JESUS LIVING IN US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-1-88 10:50 a.m.
I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering a message concerning the ministry of all of God’s people. In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, through which Gospel we are preaching; in chapter 12, where we now are, and in the middle of the chapter, beginning in verse 20, John 12:20, “There were certain Greeks among them that came up to the feast: These came to Philip . . . and desired Him saying, Sir, we would see Jesus” [John 12:20-21].
And Philip tells Andrew; the two disciples, the two apostles, who had Greek names, and they tell Jesus [John 12:22]. And it precipitated in our Lord a reverberation in His deepest soul. And in the passage that follows down, He speaks of the death that He should die for the world [John 12:27], and ends it with verse 32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me [John 12:32]. This He said, signifying by what death, that is, by crucifixion, “that He should die,” for the sins of the world [John 12:33].
So the incident begins with Greeks, hellenes, pagan Greeks. Not Hellenists, Greek speaking Jews of the Diaspora, but hellenes, Greeks, pagan Greeks. They came seeking the Lord Jesus [John 12:20-21]. And as I said, it deeply moved our Savior and brought to His heart the death that He should soon die for all the people and nations and languages and tongues and races of the world.
It was the purpose of God that His Son should be exhibited, presented before the whole creation. He was not crucified in a cathedral between two golden candlesticks, but He was crucified on a public road outside the main city gate [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12], in a place so public it took three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to describe the superscription of His accusation [John 19:19-20]. That was the intention of God: His Son was to be publicly exhibited and publicly displayed before the whole world [1 John 2:2].
I read of a beautiful sanctuary that was being renovated, refurbished. And on the inside of that beautiful cathedral was a picture, a statue of the pleading Christ, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. And in the renovation, they had to take the statue outside; and it was placed there temporarily on the sidewalk outside. And there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people who passed by and saw it. Never in the cathedral, but outside on the sidewalk, in a marketplace, on a street corner; that’s the purpose of God. His Son, not to be closeted or hidden away or whispered about, but the gospel is to be proclaimed on the housetops, where the people are, in the whole earth, in every language and tongue under the sun.
One of the most dramatic of all the incidents referred to in Holy Scripture is in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the first Gospel. When our Lord cried, “It is finished,” when His death paid the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and He cried, “It is finished” [John 19:30], the Bible says that, when the Lord said that and our atonement was complete, that the curtain, the veil in the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom [Matthew 27:51]. That is, God did it. It was not rent from the bottom to the top, as though men were tearing it apart, but it was rent by the almighty hands of God, who seized it and tore it apart. Josephus says that that curtain was woven four inches thick. It symbolized the separations among the people of the Lord; it symbolized the separation of people from God. It symbolized the separation between laity and clergy. Even the high priest was separated from the priesthood. He alone was allowed to enter beyond that curtain [Hebrews 9:7]. It symbolized the separation of men and women. Only males entered into that priesthood [Galatians 3:28, Hebrews 5:1]. It symbolized the separation between Jew and Gentile [Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14]. It symbolized the separation between sacred and secular, and God tore it apart [Ephesians 2:15]!
And instead of a sign, “No entry,” God put a sign, “Everyone welcome.” Any believer now has access to God Himself; anyone. And there’s no need for the Aaronic priesthood or the Levitical sacrifices. God’s presence has been opened to view, and any man can come for himself—the priesthood of every believer—and talk to God and enter into the presence of the Lord and fellowship with God for himself. There’s no veil; there’s no curtain in between [Matthew 27:50-51].
A like thing happened when in 70 AD, Titus and his Roman legions destroyed the temple completely. They not only destroyed that temple, but they destroyed the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood.
Jesus is a layman; He didn’t come from the tribe of Levi. He was no Levitical priest. He did not come from the house of Aaron; He was no Aaronic priest. He came from the tribe of Judah; He was a layman. And in that temple we have a parable in stone, theology in architecture. It was the Jewish approach, the Old Covenant, the Old Testament approach to God. And it had in it these inequities and inaccessibilities that are dramatically apparent. In the temple, in the sanctuary, there were the priests, and beyond and separated by stone walls were the people.
The first was the Court of the Gentiles; they could go thus far and no farther. Archaeologists have discovered the stone, the big stone in the wall of the Court of the Gentiles saying, “Any Gentile who goes beyond this wall does so upon the pain of death,” separated the Gentiles; thus far and no farther. Then beyond that wall, was the Court of the Women, and they could go thus far and no farther; they met a wall. Then beyond that was the Court of the Israelites, for the Jewish male; he could go so far and no farther, he met a stone wall. Then beyond that was the Court of the Priests, and the priest could go into the Holy Place, but thus far and no farther.
One of the most magnificent passages in the Word of God is found in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians. The apostle is speaking of us Gentiles. We’re the uncircumcision, we were outside:
We were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. We were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now, Christ Jesus has made us nigh.
He is our peace, who has made us one with God, and has broken down the middle wall of partition that separated us from God.
Jesus took it away.
All of those walls, stone walls that separated us from God, Jesus tore them down; Jesus broke them up. And whether you are a Gentile, or whether you are a woman, or whether you are an Israelite, no matter who you are, you have direct access to God for yourself. “Come, come,” says God, “and welcome.” What a glorious gospel!
Not only that, not only that, but in this same marvelous book of the apostle to the church at Ephesus, he says here in chapter 4, he says that we are called in a vocation to serve our Lord. All of us, we are called in a vocation [Ephesians 4:1]. That’s an interesting word. In the Greek, we are called by a calling. When the translators did it, they picked up the first calling and made a Latin word out of it, “vocation.” In Latin, that’s vocatio. We have a vocatio in our calling before the Lord. All of us, we have a vocatio; we have a calling, all of us into the ministries of our Savior.
In that same chapter, he goes on to speak of those who are pastors and teachers: their assignment is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The preacher, the pastor is a presiding elder in the church, and his assignment is to help all of the ministers in the church to do their calling before the Lord [Ephesians 4:11-12].
He says that all of us are endowed with spiritual gifts—all of us, all of us; no one of us but that has a spiritual gift [Ephesians 4:7-8]. And the purpose of God in giving it to us is that we might minister before the Lord. We’re priests now; we are God’s servants to stand before Him and each one of us has a spiritual gift: to play, to sing, to witness, to testify, to teach. Oh, in a thousand faceted ministries does the Lord call all of us into His service.
I read of a church that published its bulletin, this bulletin, and in the bulletin it said, “Ministers: all the members of the congregation.” They’re the ministers; and underneath that was written, “The pastor: John Smith.” Isn’t that right? Our business is serving Jesus. We work at the bank or in an office just to pay expenses, but our vocatio or vocatio, our job, our assignment is serving Jesus. That’s why God saved us. And that’s the ministry into which the Lord called us.
We do not have a spectator religion; sitting in the balcony just watching, or assembled here in the sanctuary, just looking and listening. Our ministry is every day of our lives: down here in the altar, bringing people to the Lord, out there witnessing and testifying, and encouraging these whom we know to love and adore and serve and worship our Lord Jesus. And it is a natural way with us. It’s second nature to us. We’re not talking about some far-out offensive presentation of the gospel of Christ. We’re talking about something that comes just naturally.
This last week, a barber talked to me about a favorite television program. A former athlete talked to me about the sale of the prospective sale of the Cowboys. A drunk who had been an alcoholic talked to me about what Alcoholics Anonymous had done for him. A manager in a bookstore talked to me about volumes on the shelf in the store that pertain to the ministry of pastors. Not one of them talked down to me; they just talked to me. And they did it naturally, they were interested, and they thought I would be interested, and they took occasion to speak to me; and they spoke so naturally.
That’s the way we ought to be in our daily life wherever we walk before the Lord; to say something good about Jesus is such a privilege, or to say something sweet about our church and about the people of God, or what the Lord has done for us. If you were ever invited to give your testimony visiting in a home, don’t strive for some far-out thing, alien to the mind of God and to your own spirit. Just say, you know, there was a time when I confessed Jesus as my Savior. And there was a time when I was baptized. And then there have been times when the Lord has been so good to me in these days or years since; just loving God, just naturally. Just with an overflowing heart, “Oh, the Lord has been so good to me.” Like the song:
I feel like traveling on.
Until those mansions I can see.
I feel like traveling on.
God has been so good to me.
[“I Feel Like Traveling On”; James D. Vaughn]
That’s it; all of us witnessing ministers before the Lord.
May I speak in conclusion of our ministry in the marketplace? God has not separated us out of the world, He has placed us in it. That’s where we belong, that’s our vocatio; that’s our calling. That’s our vocation, where people are.
When I began my own ministry, preaching, you know where I preached? I preached in the streets. I preached at the poor farm. I preached in the jail. And I preached in schoolhouses. That’s where I began, out there. Not in here, out there. And I learned in my ministry that a courthouse corner is just as fine a place to preach the gospel as a cathedral conclave. Just as fine.
When I was graduated from the seminary, my first pastorate was in a county seat town of about fifteen to twenty thousand people, called Chickasha, in Grady County, Oklahoma. And when I went there to be pastor of the church, every Saturday I took my Bible and I went down to the courthouse lawn and stood there and opened my Bible and preached the gospel on that courthouse lawn. Every Saturday, I went down there and preached.
Upon a day in the years that followed, I was in Blanchard, Oklahoma. That’s a town about half way in between Chickasha and Oklahoma City. I was in Blanchard. And I stopped to eat a lunch in a restaurant there. And as I sat there, the owner and manager of the little restaurant came and sat down by me.
And she said to me, “You are the preacher that stood on the courthouse lawn and preached the gospel in Chickasha.” She said, “I was a barmaid, and I owned the little joint, the little beer joint right across the street.” And she said, “As I listened to you preach the gospel there on that courthouse lawn, I felt finally dirty, working and running this place, this beer joint.” She said, “I closed it up. I locked it up. And I walked away from it.” And she said, “I found this little place here in Blanchard, and now I run this restaurant. And there’s no liquor served, and it’s no beer joint. And upon that day, there across the street from the courthouse lawn, when I gave my heart to the Lord,” she said, “I’ve been happy ever since, ever since.”
The warden of the state penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma brought to Governor Robert Kerr, a wonderfully fine dedicated, gifted Baptist layman—the Kerr McGee Oil Company, that’s the Robert Kerr; the warden brought to Governor Kerr, then later Senator Kerr, that time Governor Robert Kerr—the warden of the penitentiary brought to Governor Kerr a model prisoner and asked him to pardon him. And the Governor looked at the record of the man. He was a murderer, he was a robber, he was a violent man and had been sentenced after he’d been captured and tried and condemned. He had been sentenced to a life term of imprisonment in the state penitentiary at McAlester. And the governor turned to the man and said, “I don’t understand. This warden avows to me you’re a model prisoner and asks me to pardon you and look at this record. Look at this record.”
And the man replied, “Your Honor, sir, that’s true. I was a murderer and a robber and a violent man. And when they caught me, and condemned me, and tried me, and sentenced me to life imprisonment in McAlester, Oklahoma,” he said, “on the way, the lawmen taking me to McAlester, on the way, they placed me for a while in the maximum security cell on top of the courthouse in Grady County, in Chickasha, Oklahoma up there on the top.” And he said, “While I was up there in that maximum security cell waiting to be transferred to the penitentiary in McAlester,” he said, “every Saturday, there was a young fellow down there on the courthouse lawn, preaching the gospel.” He said, “At first, I hated it and I tried to stop my ears, but he preached so loud, I couldn’t keep from hearing it.” And he said, “In those days, in those days, listening to the gospel that young man preached,” he said, “in those days, I asked God to forgive me. I got on my knees in that iron cell, and I gave my heart in faith to the blessed Lord Jesus, and I was saved. I was saved. And when the lawmen transferred me to the penitentiary in McAlester, I entered the penitentiary as a Christian, as a born-again Christian.” And he said, “Governor, I’ve been happy in the Lord ever since.”
The governor pardoned him, a model prisoner, a remade man, a born-again soul; preaching the gospel out on the street corner, preaching the gospel on the courthouse lawn, anywhere is a wonderful where and a good where to name the name of Christ; anywhere, anywhere. And for us to be ministers of the Word of God, anywhere we are, with any friend, with any companion, with anyone with whom we’re seated, O Lord, what an open door and what a sweet privilege!
And it may surprise you how hungry-hearted people are; hurting, needing help and encouragement. And Jesus is the great sympathizer and the great prayer partner, and the great yokefellow. He is our fellow pilgrim. God bless His name, both to us and to you who listen on radio and on television.
And may I, before we sing our hymn of appeal, may I speak to you who listen on television? Dear precious people, there is no decision you could ever make in life comparable to this one. “Lord Jesus, come into my house a welcome guest. Come into my home, a thousand times welcome. Come into my heart and life. Lord Jesus, I know that I am not equal for the exigencies of this life. I face death someday, and who will stand by me? I face an eternity someday, and who is going to save me? Lord Jesus, I bring my poor lost soul to You. You died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3]. You paid the penalty for my sins [2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8], and if I will accept You [Romans 10:9-10, 13], You promised You would write my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15], and You would keep me forever [John 10:27-28]. And Lord, I am accepting that word from You. You wouldn’t mislead me, You wouldn’t lie to me. You are my Friend. And I am believing You, Lord, for every word You said and every promise You made, and I am accepting You now as my Savior [Romans 10:8-13].”
Do it. It will be the most precious commitment and the greatest, most meaningful decision you will ever make in your life [Romans 10:8-13]. And when I meet you in heaven someday, you will say to me on those golden streets, “Pastor, do you remember the appeal you made that first day in May? Praise God, I accepted the Lord and I am a Christian; I am a follower of the Lamb; I’ve been washed in His blood [Revelation 1:5]; I’ve been saved and sanctified by His Spirit [1 Corinthians 6:11], and I am here because of Him and you.” Do it.
And the throng of people in this great sanctuary, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. God has spoken to my heart, and here I stand. I want to be a member of the church” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Welcome. “I want to accept the Lord as my Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]. Welcome. “I am answering a call of the Holy Spirit in my soul.” Welcome. As the Lord shall make the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
LIVING IN US
I. The purpose of God: to expose Christ
to the whole world
A. Crucifixion took
place not in a cathedral, but on a public road
1. Statue of
Christ placed outside
B. Pulling down the
curtain of separation (Matthew 27:50-51)
1. Torn from top
to bottom by hand of God
many types of separation
3. Any believer
now has access to God
C. Destruction of the
1. The temple a
parable in stone
2. Brought down
the walls of separation (Ephesians 2:12-14)
II. Our purpose and calling under God: to
make Him known
A. We are all called,
witnesses, ministers, priests (Ephesians 4:1)
2. Ministry every
day of our lives
B. Witnessing in the