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BE AFFLICTED, MOURN, AND WEEP

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 7, 2010

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).


On the back jacket of Joseph Alleine’s A Sure Guide to Heaven, Iain H. Murray said this:

When the spiritual history of the Western world in the 20th century is written, it may well be seen as the epoch of spiritual sloth and slumber. Eternal realities seemed vaguely defined and far-removed from daily life, and conformity to the world took the form of carelessness and neglect of spiritual issues (Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007 reprint, back jacket).

The original title of Alleine’s book is An Alarm to the Unconverted. Iain Murray said it was “used to alarm and awaken many to the concerns of life and death” (ibid.).

Sermons like those of Joseph Alleine are seldom heard in our pulpits today. And this is why “the history of the Western world in the 20th century [will] be seen as the epoch of spiritual sloth and slumber.” If the lost are not “alarmed” by the preaching they will not be converted!

I doubt that many ministers today would dare to speak on this text,

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

Yet Spurgeon, preaching upon this passage, said,

      I think I am not suspicious without reason when I express a fear that the preaching which has lately been very common…of ‘only believe and you shall be saved,’ has sometimes been altogether mistaken by those who have heard it. Cases occur in which young persons go on living light…and even wicked lives, and yet they assert that they believe in Jesus Christ. When you come to examine them a little you find that their belief in Christ means that they believe that he has saved them, although everybody who knows their character can see clearly that they are not saved at all: now, what is their faith but the belief of a lie?...My faith does not teach me to believe I am saved when straight before my very eyes I have the evidence that I am not saved, since I am living in the very sin I pretend to be saved from. Though we would not for a moment cast doubt upon the doctrine of justification by faith and free salvation, we must also preach more and more that parallel truth, “Ye must be born again.” We must bring to the front the grand old word that has been thrown into the background by some evangelists, namely, “Repent.” Repentance is as essential to salvation as faith…A dry-eyed faith will never see the kingdom of God. A holy loathing for sin always [accompanies] a childlike faith in the Sin-bearer (C.H. Spurgeon, “The Reason Why Many Cannot Find Peace,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1992 reprint, volume XXIV, p. 213).

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

As we come into the application of this text, let us consider three things.

I. First, the objection that this is “law.”

The first sermon I ever preached was from the Book of James. Although I probably did not explain it right, being unconverted myself at the time, I think the basic subject was exactly what those young people needed to hear. They claimed to be “saved” but, in the years to follow, their professions of salvation proved to be as worthless as mine was at that time. The man who corrected my sermon was himself living in sin, and was as surely bound for Hell as those to whom I spoke!  What was lacking in that church was the old-fashioned preaching of the law of God! 

True, we are not saved by keeping the law – but we are not likely to be saved without hearing it! Those who object to law-preaching will find that little of lasting good can come without it. Our churches are filled with “Bible study.” But who would dare to disagree that we live in the “Laodicean period” of the Christian dispensation? The Scofield Study Bible says, “The message to Laodicea. The final state of apostasy” (note #7, p. 1334). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

This is the condition of the church today, and unfortunately, it is the condition of a great many so-called fundamental, conservative churches…the thing that is absolutely startling and frightening and fearful is that [Christ] says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” In other words, “I will vomit you out of my mouth” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 922).

And the reason for the “Laodicean” deadness in the churches is that the law of God is not preached! Therefore people think,

“I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

How is it that they don’t know they are wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked? Why – simply because they have never heard that preached to them! They have never heard the thundering of the law – so they have never been truly converted!

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

II. Second, the need for the law.

During the last 125 years preachers have been led astray. Spurgeon already noticed that in 1878, when he said that many had been confused by the preaching of “only believe and you shall be saved” (ibid.). Both Spurgeon and Dr. J. Gresham Machen understood that your soul must be ploughed by the law before the Gospel will take root. It is worth the price of the book to read Machen’s chapter on the work of the law. In that chapter he said, “Christianity…does begin with [a] broken heart; it begins with a consciousness of sin” (J. Gresham Machen, Ph.D., Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1990 reprint of the 1923 edition, p. 65). It is the law of God that brings a sinner to the place of tears and repentance! The Apostle Paul said,

“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”
       (Galatians 3:24).

Luther gave this good comment,

For what a school master were he who should always punish and beat the child and teach him nothing at all? And yet such schoolmasters there were, in time past, when schools were nothing but a prison, and a very hell, and the schoolmasters cruel tyrants and very butchers. The children were always beaten: they learned, if they learned, with pain and travail. The law is not such a schoolmaster. For it doth not always torment and terrify, but with its corrective rod it driveth us to Christ…the law is not a schoolmaster to bring us to another law-giver who requireth of us works, but unto Christ our justifier and Saviour, that by faith in him we may be justified (Martin Luther, Th.D., Commentary on Galatians, Kregel Publications, 1979 edition, p. 217).

Yet Luther did not fully understand that the Book of James is exactly the kind of law that he spoke about.

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

III. Third, the law is necessary to cause humbling, mourning and weeping.

The Apostle Paul said, “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). There is a need for you to see that you are a ruined sinner, and to feel that you have broken the law of God – and that, in your lost condition, you can be nothing else but a sinner. If you think you can be saved by learning “the plan of salvation,” you will never experience real conversion – because conversion does not come by learning! There must be a breaking down of your stubborn will,

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

Your will is very stubborn against God. This is the natural state into which you were born. You must be brought face-to-face with the fact that you are a law-breaker, that you were born a law-breaker, and that (without God-given conversion) you can never be anything but a law-breaker! When your heart agrees that you are nothing but a law-breaker, then you may be drawn to Christ for cleansing and justification. When you are broken by the law, then you may cry out,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

I recently spoke with a young woman who has learned to say all the right words. She has learned about Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross, in her place, for her sins. But I did not dare to tell her she was saved! I can tell that she is still unconverted because there is no feeling of sin in her testimony. She has only learned dry doctrine. There is no feeling of brokenness for sin in her words. So, I have to say to her,

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

Spurgeon said,

      I grieve to say that I have met with persons who say, “I cannot find peace, I cannot get salvation,” and talk very [nicely] in that way; but yet outside the door they are giggling with one another, as if it were a matter of amusement…they have no thought, no sorrow for sin, no humiliation before God…For you to laugh whilst in danger of being lost sounds to me as ghastly and as grim as if the fiends of hell were to set up a theatre and act [out] a comedy…What right have you [to laugh] while [your] sin is unforgiven, while God is angry with you?...Be serious, begin to think of death, and judgment, and wrath to come…If you are [to be] saved [let your mind be] solemnly impressed by eternal realities. [Be] serious about matters of life and death; [may] the very thought of sin pain you [humble you, and afflict you] (C. H. Spurgeon, ibid., page 215).

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

Spurgeon said,

      Jesus Christ did not come to heal [those who are well, but] the sick, neither did he die to bind up those who are not broken, nor to make alive those who were never killed. There must be in you, and may God give to you, a brokenness of spirit…If your heart has never been broken, how can he bind it up? If it was never wounded, how can he heal it? These are [important] matters, and I speak them…lest any among you be deceived. God help you to cry, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (C. H. Spurgeon, ibid., p. 216).

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

The right way to come to Jesus is the way that sinful woman came to Him. She “stood at his feet…weeping” (Luke 7:38). Jesus then said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47).

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:9-10).

I have long withstood his grace,
   Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
   Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
   Mercy still reserved for me?

Now incline me to repent,
   Let me now my sins lament;
Now my foul revolt deplore,
   Weep, believe, and sin no more.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
   Mercy still reserved for me?
(“Depth of Mercy” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

(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: James 4:4-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Search Me, O God” (Psalm 139:23-24).


THE OUTLINE OF

BE AFFLICTED, MOURN, AND WEEP

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

I.   First, the objection that this is “law,” Revelation 3:17.

II.  Second, the need for the law, Galatians 3:24.

III. Third, the law is necessary to cause humbling, mourning and
weeping, Romans 3:20; 8:7; 7:24; Luke 7:38, 47;
James 4:9-10.