The World Around Us

The World Around Us

August 20th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM

Romans 1:14

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
Related Topics: AIDS, Crime, Drugs, Judgment, World, 1989, Romans
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AIDS, Crime, Drugs, Judgment, World, 1989, Romans

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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Romans 1:14

8-20-89    10:50 a.m.


You are now part of our wonderful, incomparable First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The World Around Us.  “I am debtor,” wrote Paul in the first chapter of Romans, and verse 14.  “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians” The Jews called everybody who was not a Jew—they called them something else.  The Greeks called everybody who was not a Greek, a barbarian:

I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians—

to everybody—

to the wise, to the unwise.

So that, as much is in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

[Romans 1:14-16]

The message of our Lord God in heaven is addressed to the whole creation, to all the nations, and families, and peoples, and tribes, and colors of the earth.  The greatest prophet in the Old Testament began his marvelous word from heaven: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear O earth:  for the Lord God hath spoken…” [Isaiah 1:2].  And the message is always one of triumph, and victory, and assurance, and deliverance, and salvation.  These who live in our world, whether in the political, or social, or philosophical sector of it, facet of it, are lost in a fog and a mist; but not these who look to God.  In Isaiah, the Lord God says: “Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth:   for I am the Lord, and there is none else” [Isaiah 45:22].

The reason for the victory and deliverance of our message is because it looks to God and not to men; it looks to heaven and not to earth; it is centered not in time, but in eternity; not in the material but in the spiritual.  The crises of life but make our Lord the more gloriously and resplendent, and the sorrows and bitternesses of life make our Savior more precious.  And the darker the night, the more marvelous does our Lord shine.

So we went to New York City and spent our two-week vacation there, and our boy Cris came up from Washington and spent two weekends with us.  And Cris and I got on the subway and went down to the World Trade Center and to Wall Street; and then got on that subway to come back to mid-Manhattan.  The subway had trouble, and we sat there, and sat there, and sat there.  And while I was seated there, I stared at those advertisements above the windows of the subway train, and below the ceiling—you know they are there across—and I looked at those advertisements.  The first one here was for cigarettes.  Well, I’d been looking at them ever since I was born, so I looked at the advertisements for that brand of cigarettes.  Then the next advertisement started off with a question: “Are you pregnant?”   Well, I thought, well, it wasn’t really pertinent to me, but I thought I’d read it anyway.  “Are you pregnant?”  Then in big letters, “We can help,” then underneath that the location and the address and telephone number of an abortion clinic.  Then two emphatic words: “Private” and “Confidential.”

Then the third big advertisement up there for gambling, for the lottery, and they had a unique sentence: “All you need is a dollar and a dream,” a dollar and a dream, “And with a dollar and a dream…” then it listed all those things that could accrue: pay off your mortgage, buy a beautiful car, go on an extensive, interesting vacation; all if you just gamble, if you just bet.

Then the fourth one, over here, really was amazing to me.  Up there at the top, “Male bonding.”  Never had heard the phrase in my life, “male bonding.”  In the “o” of “bonding” was an unusual kind of an “o.”  I couldn’t figure out what it was: “Male bonding.”   Then underneath the words: “Two males in sexual intercourse are subject to procuring AIDS, and you need our condoms.”   Then I looked up at that “o,” and that “o” in that “male bonding” is a condom.  Then underneath, “It isn’t frequency of male intercourse with other males that makes you subject to AIDS.  Even infrequently you can be afflicted with it.”   Then underneath that was written, in large letters: “HELP AIDS,” and then “(212) 616-8100.”  That, the advertisement in the subway.

When you are dealing with AIDS, you are dealing with God!  The Lord says in His Word,

What? Know ye not that he who is joined to a harlot is one with that harlot?

Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is outside the body;

but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body.

 [1 Corinthians 6:16-18].

You’re dealing with God when you’re dealing with AIDS.

I went to church and there was handed to us a program, the program such as we hand to you.  We have our program.  I was handed a program, and to my amazement, three times in this program they are calling the congregation about AIDS.  “Herndon Worth obtained a grant from the directors of the area community to aid our AIDS task force,” that was one of them.  Another one: “Would you like to make a difference between hope and despair for someone hospitalized with AIDS?”  And then a third one here: “AIDS task force, one of the opportunities to help people with AIDS.  Beth Israel Medical Center needs volunteers to assist in its AIDS program.”  Three times in that church bulletin, about AIDS.

And picking up the newspaper: “On the Sad Trail of Street Youths: Drugs and AIDS”:

 A young man in a T-shirt approached an older man.  There was a quick flash of folded bills, something exchanged, and both men walked away.  It took seconds on a sun-drenched street in the early afternoon of an August day—then it says where it was, here in New York—a crack deal.  Crack is a monster on its own:  cheap, available, almost instantly addictive.  But it is also a Hydra with many heads.  The latest to rear is AIDS.  The vehicle is not shared needles as with heroin, since crack is almost always smoked, but what Mr. Williams calls “survival sex.”  Crack is very intertwined with AIDS because the kids, in order to get crack, the desperation is so high, they sell themselves.  A boy will give himself to a male for intercourse, and a girl sell herself to buy crack.  Of youth sixteen to twenty year olds, six and a half percent currently have AIDS and of twenty year-old youths an astounding seventy percent have AIDS!  Teenagers under twenty, seventeen percent of them have AIDS.  And the New Jersey health authorities say there are more than four thousand two hundred teenagers who have AIDS.  And in New York City, there are two hundred thousand known to have AIDS.  And in the next few months, fifty thousand of them will die.

AIDS is a judgment of Almighty God!  All venereal disease is that.  Whether it is clap whether it is gonorrhea, whether it is syphilis, and now lately whether it is AIDS, it is a judgment of Almighty God.

The Lord made the man for the woman, and the woman for the man, and they can live together for ten thousand lifetimes and never have syphilis, or gonorrhea, or clap, or AIDS.  It’s a violation of God that brings the judgment of Almighty, the Lord’s wrath upon what is happening here in America, around the world.  There are some nations that within the next ten years will lose one half of their population by the scourge and the black plague of AIDS.

Why we turn aside from the monogamous will of God—a man and a woman, the way God made it from the beginning [Genesis 2:24]—and give ourselves to harlotry and to promiscuity is beyond my thinking and my understanding.  When you deal with [AIDS], you deal with [God].

Number two: when you deal with drugs, you deal with God.  The Bible plainly and emphatically avows:

Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?  You are bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body . . . which is God’s.

[1 Corinthians 6:19-20]


What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  What communion hath light with darkness?

[2 Corinthians 6:14]


…Ye are the temple of the living God.

[1 Corinthians 6:19]


As God said:

I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and will be their God, and they will be My people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you;

I will be a Father . . . and you will be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty.

[2 Corinthians 6:16-18]

 When you deal with drugs, you are dealing with God!  In those daily newspapers, intelligence gathering among the addicts of New York City, William Hopkins, who heads the New York State Division of Substance Abuse:

Question: over the years we’ve seen marijuana, heroin, and cocaine go in and out of fashion.  Now there’s crack, and evidence that heroin is making a comeback by being smoked with crack.  What are the dynamics of creating a drug of choice?

Beats anything I ever heard, his answer:

We find that the people on the streets are constantly, yea, constantly mixing substances together, trying to get a higher high.  They’re experimenting with everything.  They put together unbelievable things, such as two things that’ll kill you.  One is battery acid; the other is Ajax.  We see them drinking bleach, we see them mixing developing fluids, at least twenty or so, in all kinds of fields.  What happens is that in the morning, you’ll find the street addicts comparing notes with each other.  What did you use last night?  I use thus and I use thus.  What about crack?  When crack started getting out there, everybody was talking about how great a high you get.  When we first found it, I didn’t break the story to the media right away because, mainly, I thought the media would cause a problem in spreading it.  The first time we heard the word ‘crack’ was in December, 1983.  It happened in one of our meetings, when one of my staff members mentioned crack.  I didn’t know what the hell it was.  A few months later, one of my staff said they saw, in the Bronx on such-and-such street, some guy smoking something called crack.

Then the question, “Since then, has there been anything new in the processing of crack?”  It’s being made in microwave ovens in ten seconds!  They call it instant gratification.  “Is there anything new about the use of crack itself?”  I know that it is smoked in regular cigarettes.  And many people don’t know that.  Remember that cocaine is a sexual stimulant.  And there are guys who give a gal a cigarette to turn her on, and she doesn’t know she’s smoking crack.”  Question, “After forty years of combating street drugs, are you discouraged by what you see?”

Answer: “It’s getting worse.”

Getting worse!  And these articles avow; they don’t know any answer to it; and they’re helpless before it; and it’s spreading over the earth.  Here’s a full page regarding Oakland, California, Alameda County, one million three hundred thousand people:  Dr. Arthur J. Wineburg calls crack the worst public health problem he’s seen.  “You can’t do a good job, no matter what you do.  And I don’t see it getting any better.”  In a 70-hour period, all five hundred residents in the medical emergency room tested, more than half of them, for cocaine.  In the psychiatric emergency room, doctors variously estimated that up to ninety percent of all the patients are cocaine abusers.  Sermonizing—and this discourages me—

sermonizing about such ill-gotten wealth is not particularly effective.  Dr. Connell once found $700 on a teenager in a car accident.  The teenager said he was a bookkeeper at a crack house.  When the doctor challenged his career choice, the boy said, “I’m not going to work for chump change.  I make $2,000 a week tax-free.  What do they pay you, sucker?” talking to the doctor.  The doctor gulped.  Virtually every doctor in Highland made less than that.

 “In the Cities, Poor Families are Dying of Crack” [The New York Times, Vol. CXXXVIII, No. 47, 959], that’s the top headline in the New York Times, the top headline, “Poor Families are Dying of Crack”:

Crack is rapidly accelerating the destruction of families and neighborhoods, where mothers are becoming increasingly addicted and children are selling the drug in greater numbers than ever before.

Then it goes through about children, the whole thing:

On a quiet summer day recently, a twelve year-old boy sat on an up-turned milk crate at the corner of Regent Place and East Twenty-first Street, selling crack—twelve years old!—His mother stood by him drinking from a bottle of beer and patting him on his head.  Other boys waited for customers in nearby doorways.  Outside children, as young as seven, eight, and nine, waited nonchalantly—they were the lay-aways who were holding most of the drugs to be sold.

Children, eight and nine years old!

And the next big headline: “Drug Cartels Spread All Over the Country” [USA Today, Jack Kelley and Judy Keen]. And I cut out Texas—the article—eastern Texas, northern Texas, southern Texas, western Texas, and the cartels that are afflicting and attacking our people!  And here is a long editorial on drugs, and I read the last sentence: “Yesterday, Mr. Bennett, who heads it up there, joined with Attorney General Thornburg to announce that crack now appears to be spreading from big cities to small towns and rural areas.” Small communities—everywhere, everywhere, everywhere!

I got in a cab in the city, and I sat in the front seat.  And the driver was a Coptic Christian.  The Coptic church is the ancient church of Ethiopia and Egypt.  And just talking to him, he said, “I never drive my cab at night.  I am afraid to.  I am afraid of the drug dealer, and I never drive the cab at night.”

And another cab, he stopped at a red light in a certain section of that city, and while he was stopped at the red light, it looked like a bum, a flotsam and jetsam, came and knocked on his window.  And he rolled the window down and gave the man some money.  When he rolled the window back up, I said to him: “What are you doing?”

And he said, “That’s an addict.”  There are ten thousand of them on the streets of that one city—ten thousand criminal addicts on the streets of that city!  And the cab driver said to me, “If I don’t give him money, I’m afraid for my cab and I’m afraid for me.”

I can’t imagine, I can’t conceive, I can’t think in those terms!  Another judgment of Almighty God, and what shall the end be?  What is the destiny of our nation, of our great cities and, according to the headline, of our communities, of our rural areas, of our villages, of our children, of our schools, and the homes and families of our people?

I must hasten.  Not only are we dealing with God when we deal with AIDS, not only are we dealing with God when we deal with drugs; we’re dealing with God when we deal with our homes, and our families, and our children.

God in the beginning, the Lord said:

Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness . . .

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female; the man and the woman created He them.

And God blessed them, and said . . . Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth . . .

 [Genesis 1:26-28]

And the Lord God said, It is not good for the man, that he live alone; I will make a help meet for him . . .

[Genesis 2:18]

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept:  And God took out of his side—

from near his heart; closed it up—

And with it He made a woman, brought her to the man.

And [man] said, Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she will be called ‘ishshah, because she was taken out of ish—

called Woman because she is taken out of Man—

Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they two shall be one flesh.

[Genesis 2:21-24]

In the paper, what crime seem to be showing the biggest growth?  Embezzlement among women—it has jumped 352 percent.  Arrest for drug abuse has increased fifty-four percent among men, sixty-three percent among women, our wives and mothers.  Suicide, drugs, pregnancy, divorce: not exactly the stuff of childhood, at least it didn’t used to be, but today such evils seem to menace our children at a younger and younger age.”

Another headline: “Abortion is the Vietnam of this Generation” [Quoted in the New York Times, August 6, 1989, by E. J. Dionne, Jr.].  A sentence, they had a big to-do in New York City:  “Every speaker here asserted popular support for the right of women to choose an abortion.”  That’s today!  That’s this modern generation.  I don’t know what to think!

Have you seen me dedicate a baby here to the Lord?  I get down there on my knees, and I say to the Lord God, “I’m overwhelmed!”  Bowed down in adoration and thanksgiving before the omnipotent hand of God; only God’s omnipotence could create that living child.  God has to breathe into its nostrils a breath of life [Genesis 2:7].  God has to make it.  And what is happening to our homes, and our families, and our wives, and our mothers, and our people?

I have to close.  Two things, two things.  Number one, on the outside, how infinitely precious is the invitation: bring your family to church; if you are single, come to the house of the Lord.  Be a part of the family of God.”

Within the shadow of skyscrapers,

There stands the downtown church,

A beacon of light that gives

New hope to those in search

Of something more deep and lasting

Than what the skyscrapers give.

[For the inspiration and comfort

Folks need these days to live]

Whenever a stranger walks the streets,

Who is burdened down with care,

If he will enter that downtown church,

He can find refuge there.

[“The Downtown Church,” Pat Vardell]

Could I add, he can find victory there, find Jesus there, find salvation there, find deliverance there, find strength there.  The church—O God, how we need the church!

The second answer is on the inside; it’s in our souls; it’s in our hearts.  Whatever the vision of life, whatever the dream may be, that Jesus is first.

I walk life’s way with an easy tread,

Had followed where pleasures and comforts led,

Until one day in a quiet place

I met the Master face-to-face.

With station and wealth and rank for my goal,

Much thought for my body, but none for my soul,

I had entered to win in life’s mad race,

When I met the Master face-to-face.

I built my castles, reared them high,

Until they pierced the blue of the sky;

I’d sworn to rule with an iron mace,

When I met the Master face-to-face.

I met Him, and knew Him, and blessed to see

That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me;

I faltered and fell at His feet that day,

While my castles melted and vanished away.

Melted and vanished and in their place

Naught could I see but the Master’s face.

I cried aloud; “Oh, make me meet,

To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”

My thought is now for the souls of men,

I lost my life to find it again,

E’er since one day in a quiet place

I met my Master face-to-face.

[adapted from “I Met the Master,” author unknown, quoted by George W. Truett in the sermon “The Secret of a Great Life,” Fort Worth, TX, June 13, 1917]

That’s what we need.  That’s what our homes need.  That’s what our families need.  That’s what our men and women need.  That’s what our children need.  That’s what we need; surrendering every purpose, and every dream, and every goal of life to Him and finding life anew in our blessed and wonderful Savior.

And to you who have listened on television, may God bring life and hope and courage into your heart, into your house, into your home, into your family with your children; and in your own commitment to our blessed Lord.  There’s no decision you will ever make that has in it the eternal repercussion as opening your heart to the blessed invitation and appeal of our precious Savior.   On the television screen, you’ll find a number.  There will be a devout and consecrated and committed counselor who will answer your telephone call.  And if you want to know how to accept Jesus as your Savior, call us.  We’ll show you the way to God.  And someday I’ll see you in heaven.  And to the great throng that fill this sanctuary, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have chosen God today.  I am giving my heart and life to Christ.  I’m bringing my family in to the church.  I’m dedicating my home and house to the Lord.  I’m giving my own soul to Jesus” [Romans 10:9-10].  A thousand times, welcome, as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Romans 1:14-16

I.          Introduction

A.  The message of God is addressed to the whole creation(Isaiah 1:2)

B.  The message is one of hope, victory, assurance, deliverance and salvation (Isaiah 45:22)

1.  Looks to God and not men, heaven and not earth

2.  Centered not in time, but eternity; not in material, but spiritual

C. Our modern world

1.  New York City subway advertisements – cigarettes, abortion clinic, lottery, and condoms to prevent AIDS between homosexual men

  II.         When you deal with AIDS, you deal with God(1 Corinthians 6:16, 18)

A.  AIDS, like all venereal disease, is a judgment of God

B.  We have turned aside from the monogamous will of God

III.          When you deal with drugs, you deal with God(1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

A.  William Hopkins on substance abuse, use of crack – “It’s getting worse.”

1. Newspaper articles say we are helpless before the crack problem

2. Crack rapidly accelerating destruction of families

3. Children selling and dealing drugs

4. Drug cartels in Texas

5. Cab driver afraid to drive at night

6.  Addict begging for money from another cab driver

B.  A judgment of God

IV.       When we deal with our homes, families and children, we deal with God

A.  Creation of man, institution of the home(Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18, 21-24)

B.  The evils that menace our children at a younger and younger age

C.  Abortion and this modern generation

V.        The answer

A.  Precious invitation – be a part of the family of God

1.  Poem, “The Downtown Church”

B.  Surrendering all to Jesus

1. Poem, “Rabboni”