The Call of Christ
October 21st, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THE CALL OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-90 10:50 a.m.
Welcome, the uncounted throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear, precious First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Call of Christ.
In our preaching in the Gospel of Mark, we are in chapter 2, and beginning at verse 13:
As Jesus went forth by the sea side; all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught to them.
And as He passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and He said unto him, Follow Me—the call of Christ; “Follow Me”—
And he arose and followed Him.
Our Lord was always going forth. He went forth. He was always passing by. He passed by. He said unto His disciples, “Go ye.” Our Lord identified Himself with the need of the people and He was always among them. Not in any wise was our Savior ministering back of a cloistered wall, never just looking out of a window on dying humanity, not even occupying a philosopher’s chair and expatiating on the needs of the nations. He was always out there. He was always going. He was always identified with the people, sometimes by the sea side, calling the fishermen [Mark 2:13-14]; sometimes in the synagogue, teaching and preaching the gospel of salvation [Matthew 4:23]; sometimes in a home, such as in Capernaum, healing the sick [Mark 2:1-12]; sometimes out in the streets, declaring the gospel of salvation [Luke 13:26]; even on the cross, with His hands nailed to a tree, His heart went out to the lost [Luke 23:42-43]. That is our Savior, always out there with the people.
And the miraculous success that attended His ministry never dissuaded Him, nor caused Him to pause, in that marvelous and miraculous ministry. Whether it was applause or acceptance or exaltation, He never rested upon laurels; or whether it was desertion, and bitterness, and castigation, and denunciation, and ill-will, the heart of our Lord always was outward moving in loving prayer, and solicitude, and concern for the people. And that is about as fine a definition and characterization of the Christian faith that I know of; always moving, always marching, always going, always reaching out.
So the passage begins: “Jesus went forth. Jesus passed by, and as He went He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom” [Mark 2:14]. That word translated “sitting at the receipt of custom,” telonion, actually, if you translated it as we do today, it’s the tax collector’s office. He saw the son of Levi in the tax collector’s office. When I turn to the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, He sees the publican [Luke 5:27], telones, “tax collector.” When Matthew writes the story, he calls his name “Matthew” [Matthew 9:9]. So the Lord, passing by, sees the tax collector in the tax collector’s office, and He looks upon him, He sees him.
Now to the Jewish people that was a sign of the most detestable proportion. They were groaning under the yoke of a heathen empire, the Roman. And to pay taxes by force to a heathen empire such as Rome was a galling remembrance to them of their servitude. And this man, the son of Levi, a Jew, and collecting taxes for Rome was unspeakable; he was a traitor of the first order and they refused to look at him. They refused to see him. And if by any providence they stumbled over him, they turned their faces away, refusing to look at him. He was the scum of the earth.
But Jesus, passing by, going forth, looked at him, saw him [Matthew 9:9]. It is a marvelous thing what Jesus can see and did see. He could see the oak tree in the acorn. He could see the forest of Lebanon in a seedling. He could see a kingly servant of God in the diminutive Zaccheus [Luke 19:1-6]. He could see a saint in the harlot Magdalene [Luke 8:2]. And He saw Matthew and looked [Matthew 9:9]. He took notes. He wrote receipts. He made notations. And when I open the Book, the First Gospel I read is by that tax collector, by that man who was gifted in writing receipts, in making notes; the Gospel of Matthew.
What Jesus could see in the building of the kingdom in the house of the Lord; He needs all kinds of people, every one of you, all of us. He needed Dr. Luke, the beloved physician [Colossians 4:14]. You see, somebody had to write of those delicate intimacies of the pregnancies of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist [Luke 1:11-25], and the pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus [Luke 1:26-38]. And He called a doctor to do it; writing of the birth, the incarnation of the Son of God [Luke 2:1-16]. He needed a sensitive spirit, John the divine; the sainted John, seeing visions of heaven, such as in the apocalyptic Revelation—calling John [Revelation 1:1-3, 9-11]. And He needed a fire brand like Saul of Tarsus to confront heresy, such as in his letter, his epistle to the churches of Galatia [Galatians 1:1-2].
And as the Lord passes by, as He goes forth, He calls all manner of people, some of them from the dance hall; some of them from the tavern; some of them from the bawdy house; some of them from the gutter; some of them from the baseball field; some of them from the ballroom. It is an amazing thing as Jesus passes by, as He goes forth, and He says to this publican, this tax collector, “Follow Me.” And he arose and followed Him, right on the spot [Mark 2:13-14].
I say it is a marvelous thing how Jesus calls differing people into the service and ministry of God. It will be a tinker: an itinerant tinker, a man who went around, walked around from door to door and mended things—utensils in the kitchen. And [John] Bunyan, writing Pilgrim’s Progress, next to the Bible the book that has sold more than any other in the world; a tinker. Or a shoe cobbler, there in his little shop mending shoes; calling William Carey, the founder of modern missions. Calling out of the gutter Jerry McCauley, God’s great evangelist; Jerry McCauley stole the shoes off of his little dead baby and sold them to buy liquor; called that man out of the gutter. Calling a lawyer, such as Charles G. Finney; calling a telegrapher, here in Dallas, in this town, such as E. Y. Mullins, president of Southern Seminary, and one of the greatest theologians of all time; calling a railroad engineer, such as W. Y. Pond; calling a cowpoke, such as L. R. Scarborough. Passing by, going forth, calling these that you would never think for into the service of the kingdom of God.
“And he arose and followed Him immediately” [Mark 2:14]. You know, men and women so differ in that. For some, the call of God is such a precious invitation to accept Him as Savior, to follow Him in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17], to be a member of His congregation. And for some, to enter into the ministries of Christ—such a sweet experience for them, like a rosebud before the sun, just waiting to burst into glory; or, like walking up a slow incline to meet God in the height; or, like accepting an invitation to a marvelous banquet. Many are like that; just open-hearted to the invitation of Christ. For some, it is so difficult. It is a war. It is a battle. It is like climbing a steep and rugged cliff. But how ever, what a glorious response when the heart can say, “Lord, I am following Thee.”
So, this man Matthew, having turned to the Lord, having accepted His invitation, he rose up, followed Him, and made a great feast in his own house and invited the publicans, and the sinners, and Jesus [Mark 2:15]. Well, it was a new day for him. It was a glorious day for him. It was a marvelous, happy day for him. And when he made that great feast, whom did he invite? He invited the only ones that he knew. The only people that he knew were the publicans and the sinners, so he invited the publicans and the sinners to the feast, to announce to them the glorious commitment of his life to the blessed Lord Jesus. That was a marvelous day, and he was sharing it with those whom he knew [Mark 2:15].
One of the beatenest things that I have ever run into in my life: I was preaching in North Carolina, and while I was there in North Carolina, I was introduced to a man who raised cocks—cock fighting, chickens, and promoted cock fights, chicken fights, rooster fights. Now that is against the law in everywhere that I know. It’s against the law here in Texas. It’s against the law in every state that I know. You can’t have cock fights here in the United States.
Well, I was in old Mexico City, and while I was there one of the men with whom I was fraternizing, preaching the gospel down there, asked me, “Would you like to go to a cock fight?” Well, I never had been invited before. I never had seen one before. “Well,” he says, “here in the city it is against the law, but outside there is an arena, a cock fight arena. And would you go with me?”
I said, “I surely will.” I never had such a good time in my life. You never saw anything like that—not unless you have been there; that arena and those cocks fighting down there, and the hollering and screaming all around, betting on them, betting on them, betting on this and then betting on them. It was an amazing thing to me. Well, that is what this guy did in North Carolina, against the law, surreptitiously. This fellow had cock fights in North Carolina and he raised the chickens. He raised the roosters for the fights.
Well, the guy got converted. He got saved. He gave his heart to Jesus. And, in his happiness and in his glory, and in his gladness, and in his unspeakable joy, he killed all of his cocks. He killed all of his chickens. He fried them and he invited. Whom did he invite? Well, all he knew were his fellow cock fighters. So he invited all of the cock fighters in North Carolina to the feast, and invited some preachers, and there they had a big feast and a big repast. That cock fighter wonderfully saved, and killing all of his chickens and feeding them to his friends, and announcing to them that he had found the Lord; he was saved. That is exactly what happened here. Matthew, called of Jesus and following our blessed Savior, he made a big feast for Him, the Book says, and he invited all of the publicans and sinners to eat with him, to announce that he was saved.
Well, when the scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus eating, sitting down with the publicans and sinners, oh, they had bitter things to say against Him [Mark 2:16]. And the Lord replied: and this is one of the finest expatiations of the Christian gospel that I know. Listen to it—He said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick: and I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” [Mark 2:17].
First, in answer, Jesus says the Christian message is inclusive; inclusive, not excluding anybody, whether they live in that part of town or this part of town; whether they are up or down, black or white, yellow or red; whether they are poor or rich; know, don’t know; young or old. The Christian message is always inclusive; everybody, everybody. My brother, whoever you are; my sister out there, whoever you are, the message is for you. The call of God in Christ is for you. It is inclusive, always inclusive.
Then He says one other thing. He says, “No man sews a piece of [new] cloth on an old garment; unless the thing tear and the rent be worse than it was at the first” [Mark 2:21]. You don’t patch up an old garment, an rotten garment. You don’t patch it up. That’s the way in the Christian life. The Christian life is not a patched-up, reformed old way, old life. It is something new. The Christian life is a new experience. It is a new birth. It is a new regeneration. It’s a new day. It’s a new hope, a new glory. It is not something old, remade, reformed, but it is something new, something glorious, something from God in heaven.
I wish to the Lord we believed that and acted upon that. I cannot tell you the endless throngs of people who live with an albatross around their necks. And they dig up dead cats, and lay them before us for to be seen. Their sins they carry in remembrance, and they keep them in view, when all the time God says in Micah, “Your sins, I have buried them in the deep of the sea” [Micah 7:19]. In Isaiah 38 He says, “I have cast them back of My back” [Isaiah 38:17]. In Isaiah  He says, “I will remember them no more” [Isaiah 43:25]. And in Isaiah 44 He says: “I have blotted them out as a thick cloud” [Isaiah 44:22]. And in the Revelation He says, “We are washed clean and white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 1:5]. And yet there are multitudes who carry with them the remembrance and the burden of their past derelictions and their past sins.
I want to show you the most damnable thing you can do. I am not without thought in using words; the most damnable thing you can do. You tell your wife of these sordid experiences and sins in your past life, just tell her. Or wife, you tell your husband these derelictions and sins and aberrations in your past life. They will never get over it—never. And it is one of the most flagrant of all the unbelieving acts that you could ever do before God in heaven.
When God says your sins—no matter what they are, how heinous they are, how tragic and sad they are, your sins—God says, “I have buried them in the deep of the sea [Micah 7:10]. I have cast them beyond My back [Isaiah 38:17]. I remember them no more. They don’t exist [Isaiah 43:25]. I have blotted them out as a thick cloud [Isaiah 44:22], and I have washed you clean and white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 1:5] why would you do that, denying the blessedness of God who makes you a new person, who reborns you again? [2 Corinthians 5:17].
I don’t think you remember it. Some time ago, there was a fad, there are all kinds of fads in the religious faith—some time ago, there was a fad in which people were gathered together in seminars and convocations such as we. And they met, divided up into little groups. There would be five there, four there, and three there, and six there. They divided them all up into three groups and they told the sins of their lives. I was in one of them, and they told the sins of their lives, sit down in a group and recount the sins in their lives. I don’t know a more flagrant denial of the goodness and grace of God than a thing like that.
“I have taken your sins,” He says, “and I have put them in the depths of the sea” [Micah 7:19]. “I have taken your sins,” He says, “and I have put them behind My back” [Isaiah 38:17]. “I have taken your sins,” He says, “and I do not remember them” [Isaiah 43:25]. “They do not exist. They never were. I have taken your sins, and I have blotted them out, as a thick cloud” [Isaiah 44:22]. “And you are a new person. You are a new creature. You have been born again [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You have been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 1:5].
Praise the Lord! That’s the gospel. That’s what Jesus has done for us. It is like that song that we sing:
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
My sins are all pardoned and my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
I’m saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
[“Saved By the Blood,” S.J. Henderson]
Let’s believe it. Let’s accept it. And the sins of our lives—and all of us are sinners [Romans 3:23]—Jesus has washed them away [Revelation 1:5]. God has buried them [Micah 7:19], and remembered them no more [Isaiah 43:25]. And in the glory of this wonderful life we have in Christ, let’s rejoice, and sing, and be glad, and praise His name forever. That’s the hope we have in Jesus our Lord [1 John 3:3].
I must close. You who have listened on television, if you know how to be saved, accept that wonderful grace of Jesus even now. If you don’t know how to accept the Lord as your Savior, there is a number on that television screen; call us. There will be a consecrated, godly man or woman on the other end of that line who will show you how to enter into the precious kingdom of God. And if you will accept the Lord as your precious Savior [Romans 10:9-13], I will see you in heaven someday.
And in the throng of people in the sanctuary this solemn hour, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have made the decision. I am accepting the love and grace of the Lord Jesus who died for my sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], who was raised for my justification [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25], and I am coming forward and giving my life to Him” [Ephesians 2:8]. Coming into the fellowship of the church, answering any call of the Spirit in your heart and life, make it now. Come and stand with me, and God bless, and angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and sing our invitation appeal.
I. Jesus was always going forth
A. He was not a recluse
B. He was always
identified with the people
C. His miraculous
success never dissuaded Him
II. He saw Levi sitting at the receipt of custom
B. Jesus saw him
1. What an eye
for seeing Jesus had
2. What He saw in
C. Christ needs all
kinds of talents and people
III. His call – “Follow me”
A. God’s call in
B. Matthew followed Him
IV. A great feast
A. He invited those he
knew – publicans and sinners
B. A grand thing to be
V. Jesus speaks on the new religion (Mark 2:17)
A. Christian message is
Christian life is something new (Matthew 9:16, Micah
7:19, Isaiah 38:17, 43:25, 44:22, Revelation 7:14)
The sins of our lives remembered no more