A Growing in Grace
April 16th, 1987 @ 12:00 PM
A GROWING IN GRACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 3:18
4-16-87 12:00 p.m.
And welcome the great throngs of you that are in God’s sanctuary this high noon. Remember, if any moment you must leave, you will not disturb me, and all of us will understand. This is a busy lunch hour and you stay as long as you can and leave when you must. This is the seventy-first year that our dear church has conducted these pre-Easter noonday services. With my predecessor, Dr. Truett, and in the years of my pastorate, the services now number seventy-one years. The theme this year, as was announced by Dr. McLaughlin, is “The Golden Chain of Salvation.” On Monday, A Turning Repentance; on Tuesday, A Confession unto Salvation; yesterday, A Baptism into the Family of God; today, A Growing in the Grace of Our Lord; and tomorrow, Good Friday, Our Entrance into Heaven. There are two letters in the New Testament written by the apostle Peter. And he closes his second letter with the words, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To whom be glory both now and forever. Amen” [2 Peter 3:18].
Growing in grace; we begin with a commitment to the Word of God. This is our guide and our foundation, our chart across the sea and our map across the uncharted land, the Bible. This great throng of a thousand young people and youngsters in our academy are too young to remember, they were not even born, but to us who have been in the pilgrim way, many of us can recall the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the present queen of the British Empire. And in that coronation—one of the most dramatic of all the moments in the gorgeous ritual and impressive ceremony—was occasioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the titular head of the Anglican communion, when he presented to the queen a Bible. And this is what he said in the presentation: “Our gracious Queen, to keep Your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing which this world affords, this Book.” And how appropriately said, the most precious of all the possessions of humanity, this Book. The universe is upheld by the word of God. Hebrews 1:3: “Upholding all things by Thy word.”
We are convicted by the Word of God; Hebrews 4:12-13. We are born again by the Word of God, [1 Peter 1:23]. We are to live by the Word of God; Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We are to work; we are to walk by the Word of God; Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We are convicted of sin by the Word of God; Psalm 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” And we are to die by the Word of God. The beautiful, preciousness of the Lord’s promise in Revelation 3:10: “Because thou hast [kept] My word . . . I also will keep thee [from] the hour of trial that comes over all the earth”: living and dying by the Word of God.
In these days gone by, there was a beautiful and gifted and gracious business woman in this city who was a faithful member of our dear church. In her many journeys to New York on business trips, she met and fell in love with a producer of plays on Broadway. He did not write the plays, he produced them. And, after they were married, he decided to retire from his Broadway productions and come down here to live in Dallas. He was as much a pagan, a heathen, as I ever met in my life. All of his days, been up there in that big town producing those plays on Broadway, but he came to church, and he was wondrously and gloriously saved; just a marvelous conversion.
Oh, my heart was so grateful to God, and my anticipation of his work in our church was so full of brilliant expectation! I could just see our church doing, oh so many things under his direction and with his help. We have a little theater over here, Ralph Baker Hall. We have people who would love to share in dramatic presentations of our Lord. Oh, I just had so many dreams, and in the midst of them, he suddenly died. Oh, I was just crushed!
Well, when I went to the chapel, to the funeral home, to bury him and I looked into the casket, he had a Bible in his hand. Just like that, lying in that casket with a Bible in his hand. And I turned to his gifted wife, and I said, “In all the years and the years I have been a pastor, I have never seen that; lying there with that Bible in his hand and to be buried with the Word of God pressed against his heart.” And she replied to me, she said, “When he was converted, when he was saved, he read the Bible all the time. When he would shave, he would prop it up by the side of the mirror, and as he shaved, he would read the Bible. When he would wait for me to prepare lunch or dinner, he would sit there and read the Bible. And before we went to bed, he read the Bible. And,” she said, “when I looked at him in the casket, his hands seemed so empty; and I had so often seen him with a Bible in his hand. So,” she said, “I went upstairs to our bedroom and I got his Bible and I just placed it in his hand. It seemed so appropriate.” I have said publicly, many times here in this sacred place, “When I die, I want them to place my Bible in my hand, and I want to be buried with this Book next to my heart.”
Growing in grace: after our conversion, and after our baptism, and now belonging to the family and the household of God, our guide is this Book, the Word of God, the Spirit of the Lord speaking to us through these inspired pages; growing in grace; a time in every day just for the Lord, a devotional time, a moment of meditation. When a young preacher will come by and shake my hand and he will say, “If you had just one word for a young preacher, what would you say?” Immediately I have always answered, “Keep your morning for God!” In the afternoon, do anything the church would ask. In the evening go to any meeting arranged, but in the morning, stay to yourself, you and God, to read the Word, to pray, to meditate, to talk to the Lord, and let Him talk to you. I say to the young man, if I have time to visit with him, “When Sunday comes, they will know whether you have been with the Lord or not. Preach out of the fullness and of the overflow of your life.” All of us, every day ought to have a sacred place and a sacred time when God speaks to us and we speak to the Lord.
Growing in grace: accepting an assignment in the church; doing something, it doesn’t matter. It was because of an altercation with the disciples about who would be greatest [Luke 22:24], that the Lord washed their feet [John 13:3-15]. To be humble in our service doesn’t matter; if a bank president, to teach a class of little junior boys or to stand at the door to hand out a leaflet, a program, or to open the windows, or to sweep the floor, or to knock at the door, to do some humble service for Christ, but always faithful to be there doing it—growing in grace, accepting a humble ministry in the house of the Lord and the family of God.
And one other, growing in grace: accepting our assignment in life as from heaven; wherever it is God has placed me, and in whatever circumstance I walk and live, may I receive it as from the Lord. In the first chapter of this second epistle of Peter, out of which I am speaking; growing in grace, he refers to the word of the Lord, how he should die [2 Peter 1:14]. Do you remember it? It is in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of John. The twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John is an addendum. It is an appendix. It was added, I think, years and years after the Gospel was written. John closes his Gospel at the twentieth chapter, closes it gloriously [John 20:24-31]. Then, in some of the years that followed, it could of been many, many years, John wrote one other chapter. It is the twenty-first and it is a tribute to his old friend Simon Peter, who has been dead years and years and years [John 21:1-25].
Anyway, he refers to that in this [twenty-first] chapter, and the reference is this. When Jesus invites Simon Peter to follow Him [John 21:19], He prophesies the issue, the ultimate of his life: that he will die by crucifixion [John 21:18]. He will die with the outstretched hands. Peter is to follow our Lord unto death and unto death by crucifixion. Then, Peter turns and sees John, his old friend and fishing partner. He sees John also following. And Peter turns to the Lord and says, “Lord, if I am to die by crucifixion, what about this man? What about John?” And the Lord replies, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? You follow Me” [John 21:20-22]. “If I will that John never suffers, that he never dies, what is that to you? You follow Me.” And the Gospel closes with Simon Peter following Jesus to crucifixion and to death, and John living beyond a hundred years of age. Isn’t that hard to accept? The providences of life, “You will be crucified.” Someone else may never experience the harsh judgments and realities of which life is capable. But we are to accept them, whatever life and lot is assigned to us from heaven. We are to accept it in humble, grateful praise and appreciation from God. He chooses, God chooses.
There was a little crippled boy who cried to the conductor of the streetcar, “Mr. Conductor, Mr. Conductor, wait up, wait up, wait up.” And the conductor stopped the streetcar, and the little crippled boy ran, climbed up into the car, sat down by a man. And the little fellow was so bright and so happy. The man by whom he sat, turned to him and had the temerity to say, “Son, you are so bright, and you are so happy, and you are so crippled, how do you be so happy and bright?” And the little lad replied, “Mister, my father says to me, that God always gives us what is best. And don’t you think I ought to be happy with what is best?” Lord in heaven, what a glorious response to the providences of life. God gives what is best. And I will rejoice in His choice for me. That’s the grace of God in our lives. As you know, the great Coliseum in Rome was finished about 70 AD. And the first Christian to be fed to the lions was Ignatius, the pastor at Antioch. And they say that when Ignatius stood in the midst of the Coliseum and the hungry lions were loosed from their cages and they rushed toward him, that Ignatius held out his hand to the leading lion and said, “Today, I begin to be a Christian.” That’s what it is to follow the Lord into any providence of life or any choice or assignment that heaven makes, and to rejoice in it. This is the grace of God. And Lord, may I be found faithful in the assignments that God hath given to me.
Our Lord, as we sit at Thy feet, may we learn the deep things of the meaning of life from Thee. And give us strength for the way, and a rejoicing, thanks-giving heart, whatever the providences; in Thy dear and precious name, amen.
I. A commitment to the Word of God
for growth and guidance in Christian pilgrimage
of Queen Elizabeth – most precious of all possessions of humanity is this Book
1. Universe is upheld
by the Word (Hebrews 1:3)
2. We are convicted by
the Word (Hebrews 4:12-13)
3. We are born again by
the Word(1 Peter 1:23)
4. We are to live by
the Word (Matthew 4:4)
5. We are to walk by
the Word (Psalm 119:105)
6. We are kept from sin
by the Word (Psalm 119:11)
7. We are to die by the
producer converted here; buried with his Bible
II. Personal devotion
every day for the Lord
word to young preachers – keep your morning for God
III. A place of service in the church
any assignment; a humble ministry
Our Lord washing feet
children, greeting at the door, sweeping the floor
IV. Accepting our assignment in life
whatever circumstance we walk and live, receive it as from the Lord(2 Peter 1:14, John 21:18, 21-22)
providences of life
1. Crippled child on a
streetcar – “â€¦God always gives us what is bestâ€¦”
2. Ignatius fed to the
lions – “Today, I begin to be a Christianâ€¦”