Choosing The Wrong World
June 9th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
CHOOSING THE WRONG WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
06-09-91 10:50 a.m.
Preaching through the Gospel of Mark, we are in chapter 10, and in the middle of the chapter, verse 17:
When Jesus was gone forth into the way, there came one running, kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, God.
Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not lie, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.
He answered and said unto Jesus, Master, all these have I observed from my childhood.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell what you have, give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: come, take up thy cross, and follow Me.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved, for he was very rich, he had great possessions.
If you have ever been in the Riverside Baptist Church in Manhattan, built by the Rockefellers, you have seen that world famous painting of Hofmann: our Lord Jesus to this rich young ruler is, with a sweep of His hands, pointing to the desperate need of the world. And the young man, in deep sorrow, is turning away [Mark 10:22].
The sense of it made a profound impression, not only on Jesus, who looking upon him loved him, but also on the disciples [Mark 10:21, 24]. Here was a young fellow of gifts, of affluence. What a mighty addition he would have been to the preaching of the gospel and to the kingdom of God. And when he turned away, he not only did so in personal sorrow, but also in the deep despairing despair of the Lord Himself and of the disciples [Mark 10:22-24].
Consider him, his station. He was rich [Mark 10:22], he was young, he was a ruler. There is no society that I know of, there is no culture, there is no national life in which affluence is not looked upon as a measure of tremendous blessing and success. Especially so was that true among the Jewish people for a man to be rich was to be blessed of God, and his affluence was a sign of the favor of heaven.
He was not only rich, but he was young [Matthew 19:20]. Youth always has its remarkable appeal to any generation in any social or cultural life. He was a young man, and he was a ruler. There is a great latitude of meaning in that designation and reference, but however he may have been in office, or in character, or in the administrative life of his people, he was a ruler. Could you think of a more brilliantly exemplar life of affluence and influence, than that young man? He was rich, he was young, he was a ruler [Luke 18:18].
Consider also his courage. Jesus is on His way to be crucified [Luke 18:31-33]. This peasant of Nazareth has already been rejected [Mark 9:30-31]. And as He walks through south Perea and on up to Jerusalem, there to die [Mark 10:1], this young man comes out in broad daylight. It says in the text Jesus Himself was on the way [Mark 10:17]. He was on a public highway or street. And there where the whole world could behold him, that young man knelt down before the rejected Lord Jesus [Mark 10:17].
And not only did he do it openly and courageously, but he said, looking up into the face of our Lord, didaskale agathe. Jesus noticed it. Not in the Talmud is there a great rabbi called didaskale agathe. And the Lord said to that kneeling young man, “There is only one agathe, and that is God. You mean agathe to Me?” [Mark 10:17-18]. Ah, the dedication of that rich young ruler! Look again at his beautiful, and exemplary, and obedient life. Our Lord said to him, “To inherit heaven, you know the commandments; keep them” [Mark 10:19].
And the young man replied, “Didaskale, my Master, all of these commandments have I faithfully observed from my childhood [Mark 10:20]. Not for a day, not for a month, not for a year, but every moment of the pilgrim way have I observed that law of the prophet Moses”—clean and pure from childhood! “And the Lord looking upon him loved him” [Mark 10:21]. You would have too—such a splendid example of purity, chastity, young manhood. “The Lord looking upon him loved him.”
There is something there that is everlastingly true. The emptiness of mere ritual, of religion as such, of obeying commandments and rules and laws left the heart of the young man hungry, empty. “O didaskale, is there not something over, and beside, and beyond the mere outward keeping of a ritual, of an obedience? What lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:20]. And our Lord replied, “One thing thou lackest, just one. Your heart is in the world and not with God. You love your state in the world more than you love God. Give it up. Give it up. Take what you have, the riches you possess, give them away, and come follow Me, and you will have treasure in heaven” [Mark 10:21].
“What lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:20]. Seemingly he lacked nothing, but actually he lacked everything—as the sun might lack light, as fire might lack heat, as an engine might lack power, as a rainbow might lack color. “Your heart is with mammon. Your state is in the world. Give it up. Give it up. Love God. Listen to the voice of the Lord. Follow Him, and you will be rich forever in heaven” [Mark 10:21].
The tragedy of his choice; I don’t know of anything more interesting. All three of the evangelists tell this story. I don’t think there is anything more interesting than the little detail of how they describe that young fellow, as he struggles in his soul with that appeal of Jesus to give up the world. Matthew uses the word lupeō, and it is translated, “grief”—“He was sad at that saying” [Matthew 19:22]. The apostle Luke writes it egenethe perilupos, “He became very exceedingly sad” [Luke 18:23]. But no one of them describes it as poignantly and dynamically as Mark. He uses the word, stugnazō [Mark 10:22].
Twice in the Bible will you find that word, stugnazō. One time is in Matthew 16:3, when the Lord in a parable is describing the torment and storm of the sky—stugnazō, those boiling clouds preceding a great hurricane, or tornado, or storm. Stugnazō, that’s the word that Mark uses to describe that young man—the storm in his heart, the confrontation in his soul, the agony of his choice, stugnazō. You could see it reflected in his face.
And he rose from his knees and turned away [Mark 10:17, 22]. He lost the battle. Through all eternity is that loss seen and reflected and endured. If you stood by the pearly gates watching the throngs of pilgrims come into the city of God, you would never see his face. If you mingle with the multitudes; that throng up and down those golden streets, you would never see his face. If you stood in presence before the roll call in glory, you would never hear his name. And if you searched through the Book of Life, you would never see his signature. All eternity without God! And think of the glorious life and opportunity he rejected when he turned away from the appeal of Christ.
I think of another young man, Saul of Tarsus, who knelt in the presence of the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord, what would Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:6]. This young man could have done that had he had said, “Lord, You just speak the word and I will obey. You give the command and I will listen.” Think what this young man could have been and could have done. I even think upon the fall of Judas he could have been the twelfth apostle.
Nobody knows what is wrapped up in the life of that rich young ruler had he just listened to the voice of God and followed our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Instead, he turned away and left God out of his life [Mark 10:21-22]. That is so tragically true of so many. Turning away from God, they face inevitable loss, and tragedy, sorrow, and despair.
This is an irregularly metered poem:
“I remember the day,”
She said with smiling confidence.
“One thing I am sure of:
I’ll never have a drinking problem.
I’ll always drink responsibly.”
Then it began,
The long, desolate walk
Through a suffocating tunnel,
With nothing but despair
Hugging her anguished heart.
She did everything she could
To disguise the problem—
She denied it,
She pretended to laugh it off,
At times, she blamed herself,
In moments of utter darkness
She blamed God.
One day her distraught daughter said,
‘Mother you are embarrassing us.
Where is your willpower?
Why don’t you just stop?’
A week later her angry husband said,
“I thought you had willpower.
Why don’t you just stop?”
She listened, she considered.
Then, in a very dramatic way
She accepted the challenge,
I have never seen so many flowers
At a funeral service in my life.
O dear God, how tragic,
How utterly tragic to think
That we, our willpower is enough!
Why didn’t someone
Direct her to Thee, O God?
There are no problems in life, there are no providences in this pilgrim journey that cannot find victory in Him. But when we turn aside and leave God out, we face inevitable loss and despair. This young man, what he could have been, what he could have done, what he could have meant to the kingdom of Christ! And he turned away [Mark 10:22].
Upon a day, there were those who said to me, “We want you meet this young man, so gifted in his beginning ministry, blessed of God.” So they brought him here to me. And I met the young man. Ah, it was a benediction just to see him and to be in his presence! When I visited him in his home, I was doubly impressed with him. We all knelt in prayer. He got down on his face talking to God.
I made arrangements for the young man to come here to our dear church and to hold a revival meeting two years hence, giving him time and our church time to prepare for the great revival. In that meantime, in a meeting he was holding in the city of Los Angeles, California, the Hearst newspapers picked him up. And overnight he became a world famous evangelist.
And when he came here to Dallas, we couldn’t begin to have the revival in our sanctuary, and we moved it out to the Cotton Bowl. And that year of 1952 that young brilliant preacher came down the aisle here in this church and joined our family of God. And for now, almost forty years, Billy Graham has been a fellow member of our sweet fellowship in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
A few years after that, I received a letter, then a call, from Dr. W. F. Powell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee—thirty-two years on the trustees and leader of our Sunday School Board. And when he retired, he had them elect me president of that board, and for six years I presided over that board of our Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Powell, a wonderful friend, Dr. Powell called me and wrote me and he said, “There is a young minister that we have had in our church, and you must see him. You must know him and you must have him there in your congregation.”
He described him to me—wonderfully, beautifully, dynamically. Then, as though that were not enough, I received a telephone call from Dr. M. E. Dodd, a generation pastor of the First Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana, the man who founded the seminary in New Orleans, the man who fathered the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, himself president of our great convention. Dr. M. E. Dodd called me and said and described in the same language that wonderful young man. “We have had him,” he said, “here in our church for revival, and it was a Pentecostal visitation from heaven. And you must have him too.”
I sent for him and he came here to Dallas, to this place. And I don’t exaggerate it when I tell you the half had not been told. He was about six feet three inches tall. He looked like a star athlete. He was as handsome a young man as I had ever seen. He could have been a model for all of those shows they make in Hollywood. And he was devout. Ah, that young fellow impressed me. And once again, I made an arrangement that he come and be our preacher and evangelist two years hence; give him time to prepare and us to get ready.
The days passed. The years passed. And at an hour, just like this, after 11:00 o’clock, there was a bum on the back row where you are seated, waiting to talk to me. After the service was done and the people were gone, I went back there to visit with him—disheveled, filthy, dirty, dissipated. I didn’t recognize him. I had no idea who he was. He was here asking me for some money to make his way to his home destination. It was that young man! It was that young preacher! Drinking, drugs, and dissipation, and promiscuity had destroyed not only his ministry, but his life. He took the money, made his way to his home destination, and died.
Great God in heaven, how is it that we turn away from Thee, when following Thee and loving Thee and serving Thee carries with it every benedictory blessing that heart could imagine? And the darkness and the despair when we turn our backs on God—why would a man do that? Why do you do that? Why do sometimes I do it? O God, that always there would be in us that precious devoted willingness, Lord, that Thy will be done. I am Thy servant, and I am following Thee. The end of that way is heaven itself.
And to you who have listened on television, let this be an appeal from God Himself that you open your heart and your ears to the voice and call of our Savior. And if you will listen and commit your life in faith and trust to Jesus, I will see you in heaven someday. And to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this hour, what a marvelous time! What a glorious day to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]. And do it now, make it now.
CHOOSING THE WRONG WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-9-91I. His station
A. Rich – to that culture a sign of favor of God
B. Young – appealing to any generation in any social or cultural life
C. Ruler – had influence, recognition, powerII. His courage
A. He knelt before the rejected Nazarene when all could see him
B. He addressed Jesus in a way only greatest rabbis were addressedIII. His moral obedience, dedication
A. He kept the commandments all his life
B. Jesus loved him
C. Emptiness of mere ritual left the heart hungry, emptyIV. His one lack
A. He loved his riches and place in the world more than he loved GodV. His tragic choice
A. The struggle in his soul (Matthew 16:3, Mark 10:22)
B. He turned awayVI. His life of lost opportunity
A. Saul of Tarsus
B. When we turn aside and leave God out, we face inevitable loss, despair
1. Billy Graham