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THE "IN AND OUT" OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, February 23, 2003


"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).


You have undoubtedly heard the song on that commercial, "In and out, in and out, that's what a hamburger's all about." The term "in and out" refers to going "in" to get the hamburger, and then coming "out" with it. Something similar to this happens spiritually when you are converted. You go "in" to a period (long or short) of deep inner turmoil, and you come "out" to Jesus Christ.

"In" - to a deeply troubled and fearful state. "Out" - to Jesus Christ. That is the "in and out" of real conversion. You can see it clearly stated in our text:

1. "In"

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow."

2. "Out"

"Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul."

The main reason there are so many false conversions today is that people try to come "out" to Christ before they have gone "in" to a state of awakening, brokenness and inner turmoil. A good dose of the Puritan preacher Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) would cure this malady (cf. Thomas Hooker, The Soul's Preparation for Christ, and The Soul's Humiliation, International Outreach, phone (515)292-9594 to order).

Now, you may ask why it is necessary to go "in" to brokenness and inner turmoil before you come "out" to Christ. That's a good question, and I will answer it tonight. Here are the two answers.

I. First, your soul is naturally settled in sinful security.

Your soul is settled in a sinful pattern. The habits of life are so engrained in you that you sleep in sinful security.

"Because they have no changes [they never change] therefore they fear not God" (Psalm 55:19).

They were "too set in their ways and too secure to pay attention to God" (MacArthur Study Bible, note on Psalm 55:19).

Moab is given as a picture of the human soul - settled deeply into a sinful pattern:

"Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees" (Jeremiah 48:11).

"Lees" are the thick sediment of dregs at the bottom of a keg of wine. These people were settled down into the thickness of their sinful nature. It's a picture of a human being. Your soul is settled into a sinful pattern. You are stuck in the muck at the bottom of the keg. You are caught in the thick, sucking quicksand. You will not escape, because you are settled into a sinful security.

You are like a frog who is placed into a kettle of cold water. The kettle is then put over the flame, on the stove. The water heats very slowly, and the frog doesn't even feel it, because, being a cold-blooded amphibian, its blood warms with the water. It gets slowly warmer and warmer - until it is boiled alive! That is what will happen to you - unless God awakens you and shows you clearly and sharply that you are in great danger.

You are "naturally" without this sense of danger. Human nature is "dead" (Ephesians 2:1, 5). You are born in this way, and are still this way - "dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5).

It is only when God awakens you that you will see your danger. It is only when God begins to work within you that you will see that you have settled into a state of false security. It is only when God gives you light that you will see that you are in darkness. When God penetrates your heart you will think strange thoughts and things you heard many times in sermons will then begin to trouble you for the first time in your life.

Jonathan Edwards tells of an elderly woman in his congregation who had heard many sermons, but she had gone on for years without the sermons having any effect on her. Then God began to work in her heart.

Reading in the New Testament concerning Christ's suffering for sinners, she seemed astonished at what she read, as what was real and very wonderful, but quite new to her. At first…she wondered within herself, that she had never heard of it before; but then immediately [remembered] she had often heard of it, and read it, but never till now saw it as real (Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1992, p. 116).

This woman became so strongly affected that her friends "thought she was dying" (ibid.). This was typical of awakenings during the First Great Awakening. And this is the kind of thing that must happen to you. If it doesn't happen to you, you will continue like you are, in a state of false security - until you die, and are at last awakened - in the flames of Hell.

II. Second, your soul must become aware that it is in danger before you will see the value of Christ.

God usually causes lost people to see that they have false security before they are converted. God usually makes people see their emptiness and need of forgiveness before they will come to Christ for forgiveness. Such convicting thoughts don't qualify you for forgiveness. Oh, no! Instead, such thoughts make you aware that you need Christ.

This is shown to us in the account of the Prodigal Son:

"And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain [would gladly] have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry" (Luke 15:11-24).

This wonderful account tells us a great deal about becoming aware that you are in danger, before you will see the value of coming to Christ for conversion.

The younger boy was rebellious. He wanted his inheritance right now - so he could go and live his life the way he wanted to live it. It's a picture of a young person wanting to leave God and the church because he wanted to live a sinful life on his own. He asked his father for his inheritance now. The father gave it to him and he left home and travelled far away. His older brother said that he used up all the money "living with harlots" (Luke 15:30). He wasted the whole fortune by living a wild life.

Now he was out of money, and his so-called friends left him. He had nowhere to turn, so he went to work for "a citizen of that country." Many commentators say that his new boss was a picture of Satan. Satan had promised him everything, but when he was ruined financially and spiritually, Satan gave him a very low job tending pigs. That was the lowest job an Orthodox Jewish boy could imagine having, because the Jews were not allowed to have pigs, or to eat them, because of their kosher diet. But Satan put him in an even worse position. He was starving, so he was ready to eat the pigs' food out of a slop trough. He had no "friends" anymore, and no one would help him.

This is a picture of what will happen to you if you leave out God and go on like you are. Satan promises you good times, but he gives you a ruined life.

But then the Bible says, "He came to himself" (Luke 15:17). He experienced a spiritual awakening. He saw for the first time that he was sinful, and said, "I perish" (Luke 15:17). This is a picture of awakening. You were naturally settled in sinful security. But God puts you in a place where you see your danger, when you see your sin, when you see the damnation of Hell about to destroy you. It is only then that you will value Christ - for the first time in your life. Only by being humbled and humiliated, and in great grief and pain - only then will you turn back to Christ. The soul must be made aware of its dire danger and horrible condition, before you will see how valuable Christ is. I cannot think of a clearer illustration of this in the Bible. You go "in" to awakening to your sin, you come "out" to Jesus Christ. It is the "in" and "out" of conversion.

This takes us back to our original text. Please turn to it in Psalm 116:3-4,

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).

So, I say again, God must make you see how miserable and terrible, and dangerous your position is before you will sense the greatness of salvation in Christ.

God puts you "in" a place of torment in your soul, so that you will desire Christ more than anything else. When your soul torments you enough, you will "violently" seek Christ, as the Prodigal Son violently tried to get back to his father.

When you are jolted out of your sinful security and made to see your horrible and dangerous condition of sin, then you will violently attempt to find Jesus and enter the Kingdom of Heaven:

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12).

"Since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

When you're sleeping, your falsely secure soul is awakened to its danger and then you will rise up and fight to enter the Kingdom. Only then will you press, and push, and shove your way to enter the strait gate - Jesus Christ.

Application

Hell is beneath you, ready to open its mouth and receive you into everlasting flames. But you are asleep. What can you do to awaken yourself to your danger? If you continue to sit and wait in church services like this you will never escape the punishment that you deserve. What can you do to arouse yourself so that you will violently seek after Christ until you find Him?

1. You can think about the sermons when you go home. You can look the sermons, like this one, up on the Internet, or buy the tape, or the printed copy, and go over and over the sermons until they seek deeply into your heart and affect you in a great and terrible way - the way that leads to life.

2. You can pray for yourself, that God will awaken you from the sleeping state you are in right now.

3. You can listen to the pastor and deacon as they speak to you about your soul - and do exactly what they say - and think about it afterwards.

4. You can listen very carefully during the preaching of the sermons - and take the words as though they were given to you - you alone. Your very life depends on listening to the sermons.

5. You can examine yourself and see what wicked ways there are in you. And you can think hard and long about your sins.

The house is on fire, and you are asleep! You must awaken quickly and get out of the burning house! Get out! Get out! The roof is about to cave in! Run for your life! Do not look behind you! Search for Christ. Only He can save you from the flames!

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 15:11-20.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Ye Must Be Born Again" (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE "IN AND OUT" OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).

I.   Your soul is naturally settled in sinful security, Psalm 55:19;
Jeremiah 48:11; Ephesians 2:1, 5.

II.  Your soul must become aware that it is in danger before
you will see the value of Christ, Luke 15:11-24, 30;
Matthew 11:12; Luke 16:16.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."