The Responsive Heart
January 14th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE RESPONSIVE HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-14-73 8:15 a.m.
Not only for you who are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas on radio, but for all of us who are in the presence of the Lord at this worshipful hour here in this auditorium, would I say words of gratitude for the Chapel Choir.
The title of the message is The Responsive Heart or The Life of Liberty Apart from the Law. And it is from the last verses in the fifth chapter of Galatians. In our preaching through this letter of Paul to the churches of Galatia, we are in the twenty-second verse:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law,
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
[Galatians 5:22-23, 25]
The substance of the whole letter lies in an appeal for a life lived apart from the law; that is, to bring to the Christian the security and the peace and the rest that comes with personal faith in Christ. For when a man seeks to commend himself to God by obediences to commandments and the observances of rituals, he lives in dread and foreboding all of his life. "Do this and thou shalt live. Don’t do this and thou shalt be damned," but the man doesn’t know whether he quite measures up; is he really saved? He lives in insecurity, in trouble and frustration. He never quite knows whether he is able to meet what God expects and demands. And as he becomes more spiritual in his life, that oppressive sense of lack increasingly grows in his heart.
But the life of grace and the life in the Spirit is one of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. There is no law concerning these, for the heart finds itself full of wanting to respond to the presence and blessing and goodness of God, apart from commandment and law. For you see the gospel has placed the motivation of our lives where it ought to be, in the heart, in the spirit, in the desire, and in the wanting of the man. It is the Scriptures themselves that point out to us that out of the heart are the issues of life.
It is what we seek in our soul that guides us in everything that we do, what we want in our hearts. Consequently, the worst of all sins are sins of the spirit. They are sins of the heart. Cain slew his brother, Abel, because of the bitterness in his soul when his sacrifice was rejected and Abel’s was accepted [Genesis 4:3-5, 8]. The brothers of Joseph hated him because they had no coat of many colors [Genesis 37:3, 4, 23]; sins of the spirit. Moses struck the rock in anger, in anger when God said, "Speak to it" [Numbers 20:8-12]. Saul sought and was eaten up of envy and jealousy when he heard the women of Israel sing, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his tens of thousands" [1 Samuel 18:7-9].
Elijah sat under a juniper tree and asked that he might die for he said, "I am no better than my fathers" [1 Kings 19:4]. Who said he was any better than his fathers? Elijah thought so. In his triumph on Mount Carmel, it seemed to him he had won a victory over the whole earth, and he ran in exaltation before the chariot of Ahab [1 Kings 18:46]; but not anything will wear out the saints like running before the chariot of Ahab. And the next day his whole world crumbled before him, and sitting under a juniper tree, he asked to die [1 Kings 19:4]. Not anything could ever destroy the people of God like thinking "I’ve done it. I’ve got it made!"
The spirit, what’s in the heart; Jonah said, "I will not go to Nineveh," and he turned and went in the opposite direction to Tarshish. Then when finally he did go to Nineveh, sat under a gourd plant in pouting, anger against God because of God’s sparing that repentant city [Jonah 1:1-2, 4:6-11] – the heart, the spirit. Judas sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver because of his covetous mercenary spirit, seeking to retrieve out of a lost cause all that he could [Matthew 26:14-16].
The elder brother came in from the field and saw his prodigal younger brother received back into his father’s arms, and in anger he refused to go in where his brother was. And when his father came out and entreated him he said, "I have been here all these years serving thee and at no time transgressed thy commandment but this, thy son," not my brother, "this, thy son who has wasted his substance in harlotry and in riotous living, for him you have killed the fatted calf and make merry and glad." And he hated him [Luke 15:28-30]. The spirit – the sins of the spirit – our worst sins are sins of the spirit; for out of the heart are the issues of life.
So it is that the apostle takes the great motivation of our lives out of commandments, and obediences, and observances, and he places it in a new heart, a new love, a new creation, a new devotion, a new wanting. And he calls it the karpos of the Spirit, singular! The effect, the produce, the fruit, the results, the karpos of the Spirit, singular!
Then he names nine. How unusual! The karpos, singular, of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. But that’s the fruit, the produce, the result of the spirit in the heart. They’re never alone, never. There’s never just a grape; they grow in clusters. One never just ripens; they all ripen. So it is with the graces in the human heart when the spirit moves God-ward and upward and is open heavenward. They cluster. There is a multitude of things that are born in it that are concomitants and addendums alongside it. Like the cultivation of a virtue or a good trait, behold a multitude of others spring up; so it is in the karpos of the Spirit. All of these things come. They are born into the heart, and out of the overflowing of the soul do you see them.
There’s a triad of triads; there are three groups of three. Love, joy, peace, that’s our relationship with God; not a heart filled with fear, and dread, and ominous foreboding toward God, as though the Lord shall judge us by the commandments we have kept or the commandments we haven’t kept. And we dread that rendezvous with God – no!
Toward Him love, joy, and peace. Toward our fellow men, our brethren – longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, our attitude towards others – not critical and sardonic, not filled with hatred or envy or gossipy destruction, but longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and the character that is built in our own souls: faith, meekness, temperance; in these things there is no law, no commandment keeping.
This beautiful effect of the Spirit in the heart is sometimes perpendicular between the soul and God. Sometimes it is horizontal; it’s between the man and his brother. But always it’s the great moving, motivating Spirit that lies back of what he is and what he does.
Now I take one just to illustrate that. But the karpos, the result, the fruit, the produce, the effect of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts is, and I take just one, love. If this is a matter of law, if our life before God is a matter of obedience and keeping commandments, how do you coerce love? How do you command love? It is an impossibility. You can’t make yourself love anybody, nor can anybody make you love him, her. Somehow God has made the heart free. And if we love, it is out of the fullness of the free gift that abounds in our souls. The karpos of the Spirit is love.
If I serve God out of fear, "If I don’t do this, I will be damned. If I do this, maybe I will be saved. If I serve God in law, then my attitude toward God is the attitude of a slave toward a master; it’s the attitude of a penitentiary inmate toward the warden. It’s the attitude of a cringing servant before his master, "If I don’t obey, I will feel the lash of the whip. If I don’t be what he expects of me, then all I can look forward to is the fire and the damnation." And the life is lived in servile and cringing dread and fear.
Does that please God? Would you like that in your own son or your own child? Would you? The child obeys you and the child seeks to keep the commandments that you lay before him because he is afraid that if he disobeys you will beat him to death? You’ve got a rod, you’ve got a stick, you’ve got a strap; you have an instrument of punishment. The weakness of child discipline that I have found is that we do it in anger. Whenever we discipline it ought to be in love. For we seek from the child not obedience because of dread and foreboding from us; we seek obedience because of an abounding love, a gratitude of thanksgiving.
And that’s exactly what God is pleased with in us. What we do before the Lord is not by way of commandment and coercion and threat, but what we do is out of a heart full of gratitude and thanksgiving. And that’s what the Spirit creates in our souls. Lord, every day Thy mercies are like manna from heaven, refreshing, new. Lord, when I think of what You have done for my soul; Lord, when I think of Christ dying for my sins, O God when I think of the promises of a more glorious tomorrow, when I think of what God hath stored up for us who look in faith to Thee and pray to Thee, O Lord how thankful I am. How grateful I am. Lord, how much I love Thee. Then what we do in life is not out of dread, not out of servile cringing fear, but what we do for God comes out of a full and grateful heart. Look at it.
Abel brought to the Lord a minchah. In the Bible you translate that ‘sacrifice.’ You know what minchah really means? It is a simple Hebrew word for ‘gift.’ Gift. Abel brought to the Lord a minchah, a gift. He brought a lamb out of his love and gratitude to God – a minchah [Genesis 4:4]. When Hannah cried before the Lord because she was persecuted by Peninnah and because God had shut up her womb; she prayed and said, "O God, if You will give me a son, I will loan him to Thee all the days of his life" [1 Samuel 1:11]. And when little Samuel was born, she took him and gave him to Eli, the old priest at Shiloh, and prayed in thanksgiving for the goodness of God. It was a minchah, a gift.
When the Philistines had occupied Bethlehem and David was driven like a refugee before them, thinking of the days of his boyhood, David cried aloud and said, "Oh, for a drink of water from the well that is by the gate of Bethlehem." And the mighty men Abishai and Benaiah made their way to the Philistine lines and drew up a draft of water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem and brought it to David; a minchah, a gift. And as you know David said, "These men have jeopardized their lives for the drink," and he poured it out a libation before God – love [1 Chronicles 11:17-19].
And Mary in Bethany took an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and broke it over the head of our Lord and anointed Him in the presence of the people, and some of them said, "What a waste. It could have been sold for three hundred pence," that is a year’s salary, "and given to the poor." "No," said the Lord, it’s a minchah [Mark 14:3-6]. It’s a gift, and it’s acceptable even though it is extravagant. That’s love, extravagant. It knows no end. It knows no measure. It’s in your heart to do it. And so it is with the motivation of our lives.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury and watched them as they gave to God. And there came a poor widow. And she cast into the treasury of the Lord everything that she had, all of her living, trusting God for daily bread, a minchah, a gift, everything she had, everything [Mark 12:41-44].
And John on the Lord’s Day was in the Spirit [Revelation 1:10]. Why, he was by himself. But on the Lord’s Day, the day of His resurrection, even though he was alone, it was a day he set aside for the worship of God. Is there any commandment for that in the Bible? No. No commandment, there is no commandment in the Bible to observe any Lord’s Day. There is a commandment to observe the Sabbath Day on the part of Israel. And I can point out to the Sabbatarians who like to keep the Sabbath day on that day, under commandment you are to offer two lambs. Two lambs. On that day under commandment you are under pain of death not even to pick up sticks, and you can’t light a fire and a thousand other things. That’s the law. But there is no law on the Lord’s Day or concerning it. Well, then why are we here, and why do we sing praises to God and read the Scriptures and pray and see what the Lord says to us? Certainly out of the love of our hearts for Jesus, there is no other reason. The disciples in the beginning began to gather on the Lord’s Day just out of the fullness of their hearts in love and gratitude to Jesus. That was the day that He was raised from among the dead. Out of the heart, just something that the disciples wanted to do; it is just something that we want to do. There is no commandment.
This is the karpos of the Spirit; a free, abounding, overflowing gratitude to God, for what the Lord has done for me and what God has promised to me, and what I look for from His gracious hands. And out of a heart full of thanksgiving, these things do we, and these things do we, and these things do we.
I bring tithes and offerings because I’ll be damned if I don’t? No. I am under no law. Just want to do it. Happy to do it.
Come to church on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, by commandment? No, just love doing it. Fellowshipping with the people of God, trying to be gracious and kind and forgiving, why? Because I am under a commandment? No, I would love to be that way. I would love to be kind, and forgiving, and gracious, and thoughtful; and toward God, prayerful and humble and full of gratitude for every moment of the day. This is the life of the Spirit and the glory and preciousness of the Christian faith.
Our time is spent, and as we sing our song of appeal, in the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, a family you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make it now. Do it now. If you are on the back row of the topmost balcony, there is time and to spare, as you come. Do it now, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing this appeal, walk down that stairway into this aisle, here to the front, "I make it now, pastor. I am coming now." While we stand and while we sing.