The Dignity of Man
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 4 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Kisses of Calvary)
(Preached October 22, 1962 at Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of they fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of they hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yeah, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is they name in all the earth!”--Ps. 8:3-8.
Several thousand years ago David looked up one night and saw the stars. Perhaps he did not know that the earth was 8,000 miles in diameter, containing 198,980,000 square miles. Perhaps he did not know that there are 264,000,000,000 cubic miles on the earth, and even though the earth is that size, Saturn is 995 times as large and Jupiter 1,281 times as large. Perhaps he did not know that though the earth in all its immensity is so big, the sun could contain 1,384,462 earths. He looked up at the stars as I have done so many times.
I am still childish enough to take an occasional walk and look at the stars. “Star light, star bright, first star I´ve seen tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight,” I´ve said many times since I was a little boy. Or, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are; up above the world so high like a diamond in the sky.” I love the stars. There´s a fancy and a blessedness about stargazing that I love.
When I was a boy, I preferred the sun. I hated to see that evening sun go down and darkness come. When I got about seventeen, my fancy turned strangely from the sun to the moon. In a most peculiar way, the sun lost its fancy; I loved the moon. But now in these years of baldness, bifocals, bridges, bulges, and bunions, I have come to enjoy more the sedate quietness of the stars! I´m satisfied many of you would testify the same.
David looked up at the stars one night and quoted those words that were inspired of God: “When I consider they heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which the has ordained; What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
God Sent a Man to Teach Me
Man is somebody. I hope in this message to elevate the dignity of man to those of us who call Christ our Saviour. I will build this message tonight around and experience that happened to me and teach you a lesson that God taught me when I became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. I am not a big preacher; I make no pretense at being one. I was reared a poor boy, extremely poor. When I was called to preach, I thought I would never preach to a hundred people at one time. I had no idea I would ever pastor a church of any size at all. I still consider myself a small preacher. In fact, I think all preachers should stay small preachers in their own sight. Our position is big, but we ought to be small.
When I was called to the First Baptist Church of Hammond, the Lord taught me this lesson the first days in my office. I was unpacking my books one day when the secretary said, “Brother Hyles (and I like the word Brother), someone to see you.”
I thought perhaps the mayor had dropped by for a visit. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce had come. I straightened my collar and my tie and buttoned my coat. I said, “Show him in.” The door was opened a little bit and I looked out the crack. Our offices each have a main door to the hall and then there are connecting doors between the offices also. I looked out the crack in the door and saw that it was not the mayor at all. It was not the Chamber of Commerce chairman. It was what we would call a bum off the street. I had never seen a man like him.
Our church is located downtown in Hammond, a city of 125,000 people. We have many transient people coming by, but this was one of the filthiest persons I had ever seen. He was a character. He had on an old dirty, greasy cap, the kind that has a bill and snaps at the front. His hair was long--it came down like mine did when I was a boy and had mine cut by putting a bowl on top and chopping around the edge. His face was dirty, filthy, and unshaven. His collar was yellow with filth; his shirt was dirty and torn; his trousers had patches on the knees; his shoes were slit over each toe to allow room for a wide foot.
I looked at him, and said to the secretary, “I´m sorry. I´m busy. I cannot see him.” I went on unpacking books. My office was a mess. I had much to do. I had appointments to keep. I had people to meet. I could not see him.
She looked at me and asked, “Brother Hyles, are you sure you don´t want to see him?”
I said, “Send him in. I´ll see him.”
After talking to him for awhile, I gave him a meal ticket and an old suit of clothes. I tried to get him on his way. But I witnessed to him about the Saviour, as I think every preacher of the Gospel ought to do. I told him how he could be saved. I found he had never been converted and was of a Catholic background. I told him about Jesus.
I love to tell the story,
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory
I sing the new, new song,
‘Twill be the old, old story
That I have loved so long.
After I had told him the story of salvation through Christ, I said, “May I ask that we kneel and pray.” We did. As we went to our knees, he made the usual cross and bowed on his knees like a little boy at the altar. He put his hands under his chin and laid his cap beside him. I asked him to pray, and he prayed the sinner´s prayer. I feel he was saved, and he had a blessed experience.
But before he prayed, I prayed. While I prayed God taught me the lesson that He wanted to teach me on the first days as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond. I knelt to pray, and --I will be honest with you--the odor was unbearable, nauseating. As that fellow bowed and closed his eyes, I looked at his old greasy cap; I looked at his long, tousled hair; I looked at his dirty and unshaven face; I looked at his yellow, filthy shirt; I looked at his baggy, ragged trousers; I looked at his split shoes, and thought. “This is the most miserable wretch I have ever seen in my life.”
God Created Earth and All Things for Men.
All of a sudden, just as if God Himself had written the eighth Psalm on the wall of my study, I saw it there. I began to think about this man. Here was a man made in the image of God. He was a fallen creature, to be sure; a depraved man, to be sure; a sinner by nature, that´s right. Yet here was a man who has been the object of God´s love from eternity to eternity, from the making of man in Eden until that day when we will sing, “All hail the power of Jesus´ name.”
I realized here was somebody. I thought as I looked at that dirty, filthy man, that this was the object of God´s love. The first thing that hit my mind was this: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
The reason God one day spoke and lilies covered the fields was for this man. The reason God one day bade the water above be separated from the water beneath was for this man. The reason God raised the trees like great spires in the sky was for this man. The reason God raised the mountains like great pyramids on the horizon was for this man. The reason God dotted the land with lakes like heavenly teardrops was for this man. The reason God made the birds melodious choirs to sing through the heaven was for this man. The reason God made the stars for midnight chandeliers was for this man. All of God´s creation was for one man.
There is something that happens to a preacher, my dear friends, and it can easily happen to a young man assuming a position in a large city church, as was my case. That something is this: Somehow we lose sight of the fact that God has called us to preach to men. We forget that the purpose of our ministry is reaching men. We are not social gospellers. I like what the old Mississippi Negro preacher said: “I´m gonna kick the Devil as long as I´ve got a foot. I´m gonna bite him as long as I´ve got teeth. Then I´m gonna gum him till I die.”
Our job is not improving society. You get people saved, and that will improve society more than all the Alcoholics Anonymous, Social Betterment Leagues, and others all put together. Preaching the Gospel of Christ will save more alcoholics accidentally on the drippings than Alcoholics Anonymous will save on purpose. Preaching the Gospel of Christ will clean up more slums accidentally than Slum Clearance Committees will do on purpose. Preaching the Gospel of Christ will save more homes accidentally than all the psychologists and psychiatrists will do on purpose. Preaching the Gospel of Christ will save more derelicts and restore more harlots and drunkards and prostitutes than all of the Social Betterment Leagues and the social gospel will do on purpose. The need of this hour, my precious friend is for churches and preachers and Christians to be consumed in the great task of reaching men with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Came to Save Men
I looked at him. I couldn´t help but think as I knelt to pray with him, Not only was creation for this man, but Jesus came for this man.
Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” “As my Father hath sent me, so send I you, “ said the Saviour. In Luke, chapter 15, it was one lost coin, one lost boy, one lost sheep. At midnight it was one Nicodemus; at noonday it was one woman at the well; on the cross there was one dying thief; up a tree there was one Zacchaeus; there was one Bartimaeus on the road; there was one lady possessed of seven demons. Our Lord preached His greatest sermons to one person. he gave His greatest discourses to one.
When we preachers get to the place where we are nothing more than somewhat of an Old Mother Hubbard, Santa Claus and Grandma Moses, we have lost our vision of men as the purpose of the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. God give us some prophets who reap men. God give us some Elijahs, Jonathan Edwardses, Charles G. Finneys, Dwight Moodys, and Billy Sundays. God give us some weeping Jeremiahs and courageous Isaiahs who put men in their sights and seek to reach me.
When I go to a new church they often want me to do everything except preach the Gospel of Christ. They want me to pray for every dedication of a new swimming pool, pull the trigger for every beetle race in town, and hold the ceremonies for every garbage can improvement campaign. I try to let them know quickly that my job is not a social ministry--but preaching the glorious Gospel of Christ to men. So Jesus came for men.
Ah, my precious friend, keep your sights on men. It´s so easy to build denominations and forget the men. It´s easy to build churches and forget men. It´s so easy to build hospitals and forget patients. It´s so easy to build homes and forget the children. It´s so easy to build schools and forget the pupils. Our job is not reaching society; our job is not saving the world; our job is reaching that next poor sinner for Jesus Christ.
Jesus Lived for Men
As I looked at him, I continued to think: “Not only did God create the world for this old bum, not only did God send His Son Jesus for this one man, but Jesus lived for one man.
Oftentimes people say to me, “I came by to see your work.”
I´ll say, “My work is at work.”
They´ll say, “What do you mean?”
I say, “Do you want to see my work?”
“Well,” they say, “I mean your auditorium.”
I say, “My auditorium or my work? My work is not building buildings. My work is not building churches. My work is not building Sunday Schools. My work is building men for Jesus.”
When I was in Texas pastoring we had thirteen mission points or branch churches scattered around the area. One of our young men was Carmen Hartsfield, the all-conference center of the high school football team and the President of the Senior Class of his large 2,000 member high school. Carmen was also a preacher boy who pastored one of our mission chapels in a little neighborhood called Spring creek Community, five miles north of Garland, Texas. One Saturday afternoon Carmen came to our church and said, “Pastor, I need some chairs for my little chapel tomorrow.”
He had his overalls on. I said, “Take them right on, Carmen. Get yourself a big stack of them and load them on your pick-up truck.”
One of our fellows whose first name was Cortez was there that day. Cortez at that time was a very demonstrative-type person, and that means he said “Amen” occasionally. Carmen said to Cortez, “Cortez, this is too many chairs for me. Would you mind helping me load the truck, take the chairs out to the chapel, and set them up?”
Cortez said, “Well, I guess I will.” He too had on overalls.
They put the chairs in the back of the pick-up truck, drove the truck out to the little chapel in the country, and proceeded to set up the little auditorium for services the next morning.
When they finished setting up the auditorium, Cortez said, “Carmen, I´m backslidden today. I´m cold in my heart. I need to get my old heart warmed.”
My young preacher boy, eighteen years old, said, “Well, I happen to have my Bible with me, and in this Bible is my prepared sermon for tomorrow morning. If you will sit on the back row, I will preach to you. I think it will warm your heart.”
So, with his overalls on, the Reverend Hartsfield approached the pulpit to preach the sermon to one man. His friend sat back there alone. But now, my little preacher boy hadn´t learned how to preach yet. (I think oftentimes that is a tremendous advantage.) He just stood up and said, “You better get born again or you´re going to Hell. Jesus is wonderful. Hell is hot. Sin is black. Salvation is tremendous. It sure is good to be saved.”
Back in the back Cortez would say, “AMEN! Praise the Lord! That´s great preaching! AMEN!”
Carmen had preached about ten minutes with Cortez shouting “Amen” in the back, when the side door opened. And eighteen-year-old lad walked in. Now it´s five o´clock on Saturday afternoon; you walk into a little chapel where you find one overalled fellow in the pulpit hollering, “You´d better get born again or you´re going to Hell,” and one fellow back in the back row by himself saying, “Amen. Preach on. Let him have it.” How would you feel?
The stranger removed his hat and sat down on the front. Carmen didn´t break stride, didn´t even stop to welcome the visitor, but kept preaching. Now he had two in the audience. Forty minutes later when Carmen finished the sermon (he hadn´t learned that you can´t preach but twenty minutes), he said, “Gentlemen, let´s bow our head for prayer.”
They bowed their heads. he said, “Is there anyone here in this crowd who wants to be saved? Is there anyone here who does not know that he is saved, but wants to be saved?” I´ll declare if this young eighteen-year-old fellow didn´t raise his hand! Carmen said, “Now we´re going to stand and sing, ‘Just as I am without one plea.´” I´ll tell you brother, that eighteen-year-old boy came down the aisle and was gloriously saved that day.
Listen to me. Don´t ever get above reaching people for Christ. Don´t ever get to the place where you are servant for society. Don´t ever get to the place where you lose your passion for that next man who needs to be saved by the grace of God.
Jesus Died for Men
So I looked at this bum. His hat was dirty, his face was filthy and unshaven, his shirt was yellow with filth, his trousers had patches on the knees, his shoes were split and holes were in the bottom. There was a terrible odor. The Lord continued teaching me this lesson I´m sharing with you tonight. Not only did Jesus create the world for this man; not only did Jesus come for this man; not only did Jesus live for this man; but Jesus died for this man.
Why did Jesus take the spittle of Calvary? To improve society? No! He did it so that one man could be saved. Why the nails in His hands and feet? Why the spear in His side? Why the spittle upon His face? Why the slapping and backhanding and mocking? Why the sign on Him saying, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”? Why the mock reed and mock robe? Why the crowd coming by and hurling insults at Him? Why the nudeness and embarrassing moments of Calvary? Why? Why? To improve society? To bring in the kingdom by human efforts? No! All this was so that people fallen away from Christ by sin might come one at a time and find redemption and salvation through the precious blood of our Saviour who died for one man.
You´re somebody! Jesus died for you! You might be a little widow. The mailman may not stop often at your house any more. The children may not write as they ought to write. You may not be well known in your neighborhood. But you are somebody in the sight of God. You may be a poor man; you may be a small child; you may be a timid introvert--but you are somebody in the eyes of God.
God made the worlds for you. He loves you. he came for you. He lived for you. And then He died for you.
I preached this same message in a conference in Durham, North Carolina. After I had finished, the moderator said, “Does anyone have a word to say?”
A little old shriveled-up, retired preacher, skinny as he could be and looking like a peach after the frost had bit, came on the platform. (God bless him. I love little preachers.) He looked out at those people with his great protruding eyes and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, for fifty years I have been looking forward to retiring. Six months ago I retired. I´ve got my pension now. Oh, my little body is feeble and worn, and I never thought I amounted to much for God. But this morning I realize I´m somebody!” he threw his little old shoulder back and his little old skinny arms up in the air and said, “I´m re-enlisting to preach some more of the glorious Gospel of Christ!”
Hey, you´re somebody. You may be a small preacher, but you´re somebody to God. You may have a small salary, but you´re somebody to God.
Ah, isn´t it wonderful! The importance of the individual--that´s the difference between Russian Communism and American Democracy and Christ´s Christianity. It´s not the individual for the state, but the state for the individual.
I have a motto in my ministry and it is printed on the front page of my book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance: “I do not want to use my people to build my work, but I want to use my work to build my people.” That´s our job--building people, reaching people.
So as I looked at him, the Lord taught me a lesson I needed to learn.
The Holy Spirit Comes to Dwell in Men
Then as I continued thinking, “What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” I was reminded that not only did God create the world for this man, not only did God send His Son for this man, not only did His Son live for this man and die for this man, but the Holy Spirit came in power to indwell believers individually. I like that! The Holy Spirit didn´t come on Pentecost to indwell a building or live in a sanctuary. he came to indwell the bodies of born-again people.
Dr. George W. Truett gave this illustration, and I think it is so near what I am trying to say.
Dr. Truett had a little five-year-old granddaughter who came to the office one day with him. He was trying to study, and those of you who have children know how it is. Just as he was trying to concentrate, his little granddaughter said, “Granddaddy, I want a drink of water.”
Dr. Truett said, “All right, all right. I´ll get you a drink of water.” After he gave her the drink he said, “Now honey, I´m trying to study. Would you be quiet and leave me alone?”
“Yes, Granddaddy. I will.” And she meant it. Five minutes later, “Granddaddy, could I have a drink please?”
After getting her another drink of water and thinking it would pacify her, he said, “Leave me alone, I´m busy.”
Finally a thought hit him. There was a jigsaw puzzle on his desk, a map of the world. He thought, She´s only five it will take her all day to put this puzzle together. how would she know where to put all the nations of the world? he said, “Sweetheart, would you like to put a jigsaw puzzle together?”
“Oh, yes I would, Granddaddy. I´d like to put a jigsaw puzzle together.”
He put her on the floor in the outer office and scrambled the puzzle up real good, then said to her, “When you get through, show it to me.”
Five minutes later: “Granddaddy, it´s all together.”
“You mean you put the world together in the last five minutes?”
“Yes, Granddaddy, it´s all together.”
He thought she was exaggerating, and so he walked into the room. To his amazement there it was, all put together. He said, “Sweetheart, where did you learn all this? Did you do it by yourself?”
“Yes, by myself.”
“Did you know where to put the countries?”
“I didn´t know where to put the countries.”
“How did you do it?”
She said, “Granddaddy, on the back of the map there was a picture of a man, and I just got the man right and the world took care of itself.”
Don´t Forget the Individual!
If we´ll go after man, the world will take care of itself. There´s something that happens to a preacher between the call of God when God anoints him and supernaturally calls him and the time when somehow or other he becomes a bigshot. That´s the saddest day in the life of a preacher. For many a preacher it was a sad day when he got his first blue serge suit and his first private telephone.
I looked at him and I saw his dirty cap, filthy face, unshaven long beard, yellow shirt, patched trouser, and holey shoes, I thought, “Heaven´s joy is over one sinner that repents.”
When your church raises a budget, heaven smiles. When the Sunday School breaks its record, heaven grins. When the pastor adopts the program for the year, Heaven laughs. But when on little girl or one stumbling, drunken bum comes down the aisle of a church to accept Christ, Heaven becomes a great Holy-Roller Camp Meeting, and they rejoice over one sinner that repents.
I had learned a lesson. I looked at him and all of the sudden he was twisting a derby hat in his hand. His hair was neatly combed and freshly cut. His face was clean and freshly shaven. His shirt was white as snow. His tie matched the socks. The suit was freshly pressed. His shoes were new and neatly shined, and the scent was a sweet-smelling perfume. I got off my knees that day, bowed before him humbly, took his hand and said, “Sir, I´m so glad you dropped by today. What an honor it has been to have you, a man made in the image of God, visit my office today.”
He looked at me as if he had seen a ghost. The last I saw, he was twisting that old dirty cap in his hands and he walked out the door. That was a wonderful lesson to me. I thought again, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?”
But it doesn´t stop there. One Saturday night my little boy David, who was six years old at the time, and I went to a rescue mission to preach. My wife was in the hospital, just having given birth to our fourth child. Right before I was to speak, the superintendent said, “And now my assistant at the mission is going to play the guitar and sing a song.”
Many days had passed since that morning in my office. A very neatly dressed young man walked down the side aisle. I was sitting on the front. He stood up and gave the testimony of how he had just been converted a few months ago. I said, “David, where have you seen that fellow?”
“I don´t know him, Daddy.”
“I have seen him somewhere, David.”
He stood up to play his number and sing, and it struck me. That was him! I smiled. He looked at me and I looked at him. I thought of the Psalm, “What is man that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?”
Oh, my preacher friends, that little primary child who toddles down the aisle in your church next Sunday morning with ragged clothes and long, shaggy hair is somebody to God. That old drunken bum staggering down Skid Row looking for the next cigarette thrown away by the one before is somebody to God.
If we start to reach people for Christ, we are going to have to put men in the sights of our spiritual gun and shoot at men. “What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?”
I saw God wash the world last night
With His sweet showers on high;
And then when morning came I saw
Him hang it out to dry.
He washed each tiny blade of grass
And every trembling tree;
He flung His showers against the hills
And swept the billowy sea.
The white rose is a cleaner white,
The red rose is more red
Since God washed every fragrant face
And put them all to bed.
There´s not a bird, there´s not a bee
That wings along the way,
But is a cleaner bird and bee
Than it was yesterday.
I saw God wash the world last night
And I would He had washed ME
As clean of all MY dust and dirt,
As that old white birch tree.
May God wash us and help us to go get men, reach men from house to house, knocking on doors, preaching to men, working for men, witnessing to men, giving our lives for reaching men, whether they be French or Canadian, English or American; whether they speak English, French or Spanish. may God help us always to say with the Psalmist, “When I consider they heavens, the work of they fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
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