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A SIGHT OF THEIR OWN HEARTS –
A SENSE OF THEIR OWN HELPLESSNESS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, June 13, 2010


Now tonight I am not going to preach the usual type of textual sermon I normally give. This will not be the exposition of a single text. Instead, I am going to give you a Bible study on the subject of awakening and conversion. Please turn with me to Romans 3:18. Read it aloud.

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

That is the natural state of man. As the Apostle put it in verse 9, “they are all under sin,” that is, all human beings are under the power of sin. Domination by sin comes naturally to all, by birth. The power of sin is inherited from our first parent, Adam, for “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12). The “death” spoken of here is the death that came upon Adam on the very day he committed the first human sin. God said, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). And that is exactly what happened to Adam. The very day that he sinned he died spiritually. He was cut off from God, “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). All the human race descends from Adam. Therefore, all human beings, like Adam, are “dead in sins.” Man, in his natural state, is therefore “dead in sins” – “under sin” as the Apostle puts it in Romans 3:9, dominated and controlled by sin.

Then, in verses 10 through 18 he describes man in his natural condition, ending with those awful words,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

I was speaking with an elderly man at my gym the other day. We were swimming together, but we stopped after a while and began a conversation. He had told me on several earlier occasions that he is an atheist. But the other day he began to explain to me his theory of the origin of religion. He said, “I think all religion began with fear.” That is no new thought. Many have said it. But I just let it go. Instead, I asked him, “Fear of what?” He said, “Fear of death, fear of the unknown.” He was somewhat surprised to find that I agreed with him. Yes, it is probably true that the religions of the world began with that kind of fear – fear of death, fear of the unknown. But I did not go farther, because I felt he wasn’t ready to hear the verse we just read,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

Yes, they may very well fear death, and the unknown, but “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

I have been in the ministry for over fifty-two years and I have never seen a single exception to that among men in their natural state. Everyone, of every age, of every race, of every station in life, is the same, exactly the same, with no exceptions I have ever seen!

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

That is why God gave the law. The law of God was not given to save man, but to awaken him. Please read Romans 3:19-20 aloud.

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).

The law was given by God “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

The Apostle is not talking about individual sins here. He does not give a list of sins in Romans 3:9-20. No! Not at all! Instead he gives the very condition of sin, the state of sin, man “under sin.” And in the state of sin man is not righteous (v. 10); man does not understand, nor does he seek God (v. 11); he does not do good out of a pure motive (v. 12); his tongue is full of deception (v. 13); his mouth is full of cursing and bitterness (v. 14); his feet are swift to shed blood (v. 15); his ways are full of destruction and misery (v. 16); he does not know the way of peace (v. 17); and

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

This passage of Scripture presents the human race in a very negative light indeed! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his comments on Romans 5, said, “The sinner is an abomination, he is a monstrosity in God’s universe, he is altogether hateful and vile” (D. M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Romans: Exposition of Chapter 5, Assurance, Banner of Truth Trust, 1971, p. 123).

This is where the law of God comes in, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Yet a person can admit that he has broken God’s law without being disturbed by it. “The knowledge of sin” only becomes intensely disturbing when the Holy Spirit awakens the sinner to his condition, showing him that he is a lawbreaker by nature, that he is a natural addict to it. Like a child, born of an opium smoking mother, is naturally addicted to that drug, so a child of Adam is by nature a lawbreaking sinner in the core of his heart. Please turn to John 16:8. Read it aloud.

“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

When the Spirit of God comes to a sinner He reproves, convicts, intensely disturbs the soul, showing him that he is addicted to breaking God’s law, and is rebellious against God in the core of his nature.

Now, may I ask you a few questions? Have you ever felt the power of sin, the grip that sin has over you? Have you ever felt that you are sinful to the core? Have you ever felt, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones put it, that you are “a monstrosity in God’s universe” – that you are “altogether hateful and vile” in the sight of God? And, if you have never felt like this, is it then not true of you that you have not been “reproved…of sin” by God’s Spirit? Have you ever felt like Simon Peter did when he said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord”? (Luke 5:8).

The first work of God’s Spirit is to convict and alarm the conscience. Therefore, the first work of evangelistic preaching is to work with God’s Spirit, to tell the sinner that in him “dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Christ, the greatest of all evangelists, said those words we have been reading every Sunday night. Turn to them in Luke 13:24. Read the verse aloud.

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).

Christ tells you to strive, to struggle, to agonize “to enter in” to Him. Have you been doing that? Have you been reading and re-reading the sermons? Have you been praying and re-praying for God to alarm and disturb you? Have you prayed, as Luther would say, for God to “terrify” you? And, if you have not been doing this, can you honestly say that you have been striving to “enter in at the strait gate”? And if you are not striving, yes fighting, to enter in, how do you ever expect to come to an end of yourself? After all, the purpose of “striving” is not to earn salvation. Not at all! The purpose of striving is to prove to you how far you are from salvation. The purpose of striving is to prove to you that you cannot ever make yourself right, to show you that you cannot obey God, that you are rebellious against Him, a sin-addict, and dead to righteousness. The standard that God requires is not reachable by a sin-addict like you!

Have you ever felt that you are far from salvation? Have you ever felt that you cannot ever make yourself right? Have you ever been disturbed because you cannot reach God’s standard? Have you ever felt that your very nature, your very heart, is too sinful to approach God?

Then, of course, you may wonder if we are deceiving you by telling you to do what you cannot do. Not at all. We are telling you to do what you ought to do. And we are telling you to do what you ought to do to show you that you are “by nature” a child “of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). George Whitefield often told his vast audiences that they could never be real Christians until they “felt” their total depravity and hated their own natures. Have you felt your depravity? Have you felt that you have no real love for God? Yes, not even any fear of Him? Have you ever felt, in truth, that you have “no hope, and [are] without God in the world”? (Ephesians 2:12). Have you ever felt that way? And, if you have never felt that, how do you expect “to enter in at the strait gate”? (Luke 13:24). Jonathan Edwards said,

Such earnestness and thoroughness of endeavors, is the ordinary means that God makes use of to bring people into an acquaintance with themselves, to a sight of their own hearts, to a sense of their own helplessness, and to a despair in their own strength and righteousness…It is experience of ourselves, and finding what we are, that God commonly makes use of as the means of bringing us [away from] all dependence on ourselves…It is therefore quite a wrong [idea that some have] that the more they do, the more they shall depend on it. Whereas the reverse is true; the more they do, or the more thorough they are in seeking [striving], the less likely will they be to rest in their doings [strivings] and the sooner will they see the vanity of all that they do (Jonathan Edwards, Works, The Banner of Truth Trust, volume I, pp. 656-657; Message title taken from this passage).

The Gospel gives more than forgiveness of sin. Christ must change you inwardly. You must have “a change of nature, a deliverance from self, a new life” (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, p. 13). Do you even want a new life? Or are you looking for forgiveness so you can go back and live the same way you did before? Are you striving to enter in to Christ? Or are you just seeking to be accepted in the church? Are you striving to be born again, as a new person with a new way of life? Or are you just looking for a happier feeling so you can return to your old ways? Please stand and read Luke 13:24 aloud.

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).

You may be seated.

William Wilberforce, who freed the slaves in England, during his conversion prayed, “O God, deliver me from myself!” Have you ever prayed like that? Are you reading these Sunday evening sermons over and over? Are you thinking each night about your sin-nature? Are you praying for Christ to deliver you from yourself before you sleep each night?

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Romans 3:9-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Unpardonable Sin” (author unknown;
sung to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).