Parents and Their Children
September 16th, 1984 @ 7:30 PM
PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-16-84 7:30 p.m.
And it is no less a delight to welcome you who share this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas over radio and television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled our Parents and Their Children.
And if you would like to turn and read out loud with us the first four verses of the sixth chapter of Ephesians; the Book of Ephesians; this is Paul’s encyclical. The Book of Ephesians is addressed to all the churches of all time. It just happened to be that the Textus Receptus, the Greek manuscript that was used for the basic translation of the King James Version, had “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Ephesians” [Ephesians 1:1]. But some of the other manuscripts have “to the Laodiceans.” It’s an encyclical. It’s a letter to all of the churches. And we are going to read out loud and together Ephesians 6, the last chapter and the first four verses. Now, 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 one of the finest clauses and phrases to be found in the Word of God, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4].
When I turn back to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament, I read in the second chapter of the Book of Judges that:
The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua . . .
But Joshua died, the servant of the Lord, being a hundred and ten years of age.
And they buried him in the border of his inheritance . . . in Ephraim.
And all that generation who served the Lord with Joshua were gathered unto their fathers. Then—
and this is one of the tragedies of human life—
Then there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel . . .
And they forsook the Lord their God, the God of their fathers . . . and served Baal and Ashtaroth, male and female gods.
Why such a characterization of the national life of the people? “There arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord, nor yet the works of the Lord” [Judges 2:10]. It is very apparent what happened; the generation that served God under Joshua forgot to teach their children the works and the wonder of the Lord. And when they grew up away from the instruction of the Lord God, then they forsook Jehovah of their fathers and began to serve all of the gods that were around them.
It was that that gave birth to this tremendous parable shouted by Jotham, the son of Gilead, on top of Gerizim:
And Jotham lifted up his voice, and cried to the men of Israel saying . . .
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they came to the tree olive, and said to the olive tree, Reign over us.
And the olive tree said, Shall I leave my fatness . . . in order to take time for you?—No.
Then the trees of the forest came to the fig tree and said to the fig tree . . . Reign over us.
And the fig tree said, Shall I leave my sweetness . . . and reign over you?—No.
Then the trees of the forest came to the vine and said to the vine . . . Reign over us.
And the vine said, Shall I leave the sweetness of my crushed juice to reign over you?—No.
Then the trees of the forest came to the bramble, and said to the bramble, Reign over us.
And the bramble said to the trees, If in truth you anoint me to be king, then under my shadow shall you live.
That’s the parable of Jotham. And it is pertinent to every generation as well as to us today. When the good and the fine and the noble and the Christian and the godly refuse to take time for their people, put it down, the bramble and the weed and the brier and the thorn will take its place. Somebody said one time a sentence that stayed and burned in my heart, “The streets of the city offer no degrees. They confer no diplomas, but they educate with terrible precision!” We will teach our children the Word of the Lord, or somebody else will. And those somebody elses usually are of the dregs of the earth.
There is no thing that I read in all the Word of God as pertinent and as assigned from heaven as that we teach our children. And that’s why the tremendous effort in our Sunday school has tried. That’s why the vast commitment in our First Baptist Academy and in our Center of Biblical Studies—teaching, teaching, teaching the infallible and inerrant will and word of God.
You know, there’s a strange thing when you look at human history and watch the hand of the Lord. It’s an almost unbelievable thing. Men in their might will create great armies and vast political institutions. But when God meets a crisis in the earth, He will do it with a baby. He will do it with a little child.
That is the story of little Samuel. In the great critical time when there was a transition between the judges and the kings of Israel, God met it with a little child, a little Samuel [1 Samuel 3:20]. In the days of the tragedy of the fall of Saul, God met the great crisis with a little boy who was singing to his sheep out in the pasture land of Judea—little David singing his psalms, playing on his harp [1 Samuel 16:11-13]. That’s God.
When the Lord God needed a man to help in the great critical life of the Babylonian captivity, He raised up a teenager who, in the land of a foreign country and introduced to alien gods, said before the Lord, “I will not compromise my faith in Jehovah” [Daniel 1:8]. And he put his life on the line. He was one time thrown into the lion’s den [Daniel 6:14-22]. That never mattered to [Daniel]. He’d been trained and chosen as a lad to be God’s prophet-statesman [Daniel 1:17-21].
That is true in the days of John the Baptist, when the great messianic kingdom was introduced to the world [Matthew 3:1-2]. And what could I say about the Baby Jesus and the salvation of the world [Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:52]. Nor would I have time to speak of Timothy, a lad who knew no other thing than to love God and to learn the Scriptures, as Paul says, from the days of his grandmother and his mother [2 Timothy 1:5]. This is God’s tremendous assignment for the world. It’s in a child! It’s in the rearing of a little baby.
You know, I was born in 1909, 1909. And when I came across this historical reference in 1809, referring to 1809, I immediately, immediately found myself riveted in attention. For the history says, and I have a copy of it here, the history says that 1809 has been called the year of battles. All eyes were on Napoleon. Where would he strike next? And Europe, wretched, lay prostrate before his marauding armies. Now, God had a different idea. In 1809 when men were turning to battles, God was turning to babies. When men were looking to military might, God turned to the matrix of mothers. When men were waging wars, God was waiting upon the wombs of dedicated women. Listen to it.
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in 1809. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the great and beautiful poet, later the wife of Robert Browning, was born in 1809. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in 1809. Chopin was born in 1809. And Felix Mendelssohn, whom we sing often here in the church, was born in 1809. That’s God. That’s the Lord God! When men are marching up and down the earth bringing wretchedness and fear into human hearts, God is training little babies and little children and teenagers in the strength and might and glory of His power. That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord. And that is the great lesson for us in the church.
I was reading in my studying, I was reading about a Lord’s bishop, a Lord Bishop of England. His name was Hennington Ingram. And this wonderful and gifted prelate, ecclesiastical leader, was on a vacation in Scotland. And while he was up there just taking it easy and roaming around and walking around in the hills of Scotland, why, he came across a humble shepherd up there in those highlands. And he got in step with him and was walking with this shepherd in the highlands of Scotland. Well, as they walked along, the prelate said to that humble shepherd, he said to him, “You know, I am a shepherd. I am a shepherd,” this illustrious ecclesiastical dignitary from London, “I am a shepherd.”
And the unlettered, untutored highland lad looked at him in astonishment and said, “You, you are a shepherd?”
And the Lord Bishop of London said, “Yes, I am a shepherd.”
And the lad in the highland said to him, “How many sheep do you have?”
And the Lord Bishop thought of his diocese in London and replied to the shepherd, “I have about a million sheep. I have about a million sheep in my flock.”
And the shepherd looked at him in astonishment and with incredulous amazement and said, “You’ve got a million sheep in your flock?” And then immediately asked, “What do you do in lambing time? What do you do in lambing time?” If you’re familiar at all with shepherds, you know that a little lamb born is so helpless. And you have to take the little thing and show the little thing where to nurse and how to live. “What do you do with a million sheep in lambing time? What do you do about those little ones?”
And you know, that’s a good question. What does the church do with these little ones on the inside of the families of our congregation and all of those that march and walk up and down the sidewalks of our cities? What do you do with the lambs, with the little ones? It’s a good question. I cannot but think through some of the things that in this long ministry of mine I have shared along the way, some things that are just so remarkable in providence I can hardly believe.
For example, I sat one time many years ago between a famous actor in Hollywood and his wife. She was about six months pregnant, and she sat on this side of me; and on this side of me at this convocation sat this actor from Hollywood. His name was Ronald Reagan, and her name was Nancy. And I sat there between them all through that meeting. And I turned to the actor on my right whom I’d never seen before. I turned to the actor on my right, Ronald Reagan, and I said to him, “So, you are an actor. You’re a professional actor in Hollywood. And you are here because we have a Christian convocation. Now,” I said to him, “how in the world is it that an actor can be a Christian? How do you be a Christian out there in Hollywood?”
Well, he proceeded to tell me a whole lot of things that go on out there in Hollywood. But he said, “You can be a Christian there and bear a witness for the Lord there as you can in any other profession in the world. And I am in there in Hollywood. And my profession is as an actor. And I have a beautiful wife, and we’re looking for our first child. And we can be a Christian there just as you can as pastor of your congregation in Dallas.” That made an impression on me.
So, as the days passed and as the years came by, I received an invitation to speak at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. And I went out there and delivered my address. And after the address was over and the people were gracious to me, why, the elder, the leading elder in the church, who was an executive in Paramount Studios, Paramount Pictures, he said to me, “I want you to come and I have something I want you to do tomorrow. I want you to eat lunch with me tomorrow at Paramount Studios where those actors eat lunch together.”
So, I said, “I’d be very happy to.”
Then when the time came, he said, “The reason I wanted you to come is, when we get inside of this luncheon area, I’m going to put you at a table right in front of the one next to the wall, because on that table next to the wall, Cecil B. DeMille”—who’s by far the famous movie director who ever lived—“Cecil B. DeMille eats lunch there every day. And you’ll find an open Bible by his plate. And when he comes in, the first thing he’ll do is to start reading that Bible. And he’ll read that Bible all through his lunch hour. And I just want you to see it.”
So I went with that executive of Paramount Studios, and we came in and sat down there at that table right in front of the one next to the wall. And sure enough, at the very moment that he said, Cecil B. DeMille walked in with his secretary and another man who was with him, and they sat down there. And immediately, Cecil B. DeMille started reading that big black Bible.
Well, somehow he learned that I was there. And he stopped reading his Bible, came around the table, pulled up a chair and sat down by my side and talked with me for a full twenty to twenty-five minutes. Just forgot about his lunch altogether talking to me.
And as I talked to him, why, he told me this: he said, “You know, I gave my life to be a minister. I was planning to be a preacher. But I married an actress. And as I began my ministry as a preacher, my wife convinced me and persuaded me that I could do more for God if I tried to reach people who don’t go to church.”
She says to me, “If you just be a minister, well, you’re preaching to the people that are in church. But if you’ll be with me on the stage and in the movie world, you’ll reach people that are never in church. Now,” he said to me, Cecil B. DeMille said to me, he said, “when I grew up, these other kids had their great heroes out there in the athletic world, or out there in the fiction world. But,” he said, “when I grew up in the godly home of my father and mother,” he said, “I had my heroes in the Bible. They were David, and they were Sampson, and they were Jesus, and they were Paul. Those were my heroes. And,” he said, “what I’ve tried to do is to take my movie ability, and I’ve tried to magnify the work of the Lord,” such as he was working on then: The Ten Commandments, about Moses.
Well, when I came back to Dallas, I received a word from Cecil B. DeMille. And he said, “Pastor, I have just completed The Ten Commandments, Moses and The Ten Commandments. I want you to come out here, and we’re going to have a private showing in Paramount Studios with the actors, Heston and all the rest of them. And I want you to come and be my guest. And I want you to look at this first showing of Moses and The Ten Commandments.”
So I went out there. And I sat down in that little movie about as big as this stage here with all those actors and actresses, and I watched for the first time the great film, Moses and The Ten Commandments. And when I came back to Dallas, a little while after that I received a letter from the secretary of Cecil B. DeMille. He had suddenly died. And the secretary wrote to me saying that on his desk, on his desk, he had made a beautiful book; it is as beautifully bound a book as I’ve ever seen in the world. Cecil B. DeMille had made a beautiful book, the scenario of Moses and The Ten Commandments. And she said, “Your name is written on it in gold letters, and I’m sending it to you. I’m sending it to you in his stead, because he died before he could place it in the mail to you.”
What an amazing thing! All of which is to tell you this: when Cecil B. DeMille was a little boy, he says he was ten years old—when he was a little boy, ten years of age, his father was a devoted member of a little church that met in a little wooden sanctuary. And in order to stimulate interest in the house of the Lord and the Word of God, they announced that for a week they would have services every morning at 8:00 o’clock. So, Cecil B. DeMille says, he says, “On a gloomy, rainy morning my father couldn’t go to the service and he sent me. He sent me.”
So the young lad, ten years of age, made his way through the murky, dark, rainy morning to the house of the Lord, the little wooden sanctuary. And when he walked in, there wasn’t anybody there but he. He was the only one present. So he sat down there in the pews by himself. And he said in his heart, “When the minister comes in and sees just me, why, he’ll say, ‘Son, you run on back home. We won’t have any service. It’s just you that is here. ’”
So he sat there, wondering what would happen. And the minister came in and looked. And he was the only one present. And the minister smiled a warm and gracious smile, and he conducted that service as though it was jammed to the wall. And when the time came for the responsive reading, why, he was the one who read the response in the litany. And when the message was done and the sermon was preached, according to the custom of that church which I’ve seen in other places, why, the minister came and placed the offering plate on the altar rail.
And that little boy ten years of age, Cecil B. DeMille, walked down the aisle and put his nickel in that offering plate. And the minister came out of the pulpit to bless the offering. And Cecil B. DeMille said that when the minister held up the offering before God, he put his hand on his head. He put his hand on his head, and he blessed God for the boy and for the offering and for his presence. Man, you don’t forget something like that! That changes the very course of your life. And he never forgot it all the days of his life.
Though I’m no moviegoer; I don’t go to the movies. And I’m no addict to all the things that go on out there in that movie world. Yet in his way and in his ministry and in his assignment, he did a great work magnifying those great heroes of the Bible like Moses and The Ten Commandments. I’m saying to you, “Brother, you don’t know what you’re doing when you’re pouring your life into that of a child. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
I have, as you know, in our church a wonderful friend named Jack Hamm. He is a Christian cartoonist. And he sends these cartoons to the ends of the earth, and they’re published all over the world. Well, this is a cartoon that I cut out of the paper twenty-five years ago and kept it. It’s a little boy. It’s a little boy. And he’s standing at the crossroads. He’s standing at the crossroads. And the inscription is entitled “At the fork of the road.” Right before him lies a road that leads to the mountaintop and to God and to the sunrise. And it is called “Youthful Service.” And to the left is a fork in the road that leads to juvenile delinquency. And blocking the road to the left to juvenile delinquency is the Bible, with the Christian school written across the page.
Dear God! God help us as we pour our very lives and substance and fortune into that effort to guide that child, to make the choice at the forking of the road.
He came to the crossroads all alone,
With the sunrise in his face;
He had no fear of the path unknown—
He was set for an ambitious race.
The road stretched east, and the road stretched west—
And the signboard showed which way was best.
But the boy turned wrong and went on down,
And lost the race and the victor’s crown,
And fell at last into an ugly snare
By choosing the wrong at the crossroads there.
Another boy, another day,
At the same crossroads stood.
He paused a moment to choose the way
Which would lead to the greater good.
The road stretched east, and the road stretched west,
But the signboard showed him which way was best.
And the boy turned right, and went on and on,
And won the race and the victor’s crown,
And came at last to mansions fair
For choosing the right at the crossroads there.
[adapted from “The PTL Worker in the CCC Camps,”
D. R. Falkenberg, 1937]
There is no boy, there is no girl, there is no child, there is no youth but that somewhere in your life you will come to a parting of the ways. You will come to an ultimate and final choice. If you make it for God, if you make it for right, if you make it for our blessed Lord, it means health, and strength, and blessing, and victory in this life, and in the world to come, the crown that only God can bestow upon those who have chosen to love and serve Him.
Oh, wonderful parents, pour your Christian life and teaching into that boy, into that girl, and dear First Baptist Church, and all of our houses of the Lord and congregations of Jesus, take time to plan for the rearing of our children. Make every sacrifice for their good.
And to you who are young; who are beginning the race in life, may it be that you choose our blessed Savior, to live in your heart, walk by your side, open the doors into the great, beautiful opportunities God provides for us in this world, and finally open the doors of heaven into glory. Now may we stand together and bow our heads in prayer?
Our wonderful and wonderful Savior, how we pray that we may not fall into that tragic mistake done by the generation that followed Joshua, failing to teach the children the mighty works of God [Judges 2:10]. But may the Lord find us in infinite wisdom, devoting to that teaching, praying, soul-saving ministry, the finest arts and abilities that God hath bestowed upon us. Our Lord, we are grateful for our Christian parents, and we are grateful for their Christian children, and we are grateful for our Christian church, and we are grateful for our Christian schools. And our Lord, may God bless us and strengthen us as we pour the strength of our lives into those teaching, praying, soul-winning ministries. Now bless this appeal tonight, dear Lord, and give us a sweet and precious harvest.
And in this moment that our people stand before the Lord in prayer, waiting upon Him, a family you, to put your life with us in this dear church, “Pastor, God has spoken to us, and we’re coming tonight.” A thousand times welcome. In the balcony round there’s time and to spare, come. A couple you, to give your heart to the Lord; a one somebody you, to take Jesus as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13]; a youth, who tonight will dedicate himself, answering the call of God; as the Holy Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Do it now. To begin anew with Jesus, to reconsecrate your life to Him, a thousand mercies and blessings be upon you. May angels attend you in the way as you come. Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing our hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome. And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing, welcome, welcome.
PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN
I. Bring them up in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord
A. Tragedy in the story
of the people of Israel(Judges 2:7-10, 12)
1. Failed to
teach their children
2. Parable of Jotham
– the bramble will reign(Judges 9:7-15)
streets offer no degreesâ€¦but educate with terrible precision.”
B. Our first obligation
– teaching the Word
II. God’s way of meeting crisis and need
in the earth
a little child – Samuel, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jesus, Timothy
babies born in 1809, the “year of battles”
Bishop of London – “What do you do about the little ones?”
III. What does the church do with these
A. Ronald Reagan in
B. Cecil B. DeMille – as
a young boy, the only one present at a service
C. Jack Hamm