Walking with God Into the New Year
December 30th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
WALKING WITH GOD INTO THE NEW YEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-30-90 10:50 a.m.
The pastor’s message is in keeping with the last service of 1990 and looking forward to the services of 1991. It is entitled: Walking With God Into The New Year. It is based upon a text in the prophet Micah 4:5: "For all the people now walk, each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever" [Micah 4:5].
The Bible has many fine mottos for a new year. An example would be Joshua 24:15: "Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" [Joshua 24:15]. Or look again in Philippians, in the passage you just read in chapter 3. We are "pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" [Philippians 3:14].
But there could hardly be a finer motto governing our life than the text: "We will walk in the name of the Lord our God, this year, the following year, as long as life shall last, and forever and forever" [Micah 4:5]. It is a beautiful symbolism; walking with God. Do you remember in Genesis 5? "Enoch walked with God: and was not; because God took him" [Genesis 5:24].
A little girl speaking of that text said, "Enoch walked with God, and they walked and they walked and they walked until the eventide. Then God said to Enoch: ‘You are closer to My house than to yours. You just come and stay with Me.’"
Or look again in the twenty-fourth chapter of the third Gospel, the Gospel of Doctor Luke. The two walking to Emmaus suddenly found a third walking by their side [Luke 24:13-15]. He made Himself known at the breaking of bread [Luke 24:30-31, 35]. "Then they said one to another: Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked and walked with us by the way?" [Luke 24:32].
Walking with God into the new year. First: walking with God into a changing world. It is hard for me to realize, to believe, the difference in the world in which I grew up as a boy and as a youth, and the world in which we live today. Five hundred years before Christ, in the West, lived Pythagoras in southern Italy. And in the East, in the city of Ephesus, lived Heraclitus. And Heraclitus said, "It is impossible to step into a river twice, because of the ever flowing current."
So it is with our lives; the world changes; providence changes, history changes, governments change, people change. We live in a changing world. And one of the things that we face in this present moment, we are facing an awesome confrontation in the Middle East.
I just happened to turn on the radio, the television at a certain moment. I rarely look at it except for news. I happened to turn it on at a certain moment and the televised camera was showing a factory in the United States. And they were making, they were sewing in that factory thirty thousand – thirty thousand – leather cases for dead American soldier boys.
And in our 8:15 service this morning, one of our faithful members, Gill Strickland, chaplain, has been called – is on alert. And he said that a senator had made the observation that America is preparing fifty thousand caskets for these American men. I just can’t realize we face so desperate a situation in America. The confrontation has to be resolved in some way. And the United Nations, as you know, has set the date of the fifteenth of January for that word of conclusion to be said. Either we go to war, or the government of Iraq leaves their conquest of Kuwait.
Not only that in the Arab world, but Saddam Hussein has said that, "We will bomb Israel," and they are threatening to use poison gas and germ warfare to destroy the nation. Walking with God into the new year, what does it hold for us?
Not only in the Middle East, but in Eastern Europe there is a changing world. There is not a statesman in the earth, there’s not the head of a government in all of the world that had any idea of the developments in Eastern Europe – what has happened in Russia, that faces, actually, civil war. And what has happened in the nations beyond the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe; no one ever foresaw, or could have thought for, the changing developments in Eastern Europe.
And what shall I say about the changing culture and life of America? If you were as old as I, you would not recognize modern America. There is nothing sacred in our country. Even the Lord’s Day is now the big day upon which any great final super power game would be played. It will be on Sunday, as they are playing now. There is no respect for anything or anybody in modern American culture. You have a brilliant and poignant illustration of that in what our children look at on television: violence, promiscuity, evil of every kind.
I copied this a day or so ago out of the daily newspaper. Hal Holbrook, who gave up a hefty Hollywood paycheck to play Shakespeare’s King Lear on Broadway, told the Chicago Tribune, quote: "Show business has become so corrupt. It’s one of the most disgusting forms of endeavor on the earth today. There’s a horrifying cynicism that has laid itself upon us like a plastic sheet."
This is the changing America in which we live; walking with God into the new year. I live, as you would know, in a world of pastoral ministries. And the sorrows, and the heartaches, and the tears that overwhelm our people are endless. Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas, I buried two of our saintly and finest deacons. The day after Christmas, we buried two others in our church. I buried one, and my fellow ministers buried the other.
As I look back and out and over the congregation, which ones will die this coming year? There will be many, many, many. Is it you? Is it you? Is it you? Is it you? Walking with God into the new year, what does it hold for our families? And not only death that is buried in the dust of the ground, but a living death, when these who are hurt so tragically, find their faces buried in their hands and the tears flowing in sorrow and hurt. What does the new year hold for our people? This brings us on our knees before the Lord God in heaven. We live in a changing world, in changing life, but He does not change. Hebrews says of our Lord Christ: "Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8].
And Malachi, the prophet who closes the Old Testament, quotes God as saying: "I am the Lord your God, I change not" [Malachi 3:6]. And that brings from our souls a song written one hundred fifty years ago:
Swift to its close ebbs our life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changes not, abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heavens morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O God, abide with me.
["Abide With Me," Henry F. Lyte]
Walking with God into the changing world. And this is our new year’s hope:
Though sun and moon and stars be not,
The heavens a vanished scroll.
The pillars of the earth are His,
Be fixed in God, my soul.
The waves may roar, the nations rage
And yet at His command,
At the four corners of the earth,
The four great angels stand.
It is still God’s world, and we are His people. Walking with God into a changing world; walking with God into the world of our dear church: what does the new year hold for this family of the Lord?
Like you, in Philadelphia, I have visited Independence Hall. And there in the big room is a chair in which the president, the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, sat when they wrote out our great instrument of government. And when you look at that chair, it has a sunburst inlaid in it, beautifully done, beautifully wrought – a sun with the darting rays all around it, a sunburst. An aged Benjamin Franklin said through the days of the convention, he looked at that sunburst, and he looked at it, and he wondered whether it was a rising sun or a setting sun. And then the aged Ben Franklin said after they concluded their work, "I believe now it is a rising sun."
So it is with my own heart about our dear church. It is a rising tomorrow for our wonderful people. When I came here to be pastor, now almost forty-seven years ago – in 1944, when I arrived here, there was a letter awaiting me from Dr. T. L. Holcomb, who was the executive secretary of our Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee. And this is what he said in his letter to me, quote: "Never yet has there been a downtown church that really has done the job: reach the people, commensurate with the great business houses, skyscrapers, movements of the masses. We are watching your church, your program, your staff, your organization. Maybe you will do it." O God in heaven, how You have blessed us and strengthened us in these forty-seven years! And they are but precursors and harbingers and earnests and promises of the greater years that await before us.
Walking with God into the new year, this marvelous family of the Lord; this coming Sunday, this next Sunday, our pastor will be here, Dr. Joel Gregory. He will be preaching at all three services – our new pastor. And after the evening service, we will all go to the Fairmont Hotel for a magnificent welcome and reception to him and his wife and his two children. And we will rise from one great victory after another under the leadership of Dr. Gregory. In the days thereafter, he’ll be preaching at the 8:15 service, at the seven o’clock evening service, at the seven o’clock Wednesday evening service. And I’ll be preaching at this 10:50-11 o’clock hour. And he as pastor and I as senior pastor will work and pour our lives into the building up of the testimony of the saving grace of our Lord.
Then as we walk into the new year, this week, this week, our college is moving to its new home on Gaston Avenue. It will be prepared and we will begin the spring semester there. And I’ll be teaching in the school and pouring the strength of my life into building that unique college for the preparation of pastors and preachers and missionaries and staff members, the most marvelous door God could ever open before us; and what a privilege for me to pour my soul and heart and life into these young ministers, who are already scattered to the ends of the earth and filling the pulpits in America.
O God, what a wonderful year awaits us! Nor do I have opportunity to expatiate upon our First Baptist Academy. Never could I forget the first chapel service. Think of a school – by law, you can’t pray, can’t read the Bible, can’t preach, can’t have a chapel service, can’t give an appeal for Christ. But that day, I stood in our chapel in Embree Hall and looked at that group of boys and girls. And I read the Bible and preached the gospel. We sang a Christian song. We prayed prayers. O God, how I thank You for our First Baptist Academy! For over thirty years I strove and strived and prayed and begged God that He would help us to have it. And God answered the prayer. It is ours.
Nor could I speak – don’t have the time or the hours – of our thirty-one chapels in our city of Dallas. You look at this: at this season of the year, you hear all kinds of things about helping the poor and the needy and the homeless and feeding them, and all kinds of things at Christmas time. You know what we do? We do that three hundred sixty-five days out of the year. The most extensive ministry that I know to the poor and homeless in America is in your Dallas Life Foundation, beside our thirty other chapels. O God what a privilege to share what we have with these who have nothing!
Beside the blessing of God upon this dear church, our educational program in Sunday school, in Training Union, in a dozen other areas of educational program, our beautiful choir and orchestra, our music program. The appeal of the gospel from this pulpit, the invitation given to come and love and serve the Lord Jesus, O Christ in heaven, what a beautiful abounding and wonderful thing You have done for us, here in the heart of this downtown city, building a lighthouse for Christ!
Great God in heaven, what an open door God hath set before us in radio, in television, and in the throngs of people who come to this sacred place! For example, I’m even amazed on one of the most inclement days that you could think for, look at these who are here and look at those who came at 8:15. Dear God in heaven, what a wonderful Lord You are and how You work with us! And we’re walking with You into the new year in the fellowship and family of this precious church.
I have to close. May I speak of one other? Walking with God until He comes for us, into the eternity; one of the things that you’ll read in the Bible is the promise of the coming of Christ. The imminency – the i-m-m-i-n-e-n-c-y – the imminency of the coming of our Lord. The Bible closes with that: "He which testifieth these things saith: Surely, surely, I come quickly." And Johns concluding prayer: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20].
Walking with God; any moment, any day, any hour, any night, He may come – the gathering of His people to the Lord; the rapture of His church into glory [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. In the days of the apostles, they used words encouraging each other in that promise and in that faith.
One of the strangest things in the Bible: you’ll read 1 Corinthians, which is sixteen chapters of Greek – 1Corinthians, sixteen chapters of Greek – then, right there at the end, is an Aramaic word. It is the most astonishing thing; there is that Aramaic word. In sixteen chapters of Greek, there is that Aramaic word. Do you remember what the word is? Maranatha, the Lord come [1 Corinthians 16:22].
The first Christians as they were burned at the stake, as they were fed to the lions, would greet one another with that goodbye: Maranatha, the Lord come. Or sometimes they would use the phrase achri hou elthē, till He come, till He come.
That’s the way Paul writes when he spoke of the Lord’s Supper in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians: "For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show forth" – you dramatize, you portray – "the Lord’s death," achri hou elthē, "till He come" – till He come [1 Corinthians 11:26]. And the Christians, facing death, would speak to one another achri hou elthē or Maranatha, "till He come." Till He come; they lived in the imminency of Christ our Lord.
I know many of you, as I have, have stood on Mount Zion in the holy city of Jerusalem. On Mount Zion, the Jewish nation has presented the awesome terror of the holocaust, room after room after room. For example, there would be a room here that is a duplicate of a synagogue. And there in that synagogue would be the garments of the rabbis, and they would be stained with blood. And you look at that. It’s there. You look at that, those garments covered in blood. Six million Jews destroyed by those awesome Hussein – Hitler, enemies of God. So room after room after room, and finally, the last one; and in the last room there on Mount Zion, where the upper room witnessed the institution of the Lord’s Supper [Luke 22:11-12], where the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles [John 20:22]; there in that Mount Zion, in that last room, on a table, there is a case of soap made out of Jewish bodies; soap, made out of Jewish bodies. And there will be a lampshade, made out of a Jewish skin with a number tattooed on it. And last of all is a plaque. It’s written in Hebrew; a large plaque, there on the table, raised up where you can see it. And I made a copy of it.
In English, it does not flow beautifully. But in Hebrew, it is a beautiful and precious song that the Jewish people sang as they were taken to the gas chamber. This is the plaque, this is the song:
Of all truth, this is the truth:
That we believe the Messiah is coming soon.
Despite the fact that He has not come today,
Despite any other fact of life,
This is the truth that we believe:
Messiah is coming soon.
We believe, of course, being Christians, that He has come the first time. But like them, we believe Messiah is coming soon [2 Peter 3:12].
It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be perchance that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light, in the blaze of His glory
When Jesus comes for His own.
Oh, joy! Oh, delight! Should we go without dying
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying.
Caught up to the clouds with our Lord into glory
When Jesus comes for His own.
O Lord Jesus, how long? How long?
Ere we shout the glad song:
Christ returneth, Hallelujah!
["Christ Returneth," H.L. Turner]
Walking with Christ into the eternity He has prepared for His people [John 14:2-3]. And to you who have listened on television, what a precious moment to open your heart to Him and to accept Him as your Savior; to begin the year with God. There is a faithful counselor who will answer the telephone if you call. We will write back if you will send us word. And if you will accept the Lord, I will see you in heaven someday. If you don’t know how to accept Jesus, call us or write us, and God bless you as you open your heart to Him.
And to the people in the presence of God in this sanctuary, as we sing our hymn of invitation, to come to the Lord, to give your heart to Him, to answer the call of the Spirit in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And God bless you in the response of your heart and your life, as we stand and as we sing.
WALKING WITH GOD INTO THE NEW YEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Bible has many fine mottos for a New Year (Joshua 24:15, Philippians 3:14)
B. Walking with God (Micah 4:5, Genesis 5:24, Luke 24:32)
II. Into a changing world
A. The ever-flowing current
1. War in the Middle East
2. Russia, Eastern Europe
B. Personal lives
2. Living death
C. Lifting up our hearts, souls, faces to God (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6)
III. With our church
A. Ministry – Dr. Joel Gregory
B. Criswell College
C. First Baptist Academy
D. Thirty-one chapels
E. Education ministry
IV. Until He comes
A. Always imminent (Revelation 22:20, 1 Corinthians 16:22, 11:26)