God Judges America
September 12th, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
GOD JUDGES AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-12-76 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and, this is the pastor bringing the message entitled God Judges America. Not as a text for exegesis or exposition, but just as a word of background from the Lord, in John, chapter 5, verse 30, “As I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just” [John 5:30].
And then a like verse in chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, verse 48, “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath One that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” [John 12:48].
There is a final and ultimate by which all the peoples and nations of the world shall be judged. That is true of the nations of ancient history. It is true of the nations today. We are not able to circumvent or to obviate the law of God. It is impersonal; it is inexorable; it is eternal. God judges the nations and the peoples of the world.
Sunday a week ago—having just returned from Australia and the islands of the South Pacific, and then a few days before that, having journeyed through England and continental Europe; and then the summer before that, having gone around the world—there were some things deeply impressed upon me as I looked at our world and as I looked at our country. And I spoke of them Sunday, a week ago. The reason I have the temerity to do it is because so much of our ableness to preach the gospel of the Son of God and to build up the churches of Christ lies in the nature of the government of a people.
For example, I don’t think I was ever in a sadder congregation than visiting our Baptist church in the capital city of Czechoslovakia, a communist land. Because of the ableness and the effectiveness of the pastor, the government had taken him and sent him to the Polish border, out of the strategic pulpit in the capital city.
I repeat: so much of our ability and opportunity to preach the gospel and to build up the churches of Christ lies in the nature of the government of the people. So coming back, and thinking over the governments of the world and our own America, I said, “There are some things that terrify me—they paralyze me with foreboding—and at the same time, there are things that encourage me and lift up my spirit.” There is bad news, there is good news as we look at the world.
In this last journey a few weeks ago, through Europe, we were in a bus. We traversed the continent in a bus. It’s been a long time since I’d done anything like that. Well, the driver didn’t know where he was going, so we were lost most of the time. I found there was something good about that: we saw twice as much country as otherwise, and especially in the cities.
Well, we were riding up there, just going down one of those German highways—autobahns—lickety-split, and Jim Boyd over here in the Schaeffer Bible class came up and sat by me, and he said, “Pastor, I’ve got good news and bad news. First, the bad news: we are lost. But second, the good news: we’re making good time.”
So with the message: looking at the world, bad news and good news. The bad news first: there are things in the world that bring terror to my heart. I spoke of two or three of them in the last message. One: the inroads and the increase and the increasing spread of communism. “Little by little,” I said, “they are breaking off the pieces of the free world.” That’s true in Asia. It is true in Africa. It is true in the whole earth.
“Another thing,” I said, “that terrifies me is the acceptance of violence as a way of life in modern cultured and civilized society.” If there is a group that wants to make a point or to bring attention to the world or to drive through their own persuasion, what they do is they inflict terror and violence on innocent people; many times children and mothers. That is accepted today as a way of life and it is universal. It is in America; it is in Ireland; it is in Africa. It is everywhere—terror and violence as a way of life. “These are the things,” I said, “that bother me, that weigh upon my heart.”
Now today I speak of one other. When I mention it, you will say, “Well, how bland.” But having looked at the world, and now over several years, I am beginning to see it is a curse of the first magnitude. I refer to the curse of inflation. That is a way to rob the poor, to rob the weak, to rob the sick, to rob the old, to rob the infirm, to rob the retired, and finally, to rob the nation.
What causes inflation? There are three that I deign to name. Number one: it is caused by a circumvention of the laws of Almighty God. Somehow God made it that our well-being is found in our willingness to labor and to work. And where there is an unwillingness to do that, when people reach out their hands to have something for nothing, there carries with it an inevitable judgment. This is the law of God, I read it from the sacred page: “He that will not work, neither shall he eat” [2 Thessalonians 3:10]. It is that simple; it is that plain. And when we strive to reach for things for which we do not pay, we do not labor, we do not strive, God judges us. What is the cause of inflation? It is the disregard of that law of God on the part of the governments of the world. It is unthinkable and unbelievable what is happening in all of the nations of the world.
I stood at a hotel in little Fiji and getting ready to register, a man stood by my side who also was preparing to register. He pointed up there beyond the cashier, beyond the register there was a sign, a plaque up there giving the exchange of currency. And he pointed to one of them. He said to me, “Look at that. Would you believe that?” I looked to see the one to which he was alluding. It was this: the British pound, one dollar and forty-three cents in Fiji money; little Fiji, one dollar and forty-three cents. The noble pound sterling—that for generations was five dollars, one pound—one dollar and forty-three cents! The government of Britain has brought the once proud nation down to the dust.
Our neighbor Mexico: last week the peso plummeted; it is now worth five cents. There are these economists who say the time will come soon when it will be worth one and a half cents. Why? Mexico flirts with communism, and its government is so far left that the very economy and fabric of the nation is disintegrating—inflation.
President of the World Alliance, David Wong—who left the mainland of China in 1949 and immigrated to Hong Kong—he said in Melbourne, Australia, at our meeting a few weeks ago, “When I left mainland China, I was making 34,000,000 Chinese dollars a week. But,” he said, “practically all of it I spent on the bus going home.” Inflation! And America faces one of the great decisive eras of our national life.
When I was a young man, twenty-three years of age; when I was a young man, twenty-three years of age, I could have taken a ten dollar bill and gone to any bank. If it were yellow on the back—a yellow-back—I could have exchanged it for a ten dollar gold piece anywhere in America. When I was a young man, 23 years of age, I could have taken a ten dollar greenback and have exchanged it for ten silver dollars anywhere, in any bank in America. On the front of it was written that: ten dollars—$10 in gold paid on demand, or ten dollars in silver paid on demand. That is a piece of paper and that’s all; backed by nothing. Oh, maybe the paper is worth one one-thousandth of one cent, that’s all.
A man gave me a cartoon:
The prime minister comes before the king and he says, “Your Majesty, we can print no more money.”
And the king faints; the prime minister says, “We have no more gold.”
And the king revives and says, “Oh, I thought you were going to say we have no more paper!”
All that it takes in America today is for a governmental official to call the Bureau of Engraving and say, “Print for us 500 million more dollars!” Have we worked for it? No! Have we labored for it? No! Have we striven for it? No! Have we paid for it? No! It is a call from the government: “Print 500 million more dollars.” And that is inflation, and what lies ahead for America—in these social programs that our candidates are speaking of and never referring to their cost and how they are paid—trembles me; bows me in fear!
What causes inflation? Flouting the law of God; governmental fiscal policy: you go to the store tomorrow and what you buy will cost you more than had you bought it last week. And you wait one month later and go to the store and what you buy costs you more than the month before. And it goes up and up and up; flouting the law of God, getting something for nothing.
What causes inflation? The labor unions in the nation and in the world: when a man is given ten dollars and he produces five dollars worth of goods, you have inflation. And it is here, and it is there, and it is there, and it is everywhere; and it goes up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up: inflation destroying the fabric of the nation.
When I was in Australia, I heard a joke—they have their labor problems there, gigantic ones, such as we face in America and all over the world—so, this is the story:
A doctor calls a plumber, saying, “My sink is stopped up.”
In about three minutes or so, the plumber had the sink unstopped.
So the doctor said to the plumber, “How much do I owe you?”
And he said, “Eighty dollars.”
The doctor was horrified: “Eighty dollars for three minutes work,”
said the doctor to the plumber, “I don’t make eighty dollars for three minutes work!”
And the plumber replied, “Doctor, neither did I when I was a physician.”
Wages, wages—up and up and up. And all of the leaders of the labor unions apparently cannot get elected unless they get more and more and more for less and less and less. That is inflation. So much so that I have come to the very definite conclusion: I do not think that America possesses the moral fiber to go through a great depression.
I began my ministry as a preacher of the gospel in 1927. In 1928, I was the pastor of little country churches. And in 1929—on a Black Friday in October, the Stock Market crashed and America entered a deep, dark, black depression that lasted for years and years. I was the pastor and undershepherd of the people in those dark days. I knelt by their sides and prayed God as they lost their homes and as they lost their farms—labor all day long out in the cotton field and sell it for five cents a pound—I went through those years in the beginning of my pastoral ministry. But they never complained: they worked, they labored, they saved what little they could. They tried to pay their debts, they tried to keep that house or that farm: they strove to be free and independent. And the nation came out stronger, abler, mightier than it ever was.
And we went through, immediately following, the conflict of the Second World War, and we did it triumphantly! Could America go through that today? I say, “No.” If a deep, dark depression descended upon America today, you would have riots and anarchy on the streets of every city of the United States.
Why, it hasn’t been but a year and a half or two years ago when roving gangs went down the street—the main street of Dallas—smashing in the windows of Neiman-Marcus and the other stores on the street and taking out whatever their hands could seize. My brother, that is a peccadillo compared to what will happen in America if we face another depression. You’ll see roving gangs and riots tearing up our cities, smashing every window on every street, and ransacking those stores as though it was a part of the acceptable way of life. We have lost the moral strength that God intended for the people: that we work for what we get [2 Thessalonians 3:10].
And instead, our hands are increasingly out, receiving largess and welfare from the state, as though the state had anything to give. The only thing that the state has—the only thing that the government has is what it takes from us. And if they don’t take it from us by taxes, then they have to create it by printing money. And that is inflation; and finally destroys the fabric of the nation. That lies ahead for America in increasing proportion, for inflation is kind of like a creeping paralysis that comes and comes again—and then, just like that, it goes through the sky!
Going through Sao Paulo and Rio, I saw—for blocks and for miles—great gaunt sculptures, skeletons. One of the biggest I ever saw in my life was in Rio. It looked to me to be two or three blocks wide and five or ten blocks long, great giant skeleton.
I said, “What is that?” It was supposed to be a hospital.
“Well,” I said, “what are these great, tall buildings standing there, skeletal?”
And the answer was: “When the man started the building, he had the money for it. But between the time he poured the foundation and reached up there to the twentieth story, inflation had destroyed everything that he had.” And those buildings were there, blocks and miles of them; great, giant skeletons. It’s a tragic thing that can happen to a people and it is getting ready to happen to us. We mustn’t delay.
Good news! “What’s good, pastor? As you look at the world and as you look at us, what’s the good news?”
There is good news. The gospel means “good news.” There is good news and I pick out three things that encourage my soul of God’s working in the world today. Number one: our youth are turning back toward God. Not our older people, they’re pretty much the same as they have been, as they now are, and apparently are going to be. But our young people are, in increasing numbers, seeking the face of God. They have been disillusioned by drug addiction, by promiscuity, by the false, tensile rewards of this world, and they are seeking the deeper things of God. It’s a new day on the campus of our universities. It’s a new day in the heart and life of our young people. It’s another day, and they’re lifting their faces toward God.
I’ll give you a poignant instance of that. As you know on the Fourth of July, Sunday night, I conducted a service for the city of Atlanta in a football stadium. It was their bicentennial celebration of the birthday of America. As I was about two-thirds of the way through the message, it began to rain. And as quickly as I could, I gave the invitation. And as I pressed that appeal, there came down out of those football stands something like three or four thousand young people; kneeling down on the wet turf of the football field in front of me, giving their hearts and lives in a commitment to God.
The singer who was standing by my side said, “You ought to dismiss the people. You ought to have the benediction. It is raining!”
I said, “Yes, but look at these young people still pouring out of those stands, coming down on the football field.”
And, as it continued and it continued to rain, he said to me again, “By all means, you should close the service and have the benediction.”
I said to the singer, “How can I? Look—those young people streaming out of those stands, kneeling down in the wet grass.”
It’s another day, it’s a new day! It’s a glorious promise of a more golden tomorrow, what is happening among our young people: good news!
Second, good news: there is a predisposition on the part of laymen all over this world to take the message of Christ out to those who’ve never heard and who need to be saved. I’m not talking about the seminaries, I’m not talking about the ordained pastors and preachers; I’m talking about the laypeople of the world.
There came to the Baptist World Alliance General Council in Melbourne, a man by the name of Sadhu Samuel. Everybody calls him “Sam.” He brought me a little gift—he wants me to come to India to preach. And he was describing for me what was happening among the Telugus in India; that was the place where our Baptist people made their first tremendous inroad. And he had a little tract that he gave me, and it is about himself. And he said, “After a most unresponsive period of forty years of early missionary work, on the third of July in 1878, 2,222 outcasts were baptized in the Gundlakamma River. And my grandparents were among those who were baptized.”
Then, he says, “Today, there is a Lay-people’s Association Of Soulwinners—LAOS, Laypeople’s Association Of Soulwinners.” And he said, “The government will not allow a missionary to come to India, so our laypeople are taking the message of Christ to the people.” And he said, “This year—1976, July Third—we baptized in that Gundlakamma River, in that exact place, 2,324 people in one day; in one day!” And, he said, “We baptized 12,000 that month, and we have 15,000 awaiting baptism.” And then he has the pictures here of that great baptismal service. All of that is by laymen, not by preachers—it’s by laymen, Christian laymen!
There is coming to see me tomorrow, or Tuesday, a layman who was past president of our Southern Baptist Convention. And he—having built a great industrial plant in India at which they seek to hire Christian laborers—he’s coming to see me to see if I can persuade Dr. Patterson to take our Bible Institute and extend an arm of it over there in India for the help, and encouragement, and training of those laymen and laywomen who are preaching the gospel on the streets, in the houses, from heart to heart, and tongue to tongue, and lip to lip. Man, isn’t that the best news in the world? A great revival in India by laypeople—laymen, laywomen.
We’re to have a lay-renewal in our own church sponsored by our denomination, not by the paid minister, but by the Christian people who love God, bearing the good news to all who will listen.
A third cause for optimism in this world is the power of the printed Bible, the power of the Scriptural Word, the power of that blessed Book.
David Wong, the president of our Baptist World Alliance, was up there giving a report to the general council. He had been to mainland China—that was an unusual thing that he’d have opportunity to go into mainland China. He had visited Red China and was giving a report. And to my amazement, as I sat there and listened to him, his report was full of optimism, victory. He said, “In China, there are Christians everywhere who are bearing the message of Jesus. And they’re making converts and they’re teaching them in the faith.”
When he got through, I stood up and I said, “Mr. Chairman, this is the opposite of everything I’ve ever heard. I have been told authoritatively that the church has been decimated and destroyed in Communist Red China—that there’s no vestigial remnant of the church in China—and yet the president, David Wong, says that having visited in the nation, he finds Christians everywhere that are working for Christ, winning converts to Jesus.” I said, “I don’t understand.”
So they called David Wong back to the podium and said, “President Wong, what do you mean when you say, ‘There is a message of Christ even in Red China that is bringing people to the Lord?’” So David Wong said:
I’ll give you an illustration. In Indonesia, in the Chinese community of Indonesia, there was a gifted and famous Chinese violinist, concert violinist. And he was so fine and so able that he was playing in a concert in Moscow, Russia. And the premier of Red China, Chou En-lai was present listening to that Chinese violinist. And after the beautiful and wonderfully received concert, the Chinese premier went to him and said, “You belong to us, you belong to China. We want you to come back and live in Peking.”
And as they talked, the violinist said to Chou En-lai, “I will come. I’ll live and play in Peking, if you will promise me this: if I ever want to leave, I have permission from you for me and my family to leave.” Chou En-lai the premier made the promise, and the great Chinese violinist moved to Peking.
As the days passed, in 1967—the year of the Red Cultural Revolution when those violent Red Guards nearly destroyed the nation in chaos—and in the days of that Red Cultural Revolution, the violinist went to Chou En-lai the premier and said, “You promised that if the day ever came I wanted to leave with my family, I could. The day has come. I am asking permission to leave.”
And Chou En-lai the premier—who’s now dead—Chou En-lai gave the word, kept his promise, and the great violinist and his family immigrated from Red China to Hong Kong. The first thing he did: he took his family, his wife, and his children to the Kowloon Baptist Church and made a confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and asked to be baptized into the Kowloon Baptist Church—he, his wife, and all of their children.
What had happened was this: going home from a symphony where he played, or going home from a concert that he’d given, on a street corner in Peking would appear a faceless and nameless Chinese man. And each time that he appeared, he gave to the great violinist a torn leaf out of the Book. He took the leaf home and read it. And every time he went home from the concert hall of symphony or his own concert, that faceless, nameless Chinese man was there with a torn leaf out of the Book, placing it in his hands. Taking them home and reading them, the Spirit of God convicted his soul and he asked to emigrate. And when he came to Kowloon in Hong Kong, the first thing he did was to come before the Kowloon Baptist Church saying, “I have found the Lord. And I and my family request baptism, just as it is in the Book.”
Good news! Good news: God still reigns! [Psalm 103:19]. Jesus still lives! [Luke 24:5-7]. The gospel message is vibrant is and alive: “My word shall not return unto Me void; it shall accomplish that whereunto I send it” [Isaiah 55:11]. “For the word of God is quick—living—and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” [Hebrews 4:12].
I know the whole world looks dark. But above the midnight darkness stands the Son of heaven, glorious in light, kingly in demeanor, and with the government of the world in His hands. Victory, triumph is just beyond the day of His coming; good news. Good news, good news: Jesus lives, He reigns and we shall see Him someday soon [Revelation 22:3-5].
And in that spirit of hope and commitment, we invite you to pilgrimage with us in this journey to heaven. Down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles: “Here I am, pastor, I’ve decided for God. May He write my name in that book in heaven, and may I be numbered among God’s redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. In the forgiveness of my sins [1 John 2:9], in accepting Jesus as Savior [Ephesians 2:8-9], I come. I want to be baptized just as it says in the Book” [Matthew 28:19-20]. Or, “I want to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church.”
Make the decision now, in your heart. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up, walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle, “I give you my hand, pastor, I’ve given my heart to the Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9]. This is my wife, pastor, these are my children; we’re all coming today.” Or just one somebody you, as the Spirit presses the appeal to your heart; make it now. Come now, do it now. While we stand and while we sing.