The Responsive Heart
January 14th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE RESPONSIVE HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-14-73 10:50 a.m.
I would like to say to you who are listening on radio and on television, welcome to the congregation of the First Baptist Church here in Dallas. In these days the pastor is preaching through the Book of Galatians, and we are nearing the close of this letter of Paul to the churches in that central province of Asia Minor. We have come to the last part of the fifth chapter, and the text is verse 22, 23, and 25 [Galatians 5:22,23,25]. The title of the message is The Responsive Heart. It is a message of motivation, of a life of liberty apart from the coercive, oppressive demands of the law. Now the text, Galatians 5:22 and following:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Law would have no part or place in it.
If we live in the Spirit—and we do, under God—let us also walk in the Spirit.
[Galatians 5: 25]
And we shall, with His help and grace. The life of obedience under the law is always one fraught with defeat and frustration. The man who seeks to commend himself to God by doing good, the man who seeks to save his soul by observing rituals and commandments, is always the man who lives in the abysmal depths of fear and dread and insecurity. Do this, and thou shalt live; don’t do this, and thou shalt be damned. And he never knows whether he is doing it well enough to be saved. And he is always afraid in not doing this that he will be damned. The life of obedience under the law is a life of defeat and frustration.
But the life of grace in the Spirit of Christ liberates us from the yoke and the bondage of that dread and insecurity. For what the man does is to find peace in the goodness and the promise of God. And what he does, he does not out of fear and foreboding, but he does out of a full and grateful heart.
The gospel message of all things is correct in placing the motivation for living and for life in the spirit, in the heart, in the inner man. Even the Scriptures themselves say that out of the heart flow the issues of life [Proverbs 4:23]. Our worst sins are always those in the heart. They are in the spirit. Cain slew his brother Abel because he was bitter in spirit, seeing that God refused his sacrifice and accepted the offering of Abel [Genesis 4:3-5, 8]. Joseph’s brethren hated him because they had no coat of many colors and he was a favorite of his father [Genesis 37:3, 4, 23]. Moses struck the rock in anger when God said speak to it, that the Lord might be honored [Numbers 20:8-12].
These bitternesses of spirit and these darknesses of heart pour bile and evil into the very life stream. Saul was eaten up of jealousy and envy when he heard the women of Israel saying, “Saul hath slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands” [1 Samuel 18:7-8]. Elijah under a juniper tree, wishing that he might die [1 Kings 19:4], depressed in spirit because running before the chariot of Ahab, he thought on Mt. Carmel he had won the whole world to Jehovah [1 Kings 18:21-40]. Nothing wears out the saints like running before the chariot of Ahab thinking that in our victories we have overcome the world [1 Kings 18:46].
The spirit sinks in frustration when we see the depth and height and strength of the foes who oppose us. Jonah, refusing to go to Nineveh, hating those Gentile dogs, turned the opposite way to Tarshish [Jonah 1:1-3]; and when God did have mercy upon the repentant city [Jonah 3:5-10], sat under a gourd vine praying that he might die, remonstrating with God for saving the lost [Jonah 4:3-11].
Sins of the spirit, of the heart; Judas, selling his Lord for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16], his mercenary and covetous spirit sought to reprieve and retrieve what little he could from a lost cause, seeing the Lord would certainly die. The elder brother coming in from the field found his younger brother come back home [Luke 15:25-27]. But instead of rejoicing he pouted in anger and refused to go in. And when the father came out and entreated him saying, “Son, thou art ever with me,” the boy replied, “At no time did I transgress thy commandment, but when this thy son,” “not my brother,” but, “when this thy son, who has wasted his life in harlotry and in riotous living comes back home, for him you kill the fatted calf and the whole family makes merry” [Luke 15:25-32].
The sins of the spirit are the worst sins of human life. Out of the heart and out of the spirit are those issues that color ultimately, finally, fundamentally all living. That is why, I repeat, that the gospel places the motivation for the worship of God and the service of the Lord in the fullness of the heart, in the freeness of the spirit. For the karpos, singular, the effect, the produce, the fruit, the results, for the karpos of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [Galatians 5:22-23]. Isn’t that a strange thing? Karpos is singular. The effect, the produce, the result, the fruit is, and then he names all these things.
You see they are all one. They are all of the heart. They are all of an abounding soul. You never have just one grape; they grow in clusters. Not just one of them ripens; they all ripen. So the produce of the Spirit is a cluster. It is many, and the many are one. You will find in your own life when you cultivate a good trait, a virtue, there will spring up around it a multitude of others. Thus it is with the karpos of the spirit.
Here is a triad of triads, three threes. The karpos, the result, the fruit, the produce, the effect of the Spirit in the heart, a new heart, a new creation. The effect of it is love, joy, peace [Galatians 5:22], our relationship to God. Not dreading to see Him, not walking before Him with foreboding, but love, joy, peace; a marvelous, open, free fellowship with God. The next triad: longsuffering, gentleness, goodness [Galatians 5:22]; this is our relationship and our attitude toward those around us. Not acrimonious, not cynical, not critical, not bitter, but longsuffering, gentle, good. And the character that grows on the inside of us: faith, meekness, temperance [Galatians 5:22-23].
With these things there aren’t any commandments, and it has nothing to do with law [Galatians 5:23]. The heart of a man who knows God, and is filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and whose heart overflows in gratitude to the Lord, that kind of a man has a relationship perpendicular, up this way toward God and horizontal out that way toward his brother man. And he lives in the fullness, and the gladness, and the victory, and the triumph of a wonderful and glorious spirit.
Now I illustrate that with one that is named here in the text. For the karpos, the effect, the fruit, the produce, the result of a free spirit, of a wonderful heart, of a new man in Christ, the effect is love [Galatians 5:22].
I just take one of them, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; take one, love [Galatians 5:22-23]. If the man is to live under law, and if he gains his commendation before God by obedience to commandments and the observances of ceremonies and rituals, how is it that you could ever coerce love? Make him love?
You can’t do that. Not as long as the man is free. If he is a robot then God might command his heart and make him love the Lord. But if a man is free, God cannot coerce, command, mandate his love. For that has to be given away. It comes of a choice, of a free spirit, of a response in the soul. That alone is love.
If it is forced, if it is commanded, if it is mandated, if it is threatened, it is not love. For love of all things is something born of the soul, something given away, something that arises out of a free spirit. For the fruit, the result, the karpos of God’s goodness to us, and the regenerating of our souls, the making of a new man and a new creation, the fruit of it, the result of it is an abounding love, an overflowing love.
You see, when a man begins thinking, ah, how good God is to me, sending Jesus to die for my sins, letting me call His name in prayer and bringing all of my problems and burdens, blessing me with fresh remembrances like the manna new everyday. And think about what He has prepared for us in heaven. Gone to open a door into glory and to make for us a home and a mansion in the new city [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-5]. And standing by us and comforting us and strengthening us. Some of our people are so seriously ill this week and listening to them speak, never an exception, if they are devout Christians saying to me, “Pastor, this is a great affliction,” or “I’m so ill, or so broken, but the Lord is here, and He strengthens me, and He helps me, and He stands by my side. And through the long hours of the weary and painful night He gives me strength to bear.” Ah! Out of the heart of gratitude, whether we are sick or whether we are well, comes all of those responses to God. Not commanded, not demanded, not coerced, not forced, but just rising out of the fullness of the heart. That is the response that God wills for us.
Are you not that way? Tell me. You who have a child, tell me, do you like for that child to obey you because if he doesn’t you are going to beat him to death? And if you don’t beat him to death he doesn’t obey you. Wouldn’t you like for the child to do what he does in his spirit and his attitude toward you because he loves you? Wouldn’t you? I think God is that way. He doesn’t want His children down here to serve Him and to walk in His presence in dread and fear like a cringing slave; God will beat you to death if you don’t do it. No. What would please the Lord is that what we do, we do out of a fullness of heart, loving the Lord, wanting to do it, desiring to do it. Is it not this in the Holy Scriptures?
And Abel brought to the Lord a minchah. How would you translate that? Sometimes in the Bible it is translated “offering.” Sometimes in the Bible that is translated “sacrifice.” Do you know what the word actually is? The word minchah is the ordinary Hebrew word for “gift, gift.” “And Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock a minchah, a gift to the Lord” [Genesis 4:4]. And the Lord looked in the heart of Abel and saw Abel’s love and desire to show that affection and gratitude and thanksgiving to God. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his minchah, his gift [Genesis 4:4].
Was that not what Hannah did? She was persecuted by Peninnah, and her own soul was in distress because her womb was shut up and she had no child [1 Samuel 1:5-6]. And she bowed before the Lord and prayed and said if God would look upon the low estate and sorrow of His handmaid and give her a child, she would give the lad to the Lord all the days of his life [1 Samuel 1:11]. And when little Samuel was laid in her bosom [1 Samuel 1:20], when she weaned the child, she brought him to old Eli, the pastor at the church in Shiloh, and gave a minchah, the gift of the boy to God [1 Samuel 1:24-28]. And the Lord was pleased and blessed the little boy, and all Israel knew from Dan to Beersheba that he was sent to be a prophet in Israel [1 Samuel 3:20].
That feeling, that wanting, that desiring, that outflowing, that’s pleasing to God. I remember reading in 2 Samuel when Bethlehem was in the hands of the uncircumcised and blaspheming and heathen Philistines, and David was a refugee, David one time said, “Oh, for a drink of water from the well which is by the gate of Bethlehem” [2 Samuel 23:15-17]. And two of David’s mighty men, Abishai and Benaiah, heard David say that. And so great was their love for David that they braved the lines of the Philistines and drew a draft of water from the well of the gate at Bethlehem and brought it to David, a minchah, a gift of love. David, seeing those men jeopardizing their lives just for him, said, “I cannot drink it,” and he poured it out a libation before God [1 Chronicles 11:17-19]. Think of the minchah of that, the wanting of an expression of devotion.
Is not that what moved the Lord in Bethany when Mary took an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard and broke it over His head and anointed the Lord and the perfume filled the place? [Mark 14:3; John 12:3] No wonder it did. Such an act of love and affection and gratitude.
And some of those carping critics who were there said, “Look at that waste. It could have been sold for three hundred pence,” that is a year’s salary, “and given to the poor.” And the Lord said, “Let her alone. Wherever this gospel is preached,” and I am helping fulfill it today, “wherever this gospel is preached there will this be spoken of what she has done for Me” [Mark 14:4-9]. The extravagance of the gift; it pleased the Lord, the minchah. Out of the fullness of the soul, out of an abounding heart of love and gratitude, pouring out the perfume, the ointment, the spikenard upon the blessed Savior.
This is to be the motivation of our lives, the karpos, the fruit, the effect, the produce, the results of the new spirit that we have. Not serving God like a galley slave, like a penitentiary inmate before his warden; not like a cringing servant before his master, but serving God, not out of obedience to commandments and mandates and laws, but doing it out of the fullness of the heart. This I would like to say to God. This I would like to do for God. This would I like to give to God.
Was it not so when the Lord sat over against the treasury and watched the people as they placed gifts, money, tithes, offerings into the treasury, and there came by a widow, poor? And she cast into the treasury all that she had, her entire living, just trusting God for daily bread [Mark 12:41-44]. Was there any commandment that she do that? No.
Well, what is it that pleased God and made Jesus notice it as He watched the people? Because of the fullness of the heart and of the gratitude expressed in it when she gave into the treasury of the Lord everything that she had, trusting the Lord, a minchah. No commandment to do that. Just doing it out of praise and appreciation and gratitude for the goodness of God.
John, the sainted apostle, is by himself on the lonely, stony isle of Patmos to die of exposure and starvation. On the Lord’s Day he was in the Spirit [Revelation 1:10]. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, the day the Lord was raised from the dead. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. Is there any commandment for us to worship God and assemble on the Lord’s Day? No! There is not a syllable in the Bible commanding us to do.
Well, why is John in the Spirit of praise and worship and communion on the Lord’s Day? It is something out of the fullness of his heart, and the disciples were that way from the beginning. There is no commandment to observe any Sunday. There is no commandment to observe any Lord’s Day. There is no hint of an approach of a mandate to keep any Lord’s Day holy.
There is a commandment for Israel to keep the Sabbath day [Exodus 20:8]. And on the Sabbath day they are under commandment to offer two lambs [Numbers 28:9]. And they are under commandment, if somebody picks up sticks on the Sabbath day he is to be stoned [Numbers 15:32-36]. And they are under commandment not to light a fire on the Sabbath day [Exodus 35:3], and a thousand other rules under commandment.
Well, then what is this we do on the Lord’s Day? Just out of the love and praise and appreciation and glory and thanksgiving and gratitude that we feel in our hearts. There is no other.
That was the disciples from the beginning. When the Lord was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-6], out of the love for the living Jesus they gathered together on the day of His resurrection, the first day of the week [John 20:1], and sang songs and prayed and taught the people and just blessed God [Acts 20:7; Ephesians 5:19-20]. Because they were commanded to? No. Because they had it in their heart to do it. It came out of the fullness of their spirit.
That’s the way we ought to be about our service before God. I’ve got to do that, I’m going to be damned. I must do that, or I will be lost. Never. Never. We are absolutely free, absolutely free from the mandates and commandments of the law. They have no more pertinence for us. They are nailed to the cross with all the ordinances of the old covenant [Colossians 2:14].
Well, then, how do you feel? Do you feel like going out here and blaspheming the name of God and forgetting the Lord and living lives of infinite immeasurable selfishness, and bitterness, and hatred, and blasphemy, and irreligion? No. It is the opposite. For when I call to mind what the Lord has done, that He might save me from the judgment and penalty of my sins, and when I call to mind the promises of God for me now and in the world to come; Lord, Lord, to bow in Thy presence is a sweet privilege. To sing songs of praise and glory is a tonic and a benediction to my soul. To gather with God’s people in God’s house is a sweet fellowship, like the ointment that fell from Aaron’s beard down to the skirts [Psalm 133:2], the sweet fellowship of God’s people.
I want to come to church. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go up to the house of the Lord” [Psalm 122:1]. This is the true motivation of the Christian life, doing what we do not out of coercion and not out of commandment, not out of fear and dread lest we be damned if we don’t, but doing what we do for God out of the fullness of the heart. This I want to do, to bring a minchah to the Lord as a sign that I love Him, to offer the praise of the sacrifice of my lips in honor and in gratitude. This is a privilege, Lord. And a thousand other things we do for Thee, not because we have to, but because it is in my heart. I want to.
And that’s the invitation of our blessed Savior to you who are here this morning. “I’d like to name His name before angels and before men. I’d like to. What God has done for me. This shall I do for Him. I’d like to stand openly and publicly and confess my faith in God and my love and gratitude for the Lord. I would love to be a part of the household of faith” [Hebrews 19:24-25]. Not that God’s people are perfect. We are imperfect and the Lord knows it. “But I want to be named and numbered among God’s redeemed, bought by the blood of the Crucified One” [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Do you feel that way? “I’d like to accept Christ as my Savior [Romans 10:8-13]. I would like to confess my faith in the Lord Almighty. I’d like to be a member of the fellowship of God’s redeemed. I’d like to be numbered among the people of the Lord here in this world and in the world that is to come.” If thus, the Lord moves in your heart, come today. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I come, pastor. I make it now. This is my family, we are all coming.” Or just one somebody you, make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.