THE LIGHTS OF HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-10-88 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled The Lights of Home. It is a sermon on heaven. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, we have come to the fourteenth chapter. And it begins like this:
Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God—
believe also in Me.
and we shall.
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place—
a topon, “place”: heaven is not some effervescent, far-out dream; it is real, topon, “place”; heaven is a place, our home is a place.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
When we come to these chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17, we are come to the very Holy of Holies in the life of our Lord. This is the basis of the victory of our Christian faith, these immediate chapters through which we are preaching [John 14-17].
You see, this is the night in which our Lord was arrested and tried. And the next day at 9:00 o’clock, He was nailed to a tree [Matthew 27:45-46]. And as He spoke to the disciples these words [John 14:1-3], they were spoken facing trial and death. In the sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter, our Lord said to His disciples, “Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart” [John 16:5-6]. All of us face those inevitable hours of discouragement, and defeat, and despair, and death. If you have not yet, you shall. There is no house, there’s no home, there’s no life into which these dark clouds do not bring the heavy rains of discouragement. How do you meet that inevitable and inexorable hour?
Well, I have chosen out of the world three representative men in what they have said as they meet the despair and discouragements and death in life. The first is a philosopher. He is Jean Paul Richter, a skeptic. He was born in a parsonage, he studied theology, but he became a terrible critic. Listen to what he says as he views the exigencies of life: “I have traversed the worlds. I have risen to the suns. I have pressed athwart the great waste places of the sky. I have descended to the place where the very shadows cast by being die out and end. We are orphans, you and I. Every soul in this vast, corpse-like trench of the universe is utterly alone.”
I have chosen out of the political world, the statesmanship world, a sentence from Benjamin Disraeli. He was the prime minister of England under Queen Victoria, and one in whom she had such inexorable regard. She adored Benjamin Disraeli. Here’s his sentence: “Youth is a blunder, mankind is a mistake, and old age is a regret.”
And I have chosen out of the world of literature this quotation from Tolstoy, the famous author from Russia. In his My Confessions and My Religion, he says various attitudes men take toward life: one, life is all bad—get drunk and forget it. Two, life is all bad; struggle against it. Three, life is all bad; remove yourself out of it, like suicide. Four, life is all bad, but live on accepting it as it comes; and he says, “I belong to the fourth.” All four of them, life is all bad, and his way out is grimly to accept it, stoically to bear it.
How different is the facing of the contingencies and exigencies and providences of life on the part of the Christian. In this wonderful passage from which I am now preaching, look at the beginning of it. Look at the end of it. Look at the middle of it. It begins, “Let not your heart be troubled” [John 14:1]. We believe in God. We believe in Jesus, our Lord. Look how it ends, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Do not think you will escape it! “In the world ye shall have tribulation [John 16:33]; but,” and this is the Christian faith, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].
And the middle of it is no different. He says, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” [John 14:18]. And again, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27]. This is the Christian response to the problems and the hurts and the heartaches of human life. The sun goes down to rise again, and Jesus is buried to be conqueror over death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], and that spirit of victory and optimism in life is ever present, whatever the hurt.
Listen to this. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
They had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with a sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented . . .
They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth . . .
God having provided some better thing for them.
That’s the victory that lies in the heart of the child of God: whatever the sorrow, or whatever the hurt, or whatever the despair, God having provided some better thing for us. What is that better thing? In this same glorious eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author describes it as the heart of Abraham, our patriarch father, looked toward it.
By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country . . . confessing he was a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth . . . for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
They that say such things declare plainly that they seek another country.
Truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them that city.
[Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16]
He will not disappoint you. They long for and look for another home, another country, confessing they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Here we have no abiding home, wherefore God hath prepared for them that city [Hebrews 11:13, 16].
In the Book of Philippians, Philippians 3:20, Paul says, “For our politeuma, our citizenship, our home is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, who shall change this vile decaying body into the likeness of His own glorious body” [Philippians 3:20-21], immortalized, glorified, resurrected. O God, what a promise!
I am a stranger here;
Heaven is my home.
Earth is a desert drear;
Heaven is my home.
Sorrows and dangers stand
‘Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
[“I’m But A Stranger Here,” Thomas R. Taylor]
And in that precious persuasion, we face every problem and vicissitude and exigency of life. God is with us, having prepared some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
Now the message is divided into three parts. One: the lights of home, our heavenly home—and the reason I use the word to signify the heavenly home that God prepared for us is because He says, “The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon; for the glory of God shines in it, and the Lamb is the light thereof . . . the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there is no night there” [Revelation 21:23 ,25]. Then He repeats that in verse 5 of Revelation 22, “There shall be no night there; they need no candle, neither light of the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” [Revelation 22:5]. The lights of home, the glory of heaven divided into three parts: there are those who see it brilliantly and plainly and rejoice in its prospect; second, there are those for whom the light is dim, it is faint, it flickers, and they’re uncertain of it; then there are those who have no hope at all. They don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in Christ, and they die facing the darkness of the despair of death.
First: there are those who see the lights of heaven so beautifully, brilliantly. I remember as a student in the seminary, in the little village church where I pastored, in the association there was a woman, an affluent woman. She had three darling children, and the three children, in a car, were going to school. And when they crossed the railroad track, the L&N Railroad track, the Pan-American passenger train furiously bore down upon them. I would think that the boy, the elder boy driving the car, was talking with his two siblings and, you know, was not thinking. And in a moment of time, in the great, terrible tragic crash, those three children were killed instantly. You just think of the sorrow that must have come into that precious woman’s soul when the announcement was made: “Your three children are dead!”
Well, anyway, at an associational meeting, I listened to her testimony as she talked about heaven and talked about home. It moved my deepest soul, and I went to her after it was over, and I said, “Dear Mother, never have I been more moved in my life than to hear your words of faith and assurance.”
There’s a home of many mansions
In the Father’s house above,
That our Savior is preparing
For the children of His love.
So, my heart knows not despairing,
Though in sorrow oft I roam,
Gleaming from the many mansions
I can see the lights of home.
When the storms of life are raging,
Doubts and fears my soul assail,
I can hear above the gale,
‘Let not your heart be troubled.’
So, with face turned ever homeward,
While the billows dash and foam,
Gleaming from the many mansions,
I can see the lights of home.
When the shades of night are falling,
And my loved ones have passed on,
And I’m waiting glad, expectant,
Waiting for the heav’nly dawn,
Brighter, brighter, even brighter,
Till the angels for me come,
Gleaming from the many mansions
I can see the lights of home.
This is the testimony of the Christian pilgrim. And what could I say about the dying saint? World without end have I seen and heard these who were dying, God’s sainted children, as they describe the open door into heaven; they hear the angels sing. They will describe to me the face of Jesus.
I was friend to an old, old pastor, in these years gone by, in my first pastorate beyond school. He lived just down the street from us. And when I went to see him as he lay dying, the old man of God said to me, “Who would have ever thought that death would be like this?” And he described having seen Jesus. And he described how the angels sang. And he described how heaven looked. And said to me, “Who would ever thought that dying was such joy, and such peace, and such glory, and such triumph?”—seeing the lights of home.
Then there are those for whom the promise is so faint and flickering and uncertain. They have a religion and a faith that is, “I hope so, or I guess so, or maybe so.” That is so different from the faith of the child of God. Paul says, “I know, I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and these eyes of mine in the flesh shall see Him triumphant, glorious” [Job 19:25, 27].
This Book of John out of which I’m preaching, so much of it is a repetition of a faith unmovable, anchored on the rock of Christ. He begins, in the first chapter, “He came into His own,” our Lord came into His own, “and His own received Him not. But to those who received Him, to them gave He the exousian.” How would you bring out exousian, the authority, the privilege, the assurance? Exousia, to them He gave the exousia, “the power to become the children of God, even those that trust in His name” [John 1:11-12].
The most famous Bible verse, John 3:16: “They shall never perish, but have everlasting life.” Or John 10:27-29:
My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never ever perish; no one is able to pluck them out of My hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
The assurance: a know, “know religion,” I know God has saved me, and the same Lord God that saved me will keep me.
Sweet people, if I base my hope for heaven, the lights of home, if I base my hope for heaven on my good works, how could I ever know whether I am good enough or not? No matter how I tried, I still might fall short of the holiness, and expectation, and the goodness of God. How could I ever know if I based my salvation on me? What if I based my salvation on the church, my membership in the church?
When I was a youth, for the first time I went to a church. The minister dressed in a robe, and he said, “You be in Mother church, you belong to Mother Church, and Mother Church will take you to heaven.” Wouldn’t that be a simple thing? You just join the church, and you’ll go to heaven. I’d be afraid of it. The church is so fallible.
Well, what is the basis of my hope and assurance? Let me base my hope and assurance not in me and not in the church, but let me base my hope and assurance in Jesus, my Lord, looking unto Jesus; He will not fail—just looking to the Lord Jesus, depending upon Him, trusting Him, committing my every tomorrow to Him. Stand by us in the hour of our death and open for us the gates of heaven, Lord Jesus.
Do you remember the story of Simon Peter in the storm of the raging sea? Our Lord came walking on the water [Matthew 14:24-25], and Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me walk to Thee on the water” [Matthew 14:28], and the Lord said, “Come any time” [Matthew 14:29]. You want to exhibit a great faith in Christ, He will honor it. He said to Simon Peter, “Come,” and Peter climbed over the side of the boat and began walking to Jesus on the water. As long as he kept his eye on the Lord, he walked on the water, but then he began to look at himself, what he was doing, and he began to look at the raging sea around him and the howling storm of the wind, and began to sink [Matthew 14:29-30]. As long as we’ll keep our eyes on Jesus, all of the hurt and the sorrow and the despair of life are as nothing; walking with our faces heavenward, looking to our Lord, trusting Him, believing in Him.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of this earth—
whatever they are
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
[“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Helen H. Lemmel, 1922]
There’s life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee.
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[“There is Life for a Look at the Crucified One,” A.M. Hull]
It is Jesus that saves us [John 14:6; Acts 4:12], it is Jesus who will keep us [John 10:27-30], and it is Jesus who will open for us the door into heaven [John 14:1-3]—trusting Jesus [John 3:16].
Last: there are those who find no refuge, and no comfort, and no belief, no persuasion in our Lord at all. They are unbelievers. They are atheists. They are infidels. They are agnostics. I copied out of literature many of the giants of this earth, as they spoke of those who refused the faith. One, “No one is so much alone in the world as a denier of God.” Another, Robert Ingersoll—he was an infidel who lectured all over America. “Robert Ingersoll’s atheism can never become an institution. It can never be more than a destitution.” Again, “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds to religion”—Francis Bacon said that.
It is an excellent observation of Plato in his Laws that atheism is a disease of the soul before it becomes an error of the understanding. Again, “When once atheism can persuade men that they shall die like beasts, they will soon be brought to live like beasts.” Again, “They that deny a God destroy a man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and if he’s not kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creation.” Again, “Write down all the absurdities of the infidel, and you will find that it takes more faith to believe as an infidel than it does as a Christian.” Again, “That the universe was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental jumbling of the alphabet would fall into a most ingenious treatise on philosophy.” And again, “The footprints of a savage, placed in the sand is sufficient to attest the presence of a man to an atheist; but he will not recognize God, whose hand is impressed upon the entire universe.”
Again, “Religion assures us that our afflictions shall have an end; she comforts us, she dries our tears; she promises us another life. On the contrary, in the abominable worship of atheism, human woes are the incense, death is the priest, a coffin is the altar, and annihilation is the deity.” And again, “To destroy the idea of immortality of the soul is to add death to death.” And again, “There is one single fact by which we may confront all the arguments for atheism, namely, that no man ever repented of being a Christian on his deathbed.” Never!
And one last: there’s a man named Athanasius Kircher. He was a mathematician and an astronomer in Germany in these years past, and he had a dear friend who was an atheist. He invited his friend—the infidel, the atheist, the unbeliever—he invited him to come to his home, and here’s what Athanasius did. He prepared a beautiful globe with the stars above, a gorgeous piece, and he set it in his living room where his atheist friend would certainly see it. And when his vivacious friend came and was in the living room, he looked at that beautiful creation, and, admiring it, said, “Athanasius, who made it? Who created it? Who’s the author? Where did it come from?” And the astronomer said, “Oh, no one made it. No one authored it. No one created it. It just created itself. It formed itself.” And the atheist friend said, “Athanasius, you’re jesting. You’re jesting. Someone made it. Who did it?”
And Athanasius said, “My friend, if this poor imitation, feeble, if this poor imitation of the great creation of God above us, if this poor imitation brings to your mind a creator, someone who formed it and made it, how is it that you think that this could not be without a creator? And yet you look at the great handiwork of God above us and around us and find no Author and no Creator and no Maker.” And the atheist friend said, “Athanasius, I see my stupidity. I see, I recognize my stupidity and repent of it.”
That is God’s presence around us and above us. Every day and every night He writes His name in the skies, in the world, in the stars, in our human life, and to accept Him and believe in Him and trust Him [Romans 10:9-10, 13], O God, what a comfort and what an assurance!
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
[“My hope Is Built,” Edward Mote, 1834]
“O Lord God in heaven, I bring my poor soul to Thee; bless and keep now and forever. I trust You, Lord, for it all” [Ephesians 2:8]. May we pray? Wonderful, wonderful Lord in heaven, what a preciousness, what a holiness, what a heavenliness, to give our lives in trust to Thee [John 3:16-17]. And we humbly pray that without loss of one, all in divine presence will find in Thee a precious Savior [Acts 4:12].
And to you who are listening on television, wherever you are, that’s a good where to give your life to Jesus. There’s no richness of reward in human experience that is equal to that of loving the Lord, giving your heart and life and faith in trust to Him [Ephesians 2:8], and coming to the end of the way, letting God keep you and save you and receive you into Himself [John 10:27-30]; the lights of home. May this be the day of salvation brought to your house! [Romans 10:9-13]. And our Lord, in divine presence here in this sanctuary, may many say today, “Pastor, this day I give heart and life and soul to Jesus,” in whose precious and saving name we pray; amen.
In this moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, to accept the Lord as yours, best friend a man ever knew or could ever have; or a family you, to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or just one somebody you, answering God’s call in your heart, make it know. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.