The Useless Christian
May 6th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
THE USELESS CHRISTIAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-6-87 7:30 p.m.
Once again, welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled The Useless Christian, the worthless Christian.
In the chapter of Jude from which we read, there is a characterization of these who are in the household of faith. It says:
They are spots in your feasts of charity – agape, an agape feast – They are spots, feeding themselves: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Waves of the sea; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
The Useless Christian.
Our Lord had many things to say about such in His Holy Word. In Matthew 5, verses 13 and 14, our Lord speaks of "salt that has lost its savor, and is good for nothing, but to be cast out and to [be] trodden under foot of men." In Matthew 21 verses 18-20, He denounces the barren fig tree and asks the rhetorical question, Why cumbereth it the ground? [Luke 13:7]. If it bears no fruit, why should it exist? Why should it live? In Revelation 3, verses 14 to 19, He speaks bitter words of the church at Laodicea. It was fruitless and indifferent, the useless Christian.
I have in my hands here an unusual thing. It is a screw. It is in every wise a good looking screw, well-made. Everything about it is just as fine as genius could contrive, all except it has no notch, no slot at the top of it. It is absolutely useless. There’s no way in the world that you can use that useless, worthless screw. This is a parable of Christians, the useless, worthless Christian.
Number one: as useless as a non-witnessing Christian; useless. The other day I referred here in a sermon to a deacon – been dead a long time ago so you’d never know of whom I’m speaking – a deacon. And a businessman downtown was talking to me, and he said, "I have been doing business with that man for over twenty years, and I had no idea he was a Christian, had no idea he was a Baptist, much less a deacon. How could a man do business with another man for over twenty years and the other man have no idea that you were saved? That you loved the Lord? That you went to church? That you sought to serve the Lord? A useless Christian, a non-witnessing Christian.
If you are a real Christian, you cannot hide it. It will come out. It’ll be seen; it’ll be felt. You’ll betray it. You can’t hide it if you are an honest-to-God real Christian.
When I was in the seminary I went to the big civic auditorium to hear the famous Polish pianist Paderewski play. Well, there were three of us, and in that packed auditorium, we had three seats, my two friends here and then my seat and on the end was a vacant seat. The thing was so packed that we began to comment and to speculate about who was coming to be seated on that end, right by me.
And while we were speculating, and commenting, and conjugating, and prophesying, and discussing about who’s going to come in and sit down there on that seat, there came into the auditorium the most beautiful girl you ever saw in your life, dressed sumptuously, gorgeously. And she sat down there right by me.
I thought, "If she finds out that I’m a preacher, she won’t talk to me. She won’t visit with me. So I’m going to talk to her at the first intermission, and I’m not going to let her know I’m a preacher." So when Paderewski came to his first intermission, I turned to her and I said with a sweep of my hand, "Isn’t this the biggest congregation you ever saw in your life?"
She said, "Yes." And then stopped and looked hard at me and said, "Congregation? You must be a preacher!"
You can’t hide it. If you are a child of God, you cannot but betray your interest in the Lord and your love for Christ. You’ll say something that God will bless, and they’ll know you’re praising Him.
I one time heard of a man who was walking down the street in New York City. And when he came to a fellow New Yorker, he said to him, "God bless you, my brother," and walked right on by. The man walked just a little further up the street and turned around and hastened back down the street to where that man was walking and stopped him and said, "Sir, do you know God?"
And the man said, "I do." And they sat down on the curb in that busy thoroughfare in New York City, and that Christian man – who just greeted him, "God bless you, my brother" – that Christian man listened to this stranger as he poured out his broken heart and led him to the faith and the consolation and the sweet blessed assurance in the Lord Jesus. You can’t hide it. You’ll say something that will show you love Jesus.
All right, number two: as useless as a non-giving Christian. I have been looking at people, as you would know, from advantage point for sixty years, being a pastor. And in the city of Dallas, intimately acquainted with some of the richest people in the whole world, and here is what I have seen and what I have learned. You cannot keep God’s money; you can’t do it. God will collect it. I don’t care how smart you are or how gifted you are or how successful you are. If you keep God’s money, you’ll make a misjudgment; you’ll make a wrong investment; you’ll make a wrong decision and you’ll lose it. You can’t keep it. And the richer you are the more vulnerable you are and the more certainly you’re going to lose it. There is a part of everything that you have that belongs to God. It is not yours; it is His. And if you don’t use it for the Lord, God will collect it. He’ll take it away. You will lose it.
I read about a man who wrote a letter to the editor of his county seat newspaper. And he said, "I want you to know that I planted my crop on Sunday. I want you to know I cultivated my crop on Sunday. I want you to know I gathered my crop on Sunday. I want you to know I sold my crop on Sunday. And I got the best price for my farm products of anybody in this county. I don’t go to church and I certainly don’t give to it. Then," he added, "I dare you to print this letter." Sure enough when the next week’s edition came out, there was his letter, just as he had written it. And then underneath was a little editor’s note: "God does not always collect His debts the second week in October."
You will not get by, not ultimately. There is a part of everything you have that belongs to God. And dear precious people, there is an infinite blessing in returning it with prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord who placed it in your hands and made it a part of your possessions. If I have a dime, one penny of it belongs to Jesus. If I have a dollar, ten cents of it belongs to Jesus. If I have a hundred dollars, ten dollars of it belongs to Jesus. And if I will be faithful in giving that tenth of His to God, somehow the Lord aboundingly multiplies it and blesses it. It’s a remarkable thing how God blesses the man who is faithful in his stewardship of his possessions.
I want to tell you a little practice that I have, that I’ve been following for years and years. There has never, ever, anytime, anyplace, that a plate is passed in front of me that I do not put something in it. I bring a tithe to the Lord, one tenth of everything I have, I give to Him. But when that plate is passed by, I always place something in it, never an exception.
When I sit up there in that balcony where a whole lot of you people are up there listening to me and looking at me, when I sit up there where you are, I watch the plate as it comes by. And did you know, practically every time I sit up there where you are, that plate will start at the front and go clear beyond the balcony balustrade where I can’t see it anymore, and there won’t be a thing in it, not a thing in it, passing it, passing it, passing it, and not a soul put anything in it.
That does not mean that the people who seated there are not faithfully giving to our Lord. But I’m telling you that one of the blessings that I have experienced in my life is this; whenever a plate is passed in front of me, I place something in it. It does something to my heart to do it. It blesses me to do it. I don’t lose in doing it. I will place something in it. You try it and you see if what the pastor has done through these years will not also be an infinite blessing to you.
As useless, number three: as useless as a worldly Christian. Worldliness. What do you mean by worldliness? It’s easy to define worldliness. Your heart is in this world. Your interests are in this world. You’re anticipations are in this world. You’re amusements are in this world. Your investments are in this world.
Worldliness. Jesus spoke of it eloquently in a parable in Luke chapter 12:
The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, I have no room to bestow my increase?
Then he said, This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul – look at these investments and look at this income – and look at the goods laid up for many years.
But God said unto him, Foolish man, this night, this night, thy soul shall be required of thee: then who shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
To love the world, worldliness is what you leave behind when you die. And if your investments and if your interests are in this world when you die, you will leave them behind. O God, help us, and preserve us from it!
Ever present is this thing of worldliness, consumed in the world, our interest in the world, all of our purposes and ambitions in the world. I see that worldly snake come in that entrance. And I see that foul reptile insinuate himself in and out these pews and come up and stick his forked tongue into my very face. Worldliness, we all wrestle with it. We all have to oppose it, and interdict it, and fight it, and pray against it.
Our interests and our hopes and our loves ought to be heavenward. That’s where our inheritance is. That’s where our home is. That’s where our treasures are. Not here, but there. And for us to live and deposit all of the dear prayers and interests and strength and dedication of our lives to give it to God, that means to possess it forever, because if I have it here, I leave it behind. But if I have it there, it’s mine forever.
Now the appeal. The appeal of the Scripture is for us to separate ourselves from the world. Paul writes so eloquently of that in the second Corinthian Letter, chapter 6, beginning at verse 14:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? And what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? And you are the temple of God.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.
Then I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be My sons and My daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
[2 Corinthians 6:14-18]
Now may I apply that in this brief moment? Separating yourselves from this world: one, in foul language and stories. You’re different. You don’t use that kind of dirty speech, and you don’t tell off colored stories. Today, as you know, I go to the Y every day. I exercise a little while every day over at the Y. Today, I was down tying my shoes, putting on my shoes. And the men on the other side of that row of lockers didn’t know I was there. I was down there tying on my shoes. And to my amazement, thank God he’s not a member of our church, he’s not even in our denomination, but to my amazement, one of the leaders, and I mean leaders of one of the great churches here in the city of Dallas, was using language over there that I could not believe. I couldn’t believe it. He had no idea that I was there on the other side of the locker. O Lord! We’re not to be that way anytime we speak.
Sometimes I have to confess I get so angry I wish I were not a preacher, then I’d say what I think about some of these things. I confess that. But I’ve never allowed myself, ever, ever to say any word that even approaches one of blasphemy or cursing. And it’d be unthinkable for me to tell a dirty story. "Be ye separate," saith the Lord. We don’t do that.
A second thing: in a vacation, you’re taking a vacation; we never take a vacation from God or from our precious Savior or from Jesus. We take Him with us in our hearts. And we are the same on that vacation as we are here at home; just the same, just the same. We don’t go on a vacation and leave God out of our lives and identify ourselves with these worldlings who compromise the faith, who deny the Gospel. On a vacation, no matter where we are, we’re still walking in the light of the Lord, loving Jesus just the same.
Business: it would be unthinkable that we would ever identify with a business practice that is dishonest, misleading. Never! Never! Out there in that lost infidel world there are ten thousand things that go on every day that are dishonest. But we’re never a part of it; never. It may hurt us to tell the truth, but God will make it up to you.
You know, it’s a remarkable thing. I am not out in the business world. I give my whole life and energy and prayers, love to this dear church. I have one interest. That’s this precious church. But as you would know I’m with businessmen all the time. And when a man has a reputation for being dishonest and misleading in the business world, isn’t it strange, everybody that has to do with him knows all about him. And the obverse, the reverse of that is true. If a man is honest in the business world, somehow men like to do business with him. They admire him; they respect him. "This is a Christian man. He’ll tell you the truth." And somehow God makes up for any loss that man might sustain in telling the truth. God makes it up to him in a thousand wonderful ways. It pays to be honest, says a proverb.
And I have one other and that concerns the Lord’s Day, the Lord’s Day. To desecrate the Lord’s Day is one of the weaknesses of the people of God, everywhere, everywhere. And it is increasing. If you have a big football game, the chances are they’ll play it on Sunday. If you have a big baseball game, chances are it’ll be on Sunday. If you have some kind of affair or some kind of a to-do, community-wide, the chances are they’ll present it on Sunday. In your recent lifetime, you’ve seen these stores open on Sunday; the desecration of the Lord’s Day.
And my dear people, we don’t affront God and not pay a terrible price for it. I don’t think there’s any doubt but that some of the tragedies that are overwhelming our American people and our beloved nation are judgments from heaven because we are turning our backs on Him. Dear Lord, may there be in us a spirit of devotion, and of worship, and of honesty, and of integrity, and of the fruitfulness that comes from saying a good word for Jesus. The Lord will remember you in a multitude of beautiful ways if you will be and live and walk in that pilgrim way. God bless us in it.
Now you sweet young people, you find your place where you put up your instruments, and Denny, I’m going to make two invitations tonight. And we’ll sing a different song for each one of the two. Our first invitation is to give your heart to the blessed Jesus and to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church. Bring your family and all of you come, and welcome. Then, Denny, I’m going to make another appeal, and we’ll sing another hymn for that. Our first hymn, to give your heart to Jesus, to answer God’s call and to stand here with me; make the decision now, and when you stand up, stand up coming. That first step will be the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life. And may angels attend you in the way. I’ll be right here, standing right there. You come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing our hymn together.
THE USELESS CHRISTIAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The Lord had much to say about the useless Christian(Matthew 5:13-14, 21:18-20, Revelation 3:14-19)
B. The screw with no notch – no way to use it
II. As useless as a non-witnessing Christian
A. Businessman worked with one of our deacons 20 years and never knew he was a Christian
B. If you are a real Christian, you cannot hide it
1. Seeing Paderewski play – "Isn’t this the biggest congregationâ€¦"
C. True Christian eager to avow it
1. Streets of New York – "God bless youâ€¦Sir, do you know God?"
III. As useless as a non-giving Christian
A. Cannot keep God’s money; He will collect it
1. Letter to a newspaper
B. A part of everything you have belongs to God
C. A practice that blesses me – never a plate passed but that I place something in it
IV. As useless as a worldly Christian
A. Worldliness defined – heart is in this world
1. Jesus illustrated it (Luke 12:15-21)
B. Worldliness is ever-present with us
V. The appeal of Scripture to be separate(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
A. Foul language, stories
B. We never take a vacation from God
C. Unthinkable to identify with dishonest business practice
D. Desecrate the Lord’s Day