The World’s Greatest Blunder
June 8th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
THE WORLD’S GREATEST BLUNDER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-08-86 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are a part this morning of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The World’s Greatest Blunder. In our exposition of the Gospel of John, in the first chapter, verses 10 and 11, John 1:10-11, "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." The emphasis in the order of the words, in the language in which John wrote this passage is his own: "Unto His own He came, and His own received Him not." What a tragedy! What a blunder!
We do not belong to Satan, and God is trying to steal us away from him; we belong to God, and Satan deceives us and destroys us. By right, we are His. Why does John so avow that with such emphatic affirmation? For three reasons: number one, we belong to Him by right of creation. In the third verse John wrote, "In Him all life consists. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" [John 1:3-4]. He made us and He placed us in a creation, the fruit of His own hands. In the first chapter of Genesis, there is a refrain – six of them. In six days God created this wonderful world. And each one of these creative acts is followed by a refrain, "And God saw that it was good." Next day: "And God saw that it was good" [Genesis 1:3, 12, 18, 20, 24]. And the next day: "God saw that it was good." And on the sixth day, when He created the man in His own image [Genesis 1:26-27], that same refrain, "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold it was very good" [Genesis 1:31]. All that the world above us and around us and below us exhibits; God made it for us, and created us, and placed us in it. Not that there is any further creation of matter – all of the atoms in this world were fashioned in the beginning, but God is still creating. He is making us. He creates souls, the wonder of birth! In the one hundred thirty-ninth Psalm:
Thou has created my inward parts; Thou has covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,
My substance was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts the earth –
in my mother’s womb –
Thine eyes did see my substance, being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written –
God knew all about me before He created me –
How precious are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
We belong to God. He created us and we are His. The world’s greatest blunder: He came to His creation, was made a part of it, took upon Himself our nature [Philippians 2:7], lived our life, died our death, suffered [1 Corinthians 15:3] – tried and tempted as all of us are [Hebrews 4:15] – and was despised and rejected of men [Isaiah 53:3]. How could such a thing be? That’s the way Isaiah begins his prophecy, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken." What does he say?
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but My people do not know,
My people doth not consider.
I read through the prophecy of Jeremiah that same sad refrain, "We walk after our own devices, and we will everyone do the imagination of his evil heart" [Jeremiah 18:12], and on and on does the prophet Jeremiah speak. And I look through again the prophecy of Ezekiel – a refrain: "but they rebelled against Me" [Ezekiel 20:8], "But the people rebelled against Me" [Ezekiel 20:13], "Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me" [Ezekiel 20:21], over, and over, and over again. What an infinite tragedy!
In the twenty-first chapter of Matthew, the Lord told a parable:
A man built a vineyard with all of the accouterments, and went away and gave it into the hands of his husbandmen. Then he sent servants, that he might receive the fruit of the vineyard.
And the husbandmen said, These are servants of the owner. Let us slay them! And they stoned them to death.
Finally, the owner said, I will send my son, and they will reverence my son.
And the son of the owner of the vineyard came and the husbandmen said, This is the son, this is the heir; let us murder him!
And they slew him.
Could you think of such a thing as that? Yet, that’s what we have done. We have repudiated our rightful Owner, we have rebelled against our Maker. Could such a thing be? "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" [John 1:11]. We belong to Him by creation, He made us and we belong to Him [Genesis 1:26, 27; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17].
Number two: we are His by virtue of redemption. He not only made us, God not only created us, we belong to Him, not alone by His making us, but God redeemed us; He delivered us, He bought us. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, and in 1 Corinthians 7:23, Paul says: "Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price." Somebody has paid for you, and you belong to that Somebody who bought you with a price. What is that redemptive price? When I turn to the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord says a sentence, and in it is a word that is used so many times to describe what God has done for us, why we belong to God: "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a lutron for many" [Matthew 20:28]. What is a lutron? A lutron is the price of a slave, called here in this King James Version, a "ransom." God has ransomed us. There are several forms of that verb that are used in the New Testament. Lutroō is the verbal form of it, which means "to redeem, to deliver." Lutrosis is a substantive form of it, which means "redemption" and "deliverance." Lutrotes is another substantive form of it, which refers to "a redeemer, a deliverer." God has bought us. He has paid a ransom price for us, and we belong to Him.
In the Old Testament, if a family lost their inheritance, by law, they could redeem it, the closest of kin could buy it back. That is the basis of the beautiful story of Ruth and Boaz – the redemption of the property that was lost [Ruth 4:1-10]. That redemption also applies, through all of these past centuries, to the buying and the freedom of a slave, a ransom, a price. I read one time of a beautiful girl who was placed on the auction block as a slave. She was one-sixty‑fourth Negro, and as such was sold as a slave. A fine, rich man bought her, and all the throngs supposed that he bought her for his mistress, for purposes of immorality. To their astonishment, when the man had bid for her and had won her, he "manumitted" her. He gave her a letter of manumission, and she was free. She was no longer a slave. She was at liberty. And if a runaway slave – such as Onesimus in the New Testament – if a runaway slave had been "manumitted," all the slave did was to show the letter of manumission: "My master has freed me and I’m no longer a slave." This is our "manumission" I hold it here in my hands; we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free [Galatians 4:31] – Christ hath made us free. We’re no longer the servants of Satan, and we’re no longer in bondage to death and judgment, but we are free. God has set us free! This is our "manumission," this letter that I hold in my hand.
There is one other glorious illustration of God having redeemed us, purchased us to Himself. It’s the story of the Passover. The judgment of God came upon all the land of Egypt, not just Israel, on the Egyptian also. But God said, "If you will take a lamb and its blood sprinkled on the lintel and on the door posts, then when the angel of death passes over, there will be life in that home and not death" [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. He has purchased us, and bought us, and redeemed us with the blood of the crucified One [1 Peter 1:18-19].
I’m saved by the blood of the crucified One!
All praise to the Father, all praise to the Son,
All praise to the Spirit, the great Three-in-One!
Saved by the blood of the crucified One!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
My sin is all pardoned, and my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
Saved by the blood of the crucified One!
["Saved by the Blood," S.J. Henderson]
We belong to God, He purchased us, He redeemed us with His own blood. "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price" [1 Corinthians 6:20]. How dear that God should not only create us, make us [Genesis 1:26-27; John 1:3], but when we were sold under sin and the judgment of death, He has redeemed us! He ransomed us, He has paid the price for us that we might belong to Him [Matthew 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20].
And last, not only do we belong to God – we are His by virtue, by right of His creation, and by right of His redemption – but we belong to God because of the great destiny and purpose that God hath purposed for us [Romans 15:9]. It is a wonderful and glorious thing for which God hath created, redeemed, and bought us: that we might glorify Him.
One of the great pieces of Christian avowal in all of the history of the 2,000 years of the Christian faith is the Westminster Confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith. And it is like this: in the catechism of that confession, what is the chief purpose of man? What is the chief purpose of man? Well, the world could answer that in a thousand different ways. "It’s to make money or it’s to have fun!" Oh, and how many ways would the world answer that? But, the Westminster Confession of Faith answers it: What is the chief purpose of man? The answer: "to glorify God," that’s our created destiny and that’s our heavenly purpose. That’s why God made us, that we might glorify Him. In the wonderful fifteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul writes, "Our Lord who was a minister of Israel for the truth to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets . . ." Look what he adds, "But also that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy" [Romans 15:8-9]. That’s why God created us, that we might glorify the Lord.
Satan deceives us, and hinders us, and leads us into blunder and denial. He is in that business: to blind us, and to hide us away, and to take us away from the glory of God. And how often does he succeed! The story of a Samson is that; the story of a Saul is that; the story of an Iscariot is that. Do you often think of the hiss – the hiss – the Satan’s hiss in Satan’s name, in the very word "sin," in "sodomy," in "Samson," in "Saul," in "Iscariot"; the hiss of the serpent? How he deceives us, and allures us, and destroys us. O Lord, what a tragedy!
I had in these years and years past a wonderful friend in an older minister than I, Dr. Powell, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Powell called me, and he said, "Did you know we have just had a revival here with the most glorious young preacher I’ve ever heard in all the years of my life? And I am sending him to you. And I want you to visit with him. And I want you to prepare for his coming for a revival meeting in your church there in Dallas." So he came to see me, and every syllable that Dr. Powell had written me about that man, I could easily affirm. He was tall, he was handsome, he was vibrant, he was charismatic, had a marvelous voice – everything about him commending him as a minister of the gospel. So I arranged for his coming here in a revival meeting. You never saw him, you never heard him. He never came. Why? He fell into drug addiction and into drunkenness, and when he came to see me, he sat there in the congregation. I visited with him after the service was over; I did not recognize him. He looked like a flotsam and a jetsam of humanity. What Satan can do to destroy God’s image and God’s people! We don’t belong to Satan, we belong to God, Son-crowned, strong in the faith, dedicated to Him, that’s God’s purpose in our lives. That’s why God made us, and when we respond to that heavenly vision and that glorious calling, how blessed we are. It will be like a Joseph; it will be like a Jonathan; it will be like the apostle John. Oh, the riches of God’s goodness poured out in benedictory remembrance when we seek and serve the purpose for which God made us!
In these years past, I was invited to hold a revival meeting in one of the great cities of America. And while I was in that meeting, there came to me in prayer a mother and a daughter, 16 years old. She was a devout Christian and the girl had given her life to be a full‑time servant of the Lord. But the father in the home made fun of the child, scorned and scoffed at her religious commitment and of course looked with disdain upon the Christian commitment of his wife. She had even left him, she said, but didn’t believe in breaking up the home, so she went back to him – still that same sardonic, sarcastic, critical unbeliever making life miserable for his dear wife and how unhappy for that girl!
Sometimes people are laid on my heart and I cannot get away from the thought of them, the remembrance of them. So I went to the assistant pastor of the church. And I said, "You know this family?"
"Well," I said, "would you take me to this family?"
He said, "I would count it a privilege." So we went to the home, and I began to speak to the man in the company of his wife and young girl, about the Lord. And in contempt, in contempt, he sat there and lit a cigarette and then just calmly, scoffingly, sarcastically, indifferently, blasphemously, just smoked his cigarette there and blew the smoke into the room while I was pleading about the Lord. What Satan can do to a man! Well, the plea I made was what you would expect me to make: "God created us for a purpose. God’s purpose is that you have a precious home. God’s purpose is that you be grateful for such a wonderful girl, this child, giving her full life to the Lord. What a great, wonderful thing God has done for you! And this day, this hour, would you answer God’s call into your life? And would you be all that God would have you to be?" Just making an appeal, the best I could. And when I had finished the best appeal that I could make, I knelt down and I asked the mother, "Would you come and kneel down with me?" And then, I turned to the girl, "Would you come and kneel down with me?" And I turned to the assistant pastor, "Would you come and kneel down with me?" And then I turned to him, "Would you come and kneel down with us?"
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit [John 16:6-11]. Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. I – we can’t convict anyone; we can’t save anyone, all we can do is witness and invite. God has to convict, and woo, and draw, and win, and save. And the critical thing that moment: would he kneel? It depended upon his answer to the wooing power of the Spirit of God. And to my infinite gratitude to the Lord, he knelt with us. And I prayed, and in the prayer, I extended my hand to him and asked him "Today, today, would you give your heart, and your home, and your life to the Lord Jesus? If you would, will you take my hand?"
He burst into tears and squeezed hard my hand. His wife was in ecstasy! They fell into one another’s arms, crying and praising the Lord. I said to the assistant pastor, "This is too sacred a scene for us. Let’s leave." And when we got to the door, he called and said, "Wait, wait!" Came and put his arms around me and said, "Oh, sir, it is the greatest day of my life." Amen! That night [he] confessed his faith in the Lord, joined the church by baptism. I saw the daughter in after years and I asked her about her father. "Oh," she said, "you cannot imagine. The first day after, we read the Bible. And we said grace at the table." And she said, "At first, when we bowed our heads to say grace, he could hardly speak for crying, so happy in the Lord."
This is God’s purpose for us! We are made for Him and when we answer that destiny, God’s created purpose, there is joy abounding, unspeakable, ineffable, heavenly. It’s the way of life, abounding, abundant, and everlasting. And that is the appeal that the Lord presses upon our hearts: there is a purpose in life for each one of you, each one of you. God made you – just you for a destiny and a purpose that is precious and dear [Ephesians 2:10; Romans 15:8-9]. And when we respond to it and let God have us, it is beautiful. It is wonderful; it is happy; it is glorious! Lord, Lord, we could praise Thy name forever and ever!
That’s the appeal we make to you; God’s call, answering it with your life. "Pastor, this day, this day, and here I stand." Some, "I’m taking the Lord as my Savior." Some, "Pastor, we’re coming into the fellowship of this dear church." Some, "I’m answering God’s call to my life." As the Lord shall press the appeal say, "Yes, Lord! I hear, Thy servant listens. And from this day on, with God’s help, I’m walking in the pilgrim way." Now, may we pray together?
Dear and wonderful Savior, what a friend You are to us. Every day is a wonderful day when Jesus is close by. Every prayer is a strength when we know that the Lord hears us. Every trial, and temptation, and hurt, and sadness is but a prelude to a more glorious visitation from heaven; God having prepared some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]. And our Lord, in Thy grace and goodness when we stand and sing our appeal, may God honor His Word, and may the Holy Spirit do His office work. And may God save, and let our eyes look upon the marvelous salvation of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose wonderful name we ask this benedictory remembrance from heaven, amen.
Now Denny, we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, from the balcony round, down a stairway, in the lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand." Welcome, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
WORLD’S GREATEST BLUNDER
I. Right of creation (John 1:3-4)
A. The creation of God
in the beginning (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)
B. The continuing
creation of God today (Psalm 139:13-17)
C. The lament of God
(Isaiah 1:2-3, Ezekiel 20:8, 13, 21, Matthew 21:33-40)
II. Right of redemption
A. We are bought with a
price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 7:23)
(Exodus 12:7, 13)
III. Right of purpose and destiny
A. We are made for a
purpose (Romans 15:8-9)
B. What Satan does