Dreams and Visions
October 4th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
10-4-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Dreams and Visions. It is a message on the twenty-sixth anniversary of this pastorate. And the Dreams and Visions refer to what lies ahead—not as a text to expound, but as a subject.
Out of Simon Peter’s message at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit in unction and saving power came upon the people, Simon Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” and he quotes Joel, second chapter, twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses [Joel 2:28-29]:
And it shall come to pass, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
“Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” [Acts 2:17]. And maybe if I could be thus bold to outline it, if one is older in years and younger in heart, the winter on his head but the springtime in his soul, I thought maybe we could do both, dream dreams and see visions.
There is a program that God has given His people while He tarries in heaven. Like Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives . . . from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Build ye houses, and dwell in them; plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
While the Lord’s will was worked out in the life of the nation and they were in the captivity of Babylon, Jeremiah wrote to them that they ought to work and build houses and plant vineyards against the day when the Lord would surely visit them. So with us in the outline of our mandate from heaven; while the Lord tarries, God has an assignment for us, and we face God’s future and God’s will, and these are our dreams and visions of the morrow [Acts 2:17].
I shall not speak of the things that usually concern us in the outreach of the church, our educational program, Sunday school, Training Union, our music program, our missions, our radio and television ministries, so many things comprise the multifaceted ministries of our church. I shall not speak of them. We shall turn our thoughts and our hearts to other dreams and to other visions, and now we begin [Acts 2:17].
First: we shall launch here in our church a Bible Institute. The men insist on naming it the Criswell Bible Institute, and when I remonstrated to a committee that I would feel more comfortable if they did not call it by my name, but just call it Baptist Bible Institute, the men said, “There are several Baptist Bible Institutes, and what we need is one that carries with it a very known and pronounced attitude toward the Word of God, and your name has become synonymous with a Bible-believing ministry, Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True.” So they insist on calling the Criswell Bible Institute.
The discussion was made concerning the word “institute.” Some of them said we ought to call it the Criswell School of the Bible. But in the institute there is to be a conservatory of music presided over by our music division, and there will also be courses offered in empirical, practical church building, the ministry of the pastor of the staff, and the word describing the program must be inclusive enough to cover all of those areas. So thus far we are using the word “institute.”
Tomorrow night at our deacons meeting, we shall adopt the articles of faith that will be presented, and espoused, and stood by, and taught in that school. And then Wednesday night, those articles of faith will be adopted by the church as a whole. If as a deacon, or if as a church member, you can attend those two convocations, do so. There is a decided, and to me appallingly, tragic drift in the theology, especially in our schools and seminaries of our Southern Baptist Convention. We are turning aside from the faith of our fathers. We are lusting after and hankering after the whoredoms of compromise and unbelief that to me have destroyed other denominations, and have produced dead and dying churches. It will be our commitment, God helping us, to build a school here, a Bible Institute that will emphasize and teach the Word of God, every syllable of which we believe is inspired from heaven. And to that institute we shall invite preachers, and church members, and leaders, and students, and anyone who would like to know what God says in the holy revelation recorded in the Book I hold in my hand.
We shall also, once a year for a week, have a School of the Prophets. That is a nomenclature taken from the Old Testament [1 Samuel 10:5, 11, 19:18-24]. From the days of Samuel, the first prophet, through the years and the centuries that followed, God’s Holy Word was taught by men who were in the School of the Prophets, presided over in the days of Elijah and Elisha [2 Kings 4:38-44]. And for a week, once a year, we shall invite the entire ministry of our Southern Baptist Convention to come here to Dallas and to spend a week with us; and the week called the School of the Prophets, composed of the pastors and any staff members they would like to bring. We shall speak of, and talk about, and present those programs, those methods in sermonizing, in studying, in visitation, in teaching, in all of the many-faced ministries of this church. We shall share them with the pastors and staff members of our Southern Baptist denomination. And in these weeks, it is our dedication to pull our people back to the Word of God; dreams and visions [Acts 2:17].
Second: back of a great program such as this, we must have the support of dedicated and gifted and ten-talented men. So, we are going to organize here in our church a Christian businessmen’s luncheon. And we are going to meet down here in the church. I think we ought to know one another, the businessmen who belong to this church, and we can have a meeting here, and we can have a marching, resounding program. There are men in our church who are gifted in music, with instruments, with singing. There are men who are gifted in many other ways. We will start on the dot. We will dismiss on the dot. And we will have a resounding, marching, trusting program. After our breaking of bread and after our introductions, we will have a brief music presentation, then a brief message of encouragement from God’s Word and a prayer from heaven. And our men will get to know each other. We will have a good time facing up to those heavenly assignments God has placed upon us.
Then we ought to have in our church a properties management council, and their assignment would be to take care of all of the properties we now own, and to take care, under God, of those gifts that will be left to us in estates and in personal philanthropies. God will bless us in this. We are doing God’s work in the earth, and the Lord’s favor will increasingly be seen upon this dedication. And there ought to be gifted knowledgeable men who will take care, spiritually and profitably, the properties that God gives us.
For example, our church ought to be in the parking business. We are in it already up to our necks, up to the hilt; we ought to get with it really. For the church greatly to prosper, there needs to be parking and parking and parking. When we have this men’s luncheon down here on a Thursday, there needs to be places for the men to park the car. When we have Vacation Bible School, when Woman’s Missionary Union gathers, for our Institute, for a thousand other activities on Sunday, the city is empty. You can park fifty thousand automobiles down here on Sunday, but it is the week time they choke us to death. And our men in a properties management council ought to guide us into a tremendous parking program. We ought to be in that business, I say, up to the hilt.
There are many, many other areas of life that God would open to us in dreams and in visions. Why not three tremendous towers here in the heart of this city? One for elderly retired people who like to still live in the middle of things and close to the church, a place for them to live. One for people who would like to live in a Christian complex, a tower; a third for single young people who leave the towns and the villages and the churches where they grew up and come to the big city to find a job and to work. Just think what it would mean to the pastor back home and to the father and mother back home if they thought that that boy, that girl lived in a Christian community. I received a call a few days ago from a father in Alabama. He said his boy was coming to Dallas to work and wanted to know if I would try to be responsible for his boy. Dreams and visions: under the guidance of capable gifted men, there is hardly any limit to the extent of these loving ministries.
Dreams and visions [Acts 2:17]: ministries of helpfulness to people in need. Here is one: why not we try to help people find a place to work? They are without a job or they have come to the city to find a job. I have so many requests, sometimes in desperation, why not try to help? Do you need a Christian boy, a Christian girl, to work for you? Would you like to have a gifted Christian man, a Christian woman, to work for you? Ask us. Why not? And again, why do we not pool our financial resources to help people who are in desperate need? We have some of these ministries already, why not pool them together and enlarge them? Here is a worthy student who wants to go to school and no way for him to go. Let’s help him go. Here’s a lad who has given his life to be a preacher. Here’s a lassie giving her life to be a missionary. But they have to be prepared for the work. Why not help them prepare?
Dreams and visions [Acts 2:17]: why not a throne room of intercession here at the church? And there is a telephone there, and there is a consecrated saint there, or a minister there. You can call any hour, day and night, twenty-four hours a day. In that throne room of intercession, there is somebody there to help, to listen, to pray. Sometimes we need mostly just encouragement and sympathy and understanding, and maybe a listening heart. Why not? The dial of prayer in it, and a minister in it, and call anytime from anywhere, twenty-four hours a day, all day and all night, a throne room of intercession.
And a ministry to young single adults, some of them have never been married. Many of them have been married, and they have been through that deep, dark, rugged, despairing valley of a broken home and a broken marriage. There are organizations on the outside where those single adults can meet one another. Why not one in the church where in a Christian context you would have young single adults that could find Christian friends? “Pastor, what you thinking about? Another marriage bureau?” What would be wrong with trying to help Christian young people know Christian young people? What would be wrong with trying to help build Christian homes? Dreams and Visions.
And finally: our young people. I think increasingly we shall see an attack against Christian ideals and Christian virtue and Christian morality. I think you are going to see it increasingly from the academic world, from the legal world, from the underground world, from the entertainment world, from every facet of life; you are going to see an increasing attack against Christian ideals. They want to sell it in the name of science, and academic freedom, and they will be increasingly sustained by the courts. I think the time will come when the only way for a Christian community to survive is to find strength, and help, and friendship, and encouragement in the community, in the church itself. For outside of it, there will be a Sodom, Gomorrah like society, a depravity, a promiscuity that is even now to us unimaginable. I think the drift of modern society is toward those depths of degradation. Why not in our dreams and visions prepare for a Christian community here where these who are like-minded, who love the Lord, who have been saved can find all of those outlets for life and expression that God has placed inside of us?
Someday I could pray that we would have a school here in our church properties, and especially a high school, and from all over the city and from everywhere outside of it, if a boy or a girl wanted to attend that high school, they could come. It would be here, and the finest school in the land. And then I would like to see us build here a youth conglomerate. I would like to see them make an attractive place beyond anything you would find in any den, or a dive, or a filthy joint in the world, an enormous area, and in it a hamburger joint. We could put some lovely name like Lee Roy called that one, “The Rectangle.” We’ll get Lee Roy to think up a beautiful name for it, but it would still be a hamburger joint.
And in the joint, a picture show. Call it “The Star Bright Theater.” And in the evening when they ask, “Mother, where is Mary?” “She is down at the Star Bright.” Or in the evening when the mother asks, “Daddy, where is John?” “He is down at the Star Bright.” A theater, one that will seat about five hundred, and in that theater the finest films in the world are shown. And there are many of them. And the youngster, anytime he is away from home, dad doesn’t have to worry about him; mother doesn’t have to worry about him, he’s down there at the joint. He’s down there at the Star Bright, a tremendous program.
I’ve been watching these churches, and I’ve been watching these people. And they have coffee houses and other kinds of places by different names for the hippies, and for the dope addicts, and for the filthy, and the promiscuous, and the prostitutes, and the drunkards. And I’m in sympathy with any gesture on the part of any church to minister to the dope addict, and the peddler, and the pimp, and the pusher, and the prostitute, and the drunkard, and the filthy. I’m in sympathy with it. But as I look at it, I think how infinitely better would it be to try to get that boy, get that girl, before they become a pimp, or a procurer, or a prostitute, or a dope pusher, or a dope addict. How infinitely better to keep them from it.
Once in a while the little boy growing up in our home will say to me, “Granddaddy, what you staring at me for?” Well, I didn’t intend to, but as I sit across the table from him and just look at him, I think these things, and I’ve never mentioned them to him. I just smile and shrug, but I think these things. He’s a boy like other boys. He could fall into that abyss, drug addiction, thievery, robbery, murder, drunkenness. That’s what drug addicts, thieves, robbers are made of; they are made of our children. That’s where they come from. Isn’t it a thousand times better to keep them from it, and to have programs of intensity and of quickening interest? Isn’t it a thousand times better to keep them from it than to try to organize cultural houses and rescue missions trying to save them after they have fallen into it? Here is an old time poem.
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and flown many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff.”
And others said, “No, let’s get an ambulance down in the valley.”
Well the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For, it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But our hearts overwhelm with pity.
For those who slip over that dangerous cliff.
So the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave dollars and gave pence not to put up a fence
But to buy an ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing the results than to stopping the cause
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at the source all the hurting, cried he,
Come neighbors and friends let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.
Better guide well the young, then reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis
Best to prevent our young people from falling.
Better provide a way from temptation and crime
Than to deliver from dungeon or galley.
Better to put a strong fence ‘round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
[Adapted from “The Ambulance Down in the Valley,” Joseph Malins]
We face an increasing attack and an increasing pressure against Christian ideals. And the best way for us is following the holy goodness of our Lord to build here that circle into which we can draw our boys and our girls.
Just as I walked into the auditorium, Dr. Fowler gave me this article out of the paper. The Reverend William Metcalfe, rector of the town over there, wrote in his parish magazine, “If the church were to communicate successfully today, its buildings ought to be psychedelic pads, its choir girls topless, its hymns bawdy, the Scriptures omitted and replaced by pot and the vicar a well known sportsman or rock singer. Then the church would communicate, and be packed to the doors, and get things relevant.”
I don’t need to describe to you what is happening in this modern world. These programs to save and to help are the dreams and visions that I believe the Holy Ghost will implement. He will help us. God will do it for us. And I haven’t time to speak of the dream and vision that we have in our hearts, all of us who love Jesus, to be better men and finer Christians, walking in the way of our Lord.
My Jesus, I love Thee,
I know Thou art mine—
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer,
My Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
I love Thee in life,
I love Thee in death,
I love Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
I’ll say when the death dew
Lies cold on my brow.
If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
In mansions of glory
And endless delight.
I’ll ever adore Thee
In Heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering
Crown on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.”
[“My Jesus, I Love Thee,” William R. Featherston, 1864]
O Lord, as we grow in grace together, as we dream dreams and see visions, exalting, worshiping, loving, serving our dear Lord; it is a heavenly prospect, isn’t it? And to invite you to share it with us, would you come this morning? As we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, or a one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. “Today, I have made the decision for God, and here I am. This is my hour to come, and here I am.” In that balcony round, in the throng on this floor, into that aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor. Here I am.” Do it this morning. When we stand to sing, stand up coming, and let the angels rejoice as they attend your way [Luke 15:10]. While we stand and while we sing.