Our Wonderful New Day
September 9th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE WONDERFUL NEW DAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are worshiping with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Wonderful New Day. Our Scripture reading is in the third chapter of Joshua:
And Joshua rose early in the morning . . . and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark. . .of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it…
,that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.
And this is the background of the message, the wonderful tomorrow, the new and glorious day; "For ye have not passed this way heretofore" [Joshua 3:4].
It was a new day for them. After their deliverance from Egypt, and forty years wandering through the wilderness, that day they were to pass over Jordan into the fair and Promised Land. And Joshua said, "You follow the ark of the covenant" [Joshua 3:3]. Inside of the ark was the testimony and Word of God [Exodus 25:16]. "Follow the ark, borne on the shoulders of God’s priests, God’s ministers [Joshua 3:3]; so you will know how to go, because," said Joshua, "ye have not passed this way heretofore" [Joshua 3:4]. It is a new way, it is a new day. It is a glorious and wondrous hour, "for tomorrow the Lord shall do wonders among you" [Joshua 3:5].
Now, there are many ways to preach. A textual sermon is one way: to take a text such as John 3:16 and preach on that text. A topical is a way to preach: preach on faith, or hope, or love, or election, or predestination, or the second coming of the Lord; topical preaching. Expositional is a way to preach: to take a passage from God’s Book and expound it, what God says and what it means to us; expositional. Character study is a way to preach: take a character and point out the morals that we would gain from looking at his life, the lessons. But there is also a way to preach that I do about one time a year, and usually it will be on the second Sunday in September after Labor Day, when we begin our new fall program. And this is a sermon about a way to go, and a way to do.
I heard a man say, "You know there is the Gospel according to Matthew, and the Gospel according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; but the best gospel I ever read was according to my mother." Wasn’t that a beautiful tribute to make to his mother? "I learned and read the gospel according to my mother." I visited one time the town of Assisi in central Italy; it is on a high hill, very prominently raised above the plain. And down there in the plain about four miles was the little church of the flowers built by Francis. They call him Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest Christians of all time, who was the friend of the flowers and the birds and the sweet things of God. Well, Francis was down there in the plain building his little church, with a trowel, with mortar, with brick and stone. And upon a day, he said to his brothers, men who had given their lives to Christ with him, his Christian brothers, he said to them, "My brothers, let us go up to Assisi and preach the gospel." So the brothers laid down their trowels and their mortar and their bricks and stone, and they followed Francis up that tall hill to Assisi. And Francis walked through the streets of the city with his brothers, his Christian brothers, and then having walked through the city he started back down and out. And the brothers said, "But Francis, you said to us we were coming to Assisi to preach the gospel, and you are now leaving." And Francis replied, "My brothers, we have preached the gospel every step of the way." You preach not just expositionally, textually, topically, but you also preach by what you do, by the way you go. So we are going to look at the way we are going in our church.
First, our welcome to our associate pastor Jimmy Draper and his sweet family: he has come to work, not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life for the building up of the witness of Christ in the earth. He is come to labor in God’s vineyard. He is come to work in God’s harvest. He is come to be a shepherd of God’s flock. He is not come to pontificate, to lord it over God’s heritage, or to be seated in a chair and behind a desk, to have secretaries and servants here and there, that he might be honored and exalted; he has come to work. He is going to work with you. He is going to help us all, as a peer, as a co-laborer, as a compassionate-hearted shepherd. He has come to labor in God’s vineyard.
And I have a prophecy to make; I have a prediction to make: you are going to see the day when there will be twenty-five thousand members in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. You are going to see the day when on any ordinary Sunday there will be ten thousand registered in Sunday school. And you’re going to see the day when we shall have a budget of eight million dollars every year. And there are those who scoff at goals and at numbers. Do you reckon a politician would do that? You know how we elect a president of the United States? We count noses. You know how you elect a governor of the state? You count noses; or ears and divide it by two. You scoff at numbers and see what the politician says.
You scoff at numbers and see what the editor of the newspaper says: "We have a great newspaper; we’ve got ten subscribers"; it’d be ridiculous, silly, inane. You would only say that in religion because the people out there in the world are smarter than the children of light. They know it’s the customers at the bank that make it great; it’s the people who buy at the store that make it possible; it’s the people who vote who control the government. And when religious leaders scoff at numbers and in superior sophistication say, "We have quality, not numbers," they are hiding their failure.
Oh, but they say, "The Lord had a small work, and He ministered to a small group of people." Listen, you haven’t read the life of Christ who was pressed by multitudes on every side [Mark 5:24]. And again, had the Christian religion remained a tiny sect, it would have been buried beneath the rubble of the walls of Jerusalem when Titus destroyed it in 70 AD. What the Lord was doing was to build a cadre, like a retreat, training men; and then when He had them trained, he commissioned them to do what? To fail? What the Lord said was, "In My name, all authority given unto Me, go ye therefore and matheteusate," imperative, "matheteusate, make disciples of the whole world" [Matthew 28:18-20]. The trouble with us is we just haven’t done it, and in my humble opinion, nor have we taken it seriously. If there are five hundred thousand people in Dallas, they’re in nobody’s Sunday school this morning and not going to be in anybody’s church today, what is that to us? That’s the spirit of the modern Christian faith. But it wasn’t the spirit of the Lord. He said, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and matheteusate, make disciples, learners, of all of the people, the nations of the world" [Matthew 28:18-20].
This is a new and a wonderful day God has set before us. What are you doing? Which way we going? I speak now of our First Baptist Church School, a dream come true. You couldn’t do that in Peking; you couldn’t do that in Moscow; you couldn’t do that in Warsaw, and you couldn’t do that in Prague; you can’t do that in North Vietnam; that the church should have a school, because education in any totalitarian state is the prerogative of the government. I heard Dr. Nolan Estes, the illustrious superintendent of public education in the city of Dallas; I heard Dr. Estes say, "When education becomes the prerogative solely of the government, the next turn is dictatorship!" It is the freedom to educate the child as the heart of the parent dictates that makes possible the liberties of the people. It is a glorious thing that we have the freedom and the liberty, if we so choose, to create for the child a Christian education, where the atmosphere is Christian, where the teachers are all dedicated disciples of Christ, where prayer is want to be made, where the Bible is read and taught, and where the chapel services point the youngsters to Jesus, where every subject is an inculcation of the mind of God in Christ Jesus, interpreting history and science and philosophy and the humanities all in the nomenclature and in the heart and in the definitive terms of our Lord. Oh, what an incomparable opportunity!
In a Sunday school we will have the child for Bible teaching, maybe, thirty minutes a week. But in the Christian school, we have the child hours every weekday. It is a dream come true. Not that I have in my heart at all that all of the people would like to send their children to it, not at all; you will always have that public school system, supported by the taxes of the government. But there are just some of us that would like to take our children and place them in a Christian school. And for that privilege and that freedom we thank God forever, and we thank our forefathers, and we thank our present government that allows it to us in that choice. It’s a great and wonderful new day.
I speak now, where are we going? What are we doing? I speak now of our institute, our Bible Institute. Here again, not that everyone will respond, but some will. And in the providences of God, trying to encourage our people, and especially our church leaders, and especially our teachers to go deeper with God, an in-depth study of the Bible; those teaching ministries are through the daytime hours every day of the week. There are gifted professors teaching here in the church. The classes are on Tuesday night, beginning at six-thirty. And the classes are on Sunday night, beginning at six o’clock. And then this coming Wednesday night, the pastor begins his second semester, teaching in the Bible Institute here in this great auditorium. And all of our people are invited to come at seven-thirty o’clock each Wednesday night for sixteen Wednesday nights in the second semester of the pastor’s course. This coming Wednesday night I shall give to all of our people who were in the first semester course the outlines by which I taught the spring semester. To my great delight, Dr. William Nix took my outlines and he has printed them through Crescendo Publishing Company. They cost seventy-five cents a piece. The pastor was so delighted with his class that he’s going to pay the seventy-five cents himself and give the outlines to his pupils. And I might pay to do the same thing for the privilege of teaching again, this Wednesday night. I love to teach God’s Word. The last course I taught was entitled "What the Bible Teaches." And all of the people in the first semester, the spring semester, who attended that class, I have the outline for you, and I’ll give it to you next Wednesday night. Then this Wednesday night I begin teaching this book written by Joel Goodwin’s father, God’s Eternal Purpose Revealed. It is a presentation of the seven dispensations of the Bible, of God’s dealings with humanity. The book costs $5.95. Man, that’s a lot of money, $5.95! So, I got Joel Goodwin to give me $4.95, and I’m going to let all of my pupils have it for $1. So all of them who come and register in our institute – and the matriculation fee is $10 to register in the institute – and then through the kindness of Joel Goodwin, we’re going to let you have the textbook for $1. And that will begin this Wednesday night, September 12.
What are you doing? Which way are you going? Today we enter our new Christian Education Building. Oh, that is one of God’s sweetest answers to prayer! The building is a gem. Every night, beginning tonight, for eight nights, we shall be dedicating that beautiful facility. Our library is there, the Silent Friends Church will be meeting in Ralph Baker Hall, and all of the appointments for educational ministries in our Sunday school, in our day school, in our Bible Institute, O God in heaven, how grateful we are for the gift of that glorious building! That is one of the finest structures in the city of Dallas, beautiful, felicitous, magnificently erected.
Now, may I point out to you something? We have a $3,000,000 debt on that building and a $1,700,000 debt on the properties that we have, buying the rest of that block on toward Ross Avenue. And you are going to need that someday, maybe sooner than you realize. Now, the banks were kind to us when they gave us that note. They said, "You can have the money at maybe half a point over prime, prime rate," the best advantageous interest rate given to their finest customers, prime rate. Well, what has happened is, since we borrowed the money, the prime rate has been going up and up and up and up, and now, and now that prime rate is about nine and three-quarters percent; and if we get about half a point above it that means ten percent or beyond. And what that means to the church is that we’ll be paying something like $370,000 a year in interest alone, just going down the drain. Oh, that hurts my heart to think about it! It also hurts the pocket book just to realize it. Oh, that is awful, that is terrible, that is worse than that! It is unthinkably bad! You know how not to do that? Very simple, just pay it off, just pay it off.
And our people – God bless us as we try – insofar as we are able, bring to God’s house, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, what you can, place it in the building fund; and every dime by which we can lower that indebtedness, just that much are we paying less on interest that we owe them. It is a grand thing God has done for us, to give us our properties and to give us our building. Now, let’s conserve God’s money, and not pay it out in interest; but keep it for the work of the Lord in the earth.
How you going? What you doing? This also is a way to preach the gospel. As some of you know, this last weekend I was preaching in a prophetic conference in Winona Lake, Indiana. And as I sat there in that conference and listened to a minister from Chicago, I don’t think I can ever remember having the feeling I did as that man was expounding the fourteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans. As you know, Romans 9, 10, and 11, is Paul’s discussion of the elective purpose of God for the Jew. And he was expounding that fourteenth verse, where he says that, "We are to provoke the Jew to emulation" [Romans 11:14]. He is to see us as Christians, as followers of the Lamb of God, and seeing us want to emulate us, want to be like us, to love the Lord too, also. That is what he was preaching about. And as he came to the end of his message, he began to talk about Dachau. I had been to Dachau not long after the war. It’s just on the edge of Munich, the capital of Bavaria, where Hitler began his rise to power. Oh, that visit to Dachau! This is the room where they gas the people. Right next, this is the room where they knocked out their teeth for the gold and silver fillings; and it moved lower toward the end, and in the bottom of the concrete floor in the middle was the drain for the blood and the washing after they mutilated the people. And this is the place, and the ovens are there. First time in my life I ever saw incinerators, ovens, covered with wreaths and memorial gifts, "In honor and in memory of my sweet mother and father." Oh, it just did something to you, just to look at such a thing!
Well, anyway, when he began to talk about Dachau, he brought back those memories. Then in what he said, I never felt like that that I can remember. In the city of Chicago, a gifted Jewish lawyer, whom he was trying to interest in the Lord, and upon a time, the lawyer and he, visiting together, the lawyer said, "In Germany, my wife and my two boys were arrested. We were taken to Buchenwald, then to Auschwitz, then finally to Dachau." He said,
Living in the barracks in Dachau, I went down from two hundred fourteen pounds to ninety-four. And upon a day, I was standing in front of the barrack home where we were interned with my wife and my two boys. While I was standing there, a Nazi soldier came with his gun, and a bayonet on the end of his gun, and he took the bayonet and thrust it through my wife. And she fell dead at my feet. Then he turned and thrust that bayonet through my older boy, and he fell in his own blood by his mother. Then the soldier took that bayonet and thrust it through my younger son, and by the side of the other two he died. Nazi soldiers came and took my wife and my two boys and carried them to the ovens. And when they opened the doors of the ovens to thrust them in I could smell their burning flesh.
And he said,
As I stood there looking in, paralyzed horror and grief, my eyes raised to the top of the roof. Then beyond the barbed wire fence that enclosed the compound and beyond, I saw a church. My eyes followed to the top of the church, then the steeple. And my eyes followed to the top of the steeple and to the cross. And as I looked at the cross, I thought, it is no symbol of love; it is a symbol of hate. It is no symbol of salvation; it is a symbol of damnation. It is no symbol of hope; it is a symbol of despair. It is no symbol of freedom; it is a symbol of slavery.
And I never had such a feeling: the cross of Christ, a symbol of wretchedness, and misery, and murder, and despair.
From the text, "That we might provoke them to emulation" [Romans 11:14]. Oh, I felt wretched in my soul! I felt defeated in my spirit. I felt crushed in my heart. When God says we are so to live, and so to do, and so to be, that we provoke others to emulation that they would like to be like us; and what is a Christian nation like? Like Nazi Germany? Like Hitler? That’s not it. Hitler was no Christian, and the Nazis are not Christians. And pagan Germany is not Christian. They just had a state church; they just had state supported, tax supported preachers. But the heart is not that! And the faith is not that! And the religion of Christ is not that! What the faith is, a magnificent life, a glorious church, a love of God and of God’s children that is all encompassing, that is forever crowned with the presence and glory of the Lord.
So I end the sermon as I began. There are textual sermons, there are topical sermons, there are expository sermons, but there are also sermons in the way we do, and the way we go, and the way we are.
O God in heaven, may the Lord crown our efforts, because in love, in prayer, they are in the Spirit of Jesus dedicated to His blessed, blessed name.
In a moment, we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to answer God’s call for your life, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, do it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony round, there is time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, come. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming. Jimmy Draper and his family are coming this morning; come with them, and welcome. Join us in this march to Zion. In His blessed name, come, while we stand and while we sing.