The Open Door (Christian School)
May 22nd, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-22-83 7:30 p.m.
This is the pastor delivering an address concerning our Christian school. It is entitled: The Open Door God Hath Set Before Us, and I have not prepared a more meticulously and thoughtedly and prayerfully wrought out, thought out presentation of what I think is the truth of God more than in this message tonight. Every word and every thought is not adventitiously or peripherally or unthoughtedly presented. It is carefully studied out. This is what I think is the mind and will of God for us. The title of the message is taken from just one-half of a verse. The Lord said to the church at Philadelphia, He says, "I have set before thee an open door" [Revelation 3:8].
The Open Door God Hath Set Before Us. Revelation 3:8: "I have set before thee an open door," and I have taken that text to present to us the Christian school. God has done something unusually blessed in America. We can have such a school dedicated to our Lord. You couldn’t have a Christian school in Communist Russia. You couldn’t have a Christian school in any of the Communist states of Eastern Europe. You couldn’t have a Christian school in China. You could not have a Christian school in any totalitarian state whether it be Shiite Muslim in Iran, or the dictatorship of the Muslim government in Libya, or any other fascist regime. We have that open door, that wonderful privilege of having a Christian school in America.
When I came to the church thirty-nine years ago, I had it in my heart to have a Christian school. I had a wonderful ally in Lynn Landrum who was one of the editors of the Dallas Morning News. He wrote publicly encouraging me in that dream. He even one time had a cartoon on the editorial page of the news. It was a girl, and she had on a sweater and it had FBHS – First Baptist High School. And the day came – a glorious day, triumphant day – when we were able to organize and to launch this Christian school.
First: originally all education was in the church – all of it. It began in the church. When I look at my Bible, these gospels were at one time little scrolls, little tracts that were given to converts and prospective converts; and these epistles that I read in the New Testament were little admonitions from the apostles concerning how we were to teach our people in the faith of the Lord. All education originally was in the church. The blessed Gemini of the church and the school through all of the succeeding centuries were inexorably bound together. They were one blessed community. All of the schools of Europe, all of the schools of the British Isles, and all of the schools of America originally were Christian schools – all of them. This idea of a secular, tax-supported school is a new innovation. From the beginning – from the beginning, the church and the school were together. I’ve called them Gemini – twins. There’s a reason for that. It is vital to the church to have the school.
I was in a preaching mission in Japan and somewhere – I don’t know where to tell you they took me – I was far out in the interior holding a service, and God wonderfully blessed it. There were many, many people who accepted the Lord, and I had a little card that I had them fill out indicating their decision to accept Christ as Savior. And right here they sat down in Japanese style. Right there was a man, and when he was given the card and he read it, he turned to me and said, "Sensei," – teacher – "Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?" He was far and away – no school, no church, no pastor, no teacher, no anything or anybody to help the man in the faith and in the Lord. "Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?" It is vital, vital, vital that we have the school, that we have the church, that we have the pastor and the teacher to guide us in the mind of the Lord. The thing of having a Christian school is as vital as having the church itself.
The school is not an arm of the church. It is not an agency of the church. It is the church. It is the church teaching. It is the church implementing what we have sought to preach in the public service of worship, of what we have sought to teach in the gathering of our people in Bible study in Sunday school.
What is a Christian school? First, a Christian school is an implementation of a conviction, a persuasion, a philosophy. It is this: that the heart and center of the universe is Almighty God and not man.
I was meandering around Warsaw one time, and there I found at a public square a monument to Copernicus. Copernicus discovered that the center of the universe is not this planet Earth but the sun and that all these planets revolve around that central sun. This is the philosophy that lies back of the Christian school. The center of the universe is Almighty God and not man, and on the basis of that philosophy, everything is viewed from the viewpoint of God. Every interpretation is made in the mind of Christ. All the subjects are taught from the mind of our wonderful Lord. The center is God.
Contrary to that, secular education makes the center of life humanistic – secular humanism: the center of the universe is man. They deify man. They say God does not exist. Consequently, all of the subjects are taught from the viewpoint that the man is the only purpose and reason for our studying – that there’s not any higher elevation, there’s not any higher plateau, there’s not any higher spiritual life than what we know here in human living.
That’s the first description of a Christian school: its center is God and not man. It is theological and not humanistic. It elevates itself upward and not downward. It concerns our Lord and our relationship to Him.
A second thing about a Christian school: its leadership is churchly, Christly, godly, scripturally. The superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the trustees all belong to the church. They are Christian people. Any child is molded by the authority figure of father, mother, teacher, pastor; and when that authority figure is Christian, the child is easily molded in the Christian faith, but if that authority figure is not Christian, the child is warped and hurt from the beginning. A Christian school has in it a leadership that is altogether centered in the church. They are church people. They are Christian people.
A third thing: a Christian school has in its program all of the wonderful accoutrements of the faith. Religious services – it is the church teaching. Consequently, in a Christian school, there will be revival services. There will be chapel services. There will be the Bible taught. There will be Bible classes. There will be prayer meetings. By law, in the secular school, you can’t have those services. They are interdicted. I thought one of the funniest cartoons I ever looked at in my life was one of a principal. He stumbled upon a group of little boys who were kneeling down together. They were shooting craps; and the cartoon says, the principal looking at it says, "Well, thank God you’re shooting craps. I thought you were in a prayer meeting."
In the Christian school, we have the services of Christ and of the Lord. That’s what it is. It is the church assembled in teaching, and of course we have in that the extension, the elongation, of what we are learning on Sunday. In a Sunday School, we have the child one hour one day a week. In the Christian school, we have the child six hours a day, five days a week beside many other wonderful, beautiful, scriptural, spiritual activities. It’s an extension of the work of the church, and, for the most part, it is housed in church facilities. This is a good, wonderful stewardship of what God has given us – not only a stewardship of our possessions of money but a stewardship of our investment. For the years I used to walk around this church and look at these great cavernous mausoleums that were dark six days out of the week, unused six days out of the week, and I thought, "Lord, Lord, why is it not something that would please Thee that we take these vast facilities and use them every day of the week?" That is the Christian school.
Now, we consider two objections to having a Christian school.
Number one: Are not the parents offended by the evangelism, the seeking to win to Christ of the children who attend a Christian school? The opposite is true. No. A parent rejoices when the child accepts the Lord as his Savior – when Jesus comes to live in the heart. It is a wonderful thing for the father and the mother when the child comes home and makes the announcement of the good news: "I have accepted Christ as my Savior. I have opened my heart heavenward and Godward to follow Him." How infinitely better that is than for the child to come home and to say, "Today, I met the drug pusher. Today, I met the liquor dealer. Today, I met the barfly. Today, I met the gambler. Today, I met the pimp and the procurer." How infinitely better it is when the child can come home and say to the father and mother, "Today, I met the Lord!" There’s not a caring parent in the earth but who would rejoice in that beautiful and precious good news announcement: "Today, I have become a Christian, a follower of Christ."
What objection do they have?
A second one: In a Christian school, the child is in a Christian environment and is therefore overprotected and is not able to cope with the reality of the world. What about that? I cannot imagine a parent – it’s inconceivable to my mind that there would ever be a father or a mother but who would rejoice in the protection of the child, your child, from the sinister influences of this world. If you’ve been here to church, you have seen me kneel right there and pray a dedicatory prayer for a little baby. Every Sunday, almost every service, there’ll be a father and a mother with a little baby in their arms, and they come forward and want to dedicate the child to the Lord; and I get down with the father and the mother and I pray. And do you remember how often it is that I pray, "Dear Lord, may the guardian angel in heaven assigned to take care of this little child [Matthew 18:10], may that guardian angel watch over and keep the child from disease and disaster and diabolical, demoniacal attack, and shelter and guard the child as the little babe grows up in the knowledge of the Lord and in the Word of Jesus"? Why would I not want to shelter my child from every evil influence and every disease and disaster to which this whole world is subject? I do, and you do.
And may I say the Lord’s truth? It is the child in the secular school that is overprotected. He is denied the protection and the teaching of the only basis of morality, namely, religious faith and Almighty God. Consequently, the child who is trained in the secular school is naked before the world. He faces the slings and arrows of this wicked world without protection, but the child who is brought up and trained and taught in the Christian school is prepared to face a hostile and inimical environment. It is wonderful to see the boy and the girl brought up in a Christian environment taught the mind and the faith in Christ Jesus.
Last, why would parents choose a Christian school?
Number one: because they are academically excellent. There is no comparison between the academic achievements of the graduates of a Christian school and those of a secular school. The graduating group of a Christian school outperform those graduates of a secular school over and over and over again. One of the most unusual statistics you will ever read in your life is this: out of all of the professions who send their children to a Christian school, the first profession is the public secular schoolteacher. They rank first in all of those who send their children to a Christian school.
Every seven hours, going through every day and every night, every seven hours there is a new Christian school organized here in America – every seven hours, about three-and-a-half numbering every day. Why? Because they see the excellence, the academic excellence, of the Christian school. There is a motivation to study. There is a reason. There’s a raison d’etre. There’s a reason for being. There is purpose in it; and the young man and the young woman in the Christian academy is taught for a great holy and heavenly reason, and they excel. They excel academically.
Number two: Why does the parent choose a Christian school? Because they are presented there to another dimension in life, a spiritual dimension. We are something more than animals. We are made in the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6]. We’re not scum. We’re not protoplasm floating on the cosmic ocean. We are somebody: somebody God made [Psalm 139:14-16]; somebody God loves [John 3:16, Romans 8:39; Ephesians 2:4; 1 John 3:1, 4:10]; somebody for whom Christ died [Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16]. We belong to a great family in earth and in heaven [Matthew 12:46-50; Romans 8:29; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Hebrews 2:11-17], and we’re introduced in the Christian school to a spiritual dimension in life.
That involves two things. Number one: there is more to life. There’s more to the meaning of human existence than the achievements of the technological factors in science and in all of the subjects to which we’re introduced in high school and in college. One of the most amazing things in history is this: that history has no proof, no illustration that advancement in science and in knowledge and in technology makes men better – no proof at all. Rather, when I read history, it seems just the opposite. The more advanced we are in science and technology and knowledge, the more violent we are and the more heathen we become.
You see, I’ve lived a long time. I remember David Lloyd George, a Baptist who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the First World War. I remember something the Prime Minister said. He said, "The greatest foe of Britain is not the arsenals of Krupp." That was a great manufacturing concern in the Ruhr Valley in Germany. "The greatest foe of the British people is not the arsenals of Krupp… but the schools of Germany" [speech delivered in Manchester, 1918].
Now, I so well remember because I was in the prime of my life in World War II, and after World War II, soon after it, I visited Dachau just outside of Munich in Bavaria in southern Germany. There has never been a nation as advanced in its universities, in its technological progress, in its literacy. There has never been a nation that rivaled Nazi Germany, and there has never been a nation as diabolical as the confrontation with fascist Germany. They used human beings for their scientific experiments. "Now, Pastor, what do you mean by that?" Well, I’ll give you just one illustration. Walking around Dachau, this is what they did here. This is what they did there. This is what they did over yonder with thousands and thousands and thousands of those interned – mostly Jewish people.
"What do you mean they used human beings for scientific experiment?" Well, this is one. I’ll just take one. Germany, Hitler, was getting ready to invade Russia, and as you remember in history, Napoleon lost the war because of the cold expanse of the vast, illimitable land of Russia. So when Hitler proposed in his mind to advance into Russia, to declare war against Russia, that meant he had to prepare his soldiers for the cold. So what they did at Dachau was they took human beings and put them in water and lowered the water, lowered the temperature of the water, lowered the temperature of the water until the human being froze to death. Then they would take the human being, another live specimen, and wrap him in such-and-such clothes, such as the German soldier might wear; and with these clothes and this kind of material, they lowered the water and lowered the water and lowered the temperature of the water until the human pig fell in to death. And then they made all of those scientific reports about how this clothing did. And then they’d take another human experiment and put that human with such-and-such clothing into water and lowered it and lowered it and lowered it until they wrote in their experiment when this man or this woman froze to death.
Can you imagine that? No regard for human life or the moral equation and whether it was right or wrong! This is technological science. This is the advancement in knowledge. This is scientific experiment. There is no morality in science. There’s no morality in knowledge. It has to have another dimension. Christ must come into the Book. Christ must come into the experiment. Christ must come into the heart. Christ must come into the life. That’s why the Christian school.
Second and last – choosing the Christian school for this spiritual dimension in knowledge and in education. Second: there is something else to life than mere material existence and advancement and achievement. There’s something else. I was in India, and I was a guest in the home of an illustrious Indian federal judge; and after we had eaten dinner in his home, I sat down with him and he began to talk. And, of course, I am violently anti-Communist. So it wasn’t long because India is close to Russia, is a subcontinent to Russia, and has relationships with Russia that are intimate and politically close. So I began to talk to the federal judge – Judge Goolaney. I began to talk to him about Russia and Russian Communism; and he said to me, he said, "What you in America don’t realize is this: the great economic strides and achievements of Soviet Russia, and we are greatly impressed. We are greatly impressed."
And I answered the judge, and I said, "I don’t gainsay that under Communist, totalitarian Russia they have made great strides in every area of human existence – great strides in knowledge, great strides in education, great strides in technology, great strides in scientific achievement. They were the first to put a Sputnik around the world. I don’t deny that." But I said, "Judge, what of the spirit? What of the other side of the human soul? What of liberty? What of religious devotion? What of all of the things that pertain to the man that make him a man? Is there not more to man and mankind? Is there not more to life and living than just advancement in technology and in science and in all the things that pertain to the economic material welfare of the people? Is there not purpose in life? Is there not meaning in life? Is there not God to know and a Lord to serve? Is there not?"
I cannot ever forget the word of our blessed Savior: "For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And He spake a parable unto them, saying" [Luke 12:15-16] and then follows the story of what we call the rich fool [Luke 12:16-20]. He thought within himself, "Look, all these things I have stored up" [Luke 12:17-19]. And that night, that night God said to him, "Foolish one!" Senseless one! "This night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" [Luke 12:20] There is more to life than just materiality, than just economic advancement, than just material success. There is more to life than that. We’re also soul. We’re also heart. We’re also devotion. There’s also the image of God on the inside of us [Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6]. We’re not just material beings, and to possess material things is not the answer to the fullness of the full-orbed life that God has intended for us [Matthew 6:24-25].
I was walking through the house one day, just walking through one of the rooms by, and I saw on the television there a fellow that they say I look like. His name is Eddie Albert. I have been on an airplane, and I’ve been surrounded by the stewardesses and others who say, "You’re Eddie Albert." I say, "I’m not Eddie Albert. I’m pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I’m a Baptist preacher." "No, you’re not. You’re riding incognito. You’re Eddie Albert. We know exactly who you are." And I never convince them. Well, anyway, passing by, I saw Eddie Albert on that idiot box – on that tube there. So I thought, "Well, I’ll just sit down and see what that guy’s doing." So I sat down and looked at a TV program, and I want to tell you what it was. It was in four scenes.
The first scene: he is seated in a mansion in New York City, a beautiful dining room, and evidently they elongated the table to make it – the dining table – to make it more impressive on you what was happening. At that end of the long dining table sat Eddie Albert, and at this end, clear down here at this end, sat his wife – far, far apart in that beautiful, luxurious, richly-appointed dining room. And, of course, all the accoutrements of wealth were there: the beautiful candelabra of silver, all of the beautiful china, and a man to wait on him at that end of the table, and a maid to wait on her at that end of the table; and there they were seated. That’s the first scene.
And you never heard such excoriation in your life as that woman cleaned his plow. Man, she beat him up. She laid him out. She talked to him like a dog. It was awful to listen to as that wife down there at that end of the table laid out her husband up there at that end of the table; and then as though that were not enough, his father-in-law walked in, and he looked like a typical magnate and tycoon. He was a multi-, multi-, multi-rich man, and he walked in and he began to be mean and to abuse Eddie Albert up there, the husband of his daughter. Oh, he just cussed him out for all he’s worth. Now, that’s the first scene.
Second scene: Eddie Albert is in his office – beautiful luxurious office up there in one of those high skyscrapers in New York City – and he’s bowed down in abysmal, abject misery; and while he’s seated in his office in abysmal misery, the telephone rings and on the other end of the line is a boyhood-girlhood remembrance. It’s a girl that he loved when he was a youth way up there in a New England village he left twenty-five years before to come to the big city. So on the other end of the line, she says to him, "When you left twenty-five years ago, you said to me, if ever I needed you, you’d come. I need you now. Will you come?" He says, "I will." End second scene.
Third scene: He is talking to his childhood sweetheart. She, of course, is married, lives in the little village where Eddie Albert lived; and she says to him, "My boy is now a young man. He’s grown, and he’s fallen in love with a girl in this village; and he wants to marry her – a sweet, humble girl in the village – and he wants to settle down and to live here in this little town, in a little cottage, in this village. But I say to the boy," she says to him, "I want him to be like you. I want him to go to the big city, and I want him to be a part of all of the affluence of the big city – maybe to marry a rich girl like you did, as you did. And then he’ll be successful, and he’ll be famous, and he’ll be rich. He’ll have everything that mind or heart could desire, and he’ll be happy and successful; and I want you to talk to my boy and tell him to forget the girl and the village and to go to the big city and to be like you."
Fourth scene – last scene: He’s talking to the boy, and he says to him, "Son, I used to be where you now are, and I turned aside from the girl that I loved and I made my way to the big city. I married the rich girl, and I am most wealthy and affluent; but, son, I’m the most miserable man that lives in the earth. It means nothing to me but pain and sorrow and heartache. Son, marry the girl, live in that little cottage, rear your children here in the love of God." He puts his arm around the boy, and he leaves just saying what Jesus said: "A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth" [Luke 12:15].
There’s another dimension in life, and to find it and to give your life to it is the most blessed of all the gifts that God could ever bestow upon you. You’ll find that in Christ and in the will of our Lord. There is a purpose for which God made you. There is a great, wonderful life to which God has called you; and to renounce the materialities and all of the ephemeralities of this life that are for the day and to give yourself to the eternities of God is the greatest commitment you could ever make [John 10:10; Philippians 3:1-15].
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
["Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922]
This is the commitment of our lives. It shall be Christ and the will of Christ for me; and when we walk in the light of the Savior, it leads to happiness, fulfillment, purpose, meaning, and finally it leads to the very gates of heaven itself. And that is our appeal to you tonight: to give your life to the purpose and calling of Christ, to accept Him as your Savior, to open your heart heavenward and God-ward and ask Christ to come into your heart, to give your life to Him, to give every dream and vision and prayer you have to Him – "Lord, take me" – to follow the Lord as a member of the family of God, to be baptized into the body of Christ. And beyond these young people to you in whose homes they live, a family you to come tonight, a couple you, a one somebody you, a child, a youth, a young married couple, a family: May the Lord press upon your heart this appeal and give you the joy of answering with your life: "Here I am Lord, and here I stand." Make that decision in your heart; and in a moment when we sing our appeal, down a stairway, down one of these aisles: "Here I am, Pastor. We’re on the way." May we stand for the prayer?
Our wonderful and precious Savior, how great it is. The knowledge is beyond our comprehension. How marvelous it is that God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. He knows us [Psalm 139:1-12; Hebrews 4:13]. He calls us by name [Isaiah 43:1, 45:4]. He even knows the number of the hairs in our head [Matthew 12:30; Luke 12:7]. He knows the thoughts of our hearts [Psalm 139:4; Matthew 9:4, 12:25; Luke 11:17; Hebrews 4:13]. And Lord, You know we want to be in the will of God. We want to serve Thee. We want someday to go to heaven, and we want to be Thy disciple in this earth. We want a companion in Jesus as we walk through the pilgrimage of this life. And, our Lord, make tonight be a beautiful and wonderful night when many, many, many turn to face the Lord Jesus: "Here I am, Lord, on a confession of faith, putting my life in this dear church, bringing my family. Here I am Lord. I’m on the way." God bless as we wait before Thee in prayer and in full persuasion that the Lord will bless the appeal. In His holy and saving Name, Amen.
While we sing our song of invitation, there’s time and to spare. From the balcony, down a stairway, down one of these aisles: "Here I am, Pastor." God bless you as you come while we sing. Welcome while we sing.