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THE SECRET OF REVIVAL IN CHINA

(A SERMON GIVEN AT THE CHINESE MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 22, 2013

“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).


Verse seven tells us how Paul got saved,

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7).

His life turned upside down when he was converted. What he thought was good, he counted as bad. Before he was converted he despised Christians and rejected Christ. But when he was converted he rejected his unbelief and put his entire faith in Jesus Christ.

There was a lapse of time between verses 7 and 8. It was a period between Paul’s conversion and the time he wrote this epistle to the Philippians. During this period he had gone on his missionary journeys. But now he was in prison in Rome, and he said,

“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 3:8).

Paul said he had lived for Christ since the day he was converted. He had suffered the loss of all things. But the things he lost he considered to be worthless – nothing but dung. That’s strong language! He flushed all the things he used to love down the toilet. He sought Christ alone! What he had thought were the most important things in life, he now threw out with the garbage! Christ alone was his goal and purpose in life!

When I was a teenager I went to the house of some relatives. They had lots of money. But they seemed empty and false to me. I think God showed me that. They had everything – but they weren’t satisfied. I thought, “These people don’t have anything I want.”

A few years later I used to go to a house where several old, retired missionaries lived. I can see their faces in my mind even now. They were so peaceful, and so joyful! They didn’t own anything in this world. They had to live in a home for missionaries, because they had no homes of their own. But they had something my rich relatives did not have – they were satisfied with life. They had peace in their hearts. I remember one very old man with beautiful, pure white hair swept back. He had deep blue eyes, and a soft voice. He had been a missionary in China before the Communists took over. I remember thinking, “I want to be like him when I’m old, not like my rich relatives.”

I remember going to a house in the Long Beach area in 1962. It was full of people – jammed in every inch of space. Then Gladys Aylward came in to speak. She was a very famous missionary to China. She was now over seventy-five years old. She had the happiest eyes I think I ever saw! She didn’t own a thing. She was penniless. But she had joy that my wealthy relatives never knew. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be like them. I want to be like Miss Aylward.” She had gone to China to be a missionary as a young girl. She was one of the last missionaries in China. She didn’t leave until 1952. When she left China she took a large group of Chinese children with her, risking her life as she led them over the dangerous mountains to freedom. Hollywood made it into a movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” They changed it some, but the basic story is in the movie. She had learned the secret of self-renunciation that the Apostle Paul spoke of,

“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).

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.
(“All My Heart’s Love” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

My pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, came to the United States from China in 1940 to earn a Master’s degree in theology, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew and related languages. He came as the pastor of the First Chinese Baptist Church in 1961, a few months after I joined that church as a nineteen-year-old boy. Dr. Lin baptized me after my conversion at Biola College. He also headed the committee that ordained me as a minister, at the Chinese church, in 1972. It was my great privilege to be there in his church during a time of God-sent revival, beginning in the late 1960s, and continuing in waves into the 1970s. I was present in many Spirit-filled prayer meetings, and meetings of open confession and testimonies, often lasting for many hours, late into the night. I had the privilege of preaching in several of those meetings during the revival. In one meeting when I preached 46 young people trusted Christ. Most of them still attend that church over forty years later. Dr. Lin taught us that real revival may come to a church if the members are holy and pray without ceasing for God’s presence among them.

Dr. Lin never really became Americanized. He always acted like a pastor would in China. He was completely dedicated to Jesus Christ in his life. He spent much time in fasting and prayer. I believe this was why God was able to send revival, and the church grew from about 80 when I joined it in 1961, to several thousand by the time the revival ended. Then Dr. Lin went to be the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan. Thus I had the privilege as a young man to be present in a movement of God that was in many ways quite similar to the revivals that have come to the “house churches” in the People’s Republic of China. I was an eye-witness to revival such as I have never seen, except one other time on a much smaller scale. The revival did not come to Dr. Lin’s church through the use of outside speakers or special techniques. It came after intense confession of sins, prolonged prayers, and fiery preaching on sin, judgment, self-denial and the cross of Christ! One of the songs we sang repeatedly in the revival was “Whiter Than Snow.”

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
   I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
   And help me to make a complete sacrifice;
I give up myself, and whatever I know;
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow;
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(“Whiter Than Snow” by James Nicholson, 1828-1896).

To experience a real conversion, and real revival, we must follow the example of Paul, who said,

“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).

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.

Stand and sing it with me!

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.

You may be seated.

World Magazine (August 5, 2013) reported that Pastor Samuel Lamb (1924-2013) passed away on August 3, 2013 at the age of 88. He was one of the most famous “house church” pastors in China. Pastor Lamb (Lin Xiangao in Chinese) was the son of a Baptist minister. He preached his first sermon when he was 19. As China came under Mao Zedong’s Communist rule, authorities arrested Lamb in 1955. He was charged with the “anti-revolutionary” act of refusing to join the Communist-sponsored “Three-Self Church.” He refused to join it because the government-run church forbids teaching minors under the age of 18, and does not allow its pastors to preach on the resurrection of Christ and His Second Coming. After nearly two years in prison, he was released in 1957. Five months later he was arrested again and sent to a labor camp for 19 years. His wife had to work in a coal mine, where she died while he was in prison.

After more than 20 years behind bars, he was released. He immediately reopened his “house church” in Guangzhou. Yet he still refused to join the Communist-run “Three-Self Church.” He insisted that Christians obey the government unless it contradicts the Bible. He said, “The laws of God are more important than the laws of man.”

Under his leadership, the house church grew from 400 members in 1997 to 4,000 today. A news clip filmed inside the church in 2011 shows Pastor Lamb preaching to a crowded room. A video live-streamed the sermon to numerous other rooms in the building. Each room was packed wall-to-wall with members of his congregation. When the service ended great throngs of people filed out of the doors and filled the streets around the building.

Communist authorities know about this unregistered church, but no longer try to shut it down. In 1997 Pastor Lamb told the American columnist Cal Thomas that this was because they had learned their lesson. He said, “Each time they arrested me and sent me off to prison, the church grew. Persecution was good for us. The more they persecuted us, the more the church grew. That’s been the history of the church.”

China’s attitude toward house churches differs from region to region. While some, like Pastor Lamb’s church, enjoy relative freedom, others still face harassment. In July (2013) Communist police raided two house churches in Xinjiang province. They arrested the leader and fined him for an “illegal gathering.”

Pastor Lamb often told the house church leaders in China that suffering is a part of the Christian life. He said, “We must be prepared to suffer. We must be prepared for the fact that we may be arrested. Before I was sent to prison, I already prepared a bag with some clothes, shoes and a toothbrush. Today the authorities are not bothering us, but tomorrow things may be different. I pray that we will receive the strength to stand firm.” Pastor Lamb was known for saying, “More persecution, more growth.”

Today it is conservatively estimated that there are more than 100 million Christians in the house churches of China. These are located in every part of China, including the big cities, and universities. It is estimated that 1 in every 10 students at the major universities are now Christians, with tens of thousands of new converts every year! These include professional people, doctors, attorneys, professors, and even many Communist officials (see David Aikman, Ph.D., Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003; paperback edition published in 2006).

Dr. Aikman’s book is dedicated “To the memory of all Christians, Chinese and foreign, who died in China as martyrs for their faith, from A.D. 635 to Modern Times.” “All My Heart’s Love” – sing it!

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.

Revival fires are burning brightly and millions are coming to Jesus in China. But we should never forget the blood, sweat and tears that were shed to pave the way to God’s blessings. Here are the stories of three Chinese pastors. They literally followed the example of Paul, by counting “all things but dung” that they might “win Christ.”

First, is an unnamed pastor from the 1960s, during the bloodbath of the “Cultural Revolution.” This pastor had a noose placed around his neck and was forced by the Communists to stand on top of three tables that were stacked on top of each other. The pastor’s wife, children, and extended family were called in by the police to witness the scene. The officers said to him, “You have two options! Either you choose to continue believing in Jesus, or you deny Jesus. Make your choice now!”

The old pastor looked into the eyes of his family and friends, but he knew what he must do. He said, “Even if you cut off my head and my blood covers the ground, I will never deny Jesus.” Immediately the officers kicked out the bottom table, causing the structure to collapse. In a moment the noose tightened around his throat and the pastor went to be with Jesus forever (Living Water, Zondervan, 2008, p. 17).

Second, I will give you a little more of Pastor Samuel Lamb’s story. He was released after one year in prison, back in 1957, when he was 33 years old. He was told not to preach any more. But in a few months he was preaching anyway! He was arrested again and given a twenty-year jail sentence. They sent him to a coal mine for twenty years of hard labor in a very cold climate. Most of the other prisoners died, but somehow he lived through all this by God’s grace. When he was released he was told that his wife and father had died. His mother was very sick and died a short time afterwards. Instead of trying to escape from China and go to Hong Kong, or somewhere else, Pastor Lamb went back to Guangzhou, gathered some of his former church members, and opened his old church again. In spite of those horrible years in prison, and the loss of his family, he had a happy face when I saw him preaching on a video not long ago (Crimson Cross, published by Back to Jerusalem, 2012, pp. 65, 66).

Third, is my own pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin (1911-2009). Dr. Lin’s first wife and daughter were shot to death in front of him by Japanese soldiers shortly before World War II. His second wife, Gracie, was my friend. She was with Dr. Lin when he was preaching at a Chinese Presbyterian church in San Francisco. In the afternoon before the service Mrs. Lin had a stroke. He went with her in an ambulance to the hospital. She died a couple of hours later. Immediately Dr. Lin took a taxi to the church and preached, as planned. After the sermon the people in the church were astonished to learn that his wife had died only a few minutes before the service began. I knew how deeply Dr. Lin loved his wife. When I heard that story it made an indelible impression on me. I could never again look at the ministry as merely a “job.” I knew from Dr. Lin’s example that it was a life or death commitment.

Those are three stories of old Chinese pastors who counted all things “but dung” that they might “win Christ.” Young people in America often have the example of a lazy and worldly pastor in their minds. That is one of the main reasons there is no revival in America. But the young in China have the self-sacrificing example of men like those three pastors in their hearts. No wonder they are willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ! No wonder China is experiencing, right now, the greatest revival in the history of Christianity.

Will you be like them? Will you count all things “but dung” that you “may win Christ”? Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and rose physically from the dead on the third day to give you life. Will you consecrate your life to Christ now? Sing it again!

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.

If you would like to speak with us about becoming a real self-sacrificing Christian, please go to the back of the auditorium right now. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet room for prayer and counselling. If you are interested in becoming a real Christian, go to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Christ this morning. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Philippians 3:7-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“All My Heart’s Love” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).