Questions Teenagers Ask
April 23rd, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
QUESTIONS TEENAGERS ASK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-23-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And the title of the message tonight is Questions Teenagers Ask. Now as a background, turn to Matthew 19, and we shall read from verse 16 through verse 22, verse 16 to verse 22. And if you are listening on the radio, open your Bible and read out loud with us: Matthew, the First Gospel, chapter 19. I must have said 16; chapter 19, Matthew chapter 19, beginning at verse 16 and reading through verse 22. This is the story of the rich young ruler. All right, everybody sharing his Bible, and all of us reading out loud together, 16 to 22, together:
And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou will enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
It came about like this: about three weeks ago or something like that, in the last several days; I held a revival meeting in the First Baptist Church of one of the cities of Virginia. And that city is located in the midst of a great number of colleges; many of them, world famous. So it was announced from almost the beginning of my coming there that on Sunday night, after the services were over and after the revival meeting had done, that all of the high school kids and all of the college kids were invited to a church buffet. And the center around which they were going to build that program was, any college student or any high school student could ask me any question of any kind of any description that might come to his mind.
So the day came, and I am not quite at home in a world like that. I don’t minister much in a collegiate world. Being here in Dallas, in an industrial city, our church is made up of families and our people are in home groups. We do not have an extensive college ministry here in the city of Dallas. And I am always sort of afraid of teenagers, anyway. They kind of take me by surprise. And, especially, I thought, having read the papers, having listened to this bop stuff on the radio, and what I can see of modern music that teenagers apparently like, I thought, "Oh my! I’m going to be thrown into a den. Oh! It’s going to be terrible! They’re going to ask me a question about the hippies and about the beatniks and about the Beatles. Then they’re going go into sex, and into necking, and into dancing, and into all of the other things that accompany it."
For I had supposed that mother’s little pit had turned into mother’s little patter. And I had had one or two experiences of these teenagers coming to me. One of them said, one of these girls, said, "Do I shock you?" I said, "No, I guess not. I’ve learned to be a pretty good shock absorber, I suppose." And certainly, I thought that somewhere those college kids would ask me about some of the new freedoms that women have come into. And it is expressed in these new styles. Did you ever, in all of your life, see such dressing as these women do now-a-days?
Now I copied this out of a college magazine called the, The Purple Parrot. It is entitled, Owed to Knees, o-w-e-d, Owed to Knees. And here is what this college kid wrote:
Knees to the right of us. Knees to the left of us.
Knees crossed in front of us. How they display ’em.
Oh, they go trippingly, daintily, skippingly,
Winds biting nippingly, fail to dismay ’em.
Brown knees and flatter ones, thin knees and fatter ones;
Mostly the latter ones, everywhere listed.
Straight and contorted ones, queerly distorted ones,
Mixed and ill-shorted ones, comically twisted.
Bare knees and bony ones, real knees and phony ones,
Silk or pony ones, plump and beguiling.
Pale knees and painted ones, nice knees and tainted ones,
Queerly unacquainted ones, onward go filing.
Knees to the right of us,
And if you’ve ever sat down before a group of girls, and looked at ’em, that’s what you see:
Knees to the right of us. Knees to the left of us,
Knees crossed in front of us. Often we see them.
Knees ever passing by, styles mounting to the sky,
Seem to exemplify a girl’s new freedom.
["Owed to Knees"; The Collegian (Brownwood, Tex.), April 1, 19]
Well, I expected just anything. I never was more surprised in my life. Maybe, it’s because I haven’t been close to the young people in college and in high school of our generation.
So we’re going to start. They had a table there in the center, and they had me sit, nonchalantly and informally on that table. And the pastor, over here to the right, emceed the program. So he sat me down on that table with my legs dangling off. And the pastor standing over here, he said, "All right now, let’s begin. Who wants to ask him a question?" And a young college student raised his hand, and the pastor said, "All right, what do you want to ask?"
And he looked at me and asked, "What’s the matter with gray-headed preachers?" I turned in amazement to the pastor, who’s a young man, a handsome young fellow, gifted young fellow. I said, "You’re going to have to help me. I have no idea what he means."
So he turned to the young fellow, and he said, "Now you explain to the preacher, what do you mean by that?"
And the young student replied, he said, "I have asked you, ‘What’s the matter with gray-headed preachers?’" He said, "I mean by that, they don’t take time for us. They don’t know us. They don’t help us. They don’t counsel with us. They are engrossed in other things. And I think we need pastors who will listen to our problems and help us in our difficulties. And gray-headed preachers don’t do it. What’s the matter with them?"
Well, I said to the pastor, "Do these kids realize that I am gray-headed?"
And the pastor said, "Well, I would think that this is a compliment to you, at least. That boy doesn’t realize; he doesn’t put you in that category. He doesn’t think of you as being an old man."
Well, that was one stop that helped my spirit a little bit. But I began to think about that with a new poignancy and a new stance of responsibility in this church where I’m pastor. I know that I know that as the church enlarges – and it has been growing for twenty-three years, and continues to grow – I know that I know that the responsibility of guiding the destiny of this church, in all of its multitudinous facets, is beyond what any one man could ever intimately touch. However he might want to, might pray to, might give his very life to; it is too much.
There are funerals, there are weddings, there are heart-broken, there are sick and dying, there are the lost, there is the tremendous guidance in all of this educational work: Sunday school, Training Union, in our mission program, in a thousand areas of this life, and for one man intimately to touch it would be unthinkable.
Therefore, I have come to the definite conclusion that our church ought to call a young pastor to help and to work and to guide and to minister by my side. Somewhere there is a gifted and gloriously talented young preacher of hearts. Let him come and be the youth pastor of our church, and let him work with these college students and these high school students and these junior high students. Let him live with them, go to camp with them, work with them, go on tours with them, pray with them, visit with them. Then when they gather in Sunday school, there he is. When they gather in Training Union, there he is. On special occasions, there he is. He’s their preacher and their pastor. A youth pastor who’ll walk in and out before us and have time to listen to that boy who needs God’s help in a time of trial, and that girl who’s praying through a great temptation.
Last Sunday night, last Sunday night there came to my study, a young man, a young fellow. And when he came in and sat down, I said, "I’m glad to see you. It is such a joy to have you here. Now what can I do to help?"
He said, "I have no other reason to come except I’ve just seen you across the auditorium and I just wanted to know you, just to look at you, just to sit down close by you." The fellow humbled me, that a teenager would just want to know me, that’s all.
I began talking to him. Now this is that young man. His father and his mother belong to another church in this city, a high church. And that boy came down here and was saved. And against the bitter wishes of his father and his mother he came by baptism. And in the home, his sister refers to him as "the reverend," because he pulled himself out of the worldliness of the kind of a life they lived in that church and he’s given himself to Jesus. He reads the Bible, and he prays, and comes down here to the services. And I found out he’s having a hard time, because the home is against him. There were two or three young people who joined the church this morning, whose homes are against them. And one of those young women may have a tragic encounter. "Just to know you."
Well, I’ll do everything I can, but I want you to have somebody, a minister of the gospel, a gifted young man, who will be here to live with you, and visit with you and spend time with you – put his life in you and just see what God does. It’s in God’s will, but I ask it formally of the church, that we call a youth pastor for our teenagers and for our young people, for our college students.
Well, our time’s going to be gone, "Is there another question?"
Young fellow held up his hand. "Yes, sir."
"All right, what do you want to ask?"
He said, "I want to know what you think about the war in Vietnam? What do you think about the war on that Malaysian peninsula?"
Well, I have an answer to that. I can well understand the tremendous interest of those young men and young women in this present conflict. Not I that is going; not I being drafted. They are. They face, if this conflict enlarges and continues, they face an inevitable induction. And as they face it, they want to know, "What about this war?"
Now the answer, there is nobody in America but whose heart is grieved over this war, undeclared; we’re just in it. From the president of the United States, who bears the burden of those tremendous decisions, down to the humblest mother, whose son faces that induction; there is grief in America over this conflict. Then why don’t we quit it? Why don’t we pull back our navies and our armies, our air arms, our Marines? Why don’t we pull them back to America and let the people over there in Asia go? Why don’t we do it?
Because, America, in solemn covenant, promised the nations who belong to SEATO, the Southeastern Asian Treaty Organization, the United States of America solemnly promised that if any one of those nations were attacked by the communists, that we would go to their aid and all of them would help each other. A member of that SEATO pact was the sovereign nation and country of South Vietnam. And when South Vietnam was attacked and the government was about to be seized by the communists, they made appeal to the United States of America. Will the United States honor that covenant into which they entered with those Southeastern nations? It all depends upon our integrity and our honor. Do we make promises and fail to keep them? If we do, then there’s no nation in the earth that could ever trust us. And again, just where are we going to draw the line against communist aggression? We have drawn it now at the parallel that divides North and South Korea, and we stood there. We drew the line in that parallel that divides North and South Vietnam, and we are standing there.
Suppose we give it up? Where do you draw the line next? Well, you say, "Let’s draw the line at the Philippines." Don’t you ever worry there will be infiltration and there will be aggression and there will be attack against the Philippine government? So, we give up the Philippines. And we let the communists have the archipelago that border the western side, the eastern side of the Asian continent.
Then where do you draw the line? Well, do you say, "Let’s draw the line in Guam and in Midway and in the isles of the sea?" Fine, but you will find that the Communist aggressor will assail the islands of the sea. "Well, let’s give them up, and let’s draw the line in Hawaii. This far shall the communists assail and we will not oppose. Thus far," But you give them time and they will assail the Hawaiian Islands.
"Well, let’s give up all the islands of the Pacific and let’s draw the line at California." And they will assail in time, the western coast of the United States. "Let’s give up the western coast, and let’s draw the line between New Mexico and Texas and Colorado and Nebraska." And they will assail again. "Well, let’s give up the western United States and let’s draw the line at the Mississippi River." They can have the western part of the United States, and we will defend the eastern side of the Mississippi River.
Just have you decided in your mind where you’re going to draw that line? Somewhere, sometime, you’ve got to stand before communist aggression and that’s why we have drawn the line in South Vietnam! If you don’t draw it there you will draw it some other place, only nearer and nearer and nearer and nearer and nearer.
Those men who are laying down their lives in those jungles and in those rice paddies are defending the very life of America. They need our prayers. They need our support. And I cannot describe to you the abhorrence I have in my soul for these traitors who burn draft cards and demonstrate against the men who are dying for the United States of America. If I had my way about it, I would jail every one of them without exception, professors and all.
Well, we must hasten. What are these questions these kids ask? That’s why I had you read this nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. I was amazed! They never asked a question about dancing or about morality or about necking or about sex. They never mentioned it; they never approached it; they never referred to it. I thought, I’ll tell you, I believe we’ve got a wrong idea about these youngsters. They’re not faking those things. What they’re struggling about are some of the great, great determining principles that guide their lives and their destiny.
All right, the next one: fellow held up his hand – and in this group were several university professors – fellow held up his hand. Preacher said, "Now, what do you want to ask the preacher?" And the young fellow said, "I want to ask him, Why go to a Christian college? Why go to a Christian college?"
"Well," I said, "first of all, let us define that term ‘Christian college.’ A Christian college is one thing; a church-related college is another thing. You can have a Christian school – one that is filled, baptized with the love and worship and principles and mind of Jesus – that’s one thing. You can have a Christian college, and you can have a church related college; that is, the denomination owns it. The denomination runs it, but it may not be Christian at all. Now, let’s keep those in mind.
"Now, my answer: if you have opportunity to go to a Christian college, go! By all means, go! Go to a Christian college, go! But whether you go to a church-related college or not is problematical."
One of the young fellows said, "Now what do you mean by that? A ‘church-related’ college; whether we go ‘may be problematical,’ it may be subject to review. What do you mean by that?"
I said, "I will tell you exactly what I mean by that. When you go to a state university or to a state college and an infidel professor gets up there and he scoffs at the Bible, and he makes fun of religion, and he belittles and ridicules the disciples of the Lord Jesus; when you go to a state school and the professor scorns and scoffs at the faith, why, you say, ‘That’s what I expected. I didn’t think anything else; I’m here at a state university, and they’ve got agnostics here, atheists here, infidels here, and I just happen to have one in that professor.’ It is an accepted and expected arrangement." And to meet an infidel professor who makes fun of the Bible and of the religion of Christ in a state university is something that a university student would sort of look for, and that’s that.
But when that child, when that teenager goes to a church-related college, owned by the denomination, run by the denomination, and he sits there in the class, and a professor gets up, and he may be an ordained minister – and the professor gets up in that church-related school, and he scoffs at the Bible, and he ridicules the Word of God, and he decries the worship of Jesus, and he speaks of the Lord Jesus as just another legendary figure who may have lived or may not have lived, and there is no more substance in his faith than faith in Jupiter or Juno; and when that student, going to a church-related school, listens to a professor say God is dead; there is no living God, and the Bible is nothing but a collection of antique myths, and Jesus is no God and Savior at all, and that student goes to a church-related school, and hears the divinity professor say that – brother, he is plowed up and under, and he is destroyed in his soul.
So, my conclusion. I had rather see our students go to a state university than to see our students go to a church-related college that is ashamed of the faith of Christ, that ridicules the Word of God, and that looks upon Jesus as just another one of the many philosophers and reformers and teachers who have come and gone, and we’re expecting others and maybe greater ones. And especially, if I could keep the student here in this church while he’s going through all of that infidelity that he meets in a state university.
My conclusion: I think our colleges ought to go back to their original purpose. The original purpose that gave birth to our schools and colleges that were owned and run by the church, it was not for the purpose of educating the whole earth. But the college founded by the churches and organized for the education of the youth was for this purpose: that we might train and educate, first, a ministry for Jesus. Second, that we might train Christian leaders to do God’s work in the earth. I think we ought to go back to that original purpose. We cannot – we have not the money – we cannot educate everybody in the earth. We can’t do it. We have not the facilities, we have not the money and we can’t tax. The purpose of our church schools ought to be this: that we educate a ministry for Jesus, and that we educate a Christian leadership. And if we would go back to that original purpose, I think we would have money and to spare, for all of the collegiate needs in our day and in tomorrow’s day, and ’till Jesus comes again.
I’m saying you cannot compete with Texas University. You cannot do it. Dr. White, when I was in Baylor University, I remember a time when we were trying to raise five hundred thousand dollars to meet a gift made by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. And we were struggling, and we were praying, and we were working to raise five hundred thousand dollars to match that gift of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. And while we were doing it, I remember reading in the paper that the state legislature at Austin, Texas, that week turned over to Texas University, from the oil lands of the state, forty-two million dollars! You cannot compete, period, exclamation point! While we were raising pennies and dimes, the state tax coffers are pouring into the state university millions and millions and millions of dollars.
Well, then, what are you going to do? This is what I think we ought to do. We ought to take our schools and go back to their original purpose. This school, which is founded by our Baptist people, owned by our Baptist people, and run by our Baptist people, this school ought to serve that original purpose. We are here to train and to equip and to educate a great Christian leadership for the churches and for the denomination and for the kingdom of God. And beyond that, it lies in our ableness to evangelize the whole secular world around us.
Oh, I must hasten! They were very curious, they were very curious about my conversion and my call to the ministry. And how do you know that you are called of God to do something; they probed me and probed me about that. I haven’t time; I take one other.
There were two young women, two college girls, who were very emphatic in this, "I do not believe," said the spokesmen for the two, "in ‘once saved, always saved,’ though I’m a Baptist. Both of us are members of this church right here. We don’t believe that, ‘once saved, always saved.’"
"Now," I said, "before we discuss that, what do you mean by ‘once saved, always saved?’"
And the spokesmen for those two girls who were asking that question said, "I mean by that, this: I just don’t believe that anybody can go down the aisle and get saved, and put their name on the church roll and be baptized, and then go out and say ‘I’m saved forever’ no matter what they do." Then she applied it to herself, she said, "If I believe that, I would go down the aisle; I’d get saved; I’d be baptized; I’d be a member of the church, and then I’d go out and just do as I please because I couldn’t be lost; I’m saved forever."
I said, "That’s right! You put your finger on it, exactly! When you go down the aisle, when you give your heart to Jesus, and when you’re saved, you just go out and do exactly as you please. That’s what I do!"
She said, "What?"
"Why, yeah," I said, "I do exactly as I please. I’ve been saved. I’ve been regenerated and I’m saved forever, and I can go out and I do just as exactly as I please. I curse all I want to, just all I want to, any time! I just cuss all I want to, and I get drunk all I want to. You didn’t know that, did you? Well, I do; yes sir, I just take a nip; then I take a snort; then I take a jigger, and I just guzzle it down! Not by the fifth, but by the quart! I just drink all I want to. And I steal and I lie and I do everything else, just all I want to. But the difference is, I don’t like it. I don’t like it; I don’t want to. I just don’t want to. Something’s happened inside of my heart and I don’t want to."
And I gave them an illustration that had happened the night before, Saturday night. We had a service in the First Church there, on Saturday night. And when I gave the appeal, down the aisle with his wife on his arm, came the number-one affluent member of the church. He gave me an automobile to drive while I was there. He was rededicating his life to the Lord Jesus. And when the congregation was seated, this wonderful business man – oh, he’s a gifted, wonderful business man, fine looking, personable, you’d just love him!
He stood up there, and he said, "My wife and I have come down here tonight, out of the love of Jesus, to rededicate and reconsecrate our lives to the Lord. We just love our Savior so! Then he said, "Tonight, tonight, Miss Virginia pageant is being held in the city." And I found out that’s a regular, annual event and a tremendous one. "The Miss Virginia pageant is being held in the city tonight." He said, "My niece, whom we love, and whom we cherish, and whom we’ve reared, my niece is in that pageant. She is one of the contestants" – later on I found she won second place. He said, "You cannot know how much we wanted to go to that pageant and see our niece as she shared in that service, getting ready for the Miss America contest. But" he said, "we’re having church tonight, and I said to my wife, ‘Dear wife, we’re going to church. Is that all right?’" ‘Yes,’ she said. And we’re going to church because we want to be there. Our heart is there. Our life is there. Our love is here in the church, and tonight we just felt we wanted to re-give our lives to Jesus."
When the preacher took me home to my room after the service was over, he put his hand on my knee and he said, "Dr. Criswell, I couldn’t believe my ears tonight." He said, "Did you know, just not very long back, I went to see that man at his home in the evening. He had on his black patent leather shoes. He had on his beautiful tux. He had on his high wing collar and bow tie, and he and his wife were going to the country club dance. No thought for God; no thought for Christ; no thought for the church. Their lives, their love, out in the world." And he said, "To see them stand before the congregation tonight and say, ‘I wanted, Saturday night, this night, to go to God’s house and be numbered with God’s people. The wife and I are not at the pageant. We’re here, giving our lives anew to the Lord,’" the preacher said to me, "I want you to know to me that is a miracle." That is a miracle; that’s what it is to be saved! You’ve got a new heart, a new love, a new hope, a new destiny.
I close. Second Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." That’s what it is to be saved, a new love, a new life, a new joy, a new destiny, a new hope, a new gladness, a new future. Glory, I’m saved!
Oh, God bless you young people, and the fathers and mothers who love you, and the homes in which you live, and this dear church in which God hath placed our souls.
Now we must sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you give himself to Jesus, come and stand by me: "Pastor, tonight, here I am." To answer a call for special service, come. To give your life in a new and meaningful way to Jesus, come. A couple you, a family you, one somebody you, "I take the Lord as my Savior." Or, "I want to put my life in the fellowship of the church." Or, "I want to answer a call of God to my heart." However God shall say the word, and lead in the way, shall open the door; follow after Him. Come, come, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. When we sing in a moment, and stand up, stand up coming. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, come tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Question and answer
session with college, high school students
B. What I expected to
II. What do you think of grey-headed
A. Complains pastors don’t
know or understand teens
B. We need a youth
III. What do you think about Vietnam?
A. All are grieved by
B. Why don’t we pull
covenant with SEATO
2. Our integrity
and honor at stake
3. Drawing the
line against Communist aggression
C. My abhorrence for
traitors who burn draft cards and demonstrate
IV. Why go to a Christian college?
college vs. church-related college
church-related school professors who deny God
Rather student go to state university than church-related college ashamed of
ought to go back to their original purpose
V. Once saved always saved?
A. If saved forever, we
can do whatever we please
1. What we want
be saved you have a new heart, hope, and destiny (2