September 14th, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-14-86 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the great throngs of you that are sharing this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled God’s Ushers, introducing men to Christ. We invite you to take your Bible and turn to the Gospel of John; the Gospel of John, the Gospel of John, chapter 1, and we are going to read out loud together verses 35 to 42. The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 35 to 42. If you do not have a Bible, share it with your neighbor, and all of us read it out loud together. Now you ready? John chapter 1, 35-42, 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 the chapter speaks of the Lord finding Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael and brings him to the Lord [John 1:43-51]. These are God’s ushers who bring souls to Christ.
It is a beautiful thing we read here. John the Baptist points out the Lord [John 1:29]. And John the sainted disciple follows the pointing, the recognition, the presentation and introduction of the great Baptist preacher; and he even remembers after coming to the age of possibly ninety years, the exact moment and the exact hour that he saw the Lord: “It was the tenth hour” [John 1:39]; using Roman time in the last years of his life. Then Andrew, listening to the Baptist preacher, finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus [John 1:40-42]. And Jesus, finding Philip, brings his friend Nathanael to the Lord Jesus [John 1:43-45]. This is the beginning of the Christian faith and is the most descriptive word concerning it that I could ever imagine.
When we think in terms of people by gobs and bucketsful and oceanfuls and vast multitudes, we are not thinking of them in terms of the Lord God. He thinks of us in terms of one by one after one: you, and you, and you. The Lord was that way. He described the Christian faith as the gospel of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 11:32].
I read an announcement where the preacher said, “We’ll no longer have services on Sunday night. It is not worth my while to prepare a sermon for a congregation of less than a hundred.” So they dismissed their services on Sunday night. In the Bible, the greatest sermon that was ever preached on the new birth was preached by the Lord Jesus to a congregation of one [John 3:1-21]. In the Bible, the greatest sermon that was ever preached on the spiritual nature of the worship of God was preached to a congregation of one, and she a despised, outcast Samaritan woman [John 4:5-26]. Our Lord made a journey to Jericho and found up there in the top of a tree a tax gatherer, and said, “Come down, this day I spend with thee” [Luke 19:1-5]; a one somebody.
I stood in the heart of Boston at Scully Square, and I read there a large bronze plaque: “In this place, in this place, John Kendall won to the Lord Jesus Dwight L. Moody.” He was a salesman in a shoe store in that place. Upon a day, in the years gone by, I went out to Pisano Baptist Encampment in West Texas. That’s where George Truett preached to the cowboys every year for forty some-odd years. And as I walked around the Pisano Baptist Encampment, I found this bronze plaque: it reads, “Under a great oak tree, in this place, George W. Truett won to Christ the cattleman who gave these grounds for the encampment.” That’s God’s way for His people and for us and for our dear church: one by one by one.
It’s a beautiful story here in the beginning of the Christian faith, in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Andrew finds his own brother Simon, and brings him to the Lord Jesus [John 1:40-41]. And their invitation is wonderfully significant and beautifully interesting: “Come and see, come and see,” repeated in each instance, “Come and see” [John 1:39, 46]. I don’t know of anything that would characterize the Christian faith more than by saying it is pragmatic and empirical and experiential. It is not in itself philosophical or theological; it is a common meeting, it is an introduction to a Somebody. “Come and see,” the Lord invites it. The psalmist says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]. Malachi says, “Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts” [Malachi 3:10]. Jesus said, raised from the dead [Luke 24:5-8], “Handle Me, and see that it is I Myself” [Luke 24:39]. It is an experiential religion: try it, look at it, see for yourself.
I one time read of the coming to America in this last century of the greatest violinist in the world. He was a Norwegian; his name was Ole Bull. When he came to Philadelphia for the world-famed concert, he had a friend from childhood days, an engineer and an inventor, named John Erickson. John Erickson was the man who invented the warship, the battleship. He invented the screw propeller. He was a great and famous engineer. And Ole Bull and John Erickson were childhood friends, gone to school together. So, Ole Bull went to the laboratory and the engineering establishment of his old friend, and asked him to come to his concert. “No,” said John Erickson, “I have no ear for music.”
“But I have tickets here to give you.”
“But I’d be unhappy.” And when Ole Bull pressed it upon his friend to come to hear him play, John Erickson said, “Ole, I’d be the most miserable man you could imagine seated there listening to that music. I have no ear for it.”
After about two days, Ole Bull came to that engineering plant of John Erickson. He had his violin in his hand, and he said, “John, you see this fiddle of mine? I’ve just been turning over in my mind how it could be improved, and I knew you knew all of these things of overtone and noise and acoustics, and you’re an inventor and an engineer, and I’d just like for you to look at it and tell me how it could be better made.” So John Erickson began to talk to his old friend about all of those things of sound and music and shape, things that belong to the life of an engineer, how it’s made; then, while they were speaking, Ole Bull put the violin under his chin, drew the bow—John never heard anything like that. Then Ole Bull began to play. The workmen in the engineering firm laid down their tools and began to listen. And the great violinist continued to play. And John Erickson almost unable to speak, so moved, said, “I never heard anything like that. It does something to my soul and my heart.”
You don’t know what you miss until you try the Lord Jesus. It’s an experiential religion. It’s a pragmatic, empirical faith. When you are invited, you’re not invited to a system of theology, you’re not invited to worship the great unknown or the first cause; when you are invited, you’re invited to meet Somebody: the blessed and wonderful Lord Jesus [John 1:41-42]. That is the Christian faith. “Come and see. Come and see” [John 1:45-46]. And when Nathanael said, “Thou art the Lord. Thou art the Christ,” Jesus said to him, “Because you have opened your heart to Me, I will open heaven to you” [John 1:49-51]. Come and see.
Now may I close? Where would I find the Lord? Where do I meet Him? How is it that I am introduced to Him? I have a full and a definite answer: we meet the Lord Jesus in the pages of the Bible, in the leaves of the New Testament. I have here in my hand the little Greek New Testament given me upon my graduation from college in 1931; given me by my roommate, a missionary who founded the Baptist Seminary in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. I have carried that little New Testament with me for over fifty years. And I wrote on the flyleaf of this Greek New Testament the preface of Erasmus, who in 1516 published the first Greek New Testament called the Textus Receptus. And in that preface Erasmus wrote—and I copied it here in my little New Testament, “These holy pages will summon up the living image of Christ’s mind. They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising; the whole Christ. 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 will see Him better and more completely in these words and on these pages than if He came to see you and sat down by your side.” And I hold in my hand here the English translation of this he kainē diatheke, the New Covenant, the New Testament in Greek. I hold its translation here in my hands in the English Bible. We meet Him, I have said, on the pages of these sacred, sacred leaves.
In this last century, after Commodore Perry had opened up Japan, the military, the Japanese military academy in Kumamoto invited a young American captain to come to the academy and teach them English. He happened to be a devout Christian, Captain L. L. James. And he took the English Bible as his text. And as he taught English in that Japanese Kumamoto academy, there were forty of those young men who came into the faith, and into the knowledge, and into the salvation, and into the discipleship of our Lord Jesus Christ; one of them Paul Kanamori, one of the greatest preachers of all time.
Where do I find the Lord? I find Him in the pages of the Bible: just looking at Him, listening to Him, there before us the whole and complete Christ. “Where can I meet Him, pastor?” I can meet Him down on my knees in prayer.
When I was in Denmark on one of my journeys there I asked, “Where is that famous statue of the pleading Christ by Thorvaldsen?” And I was guided to the church where it stood [“Christus,” Bertel Thorvaldsen, in the Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen]. You’ve seen the picture printed ten thousand times ten thousand times: our Lord with His hands extended, and the word underneath, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. I stood there in the church and looked at that incomparable statue, and I remembered the story of a critic, an art critic, who came to look upon it. And when he gazed at it, he was manifestly disappointed. He looked at it this way, and then this way, and then this way. And there happened to be a humble Christian in the church at the time who was watching him. And after the humble disciple of Jesus saw the disappointment in his face, he had the temerity to walk up to him and to say to him, “Oh, but sir, but sir, you must kneel down; you must look up into His face.” And the art critic took his word, came close to that statue of the pleading Christ, knelt down, looked up into His face, and was rewarded with an incomparable view of the Lord.
We are that way. Would you meet Christ, to know Him intimately, preciously, beautifully, endearingly, movingly, compassionately? Then you must kneel down and look up into His face. We meet Him in prayer.
Where can I see the Lord and where can I meet Him? I can see Him in the lives of other Christians. But a man says, “I certainly don’t see much of Christ in you.” And the fellow replies, “But my friend, you should see me in what I might have been without Him.” In the devout, humble lives of God’s sainted children, I see the Lord. Saw Him in my mother, saw Him in my father, saw Him in my pastor, saw Him in the devout people I have known through this pilgrimage, and I see Him in you.
Where can I know the Lord and meet the Lord? I can feel His presence in the assembly of God’s family in our gathering together in the house of praise and glory. I could not count the times I have sat here in the pulpit and wept, moved by the presence of God in praise, in prayer, in song, in presence. And how much more when I see people come to the faith, confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior!
Where do I meet Him? I sense His presence in the house of God, worshipping and praising and singing and praying with God’s people, you.
I shall meet the Lord once more in this life: in the day that I die. If He delays His coming, I’ll meet Him in that moment when He extends His hand to me, and leads me across the cold chilly waters of the Jordan.
I think of a friend of mine. When he came to that moment in his Christian pilgrimage, he said, “I never thought that death would be like this: all the light of heaven, the song of the angels, the face of Jesus, and the open door into glory.” One might say my friend was hallucinating; he was just seeing things in delirium. Having known him and his beautiful Christian life, when he says, “I hear the angels sing, and I see the lights of glory, and I’m looking at the face of Jesus,” that’s the Lord coming down for His own.
Oh, my sweet and precious friends, there is nothing so dear and so wonderful as giving your life to the Lord Jesus! [Romans 10:9-10]. Come and see. Taste and see if the Lord is not good [Psalm 34:8]. Try Him; handle Him and see [1 John 1:1-3]. It will be the most rewarding of all the commitments you can ever make in your life. Come, and welcome.
In this moment we’ll stand and sing a hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, to take the Lord Jesus as your Savior, “Here I stand, pastor, this is God’s day for me”; to bring your family into the fellowship of our wonderful church, welcome. A thousand times welcome. To answer the call of the Holy Spirit of God in your heart, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life.” As the Lord shall lead, as He shall make appeal, make it now. “Pastor, here I stand; this is God’s day and God’s hour for me.” There’s time and to spare, if you’re in that balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “I’m on the way, pastor, here I stand. I’m coming today.” May God bless and angels attend as you come, while we stand and while we sing. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.”