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A NEW YEAR’S PROMISE – AND WARNING!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day, 12:30 PM, January 1, 2012

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).


During his early ministry in London C. H. Spurgeon received an envelope at the end of each year with a slip of paper in it. On that paper was a verse of Scripture to be used as the text for his New Year’s sermon. These texts were chosen for the young and highly successful Baptist preacher, Spurgeon, by an aged minister in the Church of England. This elderly Anglican minister pastored a small village church, but Spurgeon thought highly of him, and for several years in a row the great Baptist preacher gave his New Year’s sermon from the verse prayerfully selected for him on New Year’s by this venerable and holy man of another denomination. He did not give the minister’s name, but Spurgeon always mentioned that this aged Anglican priest had selected the text he would preach on at New Year’s.

On January 3, 1864 Spurgeon preached once more on a verse given to him by that old clergyman. The gift-text for New Year’s in 1864 was,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

I am giving you a simplified, edited version of Spurgeon’s sermon. I have somewhat expanded point one to bring out several instances of Christians who have suffered for their faith in modern times. In the second point I will include two terrifying examples of denying Christ, given by Spurgeon himself, from his sermon, “Suffering and Reigning with Jesus” (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1991 reprint, vol. X, pp. 1-12).

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

The text naturally divides in two parts: suffering with Jesus, and its reward – denying Jesus, and its penalty.

I. First, suffering with Jesus, and its reward.

Suffering is the common state of all people. It is not possible to escape from it. We come into the world suffering when we are born, and we leave the world suffering when we die. As Job put it,

“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

No one can escape the pains and trials of life. Again, we read in the Book of Job,

“Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Since suffering is the common destiny of all people, in a world ruined by sin, it does not necessarily mean that you will be rewarded for experiencing it. You may go through great sorrow in this life, but that will not save you from the wrath to come. You may undergo great suffering and yet be lost, for,

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

And, so, no amount of suffering on earth can help an unconverted person enter into Heaven.

Suffering is not something that Christians alone experience. Neither does suffering necessarily bring with it a reward. The text shows most clearly that we must suffer with Him in order to reign with Him. The suffering which results in reigning with Jesus, must be suffering with the Lord Jesus Christ.

You must not think that you are suffering with Christ if you are not “in” Christ. If you have not come to Christ, your sufferings on earth are only a foretaste of the eternal suffering you will experience in Hell. Only when a man is “in” the Saviour by conversion can he claim that his suffering is in fellowship with Christ. Are you in Christ by a living faith in Him? Are you trusting Jesus alone? If not, whatever trouble and misery you go through on earth, you have no hope of reigning with Jesus in His Kingdom.

Again, we must not think we are suffering with Christ if troubles come to us as a result of sin. When Miriam spoke evil of Moses, and the leprosy poisoned her body, she was not suffering for God. When Uzziah came unlawfully into the temple, and became a leper for the rest of his life, he could not say that he was suffering for the sake of righteousness. If you deliberately put your hand into the fire, and it gets burned, it is the nature of fire to burn you. But don’t be silly and boast that you are a martyr! If you do wrong and suffer for it, what reward will you have? Truthfulness and honesty should stop us from claiming that we are suffering because we are Christians when, in fact, we are suffering as the result of sin.

We must have Christ’s Spirit in us or our suffering is not acceptable. We must follow Christ’s example and suffer reproach for the cause of Christ. Only then have we truly suffered with Christ.

Now let us think of some of the ways good Christians suffer with Jesus today. There are those who suffer financially, out of love and obedience to Christ. I pointed to one of our deacons a while ago, and said quite truthfully that the man could well earn three or four times his current salary if he agreed to work on Sunday. This is also true of another person, a lady who is a medical doctor in our church. Both of them suffer the loss of thousands of dollars every year because they love Christ too much to work at their trade on the Lord’s Day. We have known Christian people who lost their jobs simply because their employers were prejudiced against them for being good Christians! We have known students in high school and college whose grades were lowered by teachers who despised them for their faith in Christ! That is the suffering mentioned in our text!

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…”
       (II Timothy 2:12).

More often, however, this suffering takes the form of contempt, scorn and mockery. Some find that others in their workplace sneer at them, and whisper to each other that they are idiots, deluded fools, because they are believers in the Son of God. There is a particularly painful sting, that causes suffering to good Christian young people, when friends at school avoid them, and snicker behind their backs, saying that they are “weird” because they take a stand for Jesus Christ. Even in the home, true Christians cannot escape the snide remarks of non-Christian parents who are Buddhists, or members of other non-Christian religions. Their own brothers and sisters may call them fools because they love the Saviour. This also is the suffering mentioned in our text,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…”
       (II Timothy 2:12).

In times like these, so filled with prejudice and hatred toward Jesus and His true followers, it is wise to remember the Saviour’s words,

“A man's foes [enemies] shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:36-38).

Why do unbelievers hate Christians so much? Jesus gave the answer when He said,

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

In these false and evil days of “decisionism,” so similar in many ways to the “Dark Ages” of Christendom, many faithful pastors must undergo bitter attacks for being true to the Bible, and our Baptist heritage, by refusing to baptize those who do not have a clear testimony of what Christ has done to save them! This too is the suffering mentioned in our text,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…”
       (II Timothy 2:12).

One cannot help but think of our text when reading that worthy magazine, The Voice of the Martyrs, as I do every time I receive it in the mail. In the December 2006 edition, it told of an Iranian preacher sentenced to prison in Teheran for preaching the gospel (ibid., p. 3).

It also told of a woman in Pakistan who married a man that was a nominal Christian. Later he converted to Islam because Muslims are permitted to take two wives. When his first wife, a Christian, refused to convert to Islam, this Muslim man beat her with sticks, “smashing her hands under the bedposts.” Then, when she wanted to attend church, he beat her and locked her in a room. There in that room she prayed, “Jesus, you suffered a big pain for us. My pain is nothing. Give me courage. I will never leave you” (ibid., page 4).

The same magazine told of a 15-year-old Christian girl in Indonesia who was struck across the side of her face and neck with a machete. She was disfigured for life because she believed in Christ (ibid., p. 6). The Voice of the Martyrs said,

The children [in Indonesia] know that Christian students are targets of Islamic extremists, but they do not hide in fear. [They] witness for Christ in and out of prison (ibid., p. 7).

In India a pastor was nearly killed when militant Hindus attacked him while he was preaching on the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. A photograph in the magazine showed his mangled, bandaged body (ibid., p. 8).

In China, The Voice of the Martyrs magazine told of a Brother Liu, who had been arrested for preaching the Gospel so many times that he had lost count. He said, “The Lord told us that it’s a rough road following His path. It is a road where one has to take up his cross in order to follow Him.” During one flogging, his ears were beaten with an electric baton. His injuries caused him great pain and suffering for six months. He said, “I experienced too much of these things, but…the most precious thing I have ever learned is that the Lord suffered more than we did. My family has not fallen away in the midst of our suffering. Rather, we become bolder following the Lord. Now my children are in the ministry…following Him to the end” (ibid., p. 11).

From Vietnam, the magazine showed pictures of three Christians, two men and a woman, their faces literally beat to a pulp for evangelizing in Than Hoa province. They were beaten in the face because they witnessed for Christ. A brutal campaign against Christians in Vietnam began increasing in April 2006. This was the second time these three Christians were beaten by the Communists in that year. But nothing stopped them! When they were stronger they went right back to the streets, doing evangelism! (ibid., p. 13). Sadly, even in the United States, those who witness for Christ are sometimes persecuted today.

In Colombia, The Voice of the Martyrs magazine told of a girl of 15. Her father told her to be like the woman in Proverbs 31. Then he went to work. He was a lay-pastor in a church, so the Communist guerrillas drove him to a bridge and killed him for his faith in Christ. Soon after, the Communists came back to that girl’s village. By September 14, 2005 all the churches there were closed. Fifteen Christians hid in a house to read the Bible and pray together. Among them was this 15-year-old girl, Jacquelynne. She said, “If you see difficult situations, you must keep going forward and not give up on God for any reason” (ibid., p. 14). To read many more stories of Christians suffering around the world, go on your computer to www.persecution.com. I hope everyone reading this sermon will review the material on that website every couple of weeks.

People like this are the ones of which our text speaks,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…”
      (II Timothy 2:12).

II. Second, denying Jesus, and its penalty.

Let us stand and read the entire text aloud, II Timothy 2:12.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

You may be seated.

Dreadful “if” and yet an “if” which may be applicable to some of you. “Lord, is it I?” he may say, as he sits here this afternoon, just as Judas did at the Last Supper, when he who would betray Christ asked that very question. And if you say, like Peter, “Though all men shall deny thee, yet not I” – you may be the most likely to do it.

Some deny Christ bitterly. As unbelievers they mock Him openly. Others deny Him by joining false churches, religions that deny His full deity as the God-man, and others which deny Him by saying He is a spirit, not a resurrected, glorified flesh and bone man, ascended to the right hand of God.

Yet others deny Him by remaining silent. When they are with unbelievers, they are afraid to say grace before they eat a meal, for fear their unbelieving relatives and friends will not approve. Some go even farther, and apostatize altogether from the Christ they formerly professed to trust.

Does this description fit some of you? If it does, do not be angry with me, but hear the word of the Lord. Know this – that you will not perish, even if you have denied Christ, if you will now come to the Saviour and be truly converted, heart and soul. But if you continue to deny Christ, that terrible verse will come to haunt you,

“He also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

Spurgeon told of the death of Francis Spira. As a reformer of high standing, Spira knew the truth. But when he was faced with death by the Catholic Church he recanted. He gave up his Protestant beliefs out of fear. In a short time he was filled with despair, and suffered mental and spiritual Hell on earth. His shrieks were so horrible that their record should not be printed! His doom was a warning to the age in which he lived.

Spurgeon’s predecessor, a former pastor of his church named Benjamin Keach, told of a preacher who spoke plainly of his Puritan beliefs, but later, during a Catholic persecution, he denied his faith. The scenes of his death-bed were terrible. He said that, though he sought God, the Lord was against him. He was given up to overwhelming despair. Sometimes he cursed. At other times he prayed. But he died without hope. If we deny Christ, we may be given up to such a fearful fate ourselves.

Let us rather lose anything than to lose Christ. Let us rather lose anything than to lose our souls. Let us be like those young people I told you about in Iran, in Pakistan, in Indonesia, in India, in China, in Vietnam, and in Colombia who, by their suffering, were enabled to say with the Apostle Paul,

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Let that be our motto! Let that be our goal! Let that be what we strive for in the coming year! For,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

One day some of you will stand before the Great White Throne. Christ will say to you, “I know you not.” You were tempted by friends to remain as you were, in an unconverted condition. You denied Christ for fear of what it would cost you, or what you would suffer. You will plead with the Lord to let you into Heaven on that day. But the Lord will say to you,

“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”
       (Matthew 7:23).

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

If you hope to avoid the awful dungeon of Hell, which burns with fire and brimstone, I beg you to cry out to Jesus, “Lord, save me. Lord, hold me fast, keep me, keep me, keep me! Help me to suffer with Thee, but do not let me deny Thee, lest Thou should deny me on the awful day of judgment.” Let that be the cry of your heart to Jesus this afternoon. Come to Him and be washed clean by His precious Blood, shed on the Cross to cleanse you from sin. May you come to Christ this afternoon, on the first day of this year. May you start the new year saved by Him, converted, eternally secure in His saving grace! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” (by Henry M. Lyte, 1793-1847).


THE OUTLINE OF

A NEW YEAR’S PROMISE – AND WARNING!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

I.   First, suffering with Jesus, and its reward, II Timothy 2:12a;
Job 14:1; 5:7; John 3:3; Matthew 10:36-38; John 15:19.

II.  Second, denying Jesus, and its penalty, II Timothy 2:12b;
Philippians 3:7-8; Matthew 7:23; 25:46.