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WITH DR. SUNG AT THE LIBERAL SEMINARY

(SERMON #2 ON DR. JOHN SUNG)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, October 2, 2011

“He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).


I have been studying the life of Dr. John Sung, the great Chinese evangelist of the 1930s. In my study of Dr. Sung’s life I have discovered several parallels, and some differences between his life and mine which I think may be of interest to those who read my sermons.

Early Life

There are several main differences in my early life from Dr. Sung’s. He was born into a Christian family. I was born into a non-Christian family. My father was a salesman. Dr. Sung’s father was a pastor. Dr. Sung’s father wanted him to become a minister. My father did not want me to be a minister. Dr. Sung was a brilliant student from the beginning, earning a Ph.D. in 21 months as a young man in his mid-twenties at an American university. I, on the other hand, dropped out of high school, struggled to finish it at night, and went on to fail in Bible school, but was converted just before leaving the school. Dr. Sung was always a brilliant student. He earned his Bachelor’s degree Cum Laude. He earned his Master’s degree in chemistry in just 9 months, and a Ph.D. in chemistry in only 21 months. I was a very poor student until after my conversion. I failed in high school and I failed the first time I went to college. He was converted when he was in seminary, while I was converted before I entered college the second time. I was converted during a chapel sermon given by Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge at Biola College [now University] at about 10:30 in the morning, on September 28, 1961. Dr. Sung was converted at the end of his first year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. “All For Jesus.” Sing that chorus!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.    (“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).

Seminary Life

It was when Dr. Sung was attending the liberal Union Seminary that several parallels occurred that made our lives similar. I had been called to the ministry, before my conversion, at the First Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California. Like Dr. Sung, I became very interested during this period in evangelizing the Chinese people. After reading a book on the life of James Hudson Taylor, and The Journal of John Wesley, I felt that God was calling me to preach as a missionary in Taiwan or Hong Kong. I began to study the Chinese language in the early 1960s, but broke off my study of Chinese when I started studying at Los Angeles City College. In January of 1961 I joined the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. I was nineteen years old. I had a very heavy schedule during those years of study, attending college at night, while teaching Sunday School, preaching every Sunday to the children in the Junior Church, and serving many hours in other duties on Friday and Saturday at the Chinese church. I was working full time during the day and attending college at night. With all the work I was doing at the church on the weekends it was a very difficult schedule indeed. I had read a book recommended by presidential candidate Richard Nixon, titled The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. I did not know at the time that Dr. Peale was a liberal. But there was one chapter in his book that made a positive impression on me. In that chapter Dr. Peale said to memorize Philippians 4:13 and claim the promise in it,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”
       (Philippians 4:13).

Claiming the promise of that verse was one of the turning points in my life. I meditated on Philippians 4:13 every day, and that promise became a reality to me, as Christ gave me strength to finally do well in college, while working full time at the Division of Corporations of the State of California in the mail room, and file room; while carrying a full load of courses at night, and doing all that work at the Chinese Baptist Church on the weekends. I graduated from Cal State L.A. in the spring of 1970. “All For Jesus.” Sing that chorus again!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

The First Chinese Baptist Church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. I was told by the Southern Baptists that I must go to seminary to be ordained. Although I had been licensed to preach at the First Southern Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California in September 1960, and had completed a Bachelor’s degree by 1970, the Southern Baptists would not ordain me unless I went on to complete a three-year Master of Divinity degree at Seminary. I did not have enough money saved to attend the more conservative Talbot School of Theology at Biola, so I felt the only option I had was to attend Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Mill Valley, in Marin County, near San Francisco. I knew the school was liberal but the leaders of the First Chinese Baptist Church said it would not harm me because my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin (who had taught at Bob Jones University in the graduate department) had given me a rather thorough training in conservative theology and Bible during the years I studied under him at the Chinese church.

They meant well in sending me to Golden Gate Seminary, but it was not the best advice. I came very close to leaving the ministry as a direct result of studying at that seminary, which was extremely liberal at the time (though it is more conservative today). But when I went to Golden Gate it was a literal hot-bed of extreme liberalism, very similar to Union Theological Seminary in New York, when Dr. Sung went there in the fall of 1926. Union Seminary taught from the same liberal perspective as Golden Gate. Dr. John Sung’s biographer said of Union Seminary,

[John Sung] soon found that the approach to the Bible and to the Christian faith was largely philosophical. Every problem was discussed in the light of human reason. Anything in the Bible which was not justified scientifically, was rejected as being unworthy of belief. Genesis was held to be unhistorical and belief in miracles unscientific. The historical Jesus was presented as an ideal to imitate, while the substitutionary value of His death and His physical resurrection were denied. Prayer was rejected as largely [worthless]. To dissent from such views was to become an object of pity and derision (Leslie T. Lyall, A Biography of John Sung: Flame of God in the Far East, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1965 edition, pp. 29-30).

This was exactly what I was taught during my three-year Master of Divinity course at Golden Gate Seminary.

At the seminary, Dr. John Sung lost the childhood beliefs taught to him by his father, who was a pastor. He began studying Buddhism and Taoism, and wondered if the teaching of Lao-Tze might bring him the peace he sought. He translated Lao-Tze’s Tao Teh Ching, and read a paper on the Chinese philosopher to one of his classes. He even started chanting Buddhist scriptures alone in his dormitory room, “hoping that through self denial he might obtain the salvation of which the Buddha spoke…But his own heart remained in darkness” (Lyall, ibid., p. 31).

He said, “‘My soul,’ he wrote, ‘wandered in a wilderness. I could neither sleep nor eat…My heart was filled with the deepest unhappiness’” (Lyall, p. 31). Click here for the best biography of Dr. Sung, “I Remember John Sung,” by Rev. William E. Schubert, or go to www.strategicpress.org.

Many of the feelings and experiences Dr. John Sung had at that liberal seminary, I also felt during my third year at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. By the third year I was completely alone, deeply depressed, seriously contemplating leaving the ministry for good. In all of this, my feelings at that point were very similar to those of John Sung. “All For Jesus.” Sing it again!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

The Change

But there was one major difference. John Sung had not yet been converted. I had experienced a real conversion back in September, 1961. I had come to Christ in a definite way, had been washed in His Blood, and was born again that day at Biola College, several years before.

In a similar state of deep depression, Dr. Sung had turned to Christ and been converted. I already knew Christ, but I was so deeply tried and tested by the Devil that I felt I could not go on in the ministry.

Then late one night I woke up about two o’clock with a verse of Scripture going through my mind,

“He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

I got out of bed and looked the verse up in a concordance. God seemed to say to me, “This is for you. You are ‘accepted in the beloved.’ You are accepted because you are ‘in’ my beloved Son, Jesus. No one else accepts you, but I do. You are accepted by me because you are ‘in’ my beloved Son.” I jumped out of bed, put on my clothes and ran out into the night – up to a little flat-topped mountain behind the seminary. I go there to that spot every time I am in San Francisco. In the distance, I could see the lights of San Francisco to the Southeast, and Tamalpais Mountain to the West. The icy wind blew through my hair, and God seemed to speak to me again. He said, “Now you will not preach to please man. Now you will preach to please me. Now you are my preacher.” God also told me that I would not do my main work until I was old. I went back to bed, chilled to the bone, knowing that God had called me to preach a second time. “All For Jesus.” Sing it again!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

I will never be an evangelist like Dr. John Sung, or even a foreign missionary, as I had intended. At the age of 70 I am too old now. But I pray that others in those far off lands of Asia, and the world, will take my evangelistic sermon manuscripts and preach them, standing in my place, preaching my sermons from the Internet, doing what I had wished to do when I was nineteen years old, back in 1961.

Now, just a word to our young people here tonight. In the Foreword to the recently published Extracts from the Diary of John Sung, Genesis, 2008, Rev. Hwa Young of Malaysia said,

In the past forty years or so of my own adult life, I have seen the churches in Asia grow in numbers and confidence. Increasingly, I sense that God is calling us to play a vital role in the task of proclaiming Christ [throughout the world]. But if the Asian church is to be faithful to this task, there needs to be many who will take to heart what James Denny said and what John Sung so clearly understood…What must emerge is a new generation of Asian Christians, especially among our young people today, who know clearly “that in this present evil world there must be great renunciations [self-denials]. If there are to be great Christian careers,” and dare to live accordingly… especially among the younger generation! May it be a movement of those who know what great [self-denial] means, which will lead to many great Christian careers for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the glory of God (Rev. Hwa Young, The Journal Once Lost: Extracts from the Diary of John Sung, Genesis, 2008, pp. xiv-xv).

“All For Jesus.” Sing it again.

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Renunciation and self-denial begin with conversion. You have to confess your sins and renounce them to be converted. John Sung was a great Christian because he had a great conversion. He had a great conversion because he had great self-denial. He threw his scholar’s medals, and gold fraternity key into the ocean. Although he had a Ph.D. in chemistry, he turned his back on academia and went to preach the Gospel to the people of China and Southeast Asia. John Sung denied himself the pleasures of life he could have had. A few nights before he was converted, God said to John Sung,

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Click here to read "The Real Conversion of Dr. John Sung."  “All For Jesus.” Sing it!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Give up whatever sin is holding you back. Confess your sins to God in detail. May the Holy Spirit deeply convict you of your sin. Renounce the world! Give it up! Give Christ first place in your life. Come to Jesus Christ and be washed clean from sin by His Blood. Then live for Christ with all your heart and soul and life! Be with us on Saturday night for prayer and evangelism. Be with us every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. Live for Christ with all your heart and soul and life!

Please stand and sing hymn number 3 on your song sheet, “All For Jesus.”

All for Jesus, all for Jesus! All my being’s ransomed powers:
   All my thoughts and words and doings, All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.
(“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – 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: Ephesians 1:3-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Grace Greater Than Our Sin” (by Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919).