Dr. Truett and This Dear Church

Acts

Dr. Truett and This Dear Church

July 2nd, 1978 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 9:31

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
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DR. TRUETT AND THIS DEAR CHURCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 9:31

7-02-78     8:15 a.m.

 

 

This will be the thirty-fourth year that I have delivered a message on some vital kingdom interest to which Dr. Truett gave his life.  It gives me opportunity to keep alive the memory of the “Prince of Preachers,” as everyone called him.  It gives me opportunity to speak of some vital portion of the kingdom of our Lord, to which he devoted his life.

So on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the death of Dr. Truett, I speak on something concerning him and the work of the Lord in the earth; for example, one of the messages would be on the Baylor University Medical Center.  He was the prime and moving figure in the organization of the Baptist Memorial Sanatorium, which was changed to Baylor University Hospital.

He was the moving spirit in the organization of the Annuity Board, which was organized in this church.  He gave his life literally to Baylor University, the school in Waco.  He saved it from bankruptcy and dissolution.  The work to which he gave himself on the foreign field in missions, the work that he supported in the denomination:  in how many areas of life did the great pastor beautifully and effectively devote his days.

Today I am speaking on Dr. Truett and This Dear Church.  Just as a background text, in the ninth chapter of Acts and the thirty-first verse, there is a word that the author, Dr. Luke, writes concerning the churches in Palestine:

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.

[Acts 9:31]

That word “edified” is a beautiful word.  “Then all of the churches in Judea, Galilee, Samaria were oikodomeō.”  Oikos is the word for house; domeō – the ending – “to build.”  If you were to translate it exactly:

Then were the churches built up; walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.

[Acts 9:31]

Building up the church of God; that was the epitome of the ministry of the great pastor.

In the summer of 1897, the pulpit committee of this church wrote to the young pastor of the East Waco Baptist Church again, and again, and again, asking him to come to be pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Without exception, he wrote back saying, “No.”  He was happy where he was – pastor of the little East Waco Baptist Church on this side of the Brazos River – and that he was contemplating entering the seminary if he left that little church.  But as the days passed, the church unanimously called him to be its pastor whether he wanted to come or not, whether he wanted to talk to them or not, whether he wanted to visit with them about it or not.  The church unanimously called him as pastor.  There wasn’t anything for the young preacher to do except to meet with the pulpit committee after the church had called him.

That’s one of the strangest things – that exact thing happened when they ordained him to be a preacher.  He was not a candidate for the ministry.  He was getting ready to be a lawyer.  But the church unanimously voted to ordain him as a preacher.  They felt that God wanted him to be a preacher, not a lawyer.

He went to his mother, who was a godly woman, the daughter of a preacher.  And she said to him, her son, “These are godly people, my son.  And I think you ought to listen to the voice of the Spirit in the church.”  So he was ordained as a preacher, not at his request, but the church voted unanimously to do it.

He was called to be pastor of this church unanimously, having refused every invitation to come.  But in the will of God and in the providences of the Lord, in the summer of 1897 – meeting with the committee – he accepted the pastorate and began his work here the second Sunday in September.

That ministry continued through the summer of 1944, which would mean that he was undershepherd of the congregation for forty-seven years.  When he was called as pastor of the church, it had 712 members.  It had a debt upon it of $12,000, which was so astronomical that the church was strangled by it.  That’s almost hard, or almost impossible for us to believe today.  But that $12,000 debt on this church was an enormous, unbelievable, indescribable burden.

The church was very auspicious for that day.  It was that part – where you see those tall windows there with a balcony running through them – that was the left side of the church.  The pulpit was there.  And it was very impressive for that day, but had that big debt to them upon it.

Dr. Truett came and immediately the church began to flourish and to grow.  And soon the fame of the preacher and the fame of the church spread to the ends of the world.  To this church he gave his very life – all of it.  For example, he had a great friend in John D. Rockefeller, Sr.  They were close friends.  John D. Rockefeller had an abounding love and admiration for Dr. Truett.  Rockefeller, as you know, was superintendent and deacon of the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  So upon a day, Rockefeller and the church in Cleveland sent a committee down here to the First Baptist Church in Dallas with the word from Mr. Rockefeller, “Get him.  Money is no consideration.  Whatever it takes, get him.”

It’s an unusual thing, but Dr. Truett I heard one time tell about John D. Rockefeller.  He was very thin.  And his stomach had difficulty holding any food.  And as they were riding along in the Rockefeller limousine, John D. Rockefeller said to Dr. Truett, “You know, Dr. Truett, they say I’m the richest man in the world.  But what good does it do me?  My clothes don’t fit me, and my food doesn’t agree with me.”

I sometimes think of that when I hear people fuss about some of the providences of life.  Man, if you are well, you are rich.  If you can eat a good meal and feel all right after you have devoured it, you’re the most blessed somebody anatomically in this world.

Rockefeller said to the committee, “Get him.  Bring him back as pastor of this church.  And money is no consideration – whatever it takes.”  So the committee talked to Dr. Truett down here in Dallas.  He wouldn’t go.  He wouldn’t accept.   He wouldn’t respond.

Finally the chairman of the committee said to Dr. Truett, “Well, Dr. Truett, could you be moved?  Is there anything?”  He said, “Oh yes!”  And with great alacrity, the chairman of the pulpit committee said, “Then Dr. Truett what is it?  What would it take to move you?”  And Dr. Truett replied, “Move my people.  All of you all move up here to Cleveland, I’ll move with them,” his love for the church.

He was asked to be president of Baylor University.  And he declined that presidency in one of the most beautiful sentences I have ever heard in my life.  He replied, “I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart” – and spent his life here as pastor of the church.

A typical Truett appeal to this church is this: in the first volume of sermons published by Dr. Truett, entitled We Would See Jesus, there is a message in there delivered on one of his anniversaries – delivered in about 1914.  And it closes with these words:

Oh!  My fellow Christians of this church, a church dearer to me than my heart’s blood, I summon you anew today to give your best to Christ, to be done with all playing at your religion.  I summon you to come with the rich red blood and human sympathy for all mankind, and give your best to win this city, and state, and world to Jesus, so that you may hear that plaudit, which it were worth worlds at last to hear, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’

 

This would be a typical way that Dr. Truett would preach to this congregation.

Now, I have asked Jack Byrd and the electronic media if he would take a pericope out of one of the messages of Dr. Truett and let his voice be heard as he speaks to this congregation in these years gone by.  And this is the voice of Dr. Truett in this pulpit:

The house of God is where you ought to be.  Blessed me last Sunday to see two parents here who had buried their son the day before.  And here they were with their faces covered with tears, saying to me as they greeted me, ‘If ever we needed the house of God, we need it today.’  And they spoke wisely and well.

You’d better go to the house of God, when trouble of any kind is on.  You say, “It’s financial, and my clothes are not good.”  If they are frazzled, and you have a hundred and forty patches on your coat, find the house of God.  If it’s the right sort of a house of God, you’ll be welcomed as cordially as any prince, with his purple about.  Find the house of God, whatever your trouble, whatever your situation, your question, your bereavement, your suffering, your awful perplexity.  Find the house of God.  And you’ll get in the house of God what you’ll not get anywhere else in all the world.

Oh!  The many – I could write a book, a good-sized book, filling the same with testimonies of the many who have come to this place of worship, have come with this impression or the other, with this atmosphere and environing them or something else and they have gone away with their clouds lifted, and their hearts lifted, and their burdens lifted, and their faith lifted, and victory flowing to the tips of their fingers, because they contacted God in His house.  You better go to church.

Ye men, within these walls, and women – and the larger throng may be many times over, listening in the land over – when trouble is on, no matter what the occasion of it, you’d better go to church and get your good pew, with a square look at the preacher, and where the whole volume of worship offered in the service – sermon, song, Bible, and prayer – and your contact with your fellow man may have for you the full value God wishes it to have for you.

Now this man points a grave lesson for us:  “[It] was all too much for me.  My trouble was I was bitter.  I was envious.  I was rebellious.  I was cynical.  I was ready to criticize God, and leave Him out and ignore Him.  I was in that miserable plight until I went to church.  Then understood I.  Then understood I.” Now there’s no substitute for public worship.  And the transforming influence of public worship is beyond the word of man or angels.

Jesus knew what He was about when He formed His church and made it one of the duties, not to be trifled with by anybody, to be a regular attendant upon the services, the worship of His church – there are no substitutes for public worship.  Our nature demands it.  You’re stunted, and stifled, and choked, and suffocated in soul, if you leave religious worship out of out your life.

That Frenchman Sabatier was right when he said, “Man is incurably religious.  Now if you starve that which is in man, and blight it, and suffocate it, it will harm him beyond words.”

The Bible says, “God hath set eternity in the heart.”  And nothing short of the eternal can suffice, and satisfy, and anchor the heart:  the nature of man, the man’s public worship.

The tremendous emphasis that Dr. Truett placed upon the church but reflects the spirit of our Lord, and the whole presentation of the will and purpose of God for us in the New Testament Scriptures.  It was our Lord who said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  Never did He say, “My wife.”  Never did He say, “My home.”  Never did He say, “My child.”  But He did say, “My church.”

The wonderful Pentecostal chapter, the second of the Book of Acts – Acts 2:47, closes with this verse:  “And the Lord added unto the church daily those who were being saved.”

The Book of the Revelation closes:  “I Jesus have sent Mine angel unto you to testify unto you these things in the churches” [Revelation 22:16].  I open my Bible at a little, and a relatively small, chaptered epistle, called Ephesians.  And as I look at the writing of the apostle, notice how often he makes appeal for the church.  “God hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” [Ephesians 1:22-23].  Look again on the next page:  “Unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” [Ephesians 3:21].  And look yet again:  “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” [Ephesians 4:11-12].  There again is that oikonomeō, for the “building up” of the church of Jesus Christ.

Look again, in this beautiful and precious passage:

Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle.

[Ephesians 5:25-27]

These are but typical passages of the presentation of the sublime love of our Lord for the church.  For He adds:  “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and His church” [Ephesians 5: 30, 32].  When a man exalts the work of the church, he exalts the work of Christ.  When a man loves the church, he loves what Christ loves.  When a man serves the church, works for the church, he works and serves for the great institution – living organism that Christ loved, and for which He gave His life [Ephesians 5:25].

Anything that does not work toward the building up of the church is outside of the circumference of the will of God for us.  There are many, many para-church organizations; but they ought not to seek our support.

He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the oikodomeō of the body of Christ – for the building up of the church.

[Ephesians 4:11]

What we do ought to be done in that circle of building up the church of Jesus Christ.

In our congregation, now retired, was a very fine, gifted deacon and businessman here in the city.  And one of these civic leaders came to him upon a day, and said, “What’s the matter with you?  We have this great drive in the city.  And look how small you give.”  And he said to the man, he said, “Sir, you or any other of you men, you bring down here to me what you give for the work of the Lord in the city of Dallas, and to support the poor in the city of Dallas, and show it to me.  And if I don’t give more than twice what any one of you men give, then I’ll double what I have offered to give to you.”

The man would not dare bring down such a total.  For this man, having learned that the ministry of Christ does more to uplift the poor, and to save the downtrodden, and to bless orphaned children and widowed wives, than all of the other civic organizations put together, this man had found that in building up the church – and in the message, and ministry, and salvation of the church – we find new lives, and new husbands, and new children, and new homes.

What builds up the church commands from us our highest and our greatest devotion.  In my humble opinion, it is the answer of God to the needs of the world, the building of the church.  Do you ever consider the kind of a culture and the kind of a civilization in which Jesus lived in the days of the Greco-Roman empire?  If I could characterize the culture and the civilization of the ancient civilization of Roman, that would be – it would fall into three categories:  one, it was a world of slavery; second, it was a world of idolatry; and third, it was a world of brutality.

First: it was a world of slavery: five men, if you met five men on any street in any of the great cities of the Roman Empire – in Antioch, in Ephesus, in Corinth, in Alexandria, and Rome – if you had met five men on any street, on any day, three of them would have been bonded slaves, chattel property.  Out of a population of a hundred million, sixty million of the people of the Roman Empire were slaves.

[Second]: It was a world of idolatry.  To us, the word idolatry just refers to an image before which someone would bow.  When you read the literature of that ancient day, the idolatry of the people, the worship of the people was indescribably promiscuous, iniquitous, evil, immoral.  The gods were more immoral than the people.  And in many, many instances, the gods were worshipped with paid temple prostitutes.  It is almost impossible for us to realize the shame, the ignominy, the iniquity of idolatry.  A great part of ancient literature lies un-translated because it is so filthy and so immoral.  It lies today in its own sin and iniquity.

Third: it was a world of brutality. The exposure of children was a universal practice.  When a child was born in a family, the father had the privilege of saying whether or not the child should live or die.  If the father did not want the child – and I have read with my own eyes Greek papyri where the father wrote a note to the wife, he being away when the child was born, that he didn’t want the child and ask the wife to expose it.  That is to place the child on the side of a road, or on the side of a highway, where a dog, or a jackal, or ravenous beast would tear it; or worse still, on the side of a street, where some hard-hearted family would pick it up and twist its bones and break it; and then use the thing as it grew up, to be seated on the side of a street to beg for alms.

It was a world of brutality.  There has never been any execution devised as awesome in pain as crucifixion.  That is a Roman invention.  It was a world of brutality.  The people were bloodthirsty.  And in order to quell their riotous spirit, the great Coliseum was built where the people by the thousands and thousands watched men in gladiatorial combat fight one another to the death.  That was the kind of a world into which Jesus Christ was born.

In all the Roman world, there was not one hospital, not one.  In all the Roman world, there was not an orphan’s home, not one.  In all the Roman world, there was not a leper colony, not one.  In all the Roman world, there was not a home for the aged, not one.  What was God’s answer to the slavery and the idolatry and the brutality of the Roman Empire – the civilized world?  His answer was – and if I may take a little translation of James Moffet as he translates Philippians 3:20 – “For our citizenship is in heaven.”  He’d translate that, “For we are colonies of heaven.”  The answer of God to the slavery and idolatry and brutality of the Roman world was the planting of those little churches that dotted the entire area of the Roman Empire – little colonies of heaven here and there and there, the building up of the church of God.  And out of those little churches came the ultimate annihilation and destruction of slavery.  Out of those little churches came the forever eradication – among civilized people of the West – idolatry.  And out of those little churches came forever the interdiction of the brutality found in gladiatorial combat and crucifixion.  God’s answer to the needs of the world is the building up of the church of the living God.

Now I bring this down to our day.  We live in an amazing and an almost indescribable era in the history of mankind.  May I show that to you?  Pliny, the ancient historian, who lived in the first century – first Christian century of the Roman Empire – Pliny wrote this word.  Listen to it:

There has never been a state of atheists.  If you wander over the earth, you will find cities without walls, without kings, without mints, without theaters, without gymnasiums; but you will never find a city without a god, without prayer, without oracle, without sacrifice.

That’s what Pliny wrote two-thousand years ago.  But in my lifetime and in yours, you have lived to see the day when there are states, there are governments, there are nations that are openly, and avowedly, and statedly, atheistic – anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-church.  I quote from one of the great Russian philosophers, [quote]:

 

We will grapple with the Lord God in due season.  We shall vanquish Him in His highest heaven; and wherever He seeks refuge, we shall subdue Him forever.  The very concept of God will be expelled as a survival of the Middle Ages, which has served as an instrument to oppress the working man.

And through the streets of the city, they go singing:

 

Arise, ye toilers of all nations,

Condemned to misery and woe;

To Hell with humbleness and patience,

Give deadly battle to your foe!

Wipe out the ruling wealthy classes;

Arise and slash your thralldom chains

Let power be wielded by the masses,

Let those who labor hold the reins!

[“The International”; Original words by Eugene Pottier, adapted by Oilfield Workers Trade Union]

This is a new world in which we live, unlike any that civilization or human history has ever known.  No Roman general would go to war until first he had propitiated the gods.  No ancient Greek would make a decision until first he had inquired at the Oracle of Delphi.  But these bow at no altar and call upon the name of no deity.  The thrust and the drive of atheism, and infidelity, and secularism, and materialism is flooding the whole world.

We think, “That’s in Russia.”   My brother, tragically is it true, there’s no difference in secularism, whether it is in Russia, or whether it is in China, or whether it is the United States.  There is no difference in materialism, whether it is in England, or whether it is in France, or whether it is in Indonesia, or whether it is in the United States of America.  Anti-God spirit, anti-church attitude, anti-religious spirit and feeling can be induced, and taught, and furthered in any school, in any child, in any home, in any family, in any press, in any public meeting in the world.

I bow my head in amazement of America that there should have been such a storm created when one of the trustees of the public school system of Dallas would like to know whether the man they are considering as superintendent over our children is an atheist and an infidel.  What has happened to us that we are so sold-out to the materialist and the secularist that it would be a cause of great concern, or so-called “religious liberty” and “separation of church and state,” that a man who directs our public school system, whether he be an infidel or not?

The whole fabric of modern American life is increasingly separated from the spirit of Christ.  It’s increasingly separated from the church.  It’s increasingly separated from the worship of the Lord.  It is increasingly secular.  It is increasingly material.  Our values are becoming earthly.  All of our dreams and our programs are centered in the materialities of this life.  And hardly do men think about God and call upon the name of the Lord for the solution to the problems that are beginning to overwhelm us.

What we need is a great turning back to the Lord.  We need a reassessment of all of our values.  What it is important that the child be taught?  What it is important for a man to give his life to?  What are the visions and aims and dreams that we hold for our country and for our people?  What is it that we seek for ourselves?  Just the materialities of life; to die and to leave it all behind?  Or, to do the will of God and to find the purpose of the Lord in our souls?

O God, that there might be a great turning back to the faith; that it might be as it was when I was a boy; that it might be as it was when I was saved; that it might be as it was when I began to preach; as it might be, even as it was, when I was called as pastor of this dear church.

“Well, pastor, those are idle wishes.  There’s no such thing as going back to a long-ago day.  No turning; what we need to do is to face the future with great boldness, in tepidity, great dedication and consecration.  We need to seek the face of God for our generation.”  Then how do you do it?  That’s the message of this hour.  What is God’s answer to the need of the world?  The answer is that church – that little colony of heaven.  And that’s all.

Nothing like this ever actually happened – kind of a legend sort of a thing – but when the Lord died, and returned to heaven, He was met by the angel Gabriel.  And the angel Gabriel said to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, You suffered and died.”

“Yes,” said the Lord.

 “And you taught a little band of people.”

“Yes,” said the Lord.

 “And you gave them the Great Commission.”

“Yes,” said the Lord.

And angel Gabriel said, “Now Lord what if that little band of people fails?  What if they fail?”

And the Lord is supposed to have replied, “Gabriel, I have no other plan.”

A thing like that of course never happened.  But the spirit of it is true.  There is no other plan in the purpose of God than the building up of the church.  There’s not any other way.  There’s not any other program.  There’s not any other purpose.  There’s not any other plan.

The answer of God to the need of the world is found in the building up of the church of Jesus Christ.  When I pour my life into it; and when we build it up; when we work for it; when we ask God to bless us in our assignments in it; when we invite others to share the pilgrimage with us; we are doing God’s will in the earth.  And we are seeking God’s answer – His best answer – to the needs of our generation.

I think that was the reason that some years ago, going through Russia, I sat in the congregation in Leningrad.  As you know, all the property in Russia is held by the government.  Socialism – more and more coming into America, as we have seen it sweep over England, as we see it sweep over western Europe – more and more coming into America; wherever socialism comes, it pulls people down to the lowest possible level.  It never lifts them up.  Always, it pulls everybody down to the lowest possible denominator – always, always.  There’s no exception to it.  Socialism never lifted up a people.  Socialism never enriched a people.  Socialism never blessed a people.  It pulls everybody down to the lowest possible level.  All of the heavy hands of government finally become oppressive.  That’s socialism.  And socialism, more and more, is pouring into American life, American government.  It is becoming oppressive.

Well, in Russia, you have the ultimate of socialism.  The government owns everything.  They own all of the property.  They own all of the houses.  They own all of the buildings.  They own all of the fields.  They own all of the farms.  They own all of the factories.  It is socialism in its ultimate communism.  Well, what they do is, owning all of the land and all of the property – all the cities, owning everything – they will assign, as a sop to the little Baptist church, they will assign a place.  And in Kharkov, on the edge of town – in an area behind a wall – the people meeting us:  Oh!  What an event!  The pastor standing there, bringing his people out to greet us: first, the pastor; then the young ministers, who were with him; and, then behind him, the people of the congregation in a little surging forwardness.  And the Intourists, the two Intourist guides, looked at him and said to me, “Look at those people.  Look how ignorant they are.  Look how poor they are.  Look how uneducated they are,” in sublime contempt.

Well, on the edge of the city, there will be a little assigned place for the church, and in Leningrad, over there on one side of the city, way out – a little church house.  And that is the one Baptist church for a city of four-million people:  about like Chicago, one Baptist for all the city of Chicago.  That’s their sop.  They say, “We have religious liberty.”  So we go to that little church.  And they have services all day long.  The people crowd into it, crowd into the courtyard.  And because we’re visitors, why, we’re taken up to the pulpit and seated there on the pulpit.  And I sat there.  And I wept for three hours.  I never experienced anything like that in my life.  Three hours I sat there.  And for three hours, I wept.  I couldn’t understand any word that they said.  Once in a while, I would turn to the Intourist guide and ask about something.  And it would be something like this:  “That letter that he’s reading is from one of the members of the church who defected, who gave up the faith and is writing now, asking forgiveness, wanting to come back into the church.”  And the people with many, many, tears welcome back that poor lost brother, who had defected from the faith and given up the church, and gone into communism.  Now he wanted to come back into the church and into the faith.

And the people, when they pray, get down on their knees because of the crowd.  And the crowd – no pews like this – get down on their knees and pray with their hands up to heaven like that.  Ah!  And as I sat there and looked at that, I thought of the power of the Russian government, and the enormous military build-up in which they’re now engaged, and the awesomeness of their vast armies, and their avowed purpose to conquer the whole world – breaking it off just a piece at a time.  I reviewed in my mind the enormous military strength and power of the Russian government and apparently the success of their socialistic atheistic philosophy.  And then beside it, I placed that little band of praying people – a tiny infinitesimal minority in so vast a city and so illimitable a country.  But in my soul of souls and my heart of hearts, I felt – and still do – that victory belongs to them, not to that Russian government, not to that atheistic society, not to that dead Lenin that they march by, by the thousands.  Every day they’d look upon his still, cold, and silent face.

But the future and the victory belongs to Him, who was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25]; who reigns at the right hand of God [Matthew 22:44 1 Corinthians 15:25]; and who is coming someday in great power and glory [Matthew 24:30].  God’s answer to the need of the world is in that little church:  whether it is the little band the Lord left behind in Jerusalem [Acts 1:12-14]; or the little congregation that Paul founded in Ephesus [Acts 18:1-9]; or whether it be in those little pioneer churches that are out here on the western prairies, one in which I grew up; or whether it be in the amazing blessing of God upon this great church in the heart of the city of Dallas.  God’s answer to the world and its need is in that church.

To it I pledge my heart and my life.  As long as I live, I want to be a member of the church.  As long as God gives me breath, I want to work and serve in the church.  I don’t have to be pastor of it.  I worked day and night for the church, before I was ever a pastor – loved it, counted it the greatest privilege of my life to have a part in it.  I want to be that way when I die.  And when I die, I want to be buried from the church.  I want them to take me here in the church.  I don’t want to be buried out there somewhere.  I want to be buried in the church.  And I want my last testimony to be, “This man gave his life for the building up of the church of Jesus Christ.”  That was Dr. Truett.  That is this church.

And please God, I pray that when Jesus comes, He will find this church faithful – right in the heart of the city, shining for Jesus, doing good for God – as long as the Lord shall give us life and breath.

Our time is much spent.  We are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing it, on the first note of the first stanza, without delay, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, to put your life with us in the fellowship and circumference and communion of this dear congregation, as the Lord would press the appeal to your heart, as God would make the way open, come.  “Pastor, today, I want to confess my faith in Jesus.”  Or, “Today, I want to put my life in the church.”  Or, “Today, I want to be received for baptism.”  As God should open the door, make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming down that stairway, walking down this aisle, “Here I am, pastor.”  And may the Lord’s angels attend you in the way, while we stand and as you come.

DR. TRUETT AND THIS DEAR CHURCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 9:31

7-2-78

I.          Introduction

A.  Text describes the ministry of Dr. Truett in this congregation

B.  Oikodomeo – to build up the house of the Lord

II.         Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas forty-seven years

A.  His call – in summer 1897 pulpit committee wrote again and again

      1.  Church unanimously called him whether he would come or no

B.  His faithfulness to the church

      1.  John D. Rockefeller sent for him, whatever it took – he refused

2.  Baylor University asked him to serve as president – he refused

3.  A typical appeal

4.  His voice

III.        Like our Lord, building up the church

A.  He never said, “My home, My child, My wife;” He did say, “My church”(Matthew 16:18)

B.  Spirit of the building up of the house of God reflected in all of New Testament(Acts 2:47, 20:28, Revelation 22:16, Ephesians 1:22-23, 3:21, 4:11-12, 5:30, 32)

C.  The word “church”

      1.  Sometimes used generically, referring to the idea (Hebrews 12:21-23)

2.  Almost always used to refer to the local congregation(Ephesians 4:11-12)

IV.        The local church – God’s answer to the needs of the world

A.  In the evil days of the Roman Empire, brutality characterized daily life

B.  God’s answer – colonies of heaven(Philippians 3:20)

C.  Our evil day – first time in history there are states, nations avowedly atheist

D.  The answer of God – no other plan but His witness to be found in the churches He has planted in the earth