THE AGE OF REDEMPTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-2-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Age in Which We Live. I have been preaching through the Bible for more than eleven years. It is a rare, rare thing that I ever turn aside from the passage immediately in front of me after closing with the passage on the previous Sunday evening, but the message today is in keeping with our worldwide intercession in behalf of foreign missions.
This is the beginning of our Lottie Moon week of prayer. Every year at this time of the year, our people – all of us – it is sponsored by the women in the Woman’s Missionary Union but the appeal is to all of us when we give gifts to one another not to forget Him in whose name the festival season is celebrated – to keep Christ in Christmas. There could be no better way to honor our Lord on His birthday than by dedicating a gift to the worldwide preaching of the saving grace of the Son of God. It is in behalf of that week of prayer that the message is delivered this morning. It comes from the nineteenth chapter of the Book of [Luke], the forty-first verse, and a prelude to the text is in the story.
In the royal entry of our Lord into the city of Jerusalem, which began His passion week, He is mounted [Luke 19:35]. They are placing garments in front of Him [Luke 19:36]. Now, the thirty-seventh verse:
And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." –
Now, the contrast –
But when Jesus was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it.
[Luke 19:37-38, 41]
What a strange procession. With the disciples and the multitudes on every hand crying blessings, rejoicing in God, singing and praising, and the leader of the procession, in whose honor it is held, coming to the brow of the Mount of Olives before which is spread the whole panorama of the Holy City and pausing, looking, and bursting into tears: "When He came near and beheld the city, He wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. He said, "It is a sad, sad sight."
For who would ever have thought that the beautiful Queen of the Danube, Budapest [Hungary], would ever look like this? Who would ever have thought that Port Said [Egypt] would ever look like this? Or of so few years ago, who would ever have dreamed that Hamburg, or Hannover, or Berlin, or Munich [cities in Germany], or Yokohama, or Tokyo, or Hiroshima, or Nagasaki [cities in Japan] would look like this? "And when He came near, He beheld the city and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. It is a sad, sad sight.
This is the age, the age in which we live. This is the age of the refugees. At the turn of our century, a great statesman, one time in a magnificent address, said, "The twentieth century shall be known as the age of the common man: every man a king, every woman a queen, every household a royal household. We have arrived. This is to be the age of the common man." He would have had far more intuitive wisdom, far more prophetic vision had he said, "This twentieth century shall be known as the age of the homeless man, the age of the refugee" for the displaced person has come to be as much a symbol of our age as the broken Adam.
These pictures that we see in every magazine and in every newspaper of the stream of Hungarians who are fleeing the Red Peril [Communism] and finding refuge in the Western world and these headlines that we read of the opening of immigration laws into America, this has been the daily report of newspaper and magazine for years and years and years – so long that our children can remember no other report and no other pictures. The refugee coming across the border into Austria is just today’s picture of the refugee of yesterday coming into western Germany and living in camps all up and down Germanic land.
Or the picture of the refugee in Jordan and in Israel, or the picture of the refugee in Karachi [Karachi, Pakistan] or Calcutta [Calcutta, India], or the picture of the refugee in Hong Kong – all of them alike. One may be yellow, the other may be swarthy. One may be white, but they all live alike. And in their faces, their expressions are all alike: filled with despair, hopeless, helpless, the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity: the age of the refugee. This is the age of the anti-Christ and the kingdom of darkness.
I have never met Nasser [Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1918-1970, President of Egypt] face to face. I have David Ben-Gurion [1886-1973, Prime Minister of Israel] and talked with him. I’ve never met Nasser. But in a televised program a few months ago, he was interviewed, and I suppose most of America listened and saw that interview. I could not believe my ears or my eyes as I looked upon this little dictator of Egypt as he said, "We have no fear of Russia. Russia is our friend. Our enemies," he said, "are Britain and France. They are the colonial empires, and our experience with Great Britain is one of devastating harshness and memory. But our experience with Russia," he said, "has always been one of highest friendship and cooperation."
That is the siren song of the Arab-Asian block. And I marvel – I can hardly believe it – what has become of Lithuania. Why, the very name has dropped out of geography. What has become of little Latvia or Estonia? I never hear them mentioned anymore. They are destroyed. They are swallowed up by the "friendly" Russian. He has a great capacity for such friendship. And I wonder that men like Nasser and Nehru [Jawaharlal Nehru, 1889-1964, Prime Minister of India] and the leaders or Syria, whom I do not know, I wonder that they never take a lesson or never read or never see a picture of Hungary, or of Poland, or of East Germany.
To me, it is an amazing thing. And I do not think it could happen. I don’t believe men could be so blinded, and I don’t believe nations could be so deceived were it not that back of the siren song is the master hand of the prince of the power of this world [Ephesians 2:2, 6:12]. There is a kingdom of light; there is a kingdom of darkness [Colossians 1:13]. There is a Prince of Glory [1 Corinthians 2:8]. There is a prince of hell and war and devastation [John 8:44], and his song, so beautifully played, entices and entrances and hypnotizes [Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:4].
I talked with one of the most illustrious judges, federal judges, of India. I spent the night with his brother-in-law and he also was a guest in the home, and much of the conversation turned about India and Russia. And I said to him, "I cannot understand India’s open-hearted friendship with Russia. They menace your northern border. They are the constant source of turmoil and perturbation in your political life. And yet, if I were to pick out a champion for Communism in the United States, I would pick out the delegate from India." I said, "I do not understand it. I cannot see it."
He said, "But what you people in America are never aware of is this: that it greatly impresses us that a nation, a few years ago a peasant nation – a slave nation, a backward nation, an ignorant nation – that through the power of Communism, they have come to the place where they can challenge the might of America itself!" He says, "We are greatly impressed."
Do you ever think how Russia is able to challenge the might of the United States and of Britain? Let’s take you for instance. There is needed in America, say, capital to build a great steel plant or a great factory out here in Grand Prairie [Grand Prairie, Texas]. Where does America get the capital to build the plant? They get it from the sale of stock to the people. They will offer it: "Here. For ten dollars a share or fifty dollars a share, you may buy this stock," and we subscribe it gladly. And we build a great steel plant, or a great Bell telephone system, or some other great enterprise. And from our investment, using the brains and brawn and genius of men in factory and in business, we get a return. I might get five percent, seven percent, ten percent; and as the economy grows, the stock may be split, and I have two for one. That’s America. That’s the free capitalistic enterprise.
Did you ever consider how Russia gets their capital for their great expansion? This is the way they get it. They get it from the grinding, and the grinding, and the grinding of the great masses of the poor people who are chained to job, who are chained to factory, as they take the increment of their hands and their labors and give them nothing in return! But in the name of an all-powerful state, they’ll build a great factory or a great steel plant. And who owns it? The people they have robbed, that they have oppressed? No! Who owns it? The state, all-powerful!
That is totalitarianism, and there’s no limit to what they can do. Keep robbing the people, keep oppressing the people, keep taking the fruit of their hands, turn it over to the government. And they build factory after factory and institution after institution, but they do it at the price of the soul and the life of the great masses of the people.
But India never considers that nor the worst thing about it: it is done not in liberty – not by choice, not in freedom. I don’t have to buy any stock. There’s another simple reason of why I can’t, but I don’t have to buy any stock nor does anybody else in America have to buy any stock. If there is the building of a great industrial plant in America, it is done by the free choice of free men.
But in Russia, you have a police state. They take what you have. If you are a farmer, they take the produce of your land. They conscript it. If you are a factory worker, they take the fruit of your hands, and they do it in the name of a worker’s rebellion and a proletariat revolution. Oh, such deceit: the kingdom of darkness. I say, this is the age of the anti-Christ. It is the age of religious and spiritual impotence.
"Why, Pastor, I thought more people were joining the church than ever in America’s history."
That’s correct. Statistically, that’s on the books.
"And I thought this was an age of great revival in America."
That’s quite true. Our services here, all of our sister churches – there is a great, tremendous, deep-seated sincere interest in religion in America.
I can remember as a boy – I can remember this – when Sinclair Lewis [1885-1951] stood in a pulpit in Kansas City and said, "If there is a God, I defy Him to strike me dead as I say this sentence!" I can remember that, and the whole world applauded. He was not bound by theological baggage. He wasn’t carrying out a lot of religious superstition. Sinclair Lewis had arrived! He was a free man: he had broken the bonds and the chrysalis of all of that religious superstition!
I can remember that – that it was the popular thing to do. If a man were to go down the street and make fun of the church, and make fun of the preacher, and make fun of God, and make fun of the Bible, why, he was a hero! And the kids would all gather round, and the professor would sit in the university chair and belittle God, and belittle religion, and belittle Christ, and belittle the Bible, and belittle the church; and he was an intellectual!
If a man were to walk down Main Street in Dallas making fun of God and making fun of the church and making fun of God’s preacher, I don’t think they would swarm around him now and say, "Oh, what a brilliant, free, and intellectual personality!" I don’t believe they would do it now. We have changed.
But the tragedy is the change reaches such an infinitesimal minority in this vast world, and there has developed in these last few generations, there has developed a canker, a dry rot – parasitical vampires that have destroyed the great evangelizing power of the Christian message. When I look upon it, time and again – here, and then there, and then yonder again – there came to my heart the cry of the King of [Judah] when He said to the prophet: "The children are come to the birth and there is not strength to bear" [2 Kings 19:3; Isaiah 37:3].
In the face of these vast and illimitable crises that have revolutionized nations, that have changed the whole course of time and history – in the face of these crises, the Christian church and the Christian religion and the Christian faith, instead of being true to its Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20] and to the faith once for all delivered to the saints [Jude 1:3], they have turned aside to philosophy and to sociology and to psychiatry and to self-examination and to subjective preaching and have forgot the great command of our Lord to make disciples, Christians, of all of the kingdoms and nations and peoples of the world [Matthew 28:18-20].
In Siam [now called Thailand], I listened to two old women – English women, two Baptist women – all that remained of a once great Baptist mission. Two old women, all that remained, pleading with us to take over their work – give it to us, what property they had, all of two or three generations – all of their life’s work. "Please will you not take it? We’re the last, and we’re not able longer to carry on."
What’s the matter? At one time, at one time, there was in Siam a great flourishing Christian work, and it was winning that nation to Christ. Then they turned aside from preaching the gospel and calling men to faith and to repentance, and they turned aside to sociology. "Well, let’s learn how better to make this plow, and let’s learn how better to make Buddhism, Buddhism – let’s learn better how to make Buddhism productive for this people. Let’s don’t change the religion. These people here – they may be animists there, and Buddhists there, and Confucianists yonder, and Moslems there – and our purpose is to make them better Moslims, and better Buddhists, and better animists, better Hindus, better Shintoists." But Jesus said our commission is to make Christians out of them! [Matthew 28:18-20] So they turned aside.
They did the same thing in Japan. There was a day when Japan had a tremendous revival and a great evangelistic outpouring. And in the middle of it, liberalism and modernism innovated the gospel message and appeal, and the churches turned aside to these other things.
What we’re giving our lives to now is race relations; what we’re giving our lives to now is economics; what we’re giving our lives to now are these things of sociology and psychiatry – how to get rid of all of the complexes I have. And the more I study my complexes, I get a complex about the complex! That’s modern Christianity, and it’s got some great disciples that everybody loves to listen to and read after.
I don’t mind that stuff. I don’t mind it at all. I just mind it being called the Christian faith! That’s all. That’s the only thing I mind about it. If a fellow will stand up and say, "This is psychiatry," I don’t mind his doing anything, saying anything, teaching anything: "This is psychiatry," or "this is sociology," or "this is psychology," or "this is better agronomy." But that’s not the Christian faith!
The Christian faith is this: that men are lost and dying and to be judged [Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:11-15], and Christ died for their sins [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], and God calls all men everywhere to repent [Acts 17:30] and to accept His Son as a personal Savior and to give his life to God [John 3:16, 6:29; Acts 16:31]. That’s Christianity. And that will get rid of more complexes than all of the subjective thinking in all of this world! You objectify yourself and see if you don’t forget everything about you. Live outside of yourself. But I must hasten. I have gotten away.
This is the age, I say, of religious impotence. You’ve heard me say that I saw, I stood by the side of a Baptist preacher by the name of Haider Ali [1895-1956] who was in Agra [Agra, India]. And I was with him and he had been sent to Agra to close down the Baptist church and the Baptist mission and the Baptist school in Agra. And when you stand there and look at that church – that’s in the city where the Taj Mahal is built, the most beautiful building in the world; there’s none like it in creation. As you stand and look at our Baptist church there in the metope, underneath the gable there in that triangular – in that metope there – there is a foundation stone, an entablature, a dedication stone, and the date on it is 1845 – 1845. And after the century of work, now we commission men not to build it up, but we commission men now to tear it down, close it up. Close it up: "Going out of the business." And all up and down the Ganges River, the mission stations that William Carey [1761-1834] established are now being closed down.
And in Africa this last Thursday morning, Dale Moore, once our young people’s leader – we sent her to Africa: gave her a check for $2,500 from us to buy a Jeep to help her in the jungles in Africa and bought her an outboard motor. The only place by which she can get to her work is in a canoe – bought her an outboard motor for the little boat when she drives the Jeep to the edge of the river then get in the boat and go to her missions station. We bought her the Jeep, and we bought her the outboard motor and sent her away to Africa.
And just before, we sent out Dr. and Mrs. Wayne Logan from our church to Ibadan [Ibadan, Nigeria], the largest black native city in the world, but when you go over there and look at that work, bring tears to your eyes. For every one Christian that we win, for every one Christian that we make, the Moslem is there making ten for our one – ten! There are sections in Johannesburg, Africa that once were solidly Christian that are now solidly Moslem. And the day is soon coming, not a long way off – soon, immediate – the day is soon coming when Africa will be almost a solid Moslem continent. And there is no fiercer antagonist of the Christian faith than the sons of Ishmael as he wars with Isaac and the children of God [Genesis 16:8-12; 17:18-21].
But I must haste. This is also an age of grace. Thank God the Holy Spirit is not yet withdrawn. He still is here. This is the age of the open door. This is the age of our greatest challenge and opportunity, and this is the age of our greatest response. Wherever, wherever a man will stand up and faithfully, courageously preach the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus, there God’s Spirit is outpoured and converts are made [Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 9:35-38; John 16:7-11; Romans 10:8-15].
You listen. I received this letter this week from Hong Kong. Our beloved Dr. Feezor [Dr. Forrest Feezor, 1892-1986], who is the executive leader of our people in the state of Texas, and his wife are members here in this church. They’re over there, and they’re in a crusade preaching Jesus in Hong Kong. And here are a few sentences from his letter:
The crusade here is accomplishing far more than I ever dreamed or thought. In speaking to the high school upon giving the invitation, more than a hundred responded. It was not simply a mass movement, but there was deep concern. And I heard testimonies from some of the young people later revealing their burden for sin and their joy in forgiveness. There have been approximately 1,300 who have responded and the personal workers have dealt with them with open Bible and counseling.
It’s still the day of God’s grace. It’s still the day of the open door. It is still the day of our vastest opportunity.
When I was in Nazareth the first time, we went to see Dr. Bathgate [William D. Bathgate]. He is under the Edinburgh Medical Mission Society over there in Nazareth – used to be all Arab; now it is a part of Israel. And Dr. Bathgate is a great friend of our Baptist people. World War II cut them off from any support and they were in destitute circumstances. And our Southern Baptist people, through their mission offerings, supported him and the big, wonderful medical compound there in Nazareth. And he was doubly glad to see somebody from our Southern Baptist Convention. And it was a joy and a gladness to be with him: a little Scotsman, and full of life and humor, and his eyes twinkle – one of God’s servants.
Well, this week, he came by to see me. He came over there to my study – sent me word, and he said, "I want to visit with you a little while." So he came by to see me this last Thursday or Friday. And we had the finest visit together talking about those things over there in Israel and in Nazareth.
And he said to me, he said, "You know your school in Nazareth, your Baptist school there, oh," he said, "it is growing!" He said, "At the last commencement, guess who sat on the front row?" He said, "The Greek Archbishop sat right there on the front row." And Dr. Bathgate said, "And during the services, I watched him and he just smiled and was so happy and glad." He said, "The Greek Archbishop at your school, at the commencement services." He said, "That was something."
I don’t know what something it is, but it sounded like something to me.
"Oh, they just doing fine," he said.
"Why," he said to me, "Pastor," he said, "Did you know just a little while ago, a few days ago," he said, "I had an operation on a little Arab boy. I didn’t know who he was, had no idea where he came from, but we were to operate on the little boy. So," he said, "I got all prepared and our nurses, you know, and we went into the operating room to operate on the little boy, and the little boy was brought in to be operated on."
And the little boy said to him, "Doctor, before you operate on me, could I get off the table and kneel down here and have a prayer?"
And Dr. Bathgate, Christian man: "Oh, son, yes!"
So the little boy got down on his knees by the side of Dr. Bathgate’s operating table, and he didn’t pray out loud. He just moved his lips and the doctor watching him. And when he got done, he climbed back on the table, and, oh, just absolutely unafraid and fearless the doctor said. And so Dr. Bathgate said, "Son, what did you say down there on your knees?" And the little boy replied. He said, "Sir, I repeated the twenty-third Psalm: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me’" [Psalm 23:4]. The doctor said, "Son, where did you learn that?" And the little boy says, "I go to the Baptist school here in Nazareth."
I don’t suppose we have a whole lot in building the school, but we have a little bit, a little bit. A part of what we bring here and dedicate to God, a proportionate part goes over there for the school in Nazareth, and I’m glad. I’m grateful for the opportunity. And that is the spirit of this church.
Any pastor would be proud to say "God hath made me undershepherd of this flock." When time comes to make up a budget and how sorely we may need it here or there and how much pressed upon us to pay a debt, always, little more than half of that budget is set aside for the great missionary program of Jesus in our Jerusalem, in our Samaria and to our uttermost parts of the world [Acts 1:8].
And when time comes to lay upon the hearts of our people a Lottie Moon Christmas week of prayer appeal, there is always deepest and profound interest. Never yet have I had any member of our church say to me, "Now, pastor, you just go light on missions. You just – don’t you emphasize that too much."
Seems to me it’s the other way around. "Preacher, if anything, let’s be more missionary. Let’s be more in prayer. Let’s give more of ourselves to the great, worldwide call of Jesus." And this is our age of opportunity. It’s dark and lowering, but above it, God reigns and He lives forever, our Lord and our King [Psalm 2:1-12; Acts 17:22-27].
Now, if you’ve listened on radio or on television, where you are, if you’ve never given your heart to Christ, would you today? Would you just bow your head or get down on your knees and say, "Lord, today, I give my life in faith and in trust to Thee. I’ll have no lord but Thee, no king but Thee, no savior but Thee." Would you? Cast yourself upon Jesus.
And in the great host of people here this morning, somebody you, give his heart to Christ or come into the fellowship of the church. While we sing this appeal, would you come – a family of you or one somebody of you? Into the aisle, down these stairwells, wherever, as God should say the word and make the appeal to your heart, would you come while we stand and while we sing?