The Trail-Blazer for Christ
September 9th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRAILBLAZER FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-90 10:50 a.m.
You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, you who are listening on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Trailblazer for Christ. We’re preaching through the Book of Mark, and we have just begun. Mark, chapter 1:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the Prophets, Look, Behold, I send my Messenger before Thy face, Who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
That was the sermon last Sunday, The Baptism of Repentance for the Remission of Sins. And the sermon today, the next verse, "And there went out unto him all of the land of Judea" and Matthew says, "and all they of Jerusalem,and were all baptized of him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins" [Mark 1:5]. And the sermon follows this kind of an order: it is a message concerning the light of God, the outpouring of the Spirit of God, in the day of distress, and discouragement, and defeat, and disaster. And I speak first of that truth as it is recorded in Holy Scripture, in the Bible. Then I shall speak of it as we see it in secular history. And lastly, I shall speak of it as it is in the province and purview of God today, in our lives and in our generation
The outpouring of the Spirit of God, the day of revival, the day of enlightenment, in the day of darkness and disaster. John the Baptist: do you notice those "alls?" There went out to him in Jerusalem, in Judea, in all of the hamlets and villages of Israel, there went out to him all of the people, all of them. It was a great day, it was a tremendous revival. It was an evidence and an outpouring of the power and the presence of the Spirit of God, but it was the darkest day in Israel’s history. On one hand were the unregenerated Pharisees and on the other hand were the rationalistic Sadducees, and that generation – that generation saw the destruction of the nation and the scattering of people over the face of the earth. It was a day that God looked upon and said, "It is enough!" And the Lord obliterated the nation and scattered the people. And it was in that day, led by the Pharisees and the Sadducees; it was in that day that this great revival came from the hand of God. John the Baptist and all Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all Israel were there listening to the mighty Word of God in heaven [Mark 1:5].
And that pattern you will find throughout the Word of the Lord, throughout all of Scripture. Elijah the Tishbite was the model and predecessor of John the Baptist. And the Book of Kings says that there was never a king, and there was never a time, and there was never a reign in the land of Israel like unto the wickedness of the reign of Ahab the king, and Jezebel the queen [1 Kings 21:25]. And it was in that day that Elijah the Tishbite stood and brought to Israel an outpouring of the presence of God. He even poured water on the wood, and God can make a fire out of wet wood just as He can out of dry wood, and He did so in that day of revival under Elijah the Tishbite [1 Kings 18:32-38].
The same thing is recorded in this Holy Word concerning Nineveh, the tremendous, vast capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire. The Book of Jonah says God looked down and the wickedness of that heathen city came up unto the Lord in heaven. And God said, "Yet forty days, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth" [Jonah 3:4]. But when Jonah came into that city preaching the power and presence and judgment of Almighty God, the king left his throne, took off his garments, sat in sackcloth and ashes, and the whole city repented before the Lord. And that great revival swept the ancient city of Nineveh [Jonah 3:5-10].
Time would fail me to speak of Simon Peter, who at Pentecost preached to the people who had slain Jesus. They had just crucified Him. And that opened the outpouring of the Spirit of God like the world had never seen – to the people who had slain the Lord Jesus Himself [Acts 2:14-42]. And I haven’t time to describe the great revival under the apostle Paul in the ancient city of Ephesus. That was the seat of the worship of Artemis-Diana, and her temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But in that city, idolatrous to the extreme, there came one of the mighty revivals that turned all of Asia Minor toward God [Acts 19:1-10]. Nor have I time to speak of John, the sainted apostle. The Roman emperor remanded him to the Isle of Patmos, there to die of starvation and exposure [Revelation 1:9]. But while he was there on the Isle of Patmos, heaven opened and he saw the revelation and the wondrous presence and ultimate victory and triumph of the Lord God Himself [Revelation 1:10-22:21]. This is the Bible; in the days of darkness and despair, and defeat and disaster, in those days God pours out His Spirit and there is great revival.
Now may I speak of secular history? I am now turning to the days of John Wesley and his brother Charles. In A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most famous novels ever written, composed by the author Charles Dickens, do you remember how it begins? This is the first chapter and the first sentence. Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." Do you remember that? That’s the way the book opens, The Tale of Two Cities – speaking of the capital of France and the capital of England. Then it describes in tragic detail the French Revolution: the execution of the king, Louis XVI, his queen Marie Antoinette, and the destruction and execution of the entire aristocracy, and the guillotining of the members of the assembly. So much blood was shed in that revolution that the very rocks in the pavements of the city became enmeshed and soggy in human blood, so much blood that they’d take the guillotine from this square and placed it in the other square, as thousands were executed. It was a time of blasphemy and revilement.
I have preached in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, there at the high altar where the sainted virgin Mary was worshipped. In those days they took a whore, they took a harlot, they took a prostitute, and raised her and elevated her at the high altar in the cathedral of Notre Dame and worshipped and bowed down before her. Those were horrible days, days of blood, and recompense, and judgment, and disaster. The same conditions of pain in England – the king of England was medically declared insane, and it was in his days of the American Revolution. The Church of England was corrupt – simony, infidelity; it was a day of thievery and drunkenness and debauchery. The slave trade of the world was carried on by England and their vessels. Little children worked fourteen hours a day in the mines and in the mills. England was as corrupt, and as vile and as wicked and as blasphemous as the nation of France. Why didn’t we have a vast, bloody revolution in England? Because they were visited with a great revival from heaven under John and Charles Wesley, and those ministers ordained by their side.
They were cast out of the Church of England. Not one time were they ever in a pulpit in England, in the Church of England, the established Church of England. They preached in the highways, in the byways, in the squares, in the commons. Wherever men and women were, there they preached the gospel of the Son of God, and England was visited with a great revival, a great outpouring of the Spirit of God from heaven. There were vast reforms in government; the slave trade was forever outlawed in England. In those days, Robert Raikes founded the Sunday school movement. In those days William Carey and his Baptists began, started, founded, the great world mission movement. And in those days, the English character – as the world has known it – of integrity and honesty was created. England was saved by a great visitation of God from heaven, by a mighty revival.
At the same time, in the same way, America was visited. There was a Tom Paine in those days who was as popular as George Washington; he was adulated, revered, exalted on every side, on every hand. He wrote a book, The Age of Reason, and the book purported to decimate, to annihilate the Word of God. Why didn’t Tom Paine sweep away America? Because at that same time, in that same day – history calls it the Great Awakening – under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, and Francis Asbury, and Thomas Coke, and our pioneer Baptist preachers, America was swept into a mighty revival called the Great Awakening. In the period of its darkest history, the greatest light shone from God in heaven. I could speak of the same thing after the Civil War; infidelity was rampant and blatant. Under Robert Ingersoll, Bob Ingersoll, thousands and thousands gathered to hear him make fun of the Word of God, to belittle the revelation of the truth of the Lord in those Holy Scriptures, and they applauded Bob Ingersoll. And at that same time, in that same day, there was a layman, an un-ordained preacher – there was a layman by the name of Dwight L. Moody. And Moody held, in the great cities of America, revivals. Thousands and hundreds of thousands were turned to the Lord and it was a great day of visitation from heaven.
That’s God! In the day of our darkest despair, that’s the day in which God’s light doth shine and His Spirit of grace poured out. I have spoken of it in the days of the Bible, in Holy Scripture. I have spoken of it in secular story. May I now speak of it in our day, and in our time, and with us? I am old enough now to compare the culture and the life of America in this twentieth century. I can remember how it was when we entered this century and I am now old enough to see how it is as we are leaving this twentieth century. I grew up in the day of Prohibition. Seems strange to us now that liquor would have been outlawed. When I was a boy the only way you ever saw liquor was under the hands and aegis of a bootlegger in a back alley, in a dark corner. I grew up in the days of Prohibition, the sobriety of the nation, and the outlawing of drunkenness, and all of the attendant evils that crowd around it.
Today, here in the city of Dallas, I attended an ecclesiastical convocation. There were about sixty ecclesiastics there, and at every other plate was a bottle of liquor – a plate, a bottle of liquor, a plate, a bottle of liquor – in one of the great ecclesiastical conferences here in the city of Dallas. I was invited to deliver the invocation at a great convocation here in Dallas, honoring the greatest living player in Hollywood, the movie star in Hollywood. And as I sat there at that meeting, honoring that great, famous Hollywood movie star, here and there and throughout the entire convocation, bottles of liquor. Everybody drinks; it is the exception if you don’t. I cannot imagine the change that has come in the life of America.
The desecration of the Lord’s Day; when I was a boy it was unthinkable, unthinkable. Today, if I were guessing the day upon which the Dallas Cowboys begin their football season, I would guess the day would be on Sunday, on the Lord’s Day. The desecration of the Lord’s Day is universal. And for us to keep it sacred and holy for God is unthinkable; it is outside of our imagination. The breaking up of the home: about four or five years ago, seventeen percent of the homes in Dallas broke up – seven out of [a hundred]. Today, the statistic has reached our national level. It’s not seventeen percent anymore; it’s about fifty-two percent. More than half of the homes in Dallas, and more than half of the homes in America, break up every year. For the first time in history, the children who come here to our Sunday school are beginning to be in the majority [from] single parent homes.
When I saw television at first, the programs were chaste, they were beautiful. You could take your children and set them down there before that television and have perfect assurance that what they saw would be splendid, it would be model, it would be in every way exemplary. I don’t look at television now, particularly, just maybe the news. But on Friday of this last week, I sat down there just before the news came on. I didn’t know such filthy language was spoken. And the violence and the immorality pictured there before our children and before our households is unthinkable! One of the fellows, the leading star in that one on Friday night, in one of his phrases, he said, "Kiss my – " on television, before our little children. This is a damnation of the modern culture and life of America!
When I was a boy, the Methodist would have revivals. And I have heard them, as a boy, come out of those Methodist churches and shout all over the town – just go up and down the streets shouting and praising God. That’s what I heard when I was a boy. A "shouting Methodist" was a word – belonged together, a "shouting Methodist." You haven’t heard of a revival in the Methodist church in your day. Not one. Not one. And when I was a boy, I would read of President Woodrow Wilson calling America to "a war to end all wars," World War I, involving our American men. And they went to France in the hope and persuasion that this would be the last war in which America would ever be involved, in which the world would ever be devastated. "The war to end all wars," that phrase was used over and over and over again. Dear God in heaven, we were but planting the seed for the second, more terrible world war, and for Korea, and for Vietnam, and God only knows what lies in the days immediately ahead.
This day in which we live I hear prospective fathers and mothers say, "I don’t want to have any children. I don’t want to raise them up in this modern social fabric of America." And what is my sermon? What did I say to begin it? In the day of the greatest darkness and despair and defeat, in those days, God always sends a great visitation from heaven, a mighty revival, a light to penetrate the deepest darkness. Look, I am going to turn to the Book of the Revelation, in the Revelation, chapter 7, and I am going to read of the greatest revival in the history of mankind, the greatest outpouring of the Spirit of God in creation. I begin at verse 9; Revelation 7, verse 9. This is the great revival in the days of the he thlipsis he megalē, "the tribulation, the great":
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,
stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes,
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four cherubim, and fell before the throne. . .and worshipped God saying,
Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. . .
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, I do not know. I have never seen them before.
Had they been of the throng saved before the tribulation, John could have said, "Why, I see Simon Peter there, I know him. And I see Bartholomew there, I know him. And there’s Thomas, I know him." He looked and said, "I never saw them before. Who are they?" And that elder replied, "These are they which are coming" are coming in the Greek, "these are they which are coming out of he thlipsis he megalē, out of the great tribulation, and had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14].
Therefore they [are] before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple . . .
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more,
The Lamb which is the midst of them shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water:
and God, God, shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
That, in the day of the great tribulation, the greatest revival the world has or will ever know comes to pass in the darkest hour of human history. I want you to look again; what a tragedy in the Middle East. What indescribable sorrow! But out of it has been born the nation of Israel: May, 1948, in our day – in our day! In 70 AD, under the hand of God and the judgment of the Almighty, the nation was destroyed; the people were scattered to the ends of the earth. Listen to what God says in the Book of Deuteronomy:
The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, have compassion on thee, and,will gather thee from all nations, whither the Lord thy God has scattered thee,
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed and thou shalt possess it,
And the Lord thy God will love thee and thy soul, that it may live.
I turn again in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 36:
I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all the nations, and will bring you into your own land. . .
Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers;
you shall be My people and I will be your God.
I read just once again in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans,
I will not have you, brethren, without knowledge. . . that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the plērōma, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in –
Until that last Gentile comes down that aisle and gives his hand to the pastor and says, "Lord, I accept Jesus as my Savior" –
Then all Israel shall be saved. . .As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and the calling of God are without change, without repentance.
Out of the tragedy we see in that darkened Middle East, with its bloodshed and its war – out of that, in my day and in yours, has come the birth of Israel and the fulfillment of the promises of God in this Holy Book. And that boy there, Fred McNabb, is preparing to take this beautiful choir to Israel this coming June. And I look forward to being a part of the pilgrimage.
In the day of our darkest hours, God sends a great light, a mighty revival. And we live in that day, the day, the age of the Holy Spirit. I call it the "whosoever will age." I took my concordance and I counted one hundred and eighty-three times in the Bible, this sacred Book, where God says, "And whosoever will." Like the twelfth chapter of the Book of Luke, "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven" [Luke 12:8]. Or, the second chapter of the Book of Acts, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Acts 2:21]. Or, like that glorious verse the child memorizes, John 3:16, "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Or, like the close of the Book itself; Revelation 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And ho thelōn, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
This is the day of the Holy Spirit. This is the day of the outpouring of the grace of God. This is the day of salvation. Come. Come. Come! And to you who have listened on television, on your screen you’ll find a number, call that number. If you don’t know how to accept Christ as your Savior, there will be a dedicated, consecrated man or woman there, who will lead you into the greatest, richest decision you will ever know or make in your life. Answer with your heart, with your life, and I’ll see you in heaven someday.
And to the great throng of people in this sanctuary, on the first note of the firs stanza, come and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE TRAILBLAZER FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Outpouring of the Spirit of God – all being baptized
B. In the darkest day of Israel’s history, God sends a light
II. Pattern found in Scripture
A. In the days of John the Baptist
B. In the days of Elijah (1 Kings 16:29-33, 21:25-26, 1 Kings 12:1, 18:33)
C. In the days of Jonah (Jonah 1:2, 3:6)
D. In the days of the apostles
III. Pattern found in history
A. England and France corrupt, wicked
1. France had a revolution
2. England had revival under John and Charles Wesley
B. In America a similar visitation
1. Tom Paine’s The Age of Reason
2. The Great Awakening
IV. Here and now
A. Drinking alcohol
B. Desecration of the Lord’s Day
C. Breaking up of the home
D. Filth and violence on television
V. A great revival coming
A. Revival in the days of the tribulation (Revelation 7:9-17)
B. The nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 30:3-6, Ezekiel 36:24-28, Romans 11:25-29)
C. "Whosoever willâ€¦" (Matthew 10:32, Acts 2:21, John 3:16, Revelation 22:17)