THE WORLD’S GREATEST BLUNDER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-8-86 8:15 a.m.
Is that not wonderful to listen to these young people sing the Scriptures? That is glorious! We welcome the great multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. This is 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, in verses 10 and 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 world’s greatest blunder.
The man that God created, you, we, we do not belong to the devil and God is trying to steal us away; we belong to the Lord God Almighty, and it is Satan who deceives us and destroys us. In the sequence of words here, when John wrote it, "His own" is the first word: "He came unto His own," in our English Bible; "To His own He came," the emphasis is on God’s own, on you. We are His by right of creation. Verse 3: "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made." We belong to Him by right of His creative hand. And all things that God made, He made for our blessing. God did it good. In the first chapter of Genesis there is a refrain, one, two, three, four, five, six times: after every day’s work, the refrain is the same: "God saw that it was good." Then this next day, "God saw that it was good." And the next day, and the next day, and finally on the sixth day, when He had made the man, "God saw that every thing He had made, that it was very good" [Genesis 1:31]. That is the creative act of God.
And He continues to work, to create; not matter – no atom of substance is ever created beyond the first great creative act of the Lord God – but He continues to create us, souls. We are a continuing glory of the ableness and mightiness of the great God our Savior. The one hundred thirty-ninth Psalm, "Thou hast created my inward parts; Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" [Psalm 139:13-15], talking about my mother’s womb, "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" [Psalm 139:16]; the creative act of God. As Psalm 100, verse 3 says, "It is God who hath made us, and not we ourselves." We belong to God by creation.
The world’s greatest blunder: our continual rebellion against the Lord – I went through these prophets, and it is a resounding refrain also, this rebellion of what God’s people have been guilty of against the Lord. Isaiah’s prophecy begins, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, 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, they do not consider" [Isaiah 1:2-3]. I read through Jeremiah, the same refrain. I read through Ezekiel, the same refrain. And in reading in the life of our Lord, He spake a parable saying that a man built a vineyard, did all of the things to make it profitable, and went away. Then he sent for the fruits of his vineyard, and the people that were running the vineyard said, "These are the servants of the man that owns this vineyard, let’s stone them." And they slew them. And then the owner said, "They will reverence my son"; and he sent his son. And they said, "This is the heir, this is the son, let us slay him, and receive the vineyard for ourselves" [Matthew 21:33-45]. That’s what we have done with God’s creation: He made it and He made us; and instead of glorifying our Maker and honoring our Lord, we rebel against Him, and we refuse His admonitions, and we turn aside from His service – the world’s greatest blunder.
Not only are we His by creation, we are also His, "He came unto His own," we are His by right of redemption. In 1 Corinthians 6, [verse 20], and in 1 Corinthians 7, [verse 23], the apostle Paul writes, "We are not our own; we are bought with a price." We belong to God by virtue of His redemptive grace. In the twentieth chapter of Matthew and the twenty-eighth verse, there is a word used that is repeated often in the Scripture: the Lord said, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a lutron for many." A lutron, a lutron is the price of a slave, translated here "ransom"; and in all of its verbal parts you’ll find it in the Scriptures. Lutroo refers to the act of redemption, of ransoming, of delivering. Lutrosis, a substantive, means "deliverance and redemption," used in Luke 1:, 2:, in Hebrews 9:12. And lutro takes another substantive: refers to "a redeemer, a deliverer", such as you’d find in Acts 7:35. A ransom, a price paid for a slave – we are His by virtue of His having bought us, having redeemed us, having delivered us. We don’t belong to ourselves; we are bought with a price.
In the Old Testament, if a family lost their inheritance, the closest of kin could redeem it. That is a beautiful story of Ruth and Boaz: the redemption of the inheritance of the family. It could be bought back if it were lost. Slavery – and this word especially came out of that terrible institution – slavery allowed the purchase of that someone, and whoever purchased the slave owned the slave.
I heard of an auction of a slave; and a beautiful girl was one sixty-fourth Negro, one sixty-fourth Negro. And a wealthy white man bought her. Everyone at the auction supposed that the elegant white man bought her, that she be a mistress to him for immoral purposes; they took that for granted. They were overwhelmed when after he had bought that beautiful girl, he gave her her freedom. You call that "manumission," manumission; he manumitted her. He wrote her a letter of freedom. Wherever she went, if she were accosted as though she were a runaway slave, she could avow and affirm her freedom by that letter of manumission.
That is we: we are free. We have been bought by our Lord, and we have been set at liberty. Anywhere that Satan would bind us or condemn us, this is our letter of manumission. For example, in Galatians, "My brethren, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free" [Galatians 4:31]. Christ hath made us free. This is our letter of liberty: God hath set us free. We belong to the Lord, not to darkness, not to death, not to Satan. We belong to God; and as children of the Lord we are free. We are His by right of a wonderful price. He bought us with His own blood, with His own life, with His own sacrifice. We belong to God.
Could I say one other word about that? The wonderful, glorious illustration of our redemption, that we belong to God by redeeming love, is found in the story of the Passover. The angel of death passed over Egypt and all were under condemnation; not just the Egyptian, the Israelites also, all under condemnation, all under judgment. But God gave a way of deliverance, of redemption: if a family would take a lamb and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and the lintel, when the angel of death passed over, when he saw the blood, no death, no judgment would come into that home [Exodus 12:13, 23]. Had an Egyptian offered the paschal lamb and sprinkled the blood on the lintels and the doorposts, the Egyptian home would have been spared. Anyone who would offer to God the blood of the sacrificial lamb would be delivered. That is a glorious picture of what God hath done for us. Under condemnation and under judgment because of our sins, God hath made a way of deliverance: He hath pardoned us and forgiven us in the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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 am saved! Glory, I am saved!
My sin is all pardoned and my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I am saved! Glory, I am saved!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
["Saved By the Blood"; S. J. Henderson]
We belong to Him by virtue of redemption, by ransom, by price. We don’t belong to ourselves, nor are we to please ourselves; but we belong to God, and we are to please our Lord.
A last, not only are we His by creation, and not only are we His by redemption, by price, we are His by purpose and by destiny. God hath made us for Himself, and we are to glorify Him. That’s the wonderful passage in Romans 15: "He came, our Lord Christ, that the Gentiles" – that’s we – "that the Gentiles might glorify God" [Romans 15:8-9]. That’s our purpose of being in this world: that we might glorify the Lord.
You will find purpose back of everything that you see. A saw, a hammer, a beauty shop, a dentist’s chair, a concrete mixer, the whole world around us is evidence of purpose. So with the work of God: there is purpose. There is purpose in everything that God hath done, and there is purpose in His creating and making us; and the purpose is that we might exalt the Lord.
The Westminster Confession of Faith – which is the greatest confession ever written – in the catechism, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the great first question is, "What is the chief purpose of man?" And the answer is, "To glorify God." That’s why we have life and breath is to glorify God, to honor our Lord. And the greatest blunder that can be made in human life is to turn aside from that glory.
O Lord, what an infinite blessing when we give ourselves to God’s purpose for us. And what an abysmal, infinite mistake to turn aside from it!
I was in a revival meeting in one of the great cities in America. And while I was there, there came to me a mother. Her sixteen-year-old daughter had in one of the services given her life for special work, and the mother and the daughter coming to me said her father, the father of this child, makes fun of her. She’s a Christian, and now having given her life especially to the work of the Lord, he scorns her and scoffs. The mother said to me, "I left him one time because of his bitter attitude toward the Lord, and toward the church, and toward our Christian faith; but felt that I ought to put our home back together, even though he scoffs and scorns, and just wanted you to pray for him." I don’t know why, sometimes things just weigh on my heart and I can’t dismiss them. So I went to the assistant pastor of the church, and I said to him, "Would you take me to that home? Let me visit with that man and his wife and that girl." So the assistant pastor took me to the home, and I sat there in the living room with the man and his wife and that daughter.
To show his contempt for me and for the Christian cause that I represented, he lighted a cigarette and began indifferently to smoke there as I started to speak about the Lord and about God’s call for us. Well, I pressed the appeal the best that I knew how, the purpose of God in the home and in his life and in the life of the family, the purpose of God in this child, in the wife, in the relationship in the home, God’s purpose, and how tragic to turn aside from that will of the Lord of heaven, but how beautiful and how wonderful it is to give yourself to the call and will and purpose of God. And after I had pressed the cause of our Savior the best I knew how, I knelt down, I knelt down, and I asked the mother, "Would you kneel down and pray?" And then I asked the girl, "Would you kneel down and pray?" And then I turned to him, "Would you kneel down with us, and pray?" That is the crucial moment: if he would kneel, God has His victory; if he refused to kneel and in scorn and scoffing just looked upon us on our knees, we had lost him. You are dependent upon God in dealing with souls. We can’t save or convict: God has to save, God has to convict, God has to do it! We can be instruments, we can be messengers, and we can make appeal, but God has to convict and save. And you depend upon the Lord. So, we are kneeling, and I invite him to kneel. To my infinite, infinite gladness, he knelt down; he put out his cigarette and knelt down. And while I was praying, I turned to him with my hand extended and said, "Today, this moment, would you give your life to the Lord Jesus? Would you?" And bursting into tears, he took my hand and said, "I will. I will."
His wife and he fell into one another’s arms crying tears of wonderful joy. I turned to the assistant pastor, and I said to him, "This is too sacred a scene for us to behold; let’s leave." So we went to the door, and when we reached the door, he called out and said, "Wait! Wait!" and he came and put his arms around me, and said, "This is the greatest day of my life! The greatest day of my life!" That night he made his confession of faith; he was baptized.
I saw his daughter in the years that passed, I saw her, and I said, "How is it with your father?" She said, "I cannot describe it." The young woman told me that the first day they began reading the Bible at breakfast, and join hands and say grace at the table. And she said her father at first had difficulty praying because he was crying; he’d just burst into tears. But she said, "We have grown in grace together and have a beautiful and wonderful family." There is nothing like that in the earth! That’s God’s purpose for us: that we live in a Christian love, that we glorify God in our lives, that we give our strength and every endowment to Him. And when you do it, when you do it, you will find the riches of heaven poured upon you, your heart, your house, your home, your children, everything that you touch and love.
Why would a man blunder before that? Why would anyone hesitate before that? Everything good is in God’s promise to those who will glorify Him. And that is our invitation to you. "Pastor, today, this day, I’m giving my heart and life to the blessed Savior." Or, "Pastor, this is my family and all of us are coming into the fellowship of this wonderful church." Or, "Pastor, God has spoken to my heart and I’m answering with my life." As He will make appeal, as He would say the invitation, as God would press it to your heart, answer with your life. Do it now, make it now. We’ll pray with you, we’ll rejoice with you, angels will be glad! Down one of those stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles on the lower floor, "This is God’s day for me, pastor, and here I stand," while we stand and while we sing.