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WHAT HAVE I DONE – AND WHY HAVE I DONE IT?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, November 3, 2013

“Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle” (Jeremiah 8:5-6).


When I read the Book of Jeremiah it makes me think of our own nation. Exactly fifty years ago I met a young Christian man named Milford. I was working on a parking lot at 107 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. We have written to each other occasionally across the years. I had a letter from him a few days ago. He said,

      Yes, we are living in perilous times...sometimes it seems like we are living in 1939 Germany – being entertained – while all the time being destroyed as a nation, due to our wickedness, politics, and corruption...signs of the last days are all around us.

I had to agree with him. Today it feels like Germany did in the 1930s. Hitler was feverishly building up a great war machine. But the German people were sedated by sin. They were playing fast and loose. I am not recommending this movie. But it did show the utter decadence of Berlin in the 1930s. The movie was titled “Cabaret” (1972). It was based on Christopher Isherwood’s book “Goodbye to Berlin” – which was the story of an American girl caught up in the phony glitter and crazed revelry of pre-war Berlin – replete with drugs, wild music, kinky sex, greed, and utter decadence – in a city that would be destroyed in a few years, demolished by the Allies – Great Britain, America, and the Soviet Union. The people of Berlin were living in a fantasy world. Judgment was about to fall and destroy their godless way of life! Yes, Milford was right.

      It seems like we are living in 1939 Germany – being entertained – while all the time being destroyed as a nation, due to our wickedness, politics, and corruption...

And that’s the way it was in Jeremiah’s time! The temple had been repaired. It was back in use. The people were talking about how wonderful it was to go to the temple. But they were still worshipping idols at home. They were religious hypocrites. Dr. J. Vernon McGee told how attendance in conservative churches mushroomed after World War II. He said, “During that time we would hear pastors say that church attendance had doubled and tripled. They were putting chairs in the aisles and building new buildings.” But Dr. McGee correctly said, “They mistook growth in numbers for spiritual growth and development. This is the point Jeremiah is making” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, volume III, p. 369; note on Jeremiah 7:9-10).

Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was one of the few preachers with enough insight and courage to speak out against the carnality and hypocrisy of the evangelical churches in the late 1940s and 1950s. In 1957 Dr. Tozer said,

We must have a reformation within the Church. To beg for a flood of blessing to come upon a backslidden and disobedient Church is a waste of time and effort. A new wave of religious interest will do no more than add numbers to churches that have no intention [of accepting] the Lordship of Christ and [coming] under obedience to His commandments...We must cleanse the temple of the hucksters and money changers and come fully under the authority of our risen Lord...Unless we intend to reform we may as well not pray...it is useless for large companies of believers to spend hours begging God to send revival...unless we intend to reform (A. W. Tozer, D.D., Keys to the Deeper Life, Zondervan Publishing Company, 1988 reprint, pp. 17, 18).

What Dr. Tozer said was 100% correct. I know. When Dr. Tozer wrote that in 1957 I was a member of a large Baptist church in Huntington Park, California. They held an all-night prayer meeting for revival. But that church was a rat’s nest of carnality and hypocrisy. The women came to church with hats and gloves, like Grace Kelly. But their mouths were full of backbiting and slander. The men came to church in suits and ties on Sunday mornings. But they stayed home to watch Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights. And don’t think the kids my age didn’t notice it! And don’t think it didn’t ruin them! It did. To my knowledge I am the only one from a large youth group in that church who is even attending church today! God help us! Our churches have not improved since 1957. In fact they are worse in many ways. Our church people are as bad as they were in Jeremiah’s day! And we will be destroyed and scattered to the four winds when judgment falls – as it certainly will! As it soon will!

Excuse me! I have taken far too long on the introduction. But now we come to the text itself. Please stand and read it aloud. It’s Jeremiah 8:5-6.

“Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle” (Jeremiah 8:5-6).

You may be seated.

In verse five Jeremiah asks why the people have “slidden back,” or turned away from God. Why do they refuse to return? In verse six, the prophet says he listened to them, but they did not say what was right. No one repented of his wickedness. They did not even take the first step of repentance by confessing what sins they committed. No one was willing to repent and say, “What have I done?” (Jeremiah 8:6). Dr. Charles L. Feinberg said, “God waited for the people to amend their ways; he listened in vain for some word of repentance and confession of guilt” (Charles L. Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D., Jeremiah: A Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 79).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that “true repentance brings a serious... inquiry into ourselves [regarding] what we have done, arising from a conviction that we have done amiss” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible; note on Jeremiah 8:6).

Instead of repenting, each one turned to the course of sin he was used to committing, and did so eagerly, like a horse rushing into battle. Thus the sinners refused to ask, “What have I done?” What sin have I committed? Instead of turning from sin, they plunged into their favorite sins like a horse plunging into a battle, in which it will be killed. So, the sinner refuses to acknowledge his sin – but throws himself into it with abandon!

That was the way these people were in the time of the prophet Jeremiah.

“I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle” (Jeremiah 8:6).

The prophet said he was listening for a man who confessed his sin. But no one said, “I am guilty. I have sinned.” They did not take the first step toward repentance, asking, “What have I done?” True repentance begins by asking yourself, “What have I done?” “What sins have I committed?” It begins with facing the fact that you have sinned. Ask yourself that question tonight.

I. First, ask yourself, “What have I done with my Sundays?”

The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the Roman week – which is Sunday, even on our calendars today. The first Christian worship service was held on a Sunday night, when Jesus appeared to the Disciples on the evening of the day He rose from the dead. The second Christian worship service occurred one week later, on Sunday. It is clear from the New Testament that the early Christians worshipped together in church on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday – the day Jesus rose from the dead.

What do you do with your Sundays? Do you use them to glorify God? Or do you use your Sundays to play, to study, or to work? Do you plan your week so you can say with the Apostle John, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day” (Revelation 1:10)? Or do you use some of the Lord’s Day to make money or study, or for amusements? I know that many professed Christians call this “legalism,” but are they right? And is it right to follow them in their antinomianism? Ask yourself, “What have I done – with my Sundays?”

II. Second, ask yourself, “What have I done with my money?”

Do you worship God by offering a full tithe to Him? A tithe is 10%. God said through the prophet Malachi,

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me…” (Malachi 3:8, 9).

“Tithes,” and “offerings” above the tithe, were laid down not only by the prophet, but also by the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, concerning the offering of tithes, “These ought ye to have done” (Matthew 23:23).

Ask yourself, “What have I done with tithes and offerings?” Have you kept back part of the tithe instead of offering the full ten percent? Have you pretended to give a full tithe, or have you kept back part of God’s money for yourself? Remember the harsh judgment that fell on Ananias and his wife when they lied “to the Holy Ghost, and [kept] back part of the price…” (Acts 5:3). Could this be an unconfessed sin you are committing? Ask yourself, “What have I done with the tithe?”

III. Third, ask yourself, “What have I done about soul winning?”

Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus said that to them right away, even before they were saved. If you read John 1:35-51 you will see that Andrew, Philip and others began to win souls immediately. Think now! What have you done about winning a soul? Some of you are very personable. People like you. But have you ever brought one of them in, and have you taken care of anyone until they were saved and could stand on their own as a Christian? Can you name even one person whom you have won in this way? Have you been obedient to Christ on this? Ask yourself, “What have I done about soul-winning?”

IV. Fourth, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Bible?”

You know that we give you a devotional sheet, with the Bible passages to read each day. Do you read those passages every day? David said, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). Does that describe you? Do you think about the Bible every day, like he did? Do you read all the verses on the devotional sheet? Ask yourself, “What have I done with the Bible?”

V. Fifth, ask yourself, “What have I done about prayer?”

The Apostle Paul said,

“Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Have you ever thought about what that means? Again, Paul said,

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication…”
       (Ephesians 6:18).

Do you pray and give thanks before every meal – even when you are with unbelievers? Do you begin and end every day in prayer? Do you pray whenever you think of a need for yourself or someone else? Do you pray several times each day? Ask yourself, “What have I done about prayer?”

VI. Sixth, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Holy Spirit?”

The first work of the Holy Spirit is to “reprove the world of sin” (John 16:8). What do you do with the Holy Spirit when He comes to convict you of sin? Do you “strive” with Him as the wicked people did in the days before the Great Flood? God says, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). When the Holy Spirit comes to convict you of sin, do you submit to Him and think about your sin, without making excuses? Or do you “stiffen up” and resist Him? Have you “insulted the Spirit” this way (Hebrews 10:29, NIV)? Ask yourself, “What have I done with the Holy Spirit?”

VII. Seventh, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Ten Commandments?”

What about the second commandment, not to make any likeness of anything to “bow down thyself to them [to] serve them” (Exodus 20:4, 5)? Do you look at pornography? Do you bow down yourself and serve dirty pictures? Have you broken the second commandment? What about the seventh commandment? It says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Have you had sex outside of marriage? Are you doing it now? Are you thinking about doing it in the future? What have you done with the seventh commandment? Have you broken the eighth commandment – “Thou shalt not steal”? Have you done that? Are you doing it now by slipping away a few dollars for yourself – that belong to someone else? What about the eighth commandment? What about stealing? What about the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”? Have you broken that? Did you break it recently? It means, “Thou shalt not lie.” Ask yourself, “What have I done? Have I often told lies?” Ask yourself, “Have I broken these commandments?” “Am I guilty in the eyes of God?”

VIII. Eighth, ask yourself, “What have I done with Jesus?”

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, said, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22). That is a question everyone must answer. Pilate tried to wash his hands and not answer that question. But everyone who reads the account of Christ’s agony and crucifixion knows that Pilate was guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! That’s what our consciences say as Pilate washes his hands and tries to be neutral! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! says God. And your conscience agrees with God! When we ask you, “Will you trust Jesus?” some of you say “no” and a few of you say nothing? But this isn’t a game! What will you do with Jesus? No answer means, “No, I won’t trust Him.” “No” means “no” – it means I refuse the Saviour! I don’t want Him! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty of rejecting the only begotten Son of God! “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

If you are not a Christian, I’ll tell you what you have done with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says you have trampled the Son of God under your feet. You have turned your back on the bleeding Jesus. As that wild crowd screamed, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” you hung back and were silent. You did not come forth to help Him bear the cross like Simon! Not you! You were too “smart” to get involved. You said “no” – or, you said nothing! Ask yourself tonight, “What have I done with Jesus?”

I don’t want you to think that you can be saved by stopping those sins and reforming your life. That would be salvation by works. True salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus. This sermon was adapted from one by Dr. W. Herschel Ford, a beloved Southern Baptist pastor and evangelist, and it was Dr. Ford’s purpose to show that you need to trust Jesus to be saved (W. Herschel Ford, D.D., “The Question We Never Ask,” in Simple Sermons for Sunday Evening, Zondervan Publishing House, 1972 edition, pp. 86-96).

IX. Ninth, Ask Yourself, "What About the Sinfulness of my Heart?"

THE SINFULNESS OF YOUR HEART

John Newton wrote these words about your sinful heart,

Is this polluted heart
   A dwelling place for Thee?
Swarming, alas! in every part
   What evils do I see?
(“The Weight of Sin” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

I have given you a list of eight soul damning sins. But there is something worse than that list of sins. John Newton wrote about it in the quotation I just gave. It is the sin of your own heart – from which sprung those eight deadly sins. You must be convicted of sin itself – the sinfulness of your heart. You must feel, as John Newton did, "Swarming, alas! in every part what evils do I see?"

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said to preachers, “Our real business is to convict of sin, the thing itself that destroys us, which shows itself in the form of particular sins. Then we must call upon our hearers to confess and acknowledge their sin in the sight of God and of men. After that we must go on to present the glorious and wonderful offer of free salvation which is to be found only in Jesus Christ and in Him crucified. We must show that only He can remove the guilt and power of sin; that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, bore our sins in his own body on the tree (I Peter 2:24), and that it is only as we yield and surrender ourselves entirely to Him that, at one and the same time, we are made right with God, and are enabled to live a life that is well-pleasing in His sight.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., “The Presentation of the Gospel” in Knowing the Times, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989, p. 10).

I have done my best to show you that you have committed a truly horrible number of sins. And I have tried to show you that these sins come from your depraved heart, your sinful heart that madly rejects Jesus, who is the only one that can change your heart and pardon the awful sins that come from it.

If you would like to speak with us about yielding and submitting to Jesus, please leave your seat now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to another room where we can talk and pray. Go now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will submit to Jesus Christ tonight. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Jeremiah 8:1-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come, Ye Sinners” (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHAT HAVE I DONE – AND WHY HAVE I DONE IT?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle” (Jeremiah 8:5-6).

I.     First, ask yourself, “What have I done with my Sundays?”
Revelation 1:10.

II.    Second, ask yourself, “What have I done with my money?”
Malachi 3:8, 9; Matthew 23:23; Acts 5:3.

III.   Third, ask yourself, “What have I done about soul winning?”
Matthew 4:19.

IV.   Fourth, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Bible?”
Psalm 119:97.

V.    Fifth, ask yourself, “What have I done about prayer?”
I Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18.

VI.   Sixth, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Holy Spirit?”
John 16:8, Genesis 6:3; Hebrews 10:29.

VII.  Seventh, ask yourself, “What have I done with the Ten
Commandments?” Exodus 20:4, 5.

VIII. Eighth, ask yourself, “What have I done with Jesus?” Matthew 27:22;
John 3:36; I Peter 2:24.

IX.   Ninth, Ask Yourself, "What About the sinfulness of my Heart?" 
I Peter 2:24.