AWAKE AND ARISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-18-90 10:30 a.m.
And we welcome with gladness unspeakable the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our dear, wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas. Now you pray for me as I preach a textual sermon, a sermon from a text in Ephesians 5:14: "Wherefore God saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." And the title of the message, Awake and Arise.
There is a duality in the Christian faith that is undeniable, and you have a brilliant, dynamic instance of it here in this text. Paul has just written in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians [verse 1] that we are dead in trespasses and in sins. And if we are dead in trespasses and sins, how are we going to raise ourselves? We cannot do it: God has to raise us up. A corpse cannot bring itself to life. Now that is what Paul wrote in the second chapter. Now in the fifth chapter he writes that we are to awake and to arise from the dead; we are to do it. In the second chapter he says God has to raise us up. In the fifth chapter he says we raise ourselves up from the dead. That is typical of the duality of the double nature of the Christian faith. God has a part and we have a part; and it takes both of them together to bring it triumphantly to realization.
You have another instance of that in the word of the apostle Paul in Romans 4: "Abraham was justified by faith," Paul writes; then in James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, in his second chapter [verse 21] he says, "Abraham was justified by works." Now Martin Luther read that and called the epistle of James a letter of straw, and it ought to be taken out of the Bible. That’s what Luther wrote. Now, it is just another instance of the duality of the Christian faith. When Paul writes in Romans 4, "Abraham was justified by faith," he’s referring to the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis [verse 5], when God took Abraham out under the stars and sky, and said, "Can you count those stars in the firmament? Thus will your seed be." Then the next verse in the Bible says, "And Abraham believed God, and his faith was counted for righteousness." He was justified by faith. Now when James says he was justified by works, he’s referring to the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis [verse 2] when God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah, and raise up his knife and plunge it in the heart of his son Isaac. And the Book of Hebrews says, "He believed that God was able to raise him from the dead; for that son was to be the one who would inherit all the promises of God" [Hebrews 11:17-19]. So James says he was justified by works, by commitment to God. It’s both: it’s by faith and it’s by works.
That duality, I say, is always found in the Christian faith. You find it in the person of our Lord Jesus. He was God as though He were nothing but God; but He was also man as though He were altogether man. You find it in the way of salvation: we are saved by the atoning grace and blood and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, as though all of it were His; we don’t have any part in that, the atonement of Christ is altogether our Lord. Yet, the second chapter of the Book of Philippians [verse 12] says we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling". It has to carry with it from us a repentance and a commitment to the Lord – a duality in the Christian faith.
You have it again in the service here this morning. Look at ourselves, these men pray, "O God be with us." And conviction has to come from the Lord, and conversion has to be wrought by the mighty omnipotent hand of God. "O God, bless the church, bless our services, hear our prayers." And at the same time we have to roll up our sleeves and go to work. It’s both of them: we have to put feet to our prayers.
There were a couple of little kids on the way to school. And they dilly-dallied along and played along the way. And when the bell rang they were still not in school. And the little girl said, "Oh, little brother, let’s kneel down here and pray that God won’t let us be late to school." And the little boy replied, "Sister, let’s you and I run as fast as we can, and let’s pray while we run." Now that’s both of them. That’s both of them, both of them.
Here is a man that prays, "O God, give me a house for a home." And he says, "Amen," with a hammer and a saw. Here’s a fellow who says, "O God, give me a job." And he says, "Amen," looking at the want ads, going to all the places and making application, and maybe studying to prepare himself for a fine job. Here’s a fellow who says, "O Lord, give me a wife, give me a wife, give me a wife." And he comes down here to Sunday school, and he joins the choir – you got any single people in the choir? – comes down here and joins the choir. That’s putting feet to his prayers.
I was walking underneath this auditorium; there’s a long hallway underneath this thing. And I was walking, and a couple of teenage boys, and one of them said to the other, "You know, that girl, ooh, I just, I’d love to have a date with her." And the other one said, "Well, ask her." And the boy said, "Well I don’t know how to ask her." And he said, "Listen, there ain’t no wrong way to ask her, just ask her. Just do it."
So we pray God bless us, and then we give ourselves into the work. The Christian faith is a great sermon; it is also a great service. The Christian faith is a great message; it is also a great mission. The Christian faith is a great doctrine; it is also a great deed. The Christian faith is a great orthodoxy; it is also a great orthopraxy.
"Awake," he says, "and arise from the dead." That is addressed to each one of us individually, as a Christian, as a member of the house of God, the family of the Lord. It is addressed to us individually: "Awake, arise from the dead" [Ephesians 5:14].
We can’t serve God any other way. So many of us are alive and quickened and sensitive out in the world; we are cognizant of the profits and we enjoy entertainment and we’re out there in a thousand ways in the world. But in the house of God, in the service of the Lord, we are dead; we are insensitive and indifferent, and we can’t serve the Lord in deadness and indifference.
Now you can dream in your sleep, and you can walk in your sleep, and you can talk in your sleep, and I have been to churches when I thought the preacher was dead in his sleep up there; but you can’t serve God until you are alive and awake and quickened! The Lord called Moses when he was tending sheep. The Lord called Gideon when he was working at the threshing floor. Jesus called Peter when he was plying his business of fishing. And the Lord called Matthew at the receipt of custom. We’re to be busy with the Lord. And that carries with it, I say, a calling to each individual – not just the preacher called, not just Fred called, not just Jody called – but all of us are called, all of us. There are people that you touch that we never even see. There is work you can do that we cannot begin to do. Each one of us is called into the service and ministry and faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we don’t have to be elected by the church, and we don’t have to be put on a committee: God has set us in the earth to be witnesses for Him. "Awake and arise!"
If a man fell in a river and was drowning, you wouldn’t wait to be appointed to a committee to help. If you see a house on fire, you wouldn’t wait to be appointed to a committee to holler for help. So it is in the ministry of our Lord: each one of us is called.
You know, the best committee in the world is a committee of three: one of them dead, one of them in the hospital, and one of them doing the work. That’s the best committee in the world; there’s none like it. "Awake and arise from the dead." That means we’re to be quickened, we’re to be sensitive, we’re to be dedicated, we’re to be enthusiastic, put our hearts and souls into that ministry of God.
You know that’s an interesting thing, that word "enthusiasm." There’s a Greek word enthusiazo, enthusiazo, and that’s based on the word, the Greek word entheos, "in God." Enthusiasm is God in you. And that’s a marvelous and wonderful way to be: awakened, quickened, alive, interested, dedicated, enthusiastic; nothing like it in this earth. Oh, brother!
I used to go out here to the Fair Park when they opened the thing, and attend the football game between Oklahoma and Texas. Now how in the earth this ever happened I don’t know, but right there in the middle of the Texas section where I was seated, I was out there as a guest of one of our families here in the church, and I was seated there in the Texas section, and right in front of me was a rooter from Oklahoma, right there in front of me. Well, he was a little inebriated. And as the game started, in the days of Bud Wilkinson, when Oklahoma never lost a game, that guy right in front of me stood up with a five hundred dollar bill in his hand, and waved it around, and said, "Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you ten points and bet this five hundred dollar bill we beat you." Well, there wasn’t any Texans about to take him up, so as the game progressed, and Bud Wilkinson was running away with it, why, he stood up again and held up that five hundred dollar bill, and waved it around and said, "Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you twenty points and bet this five hundred dollar bill we beat you." And nobody took him up. So he sat down again. And as that game progressed and Bud Wilkinson was just running over Texas, that guy stood up a third time and waved that five hundred dollar bill over his head and said, "Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you thirty points and bet this five hundred dollars that we beat you." And nobody took him up, and he sat down right there in front of me. And I thought, "Man, I’d love to have that guy in my church. I’d love to have him in my church. He believes in his team, and he puts his money where his mouth is. Boy, I’d like to have him in my church! Dear me!"
That’s what it is to be an evangel for God: full of life, full of hope, full of optimism, full of expectancy – like that old codger who married at the tender age of eighty-four, and immediately began looking for a bigger house close to an elementary school. Isn’t that all right? Oh dear, that is just marvelous, to be alive toward God.
So many of us burn out, almost overnight; like kerosene put on shavings of wood, burn for a moment and it’s over. Like the old farmer speaking of his well, "It’s a good well, but it freezes up in the wintertime and it goes dry in the summertime." Oh, no! to be a servant of God, and rejoicing in it every day of your life.
We must hasten. Not only is this addressed to the individual, "Awake thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead," but it is addressed to the church. This letter is an encyclical. Here we have it Ephesians; some of the letters will have Laodicea there, some will have other church names there. It’s a general letter; it is addressed to the church. We’re to be awake, and we’re to be alive, we’re to assemble ourselves, as the Book of Hebrews says, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" [Hebrews 10:25]. There is private prayer, there is public prayer; there is private Bible reading, there is public Bible reading; there is private praise, there is public praise; there is private worship, there is public worship; and we are to assemble ourselves together, looking forward to the gathering with gladness and joy and anticipation. As it was, the preacher last Sunday said about John Chrysostom, "They’d rather go to church and listen to John Chrysostom than to go to the theater or go to the games." That’s wonderful! That’s glorious. It’s in the assembly of God’s saints that we make our public confession of faith, according to the Word of God. And it’s in the assembly of God’s saints that we are baptized. It is a public commitment, a public avowal, a public giving of ourselves to the testimony of Jesus our Lord and what He means to us.
And when we come to church, it’s just wonderful that we be alive and quickened. The music, the playing, the congregational gladness and joy and welcome, it’s just wonderful to be a part of the house of God; and loving it, and that the church itself be quickened. I read one time a legend where someone asked Satan when he was cast out of heaven, "What do you miss the most?" And he said, "I miss the most the blowing of the trumpets in the morning that called the assembly to the worship of God." Well, I can sense that, too. Oh, dear! how wonderful the anticipation of being a part of the family of the Lord!
In these years gone by, I used to go to Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and preach, many times in the summer, to our Southern Baptist assembly there. Well, this time I was preaching at the college assembly. And while I was there, one of those young preachers gave one of the most unusual testimonies I ever heard in my life. He said he and a little group of college kids going to Ridgecrest, to the assembly, came just a little early, and on a Wednesday evening they went to a restaurant near Ridgecrest. "And," he said, "it was such a delightful experience." He said, "The waiters and the waitresses were college students. And they came out and took their orders, and then went joyfully back into the kitchen and came out carrying all of those things that they had ordered, and set them down. And then as the evening progressed, they all came out, stood together, and sang some beautiful songs. Oh," he said, "it was a happy experience eating dinner that Wednesday evening with those college kids and their service there in the restaurant." Well, he said, "Later on, then we went to a church, to its midnight service, to its midweek service, to its Wednesday service, to its prayer meeting service." And he said, "It was dead as the proverbial doornail. It was dull and dry." And then he added, "You know, if both of them had given an invitation that evening, I would have joined the restaurant." That’s the Lord’s truth.
There is no sense, and there’s no holiness, and there is no sanctity in being dull and dumb and dry. Now you listen to that: put life in it, shine for Jesus. I’m just reading out of the Book, "Awake ye that sleep, and rise from the dead." Honor God.
That carries with it ,of course, an obedience to the great assignment God has given us. Like the Lord said to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, forward!" and they’re standing there before the Red Sea, an ocean. "Speak unto them that they go forward" [Exodus 14:15]. Well, I can easily imagine a runner being sent out from the camp of Moses, and he goes through all of the tribes and says, "God says, Rise and march. God says, Arise and march. God says, Go forth!" Well I could easily imagine a fellow out there with a shotgun, and that’s also called the Sea of Reeds, the Reed Sea, and he says, "Well, this is duck season and I’m out here hunting. I can’t march forward for God; I’m hunting ducks." And another one says, "Look at this sea full of fish. I can’t march forward for God; I’m out here fishing." And another one says, "My, my, how can I go forward? My wife is sick."
You know that reminds me of two deacons, two deacons that were out fishing on Sunday morning. And while they were out fishing on Sunday morning, the church bell rang. And one of the deacons said to the other, "Oh, I just feel so guilty, I feel so bad. We ought to be in church, and here we are fishing." And the other one said, "I don’t feel guilty. I couldn’t go to church anyway, my wife is sick." Oh, dear!
I can imagine another one that has a hot dog stand. And he says, "Why, you say the Egyptian army is coming? Wonderful. Wonderful, that means money for me." Others look at the sea and say, "Why, we’ll get drowned. God says go forward, and we would walk into that sea; we’ll drown!" That doesn’t make any differences one way or the other: whatever the obstacle, whatever the discouragement, whatever the difficulty, if God says march, our part is to stand up, awaken, and march, go forward!
I think of our own program here in this church, this televised program. And this is one of the most marvelous things to me in God’s technological gifts to the world: you can hear this sermon that I am preaching now all over the earth if you have a satellite dish, or whatever you call that thing. You can hear it all over the world. It’s being heard on about forty different cable systems, and, of course, all over Texas and southern Oklahoma. I cannot imagine that, standing here and preaching to thousands and thousands and thousands of households. Well, the thing is an expensive arrangement. Our televised program costs over half a million dollars a year, in fact, it costs over six hundred thousand dollars a year. In fact, it costs soon over seven hundred thousand dollars a year. And that brings a great deficit into our church. And you who are listening to this, if you will send us a gift it would help us enormously and thank you for it. Bless your heart. But, oh my! No matter what, our church ought to do it. It’s the way of God’s call and open door for us.
Same way about this tremendous campaign into which we are placing our lives this moment in getting ready for this spring: a campaign that will cost more than eight million dollars. It’s our campus for our school. It’s this 505 North Ervay building. We’re filling that building full of the ministries of the teaching of God’s Word and of the things in the church. Thank God for them. Matching our souls against the greatest program any church ever faced in its history, thank You, Lord, that You compliment us, believing, God help us, that we can do it. And we shall, with His grace.
I have to close. Not only is this addressed to us individually, not only is it addressed to the church, "Awake thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead," but it is also addressed to the lost, to the lost, you who are lost. You’ve never given your heart to the Lord, you’ve never accepted Him as your Savior, "Awake and rise from the dead." Find life and light in Jesus our Savior.
As you know, I was born in Oklahoma; I came down here from Muskogee. There was in Oklahoma a little town named Gans, G-a-n-s, Gans, Oklahoma. When I was a young man, there was a freight train driving toward Gans, Oklahoma. And the engineer saw a terrible killer tornado moving toward the sleeping town. That engineer pulled on his whistle just as long and loud as he could, starting at 5:58, at two minutes till six. At six o’clock, that terrible tornado swept through that little town of Gans. And at four minutes after six, the town had been completely destroyed, and the people asleep had been killed, the entire town. It was one of the greatest tragedies in the story of Oklahoma.
My sweet friend, the sounds of eternity are rushing upon us. A few minutes maybe, a few hours maybe, a few days maybe, and we stand in the great judgment bar of Almighty God. Dear Lord, and then what? And then what?
In my reading this past week, I could hardly believe my eyes: nineteen out of every twenty who become Christians do so before they reach the age of 25; after 25, only one in ten thousand is saved; after 35, only one in fifty thousand is saved; after 45, only one in two hundred thousand is saved; after 55, only one in three hundred thousand is saved; after 65, only one in five hundred thousand, one in half a million; and after 75, only one in seven hundred thousand. The sounds of eternity: if you’re not saved now, the multiplied odds are you’ll never be saved, you’ll never know God, and you will die without Christ and without hope in the world.
Oh, my brother, my sister, how infinitely better to cast your life and soul in the arms of the loving Jesus who died for you, who rose for you, who someday will be coming for you. And I’ll meet you in heaven at the end of the way.
And to you who have listened on television, how humbly and earnestly we pray that the message will move your heart to ask, "How I can accept Christ as my Savior?" On the televised screen you will find a name, an address, and a telephone number. Call us or write to us, and we’ll tell you how to be saved, how to accept Christ. Do it now, make it now, and I’ll see you in heaven some glorious and triumphant day.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming." A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, come and stand with us, and journey and pilgrimage with us to heaven. Make it now; may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Duality in the Christian faith
has a part, we have a part; by faith and by works(Ephesians
2:1, 5:14, Romans 4:1-3, James 2:21, Genesis 5:5-6, 22:1-15, Hebrews 11:17-19)
in Christ Himself – the God-Man
Duality in salvation(Philippians 2:12)
in work – God must bless; we must strive
II. Addressed to us individually
A. Awake to the world,
asleep toward God
B. You can’t work in
your sleep – you have to be quickened, awakened
C. All of us are called
D. Working with
enthusiasm, with dedication and commitment
1. Texas and
Oklahoma football game
Eighty-four-year old man marries, looks for house close to school
III. Addressed to the church
are to assemble ourselves(Hebrews 10:25)
services ought to be alive and quickened
"Satan, what do you miss the most?"
Ridgecrest assembly – "I would have joined the restaurant."
B. Our work and outreach(Exodus 14:15)
1. Our TV program
IV. Addressed to the lost
A. Awake, arise to
1. If we refuse,
there is judgment to awaken to
Train engineer blows whistle to warn of tornado
B. The light of the
knowledge of God(2 Corinthians 4:6)