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WHAT ADVANTAGE IS THERE TO HAVE
SUCCESS WITHOUT SALVATION?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, May 14, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).


I mentioned last Saturday night that there are benefits to being raised in a Christian home, and in a church like this one. Those who are raised in a Christian environment usually find it much easier to concentrate on their studies and their occupations than those who are raised in the more chaotic situation of a non-Christian home.

Why is that so? Well, because truly Christian parents are much less likely to divorce. Isn't it true that you have had the rather unusual experience (in our culture) of being raised by parents who did not separate or divorce? And isn't it true that this one advantage, even if there were no others, puts you far ahead of your classmates in a secular school?

And then, I would say, that being raised in a Christian home and church puts you in an environment where study is expected and normal. How many young people your age have been raised in a home and church fellowship where study and reading are a normal part of everyday life? I think you will agree, that even in "high class" homes today, there is very little serious reading, and certainly such reading coupled with serious ongoing study of any consequence is hardly heard of. And yet, don't you agree, that in your home and church systematic and serious reading is commonplace? At the very least, those you are associated with read both the Old and the New Testament daily - and have frequent discussions about what they have read at the dinner table and on many other occasions. Isn't that a common thing in your family? And isn't it true that this has had a rather remarkable effect on your life? You have grown up thinking that it is perfectly right and normal to be reading serious literature, including the Bible, but also other literature. It is quite extraordinary for young people to read even the newspaper today. And yet I know that this is quite common in most Christian homes, and you probably have picked up the habit from your parents of at least reading something from the newspaper several times a week. And this interest in reading does give you a great advantage over non-Christians, whose parents never read anything and who spend countless hours mesmerized by the vast wasteland of television, with its hackneyed stories and superfluous, wasted distortions and mindless gabble.

So, these two benefits alone, a stable home where there is no divorce, and a penchant for reading, place you in a far better position to be a good student in a stable environment. I could mention many other advantages, but these two, I think, stand out. One young person in our church received a very high honor and a large monetary award for his academic skills a few days ago. Upon accepting this award he gave full credit to his Christian family and his church for giving him advantages that made him such a good student. And he is to be commended for giving credit to his parents and his church for molding him into the fine student that he is.

But in no sense does this mean that he will become a Christian. Educational abilities and workforce abilities may be the product of a good Christian home and church, but salvation has an entirely different source. We can see this in the lives of two famous men. For instance, Rupert Murdoch was raised in the home of a conservative Christian pastor. If you asked him, I am certain that he would tell you that his success in the business world had its source in his strict Christian upbringing. And yet Rupert Murdoch does not appear to be a saved man at all.

Another example is that of Abraham Lincoln. Though his father and mother were very poor, and had to work from dawn to dusk simply to sustain life, yet they did not divorce, and they took him to church on a very regular basis, and kept Sunday as a holy day. Moreover, they read the Bible daily by the side of the fireplace - and it was through their meager but serious reading of Christian books that Lincoln learned great passages of the Bible by memory, and read over and over the few books they owned, which, by the way, were great Christian classics for the most part. He read and re-read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Baxter's book on conversion, and several other books, which he pored over to such an extent that he memorized long passages from them. And this all had a great effect on Lincoln's later success. He was miles ahead of the children of non-Christians in his community, who had no such advantages of a stable home and an environment of serious study.

And yet, like Rupert Murdoch, the advantages of a Christian home did not produce within Lincoln a Christian conversion. These advantages molded him into a very successful attorney, and later, into a fine politician, but, like Murdoch, these advantages did not affect him on a deeper scale. He went on to become a skeptic, an unbeliever. And only when it was politically helpful did he begin attending church regularly. Success in life was the legacy of both Murdoch and Lincoln. But the salvation that comes from knowing Christ utterly escaped these two men for their entire adult lives, at least in the case of Lincoln, to the very last few months of his earthly life. And it can be said that Lincoln very nearly waited too long, very nearly lost his soul, and, in waiting so long to trust Christ, he had little influence on his children and his wife. That is one of the terrible tragedies of this great man's life.

So, now we come to your life. Will you become a success in life and yet lose your soul - in spite of all the advantages you have had in your Christian upbringing? If that happens to you, don't you agree that it would be a great tragedy indeed? Wouldn't it be sad, at the end of life, if people were to look down at your face in the coffin and say, "He was such a bright student. He made such good grades, and got such high honors. He went on to such a successful career. What a tragedy that he was never converted, and went on to lose his soul - the only truly important thing in the end." Don't you, in some recess of your heart, agree with that? And if you do agree with it at all - isn't it time that you thought more deeply about these searching words of Christ,

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

What good would all of your academic prowess and success in life do if, in the end, you "lost yourself" and were cast away by God - into outer darkness? What if all your brilliance and accomplishments led, after all, to a Christless death and eternal punishment? Think of it, man - what good would it do you?

"Well then," you may say, "What can I do about it?" Well, you can become concerned about it for one thing. I mean that you can make it a daily habit to think over that Scripture,

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

These are sobering questions, and if you do not take them seriously and think about them, then you will lose yourself and be cast away. The great advantages you have in life will be of no value then. You might as well have been born and raised by a drunkard in the poverty of a ghetto. You might as well have been cast out on the streets to become a homeless orphan - for all the good it did you being raised in a Christian home and church.

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

So, then, I appeal to your reason. Isn't it reasonable that you should seek something more than good scholarship and a successful career as a result of your unique advantages of being raised in a Christian home and church? I mean, don't you at least think that God placed you in a Christian environment for a better reason than simply to be a good student and a successful man in business? Surely you ought to think about that. Surely you ought to agree with me, at least on some level, that your life ought to mean more than just making a large salary after a sterling college career. Be a man of reason. Don't let emotion blind you to what is so plainly obvious to everyone else.

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

Christ was not playing with words when He asked these vital questions, was He? I think your conscience will not allow that, will it? Jesus was not a man who fooled about with small arguments for the sake of winning a mere word game, was He? Isn't He confronting you with a great truth about life itself? Isn't He trying to persuade you to seek that which is spiritual and lasting instead of the wood, hay and stubble of mere worldly success? I think your own conscience agrees that Christ loves you, and that He said these words to waken you from the thoughts of your carnal mind. Don't you agree that He loves you? Don't you agree that He asked these questions to probe your heart and induce you to think about what is really valuable in life? Didn't Christ ask these questions to make you think? Didn't He ask them to persuade you to make salvation the most important thing in your life? Logically, Christ must have meant these words to help you, to dislodge you from your present attitudes, to get you to see that, so far, you are only seeking for the meat that perishes.

Now, if you agree at all, in any recess of your mind, that Christ meant these questions for good in your life, will you then give His words very serious consideration? I am not asking you to do much. I'm not asking you to write a term paper, or to take a difficult course. I'm simply asking you to meditate on these words in your Bible, and think about them as deeply as you can.

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

Underline that verse. Memorize it. Repeat it to yourself a few times a day - especially before going to bed at night. And we will pray for God to use these words to awaken your soul from the dangerous and doleful course that it has taken thus far in your life. Let us stand and read Christ's words aloud.

"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).

Ask yourself again and again, especially when you are alone, "What advantage is there to have success without salvation?"


(END OF SERMON)
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