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HOW TO FIND THE TRUE RELIGION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, June 1, 2003


"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).


Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple at Jerusalem. The religious teachers were amazed at His knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, because He had not been to the rabbinical school and yet He knew more than they did. Jesus said that His teachings came directly to him from God. Then Christ gave them a test: If you are willing to do what God wants, you will know whether my teachings come from God.

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).

Do you want to know the truth about religion? There are many religions in the world. Do you want to know what the truth is? The key to understanding the truth is willingness to obey God. That's what Jesus meant.

Many people want to learn what the Bible says - and then they will decide whether or not to obey it. But this won't do you any good at all. We often hear people say, "I want to learn more" about the Bible or Christianity. But I have never yet seen a person like that become a real Christian. Why not? Because they have it backwards. They think, "First I will learn what the Bible says, and then I'll decide whether or not to become a real Christian." They never get anywhere. They are

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7).

All you will do is learn a set of facts, some theology, and some Bible verses. But you will never "come to the knowledge of the truth" that way!

The very first thing you must do is be willing to obey God. Christ is saying, "First agree to obey God and have faith in me, and then you will know that my teachings are true and come from God." Dr. J. C. Ryle says, "God tests [people's] sincerity by making obedience part of the process by which religious knowledge is obtained" (Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John, Banner of Truth reprint of the 1869 edition, volume 2, p. 23). "If you really have a desire to do God's will…you will be taught [by] Him, you will find out the truth. My [teaching] may be hid from the wise and prudent, but it is revealed to babes" (ibid.).

If you choose to do what God wants, you will know in your heart whether Jesus' teachings come from God. Let's make a list of three highly important things that Jesus taught. In each case, you will never know whether Jesus was right or not unless you are willing to obey God.

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).

I. First, concerning what Jesus said about coming to Him.

Jesus said,

"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

"Whoever comes to me, I will not drive away." Now that is a plain teaching of Christ. How do you know if it's true or not?

You say, "Well, first I have to know if it's true, and then I will decide whether or not to do it." You will never find out that way! You may learn many things about coming to Jesus. You may learn a lot about this subject. Some of you have already learned much about it. But you will never know if it's true or not until you are willing "to do his will." Willingness comes first. Knowledge comes second.

I say to you, "Will you come to Christ?" You say, "Not now." You will never find the truth out that way! You will be

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7).

You will "twist in the wind," but you won't find the truth. You won't know if Jesus was right or not. Obedience comes first - and then knowledge.

You see, God wants your heart, not your head.

"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness"
   (Romans 10:10).

"Give Me thy heart" says the Father above,
No gift so precious to Him as our love;
Softly He whispers, wherever thou art,
"Gratefully trust Me, and give Me thy heart."
"Give Me thy heart, give Me thy heart,"
Hear the soft whisper, wherever thou art:
From this dark world He would draw thee apart,
Speaking so tenderly, "Give Me thy heart."
   ("Give Me Thy Heart" by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920).

First you give God your heart. Then you will know that Jesus was right.

"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

Some of you are holding back. You want proof! You want a "feeling" or a "change." You'll never get saved that way!

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine…"
    (John 7:17).

and no one else! First you come to Jesus, and only then do you know that you came! That's what "trust" means!

Softly He whispers, wherever thou art,
"Gratefully trust Me, and give Me thy heart."

II. Second, concerning what Jesus said about those who refuse to come to Him.

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah,

"For this people's heart is waxed gross [has become dull], and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matthew 13:15).

That is another plain teaching of Christ. He said that you can hear the gospel and become dull and hardened - and God will give you up - if you go on rejecting Him. How do you know if that's true or not? How do you know whether God will give up on you or not? If you wait to see if it's true or not, you will become "dull of hearing" and be given up by God yourself!

You may learn many things about the danger of waiting too long to be saved. But if you just learn about the danger of waiting too long, you will soon become so dull that it will be too late for you! Don't wait to find out if it's true! Come to Christ now, out of an obedient heart, and then you will know that it is true!

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God…" (John 7:17).

The foolish virgins waited. They played games with God. They remained unsaved. Then "the door was shut" (Matthew 25:10). When God shuts the door, it's too late, even though you are still alive.

"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not" (Matthew 25:11-12).

What an awful thing if that were to happen to you - because you waited! What if the door was forever shut and you couldn't get saved? What if

"God gave [you] up" (Romans 1:24)?

Dr. John R. Rice said,

Then how sad, facing judgment, you'll recall with no mercy,
That you tarried and lingered till the Spirit was gone;
What reproaches and mourning, if when death finds you hopeless,
You have tarried and lingered, and have waited too long!
      ("If You Linger Too Long" by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

I once mentioned George W. Truett to Dr. W. A. Criswell, who succeeded Truett as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Truett was the first pastor. Criswell was the second pastor. When I mentioned Dr. Truett, Dr. Criswell smiled and said, "Do you remember him?" I said, "no." Dr. Truett died when I was only three years old, nearly sixty years ago. Dr. Criswell looked down and said, "There aren't very many people left who can remember him." He was one of the greatest preachers in America, but hardly anyone is alive who heard him preach. No one remembers his sermons. But curiously they remember that he preached on the unpardonable sin. In forty years as the pastor in Dallas, he must have preached over 5,000 sermons. But no one remembers them. They only remember two things about him, as a rule. They remember that he shot and killed his closest friend in a hunting accident. This tragedy broke him, and he told his wife that he could never preach again. But late on Saturday night Truett had a dream that was repeated three times - each time he went back to sleep. In the dream, Jesus appeared to him and said, "Have no fear. You are my man now." People noticed that he never preached quite the same again. There was a great seriousness in his preaching, that always brought a hushed silence over his vast audiences. All who heard him preach went away under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, whispering, "Truett is surely God's man." That's the first thing people usually remember about George W. Truett. After that accident, he was a very serious man. He seldom smiled. His piercing gray eyes seemed to look right through you. He didn't tell jokes. He gave very serious sermons.

The second thing people remember is that Truett preached a very powerful sermon from time to time on the unpardonable sin. He preached that sermon all over America in great evangelistic meetings, attended by thousands. I read it the other night, and I can see why this sermon, among the thousands Truett preached, is the one people remember. It made the goose flesh stand up on my arms as I read his great sermon on the unpardonable sin, "The Passing of Religious Opportunity":

I was preaching in a distant community some months ago, to a throng of thousands…and one man was seen to be greatly interested, and an earnest Christian standing near him went over to him, and ventured to whisper a word to him, while the last song was being sung. Men and women and children came down the aisle [at the invitation]. This Christian man said to the interested man, "You are interested and serious now; you should end all delay, and…surrender to Christ." [The lost man] said, "No, I will see that [preacher] tomorrow. I will talk with him tomorrow. I will not settle it tonight."

But when the morning came, in one sharp stroke, with a strange turning that often comes to human life, he was plunged into unconsciousness, and before noon went away into eternity.

Oh, rational, responsible human beings, I summon you, I charge you, I pray you, settle first things first, the one supreme thing, [while you are healthy], with your wits about you, calmly, quietly, thoughtfully, grandly, settle this supreme matter while you [can].

Men who resist God's call and counsel, sin presumptuously. When they are spoken with about…Christ, they answer, "I will risk it. I will wait. I will delay." And they loiter on until the little boat [of opportunity] takes the fateful plunge over the rapids, and opportunity is [lost] forever.

[Again], when men thus sin against light, they sin with the will…They delay. They sin against the will…Men hear Christ's call, and their judgments and consciences and moral natures say yes. But they go on and say, "Not yet. I will not have Christ reign over me yet"…and in that way light darkens, and convictions fade, and religious opportunity passes.

(I'm still quoting Dr. Truett). Still again, when men sin against God's clear call to repentance and faith, they sin against God's Spirit…The Holy Spirit calls and counsels and woos, and they feel it and know it, that God is striving with them. If [you] put the Holy Spirit away…just there is the peril of all perils. Oh, there is no [danger] like the [danger] of a human soul which…says, "I ought to [come to] Christ, but I will not now!" There is no [danger as] serious as that.

Years ago I was preaching on that solemn text, "Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit," and I was making the point that a man may so resist light and counsel from God, that…the conviction gets fainter and feebler, and at last he seems to have no conviction at all. [A man came to me and said] "Preacher man, you are describing my case…I had often been counseled…but I kept putting the matter off. I kept saying 'tomorrow.' And at least there came a powerful [sermon, and] my mind and conscience and heart and will were aroused beyond words, and I felt, 'This is the supreme crisis.' But I held out…and said in my [self] 'I will not [come to Christ] until it suits me. It does not suit me at all [right] now, and I will put it off.'" And then he looked at me sadly for a moment or two and said, "Preacher man, that day I went over the line. That day I passed the day of grace. That day my soul died."

I sought him out, and for two long hours I [gave him] the glorious invitations of Jesus to sinful men…He heard me through it all, and said, "Sir, I have crossed the line, and I know I have crossed it."

I cannot discuss the philosophy, the psychology, the deep meaning of this case. I do not know it (George W. Truett, "The Passing of Religious Opportunity," June 24, 1917, in A Quest for Souls, Schmul Publishers, 1981, pp. 366-370).

And then Dr. Truett said,

There is a line, unseen by men, but when you have crossed it you have built such a thick barrier that you will never let Jesus in (quoted by Paul Lee Tan, Th.D., Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, 1979, p. 267).

You will have committed the unpardonable sin! You will have crossed the line and it will be too late!

There's a line that is drawn by rejecting the Lord,
Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
Tho' you gained the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
Have you counted, Have you counted the cost?
      ("Have You Counted the Cost?" by A. J. Hodge, 1923).

There's someone here tonight who has been saying "no" to Jesus. Will this be the day you cross over the invisible line, and are given up forever by a Holy God? Is this the last day that God will ever tug at your heart? Is this the last day that God will call you to come to Jesus? It may be! It may be! Don't treat this lightly! You are in great danger! When God gives you up you will walk up and down the streets like a zombie - like a living-dead person. I've seen that happen time and again to young people. Don't let it happen to you! It will be too late for you to get saved then.

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).

Don't wait to see if the unpardonable sin will destroy you! Then it will be too late! Come and believe in Jesus first, then you will know that this dreadful doctrine is indeed a doctrine of God, and Christ was right to warn us about it.

III. Third, concerning what Jesus said about Hell.

Hell is an unpleasant subject. But it's like cancer - it's a real subject. Like cancer, it's real. You can really get cancer. And you can really go to Hell. The Bible has an awful lot to say about Hell. Twice it says, "Flee from the wrath to come" - run from it, like you would run from a rattlesnake. Run from it, like you would run from a ferocious wild dog. That's what the Bible says to do - twice on the pages of Scripture. In Matthew 3:7, the Bible says, "Flee from the wrath to come." In Luke 3:7, again the Bible says, "Flee from the wrath to come." What kind of a fool are you to play around in church when you are under the sentence of eternal wrath in Hell?

Jesus spoke on Hell often. He used graphic language to describe the horrors that damned souls will go through in that pit of flames. Jesus said,

"So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:40-42).

Jesus told about a man who went to Hell. He screamed at the top of his lungs, "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24).

Was Jesus right? Did He tell the truth about Hell? How can you know? The same way you can know anything else Jesus said,

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).

If you are willing to do what God wants you to do, God will show you that Jesus was right to warn you about that place where "the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44), where there is "fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43). If you give your heart to God, and are willing to obey Him, God will show you that Jesus was right about the eternal torment of Hell. It is very real - and very dangerous!

One young man told me last Sunday, "I used to be more afraid of Hell than I am now." Why is he less afraid now? It's because he has resisted God. He has rebelled in his heart against God. His heart has become dull. The Holy Spirit is beginning to leave him, and like Samson, he doesn't even realize it. Soon he will be left alone by God, as Samson was. Soon he will no longer be troubled by thoughts of Hell at all. If you are like him, I plead with you, "flee from the wrath to come," before the Holy Spirit removes the last vestiges of fear from your heart. Come to Christ while there is still a little fear of Hell within you, before the fire goes completely out and your soul is left in death.

Don't learn about the doctrine of Hell and then decide whether you will believe what Jesus said about it. Oh, no! Be willing to do God's will now. Give your heart to God now, and then He will show you that Jesus was right to warn you about the flames, the darkness, and the wailing groans and piercing screams of the damned souls in that place of awful torment.

Hell is the place where the dead go because of their sins. If your sins are not atoned for by the death of Christ, your sins will send you there. If your sins are not washed away in the Blood of Christ, your sins will send you there. You must do something about your sins!

Dr. Lloyd-Jones said:

Can you deal with your sins? You say that they are but few and these [are small] and unimportant. Very well! Can you get rid of them? Can you remove them? Do they leave you alone? Do you really feel that [your] record is clear? Are you quite happy? Have you [been able] to blot them out? Has the feeling of shame gone, has the feeling of condemnation left you? Do you honestly feel as if you had never sinned at all? Come, be wise and admit it…you cannot clear your record. You cannot satisfy God. All your actions and your best works can never atone for the injury you have done [God] by even one sin…You stand condemned by the Judge whatever you may say for yourself…Realize that it is madness for [a condemned sinner like you to judge God]. Cast yourself on [Christ] for mercy and accept [whatever He tells you]. Those who have been [saved] by Him are always those who…[come] to Him with a deep consciousness of their failure and their sense of need (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Evangelistic Sermons at Aberavon, Banner of Truth, 1990 reprint, p. 218).

Face [Jesus tonight] in the depth of your being, in your [sin], in your fear and in your secret shame. Listen to [Jesus] as He tells you that He has died for you, that He has reconciled you to God, that your past [sins] can be blotted out [by His Blood].

Whatever sins you have committed, Christ will pardon you, cleanse you, and save you. Don't say "no" again to Jesus. Come to Him. Throw yourself upon Him, and be saved from sin.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17).

I want to talk with you about that this evening in my office. I want you to leave your seat, and come and stand here in front of this pulpit while the rest of us sing a chorus. After you come, we will go to my office and discuss your need for Jesus. You come, while we sing.

Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
   ("Why Not Now?" by Daniel W. Whittle, 1840-1901).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 7:14-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Give Me Thy Heart" (by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920).

THE OUTLINE OF

HOW TO FIND THE TRUE RELIGION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).

(II Timothy 3:7)

I.   What Jesus said about coming to Him, John 6:37;
II Timothy 3:7.

II.  What Jesus said about those who refuse to come to Him,
Matthew 13:15; Matthew 25:10-12; Romans 1:24.

III. What Jesus said about Hell, Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7;
Matthew 13:40-42; Luke 16:24; Mark 9:44, 43;
John 3:17.

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