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THE UNCHANGING CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”
(Hebrews 13:8).


I will soon be seventy years old. Looking back over seven decades, I have seen many changes. I can remember when a rag-man came by our house in a horse-drawn wagon, collecting what we would now call recyclable items. I can hear the sound of the horse’s feet, and the strange cry he made as he went down our street every day. There was also an ice-man in a horse-drawn ice truck. The horse went so slow I could run behind the wagon and pick out slivers of ice. This was in downtown Los Angeles. People needed blocks of ice because there were very few electric-powered refrigerators. We did not have a refrigerator. We had an ice-box. There was a compartment at the top, and it kept the milk and other items cool in the compartment below. I still find myself calling our refrigerator an “ice box”! The other big change I saw was the coming of television. When I was a child we listened to radio programs, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, The Green Hornet, Inner Sanctum, and The Lone Ranger, programs like that – on the radio.

Then we heard about television. It seemed like impossible science fiction that you could receive the image of a man talking to you through the air waves. I remember wondering, “How can a person’s image come down through an antenna and be seen on a TV screen?” I couldn’t figure it out when I was a small boy. The first TV I ever saw was rented by a family next door to our house on Fargo Street. You had to put a quarter into a slot on the machine about every thirty minutes to keep it going. It had a screen about two inches by one inch, with a magnifying glass in front of it to make the image about six by four inches. This was in 1947. I was utterly captivated by it. I watched about thirty minutes of “Arabian Nights,” with Sabu riding on a magic carpet. I sat down on our carpet and tried to get it to fly, but it wouldn’t “go” no matter how hard I concentrated.

I remember the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945. I remember the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. I remember when Harry Truman beat Tom Dewey for the presidency in 1948. I ran into the back yard and excitedly told the woman next door, “Truman won!” She looked down and said in a sorry voice, “We were for Dewey.” I thought, “Oh, no! She’s a Republican!” I never looked at her the same way again! We were Democrats all the way back to Adam. I remember General Douglas MacArthur. I remember watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on a TV screen, through the window of a department store, as I stood on a street in Toronto, Canada in 1952. I remember Adlai Stevenson, and Hank Williams, and Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, and “Catcher in the Rye.” I remember meeting Johnny Bond, Bob Wills, Merle Travis, and Tex Ritter. I remember Johnny Cash, and Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe. I remember Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason and Art Carney – and Steve Allen leading the Tonight Show, and Jack Paar leading the Tonight Show. I remember John F. Kennedy, the Beatles, the Doors, and Johnny Carson leading the Tonight Show. I remember Dr. King’s march in Selma, Alabama. I remember Khrushchev and the space race with the Soviet Union after they launched “Sputnik.” I remember the riots on college campuses during the war in Vietnam. I remember Kent State. I remember the day Churchill died, the night Bobby Kennedy was shot and the day Dr. King was killed. I remember the riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. I remember the Flower Children, and the Jesus People. I remember Jews for Jesus and my friend Moishe Rosen (who performed our wedding, and whom we visited shortly before he died in 2010). I remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon. I remember when President Nixon went to China and changed the world. I remember Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, and Boris Karloff; and Ingrid Bergman, and Humphrey Bogart, and John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart. I remember meeting sports announcer Chick Hearn at the first game the Lakers played at the Staples Center in 1999. I remember meeting Dustin Hoffman, Ringo Starr, Robert Ryan and Diane Keaton – who came to our church and listened to me preach a sermon one Sunday. I remember when David Soul (Starsky and Hutch) attended our evening service. I remember Mickey Rooney listening to me preach a sermon through a window when we were having services on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I remember when my friends and I spent an afternoon with Stan Laurel (of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team) at his apartment on the beach in Santa Monica. I remember meeting Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. It is not surprising that I met these movie stars, since I have spent almost my entire life and ministry in downtown Los Angeles, about fifteen minutes away from Hollywood. I remember having lunch with President Nixon, and meeting President Reagan twice. I remember having coffee with Presidential speech writer Pat Buchanan, at his home in McLean, Virginia, as I tried but failed to get him to support Israel. I remember meeting Governor Mike Huckabee. I remember World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the fall of the Soviet Union.

My friend Dr. John S. Waldrip often asks me to give a list of preachers and Christian leaders I have met and known. It boggles my mind as I go over this long list. I think, “How could a little inner-city missionary like me have met so many world-renowned preachers and leaders?” Anyway, here is the list, not in alphabetical order, but as they came to mind.

I remember when my wife and I had dinner with Pastor and Mrs. Richard Wurmbrand. I remember meeting Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea, and Dr. W. A. Criswell (twice). I remember interviewing Dr. John R. Rice, and having coffee with Francis Schaeffer in his living room, as we watched Ronald Reagan, being sworn in as President. I remember having dinner several times at our house with my friend Dr. Bob Jones, Jr.; I remember when Dr. Bob Jones III spent the night with us at our house. I remember having lunch with Jerry Falwell (twice). I remember Dr. Harold Lindsell (the second editor of Christianity Today) preaching during our wedding ceremony, and I remember Dr. Paige Patterson speaking at our church. I remember the day I met Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Dr. Charles L. Feinberg, Dr. Samuel Sutherland, Dr. Gleason Archer, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith, Dr. Walter Martin, Rev. Iain H. Murray (of the Banner of Truth Trust), and I remember the day Dr. Harold Lindsell and I spent with our friend Dr. Bill Powell, publisher of the Southern Baptist Journal. I remember meeting Dr. John F. Walvoord, Judge Paul Pressler, and Dr. James Montgomery Boice, all of whom preached in our church. I remember meeting Dr. R. G. Lee, Dr. E. V. Hill, Dr. Lloys Vess, Dr. Henry M. Morris, Dr. Raymond Barber, Hal Lindsey, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, Dr. Bailey Smith, Dr. Phil Shuler, Dr. Neal Weaver, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Dr. Bill Monroe, Dr. Gary Grey, Dr. Ken Connolly, Dr. Johnny Pope, anti-abortion leader Joseph M. Scheidler, Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (twice), and Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today.

I remember meeting Dr. G. Beauchamp Vick, Dr. John Rawlings, Dr. Kenneth E. Gillming, Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. H. L. Willmington, Dr. D. A. Waite, Dr. Bob Ross, Dr. E. Robert Jordan, Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley, Dr. David O. Beale, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. James O. Combs, Dr. Clarence Sexton, Dr. Robert L. Sumner, Dr. David Innes, Dr. Louis T. Talbot’s wife, and Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth. I remember the day I met Miss Gladys Aylward, a great missionary to China, and Dr. James Hudson Taylor III, long president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan. I remember the day I was ordained at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, with Dr. Timothy Lin presiding.

I remember the day my grandmother died, the day my friend died, the day my father died, the day my stepfather Bill McDonell died, the day my mother died, and the day my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, died. I remember the day I married Ileana, the best pastor’s wife in the world. I remember the day our boys were born. I remember the day our church began, and I remember the stalwart people who have stood with us in our church all these years. Yes, you can remember a lot when you get to be seventy years old.

I remember the changing scenes of evangelical Christianity. I remember, when, as a thirteen-year-old boy, the people next door, Dr. and Mrs. McGowan, took me to a Baptist church for the first time. That was fifty-seven years ago. Outwardly the churches seemed much stronger then. But the actual situation was worse than the superficial appearance. Millions of unconverted people were being processed into the churches through “decisionist” methods. The churches appeared to be strong and growing then, but the foundation was far weaker than it seemed to be at the time. Today, with thousands of churches closing, and many others weak and dying, we seem to be in a hopeless situation. Yet today’s apostasy actually gives clearer support to the truth of the Bible than did the superficial Christianity of the 1950s (see Iain H. Murray, Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008, p. 90).

The changing scenes of time show us our need for the unchanging Christ,

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”
      (Hebrews 13:8).

Henry F. Lyte said it well,

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
   Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see,
   O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
(“Abide With Me” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

As we look back over our lives, even the young can say with Henry Lyte, “Change and decay in all around I see.” A few weeks ago, I was standing behind a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old girl in a branch of Bank of America. She was a smart white girl with rings in her nose and ears and spiked hair. We struck up a conversation, and she finally said, “It’s all ruined. There’s nothing left for us.” Sadly, I agreed with her. Yet, in the midst of the changing scenes of time, the task of the church is unchanging. The Bible says, “Unto him [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21). Please stand and sing “Glory Be to the Father”!

Glory be to the Father,
   And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost!
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
   World without end. Amen. Amen.
(“The Gloria Patri,” an old Scottish chant, author unknown).

You may be seated. The first unchanging task of the church is to glorify God. That is the chief purpose of every Christian, as well as the church of which he is a member. We are to glorify God in our lives, in our testimonies, in our prayers, and in our “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19) – but not with modern “junk” music!

The second underlying task is evangelism. It is our duty to go to this dying, hopeless world and tell them that “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus gave us that Great Commission several times,

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
       (Matthew 28:19).

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Please stand and sing “Evangelize! Evangelize!” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith. It’s number 8 on your song sheet.

Give us a watchword for the hour, A thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath That calls to conquest or to death.
A word to rouse the church from rest, To heed the Master’s strong request.
The call is given, Ye hosts, arise, Our watchword is, evangelize!

The glad evangel now proclaim, Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies: Evangelize! Evangelize!
To dying men, a fallen race, Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies, Evangelize! Evangelize!
   (“Evangelize! Evangelize!” Words by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, 1889-1986;
     sung to the tune of “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

You may be seated. That is the unchanging task of the church – Evangelize! Evangelize! Jesus said,

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

Do it on Saturday night! Be here at 6:00 every Saturday night as we go out to evangelize the lost in this city! That is the unchanging task of the church! Other churches may change. They may go to sleep. They may not see the need. But Christ still says,

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

That is the unchanging task of our church!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”
       (Hebrews 13:8).

There is one last thing I will bring out in this sermon. Whatever changes we see in the world, whatever changes we see in the churches, whatever changes occur in our own lives, “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). He says to those who faithfully go to evangelism, “Lo, I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:20). He said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Never be discouraged! Christ is with you!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”
       (Hebrews 13:8).

He is the changeless Christ. He is the changeless Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is the changeless Lamb of God who bore our sins “in his own body” on the Cross (I Peter 2:24). His changeless Blood is available now to cleanse “us from all sin” (I John 1:7). He lives His changeless life in Heaven in the same flesh and bone body that rose from the dead on Easter morning (Luke 24:38-40). The changeless Christ is praying for you now, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for” us (Hebrews 7:25). Amen! He is,

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”
       (Hebrews 13:8).

Christ never changes. He loved sinners while He was on earth – and he loves sinners now! Sinner, I call on you tonight – Come by faith to the unchanging Christ. He will cleanse you from all sin by His Blood. He will clothe you in His full righteousness. He will save your soul from judgment and give you life – both now and forever! Come to Christ! Come to Christ! Come to Christ! May the grace of God the Father, and the drawing power of the Holy Spirit move you to come to Jesus Christ, the sinner’s unchanging Saviour! Amen.

(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: Hebrews 1:8-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Abide With Me” (by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).