Trinity River Religion
April 25th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
TRINITY RIVER RELIGION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-25-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Trinity River Religion. I had some folks meet me on the street, had seen that sign over our sidewalk, and said, "What are you going to preach about Sunday night, Trinity River Religion?" I said, "Be there, and see for yourself." It is going to be a good message, I can tell you that before I start. And you are going to be glad you came.
Now turn to the fifth chapter of Mark; Mark chapter 5. And if you are listening on the radio, and there are thousands of you that do, if you can, take your Bible and open it with us. We are going to read out loud the first five verses, then we are going to skip down and read another passage. Let us read the first five verses together. Mark chapter 5, verses 1 through 5, now all of us reading it out loud together:
And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
And when He was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
Now, let’s come to verse 15, and we’ll read through verse 20; verses 15 through verse 20. Now let’s read again:
And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
And they began to pray Him to depart out of their coasts.
And when He was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed Him that he might be with Him.
Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
That is a magnificent story! And how it depicts human life and human nature! Here is a madman, a possessed man, he made the night hideous with his cries, he made the roads impassable; and when they bound him with fetters and with chains, such superhuman power did he possess that he broke them like Samson. Now he is gloriously healed. And the people came out and saw him seated, clothed, in his right mind, saved, regenerated, reconstituted, remade [Mark 5:15]. Wouldn’t you have thought they would have rejoiced? If they had any doxologies in that day, wouldn’t you have thought they would have sung them? And if there’s any shouting in that day, wouldn’t you have thought those townspeople would have praised God? This is an amazing, miraculous, marvelous thing! In the previous chapter you have the miracle of the Lord walking on the water and stilling the tempest [Mark 4:38-39]. Why, to me that miracle is as nothing compared to the regeneration of this possessed and demented man.
They never shouted. They were not glad. They never sang any doxology. What they did was, they asked Jesus to leave [Mark 4:17]. It cost them some pigs [Mark 5:12-13], and as between saving a man and having hogs, they had much rather have the swine than to have the Savior, so they asked Him to leave. That’s the most modern thing I have ever read. Right up today, just this minute, how many a merchant bows Jesus out because He interferes with trade? And how many men who are in the world of selling and money dismiss the Lord because He interferes with profits? Why, we have men all over this town dealing in drugs, some of them liquid pot, some of them dry, and doing a thousand other things: the Lord interferes with business and they bow Him out. That’s exactly what they did here: "They prayed Him to depart out of their country" [Mark 5:17]. And the Lord did it. He never comes where He is not invited; never stays where He is not wanted, in our hearts, houses, homes, lives, business, work, anything else. So He left. But when He left, that man He had saved said, "I don’t want to stay behind. I don’t like these people; their attitude toward You, their business and what they’re doing, and I don’t want to stay. Let me go with You" [Mark 5:18]. And the Lord said, "No. No. You are needed here. You are needed here desperately. And you turn back to this country of Gadara, and you tell everybody, your friends, and your enemies, and your neighbors, and your far, far, far neighbors, you tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee and how He has had compassion on thee" [Mark 5:19]. And he departed, and in every part of Decapolis, every part of that great Greek-lead ten city district over there on the other side of Galilee, he held Vacation Bible Schools, and neighborhood Bible schools, and he held testimony meetings, and he got the people together, and he told them how great things Jesus had done for him! [Mark 5:20].
And guess what happened? I turn the page. You don’t see this because here in the Scriptures it isn’t exactly delineated. But I turn the page, and Jesus, after the passing of a time, came back over there on the eastern side of Galilee, and here’s what met Him: "In those days, the multitude being very great" [Mark 8:1]. When that man got through teaching the Bible, holding Vacation Bible Schools, telling the people what Jesus had done for him, having neighborhood prayer meetings and Bible classes, when he got through covering that whole land of Decapolis, when Jesus came back to visit, there were throngs by the thousands who greeted Him and welcomed Him! And then you have the story of the feeding of the four thousand [Mark 5:2-9]. Isn’t that a glorious thing?
But there are some things to be said about it. Here’s a first one: did the Lord deny this man an opportunity to give his life in full-time work and service to Jesus when He said, "You cannot go with Me. You go back home"? [Mark 5:19]. Did he not have any mission field because God never called him to a foreign field, did he? What do you think? Don’t you think that even though the Lord never let him go with Him across the sea over there in the land of Galilee, but sent him back home over there in the land of Gadera, don’t you think that he had as great an opportunity to serve Jesus, and had just as fine and heavenly a mandate, and as celestial a call as those people who go out on foreign strands and minister in countries of strange language and strange people? Don’t you think? "You go back home," Jesus said. And that’s a great call, and a great commission, and a great field. "You go back home, and you tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee" [Mark 5:19]. And that’s where I get the title of this message tonight: Trinity River Religion; right here where we are, right here where we are at!
You know, things are happening to us. We’ve got atheism over there in Moscow; and we’ve got atheism here even in our Christian churches. And we’ve got paganism over there in Rangoon and in Calcutta; and we’ve got paganism in New York and in Los Angeles and in Dallas. And we have blank, dark, black heathenism over there in the heart of Africa; and we have blank, dark, black heathenism right here in America. There used to be a time when the spiritual frontiers were over across the seas; and when you thought of missions you always thought of that benighted Hottentot or that Australian aborigine. My friend and my brother, the spiritual frontiers today run down every city street, cross every alley, and for the most part enter into every house and every home. We are battling for our lives in this day and in our generation.
Theological liberalism, that is, to deny the trustworthiness and the inspiration of the Word of God, it is rampant everywhere. Materialism, that is, the definition of life in terms of substance and matter and material things; secularism, that is, the reading out of all religion – don’t need it, have no place for it in my time and life – all these things that challenge us and confront us right here in America, and increasingly our nation becomes more secular, more materialistic.
Back of everything I see in modern life is that philosophy of humanism: dethroning God and enthroning man. Rationalism: "We don’t need God’s mind or God’s revelation; we can work these problems out ourselves. Man is sufficient for all of his own needs." And there’s no moving and there’s no tendency on the part of the great drift of American life and world life to recognize that we don’t have answers in ourselves and that God must intervene, and God must reach down and save us.
"You go back home," He says, "and you tell your people what God has done for you." And he did it [Mark 5:19-20]. You have two things here in the passage that we read together: one, you had him seated, clothed, and in his right mind, worshiping at the feet of the Lord Jesus [Mark 5:15]. And isn’t that a blessed thing to do? Here before the Lord, just loving Him all over again, and praising Him, and singing to Him, and praying to Him, and thinking about Him. Isn’t that a glorious thing? And it is as vital a part as life itself. It is needful for us that we gather in His presence and sit at our Lord’s blessed feet, and call on His name. It’s just one of the ingredients of life that feed the soul, like bread feeds our human frame.
But there is another side to our calling in Christ: there is not only praise, and prayer, and love, and meditation, and intercommunication, there’s not only speaking and talking and loving and worshiping; but there is also doing, and witnessing, and visiting, and going. And the next thing you see here in this man’s life, the Lord lifts him up and sends him back to his house and to his home and his people: "And he departed, and began to publish in all Decapolis," that country, that nation of the ten Greek cities, Decapolis, ten cities, "how great things God hath done for him, and how the Lord had saved him." Isn’t that a marvelous thing, a wonderful thing, a glorious thing? "And all men did marvel" [Mark 5:20]. It was wonderful to hear him tell what God had done for him. That’s always great. That’s always marvelous. It’s always wonderful. Like that blind man: "Whether He is a sinner or no, as you say, I’m not able to say because I’m not a theologian; but oh, what He has done for me: I was blind and now I can see! That’s what He has done for me" [John 9:24-25]. What a glorious testimony!
You know, I read one time, on a commuter train out of New York City that there was a man, there was a man that on that commuter train, when he left work, got on that commuter train and went home. Every day that man would walk the length of that commuter train, and he would say as he entered each one of the cars: "Is there a blind member in your family? Is there somebody blind in your family? Tell him to see Dr. Carl. He restored my sight." Go to the next section and say the same thing: "Anybody blind in your family? Tell him to see Dr. Carl. He restored my sight." Isn’t that a wonderful testimony? And how gripping it is: hard to controvert and interdict a man’s testimony.
There was an alcoholic saved, got right with God; everything that he had he spent in the beer joints. Finally they even sold the furniture in the house; it was repossessed. Take his wages, spend it in the beer joints and in the taverns; brought his family down to want and to poverty. And upon a day he was saved. Isn’t that glorious? He was saved. Well, some of his old drinking buddies found out he’d found the Lord. God blesses a man when he gives his heart to Jesus, always. What they did in that family, they began to make the payments on the house, and they got back their furniture; the wife, mother, was blessed, and the children were blessed. It’s a great thing when a man gives his heart to the Lord. Well, some of his old buddies got hold of him, some of his old drinking buddies, and they were ridiculing his newfound life and his newfound faith in the Lord Jesus. He didn’t come to the tavern anymore, didn’t spend his wages on liquor anymore; he was going home with his salary, and they were paying for the house, and they had their furniture back again. So they accosted him, as I have been accosted a thousand times: "What about Jesus turning water into wine? What about that? What about that?" Well, he said, "I’m an uneducated man. I haven’t been to school, and I’m not able to answer. I don’t know what to say. But all I know is this: the Lord has turned beer into furniture at my house, and that’s good enough for me."
Isn’t that all right? That’s God! And it’s hard to contravene what God’s done in your heart, that personal witness, that personal testimony. And that is our mission in this summer. Why, bless you, it’s just glorious what we’re planning to do for Jesus. One of our deacons, Hooper Dilday, sent me a communication over to my study, and he said, "You know, pastor, I’ve been thinking about a outreach ministry for our church. And I’m sending you a copy of what ten little churches have done, ten little churches, little bitty churches, very small." And he says, "I see no reason why our church cannot conduct one hundred backyard Vacation Bible Schools, nor why we cannot have one hundred home Bible classes every week." That’s the first page. Then the second page he has suggested training for young workers in backyard Vacation Bible Schools, and he has eight things here how to lead a child to Christ, how to prepare a Bible story, how to tell the story, the use of memory work and discipline, and how to lead the singing, and how to give the invitation, and how to use recreation, little courses that we can provide down here getting our people ready. Then page number three he has these ten little churches, ten little churches: one of them had thirty-one Vacation Bible Schools. Now I’m talking about a little bitty church had thirty-one Vacation Bible Schools. Another one had twelve; another one had six; one had eleven; one had eight; one had nine; another six, one fifteen, one twenty-three, and one five. These are the funniest named little churches. One is named Brown Deer.
Well, they had 5,246 enrolled. They had 578 won to Jesus. And Hooper says, "Please note that these ten little churches conducted 100 Vacation Bible Schools. What could our wonderful FBC in Dallas do? FBC, First Baptist Church in Dallas do?" Why man, we could shake the earth and maybe grab hold of the moon, too. You just can’t tell.
Well, he’s got some more down here. I just can’t imagine such things. It is phenomenal to me what these little churches are able to do. Then he sent me over here, backyard Vacation Bible Schools, and here is literature: how to hold a backyard Vacation Bible School. They call them backyard Vacation Bible Schools: why man, they ought to call them tree Vacation Bible Schools, and vacant lot Vacation Bible Schools, and empty storehouses Vacation Bible Schools, and lots, these lots, parking lot Vacation Bible Schools. Why, I never saw anything like that in my life. It just goes on and on and on. And we’re getting ready. Oh, dear!
Now look at some of these things. This is a program of outreach of our church that we’re already in; we are already at it for this summer. All right, let’s look at some of these things that have been called to my attention about what we’re doing right now. We have our Christian businessmen’s luncheon. That’s the first Thursday of every month. And one-half of those men who attend are not in our church at all. We’ve had them stand up; and half of them, every first Thursday, they don’t belong to our church, and many of them are men who ought to be reached. Our men bring them with them. It’s a glorious open door. We have our summer camps: our Junior camp is dated June 7-11; and our Youth camp is dated June 14 to18. And many, many, many of those youngsters who attend those camps are not saved; they’re not Christians. Their friends have brought them, and they are reached in the days of those camps.
Then we have our summer day camp over here in our recreational meeting. And that reaches into many homes where the mother works, and she brings the children down here to the church. We have our Silent Friends revival June 20 to 27. Then we have the Vacation Bible Schools in our organized missions; and they are listed there in that bulletin. There are I don’t know how many of them; many, many of them in our six missions. Then we have our Vacation Bible Schools and our Clarion Choir work in the Rio Grande Valley ministry; that’s dated July 5 to 9. There are about forty young people who are going; there are about fifty adults who will be going; and they have Vacation Bible Schools, and they’re digging wells, and they’re building buildings, and they’re having a revival crusade, and the Clarion Choir is singing for it at night; and our medical and dental work is being done by the doctors who go, directed by Dr. Stony Cotton and Dr. John Bagwell. Then we have our own tremendous Vacation Bible School here in our church July 19 to 30; and we will reach approximately three thousand people in that two week period right here in this church. Oh, so many of those youngsters are won to the Lord and introduced to Jesus.
Then our Royal Ambassadors, the senior high, are going to the Virgin Islands, there to hold Vacation Bible Schools, and day camps, and beach ministries, and revival services. And our RA’s are going June 19 to 26 to Wisconsin, and there to do the same thing: to witness, to have Bible classes and revivals and Bible schools. Then our Chapel Choir is going to Canada July 23 to August 8; and there they’re going to sing concerts, and they’re going to witness on beaches and in campuses and have Vacation Bible Schools all through western Canada. Then our own neighborhood Vacation Bible Schools and our Trinity River outreach, up and down all of these areas in Dallas, especially with the Latin Americans and the Anglos and the Negros, everywhere. Then those neighborhood Bible schools in the backyards and on lots to the up and outs and the down and outs. And it culminates in a great evangelistic rally in Cobb Stadium on Friday night, August 13, when the pastor is going out there and preach the gospel, and give an invitation; just some of the things that we’re beginning to do for this summer.
Now, anybody can have a Vacation Bible School anywhere; just takes a few things that we can place in your hands, and how to get the children together. And it’s easy to do it. And we’ll teach you how to do it, and show you how to do it. And they can be held all over this part of the earth, everywhere, everywhere. Have a little Vacation Bible School, gather the children together, have it for five days, have it for an hour and a half each day, and have some refreshments – and kids like that – have some pink lemonade – and I like that – get them together. And then in a way that we can show, teach you, how to have those youngsters, just in the palm of your hand, just opening their hearts to the truth of Jesus. And the field is white, and the door is open, and God has called us to do it. Let’s get ready. Let’s do it.
In an open service like this, I don’t quite know how to make that personal contact, that you would know exactly how to do this thing. One way is to take that bulletin you have in your hand and put your name and telephone there and maybe the Sunday school department that you’re in, and just leave it on the pew, and we’ll pick it up. Sometime between now and the benediction, just write your name there, and your telephone number, and maybe what Sunday school department you’re in, or if you’re in no department or Sunday school at all and you’d be willing to help in that, just write it out. Or call our church, or see one of our ministers. Oh, it’ll be easy to get in touch with us. And we’ll take you and show you how to do this. And the residuum, the repercussion, the result will be sweet in your own life, and it will be of incomparable, indescribable blessing to these to whom we are mediating the truth, and the love, and the blessing of Jesus. Let’s all of us share in it. Let’s all of us get a handle and hold on to it. This is something we can do. And I realize in an open service like this, so large, it sounds difficult for us just to find a place where I can grab hold; but we’ll help you. If you will respond either by putting your name there, or calling us at the church, if you will do that, we’ll guide you in that outreach. And the Lord will use you and make of you a sweet and precious blessing, just as He did this saved giant of a man in Gadera [Mark 5:15-20].
Well, we’ve got tonight. We may not have another day and another time and another summer; but we have now. And tonight, somebody you to give your heart to Jesus, God has spoken to you and you feel it down in your soul, when we sing our hymn of appeal in a moment, come, come. A family you, "The Lord has sent us here to work and to pray; and we’re coming tonight." Do it now. Or just you, the throng in this balcony round, the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, "Pastor, I’m coming tonight, bringing my whole heart and life, and giving myself to Jesus, and here I come." Make it now. Decide for God in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up singing, stand up coming. The angels will attend you in the way. Come, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.