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RESOLVING THE CONFLICT OF THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, May 7, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).


On the one hand it is a great privilege to be born and raised in a local church like this. You know the Bible. You know how to pray. You have a structured way of life that puts you far ahead of others in your school, who have been raised in chaotic home situations. Those raised in a local church find it much easier to concentrate on their studies and make good grades because of the disciplined lives they have learned in a Christian home and in their church. That is why people from a Christian background very often are so successful in life. All of Jonathan Edwards' children were great successes. Many of his descendants became attorneys, judges, ministers and medical doctors. In our own day, Rupert Murdoch has become one of the richest and most successful men in the world. He was raised in a Protestant minister's home. Though he does not appear to be a saved man, he is very successful, and I am sure that he would tell you that his abilities and fortune are largely a result of his strict Christian upbringing.

But there are also disadvantages when you are raised in the church. One of them is that you see a great deal of hypocrisy and falseness among those who profess to be Christians. And that cannot help but stamp your character with a certain kind of incredulity which is difficult to overcome. You also have a greater understanding of theology, which, on the one hand lets you know that salvation is monergistic, completely a work of God - but on the other hand, that the Scriptures quite plainly tell you that you must make a choice to become a Christian. To many thinking young people, raised in the church, this appears to be a paradox, or, perhaps even a contradiction.

Now, how is a young person, raised in the church, to overcome these prejudices, which come naturally out of the background and environment in which he was raised?

Well, I would say, first, that he must make a conscious effort to focus his mind on the good, rather than the evil, which he has been made aware of in his church experiences of a lifetime. I say that he must make a conscious effort to see that, yes there were false believers - but, at the same time, there were real conversions. And he must consciously avoid dwelling on what was false, and focus his attention on the rather remarkable conversions that he has seen and witnessed over the years. This may take some mental effort - but it is well worth doing, because it will give him hope that the same miraculous change that he has seen many times might possibly happen to him. He may be filled with doubts that it is possible for such a change to take place in his own life - but he will be forced by logic to at least admit that there is a possibility that he, too, may experience such a change.

And then I would say, secondly, that he must exercise his thinking theologically. He must work out in his own mind the seeming paradox between salvation by the grace of God alone, and the act of man's choice. This theological puzzle is a greater stumblingblock for those who have been raised in the church than for newer people. How do we reconcile, for instance,

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…" (John 6:44)

with such verses as,

"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely"?
    (Revelation 22:17).

The answer to that seeming paradox is dealt with in our text,

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

That verse will answer the seeming contradiction if a man is at all disposed to have it answered. God works in you to decide to trust Christ. God frees the will to choose Christ.

"Well," you may say, "I would like to trust Christ, but I'm not sure I want to." Now, I would like you to be very thoughtful concerning what I am going to say next. I am not playing word-games with you. I would never do that. I am trying my best to appeal to your sense of logic. I have some knowledge of English. Surely you will grant that this is true. Well, if you grant that I know something about English, will you then receive what I am going to say next? In my understanding of the English language, at least as it is used commonly today, there is very little difference between "liking" to do something and "wanting" to do it. Things that people would "like" to do are the same, in the common vernacular, as things they "want" to do. Will you grant me that? Isn't that what people mean in common speech? At least most people take it that way. So, when you say you would "like" to trust Christ, I think that this means, somewhere inside you, that you really do "want" to trust Him - at least at some level of consciousness.

Now where did that "liking" come from? It certainly did not come from your dead spiritual nature, for

"The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7).

The only possible Scriptural and logical answer is, when you say, "I would like to be a Christian," that this thought did not come from yourself at all. "I would like to be a Christian" - why, that thought would never enter any totally depraved mind unless it was placed there by God Himself,

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

"But," you may object, "I am not under sufficient conviction." No? It seems to me that you are under a great deal of conviction, torn between unbelief and a desire to be at one with Christ, and "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). Don't you sometimes feel like you are not accepted anywhere? Isn't it true that you are not fully accepted at school because of your Christian standards, learned in the church? Isn't it also true that you don't feel accepted in the church because you are not a Christian? Doesn't that, at least sometimes, trouble you? And if it does, what is that but conviction, conviction that you are a sinner, who has no place to stand and no comfort in this world? This seems to me to be rather heavy conviction. That's what we mean by conviction. And I think that logically you would want to do something to end this conflict and find peace in your heart about it - as well as peace with God.

It seems to me that God has placed you in this uncomfortable position out of love for your soul. Most people never feel as torn inside as you do. And it is God who has made you feel uncomfortable about the fact that you don't completely feel at home either in the church or in the world. Be wise enough to see the hand of God in this,

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

And, having put you in this unpleasant position, God offers you a way out - and that is a very simple way, one that you have heard many times. Decide very definitely to come to Jesus. For, remember, Jesus gave a wonderful promise,

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

You may come haltingly, with very little faith, but come to Jesus anyway - and He will not cast you out. He will receive you. That little step, so seemingly unimportant to a world of scoffers, will be the step that turns your life completely around. True, the world will still reject you for your morality, but at least you will be "accepted in the beloved," and embraced as a Christian in the local church. What a wonderful joy that would bring to your heart.

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Will you come to Christ? I seem to remember a line of poetry that said,

I do not know if I can come,
     But I'm resolved to try;
For this I know and know full well,
      That if I don't I'll die.

Don't you agree that this is true? Well, then, if it is true, why not do it? Why not at least try to come to Christ?


(END OF SERMON)
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THE OUTLINE OF

RESOLVING THE CONFLICT OF THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

(John 6:44; Revelation 22:17; Romans 8:7;
Ephesians 1:6; John 6:37)