The Trail of Blood – Part 3

Acts

The Trail of Blood – Part 3

December 31st, 1967

Acts 8:20

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
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The Trail of Blood

Part 3 of 3

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8-20

12-31-67      7:30 p.m.

 

 

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am.  I do not believe in all of my life I have ever had the sense of loss and disappointment and frustration as I have had tonight.  I have worked and planned on this for weeks and weeks.  I have literally slaved in my library with books and volumes, researching through countless pages of material; and I do not know what is becoming the matter with me.  I thought, “If we begin at 7:30 and I can go until past midnight, I can just present this so beautifully.”  I have not started, nor do you have any sense of what I was trying to do because I cannot follow it through.  What I wanted to do was to show how the church of Christ, though persecuted, though involved in a thousand tragic, overwhelming providences, yet God led it through the trail of blood, martyrdom, sacrifice, all the way through.  Well, we cannot do it; we do not have the opportunity even to start it.  One of the men from Alabama said to me tonight, “Pastor, instead of just letting all of this work go by the way, why don’t you take it a piece at a time and preach it to the church here?”  He said, “I would almost come from Alabama to hear you, if you could do that.”  “Well,” I said, “I will see if I can.”

God’s witness through the ages—you see Constantine made Christianity the state religion, he married the church to the state; and instead of the Roman emperor persecuting, the church itself became the greatest persecutor the world has ever known.  Many times have I read in my studying that there have been more than fifty million martyrs who were burned at the stake, who were drowned in the rivers, who were tortured on the rack, and who rotted in dungeons, the victims of that one church.  It is unparalleled in human history; the persecution of the Roman emperors was nothing to compare with the persecution of papal Rome.  Yet through it all, God kept His witness; and that is what I wanted to follow through, the witness of Christ through the days of the Roman Caesars, the witness of Christ through the days of the papal persecutions, and the witness of Christ through the tremendous Reformation, the Sardian period of the Reformation, what God did in the Reformation [Revelation 3:1-6]

One of the most thrilling stories of God’s providence in all human history, what God did in the Reformation; yet the Reformers persecuted the people of the Lord, burned them at the stake, drowned them, slew them.  And then our Anabaptist  forefathers, and then our Baptist people, and the laying down of their life for religious liberty; the greatest crown jewel ever won by the people of God is the crown jewel of liberty, freedom of conscious and of worship.  It is a jewel God bestowed upon the people called Baptists; and how finally it was written in the Constitution of the United States.  Well, we pass over all of those thousands of years, and we come now to the Laodicean church of final apostasy [Revelation 3:14-22].

As you know, you who have been here during the days that I preached through the Revelation, there are many ways that God used those seven churches of Asia to represent what He was foretelling [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; after all the book is a book of prophecy, never forget that, the Revelation is a book of prophecy.  Three times God calls it that.  So when I read the seven churches of Asia, there were not seven churches in Asia, there were scores of churches in Asia, and tremendous ones.  I mentioned Hierapolis a while ago, where Papias was pastor; Hierapolis was just across the Lycus River from Laodicea.  But he doesn’t mention Hierapolis, nor does He mention scores and scores of other churches in Asia.  So I know that God chose those seven churches in Asia for a reason: they are prophetic.  Now one of the prophetic reasons lies in the outline of history that God told us.  We have an Ephesian church [Revelation 2:1-7]: after the apostles died there was a falling away, they lost that tremendous surge.  There was a Smyrnan church [Revelation 2:8-11], when they were martyred under the emperors. There was a Pergamean church [Revelation 2:12-17], when it was made the state religion.  There was Thyatiran church [Revelation 2:18-29], when they worshipped idols.

I want to pause here to say I have my own people here tonight; once in a while when I preach on the radio, oh my!  Oh my, the things that are done! They threaten to put me off the television one time, and the only thing that saved us was the next Sunday we were going on another station. And do you know what?  All that I did, all that I did in this pulpit, I was just—it was a stewardship message, a stewardship message, and I was showing how, through the years, the church had supported itself by these different means and it caused a furious repercussion.  And I got a letter from the manager; they want to put me off the station.  So I wrote back to the manager, and I said, “It is a very difficult thing for me to know what to do with truth.  What do you do with truth?  Do you hide it?  Do you bury it?  Do you never say it?  Do you never preach it?  Do you never refer to it?  Do you never present it?  Do you never expose it?  What do you do with truth?  Well, so it is with the truth of God, and the truth of the Lord in this matter of religion, and of His churches.”  Well, we go on.

We’re coming to the church, the Laodicean church of the apostasy [Revelation 3:14-22].  All of those churches I was saying represent eras, prophetic eras that God was revealing to us.  You had that Thyatiran church where the church is married to the world in idolatry [Revelation 2:18-29].  Now one of the things that I wanted to show tonight, and I worked on it so much; God raised up the Mohammedan as a judgment against idolatry.  And the sword that Mohammad used was directed one, only against idolatrous religion.  And when they found idols in the Buddhist temple, they destroyed it.  And when they found idols in the Hindu temples, they destroyed it.  When they found idols in those Greek pagan temples, they destroyed it.  And when they found idols in the churches, they destroyed it with the sword.  They destroyed all the churches of Asia Minor, all the churches of Syria, all the churches of Iran, Pakistan, Mesopotamia; they destroyed the churches of Saudi Arabia, they destroyed the churches of Palestine, they destroyed the churches of Egypt, they destroyed the churches of North Africa, and finally they were stopped by the Battle of Tours in the mercies of God.

 All right, you say, “But preacher, you don’t understand.  When the Mohammedan saw an idol in a Buddhist temple, he destroyed that; that was an idol.  And when he saw an idol in the Hindu temple, he destroyed that; that was an idol.  And when the Mohammedan saw an idol in the Greek temple, he destroyed that; that was an idol.  But when he saw idols in the Christian churches—that’s not idols!” 

You see, the Mohammedan didn’t understand that, for an idol is an image before which people bow.  Now you can say, “Yes, but this is a saint, and I’m praying to the saint, and this visible image is a likeness of the saint that makes his presence immediately felt by me.”  There’s not a pagan Greek in the world who would have said, “This is Jupiter…this represents Jupiter,” he would say, “And this brings me closer to Jupiter by a representation of him.”

There is no difference! An idol is a graven image used in the likeness of a god to make his presence more sensitively felt to the worshipper.  And whether the idol is named Buddha in a Buddhist temple, or whether it is named Krishna in a Hindu temple, or whether it is named Jupiter in a Greek temple, or whether it is named Joseph or Mary in a Christian temple, it is all idolatry alike; that is idolatry.  And it was expressly prohibited in the Old Testament to the Jew, and it is expressly prohibited to the Christian in the New Testament.  You are not to make unto you any graven image, nor are you to bow down before it [Exodus 20:4-5].  And Mohammed was a scourge of the Christian church.  But the sword, it was a judgment of God against idolatry in the churches.

Well, we pass over all of those, and the Reformation, and the great periods of revival.  Oh, my soul was blessed as I studied through those tremendous periods of revival—the Philadelphian church of the open door and the beginning of the great modern missionary movement [Revelation 3:7-13].  Now we must hasten and come to the last, Laodicean period of the church, a final apostasy [Revelation 3:14-22].  I know that we are at the ending of the Philadelphian period in the church [Revelation 3:7-13].  You heard me say a Sunday or so ago when I was a boy, a missionary could go to any nation in the world and preach the gospel.  You could go to Russia.  China was a wide open nation.  You could go to India, you could go to Egypt, you could go anywhere in the world.  When I was a boy, the whole world was a mission field, and a missionary could go anywhere and preach the gospel of the Son of God.  In my lifetime and in my day, I have seen most of the world closed off, most of it is closed, the door shut tight against the missionary.  You cannot go into Russia, you cannot go into China, you cannot go into any of the satellite countries of Eastern Europe.  And about six days ago, I read an article in the Dallas News; you cannot go into Indonesia now with the purpose of conversion.  And they were clamping down on our hospitals and our orphan’s homes and our schools there because they were being used to convert the heathen: the Muslim and the animists in Indonesia. 

You cannot send the missionary to India.  When I was there with Duke McCall in 1950, we visited with the Ministry of Cults, that’s what they call it, and anyone who has the idea of going into India to convert the Hindu is peremptorily dismissed, you cannot get a visa to enter.  The great majority of the millions of the people of the earth are now shut against the coming of a Christian missionary.  I am living, in my time, at the close of the Philadelphian church of the open door [Revelation 3:7-13], which means, of course, that we are entering the Laodicean church of the final apostasy [Revelation 3:14-22].

Now, may I speak of that church?  Here in this dear church, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, God blesses us, and the Word is read and preached, and the people pray, and people are saved.  Even in the service tonight, which is a New Year’s service, God gave us souls.  Did you know in twenty-three years and more that I’ve been pastor of this church, I have never, in the morning and in the evening, I’ve never had but God gave us a harvest of souls?  Did you know that?  That’s one of the prides of my life.  And when I tell these preachers about it, I say—and it just scares me to death.  Sometime God’s going to humble me; I’m going to give an invitation here in the morning or an invitation here in the evening, and nobody’s going to come down that aisle, and you’re going to have me to bury.  You just are, you just are.  But in over twenty-three years, every Sunday morning and every Sunday night that I have preached here and given an appeal, God has given us a harvest of souls; somebody has come to the Lord, either taking Jesus as his Savior or putting his life in the fellowship of the church.  So, we are almost oblivious to the great mass of churches that have departed from the faith, that have apostatized.

Now I want to show you the depth of that apostasy.  Many of you who’ve listened to me have heard me speak of it before.  I copy from these men the amazing, the amazing new religionist, the new professor of divinity, the new preacher.  He is the one, not the infidel, not the agnostic, not the atheist; it is the Christian minister today who says “God is dead.”  That’s not a word said by an infidel; that is the word of the new theology.  One of the professors said, “The hypothesis of God has become superfluous in religion.  Jesus did not transcend the limits of the purely human; He was a man like any other man.” 

Another one of those divinity professors said— now I’m speaking of the Laodicean church of the apostasy, I’m talking about the church of our day and of our time; you go outside of this church, and you will find in the pulpits of the world what I’m talking about.  I’m quoting those men—another one said, “The field is open for anyone at any time to mean more to man than Jesus.”  And another said, “Whether Jesus ever lived is a historical question that is interesting, but it is not fundamental to religion.” 

Another said, “I do not believe that the religion of tomorrow will have any more place for prayer than it will have for any other form of magic.”  And another said, “As far as I’m concerned, the idea of God plays no part in my religion.”  These are ministers of the gospel; these are preachers in the pulpit; these are teachers in theological seminaries. 

And another said, “Where the old religion made the supreme object God, the new makes it humanity.  Sociology takes the place of theology, and an improved social order replaces the belief in immortality.”  This is the new religion and the new church.

Another characteristic of the Laodicean church of our day is its affluence—its cold, dead, empty, social affluence [Revelation 3:17].  As I mentioned, September of a year ago, I went through Northern Europe.  Take for example, St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh; that’s the cathedral where John Knox preached.  So I went to church, I wanted to go to church where John Knox preached.  Many of you have visited the church; a beautiful and tremendous church.  At one end of it is the pulpit and a little handful of people there worshipping God.  And the whole nation of Scotland is exactly like St. Giles Cathedral.  One of the leaders of Scotland said here in this church about a year ago, he said, “If the decline in religion in Scotland continues for the next twenty years as it has in the last twenty years, Scotland will be more heathen than it was when Columba evangelized it in about 500 AD.” 

And what is said of Scotland can be said of England, can be said of Norway, can be said of Sweden, can be said of Finland, can be said of Denmark, can be said of France; those great churches are empty, there is nothing there.  And there are not two percent of the people who go.  And some of those young people, they’re students that we tried to talk to, like in Stockholm, the answer was the same word every time, “I am just not interested.”  And no matter what approach, no matter what appeal, “I’m just not interested.” 

The Laodicean church of the apostasy, yet the church has great acceptance.  When Queen Elizabeth was crowned, she was crowned in a church, in a beautiful religious ceremony.  I thank God for that; I’m glad she wasn’t elected out on a race track; and I’m glad she wasn’t crowned in a pub; and I’m happy that she wasn’t crowned in the dancing music and the jazz of a nightclub.  I’m grateful it was in a church; and I’m grateful that it was in a religious service.  But the service is dead; it has lost its power.  Paul said, “The day will come when they will have a form of religion, and lost the power thereof” [2 Timothy 3:5]; and that day has come in our time.  We need revival!  We need revival!  And that leads me, that leads me to a conclusion of this study.

I want to conclude with the lessons of the two thousand years of church history; and then point toward the marvelous gift of God in His churches, always present, namely, and this: the possibility of revival anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, in any day, in any church in the earth.  First, I have seven lessons here, as I studied these two thousand years of church history; I have seven lessons here that I have found characterize the whole gamut of God’s Holy Spirit dealing with His churches. 

The first is this: the truth of Christ’s prophecies of suffering and of hardship on the part of the people who love God.  In the Book of Matthew, the Lord said:

 

Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

[Matthew 10:34-36]

 

 When you give your heart to Jesus, you haven’t found release from warfare in the earth; my brother, you have just put on the uniform of God, you have just begun to fight.  And if you are a Christian and a child of God, you’re going to feel the pressure of the world.  I don’t know, and I had some songs I wanted us to sing tonight —my goodness, we don’t have any time for anything, not even to sing a song—but one of those songs that I had in my soul to sing tonight was a tremendous old song that our forefathers sang, and that we sing, and is one of the truest messages in all the world.

 

Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb?

And shall I dare to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies, on flowery beds of ease

While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face, must I not stem the tide?

Is this vile world a friend to grace, to carry me on to God?

No, I must fight if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord

I’ll bear the cause, endure the pain, supported by Thy word

[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross”; Isaac Watts]

 

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” [John 16:33].  And if you are a true child of God, you’re going to feel the pressure of the world all around you, and you’re going to have to war against it.  At the heart of this universe is civil war; it’s in heaven.  When God created the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8], outside of that garden was a sinister being [Genesis 3]; and you’re going to feel it in your heart and in your soul.  There will be strife in your life.  That’s the first thing that I say as a summary of Christian history: the prophecy of Jesus that we should have tribulation and strife and sorrow in this world [John 16:33].

All right, the second thing that I have learned as I read that whole course of history and survey it: second, the curse of the state church, the marriage of the church and the state.  There is a saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  There has never been a time when the world was more in vice and corruption than when the world was under the aegis of a church.  And when these people who work for an ecumenical movement look upon that as the coming kingdom of God, my brother, there was a time when there was one church in this world.  And we call that time the Dark Ages.  They slew the heretics; they drowned them, they burned them at the stake; and our poor Baptist witness, you’d find it in a den, in a cave, they were hounded and haunted and run down with dogs and run through with swords and spears.  There has never been a time when the world fell into such corruption and vice as it did when one church ruled the whole earth. 

The curse of the state church is one of the dreadful curses of the earth.  The state government should have nothing to do with religion.  And the only part religion ought to have in the state is to preach the gospel of the Son of God, to call men to repentance, and to seek the moral welfare of its citizens.  But to have a church state is a curse; whether it’s in England, whether it’s in Denmark, whether it’s in Scotland, whether it’s anywhere else in the earth.  When I got through in my study with Luther, I put together some of the tremendous lackings in the Reformation and especially in the Lutheran Reformation.  And the first one was this: that Luther tied his church to the wheels of the state.

All right, third: the curse of coercion in matters of conscience; the use of the sword to propagate the faith has ever been diabolical.  To make men Christians by the sword is a curse. 

Fourth: the curse of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  If I had about five hours tonight, we’d discuss that—the curse of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  May I pause long enough to point out to you something in that?  Whenever you preach a doctrine that a man cannot be saved except by something another man can do for him, you place in that man’s hand whose able to do it the most awesome power in this earth; because if that man does not do it, if he chooses to withdraw from doing it, you’ve damned the other man’s soul forever and forever in hell.  The great freedom of the gospel is this: that we are saved by the grace of God, not what another man can do for you [Ephesians 2:8-9].  I can baptize you and make you a member of the church, but I can’t save you.  That lies in the province of heaven.  And for me to have the power to do something by which you’d be saved means also I have the power not to do that something, and you’ll be damned; that is the awesome power that the church assumed to itself in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  They alone had the power to save, the keys to the kingdom; and if you were excommunicated, you were damned forever.  Oh, the curse of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration!

Now the curse of the changing of the purposes, and the forms, and the modes, and the observances of the ordinances:  that was a tragic thing.  You would never have a state church had the form of baptism never been changed.  You couldn’t do it.  When you baptize on a man’s confession of faith, you have to address the gospel message to a man’s heart; you have to get him saved, you have to get him down that aisle, you’ve got to get him to accept the Lord, you’ve got to get him to open his heart to Jesus [Acts 8:35-38].  But when you depart from that and you baptize him, you sprinkle him as an infant, he doesn’t have to be saved at all, he doesn’t have to be regenerated, he doesn’t have to be converted, he is born a citizen of the state, he is also christened as an infant, an unconscious infant as a member of the church, and you give up the regenerated church fellowship.  The whole fabric of the church is changed into something else.  And of course, the change of the Lord’s Supper from a memorial [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26] into a magical sacrament of grace, call it the mass, where they crucify Christ every time they observe the mass; these things were a curse to the people.

Now some other things: two of them that are marvelous in the history of the Christian faith: first and foremost is the power of the Word of God; and over and over and over again, through the centuries, as I wanted to point out to you and didn’t have time, over and over and over, you’ll find the power of the simple Word of God.  You’d find it in the life of Peter Waldo and the Waldensians as he sent out the poor man of Lyons in 1170 AD, and they did nothing other but carry in their hands fragments, pieces of the gospel message; and they read the message to the people and told them that God loved them [John 3:16], and Jesus had died for them [1 Corinthians 15:3]; and on the basis of repentance and faith to come to the Lord and find life everlasting [Acts 20:21; Ephesians 2:8].  That was the Bible in the hands of Peter Waldo. 

The marvelous message under John Wycliffe, the morning star of the Reformation; he gave himself to the translation of the Word of God into the common vernacular of the people.  And they called them Lollards; and they went out into the streets and the highways of the people and read to them God’s Word, and called them to repentance and faith on the basis of God’s message from heaven.  And on and on and on it goes through the whole story of these two thousand years; the marvelous power of the Word of God to change men’s lives.

Then this seventh observation: there is always the possibility latent; there is always the possibility of a great revival, anywhere, any time, in the darkest age and in the darkest hour.  Now, I have chosen three tremendous characteristics of revival, and they’re always present.  First, first, there is prayer.  At Pentecost they were praying [Acts 2:42]; at Herrnhut in 1727 under Count Zinzendorf, they were praying, and the Moravian revival that lasted for two thousand years—in which John Wesley was saved—came as a result of the outpouring of God’s Spirit. 

And the tremendous revival in America in 1857: there was a layman in the Fulton Street Church by the name of J.C. Lanphier, and he was asked by the church to visit among the poor in that section of New York City.  And he was blue and discouraged, and he went to the church at noon and prayed by himself, just had a season of prayer.  And the next day, there was somebody that came in and prayed by his side; and the next day, there were about four.  And the next day, there were about six; and it wasn’t long till there were a hundred.  And as the days passed, the church was packed.  And it wasn’t long until other churches were packed.  And a man—it spread all over the nation—and a man going on a train from St. Louis to Boston, got off the train in Boston and said, “I have seen a prayer meeting two thousand miles long.”  That was the great revival that steadied the United States through the terrible agonies of the Civil War.  In the Northern army and in the Southern army, men turned to Christ by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands.  It was a result of the J.C. Lanphier prayer meeting that started in the Fulton Street Church in New York City. 

There is no such thing as a great revival without great praying; there’s no such thing, there’s no such thing.  You cannot have revival without prayer.  And all we have to do is just to sit down with ourselves and ask ourselves, “Are we willing to pay the price of prayer and intercession in order that we might have revival?”  You cannot have revival without prayer.

All right, the second great characteristic of an outpouring of the Spirit of God, and that is: the power comes from heaven and not from men, always [Philippians 2:13], always.  A man will give himself to organization, at the machinery and to greasing the wheels; but God is looking for people upon whom He can pour out His Holy Spirit.  And there is no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit; there is none.  Eloquence will not do it, a learned preacher will not do it, beautiful language and alliteration will not do it, fine sermons and poetry and perorations will not do it; nothing in the earth will ever take the place of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God.  It is God’s Spirit that convicts, that draws men, that bows them to their knees in repentance and tears—that makes them seek and hunger after God [John 16:7-15].  There is no revival without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  These other things will not do it.

And third: without exception, there is no revival without God’s man [Luke 10:2].  God has to have a personality.  These three things are alliterative: there has to be prayer, there has to be the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, there has to be a dedicated personality.  There is never a revival without a man that God uses to bring it to the people.  It may be a George Whitefield, it may be a John Wesley, it may be a Jonathan Edwards, it may be a Charles Finney, it may be a Dwight L. Moody; but always there is a man of God who preaches the unsearchable riches of Christ in power, a yielded man.  And if I had about an hour or so, I’d pause here to preach about that.  He doesn’t have to be educated.  A man, a school teacher listened to Dwight L. Moody and walked up to him after his sermon was over and said, “Mr. Moody, look I have listed here seventeen fragrant errors whereby you have violated English grammar.”  And Moody replied, “I know, I know, I know; but I do the best I can, do you?  Do you?”  It is God in the man, it is the Spirit in the man, it is the favor and grace of God in the man; it is not his education, it is not his mien, his presence. 

John Wesley wasn’t as tall as his desk; he didn’t marry until he was an old man, and he married the worst woman in the world.  And a friend came to see him, and when he opened the door, he didn’t knock.  He looked on the inside, and there was John Wesley’s wife dragging him all over the house by the hair on the head.  There is not anything, there’s not anything—not education, not majestic presence, not stature, not beautiful alliterative perorations—it is God in the man; a man in whom God can pour out His Holy Spirit.

Ah! George W. Truett, the illustrious and far-famed predecessor in this pulpit, delivered a tremendous message on the steps, the east steps of the capitol building in Washington D.C. in May 1920 when the Southern Baptist Convention met in Washington.  It was one of the greatest pronouncements on religious liberty of all time, and Dr. Truett closed that message on the steps of the courthouse with this poem from Whittier, and I read it tonight:

 

Our fathers to their graves have gone;

Their strife is past, their triumph won;

But greater tasks await the race

Which comes to take their honored place.

A moral warfare with the crime

And folly of an evil time.

 

So let it be.  In God’s own sight

We gird the coming fight,

And, strong in Him whose cause is ours

In conflict with unholy powers,

We grasp the weapons He has given,—

The Light, and Truth, and Love of Heaven.

[“The Moral Warfare,” John Greenleaf Whittier]

 

These are our weapons of warfare: light, truth, hope, the love and the grace and the mercy of God.  And they are powerful weapons.  God is in it, and the Holy Spirit works by the side of the pastor and the people who give themselves to the use of these spiritual instruments God hath placed in our care.

Now we can have revival.  Revival is possible any day, any time.  One of the most marvelous books ever written is Charles G. Finney’s book on revival lectures.  And the thesis of that volume is this: that there are laws of the harvest, and if a farmer will obey the laws of the harvest, he will have a crop; if he plants right, if he cultivates right, if he gathers right, he’ll have a harvest.  Then the thesis of Finney is this: but the laws of the spiritual harvest are far more certain; for there may be drought take away the material harvest, and there may be worms and fungus that destroys the wheat harvest; but he says nothing will destroy the spiritual harvest if God’s people obey God’s laws.  And those laws I have named. 

We’ve got to pray, we have to pray.  There is no substitute for prayer.  We must have the power of the Holy Spirit with us; there’s no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit.  And we must have a man of God, a yielded, surrendered man of God.  As we face our new year and as we face the revival we shall have this year, in which your pastor shall lead, and as we undergird all of this work, O Lord, may God prosper it under His hands and ours.

Now, it is nearly midnight; just a few minutes.  I make a call to prayer.  Many of you, many of you, will you fill this altar rail from side to side?  Fill it up.  If there’s a place, fill it, kneel there in prayer.  When we fill the altar rail, these pews that are here in front, kneel down before the pew.  When we fill the altar here at the front, there’s a place in the aisle; when we fill the aisles, there’s a place between the benches; when we fill the places between the benches, put your hand on the pew in front of you and bury your face in your hand, and let’s ask God for an outpouring of His Spirit in this year of 1968.  May it be our greatest year, our finest year.  May it be a year of spiritual dedication, rebirth, conversion, salvation, O God, do it again, do it again.  With the pastor, kneel and pray.  While they’re coming, sing with me:

 

Lord, send us revival, Lord send us revival,

Lord, send us revival, and let it begin in me

 

Now, sing it again:

 

Lord, send us revival, Lord send us revival

Lord, send us revival, and let it begin in me

[“Lord, Send a Revival,” B.B. McKinney]

 

Now Mel, come here and confess our sins, and ask God to forgive us, to wash us, to cleanse us, to prepare our hearts for an outpouring of His Spirit.  No revival unless God can dwell in us.  God come; ask for us, Mel.

Our gracious Lord, we thank Thee for this moment, with hearts bared before Thee, facing a new year of opportunity, pleading with Thee for revival, for the answer to Thy promise that “If My people, which are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, shall turn from their wicked ways, seek My face, then will I hear from heaven, and will heal their land” [2 Chronicles 7:14].  And O God, we pray that Thou forgive us, wherein we failed Thee this year, so many, many ways.  Things we have done we ought not to have done; things we have left undone for Thee which bear upon our conscience.  God we pray, as we humble ourselves before Thee now, that into the hearts of each of us may steal Thy cleansing touch, and may this be followed by the infilling power of Thy Spirit, that this people, called by Thy name, turning unto Thee, may rise from this place to spread revival because it has begun in me.  God bless our church, bless our ministry, bless our pastor as he leads us in revival effort this new year; not only in the month of May, but through every month, every day of every month, all through 1968.  Forgive us now, Lord, we seek Thy mercy and ask for Thy blessing.  And for the victories that shall be won, we’ll give Thee the praise and the glory for Jesus’ sake.

Our Lord, we now enter the new year.  It comes.  It comes with all of the promises written in God’s Book.  It comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit working with us.  It comes with a thousand open doors set before us.  It comes beckoning us to a new consecration, a deeper dedication, a more faithful witness to the saving grace of the Son of God.  Dear Lord, O Lord, our Lord, may this year be our finest.  In power Lord, may we witness for Thee, preach for Thee, visit for Thee, make appeal for Thee.  May God bless the efforts of this dear church as we seek to make the light shine for our Lord, the rays penetrating every nook and corner, every highway and hedge, every street and alley in this city.  And through our missionary enterprise, and a thousand other avenues and mediums of service, may we do God’s work faithfully, wondrously in the earth.  Make it Lord, a glorious year.  Bless our families, bless our homes, bless our people, bless our children, bless our teenagers, bless our college youth, bless our young people, remember our young marrieds, the whole church. Lord, even those in sorrow who bow in Thy presence in unspeakable grief and anguish of heart, may the Lord be balm from Gilead, solace, and precious comfort.  O Lord, without Thee, how lost we would be?  Thank Thee, Lord, for the night, for the day, for the tomorrow, for all of God’s attendant mercies and grace, to the praise and glory of our blessed Savior.   Amen.

Now may we stand together and sing us a song?