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THE MAN ON THE PLUS SIGN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, April 11, 2010

“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).


The Disciples were following Jesus as He went to Jerusalem. He told them that He would be mocked and scourged and crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day. That is the Gospel – the good news that Christ would be crucified to pay the penalty for our sins, and that He would rise physically from the dead on the third day to give us life. Now turn to Luke 18:34. This is the parallel passage, which gives us a little more. Please stand and read that verse aloud.

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

You may be seated.

What a picture that is of our own day. People do not understand the Gospel. It is hidden from them. They do not know the things Jesus said about His crucifixion and resurrection.

Dr. Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Dr. Land knows that we are living in a culture that is astonishingly ignorant of the basic facts of Christianity. He said,

I read in an article in Time magazine about the lack of religion in…America. One couple came to see [a minister] after they had been to a service, and they said, “Our teenage son wants to know who the man is hanging on the plus sign.” They didn’t know it was Jesus and they didn’t know it was a cross. That sounds far-fetched to some of us, but I’ve been to some places in our country where it’s not as far-fetched as you might think (“The Man on the Plus Sign,” World magazine, August 1, 2009, p. 24).

The same article says that Dick Cavett, a former TV talk show host, who “knows everything there is to know about everything,” did not know that Jesus Christ gave the “Golden Rule” – “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31) – or as it is popularly given, “Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you.” Dick Cavett, world-famous talk show host, graduate of Yale University, resident of New York City for fifty years, did not know that Jesus gave the “Golden Rule”! And that couple who took their teenage son to a church service could not answer him when he asked who it was hanging on a cross in a picture he saw at the church. They said, “Our teenage son wants to know who the man is hanging on the plus sign.”

Welcome to modern America – where people are “wildly ignorant” of the basic teachings of Christianity! The World article said, “You’re speaking into a culture that… is wildly ignorant, just amazingly, staggeringly ignorant” of the most simple teachings of the Bible (ibid.).

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

There are two reasons why many Americans are “wildly ignorant” of the basic facts of the Gospel.

I. First, many have never heard the Gospel.

They simply have not heard what Jesus said in Luke 18:32-33.

“For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again” (Luke 18:32-33).

After all, that is the Gospel according to I Corinthians 15:1-4. The Apostle Paul said this is the Gospel,

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

The word “Gospel” means “the good news.” Many people have never heard the good news that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Many have never heard that Jesus rose physically from the dead on the third day to give us eternal life. A lot of the blame lies in the fact that so many pastors don’t preach the Gospel any more. Dr. Michael Horton made that point in his book, Christless Christianity (Baker Books, 2008). Dr. Horton said,

I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself…there is nothing in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups (ibid., pp. 16-17).

…those who are raised in “Bible-believing” churches know as little of the Bible’s actual content as their unchurched neighbors…it is unclear to me why [Christ] is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors…talking about in church these days (ibid., p. 22).

Nobody will raise a fuss if you find Jesus helpful for your personal well-being…or even if you think he was the greatest person in history…But start talking about the real crisis – where our best efforts are filthy rags and Jesus came to bear the condemnation of helpless sinners who place their confidence in him rather than themselves – and people begin shifting in their seats, even in churches (ibid. p. 26).

I know by experience that Dr. Horton is right. Several years ago I was asked to speak in a “Bible-believing” church in the deep South. It was Mother’s Day – so I spoke for 15 minutes on my mother’s conversion at the age of 80. I simply told them how Christ saved my mother – after she had attended church for more than twenty years in an unsaved state – religious but lost. It was just a simple account of God’s grace and Christ’s saving power in my mother’s life. It startled me when I saw that this short testimony, given in a soft voice, agitated the preacher and left the congregation wide-eyed. They avoided me afterwards. But one elderly lady came up to me, shook my hand and said, “Thank you for preaching the Gospel. We haven’t heard that for a long time.” Mind you, that was in a Bible-believing church in the deep South!

Dr. Horton told of a liberal theologian who went with his children and grandchildren to a Bible-believing church on Easter Sunday. He expected a service focused on the resurrection of Christ. Instead there were a few choruses related to the congregation’s feelings, and a sermon on how to make Easter “come true in your own life,” another “how to” sermon aimed at “Christians.” His son-in-law said, “Did it touch your heart?” The liberal theologian said, “I assume you’re trying to ‘evangelize me’…But there was no ‘gospel’ anywhere in that service that might convert me…Not even in the most liberal churches I’ve been in was the service so devoid of Christ and the gospel” (ibid., p. 30).

I myself found that to be strangely true when I attended a liberal Presbyterian seminary while doing doctoral work. Some very liberal “mainline” services had more Bible and more mention of the Gospel than some Baptist churches I have attended! No wonder so many of our people in America are “wildly ignorant” of the basic facts of the Gospel! They seldom if ever hear those facts! About all they ever hear are “how to” sermons. The doctrines of the crucifixion and resurrection are, at best, only mentioned in passing. The preachers assume everyone knows the Gospel – so they by-pass it and preach only on the “how to” aspects of life. The problem is that so many of our people are unconverted that you can preach “how to” till you are blue in the face and they won’t “do” it – because they are still lost! They need to hear a couple of hundred sermons on the Gospel! They need to hear the kind of sermons Spurgeon preached! That is the only thing that could turn our churches away from “Christless Christianity”!

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying [about the Gospel] was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

Yes, millions of people in our churches do not know the Gospel because they never hear whole sermons on it! Those people would never have asked, “Who is the man hanging on the plus sign?” – if the pastor had preached the Gospel to them! But there is another reason that people are “wildly ignorant” of the Gospel today.

II. Second, many have heard the Gospel but have not understood it.

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

Take your Bible some time and look up how many times Jesus told the Disciples He was going to die on the Cross and rise again from the dead. Even so, they still didn’t “get it.” And so, after He rose from the dead, He had to go over it all again!

“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day”
     
 (Luke 24:44-46).

Since Christ Himself had to go over and over the facts of the Gospel – His death and resurrection – don’t you think we preachers need to do the same thing He did? Christ left “us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21). Since Christ went over the points of the Gospel again and again to His Disciples, should not we, as pastors, “follow his steps” – and follow His “example”? I have found that people love to hear the doctrines of grace – the death of Christ to pay for our sins, His resurrection from the dead – and other topics related to the Gospel. The Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

And in the Corinth-like churches of today, our greatest need is to follow the example of both Christ and the Apostle Paul – and preach the death of the Saviour to pay the penalty for sin – and preach His resurrection to give us eternal life! For Paul also said to the Corinthians,

“If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (I Corinthians 15:14).

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17).

I have found that people can hear the Gospel for a long time without grasping it and coming to Christ in a real conversion. As I said, my own mother heard me preach the Gospel for over twenty years before she was converted. Some are saved right away, as my wife was – but others can hear the Gospel for years and still be lost. Why is that true? The Apostle Paul said,

“…the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”
       (II Corinthians 4:4).

The Disciples said,

“Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible…” (Mark 10:26-27).

Man in his natural state cannot grasp the full meaning of the Gospel, and cannot do anything to reverse his lost condition, or contribute anything to his own salvation. But Jesus said more,

“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

It takes a mighty work of the grace of God to open a blinded heart, to bring conviction of sin, and to draw a lost sinner to Christ for justification through His death on the Cross, cleansing through His precious Blood, and the new birth through His resurrection from the dead! How we pray that the grace of God will open your eyes, convict you of sin, and draw you to the risen Saviour! 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: Luke 24:36-48.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Alive Again” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MAN ON THE PLUS SIGN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).

(Luke 18:34; 6:31)

I.   First, many have never heard the Gospel, Luke 18:32-33;
I Corinthians 15:3-4; Luke 18:34.

II.  Second, many have heard the Gospel but have not understood it,
Luke 18:34; 24:44-46; I Peter 2:21; I Corinthians 2:2;
I Corinthians 15:14, 17; II Corinthians 4:4; Mark 10:26-27.