The Jesus Way, The Jesus Life
May 16th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE JESUS WAY, THE JESUS LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-16-65 7:30 p.m.
You may not believe it, but on the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And you may not believe it, most of you people who do not go to church on Sunday night, and that means practically all of Christendom, there is a tremendous crowd in this great auditorium. And I bless God for every one of you and pray the Lord to sanctify the message from His Book that the pastor, in the help and goodness of God, will deliver tonight.
Now turn to Matthew chapter 5; Matthew chapter 5, the fifth chapter of Matthew. Where is your Bible? The saints that do not have their Bibles, you share yours with them. Chapter 5; the text will be the last verse, so let us begin reading at verse 38. Verse 38, we will read to the end of the chapter. The title of the sermon is The Jesus Way, The Jesus Life. Now all of us out loud together, and on the radio, in your Bible, you read it out loud with us: Matthew 5:38. Now together:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Now read my text again, the last verse, read it with me, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." What an incomparable ideal. Yet it is preeminently Christian and preeminently right.
Would you think that a Christian ought to be, seeks to be, prays to be, less holy than one under the law? Yet under the law, the Lord said to His people, "Be ye holy, for I am holy" [Leviticus 11:44]. Not by perfection do we find salvation. All of us would be irrevocably lost if our salvation depended upon our legal perfection. But, though we are saved by the blood of the Crucified One, and not because of any works of righteousness on our part, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God: not of works" [Ephesians 2:8-9], not something we do, lest any man should say, "I did it, I’m here in heaven walking these golden streets because of my merit, my worth, the virtue of my life." No man will ever say that in heaven. If we make it, we will say unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, "To Him, to Jesus, be glory, and power, and honor, and majesty, and dominion world without end" [Revelation 1:5-6].
So the gospel message is "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, in the washing of regeneration" [Titus 3:5], and in the renewing of our spirits, in presenting us to God in an imputed righteousness, a declared righteousness, a God kind of righteousness, standing before Him washed in the blood of the Lamb, that is the way we are saved. But under no conditions would it be thinkable, would it be possible, that a Christian would have as his goal to be less holy, less perfect, less sinless than anyone who lived under the law. For example, if you tried to be less perfect, where would you stop? "I will be good up to this point, and then that’s good enough." Or, "I will be good up to this point, and then I’ve gone far enough." Or, "I will be good up to this point, and then that’s good enough." It’s unthinkable! For when one is regenerated, when he’s saved, when he becomes a Christian, there is automatically a concomitant, a corollary that follows after it; a longing and a wanting to be fine, and to be splendid, and to be excellent, and to be removed from worldliness and sin. That’s in our souls; a moving God-ward.
And the more holy we become, and the nearer our Lord we draw nigh, do we have that sense of falling short, of coming below what God would expect of us. "Be ye therefore perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48], and oh, as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord, there is with us an increasing sense of sin and dereliction.
My neighbor’s throat I may not have cut,
My neighbor’s purse I never stole:
I’ve never spoiled his house and land;
But God have mercy on my soul.
I’m haunted night and day
By the deeds I have not done,
O unattainable loveliness,
O costly valor, never won.
[from "Guilty," Marguerite Wilkinson]
All of us fall into that way. The more we draw nigh and the nearer we come to God, the more that sense of falling short overwhelms us. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48].
Now that gives rise to an attitude about the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew [chapters] 5, 6, and 7; without doubt the most incomparable message on righteousness and godliness and kingdom citizenship that has ever been uttered. What is this Sermon on the Mount and this unattainable perfection that is asked of us by our Savior? Well, let me name three attitudes that you’ll find toward this great sermon that Jesus preached to His disciples. First: there are those who say that it is a visionary dream. It is theoretical righteousness. It’s a kind of a righteousness drawn on the clouds by colors taken from the sunset. It is visionary. It is removed and it is never practical. That’s one attitude about the Sermon on the Mount. But I never could convince myself that Jesus, who lived in the harsh, crude, rude realities of life, would ever say things to His disciples that were theoretical and visionary and impossible, for the Christian faith and the very life of our Lord was born in a crucible of circumstances that were hard and cruel and real. And what our Lord says comes out of the fierce conflicts in life itself; blood and tears and suffering. So what I would expect from my Lord is something that came out of some of these great practicalities and realities of life, and that’s true, that’s where they were born; out of that were they sent.
All right, there’s a second attitude toward this Sermon on the Mount, and that is this: there are those who say, "That is my religion." I remember when the president of the United States, one who belongs to our communion, was asked, "What is your religion?" and he replied, "My religion is the Sermon on the Mount." And the whole world says, "Glorious. Isn’t that fine?" "My religion is the Golden Rule [Matthew 7:12] and the Sermon on the Mount." When you get to analyzing that attitude, it becomes ridiculous – ridiculous! Read the Sermon on the Mount, and if that’s your religion, something has got to be done for your soul and your heart and your life. And that president was the last one in the world that I would say who evinced in his life the religion that I read here, because to him it was "damn for damn and hell for hell," and giving the Baptist, all of it, down all the time. No, don’t forget that the Sermon on the Mount was addressed to the disciples. And the disciples of the Lord came to our Savior, "and He taught them, saying" [Matthew 5:1].
Before a man could even begin to approximate the religion of the Sermon on the Mount, God would have to do something to his heart. God would have to regenerate him. "If a man smites you on one cheek, turn the other to him also" [Matthew 5:39]. That’d be real religion, and God’d have to help you do it. He just would. "And if a man compel thee to go a mile, you go with him twain [Matthew 5:41]. And if a man sues thee at law and takes your coat, give him your inner garment also" [Matthew 5:40]. Give him your suit also if he takes your overcoat; give him your suit also. I’d say a man would have to have a regenerated heart to live like that. "Bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you" [Matthew 5:44]. My, my, talk about that being a man’s religion, a worldly man’s religion, an unregenerate man’s religion, it’s unthinkable and impossible, and becomes actually ridiculous! If this is our religion, then God has to do something to our souls to regenerate us and to remake us.
Now, there is another attitude toward the Sermon on the Mount, and that is this: that it is a refined Judaism. It’s in that halfway limbo, that nebulous land that doesn’t belong to either one. It’s not law of the Old Testament. It’s not Judaism. It’s not Christianity, for they say Christianity is found in the epistles, after the death of our Lord; and this, being in the life of His flesh, is that halfway between the law, the covenant in the Old Bible, and the gospel of Jesus in the New Testament. So they look upon this as some kind of a halfway Judaism, Christianity, uttered in between, and that is one of the strangest attitudes toward the words of our Savior that I could imagine. Our Lord came into the world to preach the gospel, and wouldn’t it be an astonishing and amazing thing if He never referred to it? And wouldn’t it be even more astonishing if, if in the most famous and extended of all of His discourses, He never mentioned it? Isn’t it strange that something said about Jesus is more Christian than what Jesus said Himself? To me those things are unthinkable and impossible!
Well then, what do you think, what do I think that the Sermon on the Mount is? Very simply, to me, the Sermon on the Mount is the way of life God expects of a kingdom citizen, a born-again child of God. This is the way he ought to talk. This is the way he ought to live. This is the way he ought to go, and the kingdom citizen is this, and this, and this, and this; all of that and all of that. This is the life of a child of God. And if anyone ever evinces the spirit of this Sermon on the Mount, oh how noticeable and how powerfully does he witness for our Savior.
Let me tell you a conversation in a barbershop. It happened to be that in the barbershop there was a beauty shop. And a beautifully, finely dressed woman came through the barbershop, and her coat was hung up outside of the beauty shop at the back, on one of those hangers in the barbershop. And she went in and had her hair all beautified. And I’m in favor of that. There’s not anything in the world that’ll lift up the spirits of a woman as going to the beauty shop, it never fails, never fails. And I’m in favor of it. It makes them look pretty, and beautiful, and acceptable, and, oh, how nice, how fine. No matter how much it costs, it is worth it. I hope, I hope.
She went into the beauty shop, and after she was beautifully adorned, she came back out. And the Negro porter, seeing her return, and knowing that her coat was hanging on that hook there in the barbershop, the Negro porter being, wanting to be gracious, he got her coat and held it for her so she could put it on. But when he did it, he accidentally knocked off her glasses, and they fell on the hard floor of the shop and broke in a thousand pieces. And when that happened, the owner of the barbershop standing close by behind a chair, when that happened, he berated that Negro porter unmercifully for his clumsiness. And while the owner of the shop was berating that Negro porter, that gracious and fine woman said in her sweetest way, "Oh, sir, not at all, not at all. They were an old pair of glasses; not at all." And she said, "I was getting ready to discard them anyway; not at all." And she said, "I have another pair at home, and I’m going home now and I will get them, and it’ll not even be thought of, not even be,not at all."
And she’s so nice, and gracious, and thanked the porter, and gave him a gift, and walked out of the shop. And when she was gone, there was a man sitting in the barber chair, and this is what he said. He said, "I don’t know who that woman is, I never saw her before, but I tell you, she must be a Christian woman, for I think that is what Jesus would have said."
That’s no high and glorious incident out of some grandeur in human history. But I’m just trying to show you how kingdom citizens in a cafeteria, in a barber shop, in a mercantile establishment, in an office, anywhere in the world; I’m just trying to say that a kingdom citizen is noticeable. And their witness is effective for God. "Be ye therefore perfect," as in perfect as we are, yet the goal and the ideal is ever before us; "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Now the second part of my sermon; I want to speak now of the latter part of the text. "Be ye therefore perfect," just praying God that the ideal of the life of the kingdom citizen might glorify God in us; now the second part of it: "even as your Father in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48]. There is a reason why that the Lord would have us be kingdom citizens, such as are described in the Sermon on the Mount. Now, the reason is not the reason that the world employs in their honesty and integrity and righteousness, but the reason for a Christian being righteous and holy lies in an altogether different area. Now I want to contrast it with the reason that the world gives to be right, to be honest, to be fine, to be good. Now, this is the reason of the world – for prudence’s sake, to be smart, to gain advantage and to go ahead, and they use phrases like this: "Honesty is the best policy. Honesty is the best policy."
I went into a cleaning establishment here in the city of Dallas, and there was a great big placard up there, and it read, "Be courteous. Be courteous; we may need customers someday." It pays to be nice. It pays to be honest. It pays to treat people well, for that is the way we make money. We make friends, and they come back to the store, and they patronize our shop. That is the way the world looks upon righteousness. It’s smart. It’s good. It’s a fine investment to be a man of your word, to keep all of the promises that you make. It’s good business. That’s what the world says.
Now, there are religionists who say the same thing, only they elevate it into the world that is to come. "Let us love God, and let us sacrifice for Him in order that we may have a thousandfold up there in glory." Now, that’s the same kind of a thing. It is the same kind of selfishness, only it is projected and becomes eternal selfishness. "I’m going to do good because of what I can get out of it, I’m going to be honest because it pays, and I’m going to ensure my soul because in the world that is to come, I’m going to reap a dividend of a thousand percent"; that kind of an attitude toward righteousness. Now, what is the attitude of the Christian toward righteousness? It is this: we want to be good for the sake of being good itself. We want to be honest for the sake of honesty itself. We want to be people of integrity for the sake of being a people of integrity; because we want to be like our Father which is in heaven, no thought of reward. If it were never paid off to be honest, we’d be honest anyway. If there were not any rewards in heaven, we’d love God anyway. If there was nothing to be gained from being upright and righteous, we would be upright and righteous anyway, because our Father is that way. And we love our glorious and adorable and incomparable Lord; just loving it for its own sake; being kind just because we love being kind; being generous, and thoughtful, and careful, and sweet, and gracious, and forgiving, for its own sake; because our Father is like that. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48]. Now, that is all through the Word of God.
In the moment that remains, may I try to speak of it? Here our Lord will say, here our Lord will say, "Love your enemies, do good, hoping for nothing again, be merciful as your Father also is merciful." Isn’t that a marvelous phrase? "Hoping for nothing again, love your enemies, do good, hoping for nothing again" [Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:44], not because you expect anything out of it, but just because God is that way.
Let me turn again: "When you make a dinner," He says, "do not call your friends, your brethren, your kinsmen, your rich neighbors, because they will bid thee again, and a recompense shall be made for thee" [Luke 14:12-14]. You invite me to dinner and I’ll invite you to dinner. You have me over at your house, and I’ll have you over at my house; and we just go in a ring and in a circle like that. But if you did it like the Lord said, "When you make a dinner, do not invite those who can invite you again, who can pay you off socially. But when you make a dinner, you invite the poor, and the maimed, and the lame, and the blind, for they cannot recompense thee." They may not even have a house in which to have a dinner, and they may not have any money in which to buy any food, and they certainly have no servants to prepare the meal. You invite them. You invite them.
Well, does the Lord forget us? Now another thing in the Bible, one of the things that God has welded together is the reward that God purposes for those who just love Him and serve Him. And as the day follows the night, so God has welded that recompense together. You don’t be merciful and God not be merciful to you. You don’t be meek and God forget that you inherit the earth. And you don’t be poor in spirit but that God gives you the kingdom. And all through the Word of God you will find His recompense for those who love Him. But I’m not to work for the recompense. And I’m not to give my life to God in the hope that I gain from the investment a thousandfold.
Oh, I wish I had time to expiate on this question that Simon Peter asked! "Lord, that rich young ruler," in the nineteenth chapter of the Matthew, "that rich young ruler, he would not give up anything to follow Thee. Therefore he does not deserve anything. He is gone after his own wealth, and after his own house, and after his own pleasure, after his own selfish aims and ambitions. I can understand," says Simon Peter, "why he couldn’t be in the kingdom of God." Then Simon Peter happened to think, "But Lord, look, we have forsaken everything and followed Thee. What are we going to get out of it? What shall we have therefore?" [Matthew 19:27]. Now, that’s the nineteenth chapter. And then the Lord told the parable of the laborers in the vineyard; and these that were blessed of God were those who labored without any contract, without any promise, without any hope of reward other than just the love of God [Matthew 20:1-16]. And that’s the way the Lord wants us to be in our goodness: just loving Jesus and loving our Lord, loving to try to be like our Savior. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48]. And when I’m that way, then I’m never disappointed, because I’m not trying to be good for reward, I’m not trying to be honest in order to make it pay, and I’m not trying to follow the Jesus life in order to make a thousand percent on my investment. I’m just living after the Lord because I love the Savior, and that’s all. And loving Him, somehow, these things all end up in a marvelous recompense, a glorious reward.
Now I have time to illustrate that. Then I have to quit. There is a marvelous Christian leader in the world today, a glorious one, a – oh! God’s blessing is upon that marvelous preacher. He’s an executive in the denomination. I went to school with him, and I’ve known him for all of the years since. As I went to school with him, I soon learned – and the years constantly corroborated that first impression – he had an illimitable, an illimitable love and admiration for his father. It went back to this: when he was a small boy, his mother died, and his father reared the children. There were several children, of which he was one. The father never married, but he devoted the rest of his life being father and mother to that little brood of children. And in the love of the father for this boy – and in his care, and praying, and loving, and rearing – the little boy, growing up, grew to have an illimitable admiration for his father.
As the days passed, he grew to look like him. I met his father one time and talked to him. As the days passed, the boy grew to look like his father. He walked like his father, he talked like his father, and his father was one of the finest men in this world. Now, what the boy did was not with any idea that, you know, "I’m going to get something out of this if I’m honest like my father. I’m going to get something out of this if I walk like my father. I’m going to get something out of this if I talk and be like my father." Such a thought never occurred to him. But in the love of his life and his soul, he so adored his father that, growing to be like him, he was crowned with a marvelous and incomparable recompense.
That’s what I’m saying. When we love our Lord, and just for the love of Jesus we do these things, somehow God crowns us with a holiness, a heavenliness, a beauty that is beyond anything seen in this world or the world that is to come. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48], walking in the way of the Lord, growing more like Him with each passing day. And the reward will be full and rich and complete, a crown of righteousness bestowed from His own gracious hands.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, coming to our Lord, make it now. A family you, coming into the church, a couple, however God shall say the word and lead in the way – in the balcony round, there’s time and to spare – into the aisle and down to the front: "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now. I make it now." As you stand up, stand deciding for Christ: "When I stand up, I’m going to step out into that aisle and down to the front." "Pastor, I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart in trust to the Lord." "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children. All of us are coming into the church tonight." A couple, one, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come tonight, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
a Christian would seek to be less holy, less perfect (Leviticus 11:44)
are not saved by being perfect but by grace (Ephesians
2:8-9, Revelation 1:5-6, Titus 3:5)
we become a Christian, there follows a longing to move Godward
nearer we come to God, the more we sense our shortcoming (Matthew 5:48)
II. Three erroneous views rejecting the
character of the Sermon on the Mount
A. Dismissed as a
beautiful conception, visionary, never practical
as the whole of religion
1. It is impossible to
keep on human strength
Judaism, halfway between Judaism and Christianity
III. What is the Sermon on the Mount?
A. The way of life God
expects of a kingdom citizen
B. Barber shop porter
IV. "Even as your Father in heaven is
A. Worldly prudence
says it pays to be honest
attitude has no thought of reward
V. The teaching of Jesus
A. Hoping for something
in return (Luke 6:35, 14:12-14)
B. God’s recompense for
those who love Him (Matthew 19:27, 20:1-16)