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LONELINESS AND CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, September 16, 2007

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).


I recently received a note from a girl who said I should preach more “sermons geared toward the youth, sermons that speak to the youth.” I told her that nearly all my sermons are directed to young people! We have a flood of high school-age and college-age young people in our church every Sunday. Many of them are here in church for the first time in their lives. Whatever subject I speak on, it is usually geared toward evangelizing teenagers and young adults. This sermon is no exception.

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

Jacob was like most young people in America today. He had enough to eat. He had good clothes. He had many so-called “friends.” He seemed to have everything. But one night it was all taken away from him, and he was left alone.

Isn’t that your greatest problem today? Don’t you often feel alone – especially when you’re in a crowd of happy people? Don’t you feel cut off from them in some terrible, unexplainable way?

J. D. Salinger wrote short stories and novels, like The Catcher in the Rye. It is still required reading in most college English classes. Many young people read that novel today. And it always touches a chord in their hearts, because Salinger put into words what young people often feel – an aching inner loneliness that no adult seems to fully understand, and that they feel no one can help them overcome. Salinger became so obsessed with the alienation and loneliness of his own youth that he stopped writing these books. For fifty years he lived like a hermit – alone – cut off from everyone in society. He has not made a public appearance or granted a newspaper interview for fifty years, although he is still considered one of the most insightful authors of modern times. Why did he cut off all communication with the outside world and become a veritable hermit? I think it was because he gave up all hope of ever overcoming his own loneliness!

This morning I am going to give you four thoughts about those feelings of loneliness. Please listen very carefully, young person, because what I am going to say about your loneliness in the next few minutes could change the direction and course of your whole life.

I. First, the loneliness you feel is common to most
young people in our time.

There is no place more lonely for young people than a big city like Los Angeles. Author Herbert Prochnow said, “A city is a large community where people are lonesome together.” American cities are among the loneliest places on this earth! Literally millions of young people in cities like ours are lonely. How about you? Do you ever feel that no one really cares – that no one really understands you – that no one really sympathizes with you?

Many of you have parents who are either divorced or fighting with each other most of the time. Their schedules are so full that they come home tired and flop down on the couch to watch television. They have no energy left to listen to you. Isn’t that right? Your parents don’t really understand you, do they? They don’t really listen to your problems, do they? They can’t help you overcome loneliness – and you know it! You already knew it before I even said it!

Your so-called “friends” don’t help much either, do they? You are afraid to tell them your inner turmoils and fears. You’re afraid if you tell them the things that are really bothering you deep down inside, you’re afraid that they will think you are weird, and you will lose them. So you can’t really trust your friends either, can you – I mean about those inner things – and your fears of being left all alone. You can’t really talk to them about any of that, can you?

Where will you turn? You often feel like the writer of the Psalm, who said:

“I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top” (Psalm 102:6-7).

Young people often feel as lonely as a bird on top of the house! No wonder J. D. Salinger became a recluse, withdrawn and weird! No wonder so many young people commit suicide! All statistics are now saying that suicide among young people and teenagers is skyrocketing. They simply can’t live in a world without real friendship and real love. They can’t live in a world of endless loneliness!

That’s why so many young people go and wander around in a mall. They have nothing else to do – but “hang out.” There are lights there. People are moving around. It helps a little, but not much! Alone in a crowd! Horrible!

That’s the way Jacob must have felt that night!

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

He was all alone. Someone jumped out of the shadows and grabbed him. There was no one to help him stop this “mugger.” Jacob spent an entire night fighting with this unknown stranger, who jumped out of the dark and hurled him to the ground! Terrible to be all alone, and then to be attacked like that in a lonely place.

Did you read in the newspaper about those two teenage girls who were mugged and raped, and somehow escaped? Did you read in the paper about that young girl who was kidnapped in Utah? Yes, in Utah! There’s very little crime there, but young people are being raped and mugged and kidnapped even there! And there’s no one to help them. They’re all alone. Jacob found that out! It’s a frightening and lonely world for most young people today. One young person said to me, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn. I don’t have any real friends I can count on.” Have you ever felt that way?

II. But, secondly, the loneliness you feel can be cured in this local church.

That’s why God gave you this church! God put local churches like this in the world so that people could be happy and fellowship together – and not be lonely! Our church is here to cure your loneliness! That’s the reason we say, “Why be lonely? Come home – to church!”

Nothing can cure your loneliness like the local church! But you must come all the way into this church and make lasting friends here. If you don’t come in, and commit yourself wholeheartedly to this church, we can’t help you!

The early Christians were happy because the church was their second home.

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat [their food] with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

Going to church all the time filled them with gladness and joy. The Roman world was dark and cruel, and lonely. But young people literally poured into the churches because they found warmth and happiness, and lasting friendships in the local church. They were in church every time the door was open! Follow their example and you won’t be so lonely! Come back here next Sunday! Come all the way in to the fellowship of our church! It will help to cure your loneliness if you throw yourself into the activities of our church.

We have something going on every Thursday night, every Saturday night, and there are events going on all day Sunday! If you start coming to this church each week, and get into the activities, you will not be so lonely.

III. Thirdly, the loneliness you feel must be cured on
a deeper level to be lasting.

But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you that you must have a deeper experience if the cure for loneliness is to be a lasting one. It’s great to have friends in the church, but that’s only the beginning. If your only purpose is to have new friends, you won’t get saved, and you will one day be cut off from God, and everyone else, in Hell. And there is no more lonely place in all the universe than Hell!

If all you are looking for is new friends, you will leave sooner or later to run off with a group of lost friends, or to sin in some other way. Or, perhaps, you will pour yourself into some project or career, trying to forget that you are alone in the world. And, finally you will die – and then experience the worst loneliness of all – in the Lake of Fire!

To permanently cure loneliness, you must go deeper – and you must look inwardly, and you must encounter Jesus.

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

This lonely night-long contest represents the deeper, inward searching of the soul for Christ. You see, the man Jacob wrestled with was Jesus Christ Himself – the pre-incarnate Christ! Jesus said:

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Only when you strive to enter into Christ can you experience conversion, and find

“peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

“Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate” (Luke 13:24) and find Jesus! Fight to experience conviction and conversion in Christ Jesus!

You are cut off from God by sin. That’s why God isn’t as real to you as He ought to be. Only through an inward conversion can you find “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

IV. And then, fourthly, the loneliness of conversion is necessary
for you to be saved.

What do I mean by “the loneliness of conversion”? I mean that no one can experience this for you. You have to go through this inner experience alone. The Apostle Paul said:

“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9).

You’re going on in your life without any pangs of conscience. Then the Holy Spirit begins to awaken you. You begin to think about your sins. You begin to think about God and judgment. There is an inner struggle. You become disgusted with yourself. That’s God awakening you!

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

Conversion is usually a lonely, difficult inner struggle. You have to be convinced inwardly of your sin and your ruined nature. You have to be convinced inwardly of Judgment and Hell. Then you must come to Jesus, the Son of God, and throw yourself on Him. Only then will you experience a real conversion, that will last for all time, and for all eternity. Only then will your inner loneliness be cured and your sins be washed clean by His Blood.

You see, the cure of loneliness is only a by-product. The main thing Jesus does is forgive sin. When you have gone through the struggle and crisis of conversion, then, as a by-product, as something else thrown in, you also receive a permanent cure for what I call your “cosmic loneliness.” Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.” That’s the reason we say, “Why be lonely? Come home – to church! Why be lost? Come home – to Jesus the Son of God!”

(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: Genesis 32:24-30.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (by Green Day, 2004).


THE OUTLINE OF

LONELINESS AND CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

I. The loneliness you feel is common to most young people
in our time, Psalm 102:6-7.

II. The loneliness you feel can be cured in this local church,
Acts 2:46-47.

III. The loneliness you feel must be cured on a deeper level to be
lasting, Jeremiah 29:13; Romans 5:1; Luke 13:24.

IV. The loneliness of conversion is necessary for you to be saved,
Romans 7:9.