Today is Monday, August 26, 2019. I am happy to report we had another wonderful downpour of rain early Sunday morning again watering our thirsting grass and trees. The rain was accompanied by heavy-duty lightning followed by loud claps and rumbling thunder. The temperature was reduced a bit and the evening was much more comfortable. As I write these words I don’t expect any more rain for today but I report this with a grateful heart for what the Lord provided.
I enjoyed two slices of delicious watermelon that would rival any I recall from my beloved Georgia (and most of you know how fond I am of Georgia watermelon). Now for a look at today’s Word: “”Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35. There is nothing more precious to a child of God than the blessed holy and inspired Word of God. It is eternal in its origin and breathed out of the mouth of God in its essence. This powerful Word is settled in the heavens and can not be displaced by mortals nor Satanic assault. Jesus, Himself, is said to be the very Word of God. He has died once for the sins of all mankind and He will never die again. He is eternal so is His Word and you cannot separate the Two. It is all too easy for us to think this earth upon which we walk and live will last forever. But it is not so. This earth is temporal at best and is on a collision course with God’s eternal purpose. The world was created by Jesus, the great Creator. He spoke it into existence. He created the first man and woman and from them, He has populated this earth which has grown to almost 8 billion humans.
Sadly, most of these will not be in Heaven. What does the Holy Word say? “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. Most people alive on the earth today have little or no interest in Heaven and no fear of Hell. Sadly, too many Christians seem to be creating wealth and substance as if they expect the earth to last forever and that their seed shall inherit what they gain.
While the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to the world it, sadly, seems to be foolish preaching to the Christians, too. When the subject of the Rapture of the Church is preached few heed it as being factual and seem to regard it as an old wives’ tale if they give any serious thought to it at all. Too many saints look on the rapture like the people of Noah’s day as he preached the truth of the coming judgment and that God was going to make a way for the righteous to escape the damnation. Only seven humans were spared. I think the duration from the first announcement until the great ark was completed may have been 120 years. Noah is reported in the Scriptures as a preacher of righteousness. Many of the notable righteous died before the ark was completed. I have no doubt that the majority of the men and women who knew of Noah’s preaching and his family’s work in building that large boat laughed at him. Then one day some must have observed all those animals being herded into the wooden vessel. That must have been a sight and fueled no small amount of chatter around the dinner tables of the community. Then one day it was noticed the door was shut and sealed from the outside. That must have added a layer of puzzling conversation.
And then…AND THEN IT BEGAN TO RAIN! It had never rained before. Then the springs erupted from the earth gushing with more water to add to what was falling. And soon the water was filling the countryside and eventually rose to the base of the boat. I am sure a crowd soon reached the outside of the ark and beat on that big, sealed, door. But Noah had no power nor did his three sons have the power to open that door. The flood Noah had predicted was upon them and soon all who were panicking outside drowned in the floodwaters. That judgment was foretold by Noah. The people had 120 years to prepare for it. But they laughed and went about their daily routine.
The whole world was destroyed by water. You would think that devastation would have impacted the collective memory of the population that would grow from Noah’s family and the people would become holy and devout followers of God and His Word. But such was not the case. There must be several thousand men like Noah warning this generation that the Rapture of the Church is near. But do you see any rush to embrace holiness and fill our churches with people who are hungering for the Word of God? If anything we see a world rushing further and further away from God. In our country, you see the great number of men and women who are running for president pointing far away from Heaven and offering no prophetic word of danger approaching. God does not play. As He did in Noah’s day He is preparing to do in our day. The only sign you will see or hear will be the Trumpet sound and the dead in Christ being raised from the grave. That event will be so fast that if you blink your eye you will miss it. Just as fast the Christians who are still alive will be changed in that same blink and they too will disappear. Your only warning is the Word of God. What does it say?
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
No one will have an excuse for missing this great escape–the Rapture of the Church–the catching out of the earth those who have accepted and believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and who have trusted in His bodily resurrection.
The time for unbelievers to repent is now. What does the Scripture say about getting ready? “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” 2 Corinthians 6:2.
No other warning is coming. You have the full weight of past prophecy having been fulfilled in the life and action of Noah and his family. You have the powerful preaching and teaching and testimony of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, and the voices of all the other apostles each confirming this great event that is coming. And you have our Text Post for today:
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35
In Amarillo, I had a friend with whom I graduated from high school. We were in the same Sunday school class and were good personal friends. We went to Baylor University together, and to my sorrow and amazement, the young fellow turned out to be an infidel, an atheist. I went to his room one night to talk to him. He was seated under a lamp reading Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. Tom Paine had been dead for one hundred fifty years, but really dead? The influence of that evil-thinking man has extended through the decades after his body turned back into dust.
Think of the dividend for evil that wicked people will receive at the judgment bar of Almighty God. We never escape the influence of evil in our lives.
On the radio, you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Shadow Ministries, the unconscious influence that always attends our lives. Just as a man cannot rid himself of his shadow, it always follows wherever he, is so the influence of a man’s life always attends his way and finds its repercussion in eternity. I would think that so much of what is done in the name of the Lord, such as at our church camp; those ministries are so small, they are so hidden away, but you never know what God is doing. You never know the repercussion of the seed that you have sown. And that is the sermon tonight.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in chapter 5. Let us turn to it and read out loud the text together. Acts, the Book of Acts, the fifth book in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, chapter 5, and the text is verses 14 through 16. Acts chapter 5:14-16. Now with the pastor, read the text out loud together. Acts 5:14-16 together:
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
There came also a multitude out of cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
Now, you saw in it the passage of the text that gives rise to the sermon: “that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” [Acts 5:15].
The temple area, as you know, was a great area. It covered twenty-six acres. And on the eastern side of the temple, on the eastern boundary of the court of the Gentiles, above the Brook Kidron and the winepress, Gethsemane, down there in the valley and then the rise of Mount Olivet on the other side. In the porch of Solomon on the eastern side, there did the apostles gather with the multitudes and preach the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Now there would be coming up to this temple, the fisherman Simon Peter. There was just a certain number that he could touch out of the multitudes that thronged the preaching of the gospel. So, finding the way that the big fisherman had of coming up to the house of the Lord, and noticing how he came into that temple area and finally to the porch of Solomon, they would bring their sick people and lay them along the way, that at least the shadow of Peter might fall upon them and they be blessed by just the passing of that tremendous man of God [Acts 5:15]. And that gives rise to the thought of the sermon tonight: Shadow Ministries – wayside ministries; unconscious ministries. How people are influenced whom you never know, maybe never see, maybe after you are dead, maybe after you are dead a thousand years, the unconscious influence that always attends our way.
There was a great magnate, the president of a vast railroad system in America, who died. And they announced that his service, a memorial, would be at two o’clock on a certain afternoon. And at two o’clock on the dot, at two o’clock that afternoon, everything stopped on that vast railway system in honor and in memory of the great and famous president of the railway. They brought everything to a halt. Every train stopped; every wheel ceased to turn; every man stood still where he was; every workman laid down his tools. And for three minutes the entire system shut down, and everything stopped in that vast railway corporation. All except one thing, and that was the influence of that man in the casket. It continued on, not stopping three minutes or five minutes or a year or a century, but it goes on forever. So it is with every man’s life. There is repercussion that never stops, even from the humblest life.
Sometimes the scientists tell us some of the most unusual things. One of the things I read was this; that you could drop a pebble in the vast, illimitable ocean. And the molecular disturbance from the dropping of that one pebble reaches out to the farthest shores of the sea. If that could be true, think how much more is it true in the life of a man who lives in this earth. The body dies. It turns back to the dust of the ground from whence God shaped it and made it. But personality and soul and influence never die.
Oh, when I look at history and think of the long and extended shadows of men who make that history, I stand in wonder and amazement before it. There would not be volumes enough in the world to describe the influence of Alexander the Great upon human history – turning the whole world into Hellenic thinking, Hellenic architecture, Hellenic language – in which the New Testament is written – Hellenic thought, Hellenic culture. It is the basis of our civilization today; the extended shadow of that young man who conquered the world when he was twenty-two years of age.
Did you know, one time looking at the courses taught at Oxford in England, I counted two hundred courses in Oxford on Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotle died three hundred years before Christ. And yet today, there will be something like two hundred courses in the great university of England in Oxford teaching Aristotelian philosophy. And dear me, what could I say of the influence of a man like Nietzsche and Bismarck and finally Hitler? Germany, as long as there is a Germanic people will never get over or survive the terror and the horror and the hurt of Nietzsche, and Bismarck, and Hitler. So all of life follows a train like that; the influence that never ceases long after we are gone.
Now let’s I am going to take it two ways; one, the influence for good and the influence for bad. Let us take the worst first. A man does not die when he dies. Would to God that were true with evil men, but the influence of his life lingers on and forever to the great judgment day of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15]. I had a friend in Amarillo with whom I was graduated from high school. He and I were in the same Sunday school class. We were good personal friends. We went to Baylor University together. And to my sorrow and amazement, the young fellow turned out to be an infidel – an atheist. I went up to his room one night to talk to him. And as I walked into his room, he was seated there under a lamp reading infidel Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Why, Tom Paine had been dead for a hundred fifty years. Are you sure? The influence of that evil-thinking man has extended through the decades after his body has turned back into the dust. Think of the thousandfold dividend for evil that wicked men shall receive at the judgment bar of Almighty God. We never escape the influence of evil in our lives.
Nathan the prophet said to David, “The sword shall never depart from thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10]. And thereafter, for the generations and the generations, the story of the household of David and the kings of Judea is written in human blood. O God! If it were just I, if it were just me and my house – but the families and the lives that are touched in the years and the years and the years that follow after. The Lord God said to Manasseh, “Because of your sins, Judea will be destroyed, people carried into captivity, and the holy house of God burned down with fire” [2 Kings 21:10-15]. O Lord, the influence of a life for evil – it multiplies, it continues on forever; but enough.
Let us speak of the influence of the life for good. You know, one of the most beautiful and precious passages, and one of the finest theological foundational truths in the Word of God, is this, written in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10]. You have heard, if you have been here in the services before, my exposition of that passage – “saved by His life.” There are theologians who say that refers to the days of our Lord when He lived in His flesh – saved by His life. Oh no; oh no! If when we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son – by the death of His Son, then how much more shall we be saved by the life of the Son of God; that is, His resurrected life – His life in glory. For the life of our Lord, poured out into this world, lives forever!
The Lord is as much alive today as He was when He walked the shores of Galilee. The influence of the life of Jesus is a thousand times a thousand times greater now than it was when He opened the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30], and when He healed the lepers [Mark 140-42; Luke 17:11-14], and when He raised the dead [John 11:43-44]. Jesus is alive [Revelation 1:18]. The greatest truth I know in human history is Jesus is alive, and He is here. He is in our hearts [Matthew 28:20]. He guides in the way; He leads; Jesus, saving us by His life [1 Corinthians 15:3].
So it is with the lives of every good man; all good men who ever lived. The repercussion of the influence of their lives is forever. I could hardly think of how it will be when Simon Peter stands at the great judgment day before the great King. Think of the influence of his life through the years and the generations. I think of the apostle Paul. Oh, what an infinite reward will be his, when God unravels the skein of the influence of the great apostle to the Gentiles! If we could speak of these mighty men of God whose names are household words. On the tomb of Dwight L. Moody are written these words, “He that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever” [1 John 2:17] and how true that is.
But we are not Simon Peters; we are not apostle Pauls; or even Dwight L. Moodys. What of the humble influence of that sweet disciple of Jesus whose name you never heard of, and whose life you are not conscious of, but there is an influence that God blesses through the years and the years? Did you ever stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, just across the Potomac from Washington? On the sarcophagus there are written these words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” And when I stand there and look at that monument and read those words, I think of that soldier – an American man who was cut down on a foreign field of battle – who lies there, but nobody knows his name. With what multitudes of honors and words of appreciation and gratitude have been bestowed upon that man, but nobody knows his name, or who he is. In a thousand times and in a thousand ways are our lives just like that; influential, but known only to God.
Look, do you remember the story in the Bible of the little maid, the little girl in the household of Naaman, who was the captain of the hosts of the king of Syria? And it was through the testimony of that little girl [2 Kings 5:3-4], that the great man was cleansed. He was saved and became a follower of the true God of heaven. And there is not a more beautiful story in the Bible than the story of the healing of Naaman [2 Kings 5:5-14]. What is the name of that little girl? Nobody knows; and you won’t know until you get to heaven. But think of the repercussion of the testimony of that little child in the household of Naaman the captain of the hosts of [Syria].
Take again, do you know the name of that little boy who was in a crowd – five thousand men – and they were, as the day passed, hungry, listening to the Word of God? And lest they faint by the way, the Lord said, Feed them. And the apostles said, Feed them? Five thousand men? Feed them? Yes, said the Lord, feed them. And they went through the great throng to find food for the multitudes. And all they found was a little boy’s lunch. He had five little biscuits and two little fishes [John 6:9]. He gave that to the Lord. They placed it in His hands. The Lord blessed it as He always did – saying grace at the table. The Lord blessed that little boy’s lunch – five little pieces of bread and two little fishes. And then the Lord broke, and He broke, and He broke, and the disciples passed the food out to the people – the bread and the fish [John 6:10-13], and the bread and the fish. It was a marvelous miracle of God, and it was followed by one of the most magnificent sermons in the whole Bible, the message on the true manna from heaven: Christ, the bread of life [John 6:31-58]. Now you tell me, what is the name of that little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus? What is his name? You do not know. Nobody knows. And we will never know until we stand before God’s great throne of grace, at the judgment day, at the bema of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10].
Take again, do you remember when the apostle Paul was about to be destroyed – slain, ambushed in the way in Jerusalem? There was a plot on the part of the Jews that they were going to call for him as though they wanted to interrogate him. And as he was going to be led before the interrogators, they were going to destroy him – to slay him, to assassinate him on the way. And there was a little boy, Paul’s sister’s son, who overheard the plot and came to the Roman centurion and told him of the threat, and the danger to the life of God’s great apostle and missionary – and saved the life of the apostle Paul [Acts 23:12-33]. What was the name of that little boy? Do you know? Nobody knows. Nor will any one know until we stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Corinthians 5:10]; the influence, the unconscious influence of these who do something good for God.
Let me ask you again. Do you know the name of the man who in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago won the famous White Sox ball player named Billy Sunday to Jesus? Do you know the name of that man? I never heard of him. I never heard of him. But think of the enormous influence of that humble man who in that mission won that famous baseball player of the Chicago White Sox to the Lord Jesus, his name Billy Sunday. Think of the name who won him.
Tell me, do you know the name of that humble layman who had in his Sunday school class, a young man, a teenager? [He] found out that he worked in a shoe store in downtown Boston; found his way to the store, asked for the young fellow, was told he was in the stockroom. He went back there and the young fellow was on the top of the ladder, working with those shoe boxes way up there on the shelves. And that layman stood there at the bottom of the ladder and asked the young fellow if he would come down that he might talk to him about Jesus, and won him to the Lord. That was the conversion of Dwight L. Moody. Do you know the name of that layman? Think of what God did through him – and yet his name unknown.
Or, tell me just once again – and we could multiply this for the night; tell me, do you know the name of that Moravian missionary who won John Wesley and George Whitefield to the faith? I have no idea who he was. His name has been lost in the world. But oh, dear God, think of what John Wesley and the great Wesleyan revival did for England. And think of George Whitefield who began in America the Great Awakening that swept into it the mighty intellectual preaching of Jonathan Edwards. But who was the name of that Moravian missionary? Nobody knows. Shadow ministries, things that humble people do for God but nobody ever realizes, ever remembers, ever knows. But God knows, and God blesses it through the years.
My time is gone. May I conclude quickly? That’s the reason, that’s the reason, that when a man dies, he doesn’t receive his reward then. You don’t receive your reward until the end of the world, until the end of time. For you don’t die when you die. And it is only God that can unravel the scheme through all of human life. And when you stand at the judgment bar of the Lord Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:10], without exception those who stand there are surprised. “Why, Lord, when did I ever see Thee sick, and ministered to Thee? Or in prison, and came to see Thee? Or hungry, and fed Thee? Or naked, and clothed Thee? When did I ever do these things?” [Matthew 25:37-39]. And the Lord will say, “When you did it unto one of the least of these, you were doing it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40]. And God writes it down in the Book of Life. And that’s why your reward is never bestowed until the end of the age. Your influence goes on and on and on, and on and only in heaven will you ever know what it means.
Hastily, may I illustrate that? Listen to this that I have copied. A woman, a woman whose name has been forgotten, gave a tract one day to a very bad man named Richard Baxter, who read it and was converted. Richard Baxter became one of the great preachers of all time. Then Baxter wrote a book, The Call of the Unconverted, which brought a multitude to God; among them, Philip Doddridge, who in turn wrote a book, The Rise and Progress of Religion, which brought tens of thousands into the kingdom; among them, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce wrote A Practical View of Christianity, which brought a multitude to Christ, among them being Leigh Richmond, who wrote a tract entitled The Dairyman’s Daughter, which has been the means of the conversion of uncounted multitudes. So the influence went on and on and on.
Now look how that began. A woman whose name has been forgotten gave a tract one day to a very bad man, and the influence went on and on and on, and it stands to this day, and forever. When that woman stands at the bema, at the judgment bar of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], that is a poor attempt, but God can unravel all of the influences that followed after. And when that forgotten woman stands at the judgment bar of Almighty God, and the Lord bestows upon her her reward, think of the amazement that will overwhelm her, drown her in glory and in gratitude and in praise to God. You don’t know what you do when you do something good for Jesus – speaking a word in His name; sowing the seed – shadow ministries; the unconscious influence of those who love Jesus.
We must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, in the balcony round, and there is time and to spare, come, come. The press of people on this lower floor, come; “Pastor, this is my family, we are all coming tonight.” “This is my wife, the two of us are coming tonight.” “This is my friend, I am bringing him tonight.” As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now and come. On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles. “I have decided for God, pastor; and I am on the way. Here I am.” A child, a youth, a couple, a family, somebody you; come now, gladly, wonderfully, while we stand and while we sing.
The title of the message is What is Wrong With Being an Atheist.
In Psalm 14:1 and in Psalm 53:1 the psalm begins, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” And Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” As though for the Lord to say that one time is not enough. He repeats it in the exact syllables in the exact sentence. It is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.”
And when you look at that statement closely, you will find it to be one of the most astonishing in all the Holy Scriptures. That is the only thing that is ever said about the existence of God in proof, or in defense, or in argument, or in forensic presentation. Search the Book from beginning to end and nothing else is ever said concerning a defense of or an argument for the existence and the reality of God. That’s all. God just makes the comment, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1]; and nothing else is said.
What the Bible does, it just presents the Lord God; never defends His existence, never argues for His reality, the Scriptures just present Him. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God.” And the Christian dispensation:
In the beginning was the Word . . .
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth . . .
For the law came by Moses, but grace . . . came by Jesus Christ.
That’s all; just presents Him, just as a man does the president of the United States. The smaller the man is, the elongated introduction is made; but anytime the executive leader of America, it’s presented always with this same word, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.” That’s the way God is presented, “Ladies and gentlemen, and all creation, and the angels in heaven, the isles of the sea, and the nations of the earth, God!” “In the beginning God . . .” [Genesis 1:1].
Now there has to be a reason for that. So as I study it, as I turn it over in my mind I have come up with these reasons; to me, why it is that God just presents Himself, never an argument for His existence or a defense of His reality, just “This is God.”
Number one: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1], then he’s dismissed, why? Reason number one: the questions of the atheist are irrelevant and inane. They have no pertinency. They don’t face reality.
It’s like this. In ancient Athens, Plato taught in the academy. In ancient Athens, Aristotle taught in the Lyceum; in ancient Athens, Zeno taught in the Stoa. He called his pupils Stoics. So as Plato stands in the academy, or Aristotle stands in the Lyceum, or Zeno stands in the Stoa, and they are surrounded by their incomparable masterpieces – there is no literature beyond the Bible like Plato’s Republic, or like Aristotle’s Metaphysics, or like Zeno’s Moralities. They are tremendous masterpieces.
So as those men stand there before their pupils, and one of the pupils stands up and says, “Plato, do you exist?” or “Aristotle, do you exist?” or “Zeno, do you exist?” What would be the reaction of those tremendous philosophers who are teaching their pupils, surrounded by their tremendous masterpieces, and one of the pupils stands up and asks, “Do you exist?”
Take again, Rafael, the sweet painter of all time. He was beautiful in his personal appearance. He was beautiful in his gentleness and kindliness. Everybody loved Raphael, and he was endowed with an incomparable genius in making a canvas live in the sight of God.
By the side of St. Peter’s in Rome Raphael built his house. And there he had fifty chosen pupils. And Raphael stands in front of his pupils and he’s surrounded by his tremendous masterpieces. Just think of what that man could do. Here is The Coronation of the Virgin. Here is The Sistine Madonna. Here is The Transfiguration; died, and it wasn’t finished. He was buried beneath that beautiful picture. And he stands there, and in the mist of his lecturing to his pupils, one of them stands up and asks the question, “Do you exist?”
Or Rembrandt: bought his beautiful home on Breedstraat in Amsterdam. And standing there before his class, surrounded by his tremendous masterpieces, Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph, John the Baptist, or The Adoration of the Magi, and as Rembrandt is standing before his class, one of the members stands up and says, “Are you real? Do you exist?”
Or think of those men that surrounded Thomas Alva Edison in that vast laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. And as Edison speaks to those pupils, those scientists, and he’s surrounded by his great tremendous discoveries and inventions, here’s the electric light, there’s a battery, here is a phonograph, and as the great inventor speaks, one of his students stands up and asks, “Do you exist?” The inanity and the irrelevancy of the question is a rebuke in itself. That’s God.
The Lord presents Himself talking, revealing, explaining, speaking, judging, wooing, persuading, living. And He is surrounded by his great masterpieces. “The very heavens declare the glory of God . . . and the whole earth, day unto day, uttereth speech and showeth knowledge”[Psalm 19:1-2]. And in the midst of the presence of the living God, and in the midst of His vast masterpieces, some little insignificant man made of the dust of the ground stands up and says, “Do You exist?” That’s why God says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1].
Francis Bacon, the tremendous English essayist, wrote, “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to God.” One of the most unusual things I’ve ever read in my life, written by John Foster, who was born in 1770; he’s talking about the atheist and the material universe as being, in his persuasion, just an accident, just a coordination and development of fortuitous atoms. So he speaks of the atheist as “denying the cause for anything, even his own existence. He denies the existence of God by an assumption of knowledge which transcends the limitations of his own negative decree.” Then he writes, now you listen to this:
The wonder turns on the great process by which a man could grow to the immense intelligence that can know there is no God. This intelligence involves the very attributes of deity himself. For unless the man is omnipresent, in some place where he is not, there may be God. If he does not know, if he’s not omniscient, absolutely every agent in the universe, the one that he does not know may be God. If he is not himself the chief agent, if he’s not the great creator himself, if he himself is not the chief agent in the universe, and does not know what is so, that which is so may be God. If he is not in absolute possession of all the propositions that constitute universal truth, the one which he lacks may be God. If he cannot with certainty assign the cause of all that he perceives to exist, that cause may be God. If he does not know everything that has been done in immeasurable ages past, some things back yonder may have been done by God. Thus unless he knows all things, that is, precludes another deity by being one himself, he cannot know that the being whose existence he rejects does not exist.
How do you like that? Or, as a little boy, a guy came up to him and said, “Son, I’ll give you an apple, if you’ll show me where God is.” And the little fellow said, “Listen, mister, I’ll give you a barrel of them if you’ll show me where He isn’t.”
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1,53:1]. And one of the reasons, as I think of that, is his questions are inane. They are irrelevant.
Number two: why does God say, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1], and then dismisses him, there’s nothing else? The second reason: speculations of the atheist are vapid. They are void. They are empty. They are sterile.
You know, it’s a remarkable thing resounding through the Bible, not one time, but many times, such as Psalm 111:10, “The reverential awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” translated, “The fear of the Lord, the reverential awe of the Lord,” and repeated again in Proverbs 1:7 and in Proverbs 9:10, “The reverential awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That’s the way we start, is bowing before the great high God. Well, I have said the speculations, the metaphysics of the atheist are vapid. They are sterile. They are empty.
A sophisticated self-important high school, college senior, said to a freshman who’d just enrolled, he said to him, “What would you think if in ten minutes I can pulverize the idea of God, annihilate the idea of God in ten minutes?” And the freshman replied, he said, “Sir, I would think the same thing as if a gnat were to climb up the side of Pike’s Peak and say, ‘Look at me, in ten minutes I’m going to pulverize this thing with my left hind foot.’”
A hop toad and a green lizard were watching an express train hurtle by in West Texas. And as those two creatures watched that train thunder by, the hop toad said, “You know, they say that somebody made that train. What idiocy. It made itself.” And the green lizard said, “And you know, somebody says that there’s an engineer that drives that train. What idiocy. It drives itself.” And a red ant overheard the conversation, and he climbed up on a spike and he said, “And they tell me that there is a president of this railway system. If he exists I dare him to come and strike me dead.” Does God listen to the vapidity and vacuity of such inanity? “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1]. And the Lord never argues, defends, expatiates; that’s all.
No atheist ever gave an intelligent answer to the mystery of the cosmos all around us. And no atheist ever gave an intelligent answer to the meaning and the purpose of a man’s life in this earth. Somehow he misses the great, and precious, and marvelous wisdom of God.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:19-20, “That which may be known of God is manifest . . . for God has shown it unto us. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen.” Isn’t that a remarkable passage? “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen” [Romans 1:20].
How do you see the invisible? Paul says, “They are seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and the Godhead” [Romans 1:20]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? And you contemplate that sentence for a minute. Back of everything you see there are invisible forces that create it, that make it, that move it, invisible laws of gravity, or motion, or physics, or chemistry, or thermodynamics; and by the eye of faith, or searching, or belief, we are introduced to those invisible things in matter, in mind, in heart, in soul, in life.
As God’s Book says of Moses, “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible” [Hebrews 11:27]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? The realities actually are things unseen. And we only appropriate them and see them with the eye of faith. That’s what God says.
Isn’t it a strange thing? The answers, the speculations, the metaphysics of the atheist are sterile and empty. It is like drinking at a mirage; it never quenches the thirst. It’s like eating food of fancy; it never satisfies the hunger. It’s like reading a book that has no meaning. It’s like building a house without a plan. It’s like running a train without an engineer. It’s like living a life without any purpose or without any meaning. God says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1]. His speculations are empty.
All right, number three: why does God write that in the Book, and that’s all? Number three: the character of the atheist is bankrupt. It could not but be lost on a student of the Bible that Paul quotes this psalm, Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, in that tremendous passage in the third chapter of the Book of Romans when he concludes that all mankind is utterly depraved [Romans 3:10-12, 23]. There is sin in all of our faculties. We are a fallen humanity. Our mind, our hearts, our souls, our emotions, our wills; all are fallen.
And he quotes that Psalm that begins with, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1]. What Paul is avowing is that when a man denies the existence of God, character and righteousness disintegrate and evil flourishes in the land. And do I have a poignant remembrance of that.
One of these radio and television stations in the city of Dallas – and all of you will remember this yourselves – they took a notion that they wanted me to debate Madeline Murray O’Hair, the most infamous atheist in existence. So against the advice of everybody in the church, why, I said, “Why, I’ll do that.” Well, when the night came for the television and the radio to carry the thing on for four solid hours, well, what they did, they took us into a reporters’ room, and sat us down there, and all those reporters were up there at the front.
And then at a signal, why, they were, said now, “Ask them anything you please.” So a young reporter from the Houston Chronicle asked the first question. And brother, did that question set fire to her shuck, did it light her fuse, did it blow up her dynamite cap. She exploded. So when we went into the conference on television and the radio, she was livid. She was furious.
The question was this, and it dumbfounded me, and I never had an opportunity to answer. And I wanted to be nice in answering the question. I never had an opportunity because she simply went into a tirade. The question was this. He said, “Dr. Criswell, do you think that you are lowering yourself in condescending to debate this atheist over here?”
Oh, did that plow her up, good night! Well, anyway because of the television cameras and the situation there, I had to sit about six inches away from that female. And every fifteen minutes there were commercials, you know, whatever they do. So they’d carry on for fifteen minutes and there’d be a commercial.
Well, in those commercials, that critter would talk to me. I can’t quote in mixed company what she said. I’d blush to repeat what she said to me in an outhouse. Do you know what an outhouse is? I grew up in an outhouse. I’d blush to quote what that woman said. You can’t imagine. That is, I couldn’t. I just wasn’t ever introduced to a woman like that: filthy, dirty, in every imagination of her mind.
And that’s why it was amazing to me when her son William Murray, Bill Murray, who was the young fellow concerning which the Supreme Court outlawed prayer and the reading of the Bible in the public school system, William Murray, son of Madeline Murray O’Hair says miracles have happened in his life since he denounced atheism and gave his life to God. Sixteen-year-old Murray – was the plaintiff in his mother’s three year court battle that began in 1963 and resulted in the United States Supreme Court decision to ban state-mandated prayer in public schools. He stunned the Christian community last month when he said he was born again into Christianity, and made a public apology for his role in his mother’s suit. “I began searching for meaning in my life, thinking surely there has to be something else than this. My self-search for communion and meaning brought me to my knees. And since then there have been miracles in my life.”
He was a drunkard. The alcohol vanished. He smoked four packages of cigarettes a day. That vanished. “The minister,” to whom he made his confession of faith, “told me that I needed to make amends. And I believe in that. When you’ve done somebody wrong, and you get right with God, ask their forgiveness. So I decided to come back to Texas and apologize. Having done that, I felt a burden off of my soul. How my life has changed.” And I have a long magazine article, and I don’t have time to follow it through, concerning the confession of faith of that atheist, Madeline Murray O’Hair’s son.
Now what I was saying was that the third reason why God calls an atheist a fool is because of his bankruptcy of character. I want to go back to her. This is again in a national magazine. She is speaking about herself. “I’d describe myself as a sexual libertarian. I will engage in sexual activity with any consenting male, any damn time I well please. Sex is where you find it. I’ve had five affairs,” and I don’t know how many since then,
I’ve had five affairs, all of them real wing-dings. I’ve enjoyed every damn minute of them. I think young people should be able to have their first sexual love affair whenever they feel like it. In the case of most girls, this would be about thirteen or fourteen; for most boys it’d be around fifteen or sixteen. Whenever they want to try it, they should be allowed to go at it without supervision or restriction; in their parents’ bedroom, on a grass park, it doesn’t matter, anywhere.
What did I say? The character of an atheist is bankrupt. That’s why God says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1].
My time is gone. I have one more. I have one more. Why does God say that? “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Number four: the end, the ultimate destiny of an atheist is ignoble. It is not exalted and marvelous. It’s desecrated to the very earth in which he’s buried. His death is ignoble.
In my reading, I came across an incident in the city of London, where in 1899, and still existing, is the Society for the Advancement of Atheism. And every year, the article says, they have an annual banquet. And in this particular banquet not long ago the president of the London Society for the Advancement of Atheism gave the first toast.
And in the toast he referred to the apostle Paul. And in his reference he said, “The apostle Paul was blinded on his journey to Damascus”[Acts 22:11], and then eloquently added, “and he remained blind the rest of his life.” Well, that was smart and the members of the society guffawed, and applauded. And while they were applauding, the president was seen to totter and to fall. And when they went to his assistance, he was dead. And the banquet broke up, the article said, in confusion and disarray; the death of an atheist.
Reading that, I couldn’t help but think about Dr. A. N. Hall, twenty-eight years pastor of the First Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, a man who looked like George W. Truett, talked like him, a great saintly man of God. In his age he said to his deacons, he said, “If anything ever happens to me, I want you to call Dr. Criswell to be my successor.”
And on Christmas Eve in 1940, he died suddenly, just closed his eyes on this earth and opened them in glory. And on his desk he was preparing his sermon. Guess what it was? “My First Five Minutes in Heaven.” They appointed the pulpit committee at twelve-thirty, the first Sunday in January. And at one o’clock they called me on the phone. It was from that pastorate I came here. That’s the faith. And to be welcomed by the angels and by our Lord and by the saints in glory, that’s God. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord, it’s a glory road, this highway to heaven. What a fulsome life that has meaning every step of the way. Our sorrows have meaning. Our trials have meaning. Our age has meaning. Our death has meaning. God lives and the Lord purposes some wonderful thing for his children [1 Corinthians 2:9]. We praise Thee, blessed Jesus. We offer Thee the sum, and substance, and meaning of our lives. We only wish we could serve Thee better and love Thee more.
And in this moment while our people pause in awesome reverence before God, you, to give your heart to Jesus, or to come into the fellowship of our dear church, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles. “Pastor, today, I have decided for God, and I’m here.” Some of you, “I want to be baptized as it says in the Book [Matthew 28:19], as Jesus was baptized[Matthew 3:13-17], and commanded us to follow Him through the waters of the Jordan [Matthew 28:20]; I want to be baptized.” Or, “I want to put my life in this church in promise of a letter.” However God shall say the word, make the decision now in your heart. And when we sing in a moment, take that first step and welcome. Thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest, in Thy wonderful name, amen.
With countless songs, books, and movies dedicated to love, you would think we actually understood what it means. But the world has warped our view of God’s most precious attribute, leaving humanity longing for the real thing. In this message, Dr. Stanley teaches us what love really is and how it affects our lives. Learn how your life can be transformed when you allow God’s love to wrap around you and flow through you to others.
We are all very familiar with John 3:16, which clearly states that because God loved the world, He sent His Son so those who believe in Him would never perish. We usually think of God’s love as generally applying to everyone, but maybe not specifically to us personally. However, the Lord wants us to know we’re loved by Him and to love Him in return. Only then will we be able to give and receive love in our relationships as He desires.
To understand how important love is to God, we need only look at His Word. In the Old Testament there are 250 mentions of love, and the New Testament uses love 234 times—and of those, 72 are found in John’s gospel and epistles.
In 1 John 4:7-11, the apostle John mentions love in every verse.
 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Since love is such an essential part of our lives, we need to understand what it truly is.
Love is more than an emotion. It’s a commitment to another person.
Love is not free. It actually demands something of us. We can’t live for ourselves in isolation and at the same time love someone else.
Love looks beyond the flesh. Its focus is the heart and spirit of a person, not the external appearance. The connection is both emotional and cerebral, not merely a physical attraction.
Lust has nothing to do with genuine love. Our world has substituted lust for love, and this has become very obvious in the sexual revolution, which is still continuing to this day. Lust is focused on self—what I want or need from the other person. But love is concerned for the loved one—what I can do for him or her.
Love cannot be bought. It’s a gift that is given freely, and one that is received without cost.
Love desires to give with no strings attached. It doesn’t demand that the other person be a certain way or do what is desired before love is given. Genuine love is freely bestowed without qualifications or requirements.
Love is generous and unselfish. True love is othercentered, not self-centered. It’s always looking for ways to give, not ways to get.
Love is more fulfilled in giving than in receiving.Those who genuinely love others find great satisfaction in generously giving to them. They are especially gratified when they can supply what someone else really needs or desires.
Love is forgiving. Carrying the weight of anger, resentment, bitterness, or jealousy chokes a person’s spirit and hinders the ability to truly love others.
Love desires to express itself. Love is demonstrative and must be expressed. When God’s love is in us, it flows out in sacrificial giving.
Love is a happy emotion.The happiest people are not those who have everything money can buy, but those who know how to love.
Love enjoys seeing others happy. That’s because the focus is not on getting for self but in sacrificing for others. In seeing the pleasure others experience, there is great enjoyment.
Love is fulfilling and enables us to feel complete.When we know how to give and receive love, it gives us a sense of completeness, competence, and worthiness.
Love hurts when others hurt. Genuine love is characterized by compassion and mercy expressed either through direct interaction or more distantly through prayer.
Love does not keep accounts. There is no record of who did what for whom. Love is not a matter of paying and receiving, but of giving without expectation of return.
Love may be very painful.This is especially true if the love isn’t mutual. It may require repeated forgiveness.
Love doesn’t require anything in return. There are no conditions or requirements placed on the other person before love is freely given.
Love is patient. It waits until the proper time, whereas lust wants immediate gratification. If ultimatums are given, it’s not genuine love.
Christ’s death on the cross is the perfect example of love. Jesus came into the world He loved to give His life as a ransom for sin, yet few people loved Him in return. When we continue to love unresponsive, ungrateful people, we are following Christ’s example. This is possible because after we accept Him as our Savior and Lord, He pours His love into our hearts, enabling us to love others no matter how ugly they behave toward us.
Love is its own reward.Knowing that we are loved by God and being able to love Him in return is an amazing blessing. It sustains us when we feel forsaken and unloved by others. And if loved ones die or leave us, we have a Friend who will never desert us.
Love isn’t found in advice from magazines, books, or people. God is the source through Jesus Christ, His Son, and the place to look is the Bible. It begins with accepting the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as the greatest act of love ever shown. He died to pay our sin debt in full. And when we believe in Him and repent of our sins, all the mess we’ve made of our lives is washed away. Our sins are forgiven, and God will remember them no more.
Now His love is poured out in our hearts, enabling us to love Him in return and to receive and give love to others. If we don’t have Christ and His love in us, our lives are empty, and we are poor, needy, and wretched. The only One who can satisfy our longings is the One who died for us on the cross. His love for us is beyond all explanation and human comprehension.
Do you feel loved by God? Why or why not? What does God’s Word say about His love for you (See Romans 5:8 and 8:36-39)?
Are you able to give love, or is something hindering you from expressing it freely to others? What hope do you find in 1 Thessalonians 4:9?
And we are no less grateful to the uncounted thousands of you who pray for us sharing the hour on radio and on television with all of us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor delivering the message entitled, The Witness of Christ to the Word, to the Bible. In our preaching through these morning hours, we are following a long series of doctrinal sermons. The series now is in bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible. The series at night, at seven o’clock, concerns human problems, and the message tonight is entitled Haman, the Gambler’s Fading Gold.
I have never lived in a gambler’s world, and there are ten thousand surprises about it. I never knew, for example, that eighty percent of American people gamble in some form or another. I never knew before that it is addictive. I never knew before that, as alcohol, one out of every ten who socially drink become alcoholics. And I never knew before that one out of ten who gamble become compulsive gamblers. Ah, it’s a whole world revealed to me. The title of the sermon tonight; Haman, the Gambler’s Fading Gold; the message this morning on the Bible; The Witness of Christ to the Word.
As a background text to the doctrinal message, we turn to Luke 24; the last chapter in the Third Gospel, Luke 24. And at verse 25, Jesus said unto them: “Hoanoetos. Ho, not understanding ones, not thinking ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:25-27]. Verse 44: “And Jesus said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Torah, in the Law of Moses.” That’s the first great division of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. “Fulfilling all things written in the Torah, the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets” – the nevi’im. That’s the second great section, division, of the Hebrew Bible. “And in the Psalms,” the third great division of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures is the ketuvim, the Greek hagiographa; in English, “the Writings.” And the number one book in that section is the Psalms. So He uses the word “Psalms” for the whole ketuvim. “All things must be fulfilled written in the Torah, in the nevi’im, in ketuvim, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” [Luke 24:44-45]. The attitude, the witness of Christ to the Word of God, is all determinative to us who look upon Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The reverential love and devotion of the Orthodox Jew to the holy Old Testament Scriptures is one of the most moving and beautiful scenes you could ever look upon.
I was in Jerusalem shortly after the war of 1948 that ensued in the creation of the modern Israeli state, and they had just captured Mt. Zion, on the top of which is located the traditional tomb of King David. And they had turned the tomb, the building, into a synagogue. It was filled with worshippers, and especially Orthodox rabbis. And after reading the Torah, the Law of Moses, they kissed the words on the scroll, then they kissed the tassels of the scroll, then they kissed the sheath into which the scroll was beautifully and carefully and tenderly placed, then they kissed all of the sheath. Then they beautifully and reverently placed it in the ark. As I looked at those Jews and those rabbis and those dear people in their beautiful and reverential love for the Old Testament Scriptures, I could not help but think of our Lord who belonged to them – one of them: “salvation is of the Jews” [John 4:22] – and His own attitude and spirit of reverence, and devotion to the Word of God.
The Bible that Jesus loved is our Old Testament Scriptures, book for book, word for word. And the love that He had for that Book is the love that we enshrine in our hearts, in the same Book, the same Word. All of you who belong to this church and have listened to the pastor for so many years are of alike persuasion concerning the infallibility and inerrancy of the Word of God. Any church after five years is exactly like its pastor. They reflect his persuasion and convictions. So this congregation, having listened to the pastor now for thirty-seven years – this congregation has a deep, reverential, respect and love for the Word of God. But we are all most unique, peculiar, separate, apart.
When you look at the vast world of Christendom, and especially expressed in its academic community, the attitude of the academic, theological world is ever one of deep skepticism concerning the inspiration and the infallibility of the Word of God. And the contrast, the attitude and spirit of our Lord against the background of the modern, ordinary theological community – we have but to see it as the Lord speaks of it, and looks upon it, in contrast to the way they speak of it and they look upon it. For example, to them; to the liberal academic theological community – and by that I describe practically all of Christendom – to them, Adam and Eve are mythological characters. They were not real, nor was there any real garden of Eden. For the most part they are persuaded of Darwin’s theological explanation of where we came from. Our race grew out of some primordial ooze, and our forefathers were chimpanzees and orangutans and anthropoid apes and simian monkeys.
Against the background of that theological persuasion, the Lord Jesus, in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew [verse 4-6], will base the foundation of the home, of marriage, and of the family upon Adam and Eve – that God made one man for one woman, Adam for Eve, and Eve for Adam, and that she was taken out of his side, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones [Genesis 2:21-24]. And that on that basis, of the original purpose of God, is founded the stability of marriage and the home. That is the Lord. And that is the Lord’s attitude toward the Bible.
Look again. To the whole liberal academic community – and as I say, I’m speaking of practically all of Christendom – Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – to the whole liberal academic community, Deuteronomy is a forgery. It was a fake, pawned off on the Jewish nation in the days of King Josiah, a thousand years after Moses was supposed to have written it. That is the attitude of the academic community. But to the Lord Jesus, He quoted Deuteronomy as the word of Moses more than any other book in the Bible. That’s Jesus.
Look again. There’s not a liberal theologian in the world that believes in the authenticity of Daniel. To them, it is a spurious document and not written as it purports to be in, say, 600 BC, but written, actually, in 165 BC. And all of those marvelous prophecies in the Book of Daniel are actually history written back as though they were prophetic. The whole academic, liberal world believes, without exception, that Daniel is fakery and forgery and spurious documentation. But the Lord Jesus, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, will speak of Daniel as a prophet [verse 15], the great prophet-statesman to whom God revealed the denouement and the consummation of history. That’s Jesus.
Take again. I don’t suppose there is a liberal theologian in the world but that laughs and scoffs and ridicules the idea that Jonah was ever swallowed by a great fish. To them it’s a royal joke. And when you read their writings, the fact that such a thing might ever be, betrays a weak and an adolescent mind. But to the Lord Jesus, as in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, He based the great fact of His resurrection upon the raising of Jonah out of the heart of the whale, out of the belly of the whale [verse 38-41]. That’s the Lord Jesus.
I remember one time, seated as you are there in this congregation, listening to Lee Scarborough, the president of the Southwestern Seminary and one of God’s great, noble men. And he was speaking about Jonah. And he said his little boy came in from Sunday school and said, “Daddy, I heard a story at Sunday school this morning that I just don’t believe.”
Dr. Scarborough said, “Well, son, what was it?”
And the little boy said, “Well, the story was about a man named Jonah, and that he’d been swallowed by a big fish, and that he lived in the belly of the fish three days, and then the fish vomited him up, and he’s still alive. And I just don’t believe any such thing as that.”
So the father, Dr. Scarborough, called the little boy to his side and said, “Well, son, let’s go into my study here and let’s sit down together, because I also have trouble with Jonah.”
So they sat down together and the great preacher said to his little boy, “Now, you say, what is your problem?”
And the little boy said, “Well, Daddy, I just don’t believe such a thing as that – that a big fish swallowed a man named Jonah, and lived down there three days in the belly of that fish, and he vomited him up still alive. I just don’t believe that.”
And the great preacher said, “Well, son, I also have a problem with that story, only my problem is a little different from you. What I can’t understand is how God could make a man. I don’t understand that. And I don’t understand how God could make a fish. I don’t understand that. If I could understand how God could make a man and how God could make a great fish, it would be easy for me to understand how He could put them together.”
That’s Jesus. To Jesus, the miracle of the mightiness of God is the ordinary. And when you look around you, if you will look with an unbiased mind, God signs His name to everything that He does: “miracle, supernatural, inexplicable.” We don’t understand anything, nor do we explain anything. We just observe it and marvel. And if you are of a mind to be a Christian, to bow in the presence of the great maker and praise His name, that’s Jesus.
Look again, just once again. We could continue this for hours; the attitude of our Lord toward the Word of God. He would say, “Till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot” – that’s a little yod – “and not one tittle” – that’s the little horn on the ‘t,’ the tet of the Hebrew alphabet. “There is not one jot or one tittle that will pass away from the law until all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 5:18]. What an astonishing statement! This heaven and this earth may pass away, disintegrate, burn up with unquenchable fire, but God’s Word shall stand forever. That’s one reason I love my favorite verse: “The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, but the word of God shall stand forever” [Isaiah 40:8]. That is the Lord Jesus.
Look at our Lord again, in His attitude, in His spirit toward the Word of God. He came preaching. If I could quote Mark, He came preaching with a Bible in His hand [Mark 1:14-15]. In the beautiful passage you just read, as He began His Messianic ministry there in the town of Nazareth in which He grew up, as His custom was, He went to church, He went to the synagogue. And apparently, as the custom of the people was, they placed in His hand the scroll of the Bible. And apparently, as His custom was, again, He delivered to them a message from the Lord [Luke 4:16-27].
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in church that day, worshipping God, and the preacher is Jesus of Nazareth? And He opens the place in the scroll. He turns the scroll to Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2, and He preaches to the people with a Bible in His hand [Luke 4:17]. That’s Jesus. And when He delivers His message, it will be with illustrations out of that book. In the message that you just read, after He reads from the scroll the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, then applying that message to God’s healing of the human hurt and the human heart, He speaks of the Lord’s love for the whole world – you, us. And He illustrates it out of the Bible in the days of Elijah and the awesome famine. He was sent to Zarephath, to a widow in Sidon, to a pagan, to a heathen [Luke 4:25-26]. And He illustrates it again: in the days of Elisha a leper was healed, Naaman, a Syrian, a pagan [Luke 4:27]. That’s Jesus.
In the twelfth chapter of Matthew, He will speak of Queen of Sheba, who came marveling at the wisdom of Solomon. And then applied it, “And there’s a greater than Solomon here” [Verse 42]. In John 3:14 and 15, He will use the beautiful story of the raising of the serpent in the wilderness that the man, bitten and dying, could look and live [Numbers 21:8-9]. And He says, “This is the Son of Man raised up, that anybody who looks may live.” Nothing less could be required than just to look and live. The way is simple to the man who will respond. Or in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John: He is that manna, angel’s food, brought down from heaven that we may eat and live. “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness. This is the manna that a man may eat and never die” [verses -50, 58]. That’s Jesus preaching the Word of God.
He used the Bible constantly for warning. In the tenth chapter of Luke, it will be concerning Sodom and Gomorrah – the cities of the plain and Tyre and Sidon – judged by the Lord God [verse 12]. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He will use Noah and the judgment of God in the days of the Flood [verse 26-27]. And Lot, when the cities of the plain were destroyed by fire [verses 28-30]. That’s the Lord; the Bible. And He used it for weaponry in the attack of Satan and the rulers of the temple who accosted Him so bitterly and so hatefully.
I want to show you how the Lord constantly used the Bible. I’ve turned in my Bible – this is the Criswell Study Bible – I’ve turned in my Bible to the Book of Mark, and the twelfth chapter, and we’re going to look at just one page of it. Just one page, that we might see how the Lord constantly used the Word of God. Here, His weapons of attack and of defense – Mark 12. Mark 12 begins with the story of a wicked husbandman who sent servants to receive the rent that was due him: And they beat them and killed them [Mark 12:1-5]. Then the husbandman sent his son. “They will reverence my son” [Mark 12:6]. And they slew him also. All right, His application; look at verse 10: “Have ye not read the Scripture?” And He quotes Psalm 118:23. All right, look again. Beginning at verse 18, there is a discussion concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the Sadducees tell Him that old story, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! This old woman who had seven husbands, last of all she died. Now, in the resurrection, which one of those husbands will have her? [Mark 12:20-23]. Ha, ha.” They’ve been silencing all those that believe in the resurrection for a hundred fifty years with that silly story.
Then the Lord speaks, “As touching the rsurrection, that they rise: have you not read in the Book of Moses?” [Mark 12:26]. And he quotes Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob.” “He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Ye therefore do greatly err” [Mark 12:27]. He bases the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead upon the tense of a verb in Exodus 3 verse 6. It’s not “I was the God of Abraham and Isaac. I am,” as though they were living in His presence and in His sight. That’s Jesus.
All right, look again, the next verse, verse 28. A scribe comes to Him – and all of this is on one page – a scribe comes to Him and says, “Master, which is the first commandment?” Then Jesus answered him and says, “The first of all the commandments is,” and He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5. Then He says [verse 31], “The second is like unto it,” and He quotes Leviticus 19:18. That’s the Lord. Or look again, beginning at verse 35: the Lord asked those bitterly, opposing, opposition rulers a question of His own. “How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit,” and He quotes Psalm 110:1. The Lord said unto my Lord, who is the son of David, how does David call Him Lord if He is his Son? [Mark 12:36-37]. That’s Jesus, His use of the Bible. Always it’s in His hands; always it’s in His heart; always it’s in His thoughts. Blessed is the Man. And His meditation is in the Book, in the Bible, in the Word of God, by day and by night. He would be like a tree planted by the rivers of water [Psalm 1:3].
Now last. The tremendous witness of Christ to the authority and authenticity of the Word of God is found in this: the incontrovertible authentication of the message and ministry of our Lord Jesus is found in the corroboration of the Word of God, the fulfillment of the great prophecies written in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. That’s the reason as a background these texts in Luke 24 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, “He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27], “And these are the things that I spake to you and taught you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Torah, the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, the nevi’im, and in the Writings the ketuvim, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” [Luke 24:44-45]. The great authentication of the messianic ministry of our Lord, that He is what He said He was, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, the great corroborating testimony is the testimony, the witness of the Word of God.
I want you to look at the amazement of that, the wonder of that. He is standing there before them; He has been raised from the dead. They crucified Him, killed Him, murdered Him, buried Him, and on the third day He stands there raised from the dead. What is the great authentication of the truth of the message and ministry of Christ in the world? What is it? As He stands there before them, why doesn’t He perform some great miracle? Wouldn’t that authenticate it? His life was so wonderful and His deeds were so marvelous; they exclaimed, “It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. And they had seen the miracles of Moses, of Elijah, of Elisha, but they’d never seen anything like that. Why didn’t He perform a miracle? Or again, why did He not refer to His great discourses? As they listened to Him, they said, “Never a man spake like that Man”[John 7:46]. And that’s so true. Not in all the literature of the human race is there anything that even begins to approach the wonder of the depth of the meaning of the words of Jesus Christ. Why didn’t He refer to His marvelous discourses, His words? No, what does He do to authenticate, to substantiate, to verify the truth of His message and ministry in the world? He does it by the Word of God; the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures [Luke 24:44-45].
Justin Martyr, who lived, pastored the church in Samaria in 70 AD, Justin Martyr said, “To declare a thing should come to pass long before it is in being, and then to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God.” And the great French scientist and physicist Pascal said, “The greatest of the proofs of Jesus Christ are the prophecies. They are also what God has most provided for. For the event which has fulfilled them is a miracle which has subsisted from the birth of Christ even to the end.” I say that is an astonishing thing! Raised from the dead He stands there before them, and the incontrovertible authentication of His ministry is the Word of God! [Luke 24:13-31, 36-48]. The Lord said it! And He fulfills it.
Christianity, the Judeo-Christian faith is unique in that respect. There is no other religion that has prophecy in it. There is no other religious book that has prophecy in it, and it is very explicable. Gautama the Buddha or Krishna the Hindu or Mohammed the prophet dare not predict the future. It would be most manifest that they are charlatans and deceivers. They couldn’t do it! But these men of God, speaking by the unction and power of the Holy Spirit, describe events thousands of years before they come to pass and will do it in detail as intimately and as minutely as if they were standing there face to face with the Lord or at the foot of the cross. It is an astonishing thing, this thing of miracle in prophecy, the Bible! For one man to speak of the coming of one like the Lord Jesus at one time in history would itself be a miracle. But these are men, many of them who lived hundreds of years apart, who are describing
someone who is coming a thousand years yet, or seven hundred fifty years, yet or two thousand years yet or five hundred years yet; and as I say they describe Him as minutely, as if they were standing there looking at Him. You’d see less of Him if you were looking at Him in the flesh. It’s a miracle. It’s a marvel. But the most marvelous thing of all is this, I think, the predictions and the prophecies they made about the Coming One are contradictory.
In the first chapter of 1 Peter, Simon Peter writes about that. He said, “The prophets, the prophets who wrote the prophecy could not understand it” [verses 10-11]. As the old rabbis, who pored over those prophecies, they couldn’t understand it. And John the Baptist couldn’t understand it. He said to the Lord Jesus, and said, “Is there more than one Christ? Are You one and are there others yet to come? I do not understand it”[Matthew 11:2-3]. And the angels in heaven, Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 1, the angels in heaven could not understand those prophecies [verse 12]. Men of God moved by the Holy Spirit describing the coming of the Lord, they were contradictory. In one breath the prophet would say, “He is a coming conqueror, Jesus the King!” In the next breath, “He is lowly and meek and despised, riding the foal of an ass” [Zechariah 9:9]. And they couldn’t understand.
With one breath the prophecy would be made He is a great King, a coming King and in the next breath “He is despised like a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. Despised and rejected of men, acquainted with sorrow and with grief” [Isaiah 53:1-3], in the same breath. The prophecy would say, “He is the desire of all nations. This great Coming One, who is to be Ruler over all the earth,” and in the next breath, they pierced Him, His hands and His feet, and they crucified Him between felons, and they buried Him in the earth [Matthew 12:40]. They couldn’t understand. The men that wrote the prophecies couldn’t understand. The angels who looked upon those words couldn’t understand. And the disciples and the apostles and John the Baptist couldn’t understand.
The great authentication that Jesus is the Lord is the Word, the prophecy of God. He is the only One who fulfills them, He and He alone. But before you say that, an unbeliever will say to us, “Now wait, I have three objections to that account. Objection number one: the disciples reading those prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures, the disciples made the life of Jesus conform to those prophecies. My brother, most of those prophecies were fulfilled by His enemies who hated Him, not by His disciples and friends but by those who crucified Him, those who bitterly denied Him.
Objection number two the unbeliever says, all of these things that Christ fulfilled were written into the documents by His friends. My brother, when Jesus lived that Bible was as finished and complete in those Old Testament Scriptures as they are today. After the days of Ezra, hundreds of years before Christ, the Bible was a sealed and finished book, and any intrusion or spurious documentation changing would have been seen immediately by thousands of scholarly rabbis. They couldn’t change the documents.
Then a third objection; all of those prophecies refer to somebody else. My friend, somebody who? Who? Who? These prophecies refer to Caesar? Ridiculous! To a Charlemagne? Unthinkable! To a Napoleon? Unimaginable! To a Churchill? Never thought for! There’s only one, and His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace! [Isaiah 9:6]. All of the words in all of the prophecies point to Him! He fulfilled them all, and in that sacred and holy testimony, He found the authentication for His divine message, and ministry, and witness to us today. And that’s why, precious friend, God says in view of the plain evidence and the incontrovertible witness, it’s sin, it’s wrong to refuse the Lord, and if persisted in, it becomes an unpardonable and unforgiveable sin [Matthew 12:31-32]. The Lord has done all that even God could do in pointing to Jesus as the Savior of the world. The Lamb of God! Our King! Our Lord! “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:18]. And John closes that great third chapter with that final witness, “He that hath the Son hath the life: he that hath not the Son hath not the life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. God could do no more than God has done to lead our souls in reverential love at the feet of the Lord Jesus; to receive Him according to the witness of the Holy Scriptures. He is God! He is the Lord! He is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the Savior of the world! He is the King of all creation! And He is coming again! And He is our hope, our prospect for peace and life and resurrection and heaven. He is everything, our all in all. The Book points us to Jesus, and Jesus points us to the Book.
Now may we stand together?
Wonderful, wonderful Lord, whose name is Wonderful [Isaiah 9:6], how could anyone hesitate before the all-inclusive testimony of the Word of God? “This is the beloved Son, hear ye Him” [Matthew 17:5]. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, that whosoever believeth in Him should have remission of sins” [Acts 10:43]. He came to fulfill the prophecy wearing a crown of thorns, suffering for us [Matthew 27:29-50]. He is coming again [Mark 14:62; Revelation 7], wearing a crown of gold; King of heaven and earth. And that great, mighty King who sits on the throne of God is my friend and my Savior. He knows my name; He knows all about me and yet loves me, cares for me, died in my place, is my friend and fellow pilgrim. O wonder of wonders that Jesus loves me! How could it be? It is too marvelous. “Who hath believed our report?” said Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1]. It’s too marvelous that such a thing could be. What a wonder of wonders. We live in the midst of the amazing grace and goodness of God. We love Thee Lord, forever.
And while our people pray and stand in intercession for you, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, “This day I have opened my heart to the Lord Jesus. I take Him, receive Him for all that He said He was; My Savior.” Or, “We want to put our lives in the fellowship of this wonderful church.” Or as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, to answer with your life as God shall make appeal, make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, here we are.” Ministers are here to welcome you; deacons are here to rejoice in your coming. Do it now, make it now, and angels attend you in the way. And thank You precious Lord for the beautiful harvest. In Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing, “Here I am pastor, here I come.”