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THE REALITY OF GOD AND
THE EXPERIENCE OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, December 1, 2007

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).


Spurgeon said,

Many believe that there is a hazy, imaginary power which they call God; but they never think of him as a person, nor do they suspect that he thinks of them, or that his existence is of any consequence to them one way or another (C. H. Spurgeon, “Faith Essential to Pleasing God,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1975 reprint, volume XXXV, page 451).

Many people come to church without believing in God. Yet they try, one way or another, to be converted. But they remain lost. They hear one sermon after the other, but they don’t get saved. It seems that they can never go beyond the outward mechanics of salvation; that they keep trying to learn what to do; that they keep thinking they can learn some “secret” that will automatically convert them. They are described in the Bible as,

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:5).

Is that your condition? Have you tried to become a Christian by learning things about God? If you have, I must tell you that this is the wrong path, and no matter how far you go on that path, you will never be converted because,

“Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…” (Hebrews 11:6).

Now, in speaking to you, there are two lessons in this text that may help you.

I. First, the beginning of conversion is belief in God.

That may sound too simple, but it is the absolute truth.

“He that cometh to God must believe that he is”
       (Hebrews 11:6).

Or, as Dr. Gill translated it, “that he exists” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume III, p. 458).

There is a faith that comes before salvation. It is the faith that believes in God, in which God becomes a very real person, not just an abstract idea. So, the very beginning of conversion comes when God Himself opens a human heart to feel that He really exists. Until that happens to you there is little we can say that will help you.

Some of you react as though you have never heard this before, and yet you have heard it many times. Haven’t you read our deacon, Dr. Cagan’s book? Haven’t you heard him say,

In the fall of 1974 I had a very direct and sudden experience with God…The next day I had another experience with God that changed my thinking forever. I suddenly knew, deep down inside, that God was real. Now I had more important things to think about than mathematics and money! (C. L. Cagan, Ph.D., From Darwin to Design, Whitaker House, 2006, p. 17).

Dr. Cagan had been an atheist. You may think that you are better than him, but you are really in the same position. God is no more real to you than He was to Dr. Cagan. And I say this is exactly what you need. If God does not open your heart and show Himself to you as a real person, you will go right on trying to “learn” how to become a Christian. You must come to the place where you can say with Dr. Cagan, “I suddenly knew, deep down inside, that God was real.” Until you can honestly say that to yourself you will not become a Christian.

“…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…” (Hebrews 11:6).

Without that first dawn of faith, no religious exercises, or even Bible knowledge, can help you to be converted.

Haven’t you heard me tell you about famous conversions in Christian history? That was true of them all! It was true of Paul, of Augustine, of Luther, of Bunyan, of Whitefield, of Wesley, of Spurgeon – and, as I said, of our own Dr. Cagan. Each of them had a similar experience. Before their conversions – note that I said “before” – before their conversions, each of those men could say, “I suddenly knew, deep down inside, that God was real” (Cagan, ibid.). But that hasn’t happened to you, so we really can’t go any farther. You are “stuck” right where you are, and nothing we say or do can do any good for you until it dawns on you,

“…he that cometh to God must believe that he is…”
       (Hebrews 11:6).

Notice that I have not given you any instructions on what to do. I can’t give you any! It is not something you do. It is the work of God. It is God who must take away “the vail [that] is upon their heart” (II Corinthians 3:15).

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
       (II Corinthians 4:6).

“It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If God does not open your eyes to know Him, you will be forever blind and lost.

“…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…” (Hebrews 11:6).

II. Second, actual conversion may then follow.

Please stand and read the entire text aloud.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

You may be seated. Dr. Cagan believed in God that night, but he was not yet a Christian. The vail was partly torn away from his heart, but he still refused to rest in Jesus. He said,

I suddenly knew, deep down inside, that God was real…But I was not a Christian. The experience I had with God was very real to me, but I was not ready to believe in Jesus Christ. I was not willing to submit to Him. I wrestled inwardly with thoughts about Christ for two more years…I wrestled through sleepless nights for many months after God became real to me. I can only describe this period in my life as two years of mental agony…I [really] didn’t want Jesus. My plans were incompatible with His…I fought against God, inwardly (Cagan, ibid., pp. 17, 41, 42).

Dr. Cagan was fighting against God, and rejecting Christ,

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).

He had to be broken down. He had to be made to see his lost and hopeless condition. He had to see himself lost, a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Only then – after two years of being broken down by the law of God – only then did he finally rest in Jesus. Then he could say with Horatius Bonar,


Not what these hands have done,

   Can save this guilty soul;

Not what this toiling flesh has borne

   Can make my spirit whole.


Not what I feel or do

   Can give me peace with God;

Not all my prayers and sighs and tears

   Can bear my awful load.


Thy grace alone, O God,

   To me can pardon speak;

Thy power alone, O Son of God,

   Can this sore bondage break.


Thy work alone, O Christ,

   Can ease this weight of sin;

Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,

   Can give me peace within.

(“Not What These Hands Have Done”

   by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

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


THE OUTLINE OF

THE REALITY OF GOD AND
THE EXPERIENCE OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

(II Timothy 3:5).

I.   First, the beginning of conversion is belief in God,
II Corinthians 3:15; 4:6; Ephesians 2:8-9.

II.  Second, actual conversion may then follow, Hebrews 11:6;
Romans 8:7.