The Lord's Day Evening
April 8, 2012
“Looking Forward, Looking Upward”
The Reverend Dr. James M. Baird
(Dr. Duncan) It's our joy tonight to hear the Word of God from the former shepherd of this congregation, the senior minister, James M. Baird, one of the founding fathers of our denomination, beloved to us. Thank you, Jim, for being with us on this anniversary Sunday.
(Dr. Baird) Thank you, Ligon. It is so very unusual today because it is a day of double, double blessing. This is a day when we remember not only the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is an anniversary of it, this is also the day of the starting of this congregation. And the more I looked at our Scripture, the more I saw a correlation. Somehow there is, in an amazing way, a coming together of what happened on first Easter and what happened 175 years ago here in Jackson. And this is a great day of celebration. Unusual, both on the same day.
Now I've never been much in celebration, I just never have. I wish my wife was a preacher. She loves celebrations! But I've always celebrated a birthday. We had cake for breakfast and ate it all day long, but I want to tell you I have gotten excited over this celebration. It is highly unusual, highly unusual. Now I said there was a correlation, a coming together. I'm going to ask you to open up your Bibles to the gospel of Luke and the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel of Luke, but first let me give you a little background and why I think and why I chose this passage.
Number one, the great celebration of the first Easter did not begin at dawn, did not even begin in the morning. You know when it really took place? About this time of night. That first Easter, it wasn't until the evening hour, such as we are experiencing, or even later, that everything came together. Christ takes His time, takes His time. And so it was also, I understand, that the gathering of the five folk to start this church did not take place early in the morning. It was again in the evening. And I thought it was always significant that this church kept evening services, evening services. That's when the first great coming together of the things of God on the Easter Sunday took place.
Now here was the background. The background takes place after some understanding and misunderstanding. The folk, on that first Easter morning, they were confused. There were women and they just weren't taken seriously. Two men are leaving Jerusalem, they’re walking to Emmaus, a village seven miles away. They are discouraged and they are filled with doubt. They’re leaving. It's all over with. What kind of a day do we have? Eight days ago I was with Doug Kelly, Dr. Doug Kelly, in North Carolina. I asked Doug, he's beloved of this congregation — taught all of you in Sunday School and when he was at seminary here he worshiped in this congregation with his family. I asked him, “Tell me, Doug, in your opinion, what is the nature of the day in which we live?” And he told me. And I said, “What is the nature of the church?” And he said, “It has been effected by this world.” And he used two words. The two words were, disturbed — the church — and filled with doubt. That's the way we are in our nation. We are disturbed. These are not happy days in this nation. And we fear for the future. We are very, very fearful of what's going to happen. That's exactly the nature of those two men as they walked away. We’re in the same kind of a situation.
Now Christ is going to turn those two men around. He is going to bring revival in their hearts. And I suggest that the way Christ handled that first Easter evening is the way that we ought to handle things in our day, similar troubles, and also in our lives. There is a three-fold step that He took. Let's watch it and see what it is and let us, if you will, let us follow Jesus, follow Jesus. He did three things. Number one, He turned the people back. He said, “Look back.” Michelangelo said, “All of life is perspective.” It's how you look at things, your life and everything else. The first thing that He did was ask you to take a look, Jesus did, He said, “Let's look back.” The second thing he said was, “Let's look at the present.” And the third thing He said was, “Let's look at the future.” And I believe that's exactly what this church has done through its history and that's why God has blessed it.
With that in mind, let's have a prayer.
Heavenly Father, help us to see as You see. Help us to see and follow Christ because that's what we want to do, and therefore we look at the Scriptures. And Lord Jesus, as You have Your way and as You did marvelous things on that first Easter evening, do it again, in our lives, not only for the good of this church or the good of these great people here, but for the glory of the eternal God. Lead on, O King eternal, as we ask in Your holy name, amen.
Okay, we look at the first thing that Christ did. These two men are walking away and Christ is going to turn them to look back at history. Notice how He does it. We are in the thirteenth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel of Luke. Hear the words:
“That very day, two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”
Please excuse me, but let me say, I don't know how you handled that, Ligon a few weeks ago. I don't know. It's always been a mystery to me. I would say it was just a miracle. These men, I know that Christ had a resurrected body, but they didn't know that it was Jesus who had joined them. Let me read that verse again. The sixteenth verse:
“But their eyes were kept from recognizing them.” (a miracle) “And He said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, ‘Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ And He said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to Him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find His body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.’”
I'm going to pause right there. Discouraged, dismayed, filled with doubt as well as discouragement. Much the spirit of our day. What does Christ do? He does a very unusual thing. It would seem to me that if I were Christ in that day I would have said, “Hey man, I'm alive! Take a good look!” That's not what He did, not at all. Look what He does, how He takes them and asks them to look back. But the process of how they were to do it, that's the thing I want you to see. The next verse is verse 25:
“He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them, in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
I'm going to stop right there. What did He do? To their dismay at what had happened on Sunday, triumphal entry, on Friday, crucifixion, and now we don't know but we are just dismayed, discouraged, and filled with doubt. We've said it is all over with. Christ says, “Let's look at the Scriptures.” He takes them to the Bible. What does that say to this great congregation? Over 175 years, if there was a characteristic to this congregation it's the Scriptures, the Scriptures. Ligon said it the other night. Everything we know, from 1857 to the current day, every pastor of this church, and there's only been seven, seven since 1857, every pastor of this church has believe in the inspiration and the infallibility of the Scripture. Every one has turned to the Scripture, Scripture, and believed it and preached it. I have not known an elder in this church or anybody on the staff of this church, everybody I know in this church that has been in the role of leadership has believed in the full inspiration of Scripture. Is that unusual? Yes, it is unusual in a congregation, for all those years since 1857. I've known four of the pastors. I've known many of the elders. I've known some of the elders, men from the, pastors from the 1930's and ’40's. And it was always the elders and deacons of this congregation and the women who taught the children and in the Sunday School, they all believed what Jesus just did there.
Let's look back and see. He said to these men, “Look back at the Scriptures.” In our day of trial and trouble, the first thing we ought to do is look back to the Scriptures. And the Scriptures say, “What does God say about the day in which you live?” Has God lost control? Oh no. God has not lost control. That's the first thing that we think. Now somebody may say to you in this day, as I saw not too long ago on television, one of my favorite sports shows, my favorite sports magazine, and I'm going to tell you those people just don't believe. And they make it their point to tell you they don't believe in the Scripture. And in that magazine, I enjoy so many of the stuff that I read in that because I love all about it, and I don't know who won the Masters either (laughter) but I want to tell you that it's good stuff until they get spiritually minded and then they go way off. And it usually goes like this — How can you believe a Book that old has any relevance to today? And here we are saying Jesus took them back. We say we have always gone back, gone back.
Let me give you an answer. This is what helps me. Why do I believe the Bible is the Word of God? Four thousand times in the Bible, four thousand times it say, “God said,” or “the Lord said.” Four thousand in the Old and New Testament. Here's another one. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years. 1,500 years the Scripture was written. It was written by forty different authors. Not like some religious books and not like the book that is being touted in our day. One God, period. Over a brief period of his life and he changed it up and down. Written over a period 1,500 years by forty different authors, many of them who had not only never known each other, saw each other, or had read each other. And it was written in three languages, different languages. And it was written in three different continents. And it all fits perfectly together. How in the world can that take place?
And it is not a few laws like most religious books. It is a Book of history. And not one archeological dig has ever disproved one fact of the Bible, not the first. Yes, you’re not throwing your mind out in the bushes somewhere when you say, “I believe in the Bible.” There's no other book like it, not even close. So that's where we begin. When our Westminster divines wrote The Westminster Confession of Faith where did they start? With the doctrines of God? No. You know where they began? The first chapter is the finest description of the Bible. That's where they began, the final authority. That's what Christ always does. He brings you back to the Bible. Young people, you better study that Bible. You better get in it. You better get your kids in it. You’d better read that Bible. That's exactly where Christ spoke when He spoke to the men on the first Easter evening about this time when they were discouraged and walking away from Jerusalem. He said, “Let's go back to the Old Testament. Let's go back to the Bible. That's the first step. That's the first thing we do.” That's what this church has always done — look back, look back on the Scriptures. What does the Scripture - ? That's all it's ever done.
The second thing that Christ does, He finally says, “I'm alive.” He says, “I'm alive? I'm still dealing with things.” He didn't say that first, He said that second. He says it in a very unusual way. They get to the village of Emmaus. By this time, by the way, these men are changing their attitudes. He's given them the Scriptures. He indicates, “I need to go on a little bit further.” “No, we're at our destination. You’d better come on in. Come on in and eat with us.” And so He does. And then He leads in prayer over the food and when He does their eyes are opened, another miracle, and they see who He is and they recognize Him and they are turned on. Let me read it to you. This is the Scripture again. We’ll take up the reading where we left off. We’re in verse 28:
“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted (Jesus) as if He were going farther, but they urged Him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?’ And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
The second step that Jesus did was bring them to the present tense. He looks back and He has them looking back to the Scriptures. We look back and then He says, “I'm alive. I'm not dead. I'm not only alive, I'm working.” And they are amazed and He vanishes out of their sight. I don't think they walked back to Jerusalem. I think they double-timed it. And when they got back to Jerusalem, they’re in that Upper Room again. When they got to the Upper Room they said, there's the other eleven, and they all said, “He's alive!” And they said, “Yeah, we met Him too, we met Him too.” The second thing that Christ does to bring people who are discouraged and dismayed living in a tough time such as we are is to say, “Are you alive, with us, working in and through and with us in the ministry? Are you alive?” How about this church? On a day after this, on a night like this, we look back over 175 years and we ask that question and reasonably so. “Lord, have You been with us? Have You worked in and through and with us? Are there any signs?”
Bear with me now. Bear with me. I know this doesn't sound very important but it is. I'm going to give you four or five or six different indications that the Lord, this last 175 years, has not only been alive in this congregation but He has worked in and through this congregation and the first thing is church property. Now what's that got to do with it that God is working in this congregation? It was mentioned last Wednesday night about Benjamin Palmer. Benjamin Palmer was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans at the turn of the century. He was a giant. And when he came up to Jackson to preach they made a big thing about it. If you go to New Orleans today — and he had the biggest funeral ever in the city of New Orleans — and if you go to New Orleans today and say, “Tell me where the First Presbyterian Church is,” nobody can tell you, not a soul. They don't even know where it is. And here we are, just a few blocks from where the church's physical property, where they worshiped on Sunday and during the week. You can walk to it. We haven't moved hardly at all. How many places in the South, just the South, could you go and find a First Presbyterian Church in a capitol city that has remained true and faithful to the Scriptures and believes the Scriptures and is not, and not only that, has a congregation like this one and a sanctuary like this one and everything else that this church has. How many can you go to? Let's say, Arkansas? Tennessee? Not the capital city. Alabama? Florida? Georgia? South Carolina? North Carolina? No. Virginia? Kentucky? I tell you, it is a remarkable thing that this church is in this place in the same place for 175 years and is going strong, stronger than ever.
And then you have Twin Lakes — church property. I asked Mark May — Mark McGee, haha, good old Mark. I asked Mark, I said, “Mark when you were in your conferences with all these people in conferences, how many other churches are there like ours who own the property, an individual church owning a property like you've got down in Florence, twenty-six miles from here. How many churches like that do you know of?” He said none, not a one. And he goes to national conferences. Oh there are big conference centers owned by groups but not one with a single congregation totally in charge. And I want to tell you the ministry that's going on — this, for instance, this summer we're going to have more children at Twin Lakes over the summer months than we've ever had before. It's not waning, it's growing. It is remarkable. Do you know how that property came to First Presbyterian Church? In the 1960's one hundred men got together because one guy found out that a man, a wealthy man, wanted to sell that property and the one guy said, “How much do you want?” And he told them, “A hundred thousand dollars.” And he got a hundred men together. How much each one of them? How much Orrin? A thousand dollars. And what did they do? They deeded that property that they had purchased over to this church. That's how the property was purchased. What a marvelous — that's just one thing. Has the Lord been at work in the property of this church? I'd say you could go thousands of miles in any direction and never find anything like this.
How about this — Christian Education. A Day School of 700 kids in the church. How about in Mississippi? There's not a better Day School, a better grammar school, in the state of Mississippi. One other rivals it but it is not a Christian School but it is not owned by one church and it is more than twice the tuition. What a ministry that Day School has been over — there are mamas and daddies in this congregation who came to the Lord because their kids were coming home and telling them what was going on.
And then how about this, in Christian Education — a few years ago in our denomination there was a study made of the Sunday Schools, adult Sunday Schools, of churches over 150 members. What percentage of the adult congregation was in Sunday School? And out of all the churches in the PCA guess who had the highest percentage? First Presbyterian of Jackson, Mississippi. Your Sunday School is a powerhouse. There's no question about it. In fact, that Sunday School has about as much power as any other ministry in this church. How's that for Christian Education for adults and how about a Day School for children?
And how about this one — there was a time when Sam Patterson said, “We need a new seminary. We have four seminaries” — this was in the 1960's — four seminaries in our denomination and not a one of them held to the inerrancy of Scripture. Not a one. He wrote the presidents. We've got to start a new seminary. Sam goes to five men. He says we've got to start a new seminary. They said, “There's no way we can do it.” And Sam says, “How big is your God? Is He at work? Jesus, are You at work in this congregation?” Out of those five men, four were elders in this church. And so Reformed Theological Seminary was started in the 1960's. When they said it was impossible and we tried to put it in any other place — can you think 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi? We went to Atlanta, Memphis, Jacksonville, Miami. Nobody would have it, impossible. So it was started. It is now the tenth largest seminary in the United States. It does not own one dime, it doesn't own a dime. Not only that, it has campuses in Jackson — beautiful, Orlando — beautiful, Charlotte — beautiful, Washington, D.C. — beautiful, Atlanta — beautiful. I may have forgotten one or two. And is associated overseas with campuses in Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea. That whole thing would never have happened. The board of directors of that institution is still, in many and most ways, influenced by the elders of this church. They've got about twenty but I’ll bet you about either or nine of them are elders in this church. That institution has had three CEO's. All three of them have been elders of this church — Bob Cannada, Jim Moore, and Richard Ridgeway, the current one. Hey Jesus, have You been working in this congregation? Lord Jesus, have You? And He says, “I'm alive and I'm working in First Presbyterian Church.” Just in Christian Education alone.
How about the PCA coming into existence? How did this denomination come into existence? They chose twelve men who worked two years to prepare for a new denomination. Of those twelve men, one church had two men on that number of twelve. The only church that had two men, this church — Don Patterson and Judge Leon Hendricks. And Don Patterson was the chairman of that twelve man committee that produced the PCA.
How about in terms of education — a group of people getting together to start collegiate ministries - Reformed Theological Ministries? We are now in 190 universities and colleges. You know where it all began? In this congregation. In this congregation. Lord Jesus, Mighty God, have You been alive and at work in this congregation for these past 175 years? Oh, in Christian Education, it is amazing. And you've got Belhaven College right down the street here and no church gives like this church and has given and influenced like this church.
How about this — mercy ministries. We’re looking back, Lord, over 175 years. We’re looking at the second great step You had us in the Scriptures, Lord. The second step — are You personally alive and working in this congregation? And Lord, how about as intellectuals, how about mercy ministry, mercy ministry? There is not a mercy ministry that preaches the Gospel in this city that this church — and you don't hear much about mercy ministry because it's handled very humbly in this congregation. We don't blow our own horn. You name it and I’ll tell you on the board of directors and I’ll tell you in the past history the influence that this church has had on those mercy ministries. And some of you people out there know exactly who I'm talking about and what I'm talking about and you've been involved. Mission Mississippi, Mission Mississippi, in all trying to be humble, it came right out of this church to try to bring folk together. And the Neighborhood Christian Center. Who brought the Neighborhood Christian Center to the state of Mississippi? One congregation — this one. And it is probably as good or the finest of all the mercy ministries in this city.
How about church planting? It has been said that there is not a single Presbyterian church in the city of Jackson that did not come from the plant of this church, not a single one. And they’re not all PCA now, but it came from this congregation. Church plants. And not only that, how about those who have worshiped in this church and then gone out? I guess the finest church planter that I know was on the staff of this church, Bill Whitworth. By the way, we need to pray for Bill. Bill's in the hospital. He's having a hard time; he fell. Well, you know he was up in the attic, he was getting ready to go hunting, and he's in his good suit and he comes down and he's really hurting though. We need to pray for Bill. Bill's the finest church planter I know anything about. He's planted churches through this church over the years and he influenced so many young men in seminary who have gone out. One of them, I think, has a congregation, a very large congregation, in a major, major city in the south and that one man has as his goal to plant in that city and in the environments of that city alone 100 PCA churches, 100. How many have you got already, fella? Fifty. Right out of this church, influenced by this church, church planting. And not only that, across the United States and how many overseas, who knows. Church plants — Lord Jesus, have You worked? Are You alive and working for 175 years in the life of this congregation? That's the second great point that we are making.
And all that the Lord Jesus has done in this congregation He's done very quietly and very humbly and very sweetly and very nicely and it is done right. It's done correctly. And I won't even mention a few of the favorites. Who's got music like this church? I think there's a choir in Utah. I've never heard it personally and I don't think they can be any better. And you’ll be kind right now, sweet ladies of this congregation, how about the men? In a day when men are falling away from the church in droves, Lord Jesus, have You ever worked in this congregation? Are You alive and working in this congregation with the support of ladies? And as often said, look around folk, there are more men worshiping than women and you can go a thousand miles in any direction. The Lord, and you know, I never hear complaining from the women, not a complaint once. Go get those double-minded men! Because women are better spiritual people, that's why, and they want to reach those men.
Well all of this is to say, have You been at work in this congregation, Lord Jesus? And I guess I've missed out on a hundred other great ministries, but I want to tell you, Lord Jesus has done remarkable things through this church. Believing in the Scriptures, that's the first thing Jesus did to those men. The second thing was say, “Here I am! I'm alive and I'm working!” And the third thing He did was show them the future. After he showed who He was — by the way, I had lunch with a man in this congregation because Miss Jane was with his wife off somewhere and he said, “I’ll buy you lunch.” I said, “Alright.” And so I asked him the question, older man, has some physical problems but he worships. I even mentioned, I had to remind him, “How about that television?” Do you understand they’re throughout the whole state of Mississippi? The influence that this church has through television — unbelievable! This man watches on television, gets dressed up and watches. I said, “How did you come to First Presbyterian Church and how did you become a Christian?” He said, “I was in New Orleans and business moved me up here. We looked around and we were Presbyterian and we so we went to the First Presbyterian Church.” I said, “What happened?” He said, “I became a Christian.” “How?” “Listening,” get this — “Listening to the way Dr. Miller read the Scriptures.” He saw reverence for the Word of God just in the way the pastor read the Scriptures.
The Lord Jesus has worked in this church and it leads to the future. You see, the future is what Jesus did on that first Easter. When they’re in that Upper Room He goes back over two things. He repeats good education, number one; He repeats He is alive and He is among them and He is ready to do ministry. He says, “You got anything to eat?” They think, “He's just suddenly come through. This is a resurrected body.” Isn't it exciting to think about when you die and we get our resurrected bodies? Boy, they must be something! And He is just there in their midst and they are once again frightened and they don't know and they are dismayed again and He says, “I'm real.” And He says, “Here's the signs in my hands and my feet.” And He says, “You got anything to eat?” A real body. He said, “I'm not a ghost.” “Here's some fish,” and He ate it. And He gave again a description in the Scripture. He goes back to the Scripture with the eleven all together and goes through the same thing about prophecy fulfilled through His suffering, that He is the Messiah, that the Old Testament is all about Him, and then He says, “And now I look to the future with you.” And this is what He says about the future. We’re reading again and this is in verse, it's in verse 46:
“He said to them,” verse 46, “He said to them, ‘It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’”
He gets two things — the Gospel for all the world and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. You know this man I was telling you about, who said, “I heard the Scripture just being read and it changed my life”? That man said, “You got any books on the Holy Spirit?” And I said to him, “Forgive me, forgive me.” Beloved, we do have to teach, and in Presbyterian circles, it seems to me, from the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the power of ministry that He gives and He alone. And the Gospel. As this church looks to the future I would say - Al Jolson said this. He was the blues singer in the 1920's and they used to meet every once in a while at about three o’clock in the morning. After everybody else had gone, they’d meet in some place and he’d get up and start singing and they’d go wild. And one time he got down on his knees singing, “Mammy,” and he said, as they went wild, “You ain't heard nothing yet!” That's the way it is about this church. You ain't heard nothing yet. You ain't heard nothing. That's what the ministry of this church is going to be. You’re poised; you’re poised for the greatest ministry you ever imagine as long as you hear Him and are directed by Him. The Gospel and the Holy Spirit — share it.
Does this church do that? Oh yeah. We can do more. We can do more. Peru? Yes. To all the world? Do you know what? When the wall came down in Berlin and Eastern Europe suddenly opened up to Christianity, the denomination of which we are a part had no place to go behind the Iron Curtain, no place, except for one guy out of what church? This church. Larry Thompson. One guy. And where did we begin? This church had been sending for — we had thought maybe we’d do it for years — just for a couple of months we’d been sending elders into what was then called Czechoslovakia in Prague to show them ministry. And we had linked up — it's a long story. Jane and I went too. It's a long story. But I want to tell you who opened up Eastern Europe to our denomination? This congregation and the elders of this congregation. The only place. And they poured in. And I can tell you the names — Pratt and Sproul and all these other guys poor in. World missions and the Gospel and the evangelism of the Gospel. Who brought Billy Graham to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1950's? The pastor of this church, Reed Miller, the pastor of this church.
Well I'm going to close and when I close I'm going to say this. So what? So what? Because I ask myself that question every sermon I preach. So what? So we had the Scriptures at the very beginning and have. So we believe He has worked I our midst. (tape ended)
His name was Thomas. Thomas did not even show up. But the Lord Jesus came to Him and in my lifetime I stood at his grave in the state of Madrong, India. Doubting Thomas went all the way to India preaching the Gospel and was martyred in India. They all were martyred except for John who at the age of ninety-five was imprisoned. They turned this world upside down and they were men who were hurting. Don't believe because you are hurting that this message is not for you and the future of this congregation is not in your hands. Humanly speaking, it is. And I want to speak to the fella who's saying, “Boy, this is a great church and boy I'm glad I'm here and this is wonderful!” Be careful. Be very careful. You see, this church comes across as being, out there, arrogant and know-it-all. You've run into that. The young people have run into it. Jesus was humble. What this church has and has had for 175 years is by the grace of God. It is a gift. Be careful, if you’re pleased to be a member of this congregation, that you’re not arrogant but that you’re humble and give God the glory.
And one last thing. And this may be the most important. As an illustration that comes from my life when I was not a Christian, I got called into the army, went into the, became a first lieutenant, and on my way to infantry, an infantry officer in Korea, stopped briefly at Fort Rucker, got married to Jane — oh boy! Bored to death, waiting, saw a sign-up: Football, post-football try-outs. I was ready to do anything. I go out, I make the team, one week later the team, the coach, he quit — previous coach from there. The material was so bad I was the quarterback. That's how bad it was. And he just quit. And none of us knew that and I was called down to the general and I said, “I'm on my way.” This was the commander of the whole camp! “I'm on my way to Korea but I don't know what I've done but he's sending me off and he says, ‘Major so-and-so has quit. He's gone back and taken early retirement. You’re the only officer out there; you’re the coach.” And I said, “Yes, sir.” I walked out and I said, “Good gracious.” Well I told those men that from that day I'm the coach. I thought the rest of them were going to quit too!
And then one week later, to the utter surprise of everybody, almost a thousand trainees poured in unexpectedly. And I went down there and I went through their records and I found them - “Whew!” And I'm thinking, “We've got a team! I won't get to play but we've got a team!” And it got better and better and better. And I came to the “S's” and I got a guy who had been - the last experience he had had he was the junior varsity defensive line coach, coached the defensive line and the offensive line, junior varsity of Ohio State under Woody Hayes. And so I said, “Whew!” And there was another guy we had. He played half-back for the Chicago Bears the previous year. He was 205 pounds and he was 6 feet 2. That was a real man back then. And I said, “Man!” But I asked this guy who coached under Woody Hayes who would later go on and become a famous coach at the University of Michigan, Bo Schembechler. I said about Woody Hayes before our first game, “What did he do in a pep talk?” “The pep talk,” he said, “went like this: Forget everybody else and what they’re doing and what they’re supposed to be doing. You do one thing. You beat that guy in front of you, 100% every play, because it's your responsibility. Forget everything else out there, what they are or not doing.” I said, “Did he give that?” He said, “He gave that almost every game.”
I want to give it to you. Is there anybody out there who's saying, “Gee, I hope my husband is waking up and he's hearing this sermon about what God is going to do with this church and what he's supposed to be doing.” Is there any woman like that? And so you’re misdirected. Or is there a young person saying, “Wow, I wonder if the old people of this congregation —“? Or is there a man saying, “John ought to be here because John's got it all. He's got the talent, he's got the treasure, he's got money, and he has got the time. John ought to be here.” Quit thinking about John. Quit thinking about your husband. And quit thinking about the older people, young people. God has given you time. This church has got money — treasure. And talent. It's in you. Give it to Him.
The man who started this church was named John. There wasn't five; there was one. His name was John Calvin. Died in 1464 I believe. He had a coat of arms that he made for a letter with his palm, like this. In the middle of his palm was his heart and the heart was on fire. And inscribed underneath were these words: “This I give unto Thee, promptly and sincerely.” He got that right out of this chapter. “Did not our hearts burn within us?” said those two men. That's what this sermon is all about. That's what this day is all about. Will you say that? Don't be thinking about anybody else. This I give unto Thee, promptly and sincerely, on fire. As we pray together.
Thank You, heavenly Father, thank You heavenly Father for being good and kind and thank You for teaching us once again on this day two thousand some years ago, the wrong shall fail and the right prevail, that the devil has been defeated once and for all. He fights but God, through Jesus Christ, will win. And thank You for this church. Now use this church with all that it has to offer, amazingly so, use it more than You ever have before for the sake of Jesus, the great and true Christ. Amen.
If there is anybody at the end of this service that wants to see or talk to somebody, I asked Brister and there will be some elders down here. Someone may want to talk — some young man called to the ministry, come, come. Now we're going to sing a hymn and the hymn is to the sung with great vigor. “Lead on, O King Eternal, we follow not with fears.” Connie.
Well, I was supposed to pronounce the benediction. I’ll pronounce it right now! The benediction is the blessing of God and boy does it come down and rest upon believing hearts. For it is now unto the Lord Jesus who is able to keep you from falling. It is now unto the Lord Jesus Christ who is able, at your death, able to present you sinless before His throne of grace in heaven with exceeding great joy to the only wise God who is our Savior. Under Him, in our hearts, may He have glory, majesty, dominion, and power, both now and forevermore. Amen.
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