The Christian In an Evil World
November 20th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHRISTIAN IN AN EVIL WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-20-88 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you on radio and on television who are sharing this service with our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christian, The Life of the Christian in an Evil World. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, we are in the very Holy of Holies in the teaching life and ministry of our Lord. The passage closes in chapter 17 with the high priestly prayer. And I am reading in John 17, verses 11 through 18:
Now I am no more in the world, but these disciples are in the world. . . Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me. . .
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition—
that’s Judas Iscariot—
that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.
As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
The Christian in an evil world. This is the only time I can ever remember when I have prepared and framed a sermon that is almost altogether Scripture; but I have found it a blessing to my heart as I prepared it, and I pray that it will be a like blessing to you.
First: the world as Scripture presents it; always, fallen and evil. This is seen in Galatians 1:4: “Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, that He might deliver us”; as though we are prisoners and slaves in it. In James 4:4: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” This speaks of worldliness, which is antithetical to godliness. It refers to our values, and our goals, and our joys, and our interests, our happinesses, our habits; if they are of the world, we are cursed in it. We must separate ourselves from it.
First John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” How do we know that? Because the whole world is under the judgment of death: dead planets, dead solar systems, dead empires, dead families, dead nations, and dead you; all of us under the judgment of death because of our evil nature.
This last week there were two or three speaking to me about an intellectual, a man that they were attempting to win to Christ. And they said to me, “We found ourselves helpless before him because he refuses to admit that he’s a sinner” [Romans 3:16]. Well, they said, “What would you say? What would you do? He’s a very brilliant man.” And I replied, “The man is a sinner because he’s dying. If he’s perfect, you don’t face death; you’re immortal, you’d live forever. But the man is under the sentence of death because he’s a sinner [Ezekiel 18:20]. And no one of us, no institution among us, no creation of God’s hand but shares in that judgment of death [Hebrews 9:27], and we’re in it. And we face that inevitable someday accountability before God” [1 Peter 4:5].
The Scriptures avow that the god of this world is Satan [2 Corinthians 4:4]. In the third temptation, in Matthew 4:8-9, Satan says to the Lord Jesus, “All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, all these will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Now I submit to you that is no temptation at all if Satan does not possess the world and if he could not deliver it. The temptation lay in the fact that Satan says, “That all is mine, and I will give it to You if You will fall down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. This is the express avowal of Scripture: that this world is under the aegis of Satan.
- John 12:31: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
- John 14:30: “For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.”
- John 16:11: “The prince of this world is judged.”
- Second Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.”
- And of course, in Revelation 12:9: “The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. Now the Scriptures avow that Satan is the enemy of the Christian: in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
There is no doubt but that in the life of a Christian before Satan and the evil world in which he lives, he enters a war; his life is one of conflict, and confrontation, and battle. And you would think that now that I have given my life to Christ and I’m a Christian, everything would be quiet and easy and soft. It’s the opposite: Satan assails, and your life immediately becomes one of confrontation and conflict.
Isaac Watts, 1724, long time ago, great hymnist, Isaac Watts spoke of that eloquently in that famous song:
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world, is this vile world a friend to grace,
To carry me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” Isaac Watts]
And God says the destiny of the world is to be destroyed: 2 Peter 3:10: “The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” This world faces an inevitable judgment of God when the whole creation will be, Revelation 21:1, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away.”
Now we speak of the Christian in this world: he is in this world, but not of it [John 17:16]. In contrast, there are multitudes who are in the world and of it. And they are seeking empty and vain rewards. The energy of their lives, and their dreams, and hopes, and goals reach out to vanity and despair. Bobby Burns said it so eloquently:
Pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls on the river,
A moment white—then gone forever;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place.
[from “Tam O’Shanter,” Robert Burns]
I do not know of anything more typical than—and I don’t name her name—to commit suicide in Hollywood because she saw her fading beauty. Oh, what a disillusionment and what an ultimate despair! And of course, in the face of that, some withdraw from the world: like your monk in the monastery who disown it, disavow it altogether. Then there are some who seek to hold to both God and mammon; that despite of the word of our Lord in Matthew 6:24: “Ye cannot serve two masters: you cannot serve God and mammon.” The call of God to the Christian is always this: we are in the world, but we are not of it [John 17:16].
John 17:15, our text: “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil, ek tou ponerou, from the hand of the evil one.” In Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the will of God.” First John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things of the world…For all that is in this world…is not of the Father…And this world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever.” And that, oh-so-plain a passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
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? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? . . .
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty.
[2 Corinthians 6:14-15, 17-18]
Out of a thousand instances of that, that I could point to, let me just speak of one. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. I do not know of a more tragic thing that a girl can do than to marry a man who is not a Christian. There was in our dear church one of the sweetest, dearest young women you could ever see; beautiful, charming, everything wonderful about her. She fell in love with an unbeliever out in the world and married. After a while, she came to me saying that she wanted me to talk to her young husband. He wanted to divorce her. Well, I pray God to give me help and wisdom and do the best I can. So I made an appointment with him; handsome fellow, affluent, everything that a girl would want in a man, and he was very gracious to me. But as I talked to him and pressed him, he said, “Preacher, I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want to insult you, but if you want me to tell you how I feel and how I actually am, I will.”
I said, “You’re not going to insult me or hurt me. You tell me.” And these are his exact words: he said, “Preacher, I hate everything about the church! I hate it. I hate the sermons you preach. I hate the songs you sing. I hate the prayers you pray. I hate the people in the church. I hate Sunday. I hate everything about it. And I have decided I’m walking out.”
Now that’s an extreme example, I know. But it is typical, fundamentally and actually, of what it is to marry an unbeliever. When you do that you go diametrically and opposite against the Word of God: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14].
And when you girls fall in love, if that boy will not give his heart to Christ, and if he will not give his life with you to the faith of the blessed Savior, you are a thousand times better off if you will break off the engagement. You don’t have to marry. Why in the world a girl thinks her life is cursed if she’s not married? Jesus never married. Paul boasted of the fact that he was single [1 Corinthians 9:5]. You have a beautiful and wonderful life in the Lord, just serving Jesus. And I don’t want to appear to be pessimistic; it’s just easy, you know, as you get older and as you become acquainted with life, it is easy to become bitter and disillusioned. But I can tell you this: most marriages are not happy; most of them are not. Once in a while you’ll find one that is just glorious, just marvelous; but most of them are not happy. And when you marry outside of the Lord, you open your life and your soul to the greatest inroad that Satan could ever make in your life.
May I speak of the example of our Lord in the world? He came down here into this humanity, and He was really in it, and with it, and a present part of it. If there were big crowds on the Jordan listening to John the Baptist preach, count on it, Jesus was there [Matthew 3:1-5, 13]. If there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, count on it, Jesus was there [John 2:1-2]. If there were great feasts in Jerusalem, you can count on it, Jesus was there [John 10:22-23].
In Luke 15:1-2, “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, houtos, this guy,” that’s a contemptuous word, houtos; “this fellow receiveth sinners, and He eats with them” [Luke 15:1-2].
I want to give you an example of the Lord Jesus. He was thronged in this eighth chapter, starting off the eighth chapter of Matthew, He was thronged on every side, had a great throng, had a great crowd around Him [Matthew 8:1]. And a leper just walked up to Him [Matthew 8:2]. Well, when you read the story, you wonder, well, how did that leper just walk up to Him? He was thronged with a great multitude of people on every side, and yet that leper just walked up to Him. Well, the answer is very simple: by law, when the leper walked, he had to put his hand over his mouth like this, calling, “Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45], and the people, wherever the leper walked, immediately fell away from him. Well, what happened was very obvious: that leper calling, “Unclean! Unclean!” the crowd fell away on every side. Well, why didn’t Jesus fall away? Jesus just stood there. And the leper walked right up to Him [Matthew 8:2]. And the Bible says, “And Jesus reached forth His hand, and touched him” [Matthew 8:3]. That’s the first time in his life he ever felt the touch of a warm human hand! Jesus touched him. He didn’t fall away [Matthew 8:2-3]. Our Lord was in this world, and He was a part of it: its illnesses, and its hurts, and its tears, and its trouble, and its death [Hebrews 4:15]. He was identified with it.
Look at Matthew 11:18-19: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, He hath a demon. The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” So he called Matthew, a publican, to be a disciple [Luke 5:27; 6:15]. So He went home to eat with Zaccheus, a publican [Luke 19:5-7]. But at the same time that the Lord was so much in this world, He was so different and so apart from it. He said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36].
After the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:5-14], they tried to make Him a king [John 6:15]. Wouldn’t that be an honor and a privilege and an exaltation, to make Him a king? He turned and went away into a mountain to pray [John 6:15]. And Jesus said, in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
I have to close. Not finished, not the beginning.
Somehow in God’s goodness and grace we are called to witness to the world and to live a beautiful and holy example before it [Matthew 5:16]. And when we do, God is with us in blessing and in triumph.
I went to see one of the finest deacons any pastor ever had. And he so represented to me the joy and the triumph of a Christian. As he lay there dying, could hardly speak, his life ebbed away, I prayed with him. He turned to the side, and when I got to the door, I looked back: and with his feeble hand, he raised his finger and pointed toward heaven, “I’ll see you, pastor, in heaven.” That’s the triumph of the Christian. That’s the joy and gladness of the child of God. “I’ll see you in heaven.”
Our destiny is not death and decay and dust! Our destiny is to live triumphantly with God forever and ever. “I’ll see you in heaven.”
To you who have watched on television, listened on radio, may this be a day of thanksgiving and glory to you—opening your heart to the Lord, receiving Him as your Savior, and asking God’s blessings upon the work of your hand and every vision and love of your heart. And to the throng of people in this sanctuary, a family you, a couple you, just a one somebody you, this day to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], to come into the fellowship of our church, to love God with us, and someday to walk the golden streets together [Revelation 21:21], a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
CHRISTIAN IN AN EVIL WORLD
I. The world as Scripture presents it is
fallen and evil
A. Seen in Galatians
1:4, James 4:4, 1 John 5:19
god of this world is Satan (Matthew 4:8-9, John
12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)
Satan is the enemy of the Christian (1 Peter 5:8)
The destiny of the world to be destroyed (2
Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1)
II. The Christian in this world but not of
A. There are multitudes
are in the world and of it, seeking empty rewards
B. Some withdraw from
C. Some seek to hold to
both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)
call of God to the Christian (John 17:5, Romans
12:2, 1 John 2:15-17)
1. Be not unequally
yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
III. The example of Jesus in the world
A. He was really in it
people were, Jesus was (Luke 15:1-2, Matthew
B. But so different, so
apart (John 18:36, 6:15, 33, 17:14-18)
IV. Our lives and commission (John 17:14-18, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, 6:2)
A. God wants us in the
world (Matthew 6:13, 14-16)
B. God loves and seeks
to save the world (John 3:16-17, 6:51, 12:47)
C. We are ambassadors
1. In tribulation