Our Golden Tomorrow
July 25th, 1993 @ 7:30 PM
OUR GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-25-93 7:30 p.m.
In a few days, a very few days, it will be forty-nine years since I stood in this pulpit. I preached from 1 Corinthians 1:18: "Christ, the power of God." And, as I stood here and opened the Bible to deliver the message, my hands trembled – I was so ashamed – I tried my best to steady my hands, and I could not. As I held the Word of God, my hands trembled as I preached that morning. The pulpit committee met the following week, and Paul Danna, who was vice-president of the First National Bank, said to the pulpit committee, "Did you see that young man as he stood there with the Bible in his hand and his hands trembled? Did you see that?" And Paul Danna, who had been so much committed to another man coming here as pastor of the church, Paul Danna said to the committee, "That young man has a reverence for the Word of God. His hands trembled as he held it." And, Paul Danna said, "I am for him." And they called me as pastor of the church. How remarkable and unusual that God takes the weaknesses of our human flesh and uses them to magnify His glorious and incomparable name; so, our commitment to the Holy Scriptures. And as we look forward to the next one hundred twenty-five years, it is this Book that we humbly pray will be the fundamental background and text for the task that awaits this glorious congregation.
And God’s Word spells it out, minutely and completely:
Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All authority is given to Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and make disciples, win to Christ, all the ethnē – all the peoples, baptizing them in the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Teaching them, didaskō – teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo – behold, I, even I – and the Greek is very emphatic – ego eimi – even I, even I – am with you, even unto the end of the age.
So our assignment is plainly laid before us. "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore," [Matthew 28:18-19].
First, we are commanded to win to the faith all of the people, the ethnē, the ethic groups, every tribe and culture and language under the sun. Had our need been one of learning, God would have sent us an educator. Had our need been one of technology, God would have sent us a scientist. Had our need been one of affluence, God would have sent us an economist. Had our need been one of pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our need was one of re-birth, of conversion, of the forgiveness of sins, therefore, God sent us a Savior. "I am come," He says, "to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10]. And "There is joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over just one that repents" [Luke 15:10].
Let me have my church
On a downtown street
Where the race of men go by.
The men who are good,
The men who are bad
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit
In the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s band.
Let me have my church
On Ervay Street
And be a friend to man.
[adapted from, "The House by the Side of the Road," Sam Walter Foss]
God’s assignment for us: winning the lost to Christ – all of the people. Consequently, in this dear church every service ends with an appeal, with an invitation. And I have boasted, if I could be forgiven, as I preached all over this world, I have boasted I have never had a service here yet, but that God has given us a harvest, an increase. In the thousands of times I have preached, never a time but that God has rewarded us with souls.
And beyond our congregation, these thirty-one chapels; when I came here, I sought to have those ethnic groups come here to the house of the Lord. They would not respond. And I said in my heart, "If they won’t come to us, we’ll go to them." And we organized these chapels all over the city, thirty-one of them. I could never forget a Christmas years ago when Ira McAlister, who headed our ministry to these dear people in the city, these ethnic groups, he had a Christmas program down there in Coleman Hall. And, as I sat there and listened, I literally wept for three hours – three hours. His program was these families who had been won to Jesus in their precious ministries.
For example, a man would stand up and say, "I was a drunkard, enslaved with alcohol. And when I came home, I would beat my children and I would insult my wife. Then this man of God, the pastor of the chapel, found me – won me to Jesus." And now, he says, "When I come home, my children run to meet me. And my wife puts her arms around me and welcomes me. Praise God for what the Lord has done for me." That went on for three hours and moved my heart beyond any way I could describe it; so our ministry here in the church – beautiful and precious and godly.
Edwin Markham, the great American poet wrote a poem about the coming of our Lord and how He does it. He speaks of a shoe keeper, a shoemaker whose name is Conrad and this is that poem:
While the cobbler mused there passed his pane
A beggar drenched by the driving rain.
He called him in from the stony street
And gave him shoes for his bruised feet.
The beggar went, and there came a crone,
Her face with wrinkles of sorrow sown;
A bundle of fagots bowed her back,
And she was spent with the wrench and rack.
He gave her his loaf and steadied her load,
As she took her way on the weary road.
Then to his door came a little child,
Lost and afraid in the world so wild,
In the big, dark world. Catching it up,
He gave it the milk in the waiting cup,
And led it home to its mother’s arms,
Out of the reach of the world’s alarms.
The day went down in the crimson west
And with it the hope of the blessed guest –
Jesus said He was going to come –
And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray;
"Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay?"
"Did You forget that this is the day?"
Then, soft in the silence a voice he heard:
"Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door,
Three times my shadow was on your floor;
I was the beggar with bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat;
And I was the child on the homeless street."
["How The Great Guest Came," Edwin Markham]
This is the presence of God’s blessing in our midst; our ministry to the groups so forgotten in this great city – thirty-one of those chapels and, particularly, the ministry of our Dallas Life Foundation to the poor and the homeless. "Go ye therefore and win to Me, win to Christ all of these people."
And second, "baptizing them in the name of the triune God" [Matthew 28:19]. This is His church. By one Spirit are we all baptized into the soma, the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And another word: "And as many as received His word were baptized: and the Lord added to them that day three thousand souls. And they continued in the apostels’ doctrine, the koinonia, the fellowship" [Acts 2:41-42]. And Jesus said, "On this rock I will build My ekklesia [Matthew 16:18] – the third word, the called-out family of the Lord. Isn’t that strange? Jesus never said, "My home." When He referred to it, He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" [Matthew 8:20]. Jesus never said, "My home." Jesus never said, "My wife." He never knew that most intimate of all relationships. Jesus never said, "My child." He never looked into the eyes of a youngster and saw Himself. But He did say, "My church" – "My church" [Matthew 16:18]. And He gave to that church those two beautiful, beautiful ordinances. "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" [Acts 8:36]. "And He took bread when He had eaten and the cup when He had drunk" [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. Isn’t that unusual? Our Lord was baptized [Matthew 3:13-17] and invites us to follow Him [Matthew 28:19]. Our Lord Himself ate of the bread and drank of the cup and invites us to share that holy Supper [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25]. Ah, Lord, how precious to follow Thee. And our church is built in a spiritual commitment, with spiritual means and spiritual appeal.
But oh, dear Lord, the instruments of conquest for Christ are spiritual – always. The choir to sing: in 1878, our first minister of music; Fred, in 1973, son, our orchestra was organized. And our music program magnifies the Lord. Our prayers, how beautiful to listen to the intercessions of this man of God; Dr. Fish, and the preaching of the Word, and the appeal in the name of Christ; O Lord, I love this place. And I love these services. They bless my soul.
And it is the intention of God that the relationship we form here in Him and in this communion be eternal. The church is not an institution; it is a fellowship. It is a koinonia, a communion. The church is not an organization; it is a living organism. It is His soma. His body. And the church is not a building; it is a beautiful ekklesia, a called out people that belong to Him. And it is the purpose of God that we be together. As the psalmist said: God hath put the solitary in families [Psalm 68:6]. And it is the purpose of God that we be together forever. Some of us there. And some of us here. But we all one in the Lord. "I am the God of the living, He says, not the God of the dead" [Matthew 22:32]. And Paul writes in the [third] chapter of Philippians: "Our politeuma, our home, our citizenship, our kingdom, our commonwealth is in heaven" [Philippians 3:20].
I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home.
Sorrows and dangers stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
["Fatherland," T. R. Taylor]
I repeat, it is the purpose of God that we be together forever, some of us there, some of us here, some of us here, some of us there. But we are all one in Him. Dear me, these in these forty-nine years that I have known and loved in this dear church, they’re there. And we’re here. But we’re one in Him. My father loved to sing Stamps Baxter songs. He played the banjo. And even as a little boy, I would sit there by the hour and listen to my father sing those songs in shape notes. He’d start at the first and go clear to the end. And the last time I saw him before he died, he sang a song for me.
I’ll meet you in the morning,
By the bright riverside,
When all sorrows have faded away;
I’ll be standing in the portals,
When the gates open wide,
At the end of life’s long, dreary day.
["I’ll Meet You In The Morning," Albert E. Brumley, 1956]
He is there. I am here. But we are still one in the Lord. That is God’s purpose for us, His children, His family.
"All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and win all of the people to Christ, baptizing them in the fellowship of the church, teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you" [Matthew 28:18-20]. Dear Lord, what an assignment. What a tremendous work God hath given us to do; teaching, instructing, guiding, building our Sunday school, son, and bringing everybody into it, every age. Our Academy, our First Baptist school, our Criswell College, built around the infallible Word of the Lord. It is a vast assignment. But God has called us to it, and we respond with our very lives. Like the song the men sang after they had built the Panama Canal:
Don’t send us back to a life that is tame again,
We who have shattered a continent’s spine.
Easy work – oh, we couldn’t do that again!
Haven’t you something that’s more in our line?
Got any rivers you say are not crossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
We specialize in the wholly impossible,
Doing what nobody ever could do!
[adapted from, "At Your Service," Berton Braley, 1912]
God bless this church as it takes to heart this tremendous assignment of teaching the Word of God and the way of eternal life.
Then He closes: "I will be with you alway, even to the end of the age" [Matthew 28:20]. To the end of the great consummation and to that ultimate and final glory, we lift up our hearts in praise, in prayer, and in heavenly expectation, when the work is done and Jesus comes for His own [1 Corinthians 15:23]. We are taught in this Holy Bible the imminency of Christ – i-m-m-i-n – the imminency of Christ – any moment, any day, any hour. We are to wait for Him; we are to expect Him; we are to look for Him; we are to watch for Him. When He instituted the Lord’s Supper he closed it: achri hou elthe – "until I come, until I come" [1 Corinthians 11:26], Paul ended his first letter to the Corinthians: Maranatha [1 Corintians 16:22] – "the Lord comes," the Lord comes. And, the whole Revelation, the whole Bible closes: "He which testifieth these things saith: Surely, surely I come quickly" [Revelation 22:20]. And the response of the aged apostle John is ours: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The psalmist writes in Psalm 90:4: "A thousand years in His sight are but as a day." A thousand years is a day in God’s calendar. Sweet people, that means He has been gone two days. He has been away two days. Could it be on the third day, He will return? Waiting for our Lord, and while we are waiting, we are working and praying, pouring our lives into that ministry of winning people, of baptizing them into the fellowship of the church and teaching them the things God hath given us to do.
An old farmer was asked, as he was plowing in the field, if you knew that the Lord was coming back in fifteen minutes, what would you do? And the old farmer replied, "I would finish plowing this furrow down to the end of the row." That is our answer also. Jesus is coming. His return is imminent. But while we wait, we will be working and praying and praising God and opening our hearts and homes and lives to His gracious and precious and saving presence; waiting and working. And that is our appeal to you. In a moment we are going to sing a song of appeal. In that moment, when the orchestra leaves, you in your heart, "Shall I answer God’s call for me in my life?" If it’s to give your heart to Him, come. "I’m ready." If it is to follow Him in baptism, here I am Lord. I’m ready." If it is to answer a call of the Spirit in your heart, come, "I’m ready, Lord."
In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, you come. The choir there will lead us in the song of appeal. This orchestra will now leave to your place, and all over this vast audience, "Pastor, I’m ready. I’m ready. God has spoken to my heart, and I’m ready to answer with my life, and I’m coming." On the first note, on the first stanza, make it now and may angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
OUR GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Forty-nine years ago, my hands trembled as I preached here
B. Paul Danna
C. The Holy Scriptures – the will of God for us(Matthew 28:18-20)
A. The message of salvation is the hope of the world(Luke 15:10, 19:10)
B. Our outreach ministries
1. Poem, "How the Great Guest Came"
A. Jesus has a church(1 Corinthians 12:13, Acts 2:41-42, Matthew 16:18)
1. The ordinances (Acts 8:36, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
B. The church is built in spiritual commitment, with spiritual means and spiritual appeal
C. The eternal fellowship – koinonia(Acts 2:41-47, Psalm 68:6, Philippians 3:20)
A. Tremendous work to do – teaching, instructing, guiding
B. Our Sunday school, academy, college
V. "Till He comes"
A. Always imminent (Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Revelation 22:20)
B. A thousand years are but as a day (Psalm 90:4)