Spiritual Conquest Now

Acts

Spiritual Conquest Now

May 15th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM

Acts 26:16-20

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
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SPIRITUAL CONQUEST NOW (CBI GRADUATION)

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 26:16-20

5-15-77      7:30 p.m.

 

The title of the message tonight is Spiritual Conquest Now.  And in our Bibles let us turn to the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts.  Acts chapter 26; and we shall read out loud together verses 16 through 20—Acts 26:16-20.  As Paul stands before King Herod Agrippa II, he speaks these words as an apology, as a defense of his ministry.  Now read it out loud with me together.  Acts 26, verses 16 to 20; out loud together:

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.

Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

[Acts 26:16-20]

And you will find the spirit of the urgency of that message that he delivered to the world in these words from the fifth and sixth chapters of the second Corinthian letter.  “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” [2 Corinthians 5:11].  “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” [2 Corinthians 5:20].   “We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that you receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: Look, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” [2 Corinthians 6:1-2].

Spiritual Conquest Now; I speak first of our world—the whole world, and our present day of grace.  We live, every citizen of every nation in the earth, we live as one under a Damocles sword.  We live as one with a gun pointed to his head.  We live in the woe of history, in impending judgment and certain catastrophe.  You see that in the very titles of the names of the chapters in modern books of history.  A chapter will be “The Demise of Western Civilization”; another chapter will be “The Post-Christian Era.”  These historians who have followed the history of the human race from its inception to this present moment look with dread and foreboding to the future.

I could illustrate that no better than in the first three times I was in Germany; first, within a few months after the close of the Second World War.  All of the cities that I saw in Germany were great heaps of endless rubble.  For example, standing in the heart of Hamburg, a city larger than Chicago, from horizon to horizon I saw nothing but debris—not a building standing; not a house; vast endless measures of stone and stick and destruction.

The second time that I was in Germany; I went to a play, a modern play called Faust, and the star in the play was Orson Welles.  Over and over again in that play, there was repeated this refrain, “Damnation is contagious”— presented in the midst of Munich that was still half destroyed.  And that play ended with a clock in an atomic bomb ticking away; a play that was presenting our modern world.  The third time that I was in Germany I went to see an opera called “Götterdämmerung.”  It’s the third, the last of a trilogy, and in that opera written by Richard Wagner, there is the spear broken of the god Woden; Siegfried has been slain; Brunhilde cast herself upon the funeral pyre; and Valhalla is on fire.  And the opera ends with a dissolution of heaven and of earth.  These things seem to me to be portraits of the world in which we live.  We have a brief time of grace before the certain judgment of Almighty God—spiritual conquest now for the whole world.

Second: our nation of America—whether we live or perish.  Jeremiah the prophet lifted up his voice and cried to a debauched and wayward nation, “Repent!” [Jeremiah 3:12-14].  And the Babylonians came in 605 BC and carried away Daniel and some of the blood royal.  Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent!”  And the nation, continuing in its own debauched way, the Babylonians came in 598 BC, and carried away Ezekiel and many of the priesthood and the elite of the land [2 Kings 24:11-14; Ezekiel 1:1].  Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent!”  And the nation persisted in its ungodly way and the Babylonians came in 587 BC, and they didn’t need to come again [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21].  They destroyed the nation; carried the people into captivity; burned the Holy City with fire; and destroyed the Solomonic temple forever [2 Kings 25:8-12].

I liken that to the First World War—605 BC, the First World War; 598 BC, the Second World War; and we stand now in ominous dread and foreboding of the third and final world war.  When we fight this next confrontation with atomic weapons, we will live to see a world of endless and immeasurable and indescribable destruction.  For you see, I cannot believe that America can abide in drunkenness, and disobedience, and disgrace, and desecration, and debauchery.  It is still written in the Word of God, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all of the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17].   The rising graph of crime in America is beyond that of any nation on the face of the globe.  And we are becoming increasingly anti-Christ and anti-God and anti-church.

Far-called our navies melt away—

On dune and headland sinks the fire—

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget — lest we forget!

[ “Recessional” (A Victorian Ode), Rudyard Kipling] 

In every national conflict and confrontation that America has ever known and has ever had, we have been under the guiding, protecting hand of Almighty God.  And whether the Lord will protect us in the future lies in those imponderables—weighed in the balances; found wanting—spiritual conquest now.

I speak next of our faith, of our communion, and of our denomination.  There is in America toward one hundred million people who belong to no church whatsoever.  There are in America today something like thirty million young people below the age of twenty-one years who have had no religious instruction and no religious training.  There are ten thousand towns and villages in America that have no church whatsoever.  Do you think that spiritual vacuum will continue?  No.  Someone will win their hearts, and their minds, and their loyalties, and their faith, and their trust.

I remember the Unitarian defection in New England—reading of it in history—that hit the churches of New England; this in the land of our great Protestant Pilgrim Fathers.  Did that Unitarian defection that emptied the churches of New England, did it remain vacant and void?  No.  The Roman Catholic Church boasts today that they can present a solid Catholic vote in New England; this in the land of our Pilgrim Father; this in the land of the Great Awakening under George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards; this in the land of the great revivals under Charles G. Finney and Dwight L. Moody.

The most solidly Catholic city in America is Providence; and the most solidly Catholic state in the union is Rhode Island.  This is the state founded by our great Baptist progenitor Roger Williams, and kept true to the word by Pastor John Clark.  They will not remain in a spiritual vacuum.  Someone will win them—either we or someone else.  When Alexander the Great lay dying, his generals came; standing by his bed and asked, “Whose is the kingdom?”  And having no heir, Alexander replied, “It is for him who can take it.”

Bring me my spear of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my chariots! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my bow of fire!

We will not cease from battle’s strife,

Nor shall the swords rest in our hands

Till we have built Jerusalem

In this fair and pleasant land.

[adapted from “The New Jerusalem,” William Blake] 

Our denomination, whether we live or die; and the loss of our people, whether they are saved or die without Christ; whether we care or are filled with vast abysmal indifference:  “Oh that my head were waters, and [mine eyes a fountain of tears], that I might weep day and night for the lost of the daughter of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1]—the compassionate heart that seeks after these who know not Christ as the living Savior.

In a book that I read, a philosopher is seated in the great Roman Coliseum.  And he is watching the gladiatorial combats on the sand in the center arena.  And as those men with spear and with sword battle one another to the death; and as the sand is stained with the red crimson blood of life; the philosopher turns to his friend and says, “What is needed—what is needed is the heart that would make it impossible to look upon such suffering and bloodshed, and the future would belong to the power that could create that heart.”  He didn’t know it, but he was describing the compassionate, loving care of the Christian faith—the heart of which goes out in behalf of the salvation of all men everywhere.  There is no substitute for the compassionate heart—the spirit of the Lord Jesus that loves and cares, yearns over the lost.

The young man M’Cheyne—died in his twenties—made one of the greatest impressions upon Scotland of any preacher who ever lived.  A visitor came from afar to seek the secret of the young man.  The preacher was not there; only the caretaker.  And when the caretaker learned why the man had come, the caretaker said, “Come with me.”  He took him to the study of the young preacher M’Cheyne, and said, “This is the chair in which he studies, and this is the desk on which he places his books.  Sit in his chair.”  And the man sat in his chair.  The caretaker said, “Now put your hands on the top of the desk.”  And the visitor put his hands on the top of the desk.  And the caretaker said, “Now bury your face in your hands, and weep.”  Then the caretaker said, “Come with me.”  And he carried the visitor into the church house and said, “Will you mount the pulpit.”  And the visitor came and stood in the pulpit.  And the caretaker said, “Now, will you bury your face in your hands, and weep.”

This is a facet and an element and an integral part of the Christian faith.  But if it is ever taken away, it becomes dust and ashes in our hands—the burdened heart; the face that knows tears; and the prayer of wrestling that the lost might be saved.  We have many assignments, but our first and primary assignment always is the ministry of the blessed, saving knowledge of Christ to the lost.

You have builded temples in His name

Of mortar and brick and stone.

With windows of glass most beautifully stained,

With steeple and spire and dome.

But what do we of the byways care

for structure and line and trim?

Out in the dust of the lonely road,

we only ask for Him.

You’ve robed your choirs and trained them well

In proper and intricate song.

You have bought fine organs to edify

And love the weary throng.

But what do we of the byways care

For the robe and your organ’s deep amen?

We want you to walk beside us here

and point the way to Him.

O the roads of the world are a crooked maze

And we are woefully lost.  For the path to Him

And the roads to men is faint and hidden and crossed.

What do we care for the trappings of art,

We who are lost from Him?

Won’t you look upon our pitiful estate

And show us the way to Him?

[author unknown]

This is the great assignment of the church.  This is the great prerogative of the minister of Christ.  And this is the sharing of the gospel message of everyone who has found faith, and hope, and salvation, and life in Him—that others also might come to know the Lord, whom to know aright is life in this world and in the world that is to come [1 Timothy 4:8].

God bless us as a people, as leaders, as followers, as teachers, as disciples, as learners, as Christian followers—that we exhibit to the world a heart that is full of love and care, prayers that bombard the throne of grace in heaven, that the lost might be saved and the name of Christ might be honored in the heart of men.  And that is our invitation in this commencement and baccalaureate service tonight.  To me, what a tragedy if we build a school and leave out of it the appeal for our Lord; that we learn books and yet, never learn the spirit of Him who inspired every syllable of the Bible by His sufferings and by His death [Matthew 27:26-50].

And may God bless this appeal to this great throng here tonight, that somebody you might find the Lord as Savior; a family you, placing your life with us in the circle of this great and dear church, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, in a moment when we stand to sing, would you stand walking down one of these stairways or coming down one of these aisles?  “Pastor, tonight in this beautiful and meaningful service, I have decided for God, and here I am.”  Confessing your faith in the blessed Jesus, putting your life in the fellowship of the church; or answering God’s call as the Holy Spirit makes appeal to your soul, do it now.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming, answering with your life.  God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.

SPIRITUAL CONQUEST NOW

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 26:16-20

5-15-77

I.          Introduction

A.  The text

B.  Spirit of urgency in the message Paul delivered(2 Corinthians 5:11, 20, 6:1-2)

II.         For the world – our day of grace

A.  We live under a Damocles sword

      1.  Historians’ chapter titles – “The Demise of Western Civilization”

      2.  Seen so vividly in Germany

B.  We have a brief time of grace before certain judgment

III.        For the nation – whether we survive or perish

A.  Judah and Jerusalem – did not heed Jeremiah’s cry to repent

1.  LikeFirst and Second World War

B. America cannot survive in disobedience, drunkenness anddisgrace(Psalm 9:17)

      1. Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional”

C. In days past America has been under guiding protecting hand of God

      1. Our future lies in the imponderables of Almighty God

IV.       For the denomination – whether we live or die

A.  The spiritual vacuumwill not continue; someone will win them

      1.  Unitarian defection in New England did not remain that way

a. Now the most solid Roman Catholic

B.  Alexander the Great – “The kingdom is for him who can take it…”

V.        For the lost – whether we care or not

A.  What is needed is Christ-like compassion(Jeremiah 9:1)

B.  Our first and primary assignment is the ministry of the saving knowledge of Christ to the lost