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MENTORS, NOT ADVERSARIES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, March 10, 2002


"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (I Corinthians 13:13).


The greatest thing our church can do at this time is to evangelize young people. Various polls tell us that ninety percent of all conversions happen before the age of thirty. Most of these conversions occur before the age of twenty-five. That fact alone should show any church that its main evangelistic emphasis should be directed to young people. They are by far the easiest to win, and they will not remain young people very long. In a few swiftly passing months and years they will be fully productive members of the church if we win them now. We are foolish indeed if we spend most of our energy on those who are older and harder to win.

Our church spends a great deal of energy bringing lost young people to church to hear the gospel and experience the love of Christian fellowship. I am convinced that we are on the right track in this emphasis on winning unchurched young people.

What is the draw? What is it that young people in the world need that our local church can offer them? I believe that there are two main things we can give them that they cannot find anywhere else:

1. First, good, solid, old-fashioned gospel preaching. They are looking for something to believe in, and we can give it to them from a red-hot pulpit that focuses on answering their life questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? They need answers to these questions that can be found only in old-fashioned Gospel preaching.

2. Second, they need friends, real Christian friends. The world is a dark, lonely and often frightening place for young high school and college age kids. Our church can provide them with a warm, loving environment, which they cannot find anywhere else in a cold, loveless, largely anonymous society. We say, "Why be lonely? Come home - to church." There is a great appeal to that message.

If we can get them to come into the church and experience real love, they will stay to hear the gospel preached, and some of them will be converted and go on to become tremendous Christians.

But we must be very careful here. If a young person comes into the church and finds the same backbiting, rumors, and "cliqueishness" that they experienced in the world, they will say to themselves, "This church is no different from what I have already experienced out there in the lost world. Why should I come back?"

The English word translated "charity" means "self-giving love." It is "agape" in Greek, and "charity" in our King James Bible. C. S. Lewis was right when he said that "charity" is the best word to describe the Greek word "agape." It is self-giving, self-sacrificing love, that true Christians are called on in the Bible to show to each other, and to the lost young people whom we are evangelizing through the preaching of the gospel. I want to point out four important things about "agape" in this sermon, taken from this passage of Scripture in I Corinthians.

I. First, agape (Christian love) is spoiled by schism.

The word "schism" here is the Greek translation of "schisma," which means "a rent, division, [it is] the contrary condition to that which God has designed for a local church in 'tempering the body together,' the members having the same care one for another" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Revell, 1966, p. 326).

Now look at I Corinthians 12:25,

"That there should be no schism [division, rent] in the body [the local church]; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (I Corinthians 12:25).

If a lost young person comes into our church and finds schism, or division, he or she will be disappointed. If "agape" is spoiled by division that young person will say, "There is nothing there for me." And they won't come back.

I went to a Baptist church from a very pagan background as a teenager. I was highly disappointed to find "cliques" of young people who shut me out of fellowship. I was highly offended to find that many of the young people preferred being with their church friends. They didn't want much to do with me. I was also offended that they spread rumors about each other, and said bad things behind the backs of other young people. I was deeply confused when I heard them say bad things about each other. I was especially confused when I heard them belittle the pastor, and not take the advice of the older Christians in the church seriously. There was division among the youth in that Baptist church, and without God's grace I might have left it forever and never gone back.

Instead of divisions among the young people in my church of long ago in Huntington Park, California, I wish I had experienced "that the members should have the same care one for another" (I Corinthians 12:15).

Agape, real Christian love and fellowship, is spoiled, and often destroyed by schism, division among the young people, and others, in a local church.

II. Second, agape, real Christian love and fellowship, is nurtured by
caring for each other.

That does not mean that you take a new person as your exclusive friend, and try to keep them all for yourself.

"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it" (I Corinthians 12:26).

Agape, real Christian love and fellowship, is nurtured and grows as we share the new person with each other, and not try to break them away from the other kids and keep them exclusively as " my friend."

Agape is also nurtured and grows when we do not spread rumors or talk behind the back of a new person.

New young people come out of a pagan background. They naturally do things we don't approve of as Christians. But what if a new person tells you they are planning to participate in some sinful event? What should you do? One of our young ladies heard that a new girl was planning to go with lost friends to a highly sinful event. Unwittingly, she immediately went to five other young people and told them all about it. This starts a rumor-mill which will get back to the girl in question and will offend her, instead of helping to lead her out of a sinful life-style. When the girl in our church heard that the new girl was planning to attend a sinful event, she should have come immediately to one of the deacons, or even better, she should have come directly to me, or phoned me about it right away, and asked me what to do. She should not have gone and spread the rumor to five other young people. This will only cause confusion and alienate the new people. Let the pastor, and the pastor alone (or possibly one of the deacons) know about it at once - and leave it there - not telling even one other person. Our girl should have cared enough for the new person to protect her from slander and backbiting. She should have made sure that the pastor alone was made aware of the situation so that the new girl would have the best possible care and guidance from someone who knew how to truly help her.

A "message to the pastor" slip is in every bulletin in our church, to give you easy access to the pastor in each service when problems like this arise with newer people. My phone number to my home office is printed on the back of every bulletin to make it easy for any young person to phone me and ask my advice when this type of problem arises - as it is bound to do - again and again, as we evangelize the lost.

III. Third, agape, real Christian love and fellowship, is nurtured
and grows by the young people honoring 
the gifted leaders in their church.

"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets [preachers], thirdly teachers…"

(I Corinthians 12:28).

God has put men and women in our church to lead the young people and others. Honor these godly leaders, deacons like Dr. Chan, women like Mrs. Hymers, Mrs. Salazar, Mrs. Cagan, deacons like Dr. Cagan, Mr. Griffith, and the pastor. Honor us by coming immediately if you learn that the young people are making a mistake or doing something foolish.

In the world young people rebel against those who are older - or they try to hide things from them. That is the natural state of an unconverted person. If asked a question, a young person in the world gives a partial answer or a slick non-answer. But in the local church, converted young people should seek the counsel and wisdom of God-given leaders. If you don't, everyone who visits will be blown away sooner or later. After all, why should they stay in the church if it is exactly the same as the world? They will think, "They told me it would be different in church, but it's not true. It's the same rats' nest of lies and spins as the world. Why should I stay here?"

How can we have agape without loving each other? How can we have real fellowship and real love without full trust and openness? How can our church be a substitute home for lonely kids unless our young people trust and honor and are open with the leaders?

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (I Corinthians 13:13).

IV. Fourth, agape is the more excellent way.

Notice chapter twelve, verse thirty-one:

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way" (I Corinthians 12:31).

What is the "more excellent way"? It is the way of agape, described in chapter thirteen. It is the way of fellowship and trust and Christian love.

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (I Corinthians 13:13).

Christian charity or agape is greater than faith. It is greater than hope. This shows that no lost person can have it. It cannot be counterfeited.

Application

1. Unconverted young people in our church will not be able to counterfeit agape. Therefore unconverted young people will not, indeed cannot, be helped by this sermon. The unconverted young people will continue "deceiving and being deceived." The unconverted young people will continue to rebel against their leaders. They will continue to spread rumors and backbites, instead of coming to the leaders. They will continue to form cliques. After all, what can an unconverted person do except act out of his own unconverted nature?

2. And the second thing I want to say to you tonight is the most important: converted young people should view the leaders in the church as mentors, not adversaries. The word "mentor" means "a faithful counsellor." "Adversary" means "an enemy, a person to be opposed."

In the world, older people are treated as adversaries, someone who is really an enemy, to be opposed, outsmarted, and tricked. And that is the way unconverted church kids treat church leaders. One young person said, "I know what I have to do to get by in the church." A person who does things to "get by" in the church is not like Mr. Griffith, or Dr. Chan, or Mrs. Olivacce. Why do these young people do things "to get by" in the church? Simply because they are not yet converted. They are not on our side. In their hearts, they are not on our side - so they do things to "get by."

But a converted young person is on our side. However, do not be tricked or fooled by those who are your age. They may well be unconverted church members. If they are not on the side of the leaders of the church, don't trust them. In this way, they may come to realize that conversion is real - and they may come to be awakened to their unconverted state. Then they will see that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for their sins, and rose from the dead to give them eternal life. Then they may be awakened to take the gospel seriously, so they will not be damned in eternity.

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).


(END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read Before the Sermon: I Corinthians 12:25-13:13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Help Somebody Today" by Carrie E. Breck (1855-1934)/
"Love Is the Theme" by Albert C. Fisher (1886-1946).

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




THE OUTLINE OF

MENTORS, NOT ADVERSARIES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (I Corinthians 13:13).

I.   Agape (Christian love) is spoiled by schism, I Corinthians 12:25.

II.  Agape is nurtured by caring for each other, I Corinthians 12:26.

III. Agape is nurtured and grows by the young people
honoring the gifted leaders in their church,
I Corinthians 12:28.

IV. Agape is the more excellent way, I Corinthians 12:31;
John 3:36.