A Gift For Christ
December 18th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
A GIFT FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-18-83 8:15 a.m.
And we are indebted to you who listen and pray for us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled A Gift for Christ. In the second chapter of the Book of Matthew, in the story of the wise men, beginning at verse 10, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." And that gave rise to the title of the message this morning, A Gift for Christ. "And they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
The story of humanity begins like that, just like that. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, it says that Abel was a keeper of the flock and he brought a minchah to the Lord. And Cain was a tiller of the soil, and from the fruits of his labors he also brought a minchah unto the Lord. In other places in the Bible, it is translated "sacrifice." There in the fourth chapter of Genesis, the word is translated "offering." The word actually means "gift"; a minchah, a gift, a present to the Lord. The first family started like that, Abel and Cain bringing a minchah, a gift to the Lord.
It is that same story through all the generations. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Abraham bows before Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God El Elyon, he gives to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God, one tenth of everything that he possesses [Genesis 14:20]. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Jacob bows before the Lord at Bethel, he says to the Lord, "If You will bless me and be with me and bring me back to the Promised Land, out of everything You give me, one tenth I will return unto Thee" [Genesis 28:22]. In the Mosaic legislation, through all of the years and the centuries of the Lord’s dealing with His chosen people, a tenth of all they possessed, and an offering added beside, did they come before the Lord.
Does it ever come to your mind why, why in the beginning did Abel and Cain bring a gift, a minchah to the Lord? Why did Abraham, bowing before the Most High God and Melchizedek His priest, lay a tenth of everything he possessed at His feet? Does God need what we have? Is that why? In the fiftieth Psalm, listen to the Lord as He says, "Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof" [Psalm 50:10-12].
Through the centuries, through the millennia, through all the story of mankind, are these minchah and these tithes and these offerings that the people of God bring to Him, is it because God needs them? He says, "Everything is Mine. I do not need anything, nothing. I am complete and sufficient in Myself." He couldn’t be God if He were not all adequate and all sufficient, and it was His hands that created the world and all that is in it. Then why in the story of mankind are these gifts unvaryingly and unwearyingly and everlastingly brought before the Lord?
The answer from the Word of God is very plain. It is a response of love and adoration and worship in our human hearts to God our Savior. He doesn’t need what I could bring. It is just in my heart to do it. It is a response of love and adoration. "O come," said the psalmist, "let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God, and we are the sheep of His pasture" [Psalm 95:6-7].
"O come, give honor unto the Lord, all ye kindreds of the people, bring an offering, and come into His courts" [Psalm 96:8]. Just out of the fullness of our hearts; and that is the response of the wise men when they came to bow down before the Lord Jesus in Bethlehem. It was out of the fullness of their hearts that they opened their treasures and presented unto Him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Mary of Bethany did that when she broke the alabaster box of ointment over the head of our Lord. It was a response of love out of her heart [Mark 14:3]. Joseph of Arimathea did that when they took the body of our Lord down from the cross, and he gave out of the love of his heart his new tomb as a sepulcher for Jesus [Matthew 27:57-60]. Nicodemus did that, the ruler of the Jews, when he brought a hundred pounds of spices in which they embalmed the body of Jesus, as they laid Him in the tomb [John 19:39]. It was a response of love from the heart.
So we find these wise men, these magi, out of the love and adoration of their hearts, opening their treasures and presenting, unto the blessed Jesus, gold [Matthew 2:11]. They presented unto Him gold. It was a poor family, and in the providence of God, they faced this journey and sojourn in Egypt. And the Lord God in heaven made it possible for Joseph and Mary and the Child to make this trip into Egypt, when the magi gave them gold.
Where could we find our Lord today, if we wanted to present to Him a monetary gift? Where could I find Him? The Lord very pointedly and statedly and plainly says, that, "Insofar as you do it unto one of the least of these, you do it unto Me" [Matthew 25:40]. The Lord is identified with His people. When He met Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, the Lord asked the persecuting emissary of the Sanhedrin, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" [Acts 26:14]. And the reply of Saul was normal and natural: "Lord, who art Thou that I am persecuting Thee?" And the Lord replies, "I am with My people,When you touch them, you touch Me. When you persecute them, you persecute Me. When you bless them, you bless Me. And when you give unto them, you give unto Me." He identifies Himself with His people.
When I look for Christ today to bring Him a gift, where shall I find Him? I shall find Him in the need of His people. That’s why the announcement was just now made, tonight at the service bring something that poor people would need: something to eat, staple groceries, or something to wear; wrap it in white, and we’ll lay it at His feet. When I give to somebody in need, I give to the Lord Jesus. Our mission offering is that. For the conversion of the lost of the world, when I give for their salvation, I give to the Lord Jesus.
One time, a black man, a black, black man came to see me. He had a card; he was from Africa, central West Africa, and he had been converted, he’d become a Christian. And on the card that he placed in my hand, he had his picture and his address in Africa, and he had written a poem. And I kept that poem, "A Cry from the Congo":
We appeal to you, O Christians,
In lands beyond the sea;
Why didn’t you tell us sooner
Christ died for you and me?
Nineteen hundred years have passed
Since disciples were told to go
To the uttermost parts of the earth and
Why didn’t you let us know?
"Hear this pathetic cry of ours,
O dwellers in Christian lands!
For Africa stands before you,
With pleading, outstretched hands;
You may not be able to come yourself,
But some in your stead can go.
Will you not send us teachers?
Will you not let us know?
[C. P. Turnbull]
When I give for the evangelization of the lost of the world, I give to Christ.
When I listen to the cry here in our church of a father and a mother – and it happens so frequently – and they say, "We would so ask that our child go to your academy," our First Baptist Academy, "but we haven’t the money to send our little boy, or our little girl. Pastor, won’t you help us?" That is an appeal from Christ. My Lord, He identifies Himself with His people. And when a young minister wishes to come to be trained and prepared for his work, and he needs help, that’s God’s appeal to me. That’s my Lord, and I must reply and respond. "They gave unto Him gifts; gold."
"And they presented unto Him gifts; frankincense" [Matthew 2:11]. For forever frankincense has been a type, and a figure, and a picture, and the image of prayer ascending unto God. Frankincense: our prayers ascending before the Lord. The story begins in Luke with Zacharias, who was a priest of the course of Abijah [Luke 1:5]. The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, and they took turns in the course of a year ministering at the temple. And by lot, one of them each day had the privilege of entering into the [Holy Place], and there at the golden altar of incense that stood just before the veil, he offered frankincense while the people outside the sanctuary prayed to the Lord, and it was a picture, a type, of prayer ascending unto God. In Exodus, that frankincense is called "most holy" [Exodus 30:34-36], and in Leviticus it is described as "a sweet savor unto the Lord" [Leviticus 2:2]. In the Book of the Revelation in chapters 5 and 8, those four and twenty elders, with incense burners, fill heaven with the perfume of their prayers ascending, the prayers of God’s saints ascending before His throne.
Evidently the Lord is delighted that His people pray. In the one hundred sixteenth Psalm, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" and four times, four times is it in reply to that question, four times in this chapter – "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" – four times does it say, "I will call upon the name of the Lord." It pleases God for us to speak to Him, to pray to Him, to talk to Him, to open our hearts to Him; frankincense, the prayers of His people rising upward before God.
And here in the Book of Luke, what do you pray for? Oh, out of so many requests, Zacharias: "This child God hath sent us, to guide our feet into the way of peace" [Luke 1:79]; praying for the peace of the world. I read yesterday that right now there are seventy-nine wars going on here in the world. And the terror and the violence of men is unspeakable. I listened to the radio yesterday describing that atrocity in London at Harrod’s Department Store. Pray for the peace of the world. Men slaughtering men, killing families, ravaging the homes of the people; pray for the peace of the world.
He says, "Child, thou art come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." Our illustrious visitor from the Baptist World Alliance is from East Germany. His home is in East Germany. I have preached in Dresden in East Germany. I have preached in Czechoslovakia, I’ve preached in Hungary, preached in Romania, preached in Poland, and twice on a preaching mission in Russia. There is not anything that I have ever experienced that brings the heaviness of heart to me as I see our fellow Christians in these communist lands. "To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death," praying for our brethren in communist lands.
"To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of sins" [Luke 1:77]; Lord, Lord, that God would help us, and work with us, and bless us as we offer unto Thee our prayers and our gifts for the conversion of the lost of the world, that they might have the knowledge of salvation in the remission of their sins.
I was moved one time by a lawyer. He lived in Lebanon, Tennessee. He said that he went to his pastor and said, "Pastor, God hath greatly prospered me, and something special would I like to do for God, for my Savior. Would you have a suggestion?" And the lawyer said the pastor said to him, "I tell you what you do: you adopt a missionary, and pay the salary of a missionary. You do that." And the lawyer said, "I did it." And he said, "I took a picture of my missionary, and I put it at the head of my bed." And he said, "Every morning when I arise from sleep, I kneel down by the side of my bed, and I point to the picture of my missionary, and I say, ‘Lord, bless me while I sleep, while I work, and bless my missionary while he sleeps.’" Then he says, "Every night I kneel down by my bed, and I point to the picture of my missionary, and I say, ‘Lord, bless me while I sleep, and my missionary while he works’" – the missionary was on the other side of the world, in the Orient. That pleases God; "Lord bless these who are laboring for the conversion of the lost of the world."
"They brought unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Myrrh is without exception a picture of life given unto death. It was myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus brought a hundred pounds in which to wrap the body of our Savior when they laid Him dead in the tomb [John 19:39]. Myrrh is a picture, it’s a type. It’s a symbol of the sacrifice of life unto death. "They brought unto Him the gift of myrrh" [Matthew 2:11], the gift of life, the consecration of life unto death.
God made for us the stars to shine at night. He made for us the gentle rain that falls from heaven. God made for us the fruitful fields. God gave to us breath and life, incomparable gifts of our great God. But the greatest gift that our Lord ever made for us was the gift of Himself: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" [John 3:16]. The best gift, the finest gift, the most precious gift is the gift of ourselves; and myrrh is the type of a gift of our lives unto death, a consecration unto death.
When I was in Kobe, Japan, on a preaching mission, I was the guest in the home of our missionary family at that time, the Shearers. Their home was on the side of the mountain that sweeps down to the Bay of Kobe. And while I was in the home, I asked the missionary, "Could I take a chair and put it out on the front porch, and just let me sit there, just for a while?" And they were, of course, kind and gracious. So I took the chair, and I sat myself on the front porch of the Shearer missionary home and looked down the sweep of the mountain to the bay just before me. It was in that bay that Lottie Moon died. She died on a ship there, in that bay at Kobe. And I just wanted to think through, just for myself, the life of that glorious missionary woman.
For forty years she was in north China. And in P’ingtu, in P’ingtu, God had aboundingly blessed her work, and many, many found the Lord in P’ingtu. There swept over northern China a devastating and indescribably traumatic famine, and the Chinese began to starve to death by the thousands and the thousands. Lottie Moon sent word to the Southern Baptist Association of churches, our convention, "Help!" And they didn’t help. "One cent a day would save the life of a Chinese Christian; help!" And they didn’t help. She made an appeal to the board, the Foreign Mission Board; it was in debt, and going in debt, and the missionary salaries were being paid on borrowed money. She made appeal to her kinspeople, "Help!" And they never helped. So this dear, precious missionary, seventy-two years of age, gave all of her savings, then all of her salary, and finally all of her food. And when the doctor was called, it was apparent what was happening: she was starving to death. If her P’ingtu Christians starved, she would starve. If they died, she would die. The order was given for her to be returned to the homeland of America.
Cynthia Miller, a missionary nurse, had come to her furlough, so they put them on a ship in Shanghai. And the ship stopped at the Japanese port of Kobe. And while the ship was anchored there in Kobe one evening, she bowed her head and clasped her hands in Chinese fashion, greeting old P’ingtu Christians who had died years and years and years before, and she died there in Kobe Bay.
When I came back to America, on a mission in which I was preaching in Virginia, I asked them, "Would you take me to Crewe and to the cemetery there where she is buried?" and I read the tombstone: her name, "Lottie Moon, forty years a missionary in China," the dates of her life, and underneath, "Faithful unto death."
"They offered unto Him myrrh," the gift and the sacrifice of life unto death. And this is our abounding and precious privilege today: gold for His needy; frankincense, our prayers; and myrrh, the dedication of our lives to the Lord: a gift for Christ [Matthew 2:11].
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. "Pastor, today I give my heart to the blessed Jesus," or "Today, we’re coming into the fellowship of this wonderful church." Make it now; what a beautiful moment to answer with your life. Come, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing, while we stand.