Heartfelt Religion

Heartfelt Religion

January 31st, 1988 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 8:8

And there was great joy in that city.
Related Topics: Music, Religion, Worship, 1988, Acts
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HEARTFELT RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

1-31-88    8:15 a.m.

 

Thanks to God for His beautiful Lord’s Day and for you in the sanctuary and the multitudes who share the hour on the radio.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the morning message entitled Heartfelt Religion.  I will come back to the text a little later in the message in Acts 8:8, “And there was great joy in that city.”

The message today will be highly displeasing to some of the people, the congregation, in our dear church.  There is a Negro spiritual, “Stand By Me.”  And one of the stanzas in the song:

In the midst of faults and failures,

Stand by me.

When I do the best I can

And my friends misunderstand,

Thou who knowest all about me,

Stand by me.

[from “Stand By Me,” Charles A. Tindley]

 

There is a significant group in our church that are greatly and highly offended when we applaud, when we clap our hands. A week ago, there was a group who met with me and asked me to see that such a practice is stilled in our church.  I tried that for several years, trying to interdict our people from applauding.  After not succeeding in it for a long time, a long period of time, standing up here every service announcing to our people they were not to applaud, I finally turned it over—in that day when Dr. Jimmy Draper was my assistant pastor, I finally turned it over to him.  And he tried it for a long time, announcing to our people, “You’re not to clap and you are not to applaud.”  If I go back into that, at all four services I will have to stand here and make the announcement and the plea that we not applaud, that we not clap.  For you see, visitors come and they don’t know that, and there is a spontaneity on the part of our people, when someone sings a glorious song or the choir is triumphant in its praise of the Lord and they just spontaneously applaud.

So after last week, you heard me say all the years and years I’ve been here, I believe in confirming signs.  I think if a thing is in the will of God and pleases the Lord, He will confirm it with an inevitable sign; He will always do it.  You can make sure of the will of God for your life if you will confirm it; believe in a confirmation from heaven.  So a week ago, when I was pled with by this group that I stop that practice in our church last Sunday—I always, as you know, stay here and shake hands with the people.  So there came up to me a distinguished looking man and he announced himself, introduced himself as a professor in a great university in the west.  And he said to me, he said, “I noticed this morning that you’re going to be on television.  Then he said, “I also noticed that when the special number was sung that there was some applause, but it was rather light.”  I think, because of the meditative nature of the song, it was not uproarious in our church.  Anyway, the professor said to me, “I see you’re going to be on television,” and I notice the applause was not overwhelming this morning. Now,” he said, “I want to tell you something.  You tell your congregation to applaud uproariously, vigorously, magnificently.  Because,” he said, “the people who look on television, it brings to them the idea, the impression that there is life and warmth in the church.”  And he said to me, “I am telling you, as a professor who knows and studied it, I’m telling you that if you will applaud in your church, the people who look at it on television will be greatly moved.   They’ll feel that you care, that there’s a fellowship and a response in your congregation.”

Well, that night—I’m talking about last Sunday night—last Sunday night Willa Dorsey came by, and you would have thought that we were in Texas Stadium when that dear woman got through singing.  She sang the first song; then, you know, I asked her to sing the second one.  Then she sang a third one while we had our offering.  And the applauding of our people was just overflowing; it just came out of their hearts.

Well, Tuesday night of last week, I sat there before the television and I listened to the president of the United States as he gave his annual [State] of the [Union] message to the Senate and to the House of Representatives.  Well, if there’s a dignified body in the earth, it ought to be the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.   They govern the greatest nation in the earth.  And you would have thought that you were again out at Texas Stadium.  It was a magnificent response to the president as they clapped and applauded and just carried through their affirmation—that is, the Republicans—of what the president was saying.

Then on Tuesday night, I looked at a national convocation giving awards to the great musicians and the same thing happened.  And then Friday night, last Friday night, I went to the Dallas Symphony and the same thing happened there at the Dallas Symphony.  When they got through those magnificent portrayals of that beautiful music, all of these dignified people, so beautifully dressed, bow, and the crowd just goes wild.

Well, I’m a preacher, of course, and I’m not out there in the political world and I’m not out there in the music world; so I just looked through the Bible.  And here’s what I find in the Word of God.  In the eleventh chapter of 2 Kings is the story of the murder of all of the king’s family by Athaliah.  And she usurps the throne [2 Kings 11:1-3].  But Jehoiada the high priest, a godly man, hides away a little baby, Joash, the son of the king.  And when the little boy is seven years of age, when he was seven years old, “Jehoiada brought him forth, the king’s son, and put a crown upon him; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands and said, God save the king” [2 Kings 11:12].  It was a new beginning in Israel.  I could understand that.  Imagine the whole family of the king slain, and that little child, through him the Messiah is to come; through all of those glorious, glorious generations, God’s hand is in it, and this little boy preserves that promise of God.  And they responded gloriously; that is, the Bible says they did [1 Kings 11:4, 12].

Well, I turn over here to the Book of Psalms, and Psalm 47 begins:

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph . . .

God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises.

Sing praises unto our King . . .

God is the King of all the earth—

He reigneth over the nations: God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness.

The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of God . . . for the shields of the earth belong unto God: He is greatly exalted.

[Psalm 47:1, 5-6, 8-9]

 Sing it!  Shout it!  Applaud it!  Exalt it!  That’s God. I turn the page again in Psalm 98:

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvelous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory—

[Psalm 98:1]

Something to be glad about, to rejoice in, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth” [Psalm 100:1].  Whether you can sing or not doesn’t matter in the world.  It says, “Make a joyful noise.”   Well, a lot of us can’t sing but we sure can make a noise, just make a noise, any noise—just keep it in rhythm, that’s all, that’s all, “Sing unto the Lord with a harp”; with a harp [Psalm 98:5].

  See that child there and that beautiful golden harp?  That’s in the Book:

Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Let the floods clap their hands.

Let all nature enter into it for God is the Lord of all the earth.

[Psalm 98:5, 7, 8, 9]

I turn to the great prophet Isaiah, in chapter 55, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” [Isaiah 55:12].  That’s God; that’s the Word of the Lord.

Now I want to speak of that in religion—emotion, feeling, response in religion.  Many years ago, long before I came to be undershepherd of this dear church, I heard a story about Dr. Truett.  In those days, he preached on the second coming of Christ.    And that morning, here in this house where we are gathered, he was preaching from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, “If I go away. . .I will come again” [John 14:3].  And in the middle of his sermon, there was a dear old mother who got happy.  And she stood up and began to shout—there are young people, a generation who have never heard anyone do that—this dear old saint stood up and shouted.  And a physician, in attendance at the service, rushed over to her and began ushering her out of the church, thinking that she was possessed, or demented, or ill.  And Dr. Truett watched it, and he raised his hand and said, “There, there, doctor.  Leave her alone; leave her alone.  She’s just happy in the Lord.”   Then turning to his congregation he said, “My brothers and sisters, we need more of that in this church.”

The “old time religion;” as a boy, that was the time I was introduced to it.  I have heard Methodists in their revival meetings pour out of their church house and shout all up and down the streets of the little town where I grew up.  A “shouting Methodist” used to be one word; certainly isn’t today.

As a youth, I preached under brush arbors, brush arbor meetings.  They were events; whole earth came together.  When they laid their crops by in the summertime, everybody came to the revival, even the infidels and the unbelievers.  And they were glorious times, filled with emotion and feeling and response.  And as a man beginning to preach, sometimes in some of those services were some of the highest, most moving moments that mind could think for or heart could feel.

I was in one of the great churches in a city in Oklahoma.  And at the end of the appeal, down the aisle came a young man.  Then in a little moment, down came another young man, two handsome boys and sat together.  When the congregation was seated, the pastor stood up to introduce those who had come forward.  And when he did, a fine looking woman came down to the front.  I learned that she was the teacher of one of the Lord’s Woman’s Bible classes in the congregation.  She came down to the front and walked over and put her hand on the head of one of those boys.  And she said, “I prayed that God would give me one of my boys today.”  Then she put her other hand on the head of the other lad and said, “But God was better to me than even I prayed for.  He has given me both of my boys.”  And that woman, from one side of that big church to the other, began to shout and to praise God; thanking God that He had given her both of her boys.

One of those boys for years was a professor in our Southwestern Seminary over there in Fort Worth.  You have never felt or seen such emotional response as God’s people have known and expressed in these days past—which largely has ceased in these days present.  Feeling, feeling: an emotional response to what God has done.

Let me describe how most of the religious world responds toward Christ and life today.  I held a funeral service for a little girl, very young.  And when I had delivered the message of consolation and comfort, why, I stood there at the head of the casket, looking down into the still, cold face of that darling, beautiful little girl.  The mother came and began to weep, disconsolately, just brokenheartedly.   And by her side stood her husband, never showing any trace of emotion at all, just stood there like carved out of stone or like a wooden Indian, just stood there; and his wife, weeping her heart out, and that dead little baby girl before him in the casket. I wanted to say to him, “Man, can’t you at least put your hand on your wife, or put your arm around her, or look down into the face of that darling child?”  That is a picture of so much of modern reaction to the suffering and death for our sins on the part of our glorious Savior, absolutely unmoved; could care hardly less.

In this eighth chapter that I haven’t time to expound, there was megalē: mega is “big.”  There was megalē, “great,” chara, “joy,” in that city.  Chara, charis is the word for “grace.”  Charisma is the gift of grace.  The blessing of the Lord God fell upon them, and they were filled with unspeakable and indescribable joy [Acts 8:8]; that’s religion.  That’s the kind I got when I was saved.  I could not see the preacher for crying.  I was moved in my soul.

In my first testimony, having been saved as a ten-year-old boy, on Wednesday night we testified, stood up and said something good about Jesus.  I was seated by my sainted old mother, and when I stood up to testify, after a few words, I began to cry.  And I looked down at my mother for encouragement, and my mother had burst into tears; heartfelt religion.

And my country pastorates—and I was out there ten years—my country pastorates were filled with that kind of response to the Lord.  And some of the highest moments I’ve ever lived through since have been just like that.

I was preaching through the state evangelistic conference here in Texas, in the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium.  And while I was preaching at that conference, a preacher up in the balcony began to shout to the top of his voice.  And he shouted all the way down, down to the lower floor, down through the congregation—the people—and up there on the platform where I was standing, just shouting, praising God to the top of his voice.  After it was over, somebody said to the singer, the song leader, “Why didn’t you announce a song and have the people stand up and sing and stop him?”  And the song leader said, “My brother, stop him?  I never felt like that in my life!  Let him shout; let him shout; let him shout,” old time religion.

There is a Greek word, two of them together, en theos, en theos, “in God.”  And the Greeks put them together, and it comes out enthousiasmos, enthousiasmos, God in us.  When you take it into the English language, it comes out enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is a word that belongs to us.  It’s our word.  It’s God in us.  But what has happened is, Satan has taken it away from us.  Satan says, “You come out here into the world, and I’ll show you a good time with laughter, and lilt, and fun, and frolic.  But on the inside of God’s house it’s dull and dry and dreary.  You come with me and I’ll show you a good time.”  That’s what Satan says.  He has stolen our word from us, en theos, enthousiasmos—God in us; enthusiasm.

I think one of the reasons why the picture show is sometimes so well attended; you can go there and sit there and cry and nobody will accuse you of being intellectually weak or emotionally unstable.  Think of that.  Before some sentimental melodrama, weeping, but in God’s house, before the reality of life itself, we’re not to be moved.  We’re not to be stirred.  We’re not to respond.

I have to close.  I think of our services sometimes as a wedding—strange thing, but I would suppose again it comes out of the experiences of my life—a wedding.  God’s Book says we are the bride of Christ; the church is the bride of Christ [Ephesians 5:22-32].   And it’ll be an unusual wedding where there was no feeling and no emotion.  To cry at a wedding is almost a proverb, a cliché, to cry at a wedding.   You see, this is the building of another life.  This is the commitment unto death.  This is a joining together in the Lord.  And it is full of feeling and tears.  That’s this service; we are being joined to Christ.  We’re building a habitation with the Lord.  We are committing ourselves to Him forever and ever and ever.  And as such, we are moved to the depths of our souls.

Because I cry doesn’t mean necessarily I’m unhappy.  A lot of us cry because our hearts are overflowing.   God has been so good to us, and the Lord has brought to us such hope and such promises.  Lord, how could I ever praise Thee enough?  Bless His holy name forever.

Now we’re going to sing us a song.  And while we sing the appeal, to come forward to give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], or a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church or to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your life, on the first note of the first stanza come and welcome.  God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.

HEARTFELT RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

1-31-88    8:15 a.m.

 

 

Thanks to God for His beautiful Lord’s Day and for you in the sanctuary and the multitudes who share the hour on the radio.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the morning message entitled Heartfelt Religion.  I will come back to the text a little later in the message in Acts 8:8, “And there was great joy in that city.”

The message today will be highly displeasing to some of the people, the congregation, in our dear church.  There is a Negro spiritual, “Stand By Me.”  And one of the stanzas in the song:

 

In the midst of faults and failures,

Stand by me.

When I do the best I can

And my friends misunderstand,

Thou who knowest all about me,

Stand by me.

[from “Stand By Me”; Charles A. Tindley]

There is a significant group in our church that are greatly and highly offended when we applaud, when we clap our hands. A week ago, there was a group who met with me and asked me to see that such a practice is stilled in our church.  I tried that for several years, trying to interdict our people from applauding.  After not succeeding in it for a long time, a long period of time, standing up here every service announcing to our people they were not to applaud, I finally turned it over – in that day when Dr. Jimmy Draper was my assistant pastor, I finally turned it over to him.  And he tried it for a long time, announcing to our people, “You’re not to clap and you are not to applaud.”  If I go back into that, at all four services, I will have to stand here and make the announcement and the plea that we not applaud, that we not clap.  For you see, visitors come and they don’t know that, and there is a spontaneity on the part of our people, when someone sings a glorious song or the choir is triumphant in its praise of the Lord and they just spontaneously applaud.

So after last week, you heard me say all the years and years I’ve been here, I believe in confirming signs.  I think if a thing is in the will of God and pleases the Lord, He will confirm it with an inevitable sign; He will always do it.  You can make sure of the will of God for your life if you will confirm it; believe in a confirmation from heaven.  So a week ago, when I was pled with by this group that I stop that practice in our church last Sunday – I always, as you know, stay here and shake hands with the people.  So there came up to me a distinguished looking man and he announced himself, introduced himself as a professor in a great university in the west.  And he said to me, he said, “I noticed this morning that you’re going to be on television.  Then,” he said, “I also noticed that when the special number was sung that there was some applause, but it was rather light.”  I think, because of the meditative nature of the song, it was not uproarious in our church.  Anyway, the professor said to me, “I see you’re going to be on television, and I notice the applause was not overwhelming this morning. Now,” he said, “I want to tell you something.  You tell your congregation to applaud uproariously, vigorously, magnificently.  Because,” he said, “the people who look on television, it brings to them the idea, the impression that there is life and warmth in the church.”  And he said to me, “I am telling you, as a professor who knows and studied it, I’m telling you that if you will applaud in your church, the people who look at it on television will be greatly moved.   They’ll feel that you care, that there’s a fellowship and a response in your congregation.”

Well, that night – I’m talking about last Sunday night – last Sunday night Willa Dorsey came by, and you would have thought that we were in Texas Stadium when that dear woman got through singing.  She sang the first song; then, you know, I asked her to sing the second one.  Then she sang a third one while we had our offering.  And the applauding of our people was just overflowing; it just came out of their hearts.

Well, Tuesday night of last week, I sat there before the television and I listened to the president of the United States as he gave his annual [State] of the [Union] message to the Senate and to the House of Representatives.  Well, if there’s a dignified body in the earth, it ought to be the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.   They govern the greatest nation in the earth.  And you would have thought that you were again out at Texas Stadium.  It was a magnificent response to the president as they clapped and applauded and just carried through their affirmation – that is, the Republicans – of what the president was saying.

Then on Tuesday night, I looked at a national convocation giving awards to the great musicians and the same thing happened.  And then Friday night, last Friday night, I went to the Dallas Symphony and the same thing happened there at the Dallas Symphony.  When they got through those magnificent portrayals of that beautiful music, all of these dignified people, so beautifully dressed, bow, and the crowd just goes wild.

Well, I’m a preacher, of course, and I’m not out there in the political world and I’m not out there in the music world; so I just looked through the Bible.  And here’s what I find in the Word of God.  In the eleventh chapter of 2 Kings is the story of the murder of all of the king’s family by Athaliah.  And she usurps the throne.  But Jehoiada the high priest, a godly man, hides away a little baby, Joash, the son of the king.  And when the little boy is seven years of age, when he was seven years old, “Jehoiada brought him forth, the king’s son, and put a crown upon him; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands and said, God save the king” [2 Kings 11:12].  It was a new beginning in Israel.  I could understand that.  Imagine the whole family of the king slain, and that little child, through him the Messiah is to come; through all of those glorious, glorious generations, God’s hand is in it.  And this little boy preserves that promise of God.  And they responded gloriously.  That is, the Bible says they did.

Well, I turn over here to the Book of Psalms, and Psalms 47 begins:

 

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with a voice of triumph. . .

God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with a sound of the trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises.

Sing praises unto our King. . .

God is the King of all the earth –

He reigneth over the nations: God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness.

The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of God. . .for the shields of the earth belong unto God: He is greatly exalted.

[Psalm 47:1, 5-6, 8-9]

 

 Sing it!  Shout it!  Applaud it!  Exalt it!  That’s God. I turn the page again in Psalm 98:

 

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvelous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory –

[Psalm 98:1]

Something to be glad about, to rejoice in, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth” [Psalm 100:1].  Whether you can sing or not doesn’t matter in the world.  It says, “Make a joyful noise.”   Well, a lot of us can’t sing but we sure can make a noise, just make a noise, any noise – just keep it in rhythm, that’s all, that’s all, “Sing unto the Lord with a harp; with a harp” [Psalm 98:5].

  See that child there and that beautiful golden harp?  That’s in the Book:

Sing unto the Lord with the harp, with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Let the floods clap their hands.

Let all nature enter into it for God is the Lord of all the earth.

[Psalm 98:5, 7, 8, 9]

 

I turn to the great prophet Isaiah, in chapter 55, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” [Isaiah 55:12].  That’s God; that’s the Word of the Lord.

Now I want to speak of that in religion – emotion, feeling, response in religion.  Many years ago, long before I came to be undershepherd of this dear church, I heard a story about Dr. Truett.  In those days, he preached on the second coming of Christ.    And that morning, here in this house where we are gathered, he was preaching from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, “If I go away. . .I will come again” [John 14:3].  And in the middle of his sermon, there was a dear old mother who got happy.  And she stood up and began to shout – there are young people, a generation who have never heard anyone do that – this dear old saint stood up and shouted.  And a physician, in attendance at the service, rushed over to her and began ushering her out of the church, thinking that she was possessed, or demented, or ill.  And Dr. Truett watched it and he raised his hand and said, “There, there, doctor.  Leave her alone; leave her alone.  She’s just happy in the Lord.”   Then turning to his congregation he said, “My brothers and sisters, we need more of that in this church.”

The “old time religion”; as a boy, that was the time I was introduced to it.  I have heard Methodists in their revival meetings pour out of their church house and shout all up and down the streets of the little town where I grew up.  A “shouting Methodist” used to be one word; certainly isn’t today.

As a youth, I preached under brush arbors, brush arbor meetings.  They were events; whole earth came together.  When they laid their crops by in the summertime, everybody came to the revival, even the infidels and the unbelievers.  And they were glorious times, filled with emotion and feeling and response.  And as a man beginning to preach, sometimes in some of those services were some of the highest, most moving moments that mind could think for or heart could feel.

I was in one of the great churches in a city in Oklahoma.  And at the end of the appeal, down the aisle came a young man.  Then in a little moment, down came another young man, two handsome boys and sat together.  When the congregation was seated, the pastor stood up to introduce those who had come forward.  And when he did, a fine looking woman came down to the front.  I learned that she was the teacher of one of the Lord’s Woman’s Bible classes in the congregation.  She came down to the front and walked over and put her hand on the head of one of those boys.  And she said, “I prayed that God would give me one of my boys today.”  Then she put her other hand on the head of the other lad and said, “But God was better to me than even I prayed for.  He has given me both of my boys.”  And that woman, from one side of that big church to the other, began to shout and to praise God; thanking God that He had given her both of her boys.

One of those boys for years was a professor in our Southwestern Seminary over there in Fort Worth.  You have never felt or seen such emotional response as God’s people have known and expressed in these days past – which largely has ceased in these days present.  Feeling, feeling: an emotional response to what God has done.

Let me describe how most of the religious world responds toward Christ and life today.  I held a funeral service for a little girl, very young.  And when I had delivered the message of consolation and comfort, why, I stood there at the head of the casket, looking down into the still, cold face of that darling, beautiful little girl.  The mother came and began to weep, disconsolately, just brokenheartedly.   And by her side stood her husband, never showing any trace of emotion at all, just stood there like carved out of stone or like a wooden Indian, just stood there; and his wife, weeping her heart out, and that dead little baby girl before him in the casket. I wanted to say to him, “Man, can’t you at least put your hand on your wife, or put your arm around her, or look down into the face of that darling child?”  That is a picture of so much of modern reaction to the suffering and death for our sins on the part of our glorious Savior, absolutely unmoved; could care hardly less.

In this eighth chapter that I haven’t time to expound, there was megalē: mega is “big.”  There was megalē, “great,” chara, “joy,” in that city.  Chara, charis is the word for “grace.”  Charisma is the gift of grace.  The blessing of the Lord God fell upon them, and they were filled with unspeakable and indescribable joy [Acts 8:8]; that’s religion.  That’s the kind I got when I was saved.  I could not see the preacher for crying.  I was moved in my soul.

In my first testimony, having been saved as a ten-year-old boy, on Wednesday night we testified, stood up and said something good about Jesus.  I was seated by my sainted old mother and when I stood up to testify, after a few words, I began to cry.  And I looked down at my mother for encouragement, and my mother had burst into tears – heartfelt religion.

And my country pastorates – and I was out there ten years – my country pastorates were filled with that kind of response to the Lord.  And some of the highest moments I’ve ever lived through since have been just like that.

I was preaching through the state evangelistic conference here in Texas, in the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium.  And while I was preaching at that conference, a preacher up in the balcony began to shout to the top of his voice.  And he shouted all the way down, down to the lower floor, down through the congregation – the people – and up there on the platform where I was standing, just shouting, praising God to the top of his voice.  After it was over, somebody said to the singer, the song leader, “Why didn’t you announce a song and have the people stand up and sing and stop him?”  And the song leader said, “My brother, stop him?  I never felt like that in my life!  Let him shout; let him shout; let him shout,” old time religion.

There is a Greek word, two of them together, en theos, en theos, “in God.”  And the Greeks put them together, and it comes out enthousiasmos, enthousiasmos, God in us.  When you take it into the English language, it comes out enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is a word that belongs to us.  It’s our word.  It’s God in us.  But what has happened is, Satan has taken it away from us.  Satan says, “You come out here into the world, and I’ll show you a good time with laughter, and lilt, and fun, and frolic.  But on the inside of God’s house it’s dull and dry and dreary.  You come with me and I’ll show you a good time.”  That’s what Satan says.  He has stolen our word from us, en theos, enthousiasmos – God in us; enthusiasm.

I think one of the reasons why the picture show is sometimes so well attended; you can go there and sit there and cry and nobody will accuse you of being intellectually weak or emotionally unstable.  Think of that.  Before some sentimental melodrama, weeping, but in God’s house, before the reality of life itself, we’re not to be moved.  We’re not to be stirred.  We’re not to respond.

I have to close.  I think of our services sometimes as a wedding – strange thing, but I would suppose again it comes out of the experiences of my life – a wedding.  God’s Book says we are the bride of Christ; the church is the bride of Christ [Ephesians 5:22-31].   And it’ll be an unusual wedding where there was no feeling and no emotion.  To cry at a wedding is almost a proverb, a cliché, to cry at a wedding.   You see, this is the building of another life.  This is the commitment unto death.  This is a joining together in the Lord.  And it is full of feeling and tears.  That’s this service; we are being joined to Christ.  We’re building a habitation with the Lord.  We are committing ourselves to Him forever and ever and ever.  And as such, we are moved to the depths of our souls.

Because I cry doesn’t mean necessarily I’m unhappy.  A lot of us cry because our hearts are overflowing.   God has been so good to us, and the Lord has brought to us such hope and such promises.  Lord, how could I ever praise Thee enough?  Bless His holy name forever.

Now we’re going to sing us a song.  And while we sing the appeal, to come forward to give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus, or a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church or to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your life, on the first note of the first stanza come and welcome.  God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.

HEARTFELT RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

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I.          Applauding

A.  Approached about asking our people to refrain from clapping

B.  Have tried and failed in years past

C.  If a thing is of God, He will confirm it with a sign

II.         What does Scripture say about such a response?

A.  Story of Jehoiada and Joash (2 Kings 11:12)

B.  In the Psalms (Psalm 47:1, 5-9;  98:1, 4-5, 7-8)

C.  In the prophets (Isaiah 55:12-13)

D.  If we are to be like God’s people, we are to applaud, be joyful

III.        The old-time religion

A.  Dr. Truett

B.  As a boy and a youth

      1.  Shouting Methodists

C.  As a grown man

IV.       Our response to the Christian life

A.  Preaching of Philip (Acts 8:8)

B. Satan denies the joy of the Lord

V.        Heartfelt religion

A.  My conversion

B.  My first testimony

C.  My country pastorates

D.  The years of my preaching