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THANKSGIVING IN IRAN - 2009
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
The Disciples came to Jesus after He had left the Temple.
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus did not rebuke the Disciples for asking Him for a sign of the end of this age. Instead Jesus gave them a long list of signs, so they [and we] could know the approximate time of His second coming. He did not give them a date when He would come and the age we live in would end. Instead He gave them a series of signs so we would know when the last days of this age were approaching. One of these important signs is the apostasy, the departure from the Christian faith, in the Western world. Please turn to Matthew 24:11-14, and stand for the reading of God’s Word.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:11-14).
You may be seated.
Now this is very important. Jesus gave us two signs of the end in these verses. First He said there would be great apostasy in many parts of the world in the final days of history. Second, He said that the Gospel would penetrate the whole world at the same time.
I. First, Christ said that much of the world would be in deep apostasy.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound [because there is so much of it], the love of many [Christian love] shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:11-13).
This is the sign of the Great Apostasy, the great turning away from the basic teachings of the Bible on the part of many in these awful days.
The Apostle Paul spoke of the terrible apostasy that would affect many churches in parts of the world in the last days. He said,
“That day [the day of Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, [the Antichrist] the son of perdition” (II Thessalonians 2:3).
First, the “falling away” will come, and then the Antichrist will be revealed.
I believe that this apostasy and unbelief has already begun. It started in Germany, where liberal scholars began attacking the Bible. About that same time Charles G. Finney and his associates changed the meaning of conversion into a mere physical action (going forward, raising the hand, praying a sinner’s prayer, etc.), which were actually a major shift away from the old Gospel, which demanded an inner change of heart, accomplished by God, rather than a meaningless human response like “coming forward” or saying a “sinner’s prayer” – without experiencing an inner conversion to Christ (see Today’s Apostasy by R. L. Hymers, Jr. and C. L. Cagan. Click here to read the entire book).
So, these two forces – the German theologians attacking the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and Finney replacing real conversion with a meaningless “decision for Christ” – wreaked havoc on the Baptist and Protestant churches in America and Europe. German liberalism regarding the Bible and Finney’s “decisionism” were used by Satan to quite literally ruin the churches in Europe and America. A thoughtful person ought to see what evil has come to our Western churches through the false teaching of the German liberals and Finney over the last century and a half. So, today it seems that the churches in Europe and America are indeed already in the Great Apostasy Jesus predicted in the sign of “apostasy,” which He foretold in Matthew 24:10-13, and which the Apostle Paul prophesied in II Thessalonians 2:3, when he said,
“That day shall not come, except there come a falling away [an apostasy] first” (II Thessalonians 2:3).
At the close of the nineteenth century, Spurgeon predicted that the churches in the 20th century would be “buried beneath the boiling mud showers of modern heresy” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Blood Shed for Many,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974, volume XXXIII, p. 374). That day is here! The churches in America and Europe are so deeply entrenched in German liberalism and “Decisionism” that I doubt they will ever recover until the great end-time revival prophesied in the book of Revelation (Revelation 7:1-14). I do not think there will be any general revival of real conversions until the Tribulation horrors fall upon America and Europe. That, I am convinced, is what Jesus prophesied concerning Christianity in the Western world.
All our “progressive” ideas and our “emerging church” ideas have failed to make things better in this awful apostasy. And only in the Tribulation will the Christians wake up at the last moment and return to the sound preaching on conversion of the Puritans and our Baptist forefathers. It is tragic that they seem to have no interest in the preaching and practice of the Baptists and Protestants of the First Great Awakening, no interest in the preaching of Whitefield and Wesley, but just going on in their “decisionist” apostasy until doom comes to America and Europe.
II. Second, Christ said that the Gospel would be preached in all the world for a witness, at the same time that the churches in the West have fallen into unbelief and apostasy.
Turn again to Matthew 24:14. Please stand and read that verse aloud.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
You may be seated. This is a very astonishing prophecy! At the same time that “iniquity shall abound [and] the love of many shall wax cold” – at the very same time, “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:12, 14). At the same time that the churches in the West have fallen into weakness and apostasy, Christ said that the Gospel would be preached “in all the world for a witness.” Before “the end” of this age, Christ said,
“The gospel must first be published [proclaimed] among all nations” (Mark 13:10).
Dr. Lenski said that Matthew 24:14 is
…the clearest statement found in the Gospels concerning the end of the world. First, the gospel “shall be heralded” in the whole…inhabited world…Nothing shall stop its spread… What a promise! Imagine Jesus sitting with the Twelve [Apostles] on the slopes of Olivet [the Mount of Olives] and speaking of this world-wide penetration of his gospel! Yet that is exactly what has come to pass…it is highly important to grasp exactly what Jesus says: we are to expect the rising [of] hostility against his true followers; many who at first believe shall be carried away; the gospel preaching, however, will go on steadily until it penetrates to all nations – then the end! (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Gospel of Matthew, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, pp. 935-936).
I have told you many times how the Gospel is penetrating Southeast Asia and China. It is estimated that 1,000 people per hour are coming to Christ in China. The best book on this subject is Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, by David Aikman, Regnery Publishing, 2003. You can order it from Amazon.com or from The Voice of the Martyrs at www.persecution.com. Millions are turning to Christ in China and other parts of Asia. We thank God for that this morning!
But now we have the heartwarming news that the Gospel of Christ is penetrating the Muslim world as well! More Muslims are now turning to Jesus Christ than at any time in the last thousand years! We give thanks to God for this glorious news from far off lands! Let us stand and sing the doxology:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen.
(“Doxology,” by Thomas Ken, 1637-1711).
You may be seated.
“The Voice of the Martyrs” magazine (November 2008) had a cover story titled, “Christian Revolution in Iran.” The magazine said,
In November 2005, just months after being elected Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmedineajad met with the country’s 30 governors. “I will stop Christianity in this country,” he declared, according to Compass Direct News.
The declaration stemmed from a rising…number of Muslims converting to Christianity. Specific numbers are difficult to obtain but VOM [Voice of the Martyrs] sources estimate Muslims are converting to Christianity at the rate of at least 500 a month. Since the year 2000, Iranian church leaders have requested more than 130,000 evangelism videos according to VOM sources. And one network of church leaders has planted more than 50 house churches in just three years.
“Persecution is increasing in Iran because of the success of the underground church there,” says one VOM director. “There’s victory in this story”…
[One house church leader in Iran said] “I have Jesus Christ; so I’m not afraid. God is testing our faith because He wants it to grow so that we become like Jesus. So much blood has been shed for our faith [in Christ]. The resurrection power of Jesus gives us strength to carry on” (“The Voice of the Martyrs,” November 2008, pp. 3-4).
Joel C. Rosenberg has written a hard-hitting book about the Muslim world called, Inside the Revolution (Tyndale House Publishers, 2009). Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author, and a former political columnist for World magazine. He has been interviewed on over 300 radio and television programs, including ABC’s “Nightline,” CNN “Headline News,” the Fox News Channel, the History Channel, and MSNBC. Rosenberg says,
You rarely hear about it in the news…But the big, untold story is that more Muslims are coming to…Jesus Christ today than at any other time in history (ibid., p. 379).
At the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were only about five hundred known Muslim converts to Christ inside [Iran]. By 2000, a survey of Christian demographic trends reported that there were 220,000 Christians inside Iran…And according to Iranian Christian leaders interviewed for this book, the number [of Christians] shot dramatically higher between 2000 and 2008.
The head of one leading Iranian ministry…told me: “Based on all the things we are seeing inside Iran today, I personally believe [the number of Christians is more than] a million.”
A leading Iranian political dissident in the West who also happens to be a Muslim convert to Christianity told me he believes there are as many as 4.5 million Iranian converts (ibid., pp. 384-385).
Keep in mind, such numbers are impossible to verify given the current political conditions, but…the trend lines are clear, and the increasingly panicked reaction of Iranian authorities in recent years seems to support the notion of an unprecedented growth of the Iranian church (ibid.).
Let us stand and sing “Glory Be to the Father.”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen, Amen.
(“Glory Be to the Father,” source unknown, 2nd century).
You may be seated.
But these conversions to Christ in Iran come at a high price. Evangelical Christian pastors are arrested and tortured (ibid., pp. 385-386). Rosenberg says, “Many ministry leaders have been arrested, tortured, and even executed or assassinated” (ibid., p. 433). Rosenberg says,
The rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to a dramatic acceleration of government-directed persecution of Iranian Christians…many of whom have been arrested, interrogated, beaten, and even worse…Ahmadinejad met with thirty provincial governors and vowed to shut down the country’s growing house-church movement, reportedly saying: “I will stop Christianity in this country.”
Nevertheless, [Christian] leaders inside Iran say they are seeing the words of Matthew 16:18 come true before their eyes: “I will build my church,” Jesus said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (ibid., p. 386).
Today is Thanksgiving Sunday in the United States, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Our tradition of Thanksgiving is rooted in religious persecution. The Pilgrims were persecuted in England the same way Christians are persecuted today in China and Iran. Our Pilgrim forefathers fled from England to the New World, in America, so they could practice true Christianity. They nearly starved to death during their first winter here. Immediately after their first harvest in 1621 they set apart a day for thanksgiving. It became an annual festival in Massachusetts. President Washington proclaimed a day of national thanksgiving on November 26, 1789. And President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1864, as the American Civil War was nearing its end.
Today Christians honor the Pilgrims when they speak of them in America. But we tend to forget that these were people who sacrificed everything, their friends, their homes and their country, and risked their lives because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith in Christ was like that of the people in Iran, who are now coming to Christ by the hundreds every month. How I pray that you will turn to Christ and follow their example!
Yes, we know that Christ died on the Cross to pay for our sins and rose bodily from the dead. But knowing those facts is not enough. You must repent and turn fully to Christ, like those in Iran are doing, no matter what it costs you to do so.
Jim Elliot was only 28 years old when he went as a missionary to an unreached tribe of Indians in Ecuador. He was killed, as a martyr for Christ. Before he died, Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” It is my prayer that you will turn your life over to Jesus Christ. When you lose your life, your time, and your hope in this world for Christ, you gain eternal life in Him. And, indeed, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Amen.
(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: Matthew 24:1-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Doxology”/“Glory Be to the Father.”
THE OUTLINE OF
THANKSGIVING IN IRAN - 2009
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:11-14).
I. First, Christ said that much of the world would be in deep apostasy,
II. Second, Christ said that the Gospel would be preached in all the