Is There Any Word From the Lord?
January 12th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
WALKING WITH GOD IN THE NEW YEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-5-64 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening and watching over television can see the preparation for the memorial of the Lord’s Supper this morning. The first Sunday of each month we observe this holy memorial. We alternate it between a morning and an evening. One first Sunday it will be observed at the morning hour, the next month, the first Sunday, it will be observed at the evening hour and so through the year, one month in the morning, one in the evening. And beginning this first Sunday of the new year, you see the preparation for the observance of this holy and sacred Lord’s Supper.
This will be the last adventitious sermon that I shall preach for a long time. Beginning next Sunday morning, I am going to preach a long series—how long, I do not know—on the general theme of what God says. In the years past, for seventeen years, eight months, I preached through the Bible, beginning at Genesis, closing the last verse in the Revelation, so the messages heretofore have been in sentences, or texts, paragraphs, or chapters. Now we are going to turn our hearts toward what God says, and we shall look for an answer from the first of the Book to the end of the Book, through the whole volume of the Holy Scriptures.
What does God say about heaven? What does God say about death? What does God say about the everlasting states of the saved and the unsaved? What does God say about our sins? What does God say about the future? What does God say about redemption, about atonement? What does God say about the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in our hearts? What does God say about His Word? Oh, how many things and in how many ways does God speak to us?
The sermon next Sunday morning is The Cry of the King of Judah to Jeremiah the Prophet. Is there any word from the Lord? Does God say anything? “Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah the prophet answered, ‘There is’” [Jeremiah 37:17]. If God hath spoken to us, what hath God said? And in my humble persuasion, as in yours, the highest dedication of a man’s life would be to find that answer. What doth God say to my soul? Then next Sunday night we shall begin preaching a long series of sermons on the life of Christ, and every Sunday evening at seven thirty o’clock the message will be on the life of our Lord. I look forward to these days of preparation, and prayer, and preaching beyond any I have ever known in my life.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a New Year’s message entitled Walking with God in the New Year. In the fourth chapter of the prophet of Micah:
And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off . . . They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
For all people now walk in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever.
If we were looking for some fine sentences to be made into New Year’s resolutions, the Holy Scriptures are replete with them. For example, Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” What a fine resolution that would be! Or another, Psalm 101: 2: “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” Or in the passage of Scripture that all of us just read together, “I will press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14]. But of all of them I have chosen this. “All people now walk in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever” [Micah 4:5]; so the subject, Walking with God in the New Year.
One of far famed citizens of New York City walking down the street on New Year’s morning met a young friend and greeted him saying, “Happy New Year, sir!” And passing on stopped, turned around, went back to the young man and added, “I wish it could be a new year with God.” Gaining strength and courage he asked the young man, “Do you know God?”
And the young fellow replied, “No. No.”
And still gaining more courage the New Yorker added, “I wish you did. I knew your father and loved him well,” and then added, “will you go home and get on your knees and give your life to God? Will you?” The young fellow didn’t reply, and the man pressed the question, “Will you? Will you?”
And it was just one of those things that God used. As the friend of the young man’s father pressed the appeal, the young fellow extended his hand, and grasping the hand of his father’s friend, replied, “Yes, yes I will.” And he did it, and he became one of the great Christian laymen of New York City and of America. That’s what I mean, walking with God in the new year. “Yes, yes, I will. Yes, I will.”
I have in the brief message of this hour, I have chosen three reasons why we need God. First: because of the changing fortunes and vicissitudes of life. There is no man, no man who knows what any day may bring forth, what any tomorrow, either for family, or for friend, or for child, or for yourself. If you have studied Greek philosophy, you have been taught those great early Greek thinkers.
Remember when Pythagoras was teaching in the West in southern Italy? Heraclitus was teaching in the East in Ephesus, and the great fundamental thesis of Heraclitus, who flourished five hundred years before Christ, was this: that all things are in a state of flux and change. He would say no man can step into the same river twice when the waters are new-flowing down its channel. And how true that is; times change, life changes, destiny changes, history changes, government changes, life changes.
I was looking through in my study the other day, I was looking through some old geographies. I was astonished at them! I don’t think there is a map of Europe that even resembles what Europe looks like today. And I was overwhelmed by the differences that have come to pass in the great continent of Africa, as well as in the Orient and the islands of the Pacific. A textbook on science, any science that is a year old is outmoded and outdated. Its theories are passé.
And I began to think in my lifetime; I have seen developed those vicious economic and governmental theories that have revolutionized the world, and before which we now stand in terror and in foreboding. I witnessed the rise in my lifetime of fascism. I witnessed the rise of Nazism. And in my lifetime I saw implemented that most bestial, and horrible, and fearsome of all theories of life and government, Soviet Communism.
I can even remember when Kerensky overthrew the czarist regime and took Russia out of the First World War. I can remember when Lenin came to power and when he died, and when Stalin and Trotsky fought for the leadership of the communist world. And the sorrow of all sorrows; I can remember when every prediction of our missionaries fell in dust and ashes as they described the mighty opportunities we would have in China beyond the victory of war, and then saw the Red tide overflow that great Oriental nation.
Change, change, change; so much so that a man wonders where is a foundation, and where is a basis, and where is a rock upon which a man may base his life, and his hope, and his destiny. Where? Where? We find it in the unchanging God [James 1:17].
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.
[from “Be Fixed in God,” Amy Carmichael]
Our unchanging God [James 1:17]; do you remember the psalm of Moses, Psalm number 90?
Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place, (our refuge) through all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God
Or the great avowal of the author of the Hebrews, “Christ Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8]. Or the avowal of this immutable, unchanging Word, “The flower fadeth, the grass withereth; but the word of God abideth forever” [Isaiah 40:8]. Walking with God, believing in God, serving God in the days of the new year, the everlasting Rock [Psalm 18:2].
A second reason why walking with God in the new year: because I have never yet, however proud and boastful the man may be, I have never yet seen any man or heard of any man who was equal to the exigencies and the bereavements and the sorrows of life. The new year began, wasn’t it Wednesday? Since the new year began I have conducted four funeral services, and in the morning at ten o’clock I have a fifth.
As I look back over the old year, my heart is saddened with the remembrance of these who have been taken out of our family circles, out of our homes and fellowship, been translated to a kingdom beyond what eye can see. And as I face the new year, what hath God purposed for you, for us? But there is no trouble like living trouble. We bury our dead and moisten the earth above the mound with our tears. But what of trouble you can’t bury? And it follows you and lives with you.
I sometimes wonder how many, how many in our great city of Dallas turn their faces homeward, and in some empty room shut the door, and in those four walls where nobody can see, bury their face in their hands and cry, weep, sorrow of souls. Is there an answer? Is there any refuge? Is there anyone to whom we can turn in supplication for strength, and wisdom, and guidance, and comfort, and help? This is the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God [Psalm 46:1-2; Matthew 11:28-29].
Have you ever heard the sweet poem?
There is never a day so dreary
But God can make it bright,
And unto the heart that trusts Him,
He giveth songs in the night.
There is never a heart so broken
But the loving Lord can heal,
For the heart that was pierced on Calvary
Doth still for His loved ones feel.
There is never a cross so heavy
But the nail-scarred hands are there,
Outstretched in tender compassion,
The burden to help us bear.
There is never a sin or a sorrow,
There is never a pain or a loss,
But that we may bring it to Jesus,
And leave it at the foot of the cross.
[“Comfort,” author unknown]
We need God, and there is no man equal to the exigencies of this life, much less the judgment and the eternity that is yet to come; walking with God in the hope, and grace, and trust of our blessed Lord [Colossians 2:6].
Then I have a third: walking with God in the new year because of the assigned responsibilities God hath laid upon us. I sometimes wonder, “Am I an alarmist? Is it because I am older that I am troubled?” America is changing, changing. If our country were changing because of great revival, or spiritual dedication, or Christly commitment, I would rejoice, and sing, and clap my hands, and pat my foot, and shout, and glorify God! But I am troubled because the changing tides that are sweeping America are not spiritual. They are not churchly. They are not godly. They are not Christly. Our society and our culture, our people, our life is fast becoming secularized.
For lack of time I choose just one illustration, just one. Were you surprised, are you surprised when you read in the papers of these who make assault against the singing of our beautiful hymns that honor God in America, that assault the motto of our nation, put it on our coins; that assault in our public schools anything that hath to do with religion and the faith of God? Just one illustration: the Supreme Court upheld the plaintiff when it outlawed the reading of the Bible and prayer recitation in the public schools in the case that was recently before it. Who was it upheld in that historical case? Was it a man of great prayer? Was it a man of great spiritual commitment? Who was it the Supreme Court upheld in that decision?
I read. Listen. I read, and this I am reading is just matter of your knowledge already, for this was published in one of our national magazines:
I am a principal in one of the cases now pending before the Supreme Court concerning the reading of the Bible and prayer recitation in the public schools.
The atheist position is one arrived at after study, cogitation, and inner search. It is a position which is founded in science, in reason, in love for man, not love for God.
We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate, replete with the ravings of madmen. We find God to be sadistic, brutal and a representation of hatred and vengeance. We find the Lord’s Prayer to be that muttered by worms groveling for meager existence in a traumatic, paranoid world.
This is not appropriate dicta to be forced on our children. The business of the public schools, where attendance is compulsory, is to prepare children to face the problems on earth, not to prepare for heaven – heaven, which is a delusional dream of the unsophisticated minds of the uneducated clergy.
Fortunately, we atheists can seek legal remedy through our Constitution which was written by deists, not Christians, who had enough of religion and wanted to grow toward freedom from it, not enslavement in it.
Signed, Madalyn Murray, Baltimore, Maryland
That is the plaintiff whom the Supreme Court upheld in the decision of prayer and reading of the Word of God. I have chosen that as just an illustration of the pattern of modern America life. We are becoming a secularized nation and a secularized people. Who hasn’t thrilled at the singing of the hymns of patriotic America?
Our fathers’ God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King.
[“America,” Samuel Francis Smith, 1832]
To be expurgated and purged, no longer acceptable to America—or the “Star Spangled Banner”:
Then conquer we must
When our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:
“In God is our trust.”
[“Star Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, 1814]
Or the hymn:
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
[“America the Beautiful,” Katharine Lee Bates, 1895]
Or the popular song the radio made dear to our hearts:
God bless, God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her
And guide her
Through the night
With a light from above.
[“God Bless America,” Irving Berlin, 1938]
Have we not expressed in our great patriotic hymns the sentiment, and the dedication, and the conviction upon which this great nation has arisen to power like a mountain unto God? And these, these secularists and atheists erode the foundations away, and as the psalmist cried, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? [Psalm 11:3].
Our time hastens by. I must conclude. I have said these words not because I am a commentator or discuss in the arena of political fortunes or government; I have merely pointed them out to avow two things. One: there is an increasing responsibility upon the churches of America to teach our children the faith of our Lord God. Oh, man, take time to help your church! Your support, your help, your prayers, your presence; these children, if they are to learn of God, must learn of God in the house of the Lord and in the Christian family circle in which you rear him in the love of Christ Jesus. Do it. Do it. And it means an increasing appeal and a vastly expanding place for the layman, you, you, in the work and ministry of our Christ.
One time in New York I went to the Bowery Mission to hear a man preach. I had heard of the Bowery Mission in New York City all my life, and I went to the service there, and I heard a man preach, and he did excellently. But he didn’t preach like a preacher. He did better. He did better. So after it was over I went up to him and introduced myself.
And I said, “I just want to ask you something. Are you a preacher?”
“Oh, no,” he said, “I’m a broker and have an office over here on Wall Street.”
“Well,” I said, “This beats anything I ever looked at or heard in my life. Here I am in the Bowery Street Mission, came to church here looking for a preacher, and here you are. Where did you come from and what are you doing up here in this pulpit preaching?”
He said, “Well, not very long ago,” he said, “I was worldly and secular in my life, building up a fortune, involved and enmeshed in the business interests of this life. And God got hold of me, and I gave my heart to Jesus.” And he said, “I began witnessing, and I began testifying, and I began speaking of the Lord to my associates.” And he said, “The Lord has wonderfully blessed me, and so today they invited me to speak here at this Bowery Street Mission, and it has been the delight of my soul to try to testify what God hath done for me and what Jesus means to me.”
I got to thinking about that. That’s the Book. That’s the Bible. Philip, who was a deacon, Philip went down to Samaria and testified to the Samaritans of the goodness of God [Acts 8:5-12]. And Stephen, and Stephen another ordained deacon, and Stephen stood and witnessed of the grace of the blessed Lord [Acts 7:2-53].
O God, do that again. Do that again, where religion is not something we pay the preacher to possess for us, but religion is something we live in the house, we teach our children, we walk with God on the streets, in the houses of merchandise, out on the farms and the ranches; it’s every day a sweeter and a finer day with Jesus. God grant it in the new year.
Our time is gone. We sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, if the Lord bids you here today, make it now. Make it now. Make it now. “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” “This is my family. All of us are coming.” A couple you, or one somebody you, if you’d like to give your life anew to the Lord today, to start the year with God, come, as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door and lead in the way. Make it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
ANY WORD FROM THE LORD?
I. God speaks in the created world around
A. Every creation of
God has a voice (Psalm 19:1-3)
II. God speaks in history
A. In the judgment of
war (Isaiah 10:5, Habakkuk 1:2-12, Matthew 23:38, 24)
B. In the preservation
of a remnant (Genesis :10)
III. God speaks in the human conscience
is no people so degraded but that the image of God is in them (Romans 2:15)
IV. God speaks through His Word (Hebrews
A. The prophets in the
B. Jesus in the New
Testament (Matthew 17:4-5)
V. God speaks through Spirit-inspired preachers
A. Coming of the Holy
Spirit (John 16:7, 13-14, 20:22)
B. Holy Spirit to the
VI. God speaks in the providences of life
A. Birth and death
B. Troubles of life
VII. Our part is to listen (Revelation 3:20)
A. The Lord changes the
heart (Job 1:21, 13:15)