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LOST CHURCH KIDS, CONDEMNED
BY THOSE THEY LEAD ASTRAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached in Malibu, California at the combined retreat of
Calvary Road Baptist Church and the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Tuesday Evening, August 24, 2004

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).


As I have said the last two nights, young peoples who have been in the church for a long time in an unsaved condition are the modern counterparts of the Pharisees in the time of Christ. You have learned a great deal about the Bible. You can recite Bible verses from memory. You say at least some sort of prayer every day. You are outwardly clean, compared to the rest of the world. But you have no life. Why? Because you will not admit to yourself that you are

“wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he brought death to the human race. But more than that, he brought spiritual ruin to all mankind, including you. You have an inherent, inward dislike for God, and the things of God. This is shown by your lack of prayer to God. You don’t have secret prayer with God alone, because your heart does not love God. You do not enjoy daily Bible reading. Many of you don’t read the Bible at all when you are alone. Others drag yourselves through the readings, but you don’t get anything out of it. How could you be more like the Pharisees? They, like, you, were outwardly religious, but there was no life in their religion. There was no life in their relationship to God. Isn’t that true of you? You have no life in your religion – because you do not have Jesus Christ. Jesus said,

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

Oh, if only you would come to Christ, He would give you not only the forgiveness of sins, He would also give you life – life in your prayers, life in your Bible reading, life in your fellowship with God.

But you refuse to come to Christ – and so you only have death. Death is in your prayers. Death is in your Bible readings. Death is in your fellowship with God. You are

“dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

And our text refers to your spiritual death.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

I. First, you are in a position of great woe.

Although you don’t admit it, you are in the same unhappy condition as the Pharisees. The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible tells us,

      In the New Testament, the Pharisees appear frequently in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and the history of the early church. In these passages [of Scripture] a number of the typical failings of the Pharisees are evident…
      Pharisees observed the Law carefully as far as [outward] appearances went, but their hearts were far from God…That is why Pharisees were often called hypocrites; their hearts did not match their outward appearance.
      The Pharisees thought they could match God’s standards by keeping all the outward rules…This can easily happen when people think God’s will is the same thing as their list of what they can and cannot do…Religious people need to remember that they, too, are sinners in God’s eyes… (Herbert Lockyer, Sr., editor, Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, pp. 830-831).

The Pharisees were a sect of the Jews. The word “Pharisee” means “separated one.” In Christ’s time the Pharisees’ influence was very strong among the Jews. They were a strict sect, who carefully tried to follow each detail of the Jewish law. They considered themselves righteous; but, in fact, in Christ’s time they were only outwardly righteous. Inwardly they were evil; they were hypocrites (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1996, p. 17).

Young people who are raised in the church, or who have been in the church for some time in an unsaved state, fall into the same errors as the Pharisees. You follow the rules of the church carefully as far as outward appearances go, but your hearts are far from God. You think you can please God by keeping the outward rules. You forget that you are as great sinners, in God’s eyes, as those who never come to church. You are only righteous outwardly. Inwardly you are evil. That is why Jesus said, “Woe unto you…Pharisees” (Matthew 23:13). “Woe” is an exclamation of misery and grief, like “Alas.” This shows that Jesus did not hate the Pharisees. No, He did not hate them. He was filled with grief and pain over their sad condition. He speaks sharply to them, not because He hates them, but because He is attempting to awaken them from dead religion. Look at verse thirty-seven,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

Christ wanted to gather the Pharisees under His wings, to save them, but most of them refused Him. Some of them, like Paul, and Nicodemus, who we read about in the third chapter of John, came to Christ. But most of them refused Him. And so, religious-but-lost church kids usually make this same mistake. They come to church out of habit. They pray and read their Bibles, out of habit. They listen to the sermons, out of habit. They go to evangelism, out of habit. Jesus quoted Isaiah to those Pharisees.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Is that true of you tonight? Do you come to church out of mere habit? Do you pray and read the Bible out of mere habit? Do you listen to the sermons out of mere habit? Do you go to evangelism out of mere habit? Do you draw near to God with your mouth, while your heart is really far from Him? Are you like the Pharisees, of whom Christ said, “Woe unto you…Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13)? If you are like them, listen to what Dr. Gill says concerning our text. Christ is

…denouncing a woe upon them in this world, and that which is to come, no less than eight times [in the 23rd chapter of Matthew]; expressing his abhorrence of their wickedness…and their certain destruction (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 270).

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire…” (Matthew 25:41).

II. Second, you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.

Look at our text again,

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men…”
      (Matthew 23:13).

Albert Barnes says that the Pharisees shut up the kingdom of heaven

…by opposing Jesus…thus preventing many from becoming his followers. Many were ready to embrace him as the Messiah, and were about [to enter] into the kingdom of heaven…but they prevented it…and thus had done all that they could to prevent the people from receiving Jesus (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, Matthew and Mark, p. 243).

Dr. McGee said,

[Christ] accuses them of blocking the way to heaven by their false leadership (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 120).

This certainly applies to those of you who have been in church for a long time in an unsaved condition. You, too, block “the way to Heaven” for new people by your “false leadership.” New people come to church and begin to be interested in the things of God, but your bad example blocks them from conversion.

How does this happen? Why, it happens quite naturally. When new people begin to come into the church, they see your lack of attention. They see your lack of zeal. They see your lack of prayer. They see your lack of seriousness. And they soon become just like you. They naturally model themselves after you.

They are not going to model themselves after Dr. Cagan, or Dr. Chan, or Mr. Griffith, or Dr. Waldrip. Some rare person may model themselves after these older men, but they are very rare. Most all the new people will imitate you, not these older men. You are their standard of what a young Christian should be. And, thus, your example dooms them. Alas! They become as you are! They become dead church kids! Oh, alas, alas! Horrible thought!

“Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men”
      (Matthew 23:13).

I know you like me. I can tell. Those who read this sermon “cold” on the website won’t know that. But you know it. And I know it. You church kids are my friends. You like me, and I like you. You want to help me, and you want to help the church. You are trying your best to bring people into the church. Many of you work hard at it. I see that. And so I appeal to you. If you don’t care about your own soul – shouldn’t you care about these new young people who are coming in? Most of them will not follow my example, or the example of the deacons or other leaders. They will follow your example. And if you are a lost Pharisee, that is what they will become. Oh! for the sake of the church – for the sake of God’s Kingdom – come to your senses! Recoil and shudder at the thought that you “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.”

III. Third, you will not enter in to Christ,
and you prevent those who are entering from going in.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

It was not because they weren’t doing a form of evangelism that Christ said this! Oh, no! They were very busy at “evangelism.” Stand and read verse fifteen, Matthew 23:15.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

You may be seated.

They were busy making gentile converts to their religion. Dr. McGee says,

Oh, they were great at going out and witnessing, but they were not bringing anyone to God. None of their converts were actually born again (ibid., pp. 120-121).

Alas! Woe! Horrible! You can go out again and again to evangelism. We can bring them in again and again. “But none of their converts were actually born again.” Our evangelism will fail unless you are converted. The weight is on you! The guilt is on you! The damnation of their souls is on you!

“for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

When someone does come in, “ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

Alas! Alas! Woe to you! As they sink down into the flames of Hell, they will point at you! Those you lead astray will condemn you!

“The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it” (Matthew 12:41).

As they sink down into Hell, those you have led astray will point their fingers at you. They will cry out,

“I came to church. I saw you there. You knew the hymns. You could find the place in the Bible quickly. You were dressed so nice. You were a Christian in my eyes. You were more of a Christian than I ever knew. I followed you. I copied you. I listened to you. And you ruined me! Now I must burn in Hell forever and ever. I condemn you! I condemn you! I condemn you!

(END OF SERMON)

THE OUTLINE OF

LOST CHURCH KIDS, CONDEMNED
BY THOSE THEY LEAD ASTRAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

(Revelation 3:17; John 5:40; Ephesians 2:1)

I.   You are in a position of great woe, Matthew 23:13a;
Matthew 23:37; 15:8; 25:41.

II.  You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men,
Matthew 23:13b.

III. You will not enter into Christ, and you prevent
those who are entering from going in,
Matthew 23:13c, 15; 12:41.

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