“I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” Job 42:5
May I say just a word—this is for Dr. Billings, slim, old, lanky, Billings—first time in years he’s seen a fellow who he’s looked down on. You felt like I felt when I went to Japan. (I believe I could have made the Harlem Globetrotter Basketball Team in Japan because Japanese are so small).
I was on the Ginza, the busiest street in Japan, I guess. A little fellow walked up; he was a wicked man. He wanted to know if I wanted a date. And Russell Anderson was with me and I, of course, had to say no. But, anyway, he walked up and he said, “You fellas like dates for tonight?” Well, he was a runt. And so, boy, I said, “No. Get out of here quick as you can.”
And boy did he ever run. He really did. He took off, and I saw him two blocks down the street, just running like his heart was about to pound out and scared to death. And I felt like Mad Mountain Dean, boy, I really did. And I know how you felt a while ago. You’re at least one-sixteenth of an inch taller than he is, I could tell it. And that’s why you’re on your tiptoes, by the way.
You know, a preacher much older than I, and much wiser than I, many years ago said that to me. He said, “It’s always a sign that a church is healthy when people are joining by transfer of membership.” It’s always a sign that a church is healthy. We have a lot of folks saved here. But this morning, God gave us, I believe, as many new, solid, good families as He’s given us—I mean by transfer—as we’ve had in a Sunday in a long time. And I, of course, was pleased to see that. There are so many reasons and ways that God is showing His blessings to us.
Job said, first—have I prayed since I read that—I don’t think I have. Let’s pray again anyway. “Father, bless us now. Speak to us in power. Bless thy people, save the lost. Amen.”
In the book of Job, one of his so-called friends said, “Acquaint thyself with Him, and be at peace.” In other words, the only way a person can be at peace is to acquaint himself with his God. And then he said, “And good shall come to thee.”
After Job had been through his trials and heartaches and been restored to his health and had his riches restored to him doubly, he said, “Mine ears have heard of Thee, but now mine eyes have seen.” Now I want to speak on this subject, “Hearing, Knowing, Seeing.”
Now in the first place, let’s look at the word “hearing.” It is my opinion that each generation—now, I’ll make this statement, and then listen carefully because I’ll come back and tie it into the message—It is my opinion that each generation should rediscover the Bible for itself. And each generation should come anew to the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God, so that its religion of Christianity will not be something that has been inherited, but something that is inherent.
When I first began preaching, as you have heard me say several times, I’m sure, I got the Bible down and doubted it. I just doubted the Bible and checked it as a doubter, as a skeptic, and discovered for myself, not because Mother said so, though that’s a good enough reason. Not because my Sunday School teacher said so, though that’s reason enough. But I discovered for myself that I believed the Bible was the Word of God.
Now, one reason we have so much “hearsay Christianity” and one reason why—by the way, that’s the reason why the National Council of Churches can become so popular. The people’s doctrine means nothing anymore. The Nazarene doctrine, the Church of God doctrine, our Baptist doctrine, aren’t peculiarly distinctive. They mean so little to us anymore. We are willing to sacrifice the things for which our brothers and forefathers died.
Did you know—for example, in America in the early days of our country—did you know in the state of Virginia that Baptists were drowned in the baptisteries for baptizing? Did you know that? Did you know that Baptist people in America were martyred for baptizing by immersion in the early days of our country? That’s one reason why, brother, I put a lot of emphasis on baptism. You see, for me it’s an important thing. We have our founding fathers and forefathers who have died for this blessed truth that believers ought to get baptized by immersion.
Now it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why churches will give up their doctrines and go together with liberals and sacrifice their heritage because we have received by inheritance what our fathers believed, and to us it becomes simply tradition, ritual, form, ceremony, and so forth. But the truth is, every generation ought to rediscover the Bible for itself so it can say, “I believe, not because my father believed it, not because my mother believed it, but because I believe it.”
The Bible is the Word of God, and that’s why the Bible ought to be rediscovered by every generation so it’ll not be something that’s just a heritage to us, but rather it will be a living, vital experience, not just by hearsay, but we will actually know.
A poll was taken recently in our nation of the man on the street, in general, and the question was asked of him, “Do you believe religion is becoming less or more relevant to our society?” And in a great, great landslide, our people in the poll voted that religion is becoming less and less relevant to society in America. Now, what these fellows do not know is this. They do not honestly know that in America today there are dozens, yea hundreds of places where the churches are more virile, active, and blessed of God than any era this nation has ever known.
This is the generation in our nation’s history when the greatest churches are being built, the greatest churches our nation has ever known. Now, let me give you five things that a church has to have in order to be relevant to its generation. Now follow me.
You see, here’s a church or denomination founded on the Word of God, built on Revival, built on the old-time Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the next generation comes along. And the children—well, dad was an old-time, born-again believer. Mother was an old-fashioned Christian. But we still go through the motions. We have our services. A bit more formal than before. And a bit more ritualistic than before. A bit quieter and more sedate than before. The music is not quite as gay and as spiritual as before. The people aren’t quite as happy as before. The crowds aren’t quite as big as before. But we still hold forth the same church building, the same property, and the same articles of faith and so forth.
But, here’s what happens. Nobody gets saved. The blessings of God never fall. And so, because there is a vacuum—a church has to be for something—and the church isn’t getting anybody saved, and the church isn’t transforming any lives, the church isn’t crusading for the Gospel. The Bible has lost its power, lost its zeal, lost its joy, lost its thrill, lost its excitement, lost its “hallelujah,” lost its “Amen,” lost its virility.
Now what happens is this. The pastor says, “I think I’ll go to Selma and have a march on Selma for the civil rights.” Or he’ll say, “I think I’ll go to Washington and, on the day of the moratorium, I think I’ll march with the folks about the moratorium in Washington.” So the pastor and the church become a social organization, trying to reach the social needs of people, until the honest truth is—listen. The average person in the city of Hammond, if it were not for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, believe that the church’s job is no more than to settle the ghetto problem and solve the Negro/white problem, the race problem, and solve the poverty problem and all of that.
But the honest, simple truth is, a church that preaches the old-time Gospel will solve more race problems than all the social Gospelizers put together. A church that preaches the old-time Gospel will solve more ghetto problems and more poverty problems than all the socializers put together.
Now, there are five things that a church has to have if she relates—and I don’t like these words they use, you know, relate to society and relevant to society and relevant to our age and so forth—but if she relates to society.
Number one, she has to have an infallible Bible. The only churches that are growing in 1970 in America are the churches that have an infallible Bible. The denominations that do not believe in the verbal inspiration and the infallibility of this book are dying on the vine all across this nation.
Number two, if a church is going to relate to society, she has to have a man behind the pulpit who knows God. There’s no way the church can relate to society and a church be a driving force in society unless there’s somebody who stands behind the pulpit who knows God.
I’ve said this, and I’ve said it a thousand times if I’ve said it once: if there is a man who lifts you closer to God; if there is a man who, when you hear him speak lifts you closer to God, makes you want better and feel better, travel a hundred miles a Sunday if you have to, but go hear him every Sunday.
I’m sick and tired of people saying, “Well, I’m going to go to the church nearer my neighborhood.” The honest, simple truth is if there is a place within a hundred miles of you where there is a man of God who, when he speaks, makes you feel closer to God, and he helps you live better for God, whatever you’ve got to do, you get there. Because there can be no great movement unless God has his man to lift his people closer to God.
Number three, a church, if she’s going to relate to society, has to have an explanation of man’s predicament. There can be no great church, there can be no great spiritual movement, unless there is a man of God who explains, from an infallible Bible, the predicament that man is in. If man is not going to hell, why should he be saved? If man is not lost, why be saved? If man is not without God, why point him to God? If man is not in trouble, why tell him how to get out of trouble?
The honest, simple truth is there ought to be in this generation a great revival behind our pulpits on subjects such as Hell, judgment, sin, the wrath of God, from our preachers who know God and stand behind the pulpits where our people can hear. Unless men know their predicament, they will not turn to God. As Dr. Joe Henry Hankins used to say, “You’ve got to get a man lost before you can get him saved.” And the third thing a church must have if she relates to society, she must explain man’s predicament.
Number four, she must make clear the way out. She must make clear the way out. Any time in this nation in 1970—oh, I know this is not the day of revival, except we’re having revival in our day. I know they say it can’t be done, but it is being done. Any time you find a church that believes this Bible, who has a man of God behind the pulpit, who makes clear man’s predicament, and makes clear the way out of that predicament, you will find a church that’s moving for God.
Number five, now here’s the crux, here’s the main thing that applies to my message tonight. Number five. A man must lead his people to an experience with God. I repeat these five things that are necessary and, by the way, if a man or a church has these five things, all the devils in Hell can’t stop our progress.
Five things. One, an infallible Bible, a Bible that’s not in error, a Bible that’s the Word of God, word for word. Number two, a man who knows God. Number three, an explanation of man’s predicament. Number four, a clear explanation of the way out of that predicament. Number five, when people are led to an experience with God.
Now, it is being done today. Now the reason it’s being done is there’s a preacher who plainly and bluntly and frankly says, “This is the truth.” I know personally and have preached in almost all the churches that are the leading churches of our day. The largest church in our nation, as far as I know, is the Akron Baptist Temple in Akron, Ohio. I’m going now on the basis of Sunday School attendance. I understand they run about 6,000 in Sunday School, maybe sixty-five hundred.
Dr. Dallas Billington is the pastor. He preaches a Bible that is verbally inspired. He preaches that man is in a predicament by nature, he is lost without God. He is going to Hell if he doesn’t get saved. He preaches that Jesus Christ and knowing Him personally is the only way out. He preaches a clear plan of salvation by grace through faith. And he preaches that people must have an experience with God if they go to heaven.
(Jim, give us a little, I think a little bit of air. The folks are going to sleep on me. Don’t make it colder, just let us breathe something. Folks are going to sleep. I know it’s not my preaching, because as interesting as this is, you’re bound to want to stay awake. It’s just you need some oxygen, I’m sure.)
The second largest Sunday School in America today, would you like to guess? You guessed it. First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indian. And our position as second is only temporary. Get ready for it now, get ready for it. We’re having next spring 6,000 in Sunday School. Get ready for it. It’s already planned. It’s already in the bag. I’ve already got it figured out. We’re having 6,000 in Sunday School for the next spring program, as soon as we get our building built. Six-thousand, now get ready for it. You say, “Oh, we just can’t do it.” Well, just hang around, honey, and we’ll show you we’re going to do it. You’ll see.
And now the second largest church is this church. No doubt about it. We believe in an infallible Bible. The pastor at least knows God. Doesn’t know much more, but knows God. We believe that men by nature are lost in sin and must be born again by faith in Christ if they go to Heaven. And we believe that salvation is an experience where a person receives personally a living Christ.
The third largest church in the world, I’m talking about in this age when they say, “The church is not relating to society, the church isn’t a guiding force in society, you can’t have big crowds anymore.” They are having big crowds. The third largest church is the Canton Baptist Temple in Canton, Ohio. I preached there a few weeks ago. Dr. Harold Henniger is a man who believes an infallible bible. He believes. He’s a man who knows God. He’s a man who believes that man without Christ is lost in sin and on his way to Hell. He believes that Jesus Christ is the Saviour and man must be born again by an experience of grace through faith in Christ if he goes to Heaven.
The fourth largest church today is the Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I was hearing Dr. Rawlings on the radio, some station this afternoon briefly. And, boy, he was getting with it right away. Preaching on removing the ancient landmarks. He was getting with it. And I said, “God bless, there is a man building one of the largest Sunday Schools in the world.”
How? Because he believes an infallible Bible. He believes man by nature is lost without God. He believes that Jesus died for men. Men must be born again by an experience of grace through faith.
The next largest church in the world is the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Dr. W.A. Chriswell, pastor there, believes in an infallible Bible. He believes that man by nature is lost. In fact, he’s fighting a great and admirable battle trying to pull the Southern Baptist Convention back to faith in the Bible. In fact, he’s been standing for the verbal inspiration of the scriptures.
Is it unusual that not a liberal church has one of the ten largest Sunday Schools in the world? Not a church that says, “It can’t be done.” But everywhere the work of God is going it’s being done by a man of God and a people of God who believe this Book, who believe that man by nature is lost and in a predicament without God. Who believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of men and you must be born again. It is being done.
Now then, here’s the modern trend. That we’re all searching for the truth. You heard this in college, and I heard it in school until I wanted to lose my breakfast, lunch, and dinner and in some cases have. I wanted to do what this fellow, this missionary to the prison, what’s his name? Mensick did. Over here in South Bend. Is there a prison in South Bend? Somewhere near South Bend? Michigan City. He was there, and there was a chaplain there who didn’t believe that Jesus Christ was God’s Son. And Mensick used to be in the Mafia. He was converted from the Mafia and he’s a great big ole fella and he used to be as mean as the Devil.
And so he went to Michigan City it was—I think it was—to preach. And the chaplain, a liberal preacher, came up, and he said, “Ah, your Jesus,” he said, “He’s not the Son of God.” And Mensick got his old disposition back for a minute and just picked him up and punched him in the nose and knocked him flat.
I mean, the warden there, who didn’t have any respect for the chaplain, because nobody respects a liberal, fake, a turncoat, Benedict Arnold, traitor who stands behind God’s pulpit and doesn’t believe the God of the pulpit. And so the warden looked at the chaplain on his face, the blood streamin’ down his face, and he said, “Boy, I like that. Do it for me.” And Mensick said, “Gladly.” And he picked him up and hit him again.
Now, I don’t think he ought to have done it, but since he did, I’m glad I heard about it. And I’d like to have been there. But what do they say? They say, “Each man is searching for some of the truth. Don’t be dogmatic and don’t be authoritative because, after all, we’re all searching for the truth.”
Doctor, suppose you operated that way. Suppose the medical profession was that way. There’s a fellow who’s got a terrible pain in his stomach, and you roll him into surgery, and you gather a bunch of people and they’ll all search for the truth. And Dr. Billings says, “What do you think it is?” “I think it’s his gizzard. I tell you, I think it’s gizzard trouble.” “And what do you think, Cal?” And the doctor says, “I know what it is. It’s gall bladder.” And I say, “Doctor, don’t be authoritarian now. Let’s don’t be authoritative. Let’s don’t be dogmatic. We’re all searching for the truth.” Brother Hand says, “I think it’s ingrown toenail. I think that’s what it is.” And he said, “I think it’s that nerve that goes from the toe up to the stomach, and that’s what it is.” And the doctor says, “Listen to me. I know what it is. The fella’s going to die. He has gall bladder trouble!” I say, “Doctor, hush! Don’t speak out so dogmatically. This is an enlightened age. We’re all searching for the truth.”
Let me tell you, and let me tell you now. If you have not found Jesus Christ, you’ll never find the truth. God, give us some churches who hear truth. The honest, simple truth is most of our people have only head but they have never come to know in a living faith, an experience of salvation that Jesus Christ is the Saviour, the Son of the Living God. Job said, “I’ve heard with mine ears, but now mine eyes seeth Thee.” Now the second thing is the knowing. Job heard, but that isn’t enough. Then the admonition to Job was, “Acquaint thyself with Him. Acquaint thyself with Him.” Did you know basically that’s what Christianity is all about? Basically, Christianity is a sinner acquainting himself with the living Saviour.
Let me show you how to be saved. Dr. Billings, just stand—just stay where you are and look over to Brother Streeter, and I want you, Dr. Billings, to meet Cal Streeter. Cal Streeter, Dr. Robert Billings. That’s exactly what it means to be saved.
I come to you and say to you, “You’re lost without Christ. You must receive personally the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour or you’re lost forever. Acquaint thyself with Him.” It is not the joining, as I said, of an organization. It’s not the observance of a sacrament. Young people, it’s not the acceptance of a dogma. It’s not the uniting with a denomination or religion. It’s the acceptance of a living person. Acquaint thyself with Him.
Hear John as he said, “Hereby do we know that we know Him.” Hear John as he said in his Epistle, “I write unto you because ye know Him.” Hear John as he said again, “He that knoweth God, heareth us.” Hear him as he says again, “That we may know Him that is true.” Hear Paul as he said, “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.” Hear him as he says again, “I know whom I have believed.”
Don’t’ you see, ladies and gentlemen, this matter—Job said, “I heard” but now Eliphas said, “Acquaint thyself with Him.” Come to know Him. It’s not enough to hear. Come to know Him.
I think I made mention of this somewhere the other night, maybe in prayer meeting on Wednesday night. We used to have this joint across the street. Isn’t it wonderful that place is gone? Every time you drive by there you ought to just jump up and down and shout and say, “Thank God, those folks have moved on to bother somebody else.”
We had a hippie joint over here called the Village Boutique. And a bunch of idiots hung out over there, and they’d come to church over here. And on Sunday night especially they loved to come, and they thought they bothered me. One Sunday I looked back and I couldn’t believe what I saw. We had a couple come in. Which was the girl? I have no idea. But, which was the boy? Must be two girls, may have been two boys, maybe one of each. I have no idea. As the cartoon said, when the preacher married a couple, he said, “Would one of you kiss the bride, please?”
And so they came in, and they had an army blanket. They were wearing army blankets—just old, green army blankets. I thought when I first saw them that it was Batman with a dyed outfit, you know. They came in and they had their hands up like this and they came in, sort of floating in, in army blankets and had sandals on and both of them had long, stringy hair. And they came and they sat back here on the back row. And they got up and walked out. And they came back in. They got up and walked out. They came back in. And night after night they came.
And they started coming over. A lot of them started coming over. And one night they met me in the office, one after another. One had come and interrupted the service, and one of our ushers had gotten on him. They went back and told the others about it, and they all decided they were going to scare me. And so they came to my office after the service. They lined up outside the door. And one by one they came in saying, “Now, we don’t’ want any trouble.” And I said, “Okay, okay, then I suggest you don’t ask for it,” you know.
Finally the leader came in. And the leader said, “I just came to tell you that we won’t cause any trouble if we’ll have better treatment.” And I said, “They that be with me, be more than they that be with thee.” And if you’ve got any sense under those locks, you won’t cause any trouble at all, because you’re not talking to pacifists now. You’re talking to activists.” And I said, “Now I’m not trying to threaten you at all, but I wouldn’t be scared or afraid to.” I said, “If you cause trouble here, it’ll be your plow that’ll be cleaned and not ours.”
Two of them came in once and I asked them, “Look, why do you fellas come to hear me?” One of them said, “Man, you got soul, man. You got soul, man.” Now, I’m not sure what he had in mind. But I felt a little backslidden nearly. I mean he didn’t snap his hands, but he did sort of like this—he said, “Man, you got soul. Man, you got soul.”
And, you know what he meant? What he meant was, “You preach what you think is right.” What he meant was, we don’t agree with you, but you agree with you. And they’d come. We didn’t make any appeasement. We didn’t have a coffee shop set up in the basement, so they’d come and play their guitars and smoke their marijuana and sing their rotten folk music. And let me stop and say again, I believe folk music with that beat—I don’t care of “Amazing Grace” is set to it—I think it’s sin.
We preached a message that we thought was true. By the way, we got a few of them saved along the way too. I was in New York preaching. I told you about the little incident we had there after a service. I’d had problems with hippies until 1:15 a.m. after the service ended about 9:45 p.m. I’d been abused verbally and misused and everything else with a bunch of hippies after the service.
After it was all over, I walked out and one of them came up that had been one of the biggest antagonists and said, “By the way, Reverend, I didn’t like what you said, but I like the way you preach. I like the way you preach.”
You know what this nation needs? This nation needs some people who just believe the Bible’s true. And who say that a person to be born again must acquaint himself with God. He needs to know God.
Let me ask you a question. Do you know God? I didn’t say do you know about Him. Do you know God? I didn’t ask if you’re a Baptist. I said do you know God? Do you know God? Do you know Cal Streeter? Do you know Dr. Billings? Do you know John Colsten? Do you know Charles Hand? Do you know God? Why, what’s so unusual about that? Do you know Him?
“Acquaint thyself with Him.” Job said, “I have heard” and the admonition came, “Acquaint thyself with Him, acquaint thyself with Him.” But there’s something else. Job said, “But now mine eye seeth.” He comes to the last chapter of his book and he’s been restored. He’s seen the blessings of God and he says, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee.”
And if there is a need tonight across this great nation, it’s for people who have seen God, for people who’ve seen God. I think one of the great Scriptures in all of the Bible is that scripture in Hebrews Chapter 11, that talks about Moses and says, “Moses endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
How did Moses take the toil and take the rough spots and take the criticism and take the persecution? How could Moses take it when the people rebelled against him? How could Moses take it when it seemed like there was no way to go? How could Moses take it when he had three-and-a-half million Jews and a Red Sea before him? How could Moses take it when the folks murmured against God and said, “We want the old bread. We want to go back to Egypt. Our soul loatheth this white bread. We want to go back to Egypt. The onions, cucumbers, and garlic of Egypt.”
How could Moses take it when the people said, “You brought us out here!” How could Moses take it when they criticized and murmured? How could Moses take it when Aaron and Miriam turned against him? How could Moses take it? I’ll tell you how he could take it.
Back yonder one day on the back side of the desert, he was taking care of the sheep and all of a sudden he looked, and he saw a bush that was burning. He noticed that bush was not consumed. Moses looked into that bush and saw the God of Israel. Moses said, “I can take it because I saw God. I’ve seen God. I’ve seen God.”
How could you take it, Job? How could you take it, Job? Lying, sitting there in the ash heap, in the garbage dump of the city. How could you take it, Job? With your children killed, all ten, and gone to eternity. How could you take it, Job? When your heath is gone. Boiling sores all over your body, running, filthy corruption all over your body. And you scraped yourself with a piece of metal in an effort to find some relief.
How could you take it, Job, when your wife said, “Curse God and die?” How could you take it, Job, when your friends, so called, came and rebelled against you? How could you take it, Job, when everything you owned was gone? How could you take it, Job, when health and wife and family and friends all were taken? Job said, “I’ll tell you how I can take it. I can take it because I saw God. I saw God.”
How could you take it, Isaiah? How could you take it when folks would hiss at you when you preached? How could you take it, Isaiah, when folks would stop their ears while you preached? How could you take it, Isaiah, when people would shake their heads while you preached? How could you take their impudent faces, they would hiss and make fun and gnash and gnaw at you and curse you and slap you? How could you take it?
And Isaiah said, “I could take it because back yonder in the sixth chapter I saw the Lord high and holy lifted up, and his train filled the temple. I saw the Lord. I saw God.”
What this old nation needs is a generation of preachers and churches and people who know God. Who have seen God. Do you know Him? Have you seen Him?
How could you take it, Stephen, when those men stoned you outside the city? How could you take it, Stephen, as you suffered for preaching the truth? Stephen could say, “I could take it because I saw God. I saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at His right hand, that’s how I took it.”
How could you take it, John? On the Isle of Patmos, exiled alone. How could you take it, John, when you had to go—you who had walked with Christ, you who walked with the twelve, you who saw the multitudes. All of a sudden you were left—taken from Ephesus and taken to the isle of Patmos to be alone forever. How could you take it, John? John said, “I could take it because I saw God.”
He said in his first epistle, he said, “These hands have felt Him. These eyes have seen Him. These ears have heard Him. I saw God. And out here on the Isle of Patmos I’ve seen God. I’ve seen the vision of the great rapture of the church. I’ve seen the marriage of the Lamb. I’ve seen the great Judgment Seat of Christ. I’ve seen the great revelation with Christ on a white horse coming back with all the saints of Heaven with Him on white horses.”
“I’ve seen the glorious millennial kingdom. I’ve seen Jesus reigning from Mount Zion. I’ve seen the people of God as heirs of God and as princes of God ruling and reigning with Christ. I’ve seen the knowledge of God cover the earth as waters cover the sea. I’ve seen the New Jerusalem. I took it because I saw God. I saw God.”
Away with this religion that has nothing to do with experience. Away with this dry-eyed religion with a shallow heart and a hollow heart and an empty heart with no “Amen,” no “Hallelujah,” no feel of pulse, no increase of the blood pressure when the word “Jesus” is mentioned and Gospel of Christ is preached.
God gives us a revival in our nation of real old-fashioned, heartfelt experiential salvation where people can speak, “I’ve been born again” confidently, and know they’ve seen Christ and been with God.
How could you take it, Peter, as they turned you upside down and crucified you as you died for your stand for Jesus Christ, and you said, “Don’t crucify my like Jesus was crucified. Let me be crucified upside down.” And they nailed you on a cross and put you head down. How could you take it? “I could take it because I have seen God.”
How could you take it, Hebrew children, in the fiery furnace when the furnace was heated seven times its normal heat? How could you take it? “Because we saw God in the fiery furnace.”
How could you take it, Thomas, out in India dying in the Indian mission fields for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How could you take being persecuted and martyred in the far away country of India so far away from your loved Palestine? How could you take it? “I could take it because one day in the Upper Room I came and I said, ‘I’ll not believe till I see the scars in His hands.’ Jesus held out His hands, and I reached and touched the scars. He said, ‘A spirit hath not flesh and bone. Thomas, if you don’t believe, just touch the scars and see.’ So I saw Him and I said, ‘My Lord and my God.'”
Oh, let me say this tonight. I am so glad. I am so thankful to God that I have a salvation that is an experience with God. I was thinking tonight, this afternoon, I was thinking, “How could I have taken these years?” Don’t misunderstand me, sir, I’m sure I’ve not suffered as you’ve suffered. I’m sure I’ve not given up as much as you have. I have no physical scars. I have maybe an ailment or two that’s been caused because of what I stood for, what I thought was right, but I have no physical scars.
The doctor says that I have a little something wrong with me that was caused by the trouble we had here ten yeas ago when we pulled out of the American Baptist Convention. But I won’t die. It won’t kill me. And it doesn’t even give me any inconvenience. It’s something that just happens to be—you know, just cancer of the brain. But, the doctor said a little something that was caused by the strain and the battles and so forth.
I’ve seen a few battles. I’ve fought a few battles for what I believe. I don’t deserve any medals. I don’t plan to get any in heaven for it. But, I’ve thought so many times I would quit. I’d quit. How could you take it? You see, beyond any shadow of a doubt I’m the most hated man in Hammond. Not a person in this city is hated like I’m hated. Not another person in this city is loved like I’m loved, either. But nobody is hated by as many people as I am. Nobody. (I want you to fee sorry for me now. I want you to cry.) Get your handkerchiefs out now and cry.
It is not unusual for me to walk down the street and have people see me and then look the other way; they do not speak. Nothing unusual for me to speak to someone and say, “Good morning, how are you?” And they’ll look at me and stare and make some snide remark, nothing unusual for that.
Nothing unusual for me to go somewhere and preach and when I get through preaching, anywhere across the country, folks to come down and try to cause trouble with me. I was in Springfield, Missouri, preaching. I preached on the sex education bit. “What’s Behind the Sex Education Program.” Seven pastors came to me after the service; they began to cause trouble.
They said, “We don’t believe in self-defense.” And I said, “Well, wonderful, if I punched you in the nose then you wouldn’t punch back?” And they said, “That’s right.” I said, “Great.” And, boy, when I did that they trembled because they saw—But anyway, nothing unusual.
If it were not for the fact that I met God when I was an eleven-year-old boy, I would quit. I know I met God; I was born again; I know God; I saw Him. I don’t mean I saw Him with my eyes, but I know I was born again. If I did not know that back yonder as sure as I stand behind this pulpit that the God of Jacob and the God of Elijah laid His hands on my hand and my heart and said, “I want you to be a preacher.” I would have quit years ago.
What’s the trouble? What’s the need? The need is for people to know God; the need is for people to have seen God. Job said, “Mine ears have heard, now mine eyes have seen.”
Let me ask you a question. What is your need? I said to my class this morning, “The purpose of the Bible, of the churches, of the preaching, of all the budget, the Sunday School, the Training Union, the Youth Program, the music program, the bus ministry, the children’ program, the WMS program and all the childrens’ choir programs—the purpose of all of it is God made man to fellowship with himself.
Now listen. God made man to fellowship with Himself and man broke that fellowship. In the Garden of Eden, man left God. He strayed from God and broke that fellowship. God loves man. And oh, the hungry heart of God was broken.
May I saw this. Ron, do you mind my telling your burden? Ron and Sarah Purkey, God bless them. Ron was a deacon here and a trustee. God gave them the news that a baby was going to be born. I think this story is about right. The baby was born dead.
Their first baby lived twenty-five days. And you can understand how attached you’d become to a little baby in twenty-five days. Suddenly, the baby was taken on to Heaven.
Then God gave them a second little baby. How long did it live, Ron? Six and one-half months it lived and for some reason—and you can understand how attached to a little baby you can become in six and one-half months—and suddenly, for some reason, God took the baby to Heaven.
And then God gave them a third little baby. How long did it live? I see. A miscarriage with the first baby, and the second one then lived twenty-five days, and the third one lived six and one-half months. And don’t you recall, how many recall the old building over here when the Purkeys would bring their baby in. They sat up on my right, facing this way up here on the right. They’d bring the baby in.
And somebody said one day, “I don’t think the Purkey baby’s normal.” And somebody else said, “No, the Purkey baby doesn’t seem normal.” It wasn’t normal. They found out the baby had a brain problem or some kind of problem, it wasn’t normal. And I stood up at the Hubert Funeral Home on 165th Street back in that little back room there. We had a little service and there was that little six-month-old baby.
Why? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know why. One little baby taken before birth. One little baby taken in twenty-five days. Another baby taken six and one-half months. So Ron and Sarah said, “Brother Hyles, could you help us adopt a baby?” And I said, “Why sure, I’d be glad to.” And I found a little lady that was in trouble and was going to have a baby and had no home for the baby. So we helped them get the baby, and now the baby is five years old. They began to notice something was wrong. The baby has brain damage. At best, the baby will be retarded. The brain is only a third or two-thirds normal.
Why? Only God knows why. Only God knows why. But what am I saying? I’m saying now here they are. Ron doesn’t know and Sarah doesn’t know. How could anybody know? Oh, thank God, there’s a God in Heaven Whom we can know. There’s a God in Heaven who loves us and a God Whom we can know.
It is not going to help Ron and Sarah with the burdens and heartaches they have had—lighting a few candles won’t help them any. That won’t help. A few rituals, that won’t help. And no, the choir singing, “Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,” won’t help any. And a hearsay Christianity, that won’t help you. Job said, “I’ve lost my children. They’re all gone. I need to see God.” That’s what you need to do—see God. Do you know Him? Do you know Him?
I’ve said so often; you need a personal Saviour. You people who go to church on Sunday morning and a preacher comes out in a kimono and a choir comes out and they sing, “Blah, blah, blah… in the minor key and amen, amen, and amen, and the Lord is in His holy temple, let all keep silence before, o’er, o’er, o’er Him, Amen, amen, amen.” And they take the offering and the choir sings again, “All things come of you, of God, and of thine own give we unto Thee, Amen, amen, amen, aaamen, aaamen.”
And then the preacher at the end lifts his robe, and his robe forms a cross under his arm, and the red cross shows to the people, and there’s a beautiful stained glass window and the choir sings. He can’t finish his prayer, he gets tired and the choir has to say his “Amen” for him. And it’s “Amen, amen, amen, aaamen.”
You don’t need that. You know what you need? You need a God in Heaven who stands beside you at the grave when you laid to rest the dearest of life. A God who can reach out and touch you on the arm and you can look up and say, “Oh God, You are real. I know You are real. I met you. Oh God, please give me help.” That’s what you need.
You need a God, Mrs. Dunsworth, when Harley is taken suddenly from us. We stand here, all of us, and I thought my heart would break, and I looked at my dear deacon brother, Ed Rausch, who was probably the closest friend that Harley had. Ed had beat him in horseshoes right before he died. That’s what killed him by the way. But anyway, our Deacon Dunsworth and Mrs. Dunsworth had leaned on him all these years. And no decision she made herself, and now he’s taken.
Mrs. Dunsworth sits down here on the front. You know what she needs? She doesn’t need some austere, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of Jeroboam and Rehoboam and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who sits up in the heavens somewhere and we come on Sunday morning and say, “Wherever you are, we worship Thee.”
No, she needs a living, loving, personal Christ to come and sit beside her and say, “God bless you.” And she needs to look up and say, “Oh heavenly Father, Abba Father, help me.” And God can say, “I will.” A very personal God, a very personal God.
And so Job could say, “I’d heard of Thee.” But the word comes, “Acquaint thyself with Him.” And the word comes again, “I have seen Thee with the seeing of the eye.” That’s what we need, and that’s what you need. And that’s what God made you for.
Now that little baby that we laid away, that little Purkey baby and others too, the Giffords over here, who lost their little baby—One morning they went to the crib to pick up the baby and it was dead. Nothing wrong at all. And that little Lovely baby, the name “Lovely,” the Lovely family in our church, the baby was being given a bath, just fifteen months old, I think, and just a little bit of water, not enough water to drown in, except he did. The mother came back and found the baby face down. Drowned in the bathtub. And I stood, and I thought my heart would break as I tried to say a few words of comfort.
Don’t tell me that your heart isn’t broken because fellowship is broken. Don’t tell me that the little five-year-old boy whose brain is having a trouble, only two-thirds normal, at best, don’t tell me there won’t be times when the mother and father would not wish the boy could give all—100%–a normal mind in love and devotion.
And don’t tell me that the God of Heaven Who made you in His own likeness and the likeness of His own dear Son, his own self—Don’t tell me the God of Heaven Who loved you so much that when you went away from Him that He gave His own Son from Heaven, and said goodbye to the Son, and the Son came and went to the cross and the Father turned His back upon Him; and God the Father let His own Son die on the cross with His own Father’s back turned toward Him—Don’t tell me a God that loves you that much, that loves you enough to die on the cross, and the Saviour that loved you enough to die on the cross separate from the Father—don’t you tell me His heart isn’t broken when you don’t fellowship with Him.
That’s what it’s all about. That’s why God said, “Acquaint thyself with Him.” The Lord said to Amos through His people, “I despise your smelly feet. Your perfume offerings, your incense is a stink to my nostrils.” He said, “Take away your songs, take away your vials. My ears don’t want to hear them.” God doesn’t care about your ritual, your high church, or your inherited religion. God’s concerned about one thing. Do you know Him? Do you fellowship with Him?
I said to my class this morning, I can recall when Becky was about that high or that high. Becky had golden ringlets when she was three and four, five years of age. I mean gold. There’s not a girl, a child in this house that has hair as golden as Becky’s was. It was golden. I mean golden. In the Hebrew that means golden. And just ringlets all over. We have a picture at home, a big picture of her with these little ringlets all over her hair. And I’d come home off a trip and Becky would say, “Daddy’s home. Daddy’s home. Oh, Daddy’s home. Daddy’s home!” And she’d jump up and I’d say, “Becky, I’m going to go to the grocery store. You want to go with me?” “Oh, goody, goody, goody, goody, goody. I get to go to the grocery store with Daddy.” And I’d say, “Becky, you want to come to the office with Daddy?” “Oh, I’m going to get to go to the office with Daddy. David, I’m going to go to the office with Daddy.” And David would say, “Is that right?”
And we’d go to the store, and my heart would beat faster. But they grow up. Sort of sad, isn’t it? They grow up. And last year, I said, “Becky, Becky, guess what? You want to go to the Holy Land with Daddy?” She said, “No, I want to stay here with Tim.” Boy, what an idiot she is. The day came when I’d say, “Becky, you want to go on a trip with Daddy?” “No, no.” Now, it’s not that she’s a bad girl. It’s the fact that she’s growing up.
And, oh, the Father in Heaven, He wants you to acquaint yourself with Him. That’s one reason why there is rejoicing in Heaven when a sinner repents. Here’s a person who goes through his ritual, he does this and he lights the candles. And he goes through his high churchism. And he takes communion and he gets confirmed. And he gets his sprinkling and he’s a church member. And he has a high church ritual and the worship and the formalism.
And then someday he comes out on a Sunday night to hear a man of God preach. And the man of God says, “You’ve got to know God; it’s not enough to belong in the church. You’ve got to know God; it’s not enough just to have ritual. You’ve got to know God. Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace, therefore, good shall come to thee.” And all of a sudden, you say, “I believe he’s right.”
There’s more to it than just the ritual. There’s more to it than just the ceremony. More to it than just the form. More to it than just a cross. More to it than just a stained glass window. More to it than just a high church service. I need to know God.
And so you come down the aisle and you kneel here and some godly deacon takes his Bible and shows you how you can be saved. And you say something like this, “Dear God,” that’s a good start. And I think the Lord in Heaven said, “Huh? What? You talkin’ to me?” “Yeah, yeah.”
Becky came home from Christmas and I said, “Becky, I’m going to the store, or going to the shopping center. Want to go with me?” And she said, “Yeah. Yeah.” I said, “You do?” “Yeah.” Not because she wanted to go. She’s smart now. She’s learned to be nice to Dad after a while. Some of you kids will learn that one of these days, I hope. And we went out and had a bit to eat together. I bought her a dress.
And the Lord looks down and somebody says, “Dear God.” And the Lord looks down and says, “Huh? That’s my name. What? You talkin’ to me? Not going through your ritual now are you?” “Oh, dear God, this is not a ritual. I’m talking to you. Lord, be merciful.” And the Lord says, “I’ve been wantin’ to do that. That’s what I’ve been wantin’ to do. That’s what Calvary’s all about. That’s what I gave my Son for. That’s what my Son died for. I was merciful. And you’re asking me to be merciful.”
And you say, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And the Lord says, “I sure will. I sure will.” “And save me.” “Oh, that’s what I want to do.” “And for Jesus’ sake, I trust you as my God and as my Saviour.” And the Lord said, “Oh, that’s all right.”
And the years come and go and you can sing, “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His won, and the joys we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Oh, Job said, “I used to know about Thee. I’ve heard about you. And,” he said, “I got to know you.” And then he said, “Now I’ve seen with my own eyes.”
I’m talking to two groups of people who need what I’m preaching tonight. I’m talking to Christian people who’ve not said, “Dear God” in a long time. The Lord said, “Don’t you want to talk to me? Don’t you want to talk to me?” You know, David’s a big boy now, sixteen. He’s as big as he’ll ever be. Smart as he’ll ever get. You get dumber, you know, the older you get, after you pass sixteen.
But, he’s go this own activities and so forth. And usually he just grunts. I say, “Dave, how’s school?” He says, “Uhhh.” And I say, “Dave, how’s everything going?” “Uhhh, yeaaah.” “Dave, how’s Barbara?” “Uhhhh.” But sometimes, like last Saturday a week ago, he came back and he said, and his eyes were like they were when he was a little boy. He said, “Dad, guess what? I won fourteen today to Christ. Fourteen.” And I said, “Let me tell you something, Doc. I’ll win fifteen next week.”
I went out soul-winning Sunday afternoon, I did. I won more people than that. I won seventeen folks last week. Why? I’m not going to be second-best soul-winner in my house. I’ll turn him out and say, “Depart from me.” But, there’s not a father out here whose boy is sixteen years old that doesn’t know something about the heart beating faster when occasionally the clock is turned back and those eyes get as big as silver dollars just for a few minutes.
Oh, don’t you think God says to some of you tonight, “It’s been a long time since your heart—your eyes got big. It’s been a long time since you said, ‘Dear God, I need you.'” Oh, you go to Bible study groups, you teach a class, you’re fundamental. You carry a Scofield Bible. But I wonder sometime if the Lord doesn’t get hungry for you to open your eyes big like you did when you were two or three years old, spiritually.
Let us pray.