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THE GOSPEL VISE
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
This is what Jesus said to those unbelieving Jews that day. They had religion, but they did not have Jesus. He gave them plenty of evidence that He was their God-sent Messiah. But they rejected Him anyway.
If you read the fifth chapter of John at home, you will see that Christ reminded them that He had received the witness of John the Baptist. And all the common people believed that John was a prophet. John had witnessed of Christ when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And yet this group of unbelievers rejected the testimony of John.
Next, Jesus said that His miracles and other works proved that He was the Messiah. He said, “the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (John 5:36). Christ’s miracles, and the wonders that He performed, clearly showed that He was the Messiah.
Furthermore, Jesus said, “The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me” (John 5:37). Although the men to whom He spoke had not heard the voice of God, others whom they knew had heard God say, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This had to have been gossiped about, and everyone He spoke to that day knew that the very voice of God had proclaimed Jesus as His Son.
Then Jesus reminded them that there was a fourth witness telling them that Jesus was the Christ, their Messiah, sent to save them. The fourth witness was the Bible itself, the Old Testament Scriptures, which they pored over by the hour, and which they knew large portions of by heart. Jesus told them that they “Search the scriptures...they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39, 40).
Please understand that this is not an anti-Semitic statement. As Dispensationalists, we believe that God still has an earthly covenant with Israel. Therefore we repudiate anti-Semitism. We support the nation of Israel. We support the Jewish people. They are no more “lost” than Gentiles are, who refuse to come to the Saviour. But we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Jesus came to save everyone who trusts Him, whether Jewish or Gentile. But even if they don’t trust Him, we still stand with Israel and the Jews, against the evil of anti-Semitism.
Now we will turn away from those unbelieving Jews to whom Jesus spoke that day. Instead we will turn to those of you here tonight who are unbelieving Gentiles. You that are here tonight have the same evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour sent from God. You have the witness of John the Baptist. You have the witness of Christ’s miracles. You have the witness of God’s voice from Heaven. And you have the witness of the Holy Scriptures. All of these witnesses say that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Redeemer, the one and only Saviour of sinners.
The worst thing about those Jews to whom He spoke that day was that they could have all those witnesses and yet refuse to come to Jesus for eternal life! And so He said to them,
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39, 40).
You might have some excuse if you were living in an atheistic country, like the former Soviet Union. But I read this account from Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was a Jewish believer in Jesus. Wurmbrand was a Lutheran minister who spent fourteen years in a Communist prison in Romania for preaching the Gospel. Pastor Wurmbrand told about a young painter he met from Siberia before he was imprisoned. Wurmbrand spoke perfect Russian as well as Romanian. As they spoke, the young Russian told him,
“I only knew what they taught us in schools, that religion is a tool of imperialism, and so on. But I used to walk in an old cemetery, near my home, where I could be alone. I often went to a small abandoned house among the graves” (Wurmbrand said, ‘I understand that this was the cemetery’s Russian Orthodox chapel.’ The young man went on).
“On the wall there was a painting of a man nailed to a cross. I thought, ‘He must have been a great criminal to be punished so.’ But if he were a criminal, why did this picture have the place of honor – as if he were Marx or Lenin? I decided that they had first thought him a criminal, and later found that he was innocent, and so put up his picture in remorse [sorrow and regret].”
[Wurmbrand said] I told the painter, ‘You are halfway to the truth.’ When we reached our destination hours later, he knew all that I could tell him about Jesus. As we parted, he said, ‘I planned to steal something tonight, as we all do. Now how can I? I believe in Christ.’ (Richard Wurmbrand, Th.D., In God’s Underground, Living Sacrifice Books, 2004 edition, pp. 25, 26).
We heard of that kind of response again and again among young Russians right after the fall of the Soviet Union. Strangely, we see that response among an ever-increasing number of young people in Iran. The largest number of conversions to Christ in 600 years is happening right now in Iran, and in the Arab countries. And of course we know of the teeming millions of young people in China, India, and Africa that are turning wholeheartedly to Jesus right now, in our time. And these new converts say, with that young Russian painter, “Now how can I commit those sins? I believe in Christ.”
Do we see that kind of response in America? No, we do not. There was a time when we did, but it’s all over now. The “Jesus Movement” started in the mid-sixties. The other night Mr. Griffith told me when it ended. He said it ended with the Moral Majority, when Jerry Falwell pandered to the fears of middle-aged white Americans and turned them against the young people that they could have won with a positive Gospel message. Mr. Griffith said that Jerry Falwell killed the Jesus Movement. That may be a slight overstatement, but I think he’s on to something. Jack Hyles didn’t help either. He preached against wire-rimmed glasses (because John Lennon wore them) while his own son went hog wild with the girls in his church. Hyles, Falwell, and preachers like that, drove the young people away from our churches. They felt they had to protect the kids in their churches by preaching against the kids in the world. But that is an unscriptural approach. It is not what the early church did, or any Gospel preacher in times of revival. As a result, they lost not only the kids in the world but also 88% of their own church kids, who left their churches “never to return,” according to pollster George Barna.
Now they’d like to get those young people, but it’s too late. Now God “hath withdrawn himself from them” (Hosea 5:6). You only experience a move of God like the “Jesus Movement” once in a generation, if that. Now “progressive” Baptists try to draw young people in with flashing lights, weird music and “Christian” go-go girls! Too late! Nothing “works!” Now God says,
“I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face...” (Hosea 5:15).
Personally, I don’t think we will have another move of God among our young people until after America falls. Oh yes, America will fall, you know! I don’t think God will send another revival among our young people until after it falls. I may be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Only then will we realize what harm men like Jack Hyles and Jerry Falwell did to the young people of America in the late 1970s and 80s. Please understand that I’m not completely against Dr. Falwell, but he did say some unwise things back then.
That was what happened in the time of Christ. Many Jewish young people were coming to Jesus and being saved. But the religious leaders attacked that movement for fear that they would lose their nation (John 11:48). Having rejected Christ, they lost it anyway – just as the Americans are losing their nation today!
So, if you are a young person in North America, or anywhere in the West, it is quite unlikely that you will be saved. It is quite unlikely that you will come to Jesus as that young Russian painter did. God is not working with power now in America and the West in general. He “hath withdrawn himself from them” (Hosea 5:6). And Jesus says to you tonight,
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
Did you know that you cannot come to Jesus unless God draws you? Jesus Himself made that very clear when He said,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him...” (John 6:44).
And God is drawing very few young people to Jesus at this time in America and the West. It will take a miracle for you to come to Jesus. Yes, it will take a miracle for you to be saved in this evil time.
It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
It took a miracle to hang the world in space;
But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!
(“It Took a Miracle” by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).
I see some of you stumbling around in the inquiry room. You shuffle in and shuffle out – like zombies – like the walking dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5). But you don’t make any progress at all toward coming to Jesus – none at all! None at all! Why is that? Jesus said,
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him...” (John 6:44).
But now God “hath withdrawn himself from them” (Hosea 5:6).
How easy it seems for young people to come to Jesus in China! Hundreds of them come to Him every day! But as soon as Chinese students come to America it doesn’t happen. Why? Because they left the zone of God’s blessings in China, and migrated here, to the zone where God “hath withdrawn himself.” We see literally tens of thousands coming to Jesus with tears, and finding salvation with joy – in China! But only in China! We know of no movement of God among Chinese students when they come to America.
Dr. Kenneth Connolly was a student of historical revivals. One thing Dr. Connolly noticed was that revivals are always “selective.” He meant that they only touch a certain group of people. And that’s exactly what we see happening among young Chinese people. In China, over 700 young people come to Jesus every hour – night and day – in the greatest revival of modern times. But when Chinese students come here they very seldom get saved! We have never seen even one Chinese student who came here get saved in our church – not even one! They moved out of the zone of God’s blessing into the zone of spiritual death in the U.S. and Europe. And very few young people from any ethnic group get saved in America and the West in this evil time. One of the reasons is the false doctrine of “decisionism.” Dr. Charles Hodge pointed out the great error of “decisionism” when he said,
No more soul-destroying doctrine could well be devised than the doctrine that sinners can regenerate themselves, and repent and believe just when they please. Those who really embrace such a doctrine would never apply to the only source whence these blessings can in fact be obtained (Charles Hodge, Ph.D., Systematic Theology, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999 edition, volume II, p. 277).
Now, let’s get down to business. Do you see a conflict between these two verses?
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40),
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).
I will not try to make this easy for you. There is a conflict! In reality you must come to Jesus to be saved – but you cannot come to Him unless the Father draws you. Where does that leave you? It leaves you in a lost condition! That’s what it means to be lost! You must come to Jesus to be saved – but you cannot come to Him unless God draws you. This presents a real conflict! It shows you what it means to be lost! If you think you can be saved by learning something or doing something on your own, you will never be saved. As Dr. Hodge said, “Those who really embrace such a doctrine [that you can learn something or do something to be saved] would never apply to the only source whence those blessings can in fact be obtained.”
You must come to Christ – but you can’t come to Christ! That has been called the “Gospel vise.” I hope you don’t think you are the first person who has been squeezed in the “Gospel vise.” John Bunyan (1628-1688) was put in that vise for 18 months. Young Spurgeon was in it for at least seven years. You are placed in this “vise” by God. “I can’t, but I must!” That is your position. God has put you in that vise for a reason.
A vise is a device attached to a workbench. It consists of a pair of steel jaws moved together by a lever or a screw. It is used to squeeze something between the two metal jaws. The “Gospel vise” is seen when God squeezes you between “I can’t, but I must!” If the pressure becomes unbearable to you, you may be moved to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). When you feel like that you are awakened, and it usually will not be too long before you cry out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” That is the way classical conversions take place. That is the way Augustine, Luther, Wesley and Whitefield were converted. Everything you do before that is only a preliminary at best, and fooling around at worst. God is turning the lever on the vise. He is turning the screw and tightening the jaws of the vise. Are you feeling the pressure? Do you feel squeezed yet?
You must come to Jesus to have life. But you cannot come to Him in your own power. You must – but you can’t! You are lost! Cry out to Jesus! He alone can save you! He alone can pardon your sin! He alone can give you eternal life. He alone can save you from feeling crushed in the Gospel vise! Cry out to Jesus! Fall upon His mercy! He died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He rose from the dead to give you life! I plead with you tonight – come to Jesus and do it now! Throw yourself on the Son of God! Listen to Dr. Isaac Watts,
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall;
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus, and my all.
(“How Sad Our State by Nature Is!” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748;
to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).
If you would like to speak with us about being saved by Jesus, please leave your seat now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can talk and pray. Dr. Chan, please come and pray for someone to be saved tonight. Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: John 5:31-40.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come Unto Me” (by Charles P. Jones, 1865-1949).