The Glory of the Lord
November 17th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
THE GLORY OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-17-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Glory of the Lord, and it is a message on the glory of the Lord reflected in His people and in His church. Turn to Isaiah chapter 60, and we shall read out loud together the first five verses. Isaiah, right in the middle of your Bible, Isaiah chapter 60. If your neighbor did not bring his Bible with him, you share it, and all of us read it out loud together. This is a text for a beautiful and a glorious anthem. Isaiah chapter 60, the first five verses, all of us reading it aloud together:
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
Now our first verse, a glorious admonition, commandment, invitation, from the Lord addressed in this sermon tonight, to us in this dear church, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Ah, there is a lift, a lift, a light, a heavenliness in the text that blesses one’s soul. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1].
These are pivotal days for us, meaningful days. This coming Sunday is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and at the morning hour the message will be entitled For God and Country; a message in keeping with this epochal day in which we live, and in this thanksgiving and patriotic and distinctly American season, For God and Country. And the message next Sunday night is entitled A Know-So Salvation, a message of Christian assurance, A Know-So Salvation. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]—the sermon next Sunday night. And the sermon tonight is still, I could pray, with the presence and the glory of God, addressed to us in this incomparable congregation, our First Baptist Church in Dallas, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1].
Our church is always doubly endeared to me when I go away and return. People know of our congregation. There is not a Baptist in the earth, there is not a friend of a Baptist congregation in the earth, there are not evangelical Christians in the earth but that know of this great people and this mighty church. And they are so interested in us, and they ask about us, and they follow our program and our labor and this ministry, and they are encouraged by every victory that we win.
I could not tell you the number of times I have heard deacons and pastors describe to me sessions of their official church bodies, and they have met in downtown congregations to decide whether to stay or to give up and move out or dissolve altogether. And while they are in those earnest and prayerful discussions, there will be a deacon or there will be the pastor stand up and say, “My brethren, look, look at the First Church in Dallas. It is a downtown congregation, great skyscrapers rising around it, the people living further out and further out and always further out, and yet the favor of the Lord is upon them. The glory of God is in them. My brethren, let’s try one more time. Let’s see if God will not bless us, building this lighthouse also in the heart of this great city.” That has not happened once or twice, but innumerable numbers of times. Ah, the blessed example of this glorious, glorious church.
I think of Thomas J. Jackson. He was a godly man, a man of deep personal piety and prayer. He taught military logistics and tactics and mathematics in the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, and when the war broke out between the states, he volunteered and was a general, riding by the side of Robert E. Lee. And at that crucial and pivotal and bloody battle of Bull Run, when the tide was turning against the South, Stonewall Jackson, Thomas J. Jackson, led his forces in a mighty and courageous effort! And Robert E. Lee, looking at him, rallied his armies with these words: “Look at the Virginian. Look at the Virginian, standing like a stone wall; rally behind that Virginian!” And our Confederate forces won the battle of Bull Run, and this sobriquet stayed with Thomas J. Jackson. Thereafter, they all referred to him, and our history books referred to him, and the biographies referred to him as Stonewall Jackson.
This is like that, a glorious and incomparable church standing like a stone wall for God in the heart of this great city against the tides and the waves and the floods of infidelity and iniquity and blasphemy. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1].
Ah, this blessed church, this blessed church. The very proportion of it, and the very size of it, and the very assemblage of it is a rebuke to churches all over America who say it is impossible to have a service on Sunday night. “You cannot open the doors of a church on Sunday night! You cannot preach the gospel Sunday night! Sunday night belongs to Satan. That means we must go to the theater. That means we must watch television. That means we must entertain. That means we must have our cocktail parties. That means we must have our outings. That means we must be out and away in all of these boats and lodges and wherever people go.”
Oh, this great church! The glory of the Lord is in it, and these marvelous, incomparable services on Sunday night [are] a rebuke! It is a rebuke to these ministers and these congregations who say, “We cannot open our doors on Sunday night. We cannot preach the gospel on Sunday night.” Oh, blessed, blessed church. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1]. May the Lord forgive me: the pride I feel in my heart, if it is wrong—the pride, the exultation, the gladness, the gratitude, the thanksgiving I feel in my heart about our dear church, if it is wrong, God forgive me. But, oh, I am grateful for you and for what you do beyond any way I could say it in syllable or in sentence.
Now the most astonishing and the most astounding of all the things people hear about our great church. Once in a while there will be a tremendous effort, and they will have a Sunday school like ours. There is no Training Union comparable to it in the earth no matter what effort is put forth. Once in a while, there will be a great effort at Sunday school, and they will have a Sunday school as large as ours, once in awhile. But there is one category, there is one thing about our church that is the most overwhelming, and astonishing, and amazing, and unbelievable of all of the things in this earth, ecclesiastically, church-wise, and you know what that is. There is not a church in the earth of any denomination, of any description, of any kind—there is not a church in the earth that gives even one-half as much as the First Baptist Church of Dallas gives to the work of our Lord.
Oh, what an amazing, what an amazing repercussion I find in the hearts of other men and other leaders and other denominations when they learn of the tremendous response of our great people to the work of the Lord. And the first observation they all make is this: “We know exactly why. We know exactly why. There is nobody that belongs to the First Baptist Church in Dallas but that is a millionaire. We know exactly why.”
Law, me! If I ever saw poorer church mice in my life; I look at them every time I stand up here to preach the gospel. I tell you, that is the most surprising observation that I could think of. But they all make that. They all say that. “Why, certainly we could understand why that overwhelming, incomparable victory you win in this stewardship program—everybody that belongs to that church is a millionaire, he is a millionaire.” Well, I wish the Lord made all of our members millionaires. I wish the Lord did it, but the Lord does not see fit to do it, does He? He doesn’t do it. He doesn’t do it. We are just folks. We are just folks. But, ah, the Lord put in our souls to do what we can, and there is among us, there is among our men in our families, there is among us an increasing spirit to give a proportion, dedicated to God, of all that the Lord bestows upon us. That is an increasing commitment in the life of our dear people, and I rejoice in it.
The devil, a whole lot of him may still be in me, but not like it used to be. I was fuller of the devil younger, long ago, than I am now. Well, back yonder in those days when I was fuller of Satan than I am now—I don’t do this very much anymore; I have repented; I have tried to do better—but back there in those days I was invited to be in an ordination council, and they were ordaining six deacons, and the pastor and the church and the splendid denomination to which they belonged didn’t believe in tithing; they didn’t believe in tithing; oh, that was heresy. So, you know, when they ordain men, why, they give you an opportunity to ask them questions.
So when the time came, and, you know, they ask them questions about, “Do you believe in the atonement of Christ?” [Romans 5:11; 1 Peter 1:18-19], and “Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?” [Matthew 28:5-7], and “Do you believe in the personal return of the Lord?” [Acts 1:11]—you know, they were asking those theological questions, well, I stood up—and the Lord forgive me, God forgive me; I don’t do this anymore; now this is the way I used to be, Lord forgive me—I stood up and I turned to the first fellow there, and I said, “I want to ask you: do you believe in tithing?” “Oh no,” he said, “I don’t believe in tithing. I don’t believe it; I think it’s heresy.” “Well,” I said, “I want to ask you one other question. Do you not believe in tithing in order to give more to God or less?” “Oh!” he says, “I don’t believe in tithing because I believe in giving more to God.” Well, that was the first big liar.
So I turned to the second one, and I said to him, “Do you believe in tithing?” “Oh no,” he said, “that is heresy.” Well, I said, “Do you not believe in tithing in order to give more to God or less?” “Oh!” he says, “I don’t believe in tithing in order to give more to God.” And that was the second big liar, and I went to the third one and asked him the same question, and all six of them. You know why I knew they were lying? Why, all six men together didn’t give one-tenth of one percent to God’s work, all of it, what some of the humblest people in this congregation give to Him. All of them lie; all of them lie.
Like I say, sometimes I think the qualifications for being an ecclesiastical leader is to be a first class prevaricator. Why, it is the worst thing in the world; worst thing in the world, those men there. And oh my, I am not going to describe the hornet’s nest I got into when I sat down and the things that followed after. I am still alive; that’s something. That’s something. That’s something.
You know what? There are three great witnesses in the Bible to our living Lord, that He is alive, that He lives, three. One is baptism, the ordinance of baptism is a witness that Jesus lives, “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection” [Romans 6:3-5] Our Lord lives, that’s one.
All right, the second one is the Lord’s Supper. He died for us; this is His body and this is His blood [1 Corinthians 11:23-25], “And as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you show forth the Lord’s death till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. He lives, and someday shall visibly, personally reign in the earth [Revelation 20:6]. “Till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26] that is the second one.
And the third one is the tithe:
He whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises … Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth, that he liveth.
[Hebrews 7:6, 8]
Abraham gave to Melchizedek, a type of Jesus, as the Book says, Abraham gave to the Lord God his life [Hebrews 11:8-19], he gave to the Lord God his son [Genesis 22:1-12], and he gave to the Lord God a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20]—our witness that He liveth [Hebrews 7:8]. And oh, dear people, it is our confession to the world today, our persuasion that remembering God, God will remember us [Hebrews 6:10].
I wish I could describe this to you as the pastor said it. Oh, I don’t think I was ever moved in my life more than listening to the preacher as he described these two visits. He is a city pastor. He is retired now but had a great church like this one. And out visiting, he knocked at the door of a mansion, and there came the butler to the door and let him in. And he went inside of the house and sat down in a luxuriously appointed living room, and soon ushered in was the Mrs. of the home, and she sat down and began to complain. She complained about everything. She complained about everything you could have mentioned, and he mentioned some of the things she complained about: Complained about the help, complained about the labor problem, and complained about the high salaries they demanded, and complained about everything; just complained.
And the preacher said when he got outside he just breathed an air of relief just to be outside, as he walked down the steps and the sidewalk from that beautiful mansion. Then he said he happened to remember a poor widow with a house full of little children. The husband had been killed, and she was left to rear those little children. And he happened to think, “I don’t know whether she has coal enough. I had better check; it is the wintertime.”
He walked up the steps, and when he got on the porch he saw the faces of some of those little children pressed against the windowpane, and he heard one of them exclaim to his mother, “Mama! Mama! The preacher is here! The preacher is here!” And he was invited inside, and he sat down with the poor widow and the children all around, and he said, “I came to see if you have enough coal.” And the poor widow replied, “Oh, pastor, we have been hungry this week. We have been hungry this week, but, bless God, bless God, I have more sewing now than I can possibly do. Look at it. God has been so good to me. The Lord hath provided, and I have more sewing now than I can do, so we have enough to buy food, and enough to buy coal, and enough to take care of the children. Thank you, pastor, thank you.”
The preacher said he read out of God’s Book, knelt down and prayed with the mother and the children, and then walked out the door, and he said as he walked out the door, down the steps and the sidewalk, above the sound of the sewing machine sewing clothes, he heard the voice of the mother singing,
Be not dismayed whate’er betide;
God will take care of you.
God will take care of you;
Through every day, over all the way,
God will take care of you.
[from “God Will Take Care of You,” Civilla D. Martin, 1904]
And he said, “And I had a new song, and a new faith, and a new glory in my soul.” O God, make us like that. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1]. This is our commitment to God in the persuasion and the faith that God will take care of us.
Now I want to change the invitation hymn. That song is 274 in the book, 274: “Be not dismayed whate’er betide; God will take care of you.” And while we sing that song of appeal, somebody you, give his heart in faith and in trust to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8]; a family you, put your life in the fellowship of the church; as God would say the word and the Holy Spirit press the appeal, make it tonight. “Here I come, pastor. Here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.