THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-8-90 8:15 a.m.
And as you know, we are entering the most effective and moving and meaningful of all of the events and eras in the life of our wonderful church. The services that begin next Monday, tomorrow, at high noon, and continuing each day during the days of the week, this will be the seventy-fourth year that we have shared in these pre-Easter services. And the pastor’s theme for this year will be "The Triumphant Christ." Then, of course, Easter Sunday, our pageant Friday, Saturday, Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, and the tremendous appeal that we are making in behalf of the enlarged outreach ministries of our wonderful church. And it is concerning that outreach ministry that the sermon is prepared this holy hour. It is entitled The Christian Extra.
There is an eternal and universal relationship between God and the man that He made. God is the great giver, the author, the founder, the beginning of all of the blessings that enrich and sustain our lives: breath, being, every blessing comes from His gracious hands. And our part is always one of debtor. We owe God so very much. I say that relationship between God and the man He created is universal and eternal; it never changes: God the great giver and we His debtor forever.
The Book of the Lord begins like that: "And in process of time, Cain brought a minchah unto the Lord, and Abel, he also brought a minchah unto the Lord." [Genesis 4] And that minchah, in the beginning, given to God, dedicated to the Lord, that minchah is spelled out through all of the pages of this Holy Book I hold in my hand. Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him tithes of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:17-20].
I turn the pages of the Holy Book. This is that relationship between God and the man that He made. "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and bless me, of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:20-22], all of that four hundred years and three hundred years before the law. Then the law was given to us by Moses; and Moses wrote in the Old Covenant, "All the tithe of the land is holy unto the Lord; the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:30]. And the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, ends in Malachi: "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. You say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove Me, try Me, see whether I lied to you or deceive you, prove Me, saith the Lord, if I will not open the windows of heaven, pour you out blessings, there is not room to receive it" [Malachi 3:8-10]. And in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [verse 23], our Lord Jesus Christ, "Ye pay tithe of the smallest minutiae, mint and anise and cummmin: these ye ought to have done, but not to leave the other undone." And in 1 Corinthians 16 [verse 2], concerning the collection, "Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you give proportionately, as God hath prospered him."
I remembered that – don’t have time to go into the details of the pressing of it upon my heart – every one, every one of you, "Let every one of you give proportionately." That’s why I had you read that poor widow: gave everything she had; God noticed it [Mark 12:41-44]. The little boy had a lunch of five little biscuits and two little sardines; he gave it all to Jesus [John 6:1-14]. All of us coming before the Lord, the poorest of us, the most affluent of us, the smallest of us, the children among us. Hebrews 7:8: "And here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth." God is ultimately the One that receives our tithes. This we owe to God. It is not mine; this tenth belongs to Him. I am not to use it, I am not to keep it, I am not to steal it; it belongs to God. And if I do not dedicate it to Him, He will collect it. No man anywhere, any time ever keeps God’s tithes. You will make a bad judgment, you will make a bad investment, you will fall into a providence that will cost you: you will not keep it; God will collect it. How infinitely better to pay God what God is due and to receive from the open hands of the Almighty the enrichments of our souls and of our lives. This is the universal, eternal relationship between God the giver of all of our blessings and between us and Him, we who are the recipients of His love and His grace.
But beyond and over there can be a Christian "extra." God does things over and above, just extra. For example, the blue of the sky. What good is the blue of the sky? It’s just God’s extra. A rainbow: what good is a rainbow? It’s just God’s extra. The green of the meadow and the flowers, why aren’t they all dull gray? God’s extras. So it is in our coming before the Lord: this I owe, but I can also bring to God an offering over and above, just out of the fullness of my heart in love and gratitude for His wonderful goodnesses to me. Like the Lord says in the fifth chapter of Matthew [verses 40-41], "If somebody sues you at law and takes your coat, give him your cloak also," the Christian extra. "If according to military Roman law you were compelled to go with a soldier a mile, instead of grumbling and cursing, go them two, and bless him and pray for him and bid him Godspeed," the Christian extra.
So it is in the attitude that we have in our loving remembrance of what God has done for us. Like those ten lepers: nine of them, by law, had to go to the priest to be declared purified and cleansed; but one of them came back and fell at the feet of our Lord Jesus and thanked Him for healing him [Luke 17:11-19]. The extra – he didn’t have to come back, he didn’t have to thank the Lord, it came out of the fullness of his soul: the Christian extra, the over and above.
That’s why in the beautiful Psalms, oh these glorious responses to the grace of God!
What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving. I will bring an offering, and come into Your courts.
[Psalm 116:12, 17-19]
Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty. Give unto the Lord the glory due His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
[Psalm 96:6, 8]
Beauty and glory – on either side of the entrance to the beautiful temple, there were two great columns, Jachin and Boaz, "strength" and "beauty" [1 Kings 7:21]. They had massive capitals that were filled with carvings of lilies and pomegranates, and wreaths of chains of flowers. And when you came into the temple to bring an offering, you walked between those two great columns. In thanksgiving to God, the Christian extra: this I owe, my tenth; this I give out of the fullness and the gratitude of my soul.
I read a testimony at a Wednesday evening prayer service that has stayed in my mind for the years. Isn’t it strange how some of the things that you read just stay in your heart and memory? Well, this happened at a midweek service, at a prayer service of the church. The Internal Revenue Service, the IRS man stood up, and he said, "Pastor, I want to clear my heart. I want to get right with you and the church and with God. It came about like this," said the IRS man:
My superior gave me an income tax return. It was from a day-laborer, it was from a wage earner. And down there he had placed a disproportionate amount of money that he said he was giving to his church. It was large. And my superior said to me, "You take this income tax return and you confront that wage earner with that large amount he has down there that he’s given to the church." Well, I took the income tax return and I drove out to the wage earner’s house. I knocked at the door. He came to the door and I introduced myself, "I’m from the Internal Revenue Service." I thought that would paralyze him with fear. Instead, he graciously invited me into the house, and I was seated in the living room. Then I took out his income tax return, and showed it to him, and that enormous amount he’d given to his church. I thought that’d pulverize him. Not at all. He said, "That’s how much I have given to my Lord." Well, I said – and I thought I’d nail him to the wall, "You give me receipts that you’ve given that much to the church."
"I’d love to," he said graciously; and he went to a drawer and he pulled out all the receipts by which he’d given that much to the church. Well he had me. There wasn’t anything I could say. So I thanked him, and bid him good day, and turned to leave. And as I turned to leave, he said to me, "Mr. Internal Revenue Service man, are you a Christian?" And I answered, "Yes." And pastor, he said, "Do you belong to a church?" I said, "Yes. I belong to this church." Then he said, "Do you attend regularly?" I said, "Yes." Pastor, I said, "Yes, I attend the church regularly." And the wage earner replied, exclaimed, "Well, I am so surprised."
I walked out of the house, I got in my car, I drove away. What in the earth did he mean, "I am so surprised. I am so surprised"? Surprised that I’m a Christian? There are Christians everywhere. Surprised, pastor, that I’m a member of this church? There are hundreds and hundreds of members of this church. Surprised that I attend the church regularly? Pastor, many of us attend the church regularly. I couldn’t figure it out. Why was he so surprised at me?
Pastor, the following Sunday, I was at church here. I reached for the envelope and I took out my Sunday giving: a dollar bill. And as I put that dollar bill in the church envelope it suddenly socked me like thunder and like lightning from heaven, what that wage earner meant! That I was amazed that he gave so much to his church, and I, I give a dollar. Pastor, it seemed to me that that dollar bill cried out, "I am surprised at you!" Receiving from God’s hands His gracious gifts – my eyes, my hands, my feet, my life, my breath, "I’m surprised at you!"
And pastor, when I placed that dollar bill in the collection plate it seemed to cry out, "I am surprised at you! Receiving from Jesus’ hands all of the blessings of salvation and forgiveness of sins, and entrance into the door of heaven." That dollar bill cried out, pastor, "I am surprised at you."
And the internal revenue man said, "Pastor, I’m clearing my heart today. I want you to forgive me. I want the church to forgive me. I’ve asked God to forgive me. And I’m beginning a new life in stewardship with Him."
That’s the experience all of us ought to have. This I owe; it doesn’t belong to me, this is God’s, this tithe. But this I give out of the overflowing, abounding thanksgiving of my heart and of my life. This is out of the love of my soul for Jesus. And I think God will bless the church, and God will bless the home, and God will bless the children, and God will bless the family that thus overflows in its abounding remembrance of Him. You will not out-give God. For everything that we dedicate to Him, God will return it to us a thousandfold.
We are entering, as you heard from president Marvin Watson, we are entering a great outreach ministry of our church. Two things in it: one, he says, is first to pray; and we shall. Lord, what is it God will have me to do? We’ll pray. And we will follow it with a sacrificial remembrance. When David sinned in counting the people, his soldiers, when God said, "You depend upon Me, I will give you victory," David depending upon the strength of his own army, and God sent a pestilence; and when David saw the angel with his sword drawn over the city of Jerusalem, he cried aloud, "O God, I have sinned, not these sheep. Let it fall upon me!" And in propitiation, in expiation, in forgiveness, God said to David, "You go to Mt. Moriah, and there on the mount you will find Araunah’s threshing floor. There you offer a sacrifice unto Me, and I’ll stay the curse." When Araunah saw him coming, Araunah bowed before his king, and said, "My lord and king, why have you come?" And King David said, "To offer to God a sacrifice here on Mt. Moriah in order that the plague might be stayed." And Araunah replied, "My lord, O king, take the threshing floor, take it; I give it to you. Take my oxen, I give them to you. They are for sacrifice. And take the threshing instruments for wood. I give them to you." And David replied, "Nay, Araunah, but I will buy them from thee at a price; neither will I offer unto God that which doth cost me nothing. I will take of mine, and I’ll give it to God at a cost, at a sacrifice." And the Lord stayed the plague, and blessed David and his people [2 Samuel 24:1-25].
That’s the way we ought to be: "I’ll not offer to God that which doth cost me nothing. It will come out of the necessities of my very life."
May I close? I grew up and began my ministry in the Depression; I lived on twenty dollars a month. That was my salary, twenty dollars a month. When I began my full-time ministry out of the seminary, and our baby was born, I made two hundred fifty dollars a month. Even when I came here to Dallas my salary was seven thousand five hundred dollars a year, all those years and years and years back there in the Depression. When I was in the seminary, I went to hear the most famous violinist in the world. His name was Fritz Kreisler. Did you ever hear of that name? Fritz Kreisler, he was a Viennese, world-famous violinist. I was in the seminary in Louisville, and he was presented there in the Civic Auditorium. And I went to hear Fritz Kreisler play the violin. And some of the beautiful songs that you’ve heard all your life, that wonderful Viennese violinist wrote. Oh, it just thrilled me!
I had no idea about him. I just knew that he was a wonderful violinist. But in his testimony, I learned he was a glorious Christian – I had no idea of it – a marvelous Christian. And in his testimony he said, and it’s burned in my soul ever since, he said, "I am not grateful to God that I have food to eat while others go hungry. I am not grateful to God I have clothes to wear while others are naked. I am not grateful to God I have a place to live while others are exposed. I am not grateful to God that I am saved and going to heaven, while others are in darkness and lost. But," he said, "I am grateful to God that I have these wonderful blessings that I may share them with others who have them not." That’s the way all of us ought to be.
I’m not grateful that I have more than someone else; I’m just grateful to God that the Lord has blessed me that I may share it with those who do not possess the rich remembrances by which God sanctifies and hallows my life. Sweet people, if we could be that way, if we could be that way, God will pour out a blessing upon us such as we have never known or experienced in our lives. Let’s do it. Let’s do it: being made rich toward God, the Christian extra, the second mile. God bless us in the way.
We’re going to sing us a song, Fred. And while we sing the song of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you answering the call of God to accept Jesus as Savior, or to come into the fellowship of the church, or to give your life to the blessed Savior in a beautiful and precious way, as the Spirit of the Lord shall make appeal, answer, come, and angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.