September 14th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-14-86 10:50 a.m.
God’s Ushers, introducing men to Christ: I want you to turn with me to John chapter 1, the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel in the New Testament. John chapter 1; we are going to read out loud verses 35 to 42; John chapter 1, verses 35 to 42. And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share it with him and we will all read together John chapter 1, 35 to 42. Now together:
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou?
He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, A Stone).
And the rest of that chapter follows in the same order. Jesus next finds Philip and calls him . . . and Philip finds Nathanael and calls him [John 1:43-45].
God’s ushers introducing men to Christ: ‘tis a wonderful thing that John writes in the beginning of the Christian faith. John is writing almost certainly when he is beyond ninety years of age. And he remembers the exact moment and hour of that introduction to the Lord. He uses Roman time and he says it was at ten o’clock in the morning he met the Master [John 1:39], long time ago, but as vivid an experience and remembrance as though it were today.
And Andrew finds Simon, his brother, and invites him to the Lord [John 1:40-41], and Simon becomes Cephas—Petros, “Peter,” the leader of the twelve apostles—then Philip and then Nathanael [John 1:41-45]. That’s the beginning of the Christian faith, and the Christian faith can be defined in terms of individual men and women meeting Christ.
What a tragedy ever to think in terms of humanity as gobs and bucketsful and oceans full, just great multitudes and seas of people—God’s so different from that! He thinks of us one at a time. He calls you by your name [John 10:3]. He says even the hairs of your head are numbered [Matthew 10:30], and He knows all about us; one somebody you, each one dear and precious in the heart of God.
I one time read—and I could not believe what my eyes were seeing—I one time read in a bulletin such as you have in your hand, the pastor was announcing that there would be no longer evening services in the church because he said it was not worth his while to prepare a sermon for a congregation of less than a hundred. So he called off the evening hour.
How different from our blessed Savior! The greatest sermon ever delivered on the new birth was delivered by the Lord Jesus to a congregation of one, Nicodemus [John 3:1-21]. The greatest sermon that was ever delivered upon spiritual worship was delivered by the Lord Jesus to a congregation of one—and she a despised, outcast Samaritan woman [John 4:7-26]. Our Lord made a journey to Jericho and stopped under a tree and called down a despised tax collector, saying that that day He was to be in his home as a guest [Luke 19:1-5]. Think of having Jesus spend the day with you as your guest! If I could define the gospel as any one thing above anything else, I’d call it the gospel of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. That is the Christian faith, we, each one dear and precious in the sight of God. And that is its movement, that’s its converting appeal and power.
I stood one time in Scully Square in the heart of Boston, and I read a bronze plaque; it said, “In this place, [Edward] Kimball won to the Lord Jesus, Dwight L. Moody.” The young Moody was a shoe salesman, and this [Edward] Kimball found his way to the store, and in the store personally won the young man to the Lord Jesus.
When I came here to be undershepherd of this dear church, I was invited to go to Paisano encampment in the Big Bend country of West Texas. I was eager to go because for all the years and the years that Dr. Truett was here, he preached to the cowboys out there in that Big Bend country of West Texas. As I walked around, I saw on the ground a bronze plaque, and I copied down what it said: “Under a great oak tree in this place, George W. Truett won to Christ the cattleman who gave these grounds for this encampment.” What a wonderful tribute to a marvelous pastor: winning, winning one somebody to the Lord! And I think of the responsive heart of people.
I was telling a group this week, this past week, next year I shall have been a pastor sixty years. I have been all over the world, literally, been around it on preaching missions three times; for over thirty-five years, between Sundays, going everywhere preaching the gospel, going up and down the streets, knocking at the door. In all of the sixty years that I have been a pastor, and among all the people to whom I have spoken about the Lord—some Muslims, and Hindus, Sikhs, Brahmans, infidels, highly-trained professors, ignorant, untaught laborers—in all of those sixty years, I have never been rebuffed or repulsed, not one time—always, always a courteous hearing. They may not respond, but they have listened, and they’ve listened graciously and kindly. There’s something on the inside of us that God made in us that is responsive to the appeal of the great Lord and Creator who gave us life and breath.
Augustine, in the first chapter, in the first paragraph of his Confessions, says that same, that marvelous sentence, “O God, Thou has made us for Thyself, and we are restless until we rest in Thee.”
I think of those cowmen out there to whom Truett preached for over forty years. How often at night, when the heavens are bright with the light of the glittering stars, have I stood here amazed and asked, as I gazed, if their glory exceeds that of ours. Under those same stars and under that same sky and before that same landscape, the cowboy and his rider look, and the cowpoke and the herds look; but it’s just the cowman who is sensitive in his heart to the great God and Creator who flung those planets and stars into space and who made the beautiful undulating landscape [Genesis 1:1, 9-14]. That’s God and God’s image in us [Genesis 1:26-27].
So the beautiful and gracious invitation thrice repeated here in this story, “Come and see, come and see.” Andrew’s invitation to his brother, Simon, later called Cephas, Peter, a stone: “Come and see” [John 1:40-41]. And Philip’s invitation to Nathanael: “Come and see” [John 1:46]. When Nathanael responded and opened his heart to the Lord, the Lord said, “I will open heaven to you. Come and see” [John 1:51].
I think of that in terms of another definition of the Christian faith. It is empirical and pragmatic and experiential. It may incidentally be philosophical or theological, but it is mostly experiential, pragmatic, empirical, practical. “Come and see.” God says in the psalm: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]. He says in Malachi: “Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts” [Malachi 3:10]. He is not insulted to try Him, and prove Him, and test Him. The Lord said, raised from the dead; “Handle Me, and see; touch Me, hold Me, that it is I Myself, come!” [Luke 24:39].
I one time read about Ole Bull who, in the last century, was the greatest violinist in the whole world—a Norwegian invited to play a concert in Philadelphia in America. When Ole Bull from Norway came to Philadelphia to play his concert, he first went to see his old childhood friend and schoolmate, John Erickson. John Erickson was one of the great engineers and inventors of civilized life. He invented the battleship, the iron battleship. He invented the screw propeller on all of these ocean-going liners.
Ole Bull went to see John Erickson, his childhood friend and schoolmate, and invited John to the concert to hear him play. And John Erickson said, “Oh, Ole, I have no ear for music, and I’d be bored and miserable.” When Ole Bull pressed him, “Please come. Here are tickets,” John Erickson said, “I’d just be the most miserable. I have no ear for music. I just . . . I just ought not to come, I’d just be there so unhappy.”
About two days later, Ole Bull brought his violin to John Erickson in the engineering place where he and all those great number of men were working. And Ole Bull said to John Erickson, “I brought you my fiddle. Just want you to look at it.” And because he was an engineer and learned in those things, Ole Bull said to him, “I just want you to think through. Could there be a better design? And what are the overtones and the acoustics?” And he began to talk to him about all the scientific phenomena that lie back of the beautiful noise and music of the violin.
And so they begin talking together, and as they talked, why, Ole Bull put the violin under his chin and drew the bow across the strings. When he did there was a sound like that from heaven. Then he began to play, and all the workmen in that great establishment laid down their tools and began to listen. And John Erickson, emotionally so moved and stirred he could hardly speak, said, “Oh, that speaks to my heart! That speaks to my soul! And I never knew it could be thus so dear and precious.”
Come and see. Try the Lord. Prove Him. See if there’s not music in your soul you never dreamed was there. A response to God you never thought for. A fullness and a glory and a gladness like the children sang about, “Since I Have Been Redeemed.”
“Well, pastor, if I came, how would I meet the Lord? Where is He? Where do I find Him? And what is He like?” Oh, let me answer that. I can so easily. You will meet the Lord in the pages of this Holy Bible. You will see Him. I have in my hands here a little New Testament, hē kainē diathēkē, the New Covenant, the New Testament. It’s in Greek as it was written by the holy apostles. It was placed in my hands in 1931, upon my graduation from college by my roommate, Christie Poole—who later, a missionary in West Africa, founded our Baptist seminary in Ogbomosho.
I wrote on the fly leaf of this little Greek New Testament that I have used so intimately for over a half a century, I wrote from the preface of Erasmus who published the first Greek New Testament in 1516, called the Textus Receptus, the “Received Text.” And this is what Erasmus wrote in that preface to the first published Greek New Testament:
These holy pages will sum it up, the living image of Christ’s mind. They will give you Christ Himself—talking, healing, dying, rising—the whole Christ in a word. They will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you if He stood before your eyes. You’ll see Him more perfectly than if He were the guest in your home and you spoke to Him face to face; the whole Christ.
And it is no less true with this English translation that I hold in my hand. You will find Him in the pages of God’s Holy Word.
After Commodore Perry had opened the doors of Japan, the Japanese military academy in Kumamoto invited an illustrious American military man, Captain L. L. James, to come to teach English in the academy. He was a devout Christian. And being there in the academy in Kumamoto, he taught English by using the Bible. He taught the Word of God. And as the days passed, there were forty of those young men who gave themselves to the faith of the Lord Jesus, several of them incomparable preachers, one of them, Paul Kanamari, one of the greatest and most effective preachers of Christendom, finding Him just in reading the English Bible.
“Where can I see the Lord, find the Lord, meet the Lord?” You can meet Him in the pages of the Bible. And He will stand there before you more completely revealed than if He stood in the days of His flesh. “How can I know the Lord and meet the Lord?” I can know Him in prayer, bowing in His presence. He will meet me there and speak to my heart there.
One time, being in Copenhagen, Denmark, I asked about such-and-such church, and was taken there. I wanted to see one of the most famous statues in the world, The Pleading Christ [Christus], by Thorvaldsen, a Danish sculptor. He’s the one that carved that marvelous tribute to the Swiss Guard, the Line of Lucerne. And I walked into the church, and there at the front of the church was The Pleading Christ.
You’ve seen the picture all of your life. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. And as I stood and looked at it, I thought of the story of the art critic who came before me to look upon that beautiful piece of sculpture. But he was critical and disliked what he saw. And as he viewed it from this angle and from this and to this, his disappointment was plainly written on his face. There happened to be in the church a parishioner, one of the humble disciples of the blessed Jesus. And seeing the critic and his manifest disappointment, he had the temerity to walk up to him and say, “But sir, but sir, you must draw near. And you must kneel down. And you must look up into His face.” The art critic humbled himself enough to do it. He drew near. He knelt down. He looked up into the face of the Lord and was rewarded with a sight of Jesus he had never thought to see. You will find Him in prayer. Humble yourself. Kneel before Him, look up into His face. Speak to Him, and He will answer in your heart.
“Where shall I meet the Lord? Where shall I see Him?” I see Him in the lives of His devoted people. “Oh,” somebody says, “I don’t see the Lord in you.” And the man replies, “My friend, you should see me if the Lord had not been with me.” We may be sorry examples of what Jesus can do with a life, but you should see us without Him. And in so many beautiful Christian people, do I see the Spirit and the life of the Lord Jesus: a precious mother, a strong father, a dear family—I see Jesus in them. And I see Jesus in you. With all of our weaknesses and foibles and mistakes and stumblings, Jesus is in our midst.
And that leads to one other avowal, “Where should I meet the Lord? And where can I find Him?” I find Him in the convocation and the assembly of the Lord’s family, in His holy tabernacle, in the house of God—here in the assembly of the church. I am prone, I know, to respond to an emotional moving in my heart with tears. But countless times do I sit here in the pulpit and weep tears of thanksgiving, and love, and rejoicing, and praise, and gratitude to God as I feel His presence in our midst. There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place; it’s the presence of the Lord. We are standing in His presence on holy ground, and I feel God’s presence in the midst of our congregation in praise, in thanksgiving, in prayer, in love, and adoration.
“Where can I find the Lord?” I find Him in the sensitivity of my heart and my soul. ‘Tis a remarkable thing: meet Him every day—speaking, guiding, wooing, directing, revealing in my heart—as real as any experience in life. “Where is the Lord Jesus?” His Spirit is in my heart [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].
And could I add one other? I’ll meet Him face to face at the end of this earthly journey [1 Corinthians 13:12]. It will be His hand that opens the door into glory. And it will not be until He chooses. Our lives are in His hand, not providences and not accidents, our lives are in His care and His keeping. And when I come to the end of the way, it will be my Savior that I see then face to face.
I have a wonderful friend who is proceeded me to the other side, a godly, wonderful man. And when time came for him to die, he said, “I never would have thought dying would be like this. Oh, the light, and the singing of the angels, and the glory of heaven, and the face of my Lord!” One critical could say, “He’s hallucinating, he’s out of his mind! He’s in delirium!” My brother, if that’s true, may I die in such a delirium! May I die in such a hallucination! May I die in such a “besiding myself,” just loving the Lord, meeting the Lord.
And I am persuaded that when I come to that day and that time, He will extend to me His hand and guide me across the river into the Promised Land. It will be Jesus; it will be my Lord whom I shall meet at the end of the way. That’s why the beauty and the wonder and the meaning of that humble invitation, “Come and see” [John 1:39, 46].
“Try Me,” saith the Lord. “Prove Me,” saith the Lord [Malachi 3:10]. “Handle Me and see,” saith the Lord [Luke 24:39]. Do it! It will mean strength to your days, gladness to your heart, blessing to your life, and someday heaven into the forever.