If the Nations Have Any Hope
August 14th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
IF THE WORLD HAS ANY HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-14-88 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled If The World Has Any Hope.
As a background text, lest we be discouraged in the darkening horizons that surround us, I am reading the end of the Book. Turn to the end of the Book and see how it comes out. There is cause for rejoicing on the part of those who love the Lord Jesus; we win.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders – representing the church – who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God,
Saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
It is an assured victory for our Savior.
But it is darkened in so many areas of our present world. As with our Chapel Choir, I listened to the assistant minister at the Westminster Chapel in London as he prayed. I’m a downright heathen. I timed him because he prays fifteen minutes every time he stands up to pray. Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t that awful?
But listening to his prayer, as I timed him, he prayed first for the tragic situation in the British Isles: the Irish Republic Army – the IRA. You see, Ireland is divided. Most of it is in the South. But in the North are several counties called Ulster, and they’re Protestant; and the rest is Catholic. And the Catholics, even against the will of the government and of the church, carry forward terrorist tactics against the Protestants in the North. And the people live in cringing terror. And he prayed for that situation.
Then he prayed for the Gulf War over there in the Middle East. Then he prayed for the confrontations among the nations of the Middle East. Then he prayed for the situation which is so tragic in South Africa. Then he prayed for Central America; and could have extended his prayer even longer as he named before God the darkening places of our world.
Then as I read; the Christian encounter with unbelief and evil powers, the evidence that this encounter is becoming more and more significant is overwhelming in our present day. Over two and two billion people live under restrictions on their religious freedom. The total number of people living in states where a missionary entry is prohibited comes to three [billion] one hundred million. Conversionist missionary is under attack. The number of Christian martyrs – and in this unbelievable and unthinkable – the number of Christian martyrs in 1986 was ten times the number in 1900. Resurgent non-Christian religions have occasioned new concern with its encounter to missions.
I sat there in the room while the maid made it up. I asked, "Where were you born?"
"In Sierra Leone," a French province in West Africa.
"What religion are you?"
"I’m a Muslim." The Muslim is the fastest growing religion in England. It’s the fastest growing religion in America.
As I talked to her, when I spoke of our Christian faith, she became silent. I couldn’t get another word from her lips. I’ve talked to those Mohammadans all over this earth, and it is the same tragic reaction.
A Gallup study on the unchurched in America says that a decade ago forty-one percent of Americans didn’t belong to the church. Today it is forty-four percent. We are gradually becoming an infidel and secularist nation. That forty-four percent amounts to seventy-eight million Americans.
As we confront this world situation, I brought to mind, preparing this message, a sign that I saw on a church in London as we were taken to the Gatwick Airport. It said – it’s a great big sign, a big one in front of the church – "No God, No Peace." N-o God, N-o Peace. Then underneath – in the same big letters – K-n-o-w, "Know God." K-n-o-w, "Know Peace." That is our message to the world.
And as I think of our dear church, and the lighthouse it has been set in the great metropolitan city of Dallas – I visited last Sunday night informally with some of the deacons in the Westminster Chapel in London. That’s the largest Free Church in England. They have no Sunday school. And when you go to a church in England and look at the billboard on the outside, it will say, "Sunday school, two o’clock in the afternoon," parenthesis, "for children only." And when I mentioned to the men the tragedy of a church without its teaching ministries, they said, it’s a tradition in England not to have that teaching ministry.
And I said to them, "I would think if you chose to have it, the properties here would cost you hundreds of thousands of English sterling pounds." And they said, "Preacher, not so. It would cost us millions and millions of English sterling pounds, to have a Sunday school here in this church," downtown in that city where property is so high, and they’re pressed on every side.
Well, as I think of us in our dear church, five city blocks downtown in the heart of Dallas; we had upon an occasion twelve thousand two hundred here in Sunday school, and I never heard a complaint from anyone that they were restricted or didn’t have ample room. There’s no limit to what we can do, and by God’s grace, getting ready to do, if only there is a concomitant and a corollary, namely a dedicated commitment to achieving it.
As I read on these planes, you know, sitting there by the hour and the hour; here is a letter to the editor of this magazine.
I received a church bulletin which contained a note from the pastor to the congregation that moved me deeply, as accounts of truly great heroes always stir the soul. In his note, the pastor expressed his joy and pride in the members of the congregation who had, quote, ‘braved the rain,’ in order to attend the service.
Just let us picture that in our imaginations: earnest Christians, on the high festival day of their faith, on Sunday, nobly daring the raindrops; some, no doubt, even lifting umbrellas and resolutely walking out to the garage and climbing into the car and coming to church. Truly, such martyrdom calls to mind earlier martyrs who conquered kingdoms, and enforced justice, and received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the raging fire, and escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, performed marvels.
The pastor’s tribute to those who braved the rain suggests a new roll of modern martyrs who perform comparable exploits of faith. Time would fail us to tell the deeds of Gideon, Barak, and Samson. It would fail us also to recite the records of some heroisms of this day. Namely, there is Polycarp Brown –
Polycarp was the pastor at Smyrna and was burned at the stake.
There is Polycarp Brown, for example, who came to the morning service once every three months on fine Sundays and stayed all through till the benediction. Hell’s foundations tremble when shaken by devotion like that.
There is Mrs. Teresa Robinson who, it is true, did not stop the mouths of lions, but did stop the mouths of patrons at suppers, having made pies four times in a year.
There is Papias Morton –
he was a pastor at Hierapolis –
,who increased his subscription to the church from two dollars a month to three dollars a month and was fittingly rewarded by another deduction from his income tax.
There is Barnabas Cox who, with unvarying fidelity, attended the Easter service every year and Demas Duval who attended two men’s suppers. There is Mrs. Boanerges Johnson who, during the fall and winter, drove her children seven blocks to Sunday school, called for them at eleven, drove them home again; of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Surely the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church today as in the far yesterday. Such martyrdoms as these promise a great harvest for the church of tomorrow. They climb the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain.
What do you think of that? What do you think of that? That is as typical of the average church member as anything you could ever think for. There is a non-committal indifferent attitude on the part of the people of God that is astonishing! And no wonder the vast majority of Americans are beginning to pass by the church. It means nothing, or less!
So we’re going to look at the programs of our dear Lord for us. And God be good to us now as we face it. The Lord closed His earthly ministry with a Great Commission most succinctly presented in the last three verses of the last chapter of Matthew. And I want to point out to you that those great words, two of them are in a past tense; they’re in a past tense. Matthew 28:18 to 20, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." "Given" is in the past tense. So this is the purpose and mind of God from eternity, from forever. It is "given," past tense.
Do you notice the second past tense verb? "Whatever I have commanded you," past tense. In other words, there’ll be no other commission or mandate from heaven. This is it. Nor will there ever be any time to come when the great mandate of Christ is inapplicable or outdated or outmoded. It is a forever.
Nor will there ever come a time when there will be another voice. We are men and women under authority. He has spoken, and it is forever our Master’s voice.
Nor will there ever come a time when there will be another gospel. He cried on the cross, "It is finished" [John 19:30]. You remember Galatians 1, verse 8, "If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which you have receive, let him be – the Greek word is anathema – let him be accursed." Then in the ninth verse he repeats the same thing again; "As I said – as I said – if we or any other man or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be anathema." There’ll never come a time when it is replaced by another message. And there’ll never come a time when it is not incumbent upon us to be faithful and true to it. High mountains and deep oceans and wide deserts are no reason not to go, not to preach, not to deliver the message of Christ.
Will you notice one other thing? "Therefore," therefore, therefore, "Going, make disciples of all the people, baptizing them and teaching them what I have commanded" [Matthew 28:19-20]. We face a society that needs redeeming, increasingly so. How do you do it? How do you save humanity?
There is at the present time every kind of a social program that mind could think for, offered to the people and placed in legislated assemblies halls. Economic development, better housing, better wages, better race relations, better working hours, last thing this Congress has done over the president’s veto, which he didn’t dare do again, any plant that closes has to give six months notice. Things like that go on and on and on. But who preaches the gospel? Who does? Who teaches children the way of the Lord? Who makes Christian homes and families? Who does it? Shall we look to the labor unions? Shall we look to the legislature? Shall we look to congress? Shall we look to the Legal Association of the Bar? Shall we look to the Civil Liberties Union? Who preaches the gospel? Who wins people to Christ? Who builds Christian homes? Who teaches the children in the faith?
If we don’t do it, nobody does. We, our preacher and our people, are desperately needed. We can do without that preacher who is marching in some kind of a civic protest. We can do without that preacher who is fomenting riots among students. We can do well without that preacher who is promoting the front communist party’s slogans. We can do without that preacher who is lobbying in the legislature for left-wing laws. But we can’t do without that preacher and we can’t do without those people who are winning the world to Christ, inviting men and women to the saving faith of Jesus our Lord.
My wonderful deacon, Jack Hamm, here who stood up a minute ago, drew a cartoon that I’ve seen all over the world – the Christian train and it’s on two tracks. One is evangelism, and one is education. That’s a commitment we have made to the work of the Lord, inviting people to Christ, accepting the Lord as Savior, and then teaching them all the things our Savior has commanded.
May I close? The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, that the Lord gave this Great Commission to over five hundred brethren at once [verse 6]. Think of them. They had no prestige. They had no wealth and money and affluence. They had no governmental support. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts and the thirteenth verse, they looked at Peter and John and saw that they were "unlearned and ignorant men." That’s a poor translation. They were private and poor men. But they took knowledge of them; they’d been with Jesus.
They had nothing; they had nothing. But they had a burning message and a desire and a dedication unto death to deliver it to the world! And they changed the world. They changed civilization. They changed the whole complex of society. They faced dungeons and they faced death and they faced the mouths of lions. But they delivered God’s message! And that’s what God calls us to do today.
The Son of God goes to forth to war.
A kingly crown to gain.
His blood red banner stream afar.
Who follows in His strain?
Who climbs the steep ascents of heaven?
[from "The Son of God Goes Forth to War," by Reginald Heber]
We do. We do. We dare to follow and to obey, and dedicate our lives for this holy place. This is just the beginning of an introduction of many, many things that we’re going to enter into. In these immediate months ahead, we’re going to have twelve thousand in Sunday school there. We’re going to baptize people by the throngs. God is with us. He has called us and set us in this place with a purpose. And the hand of the Lord is working mightily in our midst.
I just thank God that I can be around to watch it and to praise the Lord for it. We’re going to sing us a hymn, now, of appeal. And while we sing this song, a family you to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, a couple you dedicating your life with us to the Lord, a one somebody you answering the call of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart, from the balcony, down one of these stairways, there’s room and to spare. In the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, for us, and we’re on the way." God bless and angels attend you as you come while we stand and sing our appeal, "This is God’s moment for me, and I’m here. I’m coming."