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POISONOUS SNAKES - IN CHINA AND AMERICA!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, June 6, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us" (Numbers 21:7).


Carl Sandburg was Abraham Lincoln's most famous biographer. He wrote Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1954). I read a quotation from Carl Sandburg in the newspaper last Tuesday morning. Sandburg said,

If America forgets where she came from, if the people lose sight of what brought them along, if she listens to the deniers and mockers, then will begin the rot and dissolution (The Los Angeles Daily News, June 1, 2004, p. 4).

Carl Sandburg died in 1967. Since then, America has listened to "the deniers and mockers" - and we are rotting and dissolving as a nation - just as Lincoln's biographer predicted.

As I write this sermon, it is nearly twelve o'clock. In this midnight hour, I am weighed down with the thought that our beloved nation is rotting and dissolving before our very eyes. Abraham Lincoln, our greatest President, warned us of it. Lincoln said,

If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher; as a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide (quoted by Leonard Ravenhill in America is Too Young to Die, Bethany Fellowship, 1979, p. 30).

As Lincoln warned, we are not being destroyed by outside forces; we are destroying ourselves as a nation. We are right now in the process of committing national suicide.

Witness the fact that Americans care more for their dogs and cats than they do for their own children. They stick needles into the brains of their children, and boil them alive in salt water. Yet there is no outcry. Imagine the revolt that would convulse America if the "animal rights" people heard that doctors were piercing the brains of dogs, or boiling cats alive! We are committing national suicide by "choice." Lincoln predicted it, or something much the same, when he said that "if destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher."

As a result of self-imposed extermination, we are swiftly becoming a nation of elderly men and women - sitting mindlessly watching trash TV, or gambling away our Social Security checks at Indian-run "casinos." The future of America is bleak and frightening.

Young people like you are struck hard by this. Your homes are empty. Most parents are divorced. If you get upset by the loneliness, they hand you over to a doctor. They put you on Ritalin or some other mood-altering drug. Millions of American young people walk like zombies through our dark and dangerous streets - while liberal politicians promise to cure our ills by raising taxes and pouring more money into welfare and cheap prescription drugs, to keep our minds numb, as America rots and dissolves, to paraphrase Carl Sandburg.

Young person, are you ever lonely? Are you ever afraid? Do you ever wonder if there's any hope, or any future for you? I am here to tell you the truth. No - there is no hope for you - unless you turn fully to Jesus Christ - and unless you come fully into the membership and activities of a Bible-believing local church, and are there every time the door is open! Why be lonely? Come home - to church! Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

As America rots in a stew of moral and spiritual poison, the nation we once knew and loved is collapsing around us.

But something quite different is happening in Southeast Asia and China. While America turns away from Christ - the Asians of the Pacific Rim and the People's Republic of China, are turning rapidly to Christ - and are pouring into the churches there. It is estimated that 1,200 people are converted to Christ every hour in China, over 28,000 every day, nearly 10 million every year. China and Southeast Asia is becoming fervently Christian - at the same time America is sinking in sin, and moving toward ruin.

If you want to be saved from the judgment which is falling on America, you must do what the Asians are doing! Come home - to church! Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

Many American evangelical Christians are praying like the Hebrews did when they were bitten by fiery snakes. They say,

"Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us"
    (Numbers 21:7).

They pray for the Muslim terrorists to be taken away. They pray for the militant same-sex marriage people to be taken away. They pray for the liberal secularists to be taken away.

But notice that God did not answer their prayer in our text. They prayed "take away the serpents from us" (Numbers 21:7). God did not answer that prayer. The snakes remained there biting them. God did not remove them. The snakes represent the Devil and his demons. God did not remove these deadly serpents. He left them right there, biting and killing the people, who refused to look upon the serpent of brass.

In China and Southeast Asia, God has not removed the demonic serpents. They bite and kill people there even more than they do in America. But the Asian Christians are more spiritual than the Americans tend to be. That is why they do not pray for the persecution to end. Instead they look to Jesus, and are saved from this present evil world by the resurrected Christ!

Moses Lamb was arrested for preaching the gospel in China in 1958. He spent exactly twenty years in a Communist prison for preaching the gospel. Brother Lamb often attributes the seeds of the growth of Christianity in China to persecution. He says, "The more persecution, the more the church grows" (quoted in Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman, Regnery Publishing, 2003). You can order this book by writing to The Voice of the Martyrs, P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005, phone (918)337-8015.

The Christians in Asia welcome persecution. They are not afraid of the snakes, because they are looking to Jesus the Saviour! American Christians are often doing the opposite. They are praying for God to remove the snakes. These American Christians remind me of the carnal Hebrews who told Moses,

"Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us"
    (Numbers 21:7).

It seems to me that these America Christians have forgotten the words of Christ,

"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15).

That's what the Asian pastors are praying - and that is what every American pastor should be praying today - not that Christ would take us out of the problems and persecutions of the world, but that He would keep us "from the evil"!

Look at the second half of Numbers 21:7. The people said to Moses,

"Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people" (Numbers 21:7).

Look up, please. But God did not do what the people wanted. God did not take the serpents away. Instead, God gave them a remedy for the deadly snake bites. Look at verses eight and nine. Let us stand and read verses eight and nine aloud.

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived" (Numbers 21:8-9).

You may be seated.

The serpent of brass, which Moses lifted up, was a picture of Jesus, lifted up on the Cross, and then ascended to Heaven. Jesus said so. Please turn to John 3:14-15. Let us read these two verses aloud.

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).

So, the serpent of brass that Moses lifted up was a type of Christ - a picture of Christ, who was lifted up on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins - and then lifted up to Heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. The serpent of brass, and Christ lifted up, show us two great truths.

I. First, the brass serpent and the uplifted Christ
show that you are ruined by sin.

The people of Israel were bitten by snakes. The venom of those serpents poisoned their blood, caused them great pain, and finally killed them. You are in the same condition. You may not feel any pain, but I assure you that the deadly poison of sin is even now coursing through your body and soul.

One of the things God wants preachers to do is to show people the deadly state they are in, if they are still unconverted. The Bible says,

"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).

The evangelistic work of a pastor requires him to do just that, to show you your transgressions and sins - so that you will realize that it is poisonous venom, killing your soul.

First, look at your sins. Some of you have committed horrible sins. Those sins ought to come up before your mind right now. The very mention of the word "sins" should stab your conscience sharply - and bring to the front of your mind the terrible things you have done. If you tried to count your sins, you could never do it. If you tried to write them down, it would be impossible. You have sinned so long and so often that you could never buy enough paper, or enough pens, to write them all down. If you lived to be a hundred years old, and spent eight hours a day writing, you could never write down all the awful sins you have committed in the sight of God. Some of you brag that you have not sinned as much as other people. Never mind other people. You have sinned in your own way. The prophet Isaiah said,

"We have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).

You may not have taken drugs, but you have sinned in your "own way." You may not have smoked marijuana, but you have sinned in your "own way." You may not have had illicit sex, but you have sinned in your "own way." You may have been in church for many years, but you have committed the truly heinous sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit, trampling down the Blood of Christ, and pushing Jesus away instead of coming to Him. Your outward morality is only a mask that hides your heart, full of rebellion and sin.

Second, I must show you that you are condemned already. It does not mean that you will be condemned in the future. Oh, no! You are condemned for your sins right now.  Jesus said,

"He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18).

If you never committed another sin in your life, you are "condemned already" (John 3:18).

Third, I must point out that you are helpless to save yourself. You are as helplessly lost as those Hebrews who were snake-bitten. Once the snake bit, the poison was in the blood. It was too late for them to do anything to save themselves from doom. And so it is with you. You are completely powerless to do any good thing to save yourself. The Bible plainly says that we are saved

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done"
    (Titus 3:5).

And, fourthly, I must point out your unwillingness to be saved. Like men of old,

"Thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath…" (Romans 2:5).

Do you remember the time when you felt guilty? Do you remember when the Spirit of God pricked your conscience? And do you then remember how you put it out of your mind, and resisted the Spirit of God? Doesn't that show you your unwillingness? I believe that this shows that you are totally unable to feel miserable for sin on your own. And you are totally unable to find relief on your own!

Every single person in our church this morning, who is not converted, has been poisoned with the venom of sin. And you will die in your sins. And you will be punished for your sins - forever more, everlastingly. That is the sinner's ruin.

II. Second, the brass serpent and the uplifted Christ show
the remedy for your sin.

Homeopathic medicine has had some effect under the principle "similia similibus curentur" - "like should be cured by like." Thus, modified forms of the poisons of malignant diseases have been used to cure those diseases (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946, volume 11, p. 708). Inoculation is partly based on this theory - like should be cured by like.

It is debated whether or not this is true in medicine. But it is certainly true in salvation, "Like should be cured by like." When the Hebrews were bitten by fiery serpents, it was by looking on a brass serpent that they were cured. And so, Christ on the Cross cures the sin-poisoned condition of your soul, if you look to Him by faith.

First, Christ cures your sin. He cures it by becoming your sin-offering. Why else did Christ die the way He did?

"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).

Christ pants and groans and sweats Blood in Gethsemane. Why? Because the weight of your sin was placed on Him there. Christ is flogged half to death by the soldiers. Why?

"With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

Christ is nailed to the Cross. Why?

"He was wounded for our transgressions" (Isaiah 53:5).

What killed Christ? Your sin!

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…" (I Peter 3:18).

Second, Christ was condemned to cure your condemnation. The Bible says,

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13).

The curse of God for your sin fell on Christ, "being made a curse for us." The condemnation that should have been yours fell on the sinless Son of God. That is why the Bible says,

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…" (Romans 8:1).

If you "are in Christ Jesus" you are not condemned by God. Why? Because the condemnation of the curse of sin fell vicariously on Jesus. The only requirement for you to escape the condemnation of God is to be "in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Are you "in Christ Jesus"? How do you get "in" to him? The answer is simple. You get "in" to Christ by coming to Him. There is no other requirement. Jesus said,

"Come unto me" (Matthew 11:28).

Your condemnation is cured by Christ, lifted up on the Cross, when you come to Him through simple faith.

Third, your utter helplessness is cured by Christ. Your complete helplessness to save yourself by some human effort is cured by simply looking to Christ. When the Hebrews looked at the brass serpent they were healed. They were helplessly poisoned by the sting of sin until they looked at that serpent of brass. And so it is with your helplessness today. If you simply look to the risen Saviour by faith, all of your helplessness falls away - and you are saved through looking to Jesus. The preincarnate Christ said,

"Look unto me, and be ye saved" (Isaiah 45:22).

There is an old song that says, "There's light for a look at the Saviour, and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face…" ("Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" by Helen H. Lemmel, b. 1864).

That's what I'm asking you to do this very morning - turn your eyes upon Jesus… There's light for a look at the Saviour!

"Look unto me, and be ye saved" (Isaiah 45:22).

And then, the fourth thing, your unwillingness. Until now, you have been unwilling to come to Christ, unwilling to look to Him, unwilling to trust Him. But Christ is calling you to Himself. He says, "Sinner, will you trust me? I am the Son of God, but I am also a man. Look at the wounds in my hands and feet. See the gash the spear made in my side. See my clothing all drenched with Blood. I did all this to save you from the poisonous sting of sin. All I ask you to do is come to me and trust me. Will you do it? Will you trust me with your life and your salvation?"

Christ can overcome your depravity. Christ can forgive your sins. Christ can give strength to do this to the helpless. Christ can make you willing to trust Him.

Do not believe what the Devil tells you. The Devil says that Christ is not ready to forgive you and save you. But the Devil is a liar. Christ stands with open arms ready to save you if you will only look to Him in simple faith. Only believe in Him and He will help you to believe. Only look to Him and He Himself will open your eyes and make you able to look. What a happy morning this will be for you if you look to Jesus, and are saved. You will remember this day throughout eternity! You will say, "That was the day Jesus washed my sins away and saved my soul."

Turn in your song sheet to the last hymn. Have you found it? Let's stand and sing it out loud, with great gusto.

Turn O happy day that fixed my choice
      On Thee, my Saviour and my God!
Well might this glowing heart rejoice,
      And tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day,
      When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
      And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
      When Jesus washed my sins away.
("O Happy Day" by Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751).

Look to Jesus the Lamb of God, and He will save you, as He saved those Hebrews who looked upon the serpent of brass. Look to Jesus now and be saved for all time, and for all eternity. Sing the second stanza.

'Tis done - the great transaction's done;
      I am my Lord's and He is mine;
He drew me and I followed on,
      Rejoiced to own the call divine.
Happy day, happy day,
      When Jesus washed my sins away.
He taught me how to watch and pray,
      And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
      When Jesus washed my sins away.

If you would like to speak with me in my office about looking to Christ for salvation, come and stand here in front of the pulpit, as we sing the chorus once more.

Happy day, happy day,
      When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
      And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
     When Jesus washed my sins away.
("O Happy Day" by Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Numbers 21:5-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Look and Live"

(by William A. Ogden, 1841-1897).

THE OUTLINE OF

POISONOUS SNAKES - IN CHINA AND AMERICA!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us" (Numbers 21:7).

(John 17:15; Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-15)

I.   The brass serpent and the uplifted Christ show that you
are ruined by sin, Isaiah 58:1; 53:6; John 3:18;
Titus 3:5; Romans 2:5.

II.  The brass serpent and the uplifted Christ show the remedy
for your sin, Isaiah 53:6, 5; I Peter 3:18; Galatians 3:13;
Romans 8:1; Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 45:22.

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