If the World Has Any Hope
August 14th, 1988 @ 10:50 AM
IF THE WORLD HAS ANY HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-14-88 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled If the World Has Any Hope. As a background text, lest the title of the message be one of darkening discouragement, as I said when we read the Holy Scripture from the Revelation, we turn to the end of the book to find out how it ultimately consummates, and it is in the hands of Jesus our Lord [Revelation 21:1-22:21].
In the eleventh chapter of this Apocalypse, beginning at verse 15:
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 for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God,
Saying, We give thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou has taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
We know how it comes out, but between now and then, there are dark, dark days. The Bible does not seek to deceive us with false optimism. It is a Book of realism, and it speaks of the times that we now live in and those that we and our children shall ultimately face.
As you know, the last two Sundays we have been in Great Britain with our Chapel Choir. They will be singing tonight in a glorious, marvelous rendition, a program that is peculiar to those teenagers, something that we will enjoy, be blessed by. And being over there, you get a sense of a world of turmoil that, at least, I do not feel here in our queenly city of Dallas. For example, the assistant minister of the Westminster Chapel where I preached, I have to confess, I am an out and out heathen. I time his prayers, they are all fifteen full minutes, every one of them. Well, in his prayer, why, he will pray for the Irish Republic Army and their terroristic attacks on England, and while we were there, two terrible terroristic attacks were made; awesome and awful, with bombs and killing people. Of course, what’s the matter is, down there in the south of Ireland they’re Catholic, and in the north part of Ireland they’re Protestant. And they divide the nation so that the north part called Ulster is one part, and the southern part called Ireland is the other part of the island. And the hatred between the Catholics and the Protestants, and the terroristic things that are going on all the time are frightful.
Well, he prayed for that. Then he prayed for the war in the Gulf, in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf. Then he prayed for the confrontations in the land of Israel and their bitter and Arab neighbors. Then he prayed for South Africa and the tragedy of that unhappy land. Then he prayed for the confrontations that we have in Central America. And I do not know how long else he could have added to his prayers, but the whole world is threatened, and of course, we live under the possibility of the destruction of civilization itself.
Well, as I go and as I read, sitting on the plane there for the hours, why, “The encounter,” this article says, “with unbelief and evil powers on the part of the Christian people, the evidence that this encounter is becoming more and more significant is overwhelming in this present day. Over two billion two hundred million people live under restrictions of religious freedom. The total number of people living in states where a missionary entry is prohibited is three billion one hundred million people. Conversionist missionaries are under attack. The number of Christian martyrs in this year, are ten times the number in 1900. Resurgent, non-Christian religions like Muslims have occasioned great concern for the Christian faith.” There are three hundred million to five hundred million Muslims in this world. And the fastest growing religion in England is Mohammedanism, Muslims, Islam. And the fastest growing religion in America is Muslim, it’s Islamic.
Seated there in our room at the hotel, I watched the maid as she made-up the room. And I said, “Where were you born?” She said, “In Sierra Leone in West Africa, a former French colony in West Africa.” And I talked to her about all of the things of her life, and then I began talking to her about the Christian faith. I couldn’t get another word from her lips. I have talked to these Mohammedans, these Muslims, these Islamic people all around the world for years. It is all exactly like that.
In a Gallup study, and if you have read the paper in the last few days, in a Gallup study in America a decade ago, forty-one percent of our people in America were unchurched. Today it is forty-four percent. America is increasingly becoming secular. There are seventy-eight million Americans who do not belong to any church. Don’t ever go to church. We face an increasingly, unbelieving, antagonistic, and secular civilization. I was on the bus, looking, and there was a big church with a great big sign out in front of it. And the sign read, “No God,” n-o God, “no,” n-o, peace; “No God, no peace”; then underneath, k-n-o-w, “Know God,” k-n-o-w, “know peace.”
Our answer lies, for all of the problems of humanity, our answer lies in the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. And as we face that assignment, where we are, the dear church in which we worship His name, in the fellowship to which we belong, the communion of God’s saints here in our dear First Baptist Church of Dallas, as we face that, there are some things that God has done for us, that I pray we will offer unto God in a marvelous and unusual dedication. I want you to look at it a second.
Each year, for several years, I have preached in the Westminster Chapel in London. That is the largest Free Church in Great Britain. It is located about three blocks away from Buckingham Palace, and that’s where our Chapel Choir sang last Sunday. Well, after the service Sunday night, last Sunday night, I was talking informally with some of the deacons in the church. They don’t have a Sunday school, and I don’t know any possibility of their having a Sunday school. The deacon said to me, which is something I know, the tradition of the English churches are against it. When you go to a church over there in England anywhere, it will have a sign on it, “Sunday school, two o’clock in the afternoon,” parenthesis, “for children only.” And not only that, but I said to the men there, these leaders of the church who were visiting with me, I said, “You know the property here is so extravagantly, astronomically high, it would take you hundreds of thousands of English pounds sterling, to buy someplace in which to build a Sunday school.” And they said, “Preacher, you’re wrong there, it would take millions and millions of pounds sterling, to buy property to build a Sunday school. We haven’t the opportunity.”
Well, as I listened to them and see the circumvented work, I think of our church and our calling and our assignment here in the great city of Dallas. We have five city blocks in the heart of Dallas; more than any corporation in this city by far; we have five city blocks. We had a day down here when we had 12,200 in Sunday school. Twelve thousand two hundred in Sunday school at nine-thirty o’clock, and no one registered with me any kind of an approach of a complaint that they were out of room, or that they were crowded. It is unlimited and illimitable what we can do; a lighthouse for Christ set in this city, in this state, in this nation, and in the whole world. There is only one thing demanded, and that concomitant is a dedication to do the greatest work for Christ in this place to be found in the whole created world. But that is our problem; it lies in us, in our dedication.
On the plane I read this; this is as sarcastic and sardonic as anything I have ever read in my life. It’s a letter to the editor of the magazine; says,
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,’ end quote, in order to attend the service. Just let that picture sink into your imagination; earnest Christians, on the high festal day of their faith, which is Sunday, nobly daring the raindrops. Some, no doubt, even lifting umbrellas and resolutely walking out to the garage, climbing into the car and coming to church; think of that, doing it in the rain, what martyrdom! Truly, such martyrdom calls to mind earlier martyrs who conquered kingdoms, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fires. The pastor’s tribute to those who braved the rain suggests a role of modern martyrs who perform comparable exploits of faith. Time would fail us to tell the deeds of Gideon and Barak and Samson. It would fail us also to recite the record of some of the heroic martyrs today. There is Polycarp Brown.
Polycarp, you know, was the pastor of the church of Smyrna, and they burned him at the stake.
There is Polycarp Brown, for instance, who came to the morning service once every three months on beautiful Sundays and stayed all the way through to 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 four pies in the course of a year. There is Papias Morton.
Papias, you know, is pastor at the Hierapolis. When Polycarp was up at Smyrna, he was at Hierapolis.
There is Papias Morton, who increased his subscription to the church from two dollars to three dollars a month and was fittingly rewarded by another deduction from his income tax.
Now boy, that would build your school, wouldn’t it? Tell you, we’re on the way, we’re on the way.
There is Barnabas Cox who, with unvarying fidelity, attended the Easter service every year. Every year he attended the Easter service. And there was Demas Duval who attended two men’s lunches. There was Mrs. Boanerges Johnson who, during the fall and winter, drove her two children seven blocks to Sunday school, called for them at eleven, drove them home; of such is the kingdom of heaven. Surely, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Today, as in that far away yesterday, such martyrs as these promise a great harvest for the church of tomorrow.
What a tragedy! The indifference of the average member of the church is an affront to God and a promise of the darkening day that will describe the decline of the Christian faith. Well, what of us? By God’s help and in His grace, we are dedicated to this message of our Lord, as He avowed it forever in the Great Commission, our assignment from heaven succinctly written here in the last three verses of the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 28:18-20.
We have a wonderful deacon in this church named Jack Hamm, and all over this earth I have seen his cartoon. There is a speeding train called Christianity, and the two rails on which it runs are evangelism, soulwinning; and education, the Christian school. Our Lord said: Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me. Enroll in My school, and sit at My feet [Matthew 11:29], and to win them to Jesus.
Well, with that assignment, here are two verbs in the past tense. He says: “All authority is given,” past tense, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18]—is given. Then that means that from eternity, from a forever, God has purposed this message of salvation and education in Jesus Christ. It is given, past tense. The second verb, in this Great Commission, in the past tense is: “Whatsoever I have commanded you” [Matthew 18:20], past tense. We’re not looking for another commission. This that Christ has said is ours forever. There is never to be a time when there is a great command of our Lord Jesus antiquated, outdated, inapplicable; it is for all time and to the end of the age [Matthew 28:20]. There is never to be a time when there is another voice who will be raised for us to hear, and to follow. We are men and women under authority, doing what our Lord has said – [Matthew 28:18-20]. There is never to be a time when there is another gospel: our Lord cried on the cross, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. It is done.
In the Book of Galatians, in chapter 1, the apostle Paul says, in verse 8: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel than that you have received, let him be,” the Greek word is anathema, “let him be accursed” [Galatians 1:8]. And in the ninth verse, he repeats it again: “As I said, though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that, let him be anathema” [Galatians 1:9]. There is no other gospel. It is forever this. And there is never to be a time when we are not seeking in the dedication, in the strength of our lives, to bring that message to the people who are lost. That’s, in Dallas; seven hundred thousand people in this metroplex are without Christ. Great God, what an assignment the Lord has given us! And high mountains and deep seas and wide deserts are no reason for us not to try.
You notice He says, “therefore,” on the basis of this tremendous mandate that comes form our Lord Christ: “Go ye therefore” [Matthew 28:19]. That’s the only imperative in the Commission; going. We are to go. Go! and then, winning them to Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them the things of our Lord [Matthew 28:19-20]. Great God in heaven, how shall we face the darkening days of humanity, death, and all that is involved with our accountability to God? What shall be our program? And what shall be our attack in saving society, saving people, saving the nation, saving the city, saving humanity? How?
Well, the world tries in every way that the world knows how. And they do it through legislation. They do it through all kinds of governmental supports and activities and presentations. There is the program for full employment. There is the program for better housing; program for better race relations; program for better working hours; program for the care of the people. This last Congress, just a few days ago, passed a legislation which was over the protest of our president. If a company goes out of business, they must give their employees six months notice before they are allowed to close down the plant.
Oh, it goes on forever! But who preaches the gospel? Who wins these people to Christ? Who seeks to build Christian homes and Christian families and to teach our children in the way of the Lord? Who does it? The labor union? The Congress? The legislature? The Legal Bar Association? The Civil Liberties Union? My brother, it is obvious. If we do not do it, it will not be done! Not forever!
We can get along without that preacher who is marching in a civil rights demonstration. We can get along without that preacher who is fomenting riots among students on the university campus. We can get along without that preacher who is propagating and exploiting communist front organizations, and we can get along without that preacher who is lobbying for left-wing legislation. But we can’t get along without that preacher who is trying to win the lost to Jesus. He is our hope for any tomorrow.
I, one time, heard of a man who came into the hotel, got his wife, went up to the hotel room, and they were preparing there for a social event, for a social dance. And while they were dressing, “Why,” he said to his wife, “What’s the matter with you? What’s happened to you? What’s the matter with you?”
And she said, “Husband, while I was down there in the lobby, seated in the lobby, a man came and sat down by my side. He was a preacher, and he talked to me about my soul, and about my home, and about my family.”
And angrily, the husband said to her, “Well, why didn’t you tell him, it’s none of his business your soul, and your home, and your family.”
And she replied, “But husband, if you had seen his face, and if you had heard the tone of his voice, you would have thought it was some of his business.” That is an assignment for all of us who name the name of Christ, wherever, however; we are seeking to make appeal for those who are outside the hope of heaven.
May I close? In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says: “There were over five hundred brethren who listened to this great mandate of our Lord” [1 Corinthians 15:3-6]. And I think of those people. They were without prestige, they were without social acceptance. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts and the thirteenth verse, when they looked at Peter and John, they saw that they were, in the King James Version: “ignorant and unlearned men” [Acts 4:13]. They were private men without estate. They didn’t have governmental authority. They had nothing except a burning message that they were called to deliver to the lost world [Matthew 28:18-20]. And they faced lions, and they faced dungeons, and they faced death, but they delivered their message; and that is God’s call to us today.
The Son of God
Goes to forth to war.
A kingly crown to gain.
His blood red banner
Who follows in His train?
Who climbs the steep
Assent of heaven
Through peril, toil, and pain?
O God to us,
May grace be given
To follow in His train.
[“The Son of God Goes Forth to War,” a hymn by Reginald Heber]
To the thousands of you who have listened to this message on television, could I humbly pray and plead that today you open your heart and home and life to the will of God? What does the Lord call you to be and to do? I know the first thing, always, it would be to accept Jesus as your Savior [Matthew 11:28; John 14:6] and to follow Him in accordance with this great, heavenly mandate [Matthew 28:18-20]. And to all of you who are here in this sanctuary, that today might be the day when, under God’s loving grace and goodness, you answer with your life the call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, some of you, to put your life with us in this dear church, some of you to accept the Lord as your Savior, and some of you to follow the Lord in a special appeal—like a young man at the early service this morning, gave his life to be a minister of the gospel. Zig Ziglar, where are you? Zig would you come and stand right here? You all wait for the prayer; don’t go now. Zig, I want you to come and stand right there, right there. Every once in a while I see people stand up in a group, and I ask Zig, “Are they yours?” And he says, “Yes, pastor, this is my “Born-to-Win” seminar.” And whenever they are here, I always make a special appeal to those men and women, who come under the wonderful teaching and surveillance of Zig Ziglar, one of my precious deacons. I didn’t even know Zig was doing things like this, but there was given me a little stack of little books written by Zig Ziglar. They are marvelous things. I just don’t know anything in the earth that has greater impact than the messages of Zig Ziglar.
Now we’re not asking you to join our church, not at all. What we are asking you to do is, when we pray in a moment and when we have this appeal, that you come, and some of you maybe to accept Jesus as your Savior, tell Zig; some of you to re-consecrate your life to God, tell Zig; some of you maybe to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, you come and pray with him. It will be one of the sweetest, dearest experiences of your hear and life.
And I have a beautiful privilege of receiving over our television Mrs. Ruth Terry. She’s coming into our church, and yesterday she was seventy-eight years old. Dear, you’re just a child; I’m older than you are. And we have the privilege of welcoming into our church Wanda and Roy Meek, 9907 Bruton, in our city of Dallas. Those three are coming into our church by television, and in a moment when we receive these who come, why, we will receive these also. Now let’s pray.
And our Lord, for every wonderful thing You do for us, and for every promise of victory that lies before us, and for the salvation beyond the hour of our death in the eternity to come, we thank Thee and praise Thee forever. Dear God, bless those who have listened on the radio and on television and those who have made commitments in their hearts. And our Savior, bless these in this great sanctuary today, that God will give us a marvelous response. “This is God’s day for me and here I stand.” In His saving name, amen.
Now once again, Zig Ziglar will be standing here by me. You who are with “Born- to-Win,” you come; pray with him. It will be one of the most meaningful things you’ll ever experience in your life. And in the vast throng, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles; “Pastor, God has spoken to me. The Lord is calling me, and I’m answering with my life. Make it now, and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing. “This is God’s day and God’s time for me, and here I am,” while we make appeal and while we sing our song. “Here I am, and here I come.”