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THE REAL TEST!
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16-17).
The Scofield Study Bible gives this comment, “Election is...the sovereign act of God in grace whereby certain are chosen from among mankind for Himself” (The Scofield Study Bible, p. 1311; note on I Peter 1:2). This is a fairly good description of election. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Again, Jesus said, “I have chosen you” (John 15:19).
You may ask, “Am I one of the elect? Have I been chosen by Christ? How can I tell if He has selected me to be one of His chosen people?” The answer is given by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower, which is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels – in Matthew 13:18-23, Luke 8:11-15, and in the passage Dr. Chan read a few minutes ago, in Mark 4:13-20. This parable describes four kinds of people who come to church and hear the Gospel preached from the Word of God.
The first kind are those who hear preaching of the Word, but “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15). These are people who come to church a few times and then stop coming. Nothing that was preached has any effect on them. They go away and don’t remember the sermons. These people are not concerned about being converted. They are not among the elect. They have not been chosen by Christ.
The second kind are those who come to church for a while, and seem to be interested in becoming real Christians. They hear the preaching and “immediately receive it with gladness” (Mark 4:16). But they are not converted. Thus, they “have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time.” But, “when affliction or persecution ariseth...immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17) – and “fall away” (Luke 8:13). So, they “endure (in the church) but for a time” (Mark 4:17). These people are not among the elect. They too have not been chosen by Christ.
The third kind represent those who come and hear the preaching for a long time, and appear to be Christians. But later “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Dr. McGee said,
I find that a great many people have let the cares of the world crowd out the Word of God...they are not believers at all! They have heard the Word and have only professed to receive it (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 73; note on Matthew 13:22).
These people make superficial commitments to Christ and the church, but the problems of life and the desire to make more money “choke the word” and show that, as Dr. McGee said, “they are not believers at all!” (McGee, ibid.). These often include young people raised in the church. They keep coming to church as long as they are dependent on their parents, but when they are making their own money, they fall away because they have never experienced real conversion. They too are not among the elect. They have not been chosen by Christ.
The fourth kind are the elect. These are the only ones chosen by Christ for salvation. By the sheer grace of God they “hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit...” (Mark 4:20). These alone are the elect. These alone have been chosen by Christ. These alone experience real conversion. Christ said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
You may ask, “Am I one of the elect? Have I been chosen by Christ? How can I tell if God has selected me to be one of His chosen people?” Some of you are new people in our church. You have been coming for several weeks on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and to evangelism on Saturday evening. Will you be converted? Are you one of God’s elect? Let us look at the real test. The real test is not what you learn, or what answers you can give in the inquiry room. The real test is given in Mark 4:16-17. Please stand and read verses 16 and 17, beginning with the words, “When they have heard the word...”
“When they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended”
You may be seated.
Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said that these hearers “make a great show of promise.” When they hear the preaching of the Gospel “they are delighted – this is what they have been waiting for.” Yet they prove to be “disappointing.” They have “no root in themselves.” Since they are not rooted in Christ, they are not converted. “Hence they are...transient or temporary.” “And so endure but for a time,” Mark 4:17 (cf. R. C. H. Lenski, Th.D., The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1964 printing, p. 173; note on Mark 4:16).
The non-elect have four characteristics that we often see in new people.
I. First, they are delighted to hear the Gospel.
“When they have heard the word [they] receive it with gladness” (Mark 4:16).
These are the kind of people who come into the church and make friends with everybody. They like being here. They like the preaching and the singing. They are glad to be here in church. They like eating a meal with us after the services. They learn the plan of salvation. They can say the right words when Dr. Cagan and I speak to them in the inquiry room. They are like the crowds that followed Jesus, because they “did eat of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).
II. Second, they have no root in themselves.
Something is wrong with them from the very beginning – they “have no root in themselves” (Mark 4:17). The Gospel makes them feel happy when they hear it, but it has not taken root in their hearts. Dr. Gill said, “There is no heart-work, only [theoretical ideas] and flashy [emotions]; there is no root of grace in them” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 400; note on Mark 4:17). These people are not “rooted and built up in [Christ],” Colossians 2:7.
Dr. Gill said, “He hath not root in himself, nor in Christ” (ibid., p. 147; note on Matthew 13:21). In other words this type of person has never come to Jesus – and is not converted. He likes to be with his new friends in the church. He likes to sing the hymns. He likes the meals that are served after each service. He even likes the pastor and the sermons he delivers.
But he has never come under conviction of sin. He has never felt that his sins were an intolerable burden to him. He has never felt that he was hopeless and lost. He has great confidence in his own ability to live the Christian life, because he has never been broken down to see that he is utterly helpless, completely unable to do or say anything that will help him.
He only has a superficial “gladness.” He has never seen the guilt of his sin. He has never been disturbed by his sin in the sight of a holy and judgmental God. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Therefore they never feel any need for Jesus. They learned the words, but they never felt,
“Woe is me! for I am undone” – I am lost! (Isaiah 6:5).
They never felt that they must come to Jesus or perish. Therefore they have “no root” in Christ. They are only happy church attenders – who are not converted. They are not among the elect. God has not chosen them.
III. Third, they endure but for a time.
“When they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time...” (Mark 4:16-17).
“They continue hearers and professors of the Gospel for a small season,” said Dr. Gill (ibid,. p. 400). Sometimes they even stay in the church long enough to be baptized. But since they have “no root” in Christ they will not stay in the church too long. They certainly will not become life-long members of their church! They will, at last, become what Spurgeon called, “Birds of passage.” They will only “endure...for a time” in their local church. The Greek word translated “endure” means “remain” (Strong). They only remain in their church for a while. Why? Because they have never been converted. They are not among the elect. They will not be saved.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us…”
(I John 2:19).
Commenting on I John 2:19, Dr. McGee said,
The way you can tell whether or not [someone is converted] is that eventually a man will...leave the [church] if he is not a child of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 777; note on I John 2:19).
They are not among the elect. God has not chosen them. They will not be saved.
IV. Fourth, they are immediately offended, and fall away from the church, when they are tested by the usual problems of the Christian life.
“[They] have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).
The “affliction” or “persecution” need not be very great. Dr. Gill said, “As soon as any small degree of trouble comes upon them...because of the Gospel...such hearers stumble...and can’t bear the loss of anything, or endure any thing...and therefore they [give up] their profession” (ibid.).
Yesterday a man at my gym told me he left his church in 1972 because a pastor told him something he didn’t like. Think of it! He hasn’t gone to church for 39 years because of a remark a pastor made to him! If I had been that sensitive, I could have found many reasons to leave the church I belonged to as a young person! I know of a person who left recently because his uncle invited him to go out to dinner during church services. He could easily have changed it to a different night – but instead he left the church. Another fellow said that he had to take his aunt’s place and teach piano to some kids in Northern California, even though there was another person who could have done it! He left the church even though there was no compelling reason to do so. One Chinese girl left because she wanted to take an extra class that she didn’t even need!
You see, Dr. John Gill was right when he said, “As soon as any small degree of trouble comes upon them [they] stumble…and can’t bear the loss of anything...and therefore they [give up] their profession” (Gill, ibid.). That is the real test! It is not what you learn from the Bible. It is not the words you say in the inquiry room. The real test of whether you are one of the elect who will be saved is this – can you keep coming to church no matter what happens? Can you keep coming when “affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake”? Will you be able to say with old John Newton,
“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home”?
(“Amazing Grace by John Newton, 1725-1807, third stanza).
Pray for God to bring you under conviction of sin. Don’t let any “small degree of trouble” (Gill, ibid.) keep you from coming to church, being converted, and then living the Christian life in your local church. Christ died on the Cross, in your place, to save you from the penalty of your sin. He rose from the dead to give you the new birth and conversion. Come to Jesus and don’t turn back to a life of sin, no matter what happens. That is the real test of whether or not you are one of the elect! That is the real test of whether or not God has chosen to save you from sin through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 4:13-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Amazing Grace” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).
THE OUTLINE OF
THE REAL TEST!
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16-17).
(John 15:16, 19; Mark 4:15, 16, 17; Luke 8:13;
I. First, they are delighted to hear the Gospel, Mark 4:16; John 6:26.
II. Second, they have no root in themselves, Mark 4:17a;
III. Third, they endure but for a time; Mark 4:17b; I John 2:19.
IV. Fourth, they are immediately offended, and fall away from the