DOING THE WORK OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-8-85 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord wonderfully bless the great throngs of you who are listening on radio, the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and the pastor bringing the message entitled Doing the Work of God, a text in John, the Gospel of John, chapter 9, verse 4. The King James Version reads:
I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day;
the night cometh, when no man can work—
the original text reads—
We must work the works of God, of Him that sent Me;
the night cometh, when no man can work.
The urgent exigency of time itself is pressed upon us. Time is a creation of God, and each one of us has a small piece of it; then it is gone forever. I can easily illustrate that. If you have ever been in Egypt, you have looked at those mummies. Some of them are five thousand years old. As you look at that mummy, if you were to awaken it to life, if it could be resurrected before your eyes, the mummy would awaken and no sense of time would have elapsed between five thousand years ago and now. Suppose the mummy was fifty thousand years old; suppose it was fifty million years old; there is no time in eternity. It is a creation of God. It is something that endows us now, and what little piece of it that we have is all we shall ever possess. And if I am going to do anything for God, I must do it now. The exigency of the hour also involves the very life and destiny of our people, our nation, and our world.
Billy Graham said recently if you look in any direction, whether it’s technological, psychological, the world as we know it is coming to an end. Scientists predict it. Sociologists talk about it. Everybody is talking about it. Whether you go to the Soviet Union or whether you go anywhere in the world, they are talking about it. The world is living in a state of shock.
And Alexander Solzhenitsyn, this refugee from the Soviet Union, one of their brightest and most gifted men, said recently we are approaching a major turning point in the history of civilization. A concentration of world evil, of hatred for humanity, is taking place, and it is fully determined to destroy our society. The situation in the world is not just dangerous, it isn’t just threatening; it is catastrophic.
And this last week, picking up a magazine, I looked at the first sentences. Quote—it’s from President Ronald Reagan—quote: “Turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about.” Then on another sentence, it says, “On nearly a dozen occasions, Ronald Reagan has suggested that Armageddon is coming, and possibly soon.” All of this proliferation of nuclear arms; there’s never been anything ever invented in the world of military prowess that hasn’t been used, whether it’s gunpowder or TNT or atomic weapons. We are facing, the leaders of the world say, an Armageddon.
Not only that, but America is facing a total disintegration. One third of all Americans use drugs or alcohol right now; one out of every three that you see. The profits off of cocaine in America is twenty-five billion dollars a year, three times as big as the recording and movie industries put together. Suicide is the second largest killer of teenagers in America. One million Americans now have AIDS, and it is spreading disastrously. And eighteen million Americans have been aborted, murdered, in the last few years.
The time is pressing upon us, and a sign of that recently came to pass one week ago today, and that brings the message that I have been pressed to speak of and preach on this hour. One week ago today we did away with any restraint concerning our stores being open on the Lord’s Day, a sign of the disintegration of the moral fabric of America; greed, materialism, money. The new god of America and of the world is mammon.
When I was in India you couldn’t help but be impressed, coming from the Western world, by the things that you see in that subcontinent. Something like six hundred million people live in that area, not an overly large one. One of the things that you notice are the gods; there are gods everywhere, and they look fierce to me. They’re no friend to humanity. They are terrible-looking to me.
Another thing that you couldn’t but be impressed with is the poverty. It is unspeakable and unthinkable. I got into Calcutta about two o’clock in the morning, and walking through the streets of Calcutta toward the hotel, there were uncounted thousands of people that were living on the streets, sleeping on the streets, bathing out there in the streets, sleeping in the doorways and window sills. It was an astonishing thing to me.
But out of all of the things, the multitudinous things that impressed me, shocked me, when I came to India, was: there is no Sunday. Every day is just like every other day. And I don’t know why that, of all the things in India, that should have impressed me the most. Every day, every day, every day without cessation, one day after another, all of them just alike; every one of them just alike. And of course we are fast moving in that same direction.
Now when we look at such a phenomenon, what about God’s work, and what about us? There are some very pertinent things that come out of that, that we need to realize as a church and as Christian people. The first thing is this: there is no Sabbath in our faith and in our religion—never, ever. The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel.
In the thirty-first chapter of Exodus, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” in verse 12:
Speak, speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations …
Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you …
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever.
[Exodus 31:12-14, 17]
The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel, and the Lord God said, “He that breaks My Sabbath in Israel shall surely be put to death” [Exodus 31:15]. And in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Numbers, verses 32-36, you have the story of the stoning of a man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day, and they slew him by stones, according to the word of God [Numbers 15:32-36].
The Sabbath is a sign between Israel and the Lord God. The Christian faith is under a commandment not to keep a Sabbath day. In Colossians 2:16-17: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; the body is Christ.” These are shadows. All of the Old Testament types and laws and ceremonial figures, they are shadows of the great truth that God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And we’re not under any commandment to keep any Sabbath day.
Then how is it that we began observing Sunday as a holy day? Under no commandment ever; there’s no commandment to observe Sunday as a holy day. Sunday became a day of devotion, and love, and honor, and respect, and glory, and praise just out of the love of our Lord, for the Savior. He arose on the first day of the week [John 20:1-17], and the following Sunday He appeared to His disciples [John 20:26]. And on the first day of the week the disciples began to meet out of love and honor for our Lord. On the first day of the week, according to 1 Corinthians 16, they brought their gifts to the assembly [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. On the first day of the week, they broke bread in the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]. It was a spiritual day. The apostle John says in the first chapter of the Revelation, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” [Revelation 1:10]. We keep the Lord’s Day, we keep Sunday, the first day of the week, as an Easter, as a praise day, as a love day.
The same kind of a thing: you’re under no commandment to keep a Mother’s Day; you do it out of love of your mother. You’re under no commandment to observe any anniversary with someone who’s dear to your heart; you do it out of the overflow of your soul.
So it is in the Christian faith. There is no commandment ever that we observe the first day of the week. We do it out of the love of God, praising our Savior, loving the blessed Jesus. This is our Easter day. This is the day He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. This is our heritage, and our promise, and our earnest that God will raise us also, and we’ll live in His sight [Ephesians 1:13-14]. That is Sunday!
Now, is it possible for us that we can do the work of the dear Lord on any other day but Sunday? That’s the purpose and burden of this message: any day is a good day to do the work of Jesus; anywhere is a good where to witness for our Lord; anyhow is a good how to say a blessed word about Jesus. We are under no commandment at all. We observe the first day out of the love of our Lord, praising God for the resurrection on Easter, the first day of the week [Mark 16:1-7]. And our work is to be everywhere, with everybody, in every place, seven days out of every week.
Let me give that an illustration in my own life. I was converted, I was converted in a weekday service. I was in school; I gained permission from the teacher with a little note from my mother that I could be dismissed from school and go to the service at the church, in a revival meeting. And I was converted in a weekday service, a time when I was ten years old and I was going to school. I was converted in a weekday service. I gave my life, as a boy, I gave my life to be a preacher in a tent revival meeting down there on the main street of that little, tiny town of three hundred people in which I grew up; in a tent, in a tent.
When I began preaching, I started preaching on the street corner, and in the jail, and in the poor farm. I began my ministry out on the street in the days of the week. And in my first pastorate, out of the seminary, in my first pastorate, I was pastor in a county seat town of about fifteen thousand people, and I noticed the farmers came from all over Grady County on Saturday. So I took my Bible and I went out on the courthouse lawn, and I preached in the afternoon and in the evening on the courthouse lawn on Saturday, preaching the gospel.
Some of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in my life happened while I was out there preaching every Saturday on the courthouse lawn of Grady County. I mention one of them, one of them. There was a model prisoner taken from the state penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, to Governor Robert Kerr, later Senator Kerr, a very wonderful and wealthy Baptist deacon and teacher. There was taken this model prisoner out of the penitentiary to Governor Kerr, for him to pardon him. And in the conference they had there in the state capital, in the governor’s offices, why, the men of the penitentiary said, “This man is a model prisoner, and we think he ought to be pardoned.”
So Governor Kerr began talking to him and said, “How is it that you, a hardened criminal, are now described as a model prisoner, and I’m asked to pardon you? How did such a thing come about?” And he said, he said, “I was in the security cell up there on the top of the courthouse in Grady County, and,” he said, “down there below me on the courthouse lawn was a young fellow preaching the gospel.” And he said, “I despised the thought and I tried to close my ears, but he preached so loud I couldn’t help but hear him, but,” he said, “he did that several Saturdays, and I was up there in that maximum security cell waiting to be transferred to the penitentiary in McAlester.” And he said, “As I listened to him, since I couldn’t help but hear him, as I listened to him, I gave my heart to the Lord. I bowed before the Lord, and I confessed to Him my hardened criminal career and asked God to forgive me.” And the man said to Governor Kerr, “When I entered the penitentiary, I entered it as a Christian, as a child of God, as a saved man.”
And on the spot, right there, Governor Kerr pardoned him. I’m just illustrating the fact that anywhere is a good where to preach the gospel, and anytime is a good time to serve the Lord, to teach the Word, to bow in prayer. And however the world is or isn’t, God hath given us all of the power in heaven and in earth, and these processes of political life or social life or cultural life are incidental to the great onward march of the victorious Christian.
I just point out to you, the Lord said to Philip the evangelist, “There he goes, this treasurer of Ethiopia; you tell him about the saving grace of the blessed Jesus” [Acts 8:26-40]. Anywhere is a good where. Any day is a good day.
And when Apollos was preaching, not knowing the Christian faith, Aquila and Priscilla took him and taught him the way of God more perfectly [Acts 18:24-26]. I think he wrote the Book of Hebrews. And when Paul writes to Rome, he salutes Aquila and Priscilla and the church that is in their house [Romans 16:3-5].
We have a great open door before us. And whatever the law says or doesn’t say, whatever it has said or hasn’t said, ultimately makes no difference to the Christian. God is with him. The Lord of Sabaoth [Romans 9:29], is working by our side, and we never lose; not ultimately, not finally, not ever.
And that’s why in our church, if you are sensitive to its programming, increasingly, increasingly, we’re taking the message outside these walls and beyond these stained-glass windows. These home Bible studies, they are proliferating and growing. And our evangel ministries that we are furthering and praying over—all of these ministries in the days of the week: on Monday you’ll find the women down here at noonday, and on Thursday you’ll find hundreds of our people from the business section of the community, practically all of whom do not belong to our church, you’ll find them down here breaking bread together, and they’re listening to the Word of God. That’s the Spirit of the Lord; He is with us.
And however—I repeat—the world may be, Jesus is still King and Lord in heaven and in earth, and we are doing His work seven days out of the week.
We’re going to stand now in a moment and sing our hymn of appeal, and as we sing it, a family, a couple, a somebody you: “This is God’s day for me, pastor. I’m on the way. Here I am, standing before men and angels and God in heaven. I want to take the Lord as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10], and publicly avow the gift of my life to Him,” or “I want to put my life in the fellowship of this wonderful church.” As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now. Make it now, and on the first note of that first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you could ever make in your life. If you’re in the balcony roundabout, to the front and to the back, there’s a stairway down and time to spare; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I am. Here I stand.” Do it. God bless and angels attend your way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.