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THE MESSAGE OF GETHSEMANE
FOR A NEW GENERATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, April 2, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).


I have been reading two books that churned my mind. The first one is called, Why Men Hate Going to Church (David Murrow, Nelson Books, 2005). The author says, “More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on Sunday” (ibid., p. 8). Then the author says, “Men aren’t the only ones missing church…Research shows that young adults of both genders [age 18 to 29] are the least likely to attend church on any given Sunday” (ibid., p. 18). Men and young people are not interested in church today. That’s what this author has pointed out. The statistics show that he is right.

The second book that set my mind churning is titled, The Last Christian Generation, by Josh McDowell (Green Key Books, 2006). McDowell says, “Between sixty-nine percent (69%) and ninety-four percent (94%) of…young people are leaving the traditional church after high school - and very few are returning” (ibid., p. 13). Think of it! And he is talking about conservative churches! According to McDowell’s figures, about 8 out of every 10 young people raised in a “traditional church” will leave in their late teens or early twenties - never to return!

How did this happen? Why do our churches win so few men and young people from the world? Why is it that we can only keep about 2 out of 10 who were raised in the church? I have been thinking about that for a week, while reading these two books. There are other factors involved, I am sure, but I believe that one of the main reasons for this truly deplorable situation lies in today’s preaching. There is something wrong with most preaching today. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, considered by many to be one of the greatest authorities on preaching, often said that the preaching of our day is dull and boring. And he was bold to say, “There is something radically wrong with dull and boring preaching” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan Publishing House, 1971, p. 87). And I agree with him one hundred percent! And then Dr. Lloyd-Jones made a profound statement about preaching. He said, “What is preaching?...It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology…preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire” (ibid., p. 97). I say that if our preaching “is on fire” men and young people will come back to our churches to hear it. They will not come to hear weak verse-by-verse Bible teachings - but men and young people will come to church to hear preaching from “a man who is on fire.” And Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “A man who can speak dispassionately [coldly, with lack of feeling] has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one” (ibid.). And I agree with him about that also!

There you have it. Our churches are not attracting men or young people. The young people we do have fall away from the churches - eight out of ten. Why? Because the preaching bores them! I think that’s the main reason! It does not challenge them. They have been given dry sermonettes - and it has turned off a whole generation of young people - and most of the men as well. When asked how he drew such large crowds to hear his preaching, the great evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) said,

I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.

The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (1615-1691) said,

I preach as never sure to preach again,
And as a dying man to dying men.

The power of Baxter’s and Wesley’s preaching lay in the fact that they were on fire for God when they stepped into the pulpit to preach. Thousands of men and young people, the very kind who stay far away from church today, flocked to hear both Wesley and Baxter. Why? Because they were not given dry-as-dust “expository” sermons. They came in great crowds to hear a man on fire, set aflame when preaching - attempting with all his might and main to keep men and young people out of the flames of Hell! And I believe that is one of the reasons such a large percentage of men from previously unchurched backgrounds come to our own church every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. And I believe that is the reason so many unchurched young adults come to our church every Sunday, most of them from non-Christian homes. They come to hear a fiery gospel sermon, given with no holds barred.

You can fiddle with the music and have long “worship services,” singing choruses for 45 minutes, but the men and young adults won’t come back for that sort of nonsense. It’s the middle-aged ladies who seem to like that. The young adults of both sexes, and the men, will not come without fiery gospel preaching. And they won’t come unless they get it! Well, I’ve got news for you, you will always get it here - every Sunday, both morning and evening! We pull out the stops and give you both barrels - because that’s what you want, and that’s what you need!

And, then, I would say that the second thing that keeps most men and young people away from our services is the choice of subjects that are most often preached. Men and young adults are not interested in self-help sermonettes, designed to tickle their ears with a few platitudes about “how to feel good about yourself” or “how to have a positive self image” or “how to find the purpose driven life.” They just don’t care about those things. That’s why even the superchurches that preach on such themes are dominated by middle aged women, not men or young adults. Murrow’s book points that out! Young people and adults want to be challenged. They want a cause to live for - and die for. They want to be told to throw themselves into the work of the Lord. They want a cause to fight for, and live for, and die for.

In most of our churches they are not given such a challenge. The very subjects of the sermons often turn them off. When was the last time you heard a serious, penetrating sermon on Hell? Christ spoke about Hell constantly, more than anyone in the Bible. But where are the horrors of Hell preached about today? When was the last time you heard a hard sermon challenging people to do every-member evangelism? When did you hear a preacher sweat in the pulpit as he told his people that God expects every one of them to go soul winning? That’s a challenge to the softness of most churches, but it is exactly the type of exciting challenge that thrills men and young people. They want to hear honest, hard preaching on important Bible subjects like Hell. They want to be challenged to expend themselves in the rigorous and often frightening work of going to the front lines to win souls, “pulling [people] out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23).

And, then, they are not given many sermons on the agony of Christ in the pulpits of our day. For instance, I can never remember hearing a sermon in the last fifty-two years on our text this morning. This text, and others concerning Christ’s suffering, are hardly mentioned in most modern pulpits. We ought to hear this all the time. We ought to hear about them attacking Jesus, plotting to kill Him, raging against Him, beating Him half to death with a scourge. We ought to hear sermons on the crown of thorns they pressed onto His beaten head, until Blood ran down the holy face of the Son of God. Again and again, in sermon after sermon, we should be told about Him standing in Pilate’s Hall, drenched in His own Blood from head to toe. And yes, we should hear preaching time after time on the nails they pounded through His blessed feet. The whole horror and repulsive ignominy of the crucifixion should be ingrained in our minds by sermons until our hands sweat, our hearts beat, and our minds ask, “Why did He do that for me?” And yet these doleful, unpleasant and even revolting subjects in the Bible are only passed over with a few words at best - so no one will be offended, especially the elderly ladies who want an “uplifting” sermon. But the young people are left cold by insipid, lifeless talks like that - and so are the men - and so we fail to reach them for Christ and enlist them in our churches.

How different this is from the way it was when Christ was on earth. It was men who followed Him! It was young people who followed Him! He had nothing to offer them but blood, toil, sweat and tears. Yet that seemed to be exactly what they were hungry for! They followed Him in droves because He offered them a difficult, challenging, truly meaningful, hard-hitting message, and because He called them to lay down their very lives for His cause. They rose to the challenge by the thousands.

Notice the circumstances surrounding our text. After the Passover meal Jesus took His disciples out into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Note that only eleven of the disciples, all young men, went with Him. There were many other disciples, but they were not there. They were not sufficiently advanced in grace to be allowed to behold the mysteries of “His agony.” The many other disciples were at home, spending time with their families at the Passover Feast. Ordinary, half-hearted believers were shut out by the wall of trees around the Garden of Gethsemane. Only eleven of the twelve disciples were permitted to enter that dark and gloomy place to see the sorrow, pain and suffering of Christ, their Master. He left them a little way off as He went deeper into the darkness of the Garden.

“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed” (Luke 22:41).

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Note two words in our text in verse 44. Stand and read it again aloud.

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

You may be seated.

Note two words in that verse: “agony,” and “blood.” They are deeply challenging and deeply moving words. This is no weak Sunday School lesson! This is no Bible-study for the faint-hearted! These words are for young people, college-age and high-school-age young people, like you - who are looking for the real, life-changing message of Christ.

“Agony” is the first word. This Greek word appears only once in the New Testament, in this verse. It is “agonia.” It means “an inner struggle, an effort or anxiety, a conflicting struggle, deep anguish (especially of the mind), torment, severe pain, extreme suffering.” Christ is experiencing extreme suffering here, before He ever goes to the Cross. And that suffering is the beginning of the pain He would endure when flogged and crucified the next morning. Why does He go through this horrible pain in the Garden of Gethsemane? Because God Himself is placing your sin in the very body of the Saviour, so He can pay the full penalty for your sin on the Cross. Does that not move you? It moved me to tears as I wrote this at 2:45 in the morning last Thursday night. But, I ask you, are you not moved in your heart this morning when you think that the only begotten Son of God should go through such excruciating pain for you?

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

Christ saw in advance the vile wickedness of your heart, and He suffered to save you from your inmost sinfulness. Now, let me ask you, isn’t it true you have a sinful heart? Isn’t it true that you have sinful motives and selfish thoughts? Don’t you have thoughts you wouldn’t want anyone to know - especially your mother? And isn’t it true that God sees those thoughts in your heart? Isn’t it true that He is right and just to punish you for your sinful heart-thoughts and motives? Of course He is! But, wait, that is why Christ is entering into agony - to pay the full penalty for your inward heart-sins. He is “in an agony” to pay the price for you, so that you may not go to Hell to pay for a loose, wicked, unloving and dirty heart. Will you not come to Christ, who loved you so much that He went through that suffering for you?

The second word is “blood.” The text says it, and I want you to read it aloud, Luke 22:44. Stand and read it.

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).

You may be seated.

Blood was mingled with His sweat as He agonized for your soul there in that Garden. His suffering under the weight of your sin was so great that the capillaries of His bloodstream broke, and Blood, mixed with sweat, dropped in large globs to the ground. O, lost sinner, think of that Bloody sweat! Nothing can cleanse away your sin but the Blood of the Saviour.

You may admit to yourself that you have a sinful, selfish heart, that your heart is far from God and filled with a lust for the things of the world. You may admit that your heart is wrong and not fit to be with God. But what will you do about that? Won’t you come to Jesus? Come to Him, alone there in the Garden. Let His Bloody sweat wash you. Wash your body, mind and spirit in that Bloody sweat. Bathe in it, and you will be clean in the face of a holy God. To be sure, He spilt more Blood on the Cross the next morning. Bathe yourself in that too, and you will be clean, for

“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”
     (I John 1:7).

I implore you. I beseech you. Come to Jesus by faith. He is now seated at the right hand of God up in Heaven. Come to Jesus and your sins will be pardoned and you will be clean in God’s sight for all eternity. As the dear Puritan Joseph Hart put it,

Came at length that dreadful night;
Vengeance with its iron rod
Stood, and with collected might
Bruised the harmless Lamb of God.
See, my soul, thy Saviour see,
Prostrate in Gethsemane.

There my God bore all my guilt;
This through grace can be believed;
But the horrors that He felt
Are too vast to be conceived.
None can penetrate through thee,
Doleful, dark Gethsemane!

Sins against a holy God:
Sins against His righteous laws,
Sins against His love, His blood;
Sins against His name and cause;
Sins immense as is the sea -
Hide me, O Gethsemane!
   (“Many Woes Had He Endured” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

Come to Christ this morning! Throw yourself on the Son of God by faith! Be cleansed from your sin by His holy Blood! Come to Jesus and do so now!

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


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 22:39-46.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Many Woes Had He Endured” (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MESSAGE OF GETHSEMANE
FOR A NEW GENERATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

(Jude 23; Luke 22:41; Isaiah 53:6; I John 1:7)