CHRIST IN OUR TEXAS CITIES
Dr. W.A. Criswell
9-13-70 7:30 p.m.
And sweet choir, thank you, oh, how much! On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christ in Our Texas Cities. It is a message that I have been asked to deliver by our Woman’s Missionary Union as we enter our week of prayer for state missions. The emphasis this year, and especially here in our church, will be upon our city. As I read in the papers, as also do you, I learn that our nation is becoming increasingly urban, and that is significantly and particularly true with our state of Texas. In the census figures that have been released, Texas has come to be number four in the populations of the different fifty states of our union. California is first, and New York is second, and Pennsylvania is third, and Texas is number four. And if I can have any guideline by the increase of population in Pennsylvania compared with the increase in Texas, the next decennial census will bring Texas to place number three. After California and after New York, Texas will be third.
Now, where has that increase in population come from in our state of Texas? As you drive through the countryside, does it seem apparent to you that our towns out there are growing, that more of our people are living on the farms? As I drive through the state my impression is like yours. The little towns are getting littler and the farmers are getting fewer. The increase in the population in the state of Texas has come through the growth of these tremendous cities. And in the release of our United States Census Bureau, Houston is now number six with the population of more than one million two hundred thousand. And our queenly city of Dallas is number eight. Eighth largest city in America is our own city of Dallas with something like eight hundred thirty-six thousand people in our city, not counting our metropolitan area.
In our state there is one other city that is in the largest twenty-five, and that is San Antonio which is number fifteen. The growth of our state has been almost without exception in the growth of the great cities of Houston, and Dallas, and San Antonio, and Fort Worth, and El Paso, and some of the other larger towns, smaller metropolises in our state. When, therefore, our Woman’s Missionary Union guides us in this week of prayer in behalf of our state, they rightly asked the pastor to emphasize the ministry of Christ in our cities. Now that’s the background for the message tonight.
Now will we turn now, all of us, to the Third Gospel, to the Gospel of Luke, and if you are listening on the radio and can, get your Bible and turn with us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, chapter 19, Luke chapter 19, we shall begin at verse 37 and conclude at verse 44. Luke chapter 19 beginning at verse 37 and concluding at verse 44. Now Luke 19:37-44, reading it out loud together:
And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,
Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
And the text would immediately present itself as you read the passage, "And when He was come nigh, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. This, as you saw in the passage, took place in the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. This is Palm Sunday. This is the Sunday of His royal presentation. As I preached in the sermon this morning, this is the great covenant day of Israel when the King, the promised covenant King presented Himself to the nation.
Now, in America and anyone who’s lived in a city, we are familiar with tremendous parades. When a hero comes back from the war, or when a man has been singly honored by the world, they will have a ticker tape parade for him down Broadway in our greatest, largest American city. And he sits in an open convertible and smiles and waves to the people. As our astronauts, as General McArthur, as Charles Lindberg, this we are accustomed to. And when we see pictures of it or when we stand on the sidewalk and watch the parade go by, all of us feel an exaltation and a thanksgiving that one of us in our land should have attained such signal and significant achievements.
Well, this was a parade like that. It had glory in it, honor in it, praise in it, and Jesus the King was in that marvelous journey into the holy city there to offer Himself as the covenant Son of David to God’s chosen people. But what an unusual parade; for the hero, instead of smiling, and waving, and rejoicing, when He came over the brow of Olivet and beheld the city, He burst into tears. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. As the eyes of our Lord looked upon it, what He saw brought sorrow to His heart.
What do we see when we look upon the city? Ah, those buildings are so towering. They are architectural triumphs. When the sun rises in the morning, the shadow of a fifty story building falls upon our church. And the teeming, bustling hundreds of thousands, our schools, our universities, ah, the throbbing life of a city! But most of us never really look at it, and most of us never really draw nigh to it. We have a little beaten path from where we live to where we work. And we shut out the strange faces, and the strange voices, and the strange streets and the houses with which we’re not acquainted. Nor do we propose to be acquainted, and we isolate and insulate and shut up ourselves from the life of the city. And there, maybe in a comfortable home, when the wild wind blows we touch a thermostat and the answering flame warms us. Or when it is furiously hot we touch a button and the cooling winds blow over us. But we don’t see the city. We shut our eyes to it, and we live in isolation from it. For, if we were to look at it, these are some of the things we’d see.
We’d see a poor widow counting out the money for the rent, and seemingly, the counting never stops as she struggles against some of the oppressive fortunes and providences of life. What would you see if you looked at the city? You would see the solitary sufferer who turns home every evening with a broken heart. Widows whose husbands are not dead, orphan children whose [fathers] are still living, and there is a traumatic hurt and bleeding in the soul that never ceases, like a wound that never heals. And when they go to bed at night they go to sleep crying. And when they wake up in the morning, they wake up with heaviness of soul and spirit, the solitary sufferer.
If you were to draw nigh to the city and look at it, what would you see? You would see those who are sealed with the black seal of death. They face every day, every night, and every hour of the day and the night pain, and suffering, and agony; they are in a terminal illness. If you were to draw nigh and really look at the city, what would you see? You would see the houses where the aged are kept irrational, crying, lonely, forgotten and their loneliness deepened by neglect. Nobody remembers, and nobody cares, and nobody comes. If you were to draw nigh to the city and really see it, what would you see? the frustrations and the hopelessness of so many who are poor, and sub marginal, and lost.
When the statistician comes and looks at the city, this is what he sees, numbers. And when the politician comes and looks at the city, this is what he sees, votes. And when the financier comes and looks at the city, this is what he sees, monetary opportunities. And when the socialite comes and looks at the city, this is what he sees, opportunities for advancement.
I can’t help but pause here to say that to me of all of the contemptible people in this earth, to me the most contemptible and unforgivable are those who give themselves to social rounds of pleasure and advancement and forget the thousands in the city who are left behind when they press the powerful accelerator and go out to what’s pretty and green and beautiful, and leave behind the thousands in the heart of the city who curse society because they have nobody else to curse. Come downtown, live in a plush office, and join a swanky club, and never see the thousands and the thousands who need help, and encouragement, and God.
This is one of the reasons, as you’ve heard me speak on an anniversary sermon or at the New Year, when I say this is where God has placed us, down in the heart of this teeming metropolis.
Let me have my church on a downtown street
Where the race of men go by –
The men who are good, the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban.
Let me have my church on Ervay Street
And be a friend to man.
[Adapted from The House by the Side of the Road, Sam Walter Foss]
"He came nigh, and beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. The tears of Jesus; three times in the Holy Scriptures does it say that Jesus cried. Once at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35], once in the garden of Gethsemane [Hebrews 5:7], and once as He looked upon the holy city. Two out of the three were tears of human sympathy, and I speak of the amazing and sympathetic Jesus standing on the Mount of Olives looking over the great city and bursting into tears as He beholds it. In art, could you think of a subject more appealing? In sentiment, could you think of a scene more moving? And in religion, could you think of a revelation of God more precious, dearer, sweeter, more heavenly, the Son of God standing, weeping over the city?
Sometimes the theologian will use words to describe the great manifestation of God in Christ Jesus. Immutable, or invincible, or eternal, or omniscient, or omnipotent; in all of those marvelous theological terms describe our Lord, yes; but every one of them lends itself to dissertations, and questions, and debates, metaphysical dissertations, theological queries, philosophical discussions. But when you present the Lord Jesus as a Savior whose heart is moved by the lost in the city, somehow you step out of disquisitions and dissertations and theological discussions, and He becomes a center around which people unconsciously find themselves drawn; the poor, the crippled, the blind, the outcast, the sinners, the lost. There is a metaphysical Jesus, a philosophical Jesus, a theological Jesus, and they talk about Him in the books, and write of Him in the articles. I know. But there is also a sympathizing, weeping Jesus, and He is the One to whom we would join our souls in faith, in life, and in death.
Not only His amazing sympathy, but also that God should cry. Ah, "And when He beheld the city, He wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. Where is His omnipotence that God should weep? Has omnipotence been exhausted? Can God do nothing? As He beholds the city, He weeps over it. My brother, omnipotence has to do with physical phenomena. Omnipotence can create the stars and fling the planets out into space, but omnipotence has nothing to do with moral suasion. This sovereignty God has divided with a man. Any man anywhere can lift up his face and his voice in defiance and curse God. All God can do is to plead, and to weep.
When I was a boy in high school there was in our class a young fellow. I don’t know why the turn of life, I’ve never understood it. But seemingly some young men are born incorrigible. They are criminally inclined. And I remember standing by the side of that boy and his father one day. And that father with a pathos as only a father could command, and with an appeal that only a father could bring, I heard him plead and beg with his boy to do right! That boy was imperious and unbending. He left into crime, into a federal penitentiary, and there was murdered by his fellow prisoners. All that father could do was to beg and to plead. Oh, I can hear his words today! How many years, "Oh, my, son," he’d say, "my son. Oh, my son!" That’s what the Lord, all God can do with a man is to plead with him, beg, invite. Even omnipotence itself is helpless before an obdurate and incorrigible will.
"When He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. And these are the words that He said as you would follow the story in a harmony. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, behold, your house is left unto you desolate" [Matthew 23:37-38]. There is a judgment in the rejection of God that is inevitable. As certain as the stars swing in their courses, as certain as the sun shines at the dawn, as certain as God lives, as certain as you breathe, just so certain, inevitable, inexorable is the judgment of God when we turn aside from the Lord. And the Lord wept, "O Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you would not." This was the answer of the city, "We will not have this Man to reign over us. We will not" [Luke 19:14].
And the lamentation of our Lord was poignant and deep. Did you know within a certain period of time, looking at it in a circumscription, a pericope, there was never a ministry so fraught with failure as that of the Lord Jesus, and He wept over it. Then that awesome judgment, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" [Matthew 23:38]. It was not a cry of triumph. It was not a cry of rejoicing over a disaster. Rather, it was a wail, a Jeremiaic lamentation. It was a Jeremiad. No wind ever moaned in greater desolation. No desert ever withered with greater destitution than the Lord wept over the rejection by the city of Jerusalem. "Your house is left unto you desolate." It’s not a home anymore. There’s no rest there, and there’s no comfort there, and there’s no salvation there.
Do you ever think of these things when you read the daily newspapers? Do you ever see how these things that the Lord says are before your eyes? Unhappy Jerusalem? Unhappy Israel? Unhappy Palestine? Unhappy Middle East? And there’s no statesman in the earth but who will say barring the intervention of God, we see no solution, only darkness and darker still. "Your house left unto you desolate." But these great spiritual revelations that we read in God’s Word are not only for Jerusalem. They’re for Paris. They’re for Tokyo. They’re for Tehran and Bangkok. They’re for Hong Kong. They’re for Houston. They’re for Los Angeles, and they’re for Dallas.
For the great God who presides above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22] is the Lord of all the peoples, that He is our Lord. And it is not a theory; it’s a tragic fact that if I turn aside from His saving grace and mercy, I face an inevitable judgment. The child withers on the parental branch. The young life at the very threshold is cut down. He becomes a derelict. She becomes a flotsam and a jetsam. There is no rest and there’s no happiness outside of God. That’s why the earnest appeal of the Holy Scriptures. We then, as fellow workers with Jesus, beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" [2 Corinthians 6:1-2].
However blind I may be, there is light in the Lord. However crippled I may be, there is healing in His gracious hands. However lost I may be, there is salvation in His atoning grace. I need God. The greatest need of the city is not for money, or better housing, or better social programs, or a thousand other better things. What the city needs is God. And what I need is not a bigger salary, or a bigger car, or a finer home, or social advancement. I need ultimately nothing but God. If I have Him in my heart and in my life, I am rich. I am strong. I am fit and prepared for every exigency of every day and tomorrow when I have God. O, Lord Jesus, come into my house. Lord, come into my heart. Lord, come into my life. Blessed Jesus, come, and welcome!
Is that your heart with mine? If it is, would you come and stand by me? In a moment we shall sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, "Tonight, pastor, I give my heart to Christ, and here I come. I have decided for God, and I’m coming." To put your life with us in this dear church, come. In the balcony round there’s a stairway at the back, at the front on either side, come, the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor. I’m coming now." Do it, and the angels from heaven attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.
CHRIST AND THE CITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. His eyes – "And when He came near He beheld the city"
A. This occurred at the triumphal entry
B. Our difficulty
1. Never come near it
2. Not willing to look upon it
a. What would we see if we really looked?
B. The statistician and the socialite
1. Poem, "The House by the Side of the Road"
II. His tears – "And wept over it"
A. Three times in Word of God it is said that our Lord wept (Matthew 26, John 11:35, Luke 19:41)
B. What amazing sympathy
C. What amazing self-limitation, self-emptying
1. We are free to reject Him
III. His lament – "O Jerusalem, Jerusalemâ€¦" (Matthew 23:37-38)
A. What the city did (Luke 19:14)
B. The solemn judgment (Luke 19:43-44)
C. The fate of the cities of America
D. Never a rejection of God that does not end in judgment