My Life and My Church

Acts

My Life and My Church

December 31st, 1978 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 20:28

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
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MY LIFE AND MY CHURCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 20:28

12-31-78    8:15 a.m.

 

 

And to the great throngs of you who are listening on radio, if your radio is working at your house; there are great areas of the city where there is no electricity.  And there are other areas where the radio goes on and off as the electricity goes on and off.  But there are other vast areas in the metroplex that has no such difficulty; and to you who are able to hear, we welcome you to this early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled My Life and My Church.

In our preaching through the Book of Acts we are in chapter 20.  And there is a verse in chapter 20 that has meant so much to me in my own life and ministry.  This is one of several messages that I have delivered on this verse; it is number 28.  Acts, chapter 20, verse 28.  Addressing the pastors of a church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul writes,

 

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed, to shepherd, to care for the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood –

[Acts 20:28]

 

my life and my church.

For us who have found refuge in Christ, it would be almost impossible to emphasize too much the revelation of God’ s grace and mercy to us through the one institution for which He gave His life: His church, His body; our Lord’ s very ministry and continuing love here in this world.  When the life of our Lord was lived, and His work was done, and He returned to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], the issue of His entire life is found in the church that He left behind.  He said in the passage that we just read in Matthew 16, "On this rock I will build My church" [Matthew 16:18].  And when the Lord returned to heaven, what remained of all of His incomparable and beautiful ministry was a church.  He left behind in this earth a church.

The great doctrines of salvation are shaped, and dramatized, and portrayed, and presented by the ordinances of the church.  The recurring church ordinance, the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27], presents the sacrifice, the atonement of our Lord for our sins.  This is His body which is presented, dramatized, portrayed in the broken bread [Matthew 26:26; 1 Corinthians 11:24].  And this is His blood which is dramatically memorialized by the crushed red fruit of the vine [Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25].  The first and recurring ordinance brings to our hearts the atoning death of our Lord.  And the initial and singular ordinance of baptism presents for us His burial and His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].  And this is the gospel.  Paul so defined it in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "My brethren, I declare, I make known unto you the gospel, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1, 3]; this is the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, His body and His blood [1 Corinthians 11:26].  "Christ died for us according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and the third day He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]; this is the beautiful portrayal in baptism – the burial of our Lord, and we are buried with Him; and the resurrection of our Lord, and we are raised to walk in a new and a victorious life in Him [Romans 6:3-5].  The great doctrines of salvation are portrayed and dramatized in the ordinances of the church.

On the day of Pentecost, when the ascension gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out from heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon a church [Acts 2:1-40].  It quickened, it brought to life, it empowered a church.  The second chapter of the Book of Acts describes, "There was added unto the church three thousand souls" [Acts 2:41]; and then, "And the Lord added to the church those who were being saved" [Acts 2:47].  The Holy Spirit indwells, magnifies, quickens, glorifies, empowers a church.

The labors of the apostles ensued in a church.  The missionary journeys of the apostle Paul and those who preached the gospel with him resulted in churches all around the Mediterranean Sea [Acts 13:1-21:14].  The apostle will refer to the churches of Judea, the churches of Samaria, the churches of Asia, the churches of Galatia, the churches of Macedonia, the churches of Achaia.  When the fruit of the labor of these missionaries and apostles and evangelical ministers of Christ is summed up, it results in the churches.

The last words of our Lord recorded in the Bible are addressed to the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22].  And as He speaks to them, He speaks to His churches today.  The message and the word of God is found in the churches.  We could sum up the whole attitude of our Lord toward His church in Ephesians 5:25, "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it."  And we can sum up the deep and abiding care of the apostles for the churches in my text: "Take heed therefore unto you and to all the church, over which the Spirit has made you overseer, to shepherd, to care for, to feed, to build up the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood" [Acts 20:28].  As I read the Bible, and as I see the fruit of its message, I find it in the churches in the earth.

And now, my life and that church; I want to identify with it.  I want to be numbered among those who belong to the household of faith and who have been baptized into the fellowship of the church of the living Christ.  They are my people.  These are the brethren and the sisters and the fellowship to which I give my life, gladly, purposely, statedly, prayerfully, zealously, whole-heartedly, cheerfully, triumphantly, victoriously.  I sense that when I go abroad.  These Americans are found all over the world.  You won’t go anywhere but that you’ll find a stream of Americans.  They’re either soldiers, or they are tourists, or they are businessmen; Americans flood the world.  And as I watch them in their living, and in their visiting, and in their interests abroad, I would say that whoever wrote that book, The Ugly American, had a pretty good persuasion of the kind of people we are.  Our interests are in all of those things that are entirely identified with the world.  When I go abroad – and I’ve been around the world three times and up and down it I don’t know how many times.  I counted up the other day; I had crossed the equator twelve times.  When I go abroad, the people I seek out are the people of Christ.  The people that I would love to know are those who belong to the churches of the Lord.  And around this earth, and in every nation and city I’ve ever been in, God has His people and I belong to them, I love being with them.  I believe what they believe in; I believe in the Scriptures, the holy revelation of God.  I believe in the deity of Christ, in the kingly session of our Lord in heaven.  I believe in the preaching of the gospel.  I believe in the nurture of our people in the faith, in the Word of God.  I believe in the presence, and power, and saving conviction and conversion of the Holy Spirit of God poured out upon the earth.  I believe in the coming again of our Lord [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7], in whose personal appearing we have our ultimate and our final hope [John 14:2-3].

I love the people of the Lord, wherever they gather.  I may not understand their language, but I understand their hearts.  They’re our kind of folks, whatever language they are, whatever colors of their skin, whatever their educational or cultural status.  I feel at home with them.  When they sing the songs of Zion, they move my heart.  When they preach, though I may not understand a word of the man, I understand his heart and his spirit, the presence of God in his message.  One of the most astonishing things that one could experience is to go to church in a foreign land, and sit there unable to understand any syllable of what is said, and yet be deeply moved by the Spirit of God in the services.  That’s the people I love.  I identify with them.  They’re the folks I love to know, love to visit, love to see.

And how much more so is that true with our dear church?  This is for us God’s house; and these are for us our brothers and our sisters in the Lord.  This is our

koinōnia, our communion, our fellowship.  This is our spiritual home.  I love to be identified with it.  I love the people who call upon the name of Christ in this place.  I love to pray with them, to sing with them, to kneel in prayer with them.  I love to worship God with them.  I love to prepare the ministries of the Lord with them.  I love to share its every vision and outreach with these dear people here in this dear church.

Dr. George W. Truett, my predecessor for forty-seven years, was one of the greatest men, personally, that I ever saw, that I ever heard.  Through all the years of my youth, my childhood and youth, he was an ideal, a hero, a great messenger of God that I loved to hear as he would come to the university and speak, or come to the conventions and speak, or come to a pastors’ conference and speak, always with great effect, moving spirit.  Dr. Truett was a personal friend of John D. Rockefeller, Senior.  And John D. Rockefeller had a profound love and admiration for Dr. Truett.  As you know, John D. Rockefeller was superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School at the Euclid Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  There was his home, there he lived, there he attended the church.  And upon a day, when the church was without a pastor, John D. Rockefeller and the members of the church decided, under God, that they would seek to persuade Rockefeller’ s friend, George W. Truett, to come and to be pastor of the church in Cleveland, Ohio.  So they sent a committee down here to Dallas to visit with Dr. Truett, to persuade him to come to Cleveland.  And Dr. Truett refused.  They talked to him again and again, and he refused.  Finally, a committee was sent down here to Dallas to visit with Dr. Truett, and to say to him, "Anything that you want, any salary you will name, any provision or proviso or condition, we’ll meet it."  So the committee came and brought to Dr. Truett that message.  "You set your own salary; any salary.  You make your own conditions, any conditions.  And we will meet them."  And Dr. Truett said, "No, no.  I cannot come."  And the committee finally said in desperation, "Well Dr. Truett, could you be moved, could you be moved?"  And Dr. Truett said, "Oh yes, oh yes."  And the committee immediately sensing an opportunity said, "So you can be moved.  What would it take to move you?"  And the great pastor replied, "Move my people, and I’ll move with them."  That’s one of the reasons why this great church: it is found in the years and the years of the ministry of that marvelous man.

You know, one time I was at a Southern Baptist Convention, seated up there in the balcony.  And I happened to be seated by John L. Hill.  He at that time was the book editor of the Sunday School Board.  John L. Hill is the reason I am pastor of this church now, under God.  It was Dr. Hill that persuaded the pulpit committee here to look at me, and finally encouraged them to call me as pastor of the church.  I was seated by Dr. Hill at a Southern Baptist Convention, high up there in the balcony.  And the preacher was George W. Truett.  Now I think the reason that Dr. Hill said to me what he said was because of the leaving of the pastorate of some of the tremendous preachers of the convention to accept other positions, other denominational assignments.  And Dr. Ellis Fuller had just resigned the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, to be president of the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  So as I sat there by Dr. John L. Hill, listening to Truett preach, while Truett was delivering God’ s message at the convention, Dr. Hill turned to me and he said, "You see that man?" pointing down there to Dr. Truett, "You see that man?  You hear that man?"  He said, "He’s the only man that I know who could never be moved."  Whether Dr. Hill knew anything about that story of Rockefeller and the Cleveland church and this great pastor of the church in Dallas, I do not know; but that’s what he said to me.  And I remember it, and to this day, poignantly.

It is a wonderful thing, I think, to love the church.  It is a glorious thing to be happy in the work of the Lord in the church.  There is a fullness in it, a reward in it, a heavenly benedictory blessing in it that is unlike any other relationship in the earth.  And I am like that with this church.  I love this church.  I love being a fellow member with you in this congregation.  I love to think about our work, and to dream about it, and to prepare, and to plan, and to pray, and to ask God’s blessings upon the work of our hands.  It’s the dearest privilege God could give us in life; to be together in the church; my life and my church.

Again, we all have an assignment in the church.  However we are, some of us affluent, some of us so poor, some of us educated, some of us so unlearned, some of us with talent and personality, and others of us just sort of belonging, however our status in the church, there is an assignment from God for us.  One of the unusual doctrines to be found in the Word of God is this: that God has given to His people differing gifts [1 Corinthians 12:1-14, 27-31; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-12].  Sometimes they’re called "charismatic gifts."  The word is so abused until when I use it I hesitate before it.  But it’s biblical.  Charisma is a beautiful Greek word translated "grace"; charisma, charis, "grace," charismatic, charismata, "grace gifts."  And all of us have them.  Our gifts differ.  Some are given this gift, some are given that gift, some are given another gift, some still another; but we all have a gift.  There is something we can do.  And when we dedicate the gift for God, Paul says it makes the body complete.  He says:

 

The body is not all hand, it is not all foot, it is not all eye, it is not all ear; but there is a foot, there is a hand, there is an eye, there is an ear, that the body of Christ may be complete.  And the foot cannot say to the hand, I do not need you.  And the eye cannot say to the ear, And I do not need you.  But the whole body framed together is beautiful in the Lord.

[1 Corinthians 12:14-26]

 

Now that is we today.  However we differ, and we do differ – however we differ, there is a marvelous and glorious and wonderful place in the church of God for you.  And if you don’t fill it, the body of Christ is just that much weakened.  The Lord needs us.  It sounds egotistical, almost vainglorious to say it; but God can’t do His work without me.  He can’t do His work without us.

There is a marvelous poem that describes old Antonio Stradivarius.  The old man is carefully, tediously, meticulously but beautifully making his violins.  And the old Latin craftsman says in the poem, "God can’t make Stradivarius violins without Stradivarius."  That is a proverb, a sage, a truism for the whole family of God.  The Lord can’t do His work without you.  These are His hands; see them?  These are His feet.  This is His tongue.  And He moves on our feet, and He works with our hands, and He witnesses and He testifies with our tongues.  And without our feet and our hands and our tongues, God doesn’t move, God doesn’t preach, God doesn’t teach, God doesn’t testify.  He does His work through us.  We are a part of the family of God, vital to the work of our Lord, and especially so in the building up of the church of Jesus Christ.

I am a vital part of this fellowship, whoever I am.  We belong to each other.  And my brethren depend upon me, and we depend upon each other.  I mustn’t forsake them or discourage them or let them down.  I must be faithful, and I must do my part, and I must pray that God will help me do it well, pleasing unto Him.  If I don’t carry my part of the load, somebody else has a heavier load to carry, and maybe it’s too much.  I must do my part.  I must carry my section of the load.  I must give myself in all I’ m able to do in my assignment.  I owe that to my brothers and sisters in the church.  And, of course, I owe it to the faith.  I must not deny the Lord.  I must not deny the faith.  I must be faithful and true.

You know, I don’t know whether this ever happened or not.  I’ve been trying to turn over my mind, did I read this in history or did I just imagine it as I have read of those early Christians?  I can’t recall it to mind.  But this is it: the Christians are being fed to the lions.  And there in that great arena, those tiers upon tiers, those great coliseums of people, and down below the blood thirsty throng is being entertained by feeding the Christians to the lions.  So one by one the Christian is called out and torn apart by the ferocious beasts.  So the call has come for this Christian who is waiting his turn to be thrown into the arena, there to be torn apart by those ravenous and carnivorous animals.  And as this Christian is called in his turn to go out and to face those ravenous beasts, as this Christian is called out to go, there is a Christian who is coming back; he is returning.  And as this one goes who has been called to face the beasts, and he passes this Christian, a friend that he knows who is returning back, the Christian who is passing by and going out into the arena and to his martyrdom and death, he says to the Christian coming back, he says to him, "Maranatha; maranatha, the Lord comes.  I’ll see you in the morning on the other side of the river."  "Maranatha, achri hou elthē, till He come."  And he goes out into the arena to face death.  But what he didn’t know, as he passed by his friend and fellow Christian who was returning, what he didn’t know was that that friend who was returning was doing so because he had renounced the faith, he had given up the cause, he had denied his Lord; and in his recantation his life was spared, and he was returning, while the other was faithful unto death.

When I thought through that awesome scene out of Christian history, I pray God that if such a confrontation ever came in my life, that I would be that Christian who faces the lions, "Maranatha, God comes.  I’ll see you in the morning."  And God deliver me from the cowardess of the Christian who recanted his faith, who denied his Lord, and whose life was spared; true to the faith until death.

Dear people, we don’t have anywhere to go, so let’s just sit here and listen.  I got a whole lot more to say.

My life and my church: all the values that we hold dear to our hearts, all of them, are represented by, funded by, held up by, supported by the church – all of them.   And if God will help me this morning, I would like to make that powerfully felt and seen in your heart, in your mind.  All of the values, all of them that we hold dear to our hearts are bound up in the life, the viability of the church.

Number one: if I can understand the Scriptures aright, this very world is held up from judgment by, is delivered from the outpouring of the tribulations of God, the wrath of God, saved from the judgment and wrath of God by the presence of the church in it.  Here again that may seem to be the most colossal egotism that anyone could imagine, that it is we who are here in this world that prevent the outpouring of the wrath and judgment of God upon it.  But if I can understand the Bible at all, that is what the Bible teaches.  The one group of people that stays the bared arm of the judgment and wrath of God is because in this world are His people.

Look at that just for a moment.  The two angels came to Abraham and then left, saying, "We are going down to Sodom and Gomorrah, and see if the wickedness is as it has come up to God in heaven" [Genesis 18:20-21]. 

"Now Abraham stood yet before the Lord" [Genesis 18:22-23], and Abraham said to God, "Lord, You would not destroy the righteous with the wicked.  The Judge of all the earth will do right; You would not destroy the righteous with the wicked."  "And the Lord said, No."  Then Abraham began his prayer, "Peradventure there be fifty righteous in Sodom?  The Lord said, For the sake of fifty I will not destroy it" [Genesis 18:24-26].  Then Abraham in his praying, "Forty-five?" and "Forty?"  "Thirty?"  "Twenty?"  and finally, "Ten?"  And the Lord said to Abraham, "If there are ten righteous in Sodom, I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten righteous" [Genesis 18:27-32].  Had there been ten righteous in Sodom, the wrath and judgment of God would not have fallen upon it.  It was for the lack of the ten that fire fell upon that city from heaven [Genesis 19:24-29].

You have an exact like doctrine in the revelation of the Scriptures concerning the church and the rapture of God’s people.  In the fourth chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse, of the Revelation, the story begins, the chapter begins, John sees a door opened into heaven: and he is caught up through that door into glory, into heaven, at the feet of Him who sits upon the emerald throne, the throne of God [Revelation 4:1-2].  And that is a type of the rapture of the church: caught up into heaven.  And from that moment of the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, until Christ comes with His church in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, the church is never seen [Revelation 19:11-16].  In the first chapters of the Revelation, Revelation 1, 2, and 3, the whole story is about the church, the church, the church.  But after the rapture [Revelation 4:1-2], the church is never seen, it is never mentioned, until the nineteenth chapter when the Lord comes with His people, with His bride, with His church, with the saints of God [Revelation 19:11-*4].  And what is that between the fourth chapter of the Revelation and the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation?  That is the great tribulation; that is the outpouring of the judgment and wrath of God upon this earth.  What is the doctrine?  It is this: as long as the church is here, as long as God’s people are here, the judgment of God is stayed; it cannot fall.  It is the church; it is the people of God that stays the mighty hand of the wrath of the Almighty.  It’s as the angel said to Lot, "Escape, for I can do nothing until thou be come thither" [Genesis 19:22].  As long as the church is in this world, the judgment does not fall, the tribulation does not come.  But when the church is taken away, immediately the awesome plagues and outpouring of the wrath of God, the vials of wrath, are poured out upon this evil and iniquitous earth.  That’s the first thing.  The values that we hold dear to our hearts are represented in the church.  Number one: it is that church, it is this church, it is the people of God that stays the wrath and judgment of the Almighty.

Number two: it is the church that gives value to our physical properties.  Now for a moment, I want to be very crass and very earthy.  For a moment, let me be most mundane and terrestrial.  It is the church that gives value to what you possess and what you own.  Now you follow me in your mind for just a moment.  I want you to tell me, what would have been the value of a house in Sodom?  What do you think?  Just what would be the worth of an investment in Sodom?  Tell me, what would be the value of a farm close to the suburbs of Gomorrah?  Tell me, what would be the value to Naboth of his vineyard when Jezebel is on the throne?  We do not realize what the presence of the church of the living God in our midst means to us in what we possess, in what we have.

As many of you know, this last summer this Chapel Choir and others of us went through Hungary and Poland and Russia; and I went through Romania and Czechoslovakia and East Germany.  You tell me, what is the value of anything you possess in those godless, communist, atheistic countries?  Those people don’t own anything; they have nothing.  The state has taken away everything they possess.  The house they live in, the church that might be allowed to be open, all is owned by the state.  That is communism.  And as Lenin said, "Communism begins where atheism begins."  You can’t have a government like that, where the churches are preaching the gospel in power and the people have turned in faith to the Lord.  It’s unthinkable!  It’s because of a people turning away from God that they lose these great values dear to our heart.  And that’s true anywhere, all over the earth.

Now I’ m going to give you an illustration of it in America.  There was an atheist, an infidel, who hated God and hated the church.  And he being an affluent man, he built a town in Montana.  And when he built that town in Montana he said, "There is to be no church in it and no preacher in it.  Religion is out.  This is going to be a town like some of us want – no church, no God, no preacher, no religion – this town in Montana."  So he built it, and he had his town.  And it began to grow and to flourish.  The only thing is, the women that came to his town were the wrong kind of women; he had them there, but they weren’t the kind of women that anybody would want in a town.  He had a lot of men there in the town; but they were men who gambled and drank and fought, worldly, ungodly men.  People with families and people with children and fine people didn’t want to move into that town.  And as the days passed, filled with gamblers and drunkards and harlots and prostitutes, he finally came to the end of his way.  And here is the notice that he sent out to all the newspapers around.  Now I read it to you:

To whom it may concern: God knows that there is no such person as God.  And my motto has always been, ‘To hell with religion.’   But for some fool reason, which no man can fathom, I have found by experience that we cannot do business in this country on any other basis than that silly bit of sentiment which we stamp on our coins, ‘ In God we Trust’ .  Therefore, infernal foolishness though it all is, I have sent out for a parson, and we are going to build a church.

 

Just illustrating that the values that we hold dear in our lives are fundamentally grounded in the message and the presence and the preaching of the people of God; the church of the living Lord.

I don’t want to live where there’s no church.  I don’t want to be where there are no people of God.  I want to be where you are.  And I want to belong to the congregation you belong to.  And I want to be a part of these ministries that we offer to the blessed Jesus.  The property values that we have are sustained by the values we hold dear in the church.

Now I have yet another one, and that concerns our children and our future.  By law, by law, you cannot teach a religious faith in the public school.  I am in sympathy with that law.  I would not want our children sent to the public school and taught, and then you name it, some of them taught this cult, some of them taught that denominational faith, some of them taught something else; I would not want it.  But the very concomitant and corollary of that Supreme Court decision carries with it an enormous responsibility.  If our children are not to be taught the religious faith that we embrace in the public school, and it cannot, then the responsibility for teaching that child the truth of God as we see it lies in the home and in the church.  Otherwise the child is brought up without spiritual nurture and admonition whatsoever.  It is our God given responsibility to take the child and to teach the child all of the precious things that we have found in Christ, in our Lord.  And if we don’t do that, we will increasingly become a secular and a materialistic society.

I think that is what is happening to the soul of America today.  There are so many children untaught, so many not under the influence of the gospel that as they grow up their values are warped, their dreams and aspirations are worldly, they’ re not godly and they’ re not spiritual.  The responsibility we have in reaching these families and these children for Christ is infinite.  And incidentally, that’s the only defense, apology, you could have for our First Baptist Academy.  The only thing we have to offer in our First Baptist Academy that would be at all something unique and special is this: we can have in that academy all of the things that pertain to the worship and the teaching of our Lord.  We can have chapel services and revival meetings and classes that present the truth as we see it, the mind of God in Christ Jesus.  And that is our dedication and our consecrated effort.  Lord, Lord, that we might receive and take these God has given us privilege to work with, and to lead them into the wonderful and precious things of Christ our Savior.  The responsibility we have in the church in teaching these children is infinite, immeasurable, endless, eternal, and forever.  And it deserves our finest and our highest dedication.

Now, I must close.  I’ve been speaking an hour.  May I add one other thing?  In the church, this is God’s instrument for the evangelization of the people; soulwinning among the people.  I have been praying long, long time now, and I have been searching the mind of God for weeks and weeks.  And as I have said in our midweek prayer services, when God leads you into a commitment, if it is His will He will always confirm it by outward signs.  And this thing that I have been praying about in laying before God has been confirmed by one marvelous, glorious outward sign after another.  So in God’s goodness and in God’ s grace, and as the Lord has given your pastor a vision of Christ’ s will for us, this year, this coming year is going to be a year of evangelism, a year of soulwinning, a year of outreach.  One of the men in the church has come to me and said, "And I’ll give you the money for it."

So I’ve been praying, Lord, Lord, how can we bring the message of Christ to every home and every family in this city?  We’re going to confront every person that lives in this city with the claims of Christ.  "Do you know the Lord?  Have you been saved?  Do you have a Christian home?  Are these children in a Sunday school?  Do you lead them in the faith?"  Every one in this city, we’re going to them personally and talk to them, and ask them about the Lord Jesus.  That is a colossal assignment.  But God has called us, and God has confirmed that will for our lives by many outward signs.

So, I am praying, Dear God, how do we implement that?  And the Lord’s answer is so evidently plain.  "Pastor, you can’t do that by yourself; there are too many people.  In the little country church that you pastored that had eighteen members; you could do the whole work by yourself."  And I did.  "And when you had that little country church of forty members, you could do the whole work by yourself."  And I did.  I went to every home, and I talked to every family and every child.  But you see, a city is not like that little open country where I was pastor.  God says, "That’s why the church."  All of us will share in it; we’ll all have a part.  And you know what I’ve found in the years and years of my pastoral ministry?  It isn’t because people are incorrigible or obstreperous or recalcitrant or unresponsive that they don’t do things for Jesus.  The reason is they don’t have a handle to grasp; they don’t know quite how to do it.  They have to have a way in which they can share; a method, a procedure, that they can work with and work in.  And that’s why God is speaking to your pastor as he lays this before the Lord.  "Lord, how do we do this?  How do we do this?"  And the Lord is guiding and answering.  And this coming year, O Lord, I just believe it’s going to be the most marvelous year we have ever, ever known, the most glorious year we’ve ever lived through.  God is with us.  The Lord’s Spirit is in our midst.  And the Lord is working with us.  And this year of evangelism and soulwinning, in which all of us will share, will be the most precious and marvelous year we have ever known.

Thank you for listening and for the interest and response that I feel in your heart.  And God hears your prayers for us.  And God bless you as you offer your life to the Lord by our sides.

Now Gary, we’re going to stand and sing an invitation hymn.  Somebody you, listening on this radio, to give your heart to Jesus, the most precious commitment you could ever make in your life; if you don’t have a church home, this dear church, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, is one of the dearest fellowships and communions to which you could ever join your heart and hand and life, and we would love to welcome you.  Come down and serve God with us.  And in this group of people here in God’s house this morning, a couple you, a family, or one somebody you, to give himself in faith to the Lord, or to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, while we sing this hymn of appeal, I’ll be standing right there, you come and give me your hand.  "Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to the Lord Jesus."  Or, "Pastor, we’re putting our life with you and these dear people in the circle of this church."  As the Spirit of God would lead in the way, make the decision, and stand by us, and walk with us, a fellow pilgrim; we’ll go to heaven together.  God bless you, while we stand and while we sing.

MY LIFE AND MY CHURCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 20:28

12-31-78

 

I.          Preciousness of the bride of Christ

A.  The ministry of Christ issued in a church

B.  Doctrines of salvation exhibited by the ordinances (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

C.  Coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowered and quickened a church(Acts 2:1, 41, 47)

D.  Labors of the apostles resulted in the organization of the church

E.  Last message of Christ addressed to His church (Revelation 1, 2)

F.  Savior’s attitude toward the church (Ephesians 5:25)

 

II.         I belong with that throng

A.  All over the world, those churches

B.  Here, this church

      1.  Dr. Truettrefused John D. Rockefeller’s offer

      2.  I love to benumbered with the people here

 

III.        We have a God-given part in kingdom work – an assignment in the church

A.  The Lord needs us

      1.  Each one of us has a gift – each one is needed(1 Corinthians 12:1-31)

B.  Our brethren need us

C.  The faith needs us

      1.  Christians being fed to lions – "Maranatha, marantha!"

 

IV.       The worth of its ministries

A.  Judgment withheld, world sustained

      1.  Ten repentant men in Sodom(Genesis 18:9-32)

      2.  The rapture and tribulation(Revelation 4-19, Genesis 19:22)

B.  The value of all we hold dear in life secured by the people of God

      1.  Property

a. Montana manifest

      2.  Breath of our life(Colossians 3:2)

      3.  Our children and the future

C.  The salvation of souls