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I DON'T CARE IF YOU DON'T CARE -
A SERMON FOR THE X-GENERATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, May 15, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (I Thessalonians 3:12).


Time Magazine had a report last week on teenagers who cut themselves with razor blades and burn themselves with cigarettes. The article cited one report that indicates approximately 39% of American young people engage in self-mutilation. The article went on to say that there is "a growing population of boys and girls for whom cutting, burning or otherwise self-injuring is becoming a common - if mystifying - way of managing emotional pain" (Time, May 16, 2005, p. 48). The headline of the Time article asks, "Why are so many American kids secretly self-mutilating?"

These young people cut themselves with razors and burn themselves with matches and lighted cigarettes in an attempt to deal with problems of "anxiety, depression borderline-personality disorder - a condition characterized by explosiveness and unstable relationships" (ibid.). The article quoted a psychologist who said, "Every clinician says it's increasing…I think it's gone up dramatically" (ibid.).

Think of it! Tens of thousands of young people burning themselves and cutting themselves! Does that shock you? I'm not surprised! I've been working with young people for over forty years - and I think that self-mutilation is only the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of young people who would never go so far as to mutilate themselves feel the "emotional pain" of anxiety and depression today. And I am convinced that these feelings of anxiety can be traced, in most young people, to a deep sense of loneliness.

Loneliness! No subject that I speak on gets the attention of young people like that one! Why? Because nearly all young people feel it so deeply. And the punk rock group Green Day expressed it graphically in their Grammy-nominated song, "I Don't Care." This is a raunchy song, and I don't recommend it at all. But it describes what young people are feeling when it says,

I don't care if you don't care…
We are the kids of war and peace
From Anaheim to the Middle East.
We are the stories and disciples
Of the Jesus of suburbia,
Land of make believe
And it don't believe in me
And I don't care!
      ("I Don't Care," Green Day, 2004).

Why is that song so popular today? What does it mean? Why, I think the meaning is quite simple. Young people feel that no one cares about them. They feel that the "Jesus of suburbia" is a fake. They feel that suburban churches, the big "super churches" seen on TV, are just a "land of make believe." And they sense that most churches don't really care about them. "It don't believe in me and I don't care."

Well, I've got news for you. At this church we do care - about you! Our entire evangelistic emphasis - not part of it, but all of it - is directed toward young people just like you! If nobody else wants you, we want you! Come on home - to church! Come on home - to the real Christ! He's not the "Jesus of suburbia." He's the Christ who died to save your soul. And He sent us to preach the gospel to you because He cares about you! Why be lonely? Come home - to church! Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

Now, why are so many young people just like you coming into our church? What do we offer you? Many churches of "suburbia" have a youth pastor. We don't have one. I'm the pastor. I'm certainly not a "youth pastor." I'm a 64-year-old, bald-headed man with black horn-rimmed glasses, in a white shirt and tie - preaching out of a King James Bible. We don't have new-fangled songs on an overhead projector. We sing the old hymns. We don't have any snare drums - just an old-fashioned tinkly piano! And yet our church is literally flooded with young people!

What is the attraction? I'll tell you exactly what it is. It's the same attraction that living Christianity has had for two thousand years. It's the attraction of gospel preaching and a church full of people who love each other! That's the attraction! We don't need any other attraction! "These Christians love Christ, and they love each other, and they love me too!" That's the attraction! It's the attraction of the love of Christ, and the love of Christians! Come on, and be with us! Don't be afraid! Don't pull back! Come on home - to church! Come on home - to Jesus! Christ loves you and so do we!

Now, that message is as old as Christianity. It's an old-time message, but it's one you can hardly hear anywhere else today. Don't burn yourself with a cigarette! Don't cut yourself with a razor blade! Don't fill your body with drugs to keep from feeling lonely! No! No! There's something better than that! Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Be in this church every time the door is open. There's a better way! And come on home to church tonight at six o'clock!

Now, that's exactly what the Apostle Paul prayed for in our text. He was praying for these young Christians in a church in the city of Thessalonica. What did he pray? Why, it's right there in the text. Let us stand and read I Thessalonians 3:12 out loud.

"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

You may be seated.

What did he want God to give them? He prayed for their love to each other to increase. That's the secret for winning young people today - just as it was then. The Apostle Paul prayed for them to have Christian love. Why did he pray for that?

I. First, because Christian love is the mark of real Christianity.

What could be clearer in the New Testament? The Apostle John said,

"Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" (I John 4:7).

Again, John said,

"If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us" (I John 4:12).

Those are not just pious phrases. This is a living reality! And this is the true hallmark of real Christianity. Christ Himself said so. He made Christian love the acid test for true Christianity when He said,

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

The Greek word translated "love" is "agape." W. E. Vine said that this Greek word is "the characteristic word of Christianity" (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Revell, 1966, p. 20). This word gets at the heart of New Testament Christianity. God's agape, God's love, sent Jesus Christ to die on the Cross to save us from the penalty of sin. When we experience God's love in Christ we want to share that love with everyone. As our text put it,

"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men…" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

That's why we went out to the malls and colleges, and other places where young people gather, and that's why we invited you to come to church this morning, because we want to share the love of God in Christ with "all men." We love you, as Christ loved us. As Christ gave Himself for us, so we want to share that love with you. That's why we brought you to this happy place in our cars this morning. That's why we invited you to come and sit down with us for a meal after this service. The early Christians called that an "agape feast," a banquet of Christian love. And that's why we have a Christian love feast after every Sunday morning service. We feed everyone a meal, and you are invited to the feast! We're going to sit down together and eat, and enjoy each other's company for an hour. We will also have a birthday cake for one of our members who is celebrating his birthday. And then we will talk and fellowship, and just enjoy being with each other. That's what it's all about! And that's why the Apostle Paul prayed,

"And the Lord make you to increase and abound [literally "overflow"] in love one toward another, and toward all men…" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

Jesus made it plain.

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

Love for each other, and love for new people, who are here for the first or second time, is exactly what Paul was praying for in our text. Come upstairs to the fellowship hall with us right after this service and let us show you what a joy it is to be around Christians who love each other and care about you. Come and have a meal with us, and let us love one another for an hour! That's at the heart of the Christian message.

"Let us love one another: for love is of God" (I John 4:7).

II. Second, Christian love is important to the life of the local church.

I am very disappointed when I visit a church and everyone rushes away within five or ten minutes after the service is over. This is like the church in "suburbia" that Green Day criticized. Where is the fellowship? Where is the love for each other and for the lost? I wish every gospel-preaching church had a "love feast" after the morning service. I can hardly think of anything more important to foster a spirit of real love and fellowship in a local church.

In most churches the people scatter quickly when the service is over. No wonder Green Day rejected "the Jesus of suburbia" presented in a church like that. Each Christian scrambles away to his or her home - to eat alone. Where is the fellowship? Where is the love for each other, and "toward all men"? It isn't there at all. No wonder 88% of the young people in evangelical churches leave the church before they graduate from college. One young man said, "There's nothing there for me." How right he was, sadly, in the case of many churches today.

But we aren't going to let that happen in this local church! Oh, no! We brought you here this morning for two reasons: (1) to hear me preach a gospel sermon, and (2) to sit down to a meal and a time of good, hearty fellowship after the sermon. What's wrong with that? Nothing! It's exactly what the early Christians did, and it's exactly what every church should be doing today - if they truly want to win young people out of the culture of self-mutilation and loneliness. We've got to give you a better alternative than what is offered out there on the lonely streets of L.A. We've got to help you make Christian friends here, and then find the love of Christ that passes understanding. Come and help us make the Baptist Tabernacle the friendliest, warmest and most loving place for young people in this city!

Love and Christian fellowship find their deepest expression in a local church like this one. Our text said,

"And the Lord make you to increase [have more and more] and abound [literally overflow] in love one toward another, and toward all men…" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

Paul is talking about a local church doing this. This whole epistle of I Thessalonians was written to Christians in a local church like this one. Turn back in your Bible to I Thessalonians 1:1. Let's stand and read that verse aloud.

"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 1:1).

You may be seated. You see, this epistle was written to the church in the city of Thessalonica, a local church, just like this church, the Baptist Tabernacle. And it was concerning this local church that he prayed

"The Lord make you to increase [have more and more] and abound [literally overflow] in love one toward another, and toward all men" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

An old song expresses the very theme of our church and our very purpose to love you with all our hearts in Christ. I remember it from our old Baptist hymnbook, as we sang it fifty years ago in a Southern Baptist church. It goes like this.

Of the themes that men have known, One supremely reigns alone;
Through the ages it has shown, 'Tis His wonderful, wonderful love.
Love is the theme, love is supreme, Sweeter it grows, glory bestows;
Bright as the Sun ever it glows! Love is the theme, eternal theme!
    ("Love is the Theme" by Albert C. Fisher, 1886-1946).

And that's our message to you! "Love is the theme" in this local church! Why be lonely - come home to church, and let us love you. Why be lost? Come home to Christ, and let Him love you and save you! Come home - to this local church - you will find Christian friends here that you won't find anywhere else!

III. Third, Christian love is what draws lost and lonely people
to salvation in Christ.

Again, I must not say that we are talking about some church out in suburbia, where they want a few adults to come for an hour on Sunday morning only. The punk rock group, Green Day, was perfectly right to say that such churches are often "a land of make believe" - because there is no true interconnectedness between the people. They rush in for an hour, and then they rush home and don't come back for another seven days. They call them "purpose driven churches." That won't work here in the inner city. That's why those "purpose-driven" churches stay way out in the suburbs and are afraid to come into the city where so many of you live. But we're not afraid to be in downtown L.A., because we know that there are millions of kids like you who need a second home, because your own home is broken up and dysfunctional, and you are lonely. We, therefore, do not present you with "the Jesus of suburbia, land of make believe." No! No! We give you a vital, exciting church where you are wanted, and cared for, and loved!

And that's what will draw young people from your generation back home to Christ and to church. It has never changed. The Roman world of the first century was cruel and harsh almost beyond imagination. When the Apostles preached, great hordes of young people flocked to hear them. The Apostles led them to Christ in a personal way, and then organized them into churches like this one. And I don't really understand why we have run away from the cities, far out in the suburbs. The early churches were built in the heart of the great cities of their day - Rome, Thessalonica, Ephesus - always in the heart of the great cities. We are following the Apostles' example. We are not running away from the city of Los Angeles - way out to the Palmdale area, far out in the desert, or to some farming community - or deep down at the end of Orange County. Let the churches of "suburbia" do that. We don't want you to say with Green Day, "We are the stories and disciples of the Jesus of suburbia, land of make believe. And it don't believe in me, and I don't care." Sad, but true. Yet we are right here in the heart of this city - for you college-age and high-school-age young people. And we are not leaving this city. Oh, no! We are here for good. And we are here for your good! And I promise you that we will never run away and leave you city kids without a gospel-preaching church filled with Christian love and hope. Our church is actually located on Hope Street - 1329 South Hope Street! Our church is located in the very heart of the civic center of L.A. - right where it needs to be to give hope to young people like you! There's hope - right here in the church on Hope Street!

Christian love is what brought you here this morning. Jesus said it would. He prayed for such love when He said,

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).

Let us stand and read that verse thoughtfully. Please turn to John 17:21. Read what Jesus said out loud.

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

You may be seated.

The world is attracted, and believes in Christ, it sees people in a local church like this loving each other, and the lost. When they see that kind of love in a local church like this, then they will "believe that thou hast sent me."

So we end with the same text, the Apostle Paul's prayer for that little church in the great city of Thessalonica. He prayed,

"And the Lord make you to increase [have even more] and abound [overflow] in love one toward another, and toward all men…" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

That's our message. Come out of the dark and lonely world. Come into the warmth and fellowship and love of this local church. Come several times a week and you will find great joy here. Hey - why not come back tonight at six o'clock? And, then, come all the way to Jesus, the Son of God, and He will save your soul for all time and for all eternity.

Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home.
    ("Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).


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


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I John 4:7-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" (by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).



THE OUTLINE OF

I DON'T CARE IF YOU DON'T CARE -
A SERMON FOR THE X-GENERATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

I.   Christian love is the mark of real Christianity, I John 4:7, 12;
John 13:35.

II.  Christian love is important to the life of the local church,
I Thessalonians 1:1.

III. Christian love is what draws lost and lonely people to
salvation in Christ, John 17:21.