March 29th, 1983 @ 12:00 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-29-83 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this year is "God’s Business World"; pragma, God is interested in us down here. And the five messages are in keeping with that business theme: yesterday, Guaranteed Securities; tomorrow, When the Soul Goes Bankrupt; on Thursday, The Law and the Profits, p-r-o-f-i-t-s; and then Friday, Good Friday, The Legacy Our Lord Has Left Us; and today, Frozen Assets. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Mark, beginning at verse 17, Mark 10:17:
And when the Lord was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
And Jesus said. . .Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, God.
Thou knowest the commandments, and he named them. . .
And the young man answered and said, Master, all these have I observed from my youth up.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said. . .One thing thou lackest, give away what you have to the poor. . .and come, and take up the cross, and follow Me. And thou shalt have treasure in heaven.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great riches (many, many possessions).
We hardly can enter into the conflict in the soul of that young man: in the translation; "And he was sad at that saying" [Mark 10:22]. The word is stugnazō, used only twice in the Bible. It is used in Mark, it is used in Matthew 16:3 to describe the sky before a storm, and is translated there, lowring, the deep, troubled heavens with boiling clouds before an awesome storm, stugnazō. The other time it is used in the Bible is here to describe the face of that young man, stugnazō, the war that he raged in his heart was registered in his countenance [Mark 10:22].
One of the great paintings, one of the most famous in the world, is by the British artist, Holman Hunt. And you have seen it. It is the picture of the rich young ruler. The Lord, with a gracious gesture of His hand pointing to the poor and the lost and the needy of the world, and inviting the young man to devote to that need all of the endowments and talents and gifts of his life. And the young man stands before the Lord stugnazō, that war in his heart.
The story made a profound impression upon the apostles and the disciples. It is recounted three times in the Bible, and each time after it, a long discussion between our Savior and His apostles. That’s why I have given it the title Frozen Assets. The endowments and the blessings and the talents and the gifts of God that are never used for Him; they lie useless, frozen.
Consider this young fellow, his station in life: rich. In that culture that was a sign of the favor of God. It is somewhat like that in our culture. A rich man, wherever he is, is a man of tremendous, impressive, influence. He was rich. He was young. Youth is always interestingly dynamic: young. Alexander the Great was barely twenty when he was conquering the whole world. Caesar was but seventeen when he was an influence in the political life of ancient Rome. Napoleon was but twenty-two when he was leading an army.
Young, dynamic, and he was a ruler. We don’t know quite the extent of the meaning of that word, but, in the community where he lived he was recognized as someone of importance. He was elected. He was chosen. He walked in and out before his peers, even as a youth, as a leader. He was a ruler [Luke 18:18].
Notice another thing about him: his open courage. It says that he came running [Mark 10:17]. It is only for some profound reason that an Oriental ever breaks the stride of dignity. Do you know, here in the text, what it means when he says, before the whole world, where everybody could see him, "he knelt down before the Lord" [Mark 10:17], in open daylight? The Lord was on His way, He was in Perea, He was on His way to Jerusalem where He died, crucified [Mark 15:20-37], already a price on His head. And this young fellow, where the whole world could see him, knelt down before the Lord.
When Nicodemus came to see Jesus, he came by night, lest anybody see and know [John 3:1-2]. Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of our Lord [John 20:38]. But this young fellow, where the whole world could see him, knelt down before Jesus [Mark 10:17]. And he addressed Him, Didaskale agathe. And the Lord noticed it. In the Talmud, even the greatest rabbis were never addressed as Didaskale agathe. And the Lord said, "There is only One agathe, that is God" [Matthew 10:17].
Do you notice another thing about him: his moral obedience? When the Lord named the commandments, the lad replied: "All these I have kept from my youth up" [Mark 10:20]. Not a day, not a week, not a month, not a year, but all of his life he had walked in the perfection of moral, legal obedience. No wonder the Scripture says, "The pure Jesus looking upon him loved him" [Mark 10:21]. And then, the invitation: "Come. . .follow Me" [Mark 10:21]. The whole world needs you, cries for you. You are endowed and blessed and gifted; devote all of the riches that God has bestowed upon you in the blessing of the world.
And the saddest part of the story: frozen assets, useless. He loved God, but he loved his place in the world more. He loved his riches and his place more than he loved God. All of the gifts and the endowments, the talents, the mercies, the blessings, all of them were useless in his hand; frozen assets.
And I suppose there is not anything more universally seen than that exact thing we observe in the life of this talented, and gifted, rich young ruler. The blessings and the endowments of God, given to men, that lie useless in their hands, by which God is never blessed, and the people are never helped.
In the days of the years gone by I received a letter from Dr. W. F. Powell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee. He addressed me, saying in the letter, "There is a young man who is holding a revival meeting in our church, [Bron Clifford]. I have never seen a young man like him. I commend him to you; ask him for a revival meeting in your church in Dallas." Sometime after that I received a letter from Dr. M. E. Dodd, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana. And he said to me, "We are in the midst of a most marvelous revival meeting led by a most gifted and unusual man, [Bron Clifford]. After the meeting is over, I am sending him to you. I have never seen a young man like him."
In those days, the study of the pastor, where Dr. Truett had prayed before coming into this sanctuary, was right there. And there was a knock at my door and I opened the door, and there stood in front of me, I don’t exaggerate it, the most impressively handsome young man I had ever seen in my life, about six feet three or four inches tall with a shock of wavy, brown hair; and a beautiful countenance; and a golden voice. He extended his hands and said, "I am [Bron Clifford], and I have been sent here to see you by Dr. Dodd of Shreveport."
I was no less impressed when I visited with him, and we arranged for his coming here to lead our people in an appeal for souls in a revival. And then, because it took us time to work it into our schedule, the days passed, and I began to hear certain things. We put off the meeting for a while.
In those long ago days, when I got through preaching, I would stand at that back door and shake hands with the people as they walked out. Right over yonder, right there, seated before that window was a bum. He waited until all of the other people had gone. And then he stood up and came to me, and offered me his hand and said, "You know me."
I said: "No, I don’t know you. I have never seen you before."
"Oh, yes, you know me," he said, "My name is [Bron Clifford]!"
My name is [Bron Clifford]."
He was dirty. He was filthy. He was dissipated. He had been destroyed by drink, and dope, and dissipation. And he said, "I am hungry; could you help me?" I sent him down to the Golden Pheasant. He washed dishes for a while, living on a hand-out and died miserably.
Great God, what can happen when God bestows upon us gifts, and endowments, and talents, and blessings, and opportunity, and invites us to dedicate them for the needy of the world and the lost of mankind and the glory of God, and we fail to dedicate them to Him. How oft, I say, is that repeated in the story of mankind.
Lord Byron wrote:
My days are in the yellow leaf.
The flower and fruits of love are gone.
The worm, the canker and the grief are mine alone.
["On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year," Lord Byron, 1824]
Do you remember the title of that poem? "On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday." And he died in debauchery and dissipation.
In those days when [Bron Clifford] came to see me, in those days, Mr. W. H. Souther, our educational director, came to me and said, "I have a young fellow I want you to meet." Mr. Souther was the educational director of the First Baptist Church of San Antonio. And in those days of the war, in those days, Youth For Christ was held in the First Baptist Church of San Antonio. And he came here. Coming here, he knew the young men who were preaching in those days in Youth For Christ. So, he brought a young fellow up to me. And he said, "Pastor, I would love for you to meet one of the young men who has been preaching for Youth For Christ." He said, "Pastor, I’d like for you to meet this young fellow. His name is Billy Graham."
So I shook hands with Billy Graham, tall, blond with chiseled features, I remembered the name. And when I was preaching in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, having learned that he lived with his wife in a little cottage in Montreat, a Presbyterian Assembly ground, I took two or three of the preachers with me and went down there to visit Billy Graham. They had never heard of him either, Billy Graham.
So after I had visited, why, in his living room we had prayer. And we all knelt down on our knees except Billy Graham; he lay prostrate on the floor with his face on the floor. He impressed me, and I made arrangements with Billy Graham to come and to hold a meeting here in this dear church. And before the time arrived, the Hearst newspapers in California publicized to the world the meeting Billy Graham was conducting under a tent in Los Angeles. And when finally the time came for him to be here in Dallas, this auditorium couldn’t begin to suffice, and we took it to the Cotton Bowl. And do you remember? We filled that Cotton Bowl with over 75,000 people.
And in those days, Billy Graham came down that aisle and joined our First Baptist Church and has been a fellow member for these 32 years. What a difference, what a difference, devoting God’s gifts to Him.
I must close. In reading the Scriptures, I often think about that young man and the choice that he made. Standing by the gates of heaven watching God’s saints enter in, you can stand there forever, and you will never see his face. Mingling with the throngs, up and down those golden streets of glory, you will never see his presence. Listening to the roll call of God’s saints in glory, you will never hear his name. And turning the pages of the Book of Life [Revelation 20:15], you will never see his signature. Frozen assets – gifts, endowments of God that are useless and wasted in this weary world.
Ah, Lord, whether my talent is one or ten, God grant the gift that I have, such as it is, may be used to magnify His wonderful name and to bless the people. Our Lord, may we never forget life and breath, length of days, strength and health, every open door come from Thee. And may we dedicate to Thee all the gifts of our lives, that Thy name might be magnified, and that other people might be blessed through Jesus our Lord, amen.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Stugnazo – the struggle written on the young man’s face
B. Story recounted three times in the Bible (Matthew 19:16-22, Luke 18:18-23)
C. Frozen assets – blessings, talents and gifts of God that are never used for Him
II. His station
A. Rich – to that culture a sign of favor of God
B. Young – identified with being dynamic
C. Ruler – had influence, recognition, power
III. His courage
A. He came running
B. In the day, when all could see him
C. He addressed Jesus in a way only greatest rabbis were addressed
IV. His moral obedience
A. He kept the commandments all his life
B. The pure Jesus loved him
V. The saddest part of the story
A. He loved his riches and place in the world more than he loved God
B. Universally seen in this life
1. Don Melford vs. Billy Graham