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THE WORLD’S GREATEST SIN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, October 27, 2013
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).


These are the words of John the Baptist. John’s whole purpose was to point men and women to Christ. When he saw Jesus coming to him, John shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This was John the Baptist’s ministry. The purpose of his preaching was to point people to Christ – and tell them to look to the Saviour for salvation from sin.

It may surprise you how much John knew about Jesus. At first he did not know Him. Twice John said, “I knew him not” (John 1:31); “And I knew him not” (John 1:33). But then John said, “I saw” – “and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). When John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened his heart and he “saw” that Jesus was the Son of God. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. Yet he did not know who Jesus was until the Holy Spirit illuminated his spiritual understanding – in his heart. My friend, you may know a lot about Jesus, but you will never know Jesus Himself until the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of your heart. John the Baptist himself said, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). The Holy Spirit opens our hearts so that we can believe what God has revealed about the Saviour. Theologians call this “illumination.” Without this illumination you can learn facts about Christ, but you can never know Him personally, for yourself. And it was this experience of his own that led the Baptist to say to you,

“A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27).

That is the divine side of conversion. God must illuminate the truth to your heart. That’s what God does. But then there is the human side – and that is given in our text. John the Baptist said,

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

That verse describes the world’s greatest sin. Do you know what it is? Do you know what is the greatest sin in the world? You may think it is murder. But Paul murdered many Christians, and yet later he was saved and became a great preacher, theologian, and missionary. Moses committed murder. He buried the dead body in the sand, and ran off to hide in the desert. But later he was saved at the burning bush, and went on to become one of the greatest men of God in all of history.

Someone else may say that stealing is the greatest sin. But that is also wrong. Two thieves were crucified with Jesus – one on either side of the Saviour’s cross. One of those thieves trusted Jesus, and the Lord said to him, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). They both died on those crosses. But the believing thief was pardoned and went to Paradise with Jesus that afternoon. The other thief went to Hell because he refused to trust Jesus.

Someone else may say that sexual sin, sex outside of marriage, is the greatest sin. But Jesus pardoned a woman who was caught in the very act of committing adultery. He pardoned her and simply said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

What, then, is the greatest sin in the world? The greatest sin in the world is rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have stolen things. But that can be pardoned by Christ. You may have had sex outside of marriage. But Christ can pardon that sin too. You may have done other sins that you are ashamed of. But Christ can also pardon those sins. You see, God sent His only begotten Son down from Heaven to die on the Cross, in your place, to pay the penalty for your sin. That’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he said,

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
       (I Timothy 1:15).

But if you reject Christ, and live your life without trusting Him, you have committed the greatest sin in the world, and you will pay for that sin throughout eternity in Hell.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

What do you do when you reject Christ?

I. First, by rejecting Jesus you shut yourself off from inner peace.

When I was attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, I lived for over a year in the dormitory there. In the room next to mine lived a brilliant Korean student. He had finished his Master’s degree at the seminary, but they let him stay in the dormitory while he worked on a doctoral degree at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, across the bay from our seminary.

He was very liberal in his theology. He did not believe that Christ rose physically from the dead. He did not believe in the second coming of Christ. He thought that the Bible was full of errors. He did not believe in the new birth. But, in working on his doctorate, he studied in detail a great theologian of the early church named Tertullian (160-225). Tertullian believed in the Bible, and he believed in Jesus. In fact Tertullian coined the word “Trinity,” and he believed that Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity, the Saviour who died in our place to save us. My unconverted Korean friend only studied Tertullian because he had to – to earn his Ph.D.

I had many conversations with this talented, but unbelieving Korean student. He always ended our discussions by laughing at me – not out loud – but smiling and lightly ridiculing me. He called me a “fundamentalist” – and he smiled at me for being so foolish as to believe in the Bible and in Christ. He would say, “You are just like Tertullian. You believe it all, like he did. Don’t you think it’s foolish to believe in something so old-fashioned?” And he would go back to his room with a scornful smirk on his face, making fun of me for believing like that ancient theologian.

Now this Korean student had a girlfriend. She was in Korea, as I remember. She was a godly young woman, and a real Christian.

A year or so later I moved out of the dormitory to another place, and I didn’t see my unbelieving Korean friend for a long time.

Then one day I went back to the seminary for some reason. I was walking through the lounge of the dormitory when I saw him. It had been many months since I had seem him, and I was somewhat surprised that he was walking toward me with tears in his eyes. There was no disdainful smile on his face this time. He looked dead serious. Then, to my surprise, he reached out his arms and hugged me. He said, “I’m saved! Now I believe just like you, and just like Tertullian!”

We sat down on a couch in the lounge and he told me the story. His godly girlfriend had discovered that, even though he was a theological student, he was an unbeliever. She broke off their engagement. He told me that this made him face himself, and he wasn’t happy with what he was. He told me that even when he had mocked me for being a Bible-believer, he had secretly wished that he had faith in Christ like me. He said that all along he had no inner peace – that all along he had secretly wished he could be sure of Christ, as Tertullian was, whom he studied – and as I was, whom he argued with to cover up that fact that he had no peace in his heart.

Then one night, when he was in his room, he broke down and wept. He fell on his knees and confessed his sin, and Jesus came to him, brought peace to his heart and saved him from his sin. We sat there together in the lounge, and we wept together, and we laughed together with great joy! He said, “Bob, thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for telling me again and again that I needed to be saved.”

To make a long story short, he married that girl. I attended their wedding with great joy. Although this all happened forty years ago, I can see his face at the wedding in my mind, beaming with happiness. But I also remembered how he shut himself off from having inner peace before he trusted Jesus. Are you like him this morning? Do you put on a brave face and come to church, even though there is no peace in your heart? An old song says, “O, what peace we often forfeit, O, what needless pain we bear.” Come to Jesus, like my Korean friend did! “In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there” (“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scriven, 1819-1886).

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

II. Second, by rejecting Jesus your life will have a bitter end.

Before I joined the First Chinese Baptist Church I was a member of a Baptist church in Huntington Park, California. I had a friend there who was about a year younger than me. We did a lot of things together. We were even baptized together, in the same service. Now I know that neither one of us was saved at the time. “Decisionism” had taken its toll, and we were baptized without the pastor, or anyone else, asking us even one question to see if we were saved. We might not have believed in the existence of God. They never asked. They assumed we were saved because we “went forward” at the end of a sermon. I’ll tell you the truth, I had not come from a Christian home – and I had no idea at all why we were being baptized. I followed my friend when he went to the front as the invitation was given. Looking back, I’m quite sure my friend had no more idea of why he was getting baptized than I did.

I was thirteen, and he was about twelve. We both went to Sunday School. We both sang in the youth choir on Sunday nights. We worked on several Christian plays. We had a lot of fun. But then there was a terrible church split. The church angrily divided into three groups – the American Baptists, the Conservative Baptists, and the Southern Baptists. It was a real mess, an awful time. We saw and heard things in that church that no child should have seen. Those who split churches never seem to realize the terrible impression they are making on the children. Tens of thousands of Baptist children are ruined for life by these church splits. The adults go on their merry way – but their children are ruined by it! The adults in our church fought, screamed and threw hymn books at each other. My friend and I left with the Southern Baptists. A short time later a Southern Baptist youth leader fled from our church when it was discovered that he had been molesting the little kids. What a mess it was!

You know, I’m sure my friend never got over that church split. I’m sure, to this day, it harms him. He gradually left the church and married a pretty girl. I didn’t see him again for a very long time, several years in fact. In those years he went through one marriage after the other. Not long ago his aunt whispered to me, “He’s been married five times, Robert.” The last time I saw him he was an angry, bitter man, with a dark scowl on his face. A few months ago I tried to phone him, but his sister told me, “Robert, we don’t know where he is. We’ve lost all contact with him.” He’s out there somewhere in the desert, or on the plains, a man in his early seventies, wandering alone toward the grave!

I tell you that story with sorrow, because I always considered him my friend, and those who know me, know that I really hate to lose a friend.

But here’s the lesson I learned from him – you can’t look at the bad people in a church. You may have seen people do things in church that are wrong. I think nearly everybody has at one time or the other. But you have to look past the bad people to see Christ. They are not Christ! If all you see is them, you will never look beyond them and have a real encounter with Jesus. And if you never have a real encounter with Him your life will have a bitter, unhappy end in this world, and endless pain and sorrow in the world to come! I’ve seen it happen over and over.

In the spring I will have been a Baptist church member for sixty years. I could tell you story after story to illustrate the truth of our text,

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

I’ll give you just one more of these true stories.

III. Third, if you trust Jesus your sins will be pardoned and you will
have everlasting life.

After I graduated from college I left Los Angeles and went to Marin County, north of San Francisco, to attend the Baptist seminary there. I was in a three-year Master’s program there. For the first year I drove over to Sacramento every Friday afternoon and stayed in the home of a Chinese couple while helping Wilfred Chung start a new church there. But in the second year I began working with Rev. Mike Riley and Rev. Roger Hoffman to start a church for the Hippies who were being saved during the “Jesus Movement.” I know some preachers speak disparagingly of the Jesus Movement, but I believe there were elements of real revival in it.

A young man named Mark had been selling drugs – and was heavily addicted to them himself. He came to the Bible studies and then moved into a “Christian house” with some others. They said he had stopped the drugs altogether.

I had only seen him at a distance. But one day I was asked to drive Mark to San Jose in a truck. I don’t think he had a driver’s license because I did all the driving. We were taking something to San Jose to a flea market, but I don’t remember what it was. What I do remember is that he talked non-stop all the way there and all the way back. I distinctly remember thinking – “This guy is an air-head! He’s a druggie! He’s a nut!” I almost screamed at him to shut up at one point! Afterwards I clearly remember thinking that there was no hope for this guy! Drugs had ruined him!

But I was wrong. Last year Leslie and Ileana and I went back to Marin County for the 40th anniversary of the church we started there. They asked me to speak as the founding pastor of the church. Mark was there as well. He’s in his early sixties now. He’s the pastor of a big church he started in Phoenix, Arizona. He has raised several children. As I looked at him there at that reunion, with his chiseled face, blue eyes, and steel grey hair, I told my son, “He looks more like a president than the man in the White House!” I watched him sing and I watched him in prayer. I told my son, “He’s a man of deep spirituality and love for Christ.” I read a newsletter he sends out each month called “Reflections.” Almost without exception it moves me to tears. Mark has become an outstanding man of God. His life proves the first half of our text,

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” That Korean man, who was an unbeliever, repented, trusted Jesus, had his sins pardoned, and received everlasting life! So did Mark. But tragically my friend from sixty years ago did not. He is wandering through the desert alone this morning. “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  If he reads this sermon, I pray that he will contact me.  I would love to see him experience a real conversion.

I appeal to you this morning – please don’t go on in life like you are. Please, I plead with you, turn to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins, and He rose from the dead to give you life.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
   Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
   In the light of His glory and grace.
(“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen H. Lemmel, 1863-1961).

Come to Jesus by faith. Trust Him with all your heart. You’ll never be sorry if you do! He will pardon you, and cleanse you from sin, and give you everlasting life. Get into this church, and be here every time the door is open. Make new friends here. But most of all, make sure you trust Jesus and are saved from sin by Him.

If you would like to speak with us and pray with us about becoming a real Christian, please leave your chair now and walk to the back of this auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to another room where we can talk. Go to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Chan, please pray for God to draw someone to Jesus this morning. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: John 3:31-36.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Will Sing of My Redeemer” (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SIN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

(John 1:29, 31, 33, 34; 3:27; Luke 23:43; I Timothy 1:15)

I.   First, by rejecting Jesus you shut yourself off from inner peace.

II.  Second, by rejecting Jesus your life will have a bitter end.

III. Third, if you trust Jesus your sins will be pardoned and you will
have everlasting life.