ENROLLING IN THE SCHOOL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-8-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message, from the text the choir sang tonight, entitled Enrolling in the School of Jesus. Let us take our Bible, turn to the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew; turn to chapter 11, beginning at verse 25, reading to the end of the chapter. These five verses, Gospel of Matthew chapter 11, beginning at verse 25 and reading through the end of the chapter, all of us now, reading it out loud together, Matthew 11:25:
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.
All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
There is a wonderful invitation in that passage that is never mentioned. When we think of the sweet and precious promise and invitation included by our Lord in these two verses, always it concerns the burdens of our heart, the weariness of our souls, and finding rest and comfort in Jesus. But there is also something else in that invitation, and it is that that comprises the message tonight. I thought of it, and it meant doubly a wonderful thing to my heart because of this season of the year when the colleges and the universities are beginning to open, and when our public school systems already have begun. It is a rabbinical saying, "Take my yoke upon you"; the old rabbis used the term as we would say, "Come enroll in my school; take my yoke upon you, enroll in my school." That’s what Jesus meant when he used the rabbinical term and expression, "Come unto Me, take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:28-29]. And that gave rise to the subject of the sermon, Enrolling in the School of Jesus.
How very much, how very much all of life is a matter of learning. We would not walk on our two feet were we not taught to; we would walk on all fours like an ape. We would not speak language were we not taught; we would use gutturals and noises without framing any word whatsoever. All of culture and life and meaning are things that have been taught to us. Samuel Palmer Brooks, who was the illustrious president of Baylor University when I was a student there, one time in a chapel hour was discussing environment and heredity. This is what he said: "I do not say," he avowed, "that environment is everything; but I do say that whether a child becomes a goose-stepping fascist, or a communist, or a Catholic, or a Protestant, or a cannibal, is a matter of training and instruction." Oh! how much all of life is a matter of training.
In the backyard, I was seated reading, while the little grandson was playing in the grass. And while he was there playing, he said to me, "Oh, Grandaddy, come and see, a wabbit, a wabbit." I thought, "Well, how unusual in our backyard there would be a rabbit." I thought, "Well, maybe one got out of the country and lost in the city, a little cottontail or something, and jumped over in our yard." So I went over there to see "the wabbit, the wabbit." You know what I saw? It was a rat! He had never seen a rat. He’d seen in the little pictures on television and in little picture books a "wabbit." It was hurt; the rat had been hurt, and could hardly escape, and was there in the yard. Why, it horrified me; but to him it was a "wabbit," a great discovery. It’s a matter of teaching and learning and experience. So does the Bible present the whole message of salvation and Christian life in terms of teaching and training.
For example, our Lord said, in the high priestly prayer, "This is life eternal: that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" [John 17:3]. The Great Commission, which is the marching order and mandate of the churches of Jesus, is this: "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the triune God: teaching them," again, "to observe all things that I have committed unto thee" [Matthew 28:18-20]. This thing of the continuation of the Christian faith is found in that famous mandate of the apostle Paul to his son Timothy in the ministry, "Study to show thyself approved unto God" [2 Timothy 2:15]; and again, "The things that thou hast heard of Me, deliver unto faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" [2 Timothy 2:2]. I repeat: in the matter of the Christian life and faith, it is so largely a thing of learning and instruction and training.
We are persuaded of that in our Baptist church and in this church. The great thrust of this church is centered in its pulpit. Any church, I think, that reflects the Spirit of Jesus and is true to the Word of the New Testament will build its great life around the teaching and the preaching and the exposition of the Word of God. That’s why any congregation and any minister who is persuaded of the depth and the height of the glory of his responsibility will encourage a young man, felt called of God to be a minister of Christ, to study, to study, to study.
I came across one of the craziest stories this vacation time of mine. There was a church that had a pastor who resigned. Their pastor had been to the Holy Land, and all he could talk about was his trip to the Holy Land. He had been to the seminary, and all he could talk about was the seminary. He had studied a little Hebrew and a little Greek, and all he could talk about was a little Hebrew and a little Greek. So they put an advertisement in the paper saying we want a pastor, but he has to have three qualifications: first, we want a pastor who’s never been to the Holy Land; second, we want a pastor who’s never been to the seminary; third, we want a pastor who doesn’t know any Hebrew and who doesn’t know any Greek. So, they got an applicant. The fellow came and he said, "I’m your man. Coming out of the Knob country of the Ozarks, I can qualify. First," he says, "I ain’t never been to the Holy Land; I ain’t never been out of this county. Second," he says, "I ain’t been to the seminary; I ain’t even gone through the third grade. Third," he said, "I do have to confess, though, I know a little Hebrew and a little Greek. The little Hebrew I know runs the tailor shop, and the little Greek I know runs the restaurant."
The church is unanimous in its persuasion if it reflects the spirit and attitude of this Holy Bible in its ministry. And especially in the heart of its ministry must be that "God’s man" who has given himself to a study, earnest, careful, long and deep, to the revelation of the truth of God in Christ Jesus. As the great prophet Isaiah said, "To the Law and to the Prophets" [Isaiah 8:20] and again, "Line upon line; precept upon precept" [Isaiah 28:10]. Thus we learn from the days of our childhood to the days when Jesus shall call us home: sitting at the feet of our Lord, enrolled in the school of Jesus.
Now the things we learn from our blessed Lord, sitting at His dear feet, listening to His holy and heavenly voice: first of all, may I make the avowal, there are no answers, no ultimate answers, to any ultimate question I want to know, other than the answer I find in Jesus our Lord. The meaning of life, immortality, the life that is yet to come, these things are answered only in our blessed Savior. To the scientist, to the true scientist – he says, "I have no answer, I just observe the phenomena of life and nature. I have no answer." To a philosopher – he would reply, "I just surmise, I just guess; I’m a metaphysician, I just philosophize." To a Hedonist, an Epicurean, a believer in happiness and joy alone – he would say, "Forget these answers; eat, drink, be merry, tomorrow we going to die anyway." To a communist, to a materialist – he would say, "All of the answers are found in the materialities, the things and the possessions of this life." Oh! I want to know far beyond that. I face death, I face the end of existence, I face the end of this world; I need a meaning for life itself and death. To whom shall I go?
Well, it’s like Nicodemus; I will follow him. "Jesus, Lord, we know Thou art a teacher come from God. No man could do these things Thou doest, except God be with him" [John 3:1-2]. I’m like Simon Peter, when all of the rest of the false followers of our Lord turned away [John 6:66], and the Lord asked him and His disciples, "Will you also go away?" and Simon Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? To whom shall we go?" To what teacher? To what religionist? To what metaphysician? To what academician? To what scientist? To what philosopher? "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we are persuaded and do know that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God" [John 6:67-69]. Like those officers sent to arrest the Lord Jesus, and came back without Him, and the priests said, "Where is He?" and they replied, "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:45-46].
To the Lord Jesus, listening to His dear voice, sitting at His precious feet, enrolling in His school, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:29]; what do we learn? First, I learn what to do with my sins, with my sins. No other teacher, no other scientist, no other academician, no other metaphysician or philosopher has an answer to my sins. All of us have sinned [Romans 3:23]. What shall I do with my sins? It is the ancient cry of Job, "I have sinned; what shall I do?" [Job 7:20]. There’s an answer in the Lord. The church is not a gallery of saints; the church is a convocation of sinners sitting at the feet of the Lord Jesus. What shall I do with my sins? Well, I shall blame others for them. Adam blamed Eve his wife, and Eve blamed the serpent; that’s one of the weaknesses that characterizes all of human life [Genesis 3:12-13]. Somebody else, it was her fault; it was his fault, blaming somebody else. What shall I do with my sins? Blame others, blame others; got in the wrong crowd, they led me astray; blame others. What shall I do with my sins? Hide them, hide them; that’s what Adam did, that’s what Eve did, and sowed fig leaves to shut away and to hide away the nakedness of their lives [Genesis 3:7]. Hide them. What shall I do with my sins? Let the tears wash them away. Let blood of penance and sacrifice drown them. Let the ordinances of water and baptism cleans me.
What shall I do with my sins? Let time dissolve them? No. God has written every deed of our life and every word we have said with a diamond point in an indelible ink in an everlasting book. What shall I do with my sins? What shall I do? "Come unto Me, enroll in My school, take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:28-29]. What shall I do with my sins? I shall take them to the blessed Lord Jesus. "This is the blood of the covenant, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28],"For the Son of Man came into the world to give His life a ransom for sinners" [Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45]. I shall take my sins to the Lord Jesus, and plead His pardon and His forgiveness, His love and mercy, His blood and His cross.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming grace has been my theme and shall be till I die
[from "Praise for the Fountain Opened," William Cowper, 1777]
What shall I do with my sins? I shall take them to the Lord Jesus [1 Timothy 1:15]. O Lord, wash me, make me clean and pure. Lord, keep me and save me. "Enroll in My school, learn of Me" [Matthew 11:28-29].
A second thing, and I haven’t time even but to say it: what shall we learn at the feet of Jesus? We shall learn the true values of life. Life is so full of deception, and we are so easily deceived. False glamour, self-glory, a thousand things of success and preferment and advancement, and they’re cheap when they are achieved. The true values of life we learn at the feet of Jesus. I haven’t time to discuss it.
I come to a third and a last: what do we learn enrolling in the school of Jesus? [Matthew 11:28-29]. We learn, we learn the great reward and joy and gladness of true living. Dead outside of Him, death outside of our Lord, despair and darkness outside of Jesus; but in Him there is light, and life [John 1:4], and glory, and gladness, however the outside may be – in a prison, behind stone walls and iron bars, led to the martyr’s stake, in suffering and in trial, in sacrifice, in a thousand trials and burdens, yet the heart overflowing in gladness to the Lord. Don’t ever forget: it was the night before He was betrayed and crucified that the Lord said, "My joy I give unto you" [John 15:11]. Don’t ever forget the one letter in the Bible that is full of the happiness and overflowing goodness and gladness of God is the prison epistle we call Philippians. Don’t ever forget it was as he faced martyrdom and death that Paul said,
I know, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give me at that day.
[2 Timothy 1:12, 4:7-8]
We learn at the feet of Jesus the gladness and the joy of true living, service to God.
In my vacation this last month, I went to a downtown church. Never had heard of it before, never had seen it before. And when the preacher stood up to preach, he was a big, burly fellow; he looked like a pro-football player; fine looking man. In his sermon he said – and I had read it, and I remembered it, that’s the reason I was so impressed by what he said about it – he said C.S. Lewis’s book entitled The Screwtape Letters, in that book is a passage written by that Englishman. And somebody asked Satan, who’s been cast out of heaven, "Satan, what do you miss most in heaven?" and Satan replied, "I miss most the blowing of the trumpets in the morning." Then he said, "These things have been like a trumpet in the morning in my life. First," he said, "my conversion, my conversion." He said, "One day, when I was a youth, I left the service of the church, after the service was over, went to my room, shut the door, got down on my knees." And he said, "There in confession of sin, and in repentance and in faith, I looked to the Lord Jesus, and He came into my life." He said, "That experience of trusting Jesus has been like the blowing of a trumpet every morning." Then he said, "There has been a second experience like that in my life." He said, "When I was in college, I loved sports." He said, "I’d rather play than to eat." He said, "I was enamored and taken up with sports. But," he said, "upon a day, in a service at the church, at an evening hour, and someway, somehow, I do not know, but," he said, "as the service progressed, and the minister preached, and I looked on the congregation, and my eyes were opened to the needs, to the needs of the lost people in the world," he said, "I had, I had a call, a vision from heaven that God had laid His hand upon me to be a minister to the people who needed God in the earth." And he said, "Once again, I left the service, I went to my room, I got down on my knees, and as a college student I gave my life. I departed," he said, "I gave up," he said, "all of the aspirations that I had to be an athlete. And I gave my life to be a servant and a preacher and a minister of Christ." And he said, "When I did it," he said, "an indescribable, untold joy flooded my soul." And he said, "That experience has been like a trumpet sounding every morning."
Oh! these things of God. Enrolling in the school of Jesus, sitting at His blessed feet, learning from Him the true meaning and destiny and purpose of our lives. Without Him life is cheap, life is empty, life is void and sterile, has no other end but death and dust and despair. But in our Lord there’s a song to sing and a glad one; there’s a life to live, and a happy one; there’s a heaven to come, and it’s for us, and it’s for us, it’s for us. "Come unto Me, enroll in My school, take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:28-29].
Blessed one, you, would you do it? Would you do it? Would you do it now? Would you do it tonight? "Pastor, I give you my hand; I do open my heart, I do give my life in trust, in repentance, in faith, in learning, in teachableness, in yieldedness and surrender to the blessed Lord, and here I am, here I come." "Pastor, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this church, learning of the blessed Jesus with you; we’re coming tonight; here we are." Would you? While we sing our invitation hymn, I’ll be standing here to the left of this communion table. Taking Jesus as Savior, putting your life in His blessed hands, joining us in this pilgrimage, as the Spirit of God shall lead in the way, would you make it tonight? Would you come now? On the first note of the first stanza, in the great balcony round about, you, in the throng on this lower floor, you, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come," while we stand and while we sing.