ENROLLING IN THE SCHOOL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-27-90 7:30 p.m.
A baccalaureate sermon in keeping with the graduating class of our First Baptist Academy High School; the topic, the sermon subject is, Enrolling In, Attending the School of Jesus. And the text background is found in the last verses of the eleventh chapter of the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus says, “Come unto Me . . . Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me” [Matthew 11:28-29]. That is an old Talmudic rabbinical saying, which means, enroll in my school and sit at my feet. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me”; thus the title Attending, Enrolling in the School of the Lord Jesus.
All of life is a matter of learning and particularly and especially so when we are young. I listened to a learned teacher in a university, and a sentence that he said has stayed in my mind through the years. He said, speaking of heredity and environment, he said, “I’m not saying that environment is everything. But I am saying that whether a youngster becomes a goose-stepping Nazi, or an atheistic communist, or a Roman Catholic, or a Baptist depends upon his training, his teacher.” And that is God’s truth from heaven. We are what we have been taught and in what we have been trained. And from the beginning of our life as a human being, until we are called home to be with the Lord, we are in the school of Jesus. We are being taught by the providences of life.
I saw that especially, and particularly, the need of teaching and training, I saw it in the life of our boy Cris, who from the beginning of our academy until he was graduated, as you are tonight, was a student in our First Baptist School. As a little bitty guy, starting when he was a small tot, as a little bitty guy, he came running into me one day and said, “Oh Granddaddy, oh Granddaddy, oh Granddaddy, there’s a rabbit in our yard. There’s a rabbit in our yard!” Man, we live, the parsonage is right down in the middle of the city. And that there could be a rabbit in our yard was an amazing development to me. So I went out with him to see the rabbit that is in our yard. And there lying in the grass was the biggest rat you ever saw in all your born days. Somebody evidently had almost decimated it with a hoe, and it had crawled into our yard to die. Well, that was the beginning of his education to teach him the difference between a rabbit and a rat. You have to start somewhere, so we started.
Then as the days passed and he grew up and was a student here as a little fellow in our academy; why, he came to me one day and he said, “Granddaddy, I have learned what girls are for.” Oh, brother, oh, dear! How interesting. How fascinating. So I sat down with little Cris and I said, “So you have learned what girls are for?” And with deep and fascinating interest, I said, “You tell me, what are girls for?”
And he says to me, “Girls are for to teach things to.” Well, they’re for to teach things to. Well, I said, “What do you mean teach things to?”
Oh, he says—and called her name, he says, “I’m teaching her how to play baseball. I’m teaching her how to use a mitt. I’m teaching her how to throw the ball. I’m teaching her how to catch a fly. I’m teaching her how to run the bases.” And I thought that’s the smartest little girl in this world. He doesn’t know it, but she’s just leading him right along.
Then, of course, you grow older and finally you come to the day of your graduation from college. And this young fellow, being graduated from the university, walked out and looked abroad and said, “World here I come with my AB.” And the world replied, “Sit down, son, and I’ll teach you the rest of the alphabet.” That’s life. Life is a matter of teaching and training. And it goes on as long as you live. That’s no different from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. This is what we are told in the Bible. In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Proverbs: “Train up, teach a child, in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” [Proverbs 22:6].
That’s the substance of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20: “Go ye therefore, and matheteusate all people, all nations, baptizing them”— all the verbs in that Great Commission are participles except one. And that’s the imperative that I’ve just named, matheteusate, teaching. Our great assignment in the kingdom of God is to teach the mind of the Lord that is in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 2:16]. And thus it is in the revelation of the mind of Christ, our Savior, in John 17: “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent” [John 17:3].
And in the book out of which you read tonight in 2 Timothy, in the second chapter, Paul said to his young son in the ministry: “The things you have learned of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2]. And Timothy in that same chapter, 2 Timothy 2:15, is the byword and the household word of the teaching ministry of our church: “Study to show thyself approved unto God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Study. And that is the great commitment of the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no great old university but was founded by the church, to teach the preacher, and the staff member, the missionary in the kingdom of God. There’s no exception to that. Every great university in this world was founded in the Christian church in order to teach the mind of God in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 2:16]. Whether you are talking about the great universities of Europe or the great universities of America; whether it is Harvard or Yale or Princeton or Columbia, all of them were founded by the church in order to teach the young preacher and the neophyte the things concerning the kingdom of our Lord.
Over here in Arkansas, there was a church that had a pastor. And he had been to the Holy Land. And he had been to the seminary. And he spoke in his sermons of Hebrew and Greek. And the people got tired of it and weary of it just doing that over and over again. So when he left, they put an advertisement in their local newspaper for a pastor. And he had to have three qualifications, according to the church. First, they wanted a preacher who hadn’t been to the Holy Land, so he didn’t go on about that. Second, they wanted a preacher who had never been to the seminary, and he didn’t carry on about that. And then, third, they wanted a preacher who didn’t know any Hebrew and who didn’t know any Greek.
Well, there came from the boondocks, there came a fellow and he appeared before the pulpit committee and he said to them, “I’m your man. I’m your man.” He said, “I’ve never been to the Holy Land. I ain’t even been out of the county. And he said, “I ain’t never been to the seminary. I haven’t even gotten out of the third grade. But I do have to confess to you, I know a little Hebrew and I know a little Greek. The little Hebrew I know runs the tailor shop, and the little Greek I know runs the restaurant.” The church has always been in the forefront of the teaching of the mind of God from heaven.
Now, the things that we learn at the feet of Jesus: “Come unto Me . . . Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me” [Matthew 11:28-29]. Sit at My feet and learn in My school. What would you learn seated at the feet of our Lord Jesus?
Number one: you will learn the meaning and the purpose of life and living. The scientist doesn’t tell you. A true scientist will say, “All I do is observe. I just look.” The philosopher can’t tell you. If he’s true, he’ll say, “All I do is surmise and philosophize.” The hedonist can’t answer. All the hedonist can say, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” And the materialist can’t tell you. All he knows is to say, “The world is just what you see all around you.”
You take your question to the Lord Jesus. “Lord, what is the meaning of life; the purpose of life?” Like Nicodemus, he came to the Lord and said, “Lord, we know You are a teacher come from God” [John 3:2]. And it’s like the apostle Peter: “Lord, if not to You, to whom shall we go?” [John 6:68]. He has the answers and there’s no providence or development in human experience to which Jesus does not address an infallible answer.
Number two: seated at the feet of our Lord, enrolling in the school of Jesus [Matthew 11:28-29], we have an answer for the sins, and the shortcomings, and the trespasses, and the weaknesses of our lives. There is one common denominator of all humanity, and it is this—we are fallen [Romans 3:23]. And what do we do? Well, with our sins, we can blame them on somebody else. That’s what they did in the garden of Eden. Adam said, “Eve, she did it.” And Eve says, “The serpent, he did it” [Genesis 3:12-13]. We can blame somebody else. We can try to hide them. The Lord looked at Adam and Eve and they sought to cover their fallen nature with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7], and the Lord said, “It won’t do; it won’t cover” [Genesis 3:21].
We can think that time will make us forget them. One of the most sorrowful and tragic of all the stories you read in the Bible is in the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis. Reuben is the eldest son of Jacob. And [Jacob] has his twelve sons around him and one of them is to receive the birthright. And it should have been Reuben, his eldest son. And the first one to whom Jacob addresses his word is to that eldest boy [Genesis 49:3], and he says to him: “You went up to your father’s bed” and with one of his concubines he lay with her [Genesis 49:4]. And that was years and years and years ago [Genesis 35:22]. And I would think that Reuben had thought it was covered, it was forgotten! And yet in the presence of the Lord God, in that awesome choice and day, it was as vivid as the day that Reuben committed it [Genesis 49:4].
What shall we do with our sins? And all of us are alike in our fallen natures [Romans 3:23]. What do we do with them? Well, of course, there are some who seek to wash them away in ordinances. There are others who seek to wash them away in tears. Do you remember the song we sing?
Could our tears forever flow?
Could our zeal no longer know?
These for sin could not atone.
Thou must save and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring.
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[adapted from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady]
It is Jesus who must wash our sins away. We take our poor, lost fallen souls to Him and ask our Lord to forgive us, to cleanse us. “If we confess our sins, He is able and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. Enrolling in the school of Jesus [Matthew 11:28-29].
A third thing: enrolling in His school, attending the teaching of our Lord, we learn the wonderful gifts, purposes that God has for us. And they are not of the world.
I don’t look at television as such, but I happen to be passing by, and looking at a television set there was an actor there. And the reason that it caught my attention is because people so many times will say to me, “You look like him.” So I sat down and watched it. It was a play in three acts, three dramatic presentations. And the first one was a whopper! He was at one end of a long table and she was at the other end of a long table. And it was in a palatial palace-like home. And they were being served by servants. They were eating dinner. And she was berating him for everything that you could imagine. She was skinning him alive! She was taking him—oh, to the cleaners. She was scalping him. She was burning him up there from one end of the table to the other. And as though that were not enough, in came his father-in-law, his wife’s father, and he began to berate and to pound on that young husband until it was unthinkable! That was the way that it opened.
And then in the evening, he got a long distance call from a sweetheart he had known in Maine. And she said to him, “You promised if I ever needed you, you’d come. I need you now, won’t you come.” And he says, “Yes.” And that’s the first scene.
Now, the second scene, he is up there in a village in Maine. And he is talking to this girl that he knew as a youth, his old sweetheart. And she says to him, “My boy,” raised in her home up there in a village, “my boy has fallen in love with a girl here in the village. And they’re planning to be married. And he’s planning to settle down and to live in this village. He has a job here and they are going to build their home here.”
She says to him, “But I want him to be like you! I want him to go to the big city, and I want him to gain fame and fortune and affluence and success! And I want you to persuade my boy to turn aside from this girl and to turn aside from this town and to turn aside from building [his] home here. And I want you to persuade my boy to be like you and go to the big city and be rich and successful and affluent.” That’s the second scene.
The third scene, he’s with that boy. And he’s talking to that boy. And he says to that son, “I know what your mother desires. She’s ambitious for you, and she wants you to go to the big city and to be rich and famous and successful.” Then he says, “But son, I’m telling you, marry the girl. Build your home here in this town.” And could I say it like a preacher? And be happy in the Lord.
Well, why would a thing like that be such a tender thing in my own heart and soul? Because I have come to the big city. And for the first time in my life, I became intimately conversant with wealth and fame and riches. And I can tell you this young people, that is the most disappointing of all the goals you could ever know in human life. There’s an emptiness, and there’s a dryness, and there’s a disappointment and a helplessness and a hopelessness before wealth and success that is indescribable.
I may be wrong. I’m not saying I am infallible, but I think the most miserable people in the word are rich people, successful people. Oh, how infinitely better to place your life in the hands of God, to build your home on the faith of Jesus Christ, and if that means affluence, use it for God. If it means fame or success, dedicate it to the Lord. But first make it plain to God, “Lord, I’m Your servant and in Your choice, I’ll live my life, build my home, do my work, and dedicate to Thee every issue of my days.”
I must close. Let me add one other. Seated at the feet of Jesus, enrolling in His school [Matthew 11:28-29], one of the most astonishing things you could ever see or learn is this. He says over and over again, and repeats it in John, chapters 14-17, He says over and over again, “My joy I give unto you” [John 14:27, 20:9, 20:21, 20:26]. Man, He is going to be crucified the next morning. “My joy, I give unto you” [John 14:27]. Facing martyrdom and death by crucifixion, He speaks of His joy!
You remember the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Hebrews? The preacher here said it is the book that just follows 2 Timothy. The twelfth chapter of that book: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and He sat down at the right hand of God” [Hebrews 12:2]. Can you imagine that? Joy, gladness, facing death, crucifixion! When you read in church history of the burning at the stake of the martyrs of Christ, so many of them were singing songs of glory and triumph as they faced the burning death. Can you believe that?
When Paul wrote in Philippians, chapter 4: “Rejoice in the Lord: and again I say, Rejoice” [Philippians 4:4], where did he write this letter? He wrote it in a prison in Rome [Philippians 1:13, 4:22]. And yet he says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” And finally, in the Mamertine prison in Rome, his last letter to his son, Timothy:
I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only,
[2 Timothy 4:6-8]
“but also to that pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and not only to that pastor, but to that member of the graduating class of the academy in 1990; and not only to that graduating class, but to these who have served Me so faithfully and unto all of them that love His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:8].
I tell you, sweet young people; it’s a wonderful thing to sit at the feet of Jesus, and to learn of Him [Matthew 11:29]. Our joy and our gladness, our triumph and our victory, lies in His goodness, and in His grace, and in His mercy. Now, let’s pray for the moment.
Our Lord in heaven, there is so much that we learn from Thee; humble and sweet. I am meek and lowly in soul: and you shall find rest [Matthew 11:29]. O God that we might turn from our ways and follow Thy ways, that we might sit at Thy feet and learn of Thee, that there might be less and less of us and more and more of Thee until there is nothing of us and everything of Thee. Lord God in heaven, help us in the visions and goals of our lives. Not to have them worldly, success, and fame and fortune and money, but, Lord, may the goals of our lives be that we shall follow Christ [Luke 9:23]. We shall do His work and will. And we shall ask the Lord His blessings upon the labor of our hands. So bless, Lord, these young people, our great school, their homes from whence they come and every continuing day that unfolds before them. And our Lord, in Thy goodness and grace, give us somebody tonight, in Thy saving name, amen.
In this moment that we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you to answer God’s call in your life; or a one somebody you to give your soul in trust to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]; He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He came into this world to save us from our sins [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 10:5-14]. He was raised for our justification to see to it that we are in heaven someday [Romans 4:25]. And to accept our Lord in all of His grace [Ephesians 2:8], and mercy [Titus 3:5] is the sweetest privilege of life. On the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way and God bless you as you answer with your life [Romans 10:9-10], while we stand and while we sing.