JESUS LIVING IN US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-1-88 8:15 a.m.
Once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour with us on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas congregation, and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is from the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, and the whole passage begins at verse 20 and concludes with verse 33. I will just read the beginning verse and the concluding verse. The beginning, "And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to the feast." Then the concluding verse, 32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
There were certain Greeks – hellenes, Greeks; not Hellenists, Greek-speaking Jews – these were pagans. They came out of a nation of idol worshipers. They had been drawn to the Jewish faith of Jehovah God because of its monotheism and its high ethical standards. But they were still Greeks; they were pagans. And when they came seeking the Lord Jesus, "Sir, we would see Jesus" [John 12:21], it precipitated in our Lord a reverberation in His deepest soul and He spoke that passage following, "Death lifted up" and the proclamation of the gospel of hope to the families, and races, and nations, and tongues, and languages of the world [John 12:32].
So it is the purpose of God that His Son, our Savior, be exposed to the whole world. He was not crucified in a cathedral between two golden candlesticks. But He was crucified in a place so public, it took three languages to declare the purpose of His execution. It is the programming of God that the whole world be introduced to God’s Son, our Savior.
I heard of a church that went into a vast renovation. On the inside of it was 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]. In the renovation they had take the statue of our Lord and put it outside on the sidewalk. And there were thousands and thousands of people who passed by and looked at it. On the inside of the sanctuary, a few people saw it. Out there on the street, thousands saw it. That’s the purpose of God for our Christ, that He be exposed to the whole world.
In the Gospel of [John], in the crucifixion of our Savior, when He cried, "It is finished" [John 19:30], the Bible, the Book, the Holy Scriptures say that when our Lord uttered that, "It is finished," that the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom [Mark 15:38]. That is, God did it. Had a man done it, it would have been rent from the bottom to the top. God did it. He seized it and tore it asunder from the top to the bottom. Josephus says that that curtain – that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies – that curtain was four inches thick. It was God that did it. That curtain symbolized separation. It stood there, separating the people from God. It stood there separating the laity from the clergy. Even the high priest from the priesthood, he was allowed to go beyond that curtain just once in a year. That curtain symbolized the separation of the Jew from the Gentile. It symbolized the separation of women from men, of male from female. It symbolized the separation of what is secular from what is sanctified.
And God took that curtain of separation and tore it asunder! The very sanctuary of the presence of God is open to view. Instead of that sign, "Proceed no further," is the sign now, "Everybody welcome." Anyone, everybody, any believer can approach God for himself. The high priest and those with him are now out of a job. They’re not needed.
That same symbolism is found in the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Titus destroyed the temple, and with it he destroyed the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood – no more. Jesus was a layman. He was no member of the Aaronic priesthood, much less of the tribe of Levi. He belonged to the tribe of Judah. He was no Aaronic priest. He was a layman. And the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was again full of God’s symbolism.
That temple was theology in architecture. It was a parable in stone. In the sanctuary, only the priest could enter. In the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest could enter once a year [Hebrews 9:7]. And the people were outside. They were outside in four different courtyards. The first one was the court of the Gentiles. They could proceed just so far and no further. These archeologists have discovered the big stone on which was engraved the sign, "Any Gentile going beyond this wall does so at the pain of death." Those four courtyards were separated by great stone walls. First, the court of the Gentiles; "Thus far and no further" – there was a wall.
Second was the court of the woman. They could proceed thus far and no further. They were separated out by a wall. The next court was the court of the Israelites. They could proceed thus far and no further. They were shut out by a wall. And the fourth one was the court of the priest. They could enter into the Holy Place but after that, no further.
And in the destruction of the temple, the apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ tore down those walls of partition. In Ephesians 2, verse 14, "He is our peace, who hath made us all one, and hath broken down the walls of partition that separated us" [Ephesians 2:14]. All of them gone: the priesthood gone, levitical sentence gone, the courts all gone, the partitions all gone. And God standing there in the incarnate form of Jesus Christ, walking in our midst, available, can see Him, can approach Him, can touch Him, God with us, blessed be His name forever. It’s a new priesthood; it’s a new sanctuary; it’s a new gospel; it’s a new revelation. "It’s God in Christ, reconciling the whole world unto Himself" [2 Corinthians 5:19]. Anybody can approach, anybody can come, anybody can worship, anybody can bow, anybody can pray, anybody can come into His presence and live. ‘Tis a remarkable gospel.
Not only that, but the apostle Paul in this same letter to the church at Ephesus writes that we are in a vocation wherein we are called, Ephesians 4:1. The Greek is, "We are to labor in a calling wherein we are called." The translators here used a Latin word, "vocation." Vocatio is a Latin word for "a calling." And all of us are in a vocatio, wherein we have been called; all of us. That’s a strange, strange doctrine.
And in that same chapter, he says that God hath set in the church pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry [Ephesians 4:11-12]. All of us are called. All of us belong to the priesthood. All of us are now in the sublime service of Jesus our Lord, all of us. And the pastor is just the presiding leader in the congregation of God’s ministers, helping, equipping the people for their ministries before the Lord. All of us priests, all of us in the sanctuary, all of us in the Holy of Holies, all of us with gifts, serving the Lord; all of us.
I heard of a church, and in their bulletin, they had, "The minister, colon: all of the members of the church." "The ministers: all of the members of the church," and then it had, "The pastor: John Smith." "The ministers: all of the members of the church."
Our business is serving God. Our method is witnessing. "My job is serving Jesus. I may work at the bank to pay expenses, but my job is serving the Lord." The Christian religion is not a spectator religion. We’re not sitting in the balcony or gathered in the sanctuary just to watch. We are called of God in a vocatio; we have an assignment from heaven, each one of us. And each one of us is given a spiritual gift by which we serve our glorious Lord.
‘Tis a beautiful thing, a heavenly thing that God has done for each one of us: called us in a vocatio, in a ministry before Him, and a beautifully normal thing, not something far out, but something just like only God could fit us for.
Let’s take this week. A barber talked to me about a favorite TV program; fine. A former athlete talked to me about the prospective sale of the Cowboy football team; fine. A former alcoholic talked to me about Alcoholic Anonymous and how he’d been helped and encouraged; wonderful. A bookstore manager talked to me about volumes on the shelves there that would help a pastor be a more wonderful leader, guiding his flock; wonderful. Not one of them talked down to me; not one of them. Just talking to me, talking to me about something in which they were interested. Talking to me because I was there; an opportunity to say something and talking to me in a very normal way.
That’s our assignment, as witnesses of the Lord. Not extraneous or far out; just normal. To say a wonderful word about Jesus is the most normal thing in the world, just speaking about our wonderful church, or what God has meant to me. If you were in a home and visiting, what you need to do would be a simple and normal and natural thing. "When were you converted?" "When did you make a confession of faith in the Lord?" "Amen." "When were you baptized?" "Bless His name." And what Jesus means to you along the pilgrim way; that’s God’s calling to all of us, witnessing in the marketplace, witnessing out there in the world.
When I began my own ministry, I wasn’t in a church house. I preached on the streets. I preached in the poor farm. I preached in the jails, and I preached in schoolhouses. That’s how I began. A courthouse corner is just a fine a place to preach the gospel as the cathedral conclave; just as good. In my first pastorate out of the seminary, in a county seat town in Chickasha, Oklahoma, every Saturday I took my Bible, and I went down to the courthouse lawn and stood there and preached the gospel, out of that Book; every Saturday.
In these after years, I was in Blanchard, Oklahoma – between Chickasha and Oklahoma City – and was seated there at a restaurant. And the woman that owned and ran the restaurant came and sat down by me. And she said, "I’m happy to see you after these years." She said, "I ran a beer joint across the street from the courthouse square in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and you preached the gospel there every Saturday, and I couldn’t but listen." And she said, "As I listened, I became convicted of the dirty, filthy job in which I was engaged. I was a barmaid in a beer joint." And she said to me, "I closed the thing; I closed it. And I had opportunity to find and buy this place here in Blanchard. And now I’m running this restaurant here in Blanchard and no beer and no liquor."
There was a model prisoner that was brought from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester to Governor Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, later Senator Robert Kerr of the Kerr McGee Oil Company, a magnificent, Christian, Baptist layman. And the warden of the state penitentiary brought that man from McAlester to Oklahoma City and set him there before Robert Kerr, the governor. And the warden said, "This is our finest model prisoner. And we’re asking you to pardon him." And Robert Kerr looked; the governor looked at the description of the criminal. He was a violent man. He’d been sentenced for murder; he’d been sentenced for robbery; he’d been sentenced for violence, and he’d been sentenced for life. And when Robert Kerr looked at why he was in the penitentiary, in a life sentence, and the warden saying, "He’s our finest model prisoner and we’re asking you to pardon him," Robert Kerr turned to the prisoner and said, "What happened to you? What happened?"
And the prisoner replied, "Your Honor, sir, I was caught. I was condemned, tried in the court and sentenced to a life term in the penitentiary. And as they took me to McAlister, they placed me in a prison cell of top security on the top of the courthouse in Grady County, in Chickasha. And up there on the top of that courthouse, in a prime security cell where I stayed several weeks before they took me on to McAlister," he said, "while I was up there every Saturday there was a young fellow down there preaching the gospel." And the prisoner said, "When I first heard him, I hated it! I tried to close my ears, but the preacher preached so loud, I couldn’t get him out of my cell or out of my heart or out of my head." And he said, "As he continued preaching the gospel, God convicted me. And I got down on my knees in that iron cell, and I confessed my sins, and I asked God to forgive me. And the Lord saved me; He came into my heart. And when I was transferred from that prime security cell in Grady County to the state penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, I entered as a child of God. I entered as a saved man, a born-again Christian." And the governor pardoned him.
That’s where the gospel is to be preached. Here, yes; in the gathering of God’s people for worship, yes; in the listening to the expounding of the Holy Scriptures, yes. But our ministries also are to be out there on the street corner, yonder in the marketplace, in the bank, in the real estate office, in the store, in the house. Anywhere is a wonderful-where and a good-where to tell the world what Jesus has done for us.
I have to close. I repeat, I’m not speaking of some far-out thing that is unnatural and not beautifully, heavenly, preciously done. I’m just saying it’s a sweet and a precious and a wonderful thing for all of us to feel the vocatio, the calling of God, to say something dear about our Savior, to invite to the house of the Lord, to speak a precious word of our own salvation – all of us, ministers; all of us, priests; all of us, in the presence of God; loving Him and loving one another. It’s a great thing, an incomparably precious thing to be a brother and a sister in the house of the family of God.
And that’s our invitation this morning, to come into the fellowship of God’s people, to give your heart publically to our dear Lord, to be numbered with the redeemed, to be happy in Him. Come. God bid you, come. Every time I stand in this pulpit and make an appeal, the Holy Spirit is with me. He is the One that knocks at the door of your heart, that presses the appeal to your soul. God is here, and the Lord is with us. "And pastor, this is God’s day and God’s hour and God’s time for me, and I’m on the way." In the balcony, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, here I am." Come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.