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HAMMERING AWAY AT COMMONPLACE THINGS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 13, 2011

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
(Acts 16:31).


Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke of “the terrible apostasy that has increasingly characterized the Church for the last hundred years [now 152 years, since Dr. Lloyd-Jones said this in 1959]...There has been only one major revival since 1859...We have passed through one of the most barren periods in the long history of the Church” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1992 edition, pp. 55, 129).

There is no question in my mind that today’s apostasy in the churches has three roots. It sprang partly from Johann Semler’s (1725-1791) incipient textual criticism, which finally led most major theological schools to attack the inerrancy of the Bible. It sprang partly from Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) theory of evolution, which largely replaced the true account of man’s creation in the book of Genesis with his science fiction book, The Descent of Man (1871). But, most of all, today’s apostasy has its roots in the change from “Old School” evangelism to “New School” evangelism (known as “decisionism”), led by C. G. Finney (1792-1875). Thus, I consider these three men to be the source, or fountain-head, of today’s apostasy. Textual criticism of the Bible, Darwin’s theory of the “descent of man,” and Finney’s “decisionism” are the three prongs on Satan’s pitchfork, with which he has stabbed the churches and brought about “the terrible apostasy that has increasingly characterized the Church for the last [150] years,” as Dr. Lloyd-Jones put it.

Today the major denominations have been slain by the heirs of Semler and Darwin. The most dangerous prong on Satan’s pitchfork for those who remain “evangelicals” is “decisionism.”

Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner's standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.
      (R. L. Hymers, Jr. and Christopher Cagan, Today’s Apostasy: How Decisionism is Destroying Our Churches, Hearthstone Publishing, 2001 edition, p. 17).

Real conversion is, therefore, supernatural – while decisionism is purely human. Conversion is from God. Decisionism is from man. In decisionism man does something that takes the place of a saving encounter with Jesus Christ but is, in fact, not that at all.

After 150 years of decisionism the core doctrines of evangelism are seldom preached as whole sermons in most of our pulpits. Today many pastors think all they need to do is have people raise their hands and say a quick “sinner’s prayer” – then baptize them as soon as possible – for most of them will not be seen in church again!

Yet I am convinced that the old way of Spurgeon was the right way. He said to the young preachers in his college,

We must go to these sinners and we must talk to them about such commonplace things as sin, and death, and judgment, and hell, and heaven, and Christ, and his blood. Yes, the blood. We must have that...We must hammer away at these: we must keep to these commonplace things, and make every sermon... distinctly aim at the conversion of sinners (C. H. Spurgeon, Speeches, p. 120; quoted in Iain H. Murray, Heroes, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, p. 279).

I will go through this list of “commonplace things” one by one, for they are no longer commonplace, but need to be preached constantly. We dare not assume that our people understand these things. Spurgeon said, “We must hammer away at these.”

I. First, we must hammer away at sin.

Turn to Romans 5:12. Please stand and read that verse aloud.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

You may be seated.

By one man, Adam, sin entered into the world. “By one man's disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19) – and are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

We must hammer away at the fact that you are a sinner “by nature.” As a descendant of Adam you were born a sinner. As a baby you screamed, as one writer put it, “like a little savage.” I know of no baby animal that screams through the night. Yet human babies do so, as every weary new mother knows. We come screaming and raging into the world. By the time we are two or three years old we already know how to steal and lie. We don’t need to be taught to commit these sins – we do them naturally, because we are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). And so it goes. Throughout your life you have committed one sin after the other – because you are a sinner by nature, a sinner from the heart, and a sinner from the start!

No one can change your sinful heart but Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to die on the Cross, and rise from the dead, so your heart could be changed by the new birth, for “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” from judgment for your sin.

II. Second, we must hammer away at death.

God told our forefather Adam that he would die “in the day” that he committed the first human sin (Genesis 2:17). He did die “in the day” he sinned. The motions of death began in his body. But, worse than that, he died spiritually on that day. He was instantly separated from God, and death reigned over his soul. He became as dead to God as any heathen idol worshipper. He was “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). He was “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that [was] in [him], because of the blindness of [his] heart” (Ephesians 4:18).

And his dead soul was passed down to you. Yes, we are traducianists. Dr. Henry C. Thiessen said that traducianism “holds that the human race was immediately created in Adam, with respect to the soul as well as the body, and both are propagated from him by natural generation... ‘In sin did my mother conceive me’ (Psalm 51:5), can only mean that David inherited a depraved soul from his mother [who in turn inherited a dead, depraved soul from Adam]” (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1971 edition, pp. 233-234). How can your dead soul be made alive? Only by the Lord Jesus Christ! God raised Christ from the dead to give life to your dead soul which, by regeneration, becomes “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” from spiritual death – and from physical death at the resurrection.

III. Third, we must hammer away at judgment and Hell.

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

You will die physically. Strangely, people have a way of putting death out of their minds. They also tend to think there will be no judgment for sin after they die. In their natural, depraved state, men deceive themselves by thinking there is no judgment coming, and no Hell awaiting them. “There is no fear of God” in the hearts of the unconverted (Romans 3:18). But when they die they will be surprised to find themselves in the eternal flames.

“Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14).

How can you escape from Judgment and Hell? You must have your sins blotted out from God’s Book of Judgment (Revelation 20:12). You cannot do that yourself. Only “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” from judgment for your sins.

IV. Fourth, we must hammer away at Heaven.

Just as there is a real Hell to be avoided, so also there is a real Heaven to be gained. The Apostle Peter spoke of “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).

When I was studying in a liberal Southern Baptist seminary, I often heard Bible-rejecting professors say, “Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” But I never met anyone like that. Have you? No, it’s the other way around – man in his natural, depraved state is “so earthly minded that he is no heavenly good.” If you ever meet someone who thinks a great deal about Heaven you will know that he is a holy man. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was like that. So was my former pastor Dr. Timothy Lin. He was always thinking about the coming Kingdom.

How does one get to Heaven? God sent Jesus to save you from your sins, and bring you to Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” for all eternity in Heaven!

V. Fifth, we must hammer away at Christ and His Blood.

Spurgeon said, “We must go to these sinners and we must talk to them about such commonplace things as sin, and death, and judgment, and hell, and heaven, and Christ, and his blood. Yes, the blood. We must have that...We must hammer away at these: we must keep to these commonplace things...” (Spurgeon, ibid.).

I read one of Spurgeon’s sermons nearly every week. My, how he followed his own advice! Week after week he preached on Christ; not so much on the teachings of Christ, or the example of Christ, but constantly on “Jesus Christ himself” (Ephesians 2:20).

Sinner, you must have Jesus Christ Himself to be saved. It is Jesus Christ Himself who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. It is Jesus Christ Himself whom God sent down from Heaven into the womb of the Virgin Mary. It is Jesus Christ Himself who lived a sinless life on earth. It is Jesus Christ Himself who took our sins upon Him and sweat as it were “great drops of blood” in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). It is Jesus Christ Himself who bore our sins “in his own body” on the Cross (I Peter 2:24). It is Jesus Christ Himself who paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross. And it is Jesus Christ Himself who shed His precious Blood to cleanse “us from all sin” (I John 1:7). It is Jesus Christ Himself who rose physically from the dead in His own flesh and bone body (Luke 24:39). It is Jesus Christ Himself who “was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). It is Jesus Christ Himself who is perpetually praying for us in Heaven, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for” us (Hebrews 7:25). And it is Jesus Christ Himself who “shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord [Jesus Christ Himself] in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Amen! Hallelujah!

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
       (Acts 16:31).

Don’t just believe things about Him. That won’t do you any good. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ...” (Acts 16:31). The Greek word is “eis” – it means “upon.” Believe upon Christ. Throw yourself on Him. May you be united with Jesus Christ Himself! Please stand and sing hymn number 7, “Not What These Hands Have Done.”

Not what these hands have done Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne Can make my spirit whole.

Not what I feel or do Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears Can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, O Christ, Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy Blood alone, O Lamb of God, Can give me peace within.
   (“Not What These Hands Have Done” by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

(END OF SERMON)
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or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 16:22-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Oh, What a Fountain!” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

THE OUTLINE OF

HAMMERING AWAY AT COMMONPLACE THINGS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
(Acts 16:31).

I.   First, we must hammer away at sin, Romans 5:12, 19; Ephesians 2:3;
II Corinthians 5:17.

II.  Second, we must hammer away at death, Genesis 2:17; Ephesians 2:1;
Ephesians 4:18; Psalm 51:5; Romans 6:11.

III. Third, we must hammer away at judgment and Hell, Hebrews 9:27;
Romans 3:18; Isaiah 33:14; Revelation 20:12; I John 1:7.

IV. Fourth, we must hammer away at Heaven, I Peter 1:4; John 14:6.

V.  Fifth, we must hammer away at Christ and His Blood, Ephesians 2:20;
Luke 22:44; I Peter 2:24; I John 1:7; Luke 24:39; Mark 16:19;
Hebrews 7:25; I Thessalonians 4:16-17.