You Can Take It With You
November 12th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-86 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible, turn to Matthew 6, Matthew chapter 6. We are going to read verses 19 and 20 in Matthew 6:19-20. And the title of the message is You Can Take It With You. You have it? Now let’s read it together:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where you treasure is, there will be your heart be also.
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… .” [Matthew 6:20]. But how do you transfer them from this earth to heaven, our earthly treasures, the things that we possess here in this world, tangible, countable? And it’s a strange thought that we do not leave them all behind, but that we could transfer them to God in glory. How could such a thing be? It is universal in thought, and in word, and in observation that everything that we have and possess in this life, when we die we leave it behind.
I heard one time of a very rich old man who had invested all of his days, and all of his treasure, and all of his interest in this life. And now time had come for him to die, as it will come for all of us, and does come for all of us. And lying there on his deathbed, he became obsessed with his hands. And his wife, in despair, turned toward his best friend, Jim, and said, “Would you come and would you visit with my husband, and talk to my husband? He is obsessed with his hands, with his hands.”
And Jim came and talked to his old friend who was on his deathbed. And in keeping with the invitation and encouragement of the wife, he asked him about his hands. What was the matter with his hands? They looked perfectly normal. Why would he be so obsessed with his hands? And the dying man said, “But my God, Jim, look at them. They are so empty!”
That is a parable of human life. Universally, we look upon the things that we possess as being left behind when we die. Yet this text says that we are to lay up our treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20]. How do you get them there? How do you transfer them from this world to the heavenly world above us? And the answer is simple. You get them there through someone who is going!
I heard of a vision of two couples. The first couple were laden down as they made their way to the pearly gates and the city of gold. They had their worldly possessions. There was gold. There was silver. There were stocks. There were bonds. There were deeds. Everything they had, they were carrying with them to heaven. And as they approached the gate, there was a big sign outside those golden streets. And the sign said, “Leave All Your Earthly Junk Here.” And on that pile was all the things that the couple had accumulated in this life; earthly junk; gold, diamonds, bonds, stocks, possessions, leave it all here. And entering into the Holy City, the Book of Life was opened, and there was nothing recorded in the book of any possessions or treasures that belonged to them. And they entered heaven empty handed; poverty stricken.
In the vision there was another couple who came to the beautiful city of God. They had nothing. Everything they possessed, they had poured into the ministries of our Lord; into the winning of the lost; into the preaching of the gospel; into the building up of the church; into the making known of the grace and goodness and love of our Lord. And when they entered heaven, the Book of Life was opened and page after page after page, God had recorded there the wonderful riches they had stored up in glory. Here was the title deed to a mansion. That’s theirs! And here were all the wonderful things God had prepared for them who serve Him and love Him. Is not that the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 2:9? “It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him.”
How do we get our riches in heaven? By sending them through someone who is going there; sending our treasures ahead through those who are going. Matthew 10:42: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of the least of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” The humblest thing done in the name of our Lord, for these who are God’s least, has in it a treasure stored up for you in heaven.
Now I am going through some of the ministries of our dear church that I have seen God bless: one, our Special Education. I don’t want to seem crude or brutal when I tell you this. I am just recounting what happened. Some years ago there came a dear woman, a mother. I have never in my life visited with a more broken-hearted mother than this dear woman. And she had with her an afflicted boy. He was a little fellow; I’d say he was five or six years old. That dear woman came to me and began to tell the saddest story, and just cried as she recounted it to me.
For years she had belonged to an affluent church in North Dallas. Her husband had died. She was most affluent. And she attended the church, and having been left with a little afflicted child, she was taking the little boy with her to church. The leaders of the church waited upon her. And this is her recounting to me, and I am going to use a harsh word. She was just telling me what they said. The mother said to me, “The leaders of the church waited upon me and said to me, ‘You are welcome here to attend, but you’re to leave that idiot at home. You’re not to bring him.’” She told me that with a crushed heart and a crushed spirit.
I said to her, “Dear mother, you bring that child here, and we will love the youngster, and teach the youngster, and bring him up with you in the love, in the nurture, in the grace, and in the admiration of the Lord.” And that was the beginning of our ministry here to our Special Education children. And from that day until this, God has blessed it. They are dear to us. We have an investment in them. You see them here from service to service accepting Jesus as Savior. They are going to heaven. And our investment in them is carrying a treasure up there from us. How do you get your treasure in heaven? By investing it in those who are going there.
Another ministry in our church that has arisen out of the traumatic experience of your pastor; I began my pastoral work in 1927, and in 1929 in October was that Black Friday that introduced that deepest Depression our nation had ever known. For those beginning years of my undershepherd ministry, I lived with people in the midst of economic despair. I have seen them thrown out of their homes; out into the lanes in the country; out in the streets of the city. My first pastorate was in the midst of that Depression at its lowest nadir. And when I worked and visited and prayed among the people, it was tragic. Down at the wagon yard were families and families that were cold and hungry. It was because of that need that I began in those days a ministry that I called in our church the Good Shepherd department. We prayed with those people; gathered the children together, and taught them the things of the Lord Jesus.
I remember one of the little girls that we won to Christ named Iola Mae Everett. The little thing grew sick—died. And before her death, she had a raging high fever, [she] asked the doctor for water to drink. And in the physician’s judgment she could not be given any water to drink, though burning up with a high fever. And the little thing replied, “You may not give me water here, but I am going to a place where there are rivers of water, and I shall drink out of fountains of gold…” and died.
The investment made in that child, in the wagon-yard families, in those poor, in that Good Shepherd ministry, that’s an investment that has been transferred to heaven. That’s when I began our White Christmas program; bringing food and clothing to the church at Christmas time to feed and to clothe those despairing people. And in the passing of time, when I came here to Dallas, it has resulted in the remembrance of those days.
The twenty-six chapels we have now in our church, scattered all over this metroplex, ministering to a Japanese, to a Chinese, to a Mexican, to a black, to a Laotian, to a Vietnamese, twenty-six of them here in the city—chapels, congregations, seeking these dear people and winning them to the Lord; that is the investment that will be rewarded in heaven; its treasures laid up over there on the other side.
How do we get our treasures in heaven? By investing them in people who are going there. I am working now, in the most prayerful way I know how, to secure for our church a property that will always be our downtown chapel, our downtown mission. We call it our Inner City Chapel. It needs to be close to the church where, when the street people come by, and as the city of Dallas grows, those street people will be increasingly multitudinous. It needs to be close by. When they come to the church they go this way and that way, and there they will find help.
We are called of God to do that. How ever we may think about the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity, the riffraff that is out there on the street, they are laid at our door; they will always be here at our door, and we are called of God to minister to them. And that’s why I say I am prayerfully, earnestly, the best that I know how—I am trying to secure, to buy, a property close to our church that will ensure the continuing ministry of that Inner City Chapel. It’s a marvel what God has already done with it. Some of the students in our Center of Biblical Studies are men who have been plucked from the burning and are now studying to be ministers of the gospel, won to Christ in that Inner City Chapel. How do we get our treasures over there into heaven? By investing them into those who are going there.
I think of our educational program in the church; our First Baptist Academy. In that school, we pray; in that school, we teach the Bible; in that school, we have revival meetings; in that school, we teach the mind that is in Christ; all of it interdicted by law from the tax-supported institution, but we can do it every day, in every way, in keeping with its academic excellence.
The most marvelous thing in this world that I see set before us is the opportunity to teach these boys and girls the things of Christ in that school. In our Sunday school we have the child maybe thirty minutes in a class, and that’s all. But in that school, in that academy, we have them all day long, every day of the week; teaching them these things of Christ. It’s an open door.
I was visiting with Johnny Henderson a day or two ago. There are more than four thousand of those schools already in Texas. There are more than four hundred of them in Houston alone. It is a great ministry. How do you get your treasure in heaven? By investing in these who are going there, in our boys and in our girls.
One of the things that is increasing in our day is the home educational ministry, where the father and the mother have the school in the home, and they are taught the things of God and the academics in the home; a marvelous thing, a wonderful thing.
Does it ever occur to you how is it that the Jewish faith lived through centuries and millennia of bitter persecution? Why didn’t it die? Why was it not buried in blood and drowned in persecution? Why? How did it live? It lived because the child was taught in the home. And we have that opportunity. All through this metroplex there are now hundreds of home schools, where the children are being taught by the parents in the home. A certain section, a certain part of the home is set aside for school, and the children are taught there. It is a marvelous thing. How do we get our treasure over there in heaven? By investing it in those who are going.
Nor do I have time to speak of our Christian college. O Lord, what a benediction, and a boon, and a blessing that school could be there. Not everyone would want to attend a college like that, but there are some who do; who love to study the Word of God; who want to know what the Lord says; the textbook of which is Holy Scripture, and they are taught in the things of the revelation of the mind of the Almighty. And there degrees are given—accredited—are given in the study of the Word of God. And there are something like three hundred of those young men and women there every day, sitting at the feet of these godly and learned professors, delving into the mysteries of the riches of the mind of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 4:6]. What a wonderful thing! How do we get our treasure in heaven? By investing it in those who are going there.
And time would fail me to speak of the investment of our lives in our dear church, in visitation, in invitation. I love to think that in the service there is always, what I call, a seeking note. There’s something in the preaching that pulls toward God; there’s something in the music; there’s something in the praying; there’s something in our very presence that is an invitation, an appeal, for those who do not know Jesus as Savior, to give their hearts to the Lord; a seeking note.
I look around, in the place that I live.
I see people, with so much to give.
Yet, there are people who are dying to know
Just that somebody cares.
I see people just longing to know,
What they can live for and where they will go.
We have the hope and the purpose to share,
But do we really care?
People grope in darkness, searching for a way.
Don’t you know of someone you can help today?
Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me.
And may I bravely do my part
To win that soul to thee.
To win that soul for thee alone,
Will be my constant prayer.
That when I reach the Great White Throne,
I’ll meet that dear one there.
[“Do You Really Care?”; Bill Cates]
How do I transfer my treasure to heaven? By investing it in those who are going there. This is all we shall have at the end of the way. There will be nothing less. Nothing! All that we have will be left behind except what we have invested in these who are going there.
When I was a student, there was still living George Carroll of Beaumont, who had given the George Carroll Science Hall at Baylor University. He became poor. He lost his fortune. And standing one day on the campus of the school, he pointed to the building, and said, “The only thing that I have is that George Carroll Science Hall.”
About a week ago, I was in a meeting where Ed Rawls, my faithful deacon here, was speaking. And he recounted upon a day when the great pastor and predecessor, George Truett, was visiting a man who had great wealth, but he lost it all. But when he was affluent, he had supported the causes of Christ liberally, generously; now had nothing, and Dr. Truett said to him if he regretted, if he regretted, having given so much of his fortune away. And the dying man said, “Pastor, that is all that I have left, what I have given away.”
Carve your name high o’er the shifting sands,
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay—
“All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.”
[from “What You Have Given Away,” Edwin M. Poteat, 1909]
How do I transfer my treasure from this world to heaven? By investing it in those who are going there. May I close with a Christmas seal that I received in today’s mail? I was amazed at it. It has a picture of a boy, looks like one of those boys in Bruce Edwards’ choir—got a picture of a boy. And the Christmas seal has a caption at the head of it: “A hundred years from now…”
It caught my attention because I don’t think of Christmas seals in terms of this kind of a picture and this kind of a stamp. So I read it and I put it here in my book. Here’s what it says, that Christmas seal: “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, or the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little different because I was important in the life of a little boy.”
How true! When the journey is done and the task is finished and life is over, it will not matter how big a house I lived in, what kind of a car I drove, or what my bank account was. But if I can have a part in somebody’s life for good and for God, it will be a treasure, a possession forever and ever. How do I get my treasure from earth to heaven? By investing it in somebody who is going there.
Now Denny, we want to sing us a song. And while we sing it, somebody you, “Pastor, tonight, I want to give my life and my heart and my soul to the blessed Lord Jesus, and here I stand” [Romans 10:8-13]. Or, “Pastor, my whole family, we all want to come into the fellowship of this dear church.” Or, “God has called me, spoken to me, and I am answering with my life.” In this moment when we stand to sing our song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, that first step will be the dearest and most meaningful that you will ever make. From the balcony, down a stairway, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “This is God’s time for me, pastor. Here I stand and here I am.” Make it now. Welcome now, and God bless you now, while we stand and while we sing.
YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-86I. Our earthly treasures
A. We leave behind whatever we possess
B. “My hands are so empty”II. Treasures in heaven
A. How do we get them there?
1. By someone who is going there
2. Vision of the two couples (2 Corinthians 2:9)III. Sending our treasures ahead through those who are going (Matthew 10:42)
A. In ministries
1. Special education
2. Good Shepherd
3. Mexican mission in West Dallas
4. Buying property for inner city mission
B. In education
1. Christian school; home school
2. Bible College
3. The church in visitation, invitationIV. This is all we shall have at the end of the way
A. What we have given away
B. The souls we have won, lives touched