DAD, LOOK BEHIND YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-24-83 7:30 p.m.
We welcome the uncounted throngs of you who are sharing the service with us on radio; on KRLD, the great voice of the Southwest, and on KCBI, the voice of the Sonshine station of our Center of Biblical Studies. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Dad, Look Behind You. We read as a Scripture Ephesians chapter 6, the first four verses. And we invite you who are listening on radio to get your Bible and to read it out loud with us; Ephesians, in the middle of the New Testament, the Book of Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 1 through 4. Now having found the passage, let us all read it aloud and together. Ephesians 6:1-4, together:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And that is a beautiful phrase, “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4].
Dad, Look Behind You: the title comes from an incident that happened many years ago in this church, in this sacred place. There was a physician in the city, a doctor who came to the pastor. He was a nominal Christian and just occasionally attended church. But in the providences of life, he had a wayward and prodigal boy. And he came to the pastor asking the pastor to seek out the boy and to pray for him, that the boy would turn in his life from his prodigality and waywardness to the Lord.
So the pastor said to the doctor, “Doctor, you yourself give your life in a new way to Christ, in your church attendance, in your devotion to the Savior. You do it. You walk in front of that boy in the love of Jesus, and I’ll pray; but let’s see what God does.”
So upon a day, as the Sundays came and went, at a morning hour, down the aisle he came to reconsecrate, and to regive, and rededicate his life to the blessed Savior. Unknown to him, in that service, seated at the back of the church, came that wayward boy and listened to the message. And when the father came down to the front to reconsecrate and to regive his life to the Savior, that boy, watching his father, stepped into the aisle and down to the front. And when the doctor said to the pastor, “Pastor, this day I regive and reconsecrate my life to Christ, now, pastor, would you pray for my wayward boy?”
And the pastor said to the doctor, “Doctor, turn around and look behind you.” And he turned and saw standing back of him his boy. That gave rise to the title of the sermon, Dad, Look Behind You. See what God is doing with your life and your testimony with your children in your home. Dad, turn around and look behind you.
Look at your church. The church is not a brick building with stained-glass windows. The church is you. The church is you and your family. It is you and your house. It is you and your home. It is you and your children. The church is you, and you make the church. It’s great and strong, it’s weak and feeble according to your devotion and consecration.
Leave it to the ministers, and soon the church will die.
Leave it to the womenfolk and the young will pass it by.
For the church is all that lifts us from the coarse and selfish mob,
But the church that is to prosper needs a layman on the job.
Now a layman has his business, and a layman has his joys,
But he also has the rearing of his little girls and boys;
And I wonder how he’d like it if there were no churches here
And he had to raise his children in a godless atmosphere.
When you see a church that’s empty, though its doors are open wide,
It’s not the church that’s dying—it’s the laymen who have died.
For it’s not by song or sermon that the church’s work is done;
It’s the layman of the country who for God must carry on.
(“The Layman’s Task,” Edgar A. Guest)
Dad, turn around and look behind you; look at your church.
At a great convocation of businessmen in Washington, D. C., in these years gone by, I heard this great man, Kraft—J. L. Kraft, who founded the food company, the cheese company—I heard him say, “I had rather be a layman in the North Shore Baptist Church of Chicago than to head the greatest corporation in America.” Dad, turn around and look at your church.
Dad, turn around and look at your home. Look at your family. The typical, ordinary American home is as worldly as it can be. There’s a bottle of beer in the icebox where the milk ought to be. There’s a deck of cards on the table where the Bible ought to be. There’s a package of cigarettes on the dresser where the church envelopes ought to be. There’s a sex magazine in the rack where the Sunday school quarterly ought to be. There’s a snarl and a frown where a prayer ought to be. And there’s a vicious and caustic word where a smile ought to be. The ordinary, typical American home is as worldly as it can be. And in so many areas of family American life, the spirit in the house, in the home, is unspeakably bad and terrible.
A fellow said, “You know, our dog is like a member of the family.” And the man to whom he was talking said, “Which member is he like?”
A woman was asked, “Is your husband a bookworm?” And she replied, “No, just an ordinary one.”
A guy got up from the poker table and said, “I’m going home. And if supper ain’t ready, I’m going to raise Old Billy Ned. And if it is, I ain’t going to eat it.”
Down the stairway came a husband for breakfast and the wife said, “How would you like your egg?” And he said, “Cooked.” And she said, “Well, how would you like it cooked?” He said, “Well, I want one of them fried and one of them boiled and one of them scrambled.” So, she boiled one, fried one, scrambled one, put it before him. He glared at it.
She said, “Now, what’s the matter?”
And he said, “You’ve scrambled the wrong egg.”
Out in the kitchen mama bear was preparing the soup, and papa bear looked at his empty bowl and said, “Somebody ate my soup.” And little baby bear said, “And somebody ate my soup.” And mama bear hollered out from the kitchen and said, “Shut up that yackity-yack, you idiots! I ain’t even poured the soup yet!”
Some time ago, do you remember this song, this jingle, this doggerel that was going around?
Sugar in the morning,
Sugar in the evening,
Sugar at suppertime.
Won’t you be my sugar?
And love me all the time.
[“Sugartime,” McGuire Sisters, by Charlie Phillips and Odis Echols]
Do you remember that? Well, here’s the way it ought to be sung in America. Here’s the way it actually is:
Fighting in the morning,
Fighting in the evening,
Fighting at suppertime.
Let’s you and me be wild cats
And let’s fight all the time.
I heard a psychologist say, “There are three kinds of marriage: trial, companion, and fight to the finish.”
Oh, how different, and in what another world do we enter, when Christ comes into the home! It makes the dark light. It makes the sadness bright. It brings life, and light, and hope, and laughter, and gladness, and rejoicing, and everything good into the circle of the home, when Christ is invited as a loved and honored guest.
At the table saying grace; I know homes don’t do that, but we ought to do it before we break bread, saying grace at the table; reading God’s Word in some hour of the day, bowing in prayer before the Lord, dressing up on Sunday morning to appear before our great God and Savior, sharing in some work in the family of the Lord. “I had rather be a doorkeeper,” said the psalmist, “in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the palatial palaces of the wicked” [Psalm 84:10]. A beautiful life, a godly life, a blessed life; that’s your home, and God intended that it be that way. And if it isn’t, we have fallen short of the blessedness and the goodness that God has intended for us.
Happy, blessed, makarios, is that family that loves Jesus, where the father is a high priest in the home, and leads the group that the Lord has given to him in loving service to our wonderful Savior. It’s a way to live. It’s a way to die. It’s a way to rear our children. It’s a way to walk. It’s a way to work. It’s everything good. Dad, turn around and look at your home.
One other: Dad, turn around and look at your boy. Look at your child. Look at the children God has given you. It is a poignant thing that I read in the Book of Genesis about Enoch. It says, “Enoch walked with God after, after his son was born” [Genesis 5:22]. What Enoch did before, the Bible doesn’t say. What it does say is that Enoch walked with God after the Lord laid in his hands and in his arms that precious bundle of created life [Genesis 5:22].
You know, it’s a strange thing how we are. A couple will live in a community and pay no attention to it. They get up in the morning, go to work, come back in the evening, enjoy being together; then a child is born, and the whole world looks different. They begin looking at the neighborhood. They begin looking at the other children in the street. They begin looking at the schools. They even look into all the things of every piece of environment around them. The child makes the difference. And there’s no one who has held in his or her arms a precious bundle of life that doesn’t understand what I’m saying when I say that that child makes the difference in human life, in the home, in the house, in every outlook.
Lord, Lord, what a difference when the child is placed in our arms! And that’s the way it ought to be. That’s the admonition of Holy Scripture. These children are to be reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. That means that I am to walk before them in the presence of our wonderful Savior. I’m to bring them up in the circle, and circumference of the church. I am to teach them the way of salvation, and I am to guide their little feet in all of the blessedness and the richness of the remembrance of God in Christ Jesus.
What a wonderful thing it is to see a family like that and amazingly, wonderfully so, to see a father like that! A father’s prayer:
Dear God, my little boy of three
Has said his nightly prayer to Thee.
Before his eyes were closed in sleep
He asked that Thou his soul would keep.
And I still kneeling at his bed,
My hand upon his tousled head,
Do ask with deep humility
That Thou, dear Lord, remember me.
Make me, kind Lord, a worthy dad,
That I may lead this little lad
In pathways ever fair and bright
That I may keep his steps aright.
O God, his trust must never be
Destroyed or ever marred by me.
So, for the simple things he prayed,
With childish voice so unafraid
I trembling ask the same from Thee
Dear Lord, kind Lord, remember me.
[“A Father’s Prayer,” anonymous]
A father’s prayer. That child will so naturally talk to God, isn’t that a miraculous thing? He just will, he’ll pray in a beautiful and childish way. God made him like that.
And I, Lord, must ask heaven’s remembrance of me. May I be strong in the faith. May I so walk before that child that he’ll know no other thing in his life but to love Jesus every step of the way, every moment of the day, in childhood, in youth, in manhood and womanhood. And someday, taking my place, when the mantle falls from my hands and he lifts it up, may God grant that he will be strong and true in the Lord. That is God’s will for us. And the Lord honors that family who receives as from His gracious hands so marvelous a trust. Now may we stand together?
Our wonderful, wonderful Savior, the brightness and the glory offered to us in Thy love and grace is beyond description. Oh, what a sanctifying presence is our Lord in any family, in any home. When He is thrust out, darkness and despair enter in; but when our Lord is present, in holiness and grace, the house is filled with light. Every dark day is turned to hope and brightness, and we live and work and die in the promises as bright as the presence of the shekinah glory of God. O Lord, that Thy grace and love might burn in every heart and in every home.
And while our people wait and pray, this is our appeal to you: that tonight, this night, you and your family would come to our wonderful Savior and to join with the family of God in this beautiful church. We love you. We offer you our hands in outreached grace and prayer and appeal. We pray for you. We are here as a family of God just to help you, and ask that you join hands with us and be a part of the kingdom of our Savior and of this dear family called the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
In a moment we will sing a hymn of appeal; and in the balcony round and in the great throng on this lower floor, a whole family of you, dad, mother, children, “All of us, pastor, we’re coming tonight.” Or a couple you, two friends, or a man and his wife, or a young man and his sweetheart, or just one somebody you, maybe coming with that child; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. “Pastor, here I am. This is God’s time for us, and we’re on the way.” And our Lord, thank Thee for the beautiful and precious harvest You give us this night. In Thy dear, and gracious, and saving, and keeping name, amen. A thousand times welcome, while we sing, while we sing. “Here I am, here I am, and here I come. This is God’s time for me, and I’m coming; I’m coming” [Romans 10:8-13].