OUR WORLD AROUND US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-20-89 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our wonderful, incomparable First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our World Around Us. Just looking, and this is a report and a message from God.
One of the marvelous things about heaven is God’s address to all creation: all men everywhere; the leaders of the people, the families, the children, the young people, the politicians, the academicians, the whole earth. God addresses His message to mankind. The greatest of the prophets begins his prophecy with this verse: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord God hath spoken" [Isaiah 1:2]. And our message is one of victory and of encouragement: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" [Isaiah 45:22]. Others are lost in a fog and a mist, don’t know where to turn, don’t know what to do; but we have an answer, and one that is infinitely dynamic and effective. The reason for it is very obvious: it looks not to man, but to God; it looks not to earth, but to heaven; it’s not centered in time, but in eternity; it’s not centered in the temporality, but in the spiritual presence of the Lord. And the greater the crises, the more marvelous shines our Savior; the darker the night, the more brilliant His presence; and the more bitter the experience, the more comforting our blessed Savior.
So our boy Cris and I got on a subway and went down to the World Trade Center, and Wall Street, and then got on the subway in New York City and came back up into mid-Manhattan. The subway that we were on had trouble and took a long time in returning. And as I sat there in that subway, sat there and sat there, why, I looked at the advertisements, you know, those things that are across the cars between the window and the ceiling, all across there. So I sat there and I looked at those advertisements. First one here was for cigarettes. Well, I’d seen them ever since I was born. So I was accustomed to that, cigarettes. Then the second one started off, "Are you pregnant?" Well, I didn’t particularly find myself involved in that one, but it was interesting just the same, "Are you pregnant?" Then underneath, "We can help." Then underneath the location of an abortion clinic in the city, and underneath that two big exclamations: "Private and confidential." That’s for the abortion clinic. Then the next advertisement was for the lottery, and it had a beautiful invitation, "Do you have a dollar and a dream? A dollar and a dream." Then underneath that all the things that you could have if you’d play the lottery: pay off the mortgage, buy a new car, go on a big vacation, all of those things with a dollar and a dream.
Then the last one over here, when I looked at that, at first I had no idea: the big headline, "Male bonding, male bonding." And the "o" was an unusual thing, "male bonding." I never had heard of such a thing as that, "Male bonding" and that unusual "o." Then underneath that, "If you are a male and have sexual intercourse with another male, be sure to use our condoms." Then underneath that, "It is not the frequency of male intercourse that procures AIDS; you can get it with infrequent male intercourse." Then underneath that, "If you need us, HELP AIDS," and the number, "212-616-8100." And I looked at that "o" in "male bonding," and it is a condom. I sat there and looked at those open advertisements on the subway.
Well, I went to church, I went to church. And the bulletin of the church, one-two-three, three things in that bulletin have to do with AIDS. "Dewey obtained a grant from the board of directors of the area community from the AIDS task force," and so and so. Then, "Would you like to make a difference between hope and despair for someone hospitalized with AIDS?" And then a third one, "AIDS task force, one of the opportunities to help people with AIDS, Beth Israel Medical Center needs volunteers to assist in its AIDS program." This is the bulletin; this is our bulletin handed out: three places on it with AIDS.
Then pick up the paper:
On the sad trail of street youths’ drugs and AIDS, a young man in a T-shirt approached another 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. A crack deal, a crack deal. Crack is a monster on its own, cheap, available, 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. Mr. Williams calls it ‘survival sex.’ Of youth sixteen to twenty years old, six and a half percent currently have AIDS. Of twenty year olds, an astounding seventeen percent tested positive with AIDS. In New Jersey, health authorities estimate that four thousand teenagers already have AIDS, teenagers. And in the city of New York, there are two hundred thousand known to have AIDS. And within 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, or whether it is the new judgment from heaven, AIDS, it is a condemnation of God. In this Holy Book that I have that reflects the mind and will and purpose of the Almighty, God made this universe and put in it a man for a woman, monogamous. I can tell you this, which is self-apparent: a man and a woman, the man and his wife, can have sex ten thousand eternities and never have AIDS, or claps, or gonorrhea, or syphilis. It is a judgment of Almighty God.
And when the Lord God speaks in His Word, "Know ye not that he who is joined to a harlot is one with that promiscuous aberration. Flee that fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. Flee that harlot," God says [1 Corinthians 6:16-18]. And here is a homosexual. Fine, fine, ordain him to the gospel ministry, fine; ordain him to the deaconship, fine; make him a Sunday school teacher, fine. He just has to be virtuous, that’s all. For a homosexual to have in him somehow a predilection and an affinity for a man, no different from a heterosexual who has an affinity for a beautiful woman. But he’s to be virtuous. And for the heterosexual to join himself to promiscuity and to harlotry is a judgment of God. Same thing with a homosexual; doesn’t make any difference. The homosexual is to be virtuous. He is not to join himself to another male harlot.
You wouldn’t have any AIDS, you wouldn’t have any syphilis, you wouldn’t have any gonorrhea, and you wouldn’t have any clap if we listened to the voice of God. But as it is, it is a plague that is devastating this entire world.
I must hasten. Number two: not only are you dealing with God when you’re dealing with AIDS, you’re dealing with God when you are dealing with drugs. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" [1 Corinthians 3:16-17].
"Know ye not," read it again, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s" [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. When you are dealing with drugs, you are dealing with God.
In the cab, driving through the city of New York, I sat by the driver. He’s a Coptic Christian. That’s the ancient church of Ethiopia and of Egypt. Family is still over there. He says to me, "I do not drive my cab at night. I am afraid. I am afraid of the drug pusher. I’m afraid of the drug addict. I don’t drive my cab at night." In another cab, in a certain section of the city, a fellow came up when he stopped at a red light and knocked on the window. And the cab driver lowered the window, and gave him money. I said to him, "Why under high heaven does a bum come up to your cab, knock on the window, you lower it and give him money?" He replied to me, "He’s a drug addict, and I’m afraid for my cab, and I’m afraid for me, so I give him money." It was then that I learned there are ten thousand criminal drug addicts on the streets of the city of New York; ten thousand of them walking up and down the streets in that one city.
Drugs, drugs – here’s a headline: William Hopkins, who heads the substance abuse services of the state, question, "Over the years we’ve seen marijuana, heroin, cocaine go in and out. Now there’s crack and evidence that heroin is making a comeback by smoking crack. What are the dynamics of creating a drug of choice?" Answer:
We find that the people on the streets are constantly mixing substances together, trying to get a better high. They’re experimenting with everything. They put together unbelievable things such as things that kill you. One is battery acid, the other is Ajax. We see them drinking bleach. We see them mixing the fluids of all kinds. What happens is that in the morning you’ll find these street addicts comparing notes with each other, "What’d you use last night?"
"I used sudden impact."
"I used Mr. T." What they are doing is comparing brands of the drugs they use.
The discovery of crack: "What about crack?"
When crack started getting out there, everybody was talking about how great a high you could 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 by spreading the word. The first time we heard the word "crack" was in December 1983. It happened at 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 told me about the guy smoking crack.
Since then, has there been anything new in the processing of crack?
It’s being made in microwave ovens. They can make it in ten seconds.
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 also a sexual stimulant, and there are guys who would give a gal a cigarette to turn her on, and she wouldn’t know that she’s smoking crack.
Question: "After forty years of combating street drugs, are you discouraged by what you see? Is it getting better or worse?"
"It’s getting worse, getting worse!"
The front, the full page of Oakland, California, Alameda County: population 1,300,000:
Dr. Arthur Weinberg 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 seventy-two hour period last month, all five hundred patients in the medical emergency room, regardless of age or complaint, were given urine tests; and half of them tested positive for cocaine. In the psychiatric agency room, doctors variously estimate that between fifty and sixty percent of their patients are cocaine users.
Sermonizing about such ill-gotten wealth is not particularly effective. Dr. Connell once found seven hundred dollars on a teenager hurt 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, quote, "I’m not going to work for chump change. I make two thousand dollars a week tax free. What do they pay you, sucker?" And Dr. Connell gulped. Virtually every doctor at Highland made less than that.
This headline: "Drug Cartels Spread All Over the Country"; and there’s a long part of it about our beloved state of Texas, what the drug users are doing in our beloved state of Texas.
Then this headline from the daily paper, the New York Times: "In Cities Poor Families Are Dying of Crack."
Crack is a rapidly accelerating destruction of families. For members become increasingly addicted, and children are selling the drug in greater numbers than ever before.
Then it has a long article here about children:
On a quiet summer day recently, a twelve year old boy sat on an upturned milk crate at the corner of Regent Place on East 21st Street. His mother stood beside him, drinking from a bottle of beer and patting his head. Other boys waited for customers in nearby doorways, and outside children as young as seven, eight and nine waited almost nonchalantly: they were the layaways who were holding most of the drugs to be sold.
The children selling crack.
Great God! what’s happening to us? And it is spreading, as the headline says, into the rural areas and the villages and the small areas of our communities. When you’re dealing with drugs, you’re dealing with God. Great God in heaven!
I have to close. When you are dealing with homes, and families, and children, and people, and women, you are dealing with God. What crimes seem to be showing the biggest growth? Embezzlement among women under eighteen jumped 352%. Arrests for drug abuse violations increased 54% among men and 63% among women. Suicide, drugs, pregnancy, divorce, not exactly the stuff of childhood; at least they didn’t used to be. But today such evil seems to menace our children at a younger and younger age.
And a headline: "Abortion is the Vietnam of This Generation." Describing a big convocation in New York City, "Every speaker here asserted popular support for the right of women to choose an abortion," dealing with God, dealing with children and women and homes and families.
If you’ve been to church here even one time, possibly, you’ve seen me kneel down there. And when the baby is dedicated, I cannot help but express my amazement and astonishment at the omnipotent creative hands of Almighty God. God did that. God created that. God breathed the breath of life into the child. And when you are dealing with children, and dealing with mothers, and dealing with families, you are dealing with God.
May I close with two appeals? One will be from the outside, and the other is from the inside. From the outside: it is a glorious thing for humanity, for the house, and the home, and the children, and the women, and the wives, and the husbands, it is a glorious thing to take time to belong to the family of God, to the household of the Lord, to church, to God’s holy temple.
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.
Wherever a stranger walks the streets, who is burdened down with care,
If he will enter that downtown church, he can find refuge there.
[Author and Work Unknown]
And could I add: he can find answers there, he can find Jesus there, he can find victory there, he can find comfort there, he can find strength there. Our church, in the shadow of these great skyscrapers, but a monument to what God can be and can do for a family, for our children, and for our souls.
The other is on the inside: however life may in personal choice be expressed, there is nothing comparable to giving the strength of your soul to the Lord Jesus, putting Him first in your life.
I had walked 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 wealth and earthliness and place for my goal,
Much thought for my body, but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s made race,
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high,
Until they pierced the blue of the sky;
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace,
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him, and knew Him, and blushed to see
That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me.
I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles had melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished and naught in their place
Could I see but the Master’s face
I cried aloud, "O 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 the Master face to face.
[Author and Work Unknown]
To give your heart and life and purpose and every dream to Him is to find life everlasting, both in this world and in the world to come.
And that is our invitation to your heart. To you, a family, coming into the fellowship of God’s people; to you, to give your heart and life to the blessed Savior, to give to Him every hope and every purpose and every dream, the sweetest answer you could ever make is to say yes to God, "And, pastor, here I stand." In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, down one of these stairways from the balcony and down one of these aisles on this lower floor, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming." May angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.