Our Wonderful New Day
September 9th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
OUR WONDERFUL NEW DAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Wonderful New Day.
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 covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it . . .
If you do not know where to go just follow that ark of the Lord.
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.
That’s the background for the message today. You have not been this way before [Joshua 3:4]; you have been in the land of Egypt, slaves. Forty years you have been wandering in the wilderness, and now you have come to this Jordan. You have not been here before but just beyond is the Promised Land. Follow the ark borne on the shoulders of God’s priests and sanctify yourselves, commit yourselves to the Lord. For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you [Joshua 3:5]—the wonderful new day: tomorrow.
There’s several ways to preach. There’s textual preaching, taking a text like John 3:16 and preaching on a text. There’s topical preaching, preaching on faith, or hope, or love, or predestination, or election, or inspiration. There’s expository preaching, taking a passage of Scripture and expounding to the people what God has said and what it means to us. There’s character preaching, taking a character in the Bible and presenting the lessons from his life. But there’s also another way to preach; there’s a way to preach by what you’re doing and the way you’re going. And about once a year or something like that, I preach a sermon on that. Usually it’s the sermon delivered on the second Sunday in September when we begin our new year: the way you’re going, what you’re doing, what you are.
I one time heard a man say a sweet thing about his mother. He said, “You know there’s a Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to Mark, the Gospel according to Luke, or to John. But the best Gospel I ever read was the Gospel according to my mother.” Wasn’t that a sweet tribute? “The Gospel according to my mother,” the way you do, what you’re headed for.
Upon a time I visited this little city of Assisi in central Italy. It’s built on a high hill, a conical hill, going sweeping down to the plain all around it. And about four miles down to the plain is the church that Francis, called St. Francis of Assisi, built, the Church of the Little Flowers. Francis was one of the great Christians of all time, the friend of God and of the birds and of the flowers. And he and his brothers, his Christian brothers, were down there on the plain with trowel and mortar and brick. They were building their little church. And upon a day Francis said to his Christian brothers, “Let us go up to Assisi and preach the gospel.”
They said, “We shall go with you.” So they laid down the trowel and the brick and the stone, and with Francis they walked up to the city to preach the gospel. And Francis, with his Christian brothers, walked through the streets of the city, and then he came to the gate to go back down to the little church. And the brothers said to him, “But Francis, you told us you were coming up here to preach the gospel.” And Francis replied, “My brothers we have, every step of the way.” Not only is there preaching from a text, or from a topic, or from a paragraph or a chapter; there is also the preaching by what you do and the way you walk.
So today, we’re going to look at the glorious tomorrow, what we, under God, shall do. First, I speak of the coming of our associate pastor, Brother Jimmy Draper. He’s coming to work, not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life for the building of a great lighthouse in this place.
I could easily imagine a man coming to pontificate, to lord it over God’s heritage, to sit behind a beautiful desk and with secretaries and workers, to command this and to send there. No, he’s coming to work, to be our fellow servant of Christ, to be a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, to be a harvester in God’s gracious benedictory gifts, to be a shepherd of God’s flock. And I have a prediction to make. I have a prophecy to make. You’re going to see the day when the First Baptist Church in Dallas has twenty-five thousand members. You’re going to see the day when on any ordinary Sunday there are ten thousand registered here in Sunday school. You’re going to see the day when our church shall have a budget of over eight million dollars. You are going to see the day when our church will baptize from five hundred to a thousand souls every year.
“Ah,” somebody scoffs, “ah! So you have forsaken the Lord to follow after numbers, plethos. Numbers were inconsequential and insignificant in the sight of the Lord.” Say that to a politician: numbers don’t count. He knows the way you elect a president of the United States is you count noses. He knows the way you elect a governor of the state is to count ears and divide them by two. He knows that the democratic processes of a nation can only exist insofar as the people have a right to be numbered, to be counted.
Say that numbers don’t count to a newspaper editor. Listen to a newspaper editor as he would stand up and say, “I have a great paper. We have a subscription list of ten.” It’s inane; it’s ridiculous; it’s silly.
Say numbers don’t count to a bank. They have no customers. Or to a store; there’s no purchasers. Say it anywhere. It’s inane.
“Ah,” but you say, the scoffer, “ah,” but he says, “Jesus did not count numbers.” You don’t know what you’re talking about. He was thronged on every side by multitudes [Matthew 5:1, 8:1, 19:1-2; Luke 5:15, 14:25]. But you say, the scoffer says, “He taught a little group and was content for a small ministry.” Listen man, what the Lord was doing was training a cadre, officers for a vast army. And when the time came, and the training was done, the Lord said: mathēteusate, “make disciples” (imperative mood). “Make disciples of all the nations” of the earth [Matthew 28:19-20]. The trouble is we take the Lord in vain, not seriously, not really, not actually. For He said: “The whole world!” [Matthew 28:19]. And in our smug complacency, we say: “this tiny little group, that pleases the Lord. Let the rest be damned.” There are five hundred thousand people in Dallas this minute that are not in anybody’s church. There are eight hundred thousand people in this area this minute that are not in anybody’s church. But the smug, complacent Christian says, “We are quality, not numbers.” I say in all truth and under God that that sentence is nothing but a hiding of abject and abysmal failure. It’s ignominious and inglorious!
For the church, to say, He who avowed, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18], and who has commanded us to win all of the people, that it glorifies His name for us to fail; He never intended it; Pentecost [Acts 2:1-47] was never thought in the mind of God as being the big end of the horn, but the little end of the horn, and it goes out and out and on and on and on and onward until Jesus shall come again [Matthew 28:20].
One of the things that I preached last Sunday at Winona Lake, Indiana, was that the darker the hour, the more certain you’re going to have a great revival. It never fails. It never has. It never will. We’re preaching by what we’re doing; by the way we go. I speak of our First Baptist Church School. Ah! Bless God! What an open door! We don’t have that liberty in Moscow. We couldn’t have that freedom in Peking. You couldn’t have a Christian school in Prague or in Warsaw. You couldn’t have it in Vietnam North. We have it here in America. We can have a school, a Christian school, where every teacher is a devout servant of Jesus; where prayer is wont to be made; where the Bible is read and taught; where every chapel service magnifies the Lord; and where the subjects that are taught are taught in the mind of God in Christ Jesus; whether it’s history, or mathematics, or science, or the humanities. Oh what a glorious open door!
Dr. Nolan Estes, the illustrious superintendent of education in Dallas, said, “No greater tragedy could overcome a nation than that education be the prerogative solely of the government. Just beyond,” he said, “is dictatorship.” That’s why in any totalitarian political economy, free education is impossible and unthinkable. It has to be under the iron hand of the government of the state! But in America, we’re free. Not that everybody would take their child out of the public school and send the child to a Christian school, but some of us can. Some of us want to. Some of us pray to. Some of us have the glorious privilege of doing it. Our Christian school here in our church last year we had one hundred twenty-five. This year, we have two hundred twenty-eight, and we’re still growing. One of the open doors God has given us is that school. Down here with those children, teaching the blessed Lord. In a Sunday school we’ll have maybe thirty minutes with the child once a week. In a Christian day school we have hours and hours, all of the days of the week. It’s an open door God hath given us.
I speak of the way we’re going, what we’re doing. I speak of our Bible Institute. Oh, some of our people, I would to God all of them, but some of our people ought to go in depth in the study of God’s Word. And that brings to life and to birth and to reality our Bible Institute. We have the classes all during the daylight hours of the week. We have the classes Tuesday night, Sunday night, and this coming Wednesday night begins the pastor’s second semester teaching in our Bible Institute. And the whole auditorium is mostly full and you’re welcome; you’re welcome. This last semester I taught what the Bible teaches; and this coming Wednesday night, through the kindness of William Nix, Dr. Nix, I’m placing in the hands of all of those who took the course the last semester, the outlines that I made in teaching. And they’ll be placed in your hands this Wednesday night.
And then the course for this semester is: “God’s Eternal Purpose Revealed.” Those who register in the Institute, I’ve made arrangements with Dr. Joel Goodwin whose father wrote the book; for him to give me $4.95 for each volume, and I’m going to let you have it for a dollar. That’s kind of hard on Dr. Goodwin but its sure easy for me. We’ll have a great time studying the great dispensational truths of the Bible Wednesday night.
Where are we going? What we are doing? Ah, this is the day; this is the day that we went into our new Christian Education building. You know why I was late coming to the service this morning? I went over there to our Silent Friends church. They meet in the Ralph Baker Hall, the little auditorium with the steep slope. And the pastor, Joe Johnson, preaching by hand, manually, they can see him as though he were talking to them face to face. And this was their worship program for today. You know, the building’s already too little. I went over there to look at those departments, and they were standing around the wall, and they were saying, “Pastor, when are you going to build the next building? We need it now, now, now.”
I wonder if you deacons would like to hold up your hand and let me say, “I told you so.” I told you so. It’s too little already. I said to the men, “The day we go in, it will be packed. It will be jammed.” Before we can do anything, we have to pay for it. A kind of a tragedy has overtaken us. The banks were kind to us. They loaned us three million dollars for that building, and a million seven hundred thousand dollars to buy the rest of this property up to Ross Avenue. And being kind to us, they said, “We’ll let you have it at prime rate.” That’s the rate of interest they give their best customers.
But unknown to them, and brother was it unknown to us, the prime rate has been going up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and it went out the ceiling last week. The prime rate to their finest customers is now about nine and three-quarter’s percent interest. And we get it about a half a point above which means, we’ve hit the ten percent interest mark; and that kills us. Three million dollars over there. A million seven hundred thousand dollars over there. That’s four million, seven hundred thousand dollars at ten percent interest; that’s four hundred seventy thousand dollar a year interest going down the drain! O Lord, I hurt! It’s awful. And there’s no way in the world to obviate that except we pay those fellows, just pay them off; then we don’t owe any interest. So I make appeal to our people, just as soon as ever you can, give all you can to our building program. And Mr. John Shanks, our business administrator, says the minute the money is placed in our hands; we’re sending it to the bank in order to cut down that interest. Isn’t that a great thing? We’ve got these buildings, and we have these properties, and God’s going to place in the hearts of our people the wonderful response to pay for it, and to do it soon; for we have got other things yet to do.
We preach the gospel, not only by text and topic and exposition, but we preach it also by what we do and the way we go. As I mentioned, this last weekend I was preaching at a Bible conference at Winona Lake, Indiana. And as I sat there in the conference, I listened upon a day to a minister from Chicago. He was expounding on the fourteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans [Romans 11:14]. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 in the Book of Romans is a passage, a treatise of the apostle Paul on the election of the Jew and the problem of their unbelief, their rejection of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus [Romans 9-11]. And he was expounding on the fourteenth verse, that we are to provoke the unbelieving Jew to emulation. We’re so to live and so to be that when the unbelieving Jew sees us, he says: “I want to be like that. I would love to accept the Lord as my Savior, too.” That’s the fourteenth verse of Romans 11, that they might be provoked to emulation [Romans 11:14].
And then he mentioned Dachau. When he said Dachau, and any time that word is said, a flood of things covers my heart in sadness. I was in Dachau not long after the war. Here’s the place where the people were gassed. This is the place where their bodies were brought in order to knock their teeth out for gold and silver fillings. And it was a concrete floor that had a drain in the center of it and sloped to the drain. And this is the place—and you can see the ovens for yourself—the incinerators where the bodies were burned. And I stood there and looked at them. First time in my life I ever saw incinerators, ovens covered with wreaths of flowers and fond words of loving remembrance. It just seemed to me hundreds of them, just covered it.
Well, anyway, when he said Dachau, I listened doubly. The minister from Chicago who was speaking was describing a visit with a gifted Jewish lawyer in his city. He’s trying to win the lawyer to Jesus and ultimately did. But the lawyer said to the Christian minister at that confrontation, he said,
Sir, my wife and our two boys were interned by the Nazis in the concentration camp first at Buchenwald, then at Auschwitz and finally in Dachau. And as the years went by, I went down in weight from two hundred and fourteen pounds to ninety-four. And upon a sad day, I was standing in front of our barracks with my wife and my two boys. And while we were standing there, a Nazi soldier came with a gun and a steel bayonet, and he took his bayonet and thrust it through my wife, and she fell at my feet, dead. And he took the bayonet, and he thrust it through my older boy, and in a pool of blood he fell down dead by the side of his mother. Then the Nazi soldier took his bayonet and thrust it through my younger son, and with the other two, he fell dead. Then the Nazi soldiers came and took the wife and the two boys and took them to ovens and opened the door, and I smelled the burning flesh.
The man said,
As I stood there in a paroxysm of horror and grief, my eyes were raised beyond the incinerators to the barbed wire fence that had enclosed the compound, and I looked beyond and there was a church. And my eyes followed upward to the top of the church and to the steeple. And my eyes followed up and up to the top of the steeple, and I saw the great cross on top of the church. It was a sign not of salvation but of damnation! It was a sign not of love but of hate! It was a sign not of hope but of despair! It was a sign not of freedom but of slavery.
But I don’t remember feeling the horror of the thing, as I did listening to those words; the cross of the Son of God, a sign of damnation, and of hatred, and of hopelessness and despair! O God! For Germany has a state church. Germany supports its ministry by taxes. Germany was supposed to be the most cultured, intellectual nation with its universities. Germany was supposed to be a Christian nation. Hitler was no Christian. And the Nazis were not Christians. How do you know? How do you know? Because a man preaches the gospel by what he does and the way he goes, just as the gospel is preached by the text and by the topic.
This is our glorious new tomorrow. Not only to say and not only to speak, but to be and to do. O God, look down from heaven and see this message and ministry turn into flesh and into blood, maybe into tears and consecration. Bless us, Lord. May Thy presence precede us as we enter our new and wonderful year; doing and being for God.
In a moment we shall sing our hymn of appeal. Brother Jimmy Draper and his sweet family will come to be with us in this dear church this precious hour. Come with them; a family you, a couple you, or just somebody you. Come and welcome. In the balcony round, you, in this lower floor, into the aisle and to the front, you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. “I’m ready, pastor, I’ve made the decision in my soul, and I’m coming. Here I am. God bless me, I’m on the way,” while we stand and while we sing.