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LIFE IN CHINA – DEATH IN THE WEST!

(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 Evening, September 22, 2013

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:13).

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22).


The second and third chapters of Revelation contain seven letters from Christ to seven literal churches that existed in Asia Minor in the first century. Each of the seven letters was sent to the “angel” of the church. The Greek word for “angel” literally means “messenger.” Commentators agree that each letter is addressed to the pastor of the church, the “messenger” of God to that church. Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave three applications of these letters. I will add a fourth application. Dr. McGee said that these seven churches can be interpreted and applied in these three ways,

1.  Contemporary – they had a direct message to the actual local churches in John’s day.

2.  Composite – each one gives some things that are applicable to all churches.

3.  Chronological – the panoramic history of the church. There are seven distinct periods in church history, from Pentecost to the Second Coming of Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 898).


I am also convinced that the characteristics of these churches can be seen in various regions of the world. That is the fourth application. These churches in Revelation picture the church in various regions of the world. If one knows the religious situation, it is clear that the church in China resembles the church at Philadelphia – given in Revelation 3:7-13. And the church in the West, in the English-speaking world and Europe resembles the church at Laodicea – given in Revelation 3:14-22. If we look at these two regional churches objectively, putting aside our emotions, and strictly focusing on actual facts, we will see that there is life in the churches of China – and death in the churches of America and the West. Remember to whom these letters are addressed,

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:13).

And again,

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22).

I. First, what the Spirit says to the churches in America – and the West!

Look at Revelation 3:14-17.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

This is not a pretty picture of our churches! But it is a faithful and true picture! The churches here are in a real mess! And they get worse every year!

We must never think that this is the opinion of the Apostle John. We are told that this is what the Lord Jesus Christ thinks. He is called “the Amen,” and “the faithful and true witness” in Revelation 3:14. The word “amen” means “truth.” He can say “amen” to every word He speaks, because every word is “truth.” Christ is “the faithful and true witness.” This is what the Lord Jesus Christ says about our Laodicean condition.

There is nothing in the Laodicean church that Christ approves. He finds nothing in it to praise. But He does find plenty to condemn. Christ says,

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15).

Dr. Merrill C. Tenney said, “It had not apostasized from the faith into icy opposition, nor had it become inflamed with...zeal. It was drifting, not driving” (Merrill C. Tenney, Ph.D., Interpreting Revelation, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957, p. 66). What a picture of evangelical churches in America and the West! “Neither cold nor hot.” What a picture of most of our preachers and most of our churches!

Our evangelical churches were starting to turn away from belief in the Bible toward the end of the twentieth century. Dr. Harold Lindsell wrote a landmark book, The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976). There was an outcry against it. Dr. Lindsell was shunned and ostracized by many evangelical leaders. But he was such an important leader and so well-known and respected that his cry for a Bible without error was heard. I was amazed to see most of evangelicalism turn back to a belief in the Bible. But Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that belief in the Bible alone would not reach the lost in our inner cities, or bring revival to our churches. He was absolutely right. So, where did that leave our churches? It left us believing the Bible, but with no fire and zeal to reach the lost. As a result of that lack of fire and zeal, Southern Baptists have gone down in numbers each year, for the past four years! This is the first time ever that the Southern Baptist churches have declined in numbers. The independent fundamental Baptists declined as well. What does this mean? It means that our churches are neither cold (attacking the Bible) or hot (revived). It means that our churches are lukewarm. And Christ said that’s the worst place to be! I think it is very revealing that our “lukewarm” church people call themselves “moderates.” In the thesaurus, “moderate” is a synonym for “lukewarm” (see the Penguin Dictionary of English Synonyms, Claremont Books, 1995 edition).

And Christ is about to vomit our “moderate,” half-dead church people out of His mouth. The “moderates” will be spewed out (vomited out) by Christ! Sorry, that’s what the Greek word literally means – vomit!

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue [vomit] thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

And let’s don’t weaken what that means! When Christ spews a church out of His mouth, it means that the members go to Hell. Don’t give me any talk about them losing crowns! No, in context, when they are spewed out they are vomited into the fire of Hell! What else could it possibly mean in the light of verses 17 and 18?

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

“Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” – what is that if not the description of unsaved people? “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (v. 16) means the same as “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). “I will spue thee out of my mouth” means the same thing, and the same time, when Christ will say to unsaved church members, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). “I will spue thee out of my mouth” means the same thing as,

“Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

And so, in conservative, Bible-believing churches, many ladies who teach Sunday School will be spewed out, into Hell, by Christ. Many deacons will be spewed out into Hell. Members of the most prominent families in the church will be spewed out into Hell. And many will be shocked at the large number of unconverted pastors who will be spewed out into the flames, and “cast into the lake of fire.”

Let’s face it, the whole moderate, lukewarm, and so-called “progressive” movement among evangelicals is riddled with lost people. This comes from accepting anyone who raises their hand, or prays a sinner’s prayer, as full members of our churches! This has been going on at an increasing rate for over a hundred and fifty years. As a result, even a very large number of pastors have never been born again! They think they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that [you are] wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). God help us! With pastors and deacons, and lady Sunday School teachers in that horrible, lost condition, no wonder Christ is about to vomit our evangelical churches out of His mouth!

The fact that our churches are full of unconverted people was often noticed by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who said that this has weakened our churches’ “witness to the world” and “her preachers being so ineffectual – so weak and helpless in standing against the forces of evil” (“Banner of Truth Trust” magazine, May 1981, pp. 32-33).

Dr. A. W. Tozer also said that our churches are full of lost people. For instance, he said, “There is...a sad and terrible day of judgment yet to come, a day of revelation and shock for those who have depended on mental assent to Christianity (known as Sandemanianism), instead of the miracle of the new birth” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., I Call It Heresy, Christian Publications, Inc., 1974 edition, p. 40).

Dr. David L. Larsen was surprised that Dr. Lloyd-Jones and Dr. Tozer “were friends.” But it’s no surprise to me. Both of these great preachers saw how bad things are here, and both longed for revival (David L. Larsen, D.D., Company of the Preachers, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 845).

In that same book Dr. Tozer said he estimated that three-fourths of those who claim to be saved are lost, “I should like to state boldly and bluntly that about three-fourths...are indulging in an invalid hope” (ibid., p. 42). If that were true when Dr. Tozer said it, back in the 1950s, it is much higher today. Several Baptist leaders have told me that over 90% of church members are lost. That means preachers, deacons, and lady Sunday School teachers only have 1 chance in 10 of being truly saved – or less! The chancellor of a very famous fundamental school told me personally that he thinks less than 10% of our people are saved!

Many people wonder why we have so much killing, so many drug addicts, so many divorces, and such a hopeless way of life – here in America and the West. The answer is simple – hardly anyone is a real Christian! Hardly anyone!

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17).

For many decades our churches have taken in new members without checking their testimonies. Thus, there are millions upon millions of unconverted church members. Our churches are literally teeming with lost members as a result. Lost people want to be taught rather than preached to, so dry-as-dust expositions have taken the place of real preaching. Lost people don’t like to pray, so the midweek prayer meeting has either been turned into a Bible study, with one or two weak prayers – or done away with completely. Lost people are lazy about spiritual things, so the Sunday evening service has been done away with in many churches. Lost people are so lazy that they will not put up with a strong, organized soul-winning ministry either. See, the deadness and coldness in our churches really has one source – the fact that the members are often lost people! My former pastor Dr. Timothy Lin said,

The inability to distinguish the spiritual from the carnal, and the acceptance of all applications for church membership, have always been the mortal wound of the…Church…God’s church must be holy and glorious. But, when she is filled with people dead in trespasses and sins…what can our holy God do but depart from her? We Christians love the soul of every person on earth, yet we should never allow anyone to hinder us from having God’s presence, nor permit any person to destroy God’s body. We love each and every cell of our body, yet we should never allow the existence of any cell that can poison or do harm to our body. We should always remove these harmful cells completely. Unfortunately, people often allow cancerous cells to be injected into the body of Christ. This is the reason why…churches are suffering from terminal diseases! (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, pp. 39, 40).

Our churches in America and the West are deep in the spiritual death of a Laodicean age! But I told you I would also speak on “life in China.” And that takes us to point two!

II. Second, what the Spirit says to the churches in China!

Look at Revelation 3:7-8,

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8).

Notice that I said, “the churches in China.” I did not say “the Chinese churches.” There are many Chinese churches in America, other countries of the West, and Taiwan, that are not described in these verses to the church at Philadelphia. Dr. Lin told me personally that the churches in Taiwan are lukewarm.

But these verses do apply to the “house church” movement in China! There are two churches in China! The “Three Self Church” is controlled by the Communist government. The pastors of these churches are forbidden to speak of the resurrection of Christ, and His Second Coming. They are very much like the “mainline” churches in America, and they are not growing.

But the “house churches” are those that have sprung up outside of the Communist government;s control. They have grown tremendously! One Chinese house church preacher said, “In the last few decades, as many as 100,000,000 people in China have started to follow Jesus. The good news has been carried into all corners of China…” (Living Water, Zondervan, 2008, p. 52). This Chinese preacher went on to say,

      After the revolution in 1949, the Christians in my country were persecuted. Churches were destroyed or turned into gymnasiums, granaries or government offices. All foreign missionaries were expelled and sent back to their home countries. The spirit of atheism swept like a forest fire throughout China until it had scarred the whole land. Thousands of pastors and church leaders were executed or thrown into prison for many years. Hundreds spent more than two decades performing hard labor in prison camps for no other reason except they loved Jesus Christ. Many died from sheer exhaustion or from starvation. To anyone on the outside looking in, it appeared there was no church left in China. It seemed to have been totally obliterated.
      Then in the 1970s God started to do something. At first, just a little seed appeared, and some tiny pockets of believers reappeared above the surface, after decades in hiding. These small seeds started to take root…growing taller and stronger with each passing day. By the early 1980s, thousands of trees emerged throughout China, and they, in turn, produced many seeds that were blown far and wide by the wind of the Holy Spirit. Thousands of believers turned into millions as revival swept the nation, and millions turned into tens of millions, and now even 100,000,000! (ibid., pp. 52-53).

As with the church at Philadelphia, God has set before them “an open door, and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). But they had to count the cost! These people had to renounce the world. They had to be willing to sacrifice everything to bring the Gospel to every part of China. They had to reject their fears, and be fully consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ! The Chinese preacher then said to us in the free world,

      Dear friend, I encourage you not to be afraid of hearing God’s voice and obeying Him! God can never lie, nor can He ever abandon His children. He can be trusted completely. Step out in faith and confidence…Jesus wants us to live and walk in God’s strength…Our role is to hear His voice, to give our lives unreservedly…to obey His command to reach this sick and hurting world (ibid., pp. 54, 55).

If we are going to have a church that follows the example of the house churches in China, we are going to need the power of the Holy Spirit to live consecrated lives!

Then the Chinese preacher said that we in the Western world hear “thousands of sermons every Sunday in which Jesus is presented as a Savior only, but not as Lord and Master. People are told, ‘Jesus will help you, bless you, forgive you…’ But very little is said about repentance, humility, and sacrifice… [People] are trying to follow the Lord, but they have never truly repented and surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. The result of the false gospel so prevalent today can be seen in churches full of halfhearted [people] whose lives are still centered on selfishness and the principles of the world” (ibid., p. 18).

On the other hand the “house church” Christians in China have now launched what they call the “Back to Jerusalem” movement. They are sending hundreds, and are planning to send thousands, of their people into the Muslim countries between China and Jerusalem. They have already sent their people into North Korea, Sudan, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and several other Muslim and Hindu countries! They are risking their very lives to fulfill the Great Commission and take the Gospel to the whole world.

To Western observers, “The underground church in China seems to be built on a mixture of ignorance and blind faith, but that blind faith is anchored in their Savior, Jesus Christ. Western churches in general seem to be built on the confidence of their own understanding of the Word of God and rationalism…In the West, where we have access to so much information and Bible knowledge, we can easily live our entire lives absolutely passionless before Christ” (Crimson Cross, Back to Jerusalem, 2012, p. 235).

Have you been afraid to trust Christ with your life? Has some sin and some fear prevented you from embracing Jesus and being saved as His true disciple? If you have been challenged by the faith of the house church Christians in China, will you face your fears and “count all things but loss…and count them but dung, that [you] may win Christ”? (Philippians 3:8). Count them but dung! Count them but dung! Count them but dung – that you may win Christ! Do you embrace the truth in this great old hymn, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”? It’s number 7 on your song sheet. Stand and sing it.

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee;
   Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence my all shalt be;
Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought and hoped and known;
   Yet how rich is my condition, God and heaven are still my own.
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

If you would like to speak with us about becoming a real Christian, like those in the house churches of China, please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet room for prayer and counselling. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will be saved tonight. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Revelation 3:7-8; 14-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Give Me Thy Heart” (by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920).


THE OUTLINE OF

LIFE IN CHINA – DEATH IN THE WEST!

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

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:13).

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22).

I.   First, what the Spirit says to the churches in America – and the West! Revelation 3:14-17; Matthew 22:13;
Matthew 7:23; Revelation 20:15.

II.  Second, what the Spirit says to the churches in China!
Revelation 3:7-8; Philippians 3:8.