The Christian In An Evil World
November 20th, 1988 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHRISTIAN IN AN EVIL WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-20-88 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. I am preaching as pastor of the church through the Book of John, and we are in the Holy of Holies in the life of our Savior; the night before He was betrayed and tried, and the next morning, crucified [John 18:1-19:30]. And in the high priestly prayer in John 17, I am reading verses 11 through 18 [John 17:11-18]. It is the background for the message The Christian in an Evil World, John 17:11:
I am no more in the world, but these disciples are in the world . . .
Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou has 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 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 first time—I have been a pastor sixty-two years and this is the first time that I have ever prepared a sermon that was practically, most all of it just Scripture. We begin.
The world as Scripture presents it is 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.” We are prisoners and slaves in it, and He came to deliver us out of 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.” Worldliness is antithetical to godliness. If your values and goals and dreams and habits and happiness are found in the world, you are not in God: 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” How do we know that? Because the judgment of death is upon this whole creation and all that is in it. Dead planets, and dead solar systems, and dead empires, and dead nations, and dead families, and dead you—all of us are under the judgment of death because we are a part of this evil and wicked world.
About two or three days ago there were a couple of fellows here in the church that were describing to me their witnessing to a very intellectual man. And they said, “He drove us against the wall saying he was not a sinner, and we didn’t know how to reply.” Well, the answer is very easily obvious. He’s a dying man, and death is the judgment of sin. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20] and “the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And if he is a perfect man, he does not die. It is because he is a sinner that he faces the judgment of death.
And this whole world lieth under that judgment of Almighty God, and the Bible avows that the god, the prince, of this world is Satan [John 14:30, 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4]. In the third temptation of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 4:8-9, Satan says to our Savior, “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.” That is no temptation if Satan does not possess it; it is because he owns it and it belongs to him that he was able to tempt our Lord with it: “You fall down and worship me, and I will give You the whole creation and all the glory of it” [Matthew 4:8-9]. This is expressly avowed in Scripture, that Satan is the prince and king of this world.
- In 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.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.”
- And Revelation 12:9 the consummation, “The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world.”
Now Satan, the prince of this world is the enemy of the child of God. He’s the enemy of the Christian; 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The Christian life is one of conflict and confrontation. The Christian life is a war! Whenever anyone persuades you that you be a Christian and all your problems pass away and all your difficulties and troubles are at an end, they are deceiving you. The Christian life is a warfare; it’s not easy. It’s a confrontation.
Isaac Watts wrote this in 1724. Isaac Watts, I suppose, is one of the greatest hymn writers of all time. And you remember the hymn:
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 fight to win the prize
And sailed thro’ 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 help 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, 1721]
The Christian life is a life of war, of confrontation!
Now the ultimate 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.” And that means under God, in Revelation 21:1, “We look for a new heaven and a new earth: for the old first heaven and this old first earth are passed away.”
In this world, the Christian is in it, but he is not of it [John 17:16]. He is separate and apart from it. There are multitudes that are of it. Their seekings and their rewards are always empty and frustrating. Bobby Burns expressed it so eloquently:
Pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow’r, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls on the river,
In 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, 1790]
One of the most dramatic illustrations of that can be seen in some of the stars in Hollywood. I am not calling a name; I think of one now. She committed suicide simply because she saw her beauty fading away. There are some who withdraw from the world, like the monk in the monastery. And there are some who seek to hold to both God and mammon; that despite the word of our Lord in Matthew 6:24: “Ye cannot serve two masters . . . you cannot serve God and mammon.” If you are in the world, if you choose the world, you cannot choose God. It is one or the other. And the call of God to the Christian is that we are in this world, but we are not of it [John 17:16].
In John 17:15, the text that we read, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil”—ek tou ponerou, out of the hand of “the evil one.” Romans 12:2, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed” by the will of God. In 1 John 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things of the world…For all that is in the world…is not of the Father…And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” And the pungent and straightforward and cutting word of the apostle Paul 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]
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. We had in our church a beautiful young woman, just as gracious and precious as she could be. And she fell in love with a handsome, affluent young man who was not a Christian, an unbeliever. And, as the days passed, the young woman, so sweet and gracious, came to me and said, “Dear pastor, would you talk with my husband? He is preparing to divorce me.”
Well, good night! What? Lord, Lord. So I tried. I tried the best I can, and every ingenious way that God could endow me, I make approaches to him.
So as the conversation continues, he says to me—he says, “Preacher, I don’t want to insult you, and I don’t want to hurt you. But if you want me to, I’ll tell you plainly why it is I’m divorcing my wife and breaking up my home.”
“Well,” I said, “You won’t insult me. Why?” And he replied, “I hate everything about the church! I hate the sermons! I hate the songs! I hate the prayers! I hate the people! I hate Sunday! I hate everything about the church! And I’m walking out. I’m leaving.”
A thing like that is devastating. What do you say? What can you do? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. You are not to marry outside of God. You are not to marry outside of the Lord. You are not to try to build a home with an infidel and an unbeliever. You are not to do it. I cannot understand it. A girl thinks that she is not fulfilled and she is not achieving the purpose for her coming into the world as a girl until she marries; that is a deception.
As I said, I’ve been a pastor for sixty-two years, and my impression is this: most marriages are unhappy. Unless you think that is a part of the bitterness by which the pastor confronts life, these are the statistics that I read. Out of ten marriages, two of them are happy. Out of ten marriages, one or two of them is somewhat; and out of ten marriages all the rest of them are miserable, unhappy.
If you marry, you are to marry in the Lord. You are to marry in the blessing of God. And you are infinitely better off not to be married if you do not marry in the calling, and purpose, and goodness, and will, and grace of our wonderful Savior. If marriage is vital to your life, why wasn’t Jesus married? He was not married. Paul was not married, and inveighs against it [1 Corinthians 7:29-40]. Only in God’s grace and God’s will are you to be married.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath an unbeliever with a child of God?” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. O Lord, that there were a disposition on the part of our godly young people to seek a companion in the will of God, in the fellowship of the church, in the kingdom of our Savior. And if that young man will not accept the Lord, or if that young woman will not come into the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, the marriage is not to be consummated, ever.
We have the example of our Lord Jesus in this evil world: in it, but not of it. In His humanity, He came down to be one of us. And He really was with it, and in it, and a present part of it. If there were big crowds listening to John the Baptist on the Jordan River, Jesus was there [Matthew 3:1-5, 13]. If there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, Jesus was there [John 2:1-2]. If there were great feasts in Jerusalem, Jesus was there [John 7:37,10:22-23]. Count on it; where people were, Jesus was.
In Luke 15:1-2, “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, houtos, houtos”—a contemptuous term—this guy, this outcast, this fellow, houtos, “this Man receiveth sinners, and eats with them.” That’s Jesus. Wherever people were, there you would find Him. And His identity with the hurts and the sorrows and the tears of humanity, His identity was real. It was actual. It was obvious. He never moved away.
I think one of the most unusual things—and when you read it, you are just reading it, you won’t realize it—in the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew, it says, “Behold, there came a leper unto Him” [Matthew 8:2]. Now, that was at a time when Jesus was surrounded and pressed on every side by a great throng of people, a multitude of people [Matthew 8:1].
Well, how in the earth did that leper just come up to Jesus? Well, when you think of it, the reason is very obvious. When a leper walked anywhere outside of the tombs where he was confined, by law, by biblical law, he had to put his hand over his lips like this. And, as he walked, he cried, “Unclean, unclean, unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. And wherever he went, the people fell away from him, fell away from him. That’s why the Bible says, “Behold, a leper just came up to Jesus” [Matthew 8:2], walking there with his hand over his lips, crying, “Unclean, unclean!” The crowd fell away from him. Wherever he walked, there was that icy circle all around him.
Well, why didn’t Jesus fall away from him? Jesus stood there, and that leper came right up to the Lord. And the next verse says, “And the Lord reached forth His hand, and touched him” [Matthew 8:3], touched him, put His hand on him! You know what I think? That was the first time in that leper’s life he ever felt the touch of a warm human hand. Jesus touched him.
I would say that was nine-tenths of the healing. That’s our Lord. He was down here with us, identified with our humanity [Philippians 2:7]. All the tears and sorrows and despairs and hurts of life, He Himself experienced them [Hebrews 4:14-16].
In Matthew 11:18-19, He says, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners,” a friend of the outcast. So He called Matthew, a publican, to be an apostle [Luke 5:27; 6:13-15]. And so He went home to eat with Zaccheus, a publican [Luke 19:2, 5-7]. But at the same time that our Lord was so identified with us in the world, He was so different and apart from it. In John 18:36, He says to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
And in John 6:15, after the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:1-14], it says that the people “would come and take Him by force and make Him a king.” How complimentary would that be, to make Him the king of the whole civilized world? But our Lord departed, and in a mountain alone spent the night in prayer [John 6:15].
In John 16:33, He says, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” He is in it, part of it, deeply moved by every experience in it, but He is separate and apart from it [John 17:14,16; Hebrews 7:26]. And that is our Lord’s great calling and assignment to us. It is our life and our commission.
In John 17:14-18, what you read, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world…. As Thou has sent Me into the world, even so do I also send them into the world.” That is in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself… and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” We have it. Our calling, now then, is as ambassadors for Christ, “as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you…. be you reconciled to God [2 Corinthians 5:19-20]. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. God wants us in the world. He called us and set us in the world; “like salt,” He says, we are the salt of the earth [Matthew 5:13]. “And like light”; He says, “we are the light of the world” [Matthew 5:14].
It is God who loves and seeks to save the lost world. That’s John 16-17. It is John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. This is the bread which I give. It is My flesh. I give it for the life of the world.” John 12:47, “For I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world.”
And that is our great assignment and calling from heaven. We are His ambassadors. We are His representatives. We are His emissaries. We are His disciples. And our assignment is to witness, to become a part of the world, in the sense that we love the world, its people, its lost. And we are sent of God to witness to it.
I read one time of a spider in the Amazon river. It forms a bubble. The spider forms a bubble and goes down to the bottom of the river to feed on the bottom of the river. When I read that, I thought of us. We are in this world, but we’re not a part of it. We are separated from it [John 17:14-16]. And God blesses us and grants to us His grace as we try to witness to the world in which God hath cast our life and lot.
I heard of a beautiful, gorgeously dressed and arrayed woman, sitting before a social event in a swanky hotel in a great city. And she was seated there, waiting for her husband. And a man came and sat down by her side and began to witness to that gorgeous socialite of the love of Jesus and the grace of our Lord. When her husband came, they went up to the hotel room first, before going to the beautiful social occasion. And finally, the husband said to her, “Wife, what is the matter with you? What has happened to you?” And she said, “Husband, I don’t know how to reply. While I was in the hotel lobby waiting for you, there came a man who sat down by my side. And he talked to me about my soul and my relationship with God.” And the husband angrily replied, “Well, why didn’t you tell him it’s none of his business, your soul and your relationship to God?” And the wife replied, “Husband, had you seen his face and had you heard the tone of his voice, you would have thought it was some of his business.”
God hath set us in the world to witness to the world. God loves the world, gave His Son for it [John 3:16]. And He has commissioned us as ambassadors, and representatives, and disciples, and emissaries to bring to them the word of salvation [2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2]. Anywhere is a good where to say something for Jesus, anywhere; not only by word and testimony, but by example.
In tribulation, the Christian is to praise God. There’s nothing in this earth that impresses like a child of God under great sorrow, or distress, or hurt, or loss, praising the Lord. Do you remember that little phrase? “After they beat Paul and Silas” [Acts 16:23], and did you know that was so severe, terrible, tragic, that sometimes the prisoner died under those thongs of steel and iron? A Roman beating, a scourging; after they beat Paul and Silas bloody, put them in the inner dungeon with their feet fast in stocks [Acts 16:24], it says in the Bible; it says, “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God”—now the little addition—“and the prisoners heard them” [Acts 16:25]. My soul, no wonder they heard them. How could you hide away that kind of a praise to God after you have been beat to death and thrust in an inner dungeon and your feet fast in the stocks? May I make an aside? Not only did the prisoners hear them, God heard them. The next verse says, and the Lord God took this world and shook it: “there was a great earthquake” [Acts 16: 26]. God heard them too. That is the way we are to be in this world; and of course, triumphant in death. Triumphant: see heaven opening, see the angel band coming out to meet us, hear their voices of rapture and welcome, praising the Lord, lifting up our eyes to see the vision beatific. That’s our final hour of triumph and grace and glory.
I went to see, in the home of my former pastorate, I went to see one of the dearest, godliest, deacons I have ever known in my life, dying. I knelt by his bedside and prayed, bid him goodbye, so weak he couldn’t speak. When I got to the door, I turned around for one last look at that godly man, so weak, he couldn’t talk. And, as I turned and looked at him, he raised his feeble hand up, up, up and with his finger pointed to heaven. “I will see you, pastor, in heaven.” That is the way we’re to die. “I’ll see you in heaven.” We are to die triumphantly, gloriously.
Paul said it so beautifully:
The day of my departure is at hand . . . Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:6-8].
And that includes us. “Unto all them also that love His appearing,” that’s the way a Christian dies: gloriously, triumphantly, in the very presence of the angels of heaven. O God, what a wonderful thing it is to love Jesus! May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, down here in this earthly pilgrimage, assailed with every kind of temptation, and sorrow, and hurt; tears falling from our eyes through the days of our earthly journey, but God is with us. And all of the sorrows we experience in life but fit us for the glory of the joys of the world that is yet to come. O Christ Jesus, how much You mean to us; You suffered [Hebrews 4:14-17]. You cried [Luke 19:41; John 11:25, Hebrews 5:7], You died [Matthew 27:22-50]. Lord, Lord, there are no experiences we ever endure in this pilgrimage that You have not also known and yet through it all You spoke of Your joy. God in heaven, may we be like Thy great precious Son, our Savior. In the sorrows of life may we rejoice in Thee. And our Lord, bless this message and appeal and may God give us souls; trophies of love and grace to lay at the feet of our wonderful Savior, in whose dear name we pray, amen, amen, amen.
In this moment when we stand and sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, to come to be with us [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple you, to give your home and life to the Lord; a one somebody you, to take Jesus as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13]; as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come and stand with us. We are going to heaven; let’s go together. We are going to stand in His presence someday; let’s stand together. We are going to praise His name someday; let’s praise Him together. In the balcony round, down a stairway; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “This is God’s time for me, pastor, and here I come.” As angels attend you in the way as the Spirit makes the call, answer with your life. Do it now. Welcome now, while we stand and while we sing.