FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:21
11-18-87 7:30 p.m.
Welcome once again to the great throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivering the message entitled Following in the Footsteps of Christ.
Whom shall we follow? Whom shall we listen to? Radio counselors tell us how to live. TV preachers tell us how to give our money. Politicians tell us how to vote in confidence. Entertainers and athletes tell us how to succeed. With editorials, and with magazines and newspapers, and with radio and television, there is poured out a constant stream of admonitions telling us how to do, how to think, where to turn, what choice to make—it’s world without end.
But the Bible admonishes us that the One to listen to and the One to follow is the blessed Lord Jesus. In 1 Peter 2:21: “Hereunto were ye called: Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” And, 1 Corinthians 11:1—Paul writes that, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
He is our great example and admonitioner. Greed never touched Him. Power never corrupted Him. Worldliness never reached Him. Incompetence never tripped Him. Personal ambition never swayed Him. Selfishness never chained Him. He is worthy as our great exemplar, leader, someone to follow after. If we follow after the Lord Jesus and seek to walk in His footsteps, what are some of the things that would characterize the steps of our lives? What would we be like?
Here are some. Number one: we would be compassionate. “Jesus, moved with compassion,” is His ever-enduring name. In Matthew 9:35-38: Seeing the multitudes without a shepherd, “He was moved with compassion upon them.” In Matthew 20:29-34: in compassion, He healed the two blind men on the road beyond Jericho. In [Luke 7:11-17]: in compassion, He raised the son of the widow of Nain. In John 19:25-27: He is asking the sainted apostle John to take care of His mother at the cross. If we are following in the footsteps of Jesus, our hearts are moved with compassion upon those who would be blessed by our largess, or by our prayers, or by our remembrance, or by our encouragement. To be someone sensitive to the hurt and the need of someone other, that’s to be like our Lord.
The second one I picked out is one that you wouldn’t think for and that concerns socializing. In Matthew 11:18-19, He contrasts Himself between John the Baptist, who was austere, who was a hermit, who lived apart and separate from the throngs and from the marching humanity of this earth. Jesus was ever in the heart and the midst of the moving masses of humanity.
For example, Jesus never turned down an invitation to dinner—never. If you wanted the Lord Jesus to come and eat with you, all you had to do was invite Him and He would be there, no matter who you were. He accepted even the invitation of His enemies. In Luke 7:36-50, in Luke 11:37-54, in Luke 14:1-24: “He is gone to eat dinner with the Pharisees.” And the Pharisees invited Him for one purpose only, and that was to find fault with Him, to criticize Him, to denounce Him. He went anyway.
I repeat, there’s never an instance when Jesus was invited to eat dinner with anyone that He didn’t accept the invitation. Luke 15, that wonderful chapter on the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32], and all of those beautiful illustrations of the care of God for us [Luke 15:3-7, 8-10]—in Luke 15, the first two verses start like this: “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This Man—houtos, one of contempt, a word of deprecation, houtos, this guy, this fellow—receiveth sinners, and He eats with them” [Luke 15:1-2].
In John, chapter 4, we have the Lord—in that entire chapter, we have the Lord socializing with a despised outcast Samaritan woman who had five husbands. And the man she was then living with, she didn’t even bother to marry him [John 4:17-18]. She just married—she just left one after another, divorced one after another, until, finally, she didn’t even bother to divorce them. She just started living with them. She was about as unhealthy an example of what a woman ought to be as you can find in the whole world. And yet, the whole fourth chapter of the Gospel of John is written about Jesus socializing with that outcast Samaritan woman [John 4:4-2]. When the disciples came, they were amazed that He was talking to her [John 4:27]. The greatest sermon ever preached on spiritual worship, the Lord delivered to that outcast Samaritan woman [John 4:13-29]. He was an amazing Somebody: the Lord Jesus.
I want to give you another instance. In Mark 1:40-45 is told the story of the Lord Jesus and the leper. Wherever a leper went, by law he had to cover his face, like this—with his hand above his eyes—and he was to call “Unclean” [Leviticus 13:45]. You are to shout “Unclean! Unclean!” And wherever he went, there was a chilling circle that opened around him. The leper could just walk just anywhere, just anywhere, and everybody fell away from him. He just walked anywhere he pleased.
Well, there were throngs around the Lord Jesus, this is at the beginning of the Gospel as Mark describes Him; there was a throng around the Lord Jesus, a multitude pressed Him on every side and the leper; the leper, with his hand over his face, calling, “Unclean! Unclean!” And everybody fell away from him, everyone. There was that ever-widening circle in which he walked. Well, did Jesus fall away from him? No. Jesus stood there. And that’s why the leper, in the midst of a vast pressing multitude, just walked up to the Lord Jesus. He just walked right up to Him. The throngs fell away as he cried “Unclean.” He walked right up to the Lord Jesus [Mark 1:40]. And Jesus never moved. And when he came into touching distance of the Lord, the Bible says the Lord reached forth His hands, and touched Him [Mark 1:41]. I can hear the throngs gasp as the Lord reached forth His hand and touched him.
Sweet people, of course this is just my own addendum—this is just my own persuasion, but I think half of the cure, when the Lord healed him and cleansed him—I think half of the cure was the touch of that loving compassionate hand upon that despised outcast [Mark 1:41]. He had never felt the warm, sympathizing touch of a human hand, until Jesus reached forth His hand and touched him. That’s our Lord. That’s how He was, and what a wonderful example for us. No matter who he is, no matter who she is, no matter what they’ve done, no matter how the background, they are dear to God and dear to us.
I do not think that, in all of the ministries of our church, and they are multitudinous, I do not think there is a sweeter or more precious ministry that we have than in our twenty-eight chapels. And out of those twenty-eight chapels, my loving favorite is our inner-city mission. These street people, filthy and dirty and homeless and outcast, just the gesture of being kind to them in the name of the Lord is a little reflection of our Savior. He was like that.
Following in the footsteps of our Lord, serving; John 13:5: “Jesus poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” Then, verse 14: He says to them, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]. The reason we do not do that as an ordinance in the church is, what we do in the church in observing ordinances—something that the Lord has ordained—what we do in the church is what they did in the Bible. And the church, and the churches in the New Testament, did not observe this as an ordinance. So, we do not observe it as an ordinance: the washing of feet. But I can tell you this: there are Baptist churches that do make this a third ordinance, washing feet. They are Primitive Baptist churches. They are foot-washing Baptist churches. They are what you call Hard-Shell Baptist churches.
And I have been to their services. And if you have ever attended one of those services, it’s one of the most moving things you’ll ever see in your life. It’s sort of, on the outside, a matter of fun or joking to speak of those Primitive Hard-Shell, foot-washing Baptist churches in the observing of that ordinance. But when you attend the service, if you ever had an opportunity to do so and you sat there and you watched it, it is a moving experience.
We do not do it, I say, in our church, because the churches of the New Testament did not observe it as an ordinance. But the spirit of it, in keeping with following the example of our Lord, is a wonderful thing in human life. If I can help you, I would love to try. If there is an errand for you that I could run, I’d love to try. If there is something that I could do to encourage or help, I am your servant. That’s a wonderful way to be. And that was the way our Lord was: not to be ministered unto, but to minister; not these serving me, but I being a servant of them—a precious and beautiful example in our Savior.
All right, another one of our Lord: in resisting Satan, He followed the will of God. In Matthew 4:1, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and in the wilderness, led by the Spirit of God, he was tried by Satan.” Now, how did our Lord face the trials and the temptations of Satan? Without exception, He did so in the Word of God. In Matthew 4:4 and Matthew 4:7 and Matthew [4:10], Jesus answered him and said, “It is written. It is written.” He was filled with the knowledge of the Holy Word of God.
And as an aside, may I speak for just a moment of Jesus’ use of Scripture? It was constantly on His lips. Quoting Scripture, He used Scripture to correct error. Quoting Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, He cleansed the temple [Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17]. He quoted Scripture in teaching the people. In the synagogue at Nazareth [Luke 4:16-19]. He read that chapter in Isaiah 61, verses 1 and following [Isaiah 61:1-2]. And when the lawyer quoted Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 6:5], and Leviticus [Leviticus 19:18], and the great commandments of the law [Luke 10:25-27], it was then that Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37].
He used the Scriptures to answer His critics. He quotes Hosea 6:6: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” He quotes it again in Matthew 12:7, and He quotes in regard to their eating grain on the Sabbath day [Matthew 12:3-5]. And he used David as an example of eating this showbread. It just goes on and on and on. Our Lord knew the Scriptures. He was versed in them, and they were strength in His life.
And may I add about our Lord, He stands by us in all of the vicissitudes and fortunes of our personal lives. In Hebrews 2:18: “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, He is able to aid those who are tried, who are tempted.” There is not anything you’ll ever face in your life that our Lord did not Himself first face. There will be no trial you ever go through, there will be no hurt or suffering or temptation; Jesus knows all about it and He is your Friend. He is not your enemy. He is your Friend.
And one other: Jesus and prayer. Jesus prayed publicly. John 12:28: “When the Greeks came to see Him [John 12:20-21], He prayed there before the Father, where the whole throng and the multitude could hear Him” [John 12:28-29]. Public prayer; there is a place in the worship of God for public prayer, and in that we all can have a part. I love our kneeling here in our dear church. And we pray audibly, publicly. I love that.
Private praying: on a mountainside, in the wilderness, in other solitary places, our Lord prayed. Mark 1:35, He was praying in the morning to God. In Luke 5:16, He was praying in the wilderness. In Luke 6:12, He is praying all night long before the choice of the apostles [Luke 6:13]. In John 6:15 He was praying in a mountain when the people wanted to make Him a king.
You know, it’s just like you would know it, it’s so trite for me to say it, but there is no end to the depths of the worshipful adoration that comes into your heart when you read about the blessed Lord Jesus. How could anyone in human flesh be like that?
Now this is one: they tried to make Him a king [John 6:15], and it is easy to see why. Here is a man that, with a few soldiers He could conquer the world, because if His soldiers were killed He could raise them from the dead. Think of that. Think of a general with his army and his soldiers were slain, He just raised them from the dead and go right on.
Not only that, but here is a man who could feed five thousand with a few fish and a few little biscuits [John 6:9-13]. Think of feeding an army. “An army marches on its stomach,” Napoleon said. Think of a man, with a little amount of food in His hands, could feed a whole army. And here was a people oppressed by the Roman government. Crown Him king [John 6:15], make Him general, lead them to victory, and think of His name and His glory being on every lips. That’s the Lord’s temptation. They tried to crown Him king, to make Him general. Instead, He steadfastly set His face to the cross to suffer and to die [Luke 9:51]. How could anyone in human flesh be like that? But that’s our Lord. That’s Jesus. I repeat, the more you read about Him and look at Him, the more you fall down and worship saying, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28].
Praying, not only public praying, but praying private prayers, but praying with close friends; when He faced the trial and the death in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-46: He was there with Peter, James, and John. It will be a strength to you in your life if you will pray through a trial with somebody whom you love and trust, praying with them.
Well, what did Jesus pray about when He prayed? One: he praised God. Luke 10:21: Upon the return to the seventy, here is His opening word, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Praising God, lifting up our hearts in loving adoration and thanksgiving to God. He prayed for others. The intercessory prayer in John 17 is one of the most moving passages in human literature [John 17:1-26]. And He prayed in submission to the will of God: “Lord, if this cup can pass from Me . . . if not, Thy will be done” [Matthew 26:39].
Dear people, I tell you, according to the Word of God—this is not an observation on my part, this is the Word of God. It is not God’s will that all of us be and then, you just name it, that we be affluent, that we be well, that we not be sick, that we not be tried, that we not be hurt. These things come in the will of God. I do not know of anyone who was hurt more than our Savior, cried more than our Savior [Luke 19:41; John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7], suffered more than our Savior, died the most excruciating death that the mind, a depraved mind, could devise [Matthew 27:26-50]. There has never been an execution devised that has in it the horror of hurt of a crucifixion. Sometimes those poor souls that were nailed to the cross lived for seven days in an agony unspeakable. It was God’s will that He suffer [Galatians 1:4]. And it may be God’s will for us to suffer [1 Peter 4:19].
Maybe God wants to teach us things that we couldn’t know in any other way than through our trial and our hurt and our suffering. The difference lies in our submission to the will of God: “Lord, if this is Your will for me, then may I be submissively obedient. And may I learn what God seeks for me in this trial.”
May I close in the way Jesus taught us to pray? In Luke 11:1, it says when Jesus finished praying, the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And this is the way He taught first, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Prayer is worship. If you want to worship God, the best way to do it is to pray. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done” [Luke 11:2]. Prayer is asking Jesus to come: “Lord, Lord, to this weary sin-cursed world, Lord Jesus, come.” Prayer is asking God for our needs, until that final day when He comes: “Give us this day our daily bread” [Luke 11:3].
Prayer is asking for cleansing: “Forgive us our sins.” And prayer is acknowledgment that we are not equal to Satan. God must help us: “Lord, lead us not into trial and temptation; but deliver us from evil” [Luke 11:4]. And prayer is a triumphant acknowledgment of the power and glory of God. We don’t know who it is—who it was, but a scribe added to the Lord’s prayer, in Matthew 6:13: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.”
“Lord God, to be less like I am and more like Thee, how precious, Lord, that would be,” following in the footsteps of our wonderful Savior.
Now Doug, we’re going to sing us a song, and I’ll be standing right there. There’s someone here tonight to give himself to the blessed Savior [Romans 10:9-13], or a family to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer the call of the Spirit of God in your heart; while we sing this stanza, you come and stand by me. The Lord bless you in the way, while all of us stand and while we sing.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:21, 1 Corinthians 11:1
A. Whom shall we follow, listen to?
B. Christ is our great example – if we were to follow, what would we be like?II. Compassionate
A. “Jesus, moved with compassion” is His ever-endearing name(Matthew 9:35-38, 20:29-34, Luke 3:11-17, John 19:25-27)III. Socializing
A. Contrast between Christ and John the Baptist (Matthew 11:18-19)
1. He never turned down an invitation to dinner, even with His enemies (Luke 7:36-50, 11:37-54, 14:1-24)
A. Washing the feet of His disciples (John 13:5, 14)V. Resisting Satan
A. He followed the will of God(Matthew 4:1)
B. He knew the Scriptures (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10, Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11, Isaiah 61, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 12:7)
C. He stands by us (Hebrews 2:18)VI. Prayer
A. Public prayer(John 12:28)
B. Private prayer(Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, John 6:15)
C. With close friends, facing trial and death (Matthew 26:36-46)
D. What He prayed about when He prayed
1. Praised God(Luke 10:21)
2. Prayed for others (John 17)VII. Jesus teaches us to pray(Luke 11:1)
A. Worship(Luke 11:2)
B. Asking Jesus to come(Luke 11:2)
C. Asking God for our needs(Luke 11:3)
D. Asking for cleansing (Luke 11:4)
E. Acknowledgment that we are not equal to Satan(Luke 11:4)
F. Triumphant acknowledgment of the power and glory of God(Matthew 6:13)