tonight and God bless the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Why Must I Publicly Accept Christ As My Savior? On the radio and here in the church, let us turn to Romans, chapter 10; Romans, chapter 10, and we shall read verses 8 through 13. Romans chapter 10; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans; Romans chapter 10, and let us read aloud verses 8 through 13. Do we have the place? Then let us all read it aloud, Romans 10, beginning at verse 8 and reading through verse 13. Now together:
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This is what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33:
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.
Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.
And the Lord closed the eighth chapter of the Book of Mark with this word: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words. . .in this sinful generation: of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with His holy angels” [Mark 8:38].
Why must I publicly accept Christ?
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth—openly and publicly, unashamedly—confession is made unto salvation.
Why must I publicly accept Christ? Because I cannot be saved any other way—not if what the Lord says is true, and not if what the apostle writes is true. I cannot be saved unless I openly and publicly and unashamedly confess my faith, my acceptance of Christ as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10].
In the days when such a thing was possible, a long time ago, years ago, I held a revival meeting in one of the great universities of the South. On Thursday night of that revival there was an outpouring of the Spirit of God, one such as I had rarely seen in all of my life. The day before, one of the athletic stars in the university—he was an Olympic star—took me to the athletic dormitory, and I ate supper with the men, the athletes in the athletic dormitory. And he took me there to invite the group to come to the revival the following night in a group, as a body. So after we had our session, why, the captain of the football team asked me to leave, while they discussed it.
After a little while, why, they invited me back. And they said to me, the captain of the football team being their spokesman, he said, “Now we have voted to go to the revival meeting as a body tomorrow night. We are all going to be there together, but we want you to understand before we attend that there is no of this coming down the aisle stuff for us. There is no of this accepting Jesus as our Savior for us. We are going to the revival, but there is no such thing as coming down that aisle stuff for us.” Then he added, “If fire were to fall down from heaven, we would not go down that aisle.”
The next night came, and it was the night that I have just described. It was one of the most moving nights through which I had ever lived. I do not know how many of those young university men and women were saved that night. And the Spirit of conviction fell upon that great group from the athletic dormitory, and I watched them throughout the long invitation. They were deeply moved; some of them held to the back of the chairs, but they were as good as their word, “There will be none of that coming down the aisle stuff for us.” Not a one of them responded. “If fire were to fall down from heaven,” they told me, “we would not come down that aisle.”
Then you cannot be saved; it is that plain, it is that simple. If I refuse to confess openly and publicly and unashamedly my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He will be ashamed of me; I cannot be saved. “With the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of [righteousness]; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:10]. You see, it is the expression of faith that is faith itself. That’s what it is, and if I don’t express it, I don’t possess it. It’s like love: it’s the expression of the thing that’s the thing itself, and if you don’t express it, you don’t have it, you don’t possess it. It’s the expression of it that’s the thing itself. I heard one time of a man who hadn’t kissed his wife in twenty years; then he shot another man for doing it! It’s the expression of the thing that’s the thing itself.
Once in a while, a mother will come up to me and she will say, “I don’t know what to do with this ragamuffin boy of mine. He won’t keep his shirttail in, he won’t comb his hair, he won’t tie his tie, he won’t shine his shoes, he won’t wash behind his ears. I don’t know what to do with him.” I say, “Mother, forget it. Just wait and by-and-by there will come traipsing along a little pink dress, golden-haired, blue-eyed doll of a girl. And that boy will put axle grease on his hair; he’ll comb his hair. He’ll tie his tie in a dozen different ways; he’ll shine his shoes like mirrors.” What’s the matter with him? He has fallen in love. That’s the expression of the thing, it’s the thing itself. If you don’t express it, you don’t have it.
It is the same way with faith. Faith is not something that a man has in his pocket. It’s not something that belongs to him, like his hands and his feet. Faith is the way that a man does. It’s the way to go; it’s a way to work. It’s a way to talk; it’s a way to walk; it’s a way to be. Faith is the expression of something on the inside of your heart. For example, the great eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews will say, “By faith Noah.” How do you know, “By faith Noah”? Because, by faith Noah, being afraid of what God had said, built an ark, to the saving of his house—by faith [Hebrews 11:7]. I know “by faith,” because when he heard the prophecy of the Lord, that God was going to destroy the world in 120 years [Genesis 6:3, 5-7], he built an ark [Genesis 6:14-22; Hebrews 11:7]. That’s faith.
It is interesting to me, whenever I think about Noah, when our Cris was a little bitty fellow, evidently in Sunday school down here; he had had a Sunday school lesson on Noah. Well, I guess to a child, I look like a patriarch. So he looked at me across the dinner table Sunday morning after we went home, and in all sincerity and earnestness, looking at me, he said, “Granddaddy, did you know Noah?”
Well, I said, “No, son.” And I thought about that little boy that asked his granddaddy, “Were you in the ark with Noah?”
And the granddaddy said, “No.”
Then the little boy said, “Well, why didn’t you drown, then?”
“By faith Noah, warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, built an ark to the saving of his house” [Genesis 6:13-22; Hebrews 11:7]. That’s faith. The whole great chapter is like that.
“By faith Abraham.” How do you know “by faith”? Because, when God called him to leave his home and his family, “he went out, not knowing whither he went” [Hebrews 11:8]. That is faith; faith moves.
“By faith, Moses.” How do you know “by faith, Moses?” Because he forsook the throne of Egypt, “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,” than to enjoy all of the emoluments of that kingly crown throughout his life [Hebrews 11:24-25].
By faith—faith is something that you do, it’s something you express. And if you don’t express it—if you don’t do it, you don’t have it. It’s the expression of the thing that is the thing itself. Thus it is in our salvation. It is the public acceptance of Christ, the public avowal of our faith in Him that is salvation itself. That is it,
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth—
on the inside of my soul, I accept the Lord—
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I am saved when I openly and publicly confess my faith in the Lord Jesus; that’s what it is. That is not something different or unique. That has always been the way God saves His people. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, God said to the people of Israel, “This night the death angel will pass over, and it shall be that that household that places the blood of the Passover lamb in the form of a cross on the lintel and on either side of the doorpost, when the death angel sees the blood, he will pass over” [Exodus 12:7, 22-23]. Why could the blood not be sprinkled on the back door or on the inside of the closet door? No. God says the blood must be openly and publicly displayed, “This is a family that believes in God.” That is the way God saves us, and He does not do it any other way—always in an open public commitment of our life to the blessed Lord Jesus.
When you get to thinking about that—why does God do that?—it becomes very apparent, it is logical. Our Lord said in that verse, the thirty-eighth, that closes the eighth chapter of the Book of Mark, “For if you are ashamed of Me and of My words, I will be ashamed of you in the presence of My Father and His holy angels” [Mark 8:38]. To deny the Lord breaks His heart.
Is there any more moving story in the Bible than when our Lord is tried for His life the night before He was crucified? And a little maid came up to Simon Peter and said, “Why, you are one of His.”
He said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
And another little maid came and said, “Surely you belong to Him.”
He denied, “I don’t even know Him.”
And the third time a little maid came to him and said, “You do belong to Him, your speech betrays you; you are a Galilean.”
And chief apostle said, “You think I talk like Him—my speech is like His? Well, listen to this!” And he let out a curse and an oath, saying, “I don’t know Him; I never knew Him.” And while he was cursing and swearing and denying, the Bible says, “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” Dear me. And the next verse says, “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” [Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62]. It breaks the heart of our Lord to deny the Lord. I think we would all be like that; that’s kind of the way God made us.
You know, this last week I read how they took the vote in the Sanhedrin. And as you know, in that trial, He was tried by two courts: our Savior that night was tried by the Sanhedrin, by the highest Jewish court [Luke 22:66-71], then He was tried by the Roman court, before the procurator, Pontius Pilate [Luke 23:1-5]. And I read this last week how the priest, the high priest, took the vote in the Sanhedrin. And reading it, I just relived the trial of our blessed Lord. All of the seventy-two members of the Sanhedrin were in a semicircle around the high priest, who presided over it. And after the case was presented, the high priest went to each one, starting with the youngest, he went to each one of the members of the Sanhedrin and put his hand on the shoulder of the member of the high court. And if the man voted that the culprit was guilty, he remained seated, and if he believed that the man was innocent and voted his deliverance, why, the man stood up.
So the high priest went around the semicircle to all seventy-two members of the Sanhedrin, and put his right hand on the shoulder of each one of those members of the high court. And if the man believed that Jesus was guilty of death, he remained seated. And if he believed that He was innocent, the man stood up. When the high priest went around and put his hand on each one of the shoulders of the members of the high court, not one stood up—not one, not one.
And I think of myself: had I been a member of the Sanhedrin, would I have stood up for Jesus? Would I have? Would you? Do we, do we now? Whenever any public avowal is called for, do I stand up for my Savior?
You know, it is a strange thing how God blesses the expression of faith itself—always, never an exception to it, either in the Bible or in our own lives. It is the expression of it, it is the standing up for it, it is the public acknowledgment of it that is the thing itself. God blesses it.
Do you remember that poor woman who had an issue of blood, and no physician could heal her? And she said, “If I can but touch the hem of His garment, I will be saved” [Matthew 9:20-21]. And in a great throng that woman came humbly, clandestinely, surreptitiously, secretly from His back and reached forth and touched the hem of His garment.
And Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched Me?”
And Simon Peter, in amazement, looked at the Master and said, “Lord, they press Thee from every side, and You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’”
And the Lord said, “But somebody touched Me; somebody touched Me” [Luke 8:43-46].
And the woman, bowing before the Master, said, “I said in my heart, ‘If I could but touch the hem of the garment, I would be healed.’”
And the Lord said to her, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole” [Luke 8:47-48]. What faith? The faith that reached out and touched the Lord. It is expression of the faith that is the faith itself. That’s what it is.
You have the same story reiterated in the life of the malefactor who was crucified with the Lord Jesus. Nailed to the cross, all he could do was to turn his head, but he turned his head and said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” [Luke 23:42].
And the Lord said, “This day—sēmeron—this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43].
Faith turns his head, if that is all he can do. Faith reaches forth to touch the hem of His garment, if that is all we can do. Faith comes down the aisle, accepts publicly and openly the Lord Jesus. Faith follows the Savior in the ordinance of baptism. Faith moves and serves our Lord in the church. Faith reads the Bible. Faith prays. Faith loves the Lord Jesus. Faith walks in the light of the glory of God. Faith goes to heaven. Faith loves Jesus. That’s what it is: faith is the expression of the thing itself.
Because of these children here tonight, I have thought through a dozen things about you children. This morning early, Charles Bristow picks me up at the parsonage and brings me to church for the early service. Way out there on Ross Avenue there were two little kids, dirty, disheveled, ragged, walking down the street: a boy, a little boy, and a little girl. And Charles looked at them and said to me, “Do not you wonder who those street children are? Where do they come from? Where do they live? What do they eat? Don’t you wonder about them?” Yes, yes. Who are those street children, so ragged and dirty and unkempt and uncared for? Where do they spend the night? Who are they?
I remembered the wonderful, wonderful artist, [Bartolomé Esteban] Murilio, born in 1616, one of the greatest painters of all time and one of the holiest of all saints, a glorious, marvelous man of God. And he painted two ways, two things: he painted Jesus and the holy family and all of the beautiful, beautiful characters and personalities in the service of our Savior. In the Del Prado Museum in Madrid, you will see about sixty-five of his incomparable masterpieces. He just lived a beautiful and holy life. And he painted angels and Mary and the Savior and the holy family. He just lived in the presence of God. Then to my amazement, he painted street children. Now, isn’t that an unbelievable thing? The same man who, in his saintly, beautiful, wonderful life, painted those masterpieces of angels and of Mary and of Jesus and of the holy family and of the apostles, that same man painted street children.
Well, when we looked at that Pedro Gomez, to whom we were introduced, who was copying those great masterpieces in Toledo, in the cathedral at Toledo, why, inviting us to his home, we saw in his home a copy of one of Murillo’s street children. And we bought it and took it to the parsonage. And I look at it a dozen times every day: street children. There is just something about children anyway, anywhere that moves your heart. And how much more so when you look at them: street children, orphans, nobody to take care of them, nobody to love them, nobody to be good to them—street children.
In London, England, where two street children who were in the charity hospital ward side by side, their cots were side by side. One of them, named Willie, had a fever that was wasting his little body away, and the other one had been run over by a heavy wagon. And those two street boys, street children, little fellows, there in the charity ward side by side, were talking to one another. And the boy that was hurt by the heavy wagon said to the little fellow next to him, he said, “Willie, did you know I went to a mission Sunday school? And they told me there that, if I would ask Jesus to help me, He would help me. So Willie, you ask Jesus to help you and make you well.”
Well, little Willie says, “How will I know when He comes by? And how will He know that I want Him to help me?”
These are two street children who are not theologians, and they don’t know and understand. Evidently, little Willie thought of Jesus as some great physician in the sky. So the boy that was hurt said, “Little Willie, when He comes by, you hold up your hand. And He will see you and He will come over. And you can tell Him you want Him to make you well and to help you.” So that was agreed.
Then as the day wore on and the nighttime came, little Willie said to the boy hurt by the wagon, he said, “Suppose He comes by at night and I am asleep, how will He know that I want Him to help me?”
And the boy that was hurt said, “Well, Little Willie, you just hold up your hand, and keep your hand held high.”
And Little Willie says, “But I cannot keep my hand held high when I go to sleep.”
So the little boy hurt had a solution for it. He took his own pillow and he propped up the little thin wasted arm and hand of Little Willie, and then he said to him, “If He comes by at night, and you are asleep, He will see your hand and arm propped up, held up, and He will come, and He will make you well.” So the boy that was hurt took his own pillow and propped it up, that wasted thin little hand and arm of Willie.
The next morning, the next morning, early, the nurse came by and looked at little Willie. And sometime during the night, God had sent His angels and took the little boy to heaven. And the nurse was amazed the little boy had died with his arm propped up toward God, toward heaven, “Help me. Remember me.”
The expression of faith is the thing itself; that’s what it is. It may be the touching of the hem of His garment [Matthew 9:20-21], it may be the turning of your head [Luke 23:42-43], it may be reaching up a thin wasted arm toward the Great Physician in heaven, but that’s what it is. We are saved in that open, public, unashamed confession and admission of the Lord Jesus into our hearts, into our souls, into our lives. That’s what it is. And if I don’t lift up my hand, and if I don’t turn my head, and if I don’t walk down that aisle, and if I don’t publicly accept the Lord, I can never be saved.
If thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto this God kind of [righteousness]; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
That’s how we are saved. That’s the way God honors our reaching out toward Him: He reaches out toward us. Bless you. Bless His holy name. And bless us all as openly, unashamedly, publicly, we confess Him as our Lord. May we stand together?
Our precious Savior, how close by Thou art; nearer than breath, closer than our hands and feet, with us in the darkest of the nighttime, with us in the brightness of the daytime, with us in childhood, in youth, in manhood, down to old age, standing by us in the hour of our death; sending angels to take us to heaven, loving us, caring for us. O wonderful Savior, wonderful Jesus!
And in this moment that our people wait, somebody you, a child, a youth, a couple, a family, “Tonight we have decided for God and we are coming openly, publicly, unashamedly standing in the presence of men and angels, trusting Jesus, accepting Jesus as our Savior” [Romans 10:9-13]. A family you coming into the fellowship of the church as God shall place the appeal on your heart—bless you young man as you come—as God shall place the appeal on your heart answer with your life. And our Lord we thank Thee for this man who already comes, and for others who in obedience and in response to the appeal of the Holy Spirit and heart answer with their lives, in Jesus saving name, amen. A thousand times welcome. Come while we sing.