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CHRIST PRECIOUS TO REAL CONVERTS ONLY!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 2, 2014

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).


Spurgeon was sixteen years old when he preached his first sermon. He had been teaching in a Sunday School for about a year, since the time of his conversion. Sunday Schools were taught in the afternoon, which is still true in parts of the United Kingdom. He was so successful that the other teachers came to him for help with their lessons. He also attended a Lay Preacher’s Association. One day the head of the association told Spurgeon to go with another young man who was assigned to preach his first sermon. As they walked toward the meeting house, Spurgeon suddenly realized that he was the one who had to preach. His companion told him there would be no sermon unless he spoke. As they walked along Spurgeon thought “I could tell a few poor [people] of the sweetness and love of Jesus.”

And so, the 16-year-old Spurgeon preached his first sermon – on our text,

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

He was scared as he stood up to preach for the first time in his life. But he got so caught up in the text that the words gushed forth from his mouth. He said, “Christ was precious to my soul...I could not be silent when [the] precious Jesus was my subject.” He remembered his bondage to sin, the gulf of flames which had lapped around his tormented conscience. He had felt he was ready to drop into the everlasting fire. By remembering the horror he went through, in his conversion the year before, he could easily speak of the preciousness of Jesus. He said the Saviour “had plucked me as a brand from the burning, and set me upon a rock, and put a new song in my mouth.”

Spurgeon went on to preach six more sermons on this text, the last one given in 1890, a few months before his death. I thought about this 16-year-old boy preaching on the preciousness of Jesus. I wondered if any teenager would choose that subject in our time. It seems to me that today it would be an extremely rare boy who would choose to preach his first sermon on the words,

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

To be sure, Charles Spurgeon was a rare boy. Yet I doubt that a young man in America would even think of preaching on the preciousness of Christ. Evangelistic sermons are almost never preached in our churches today. I brought out the reasons for that last Sunday in my sermon, “Why So Little Gospel Preaching Today?” Now it would be very unlikely for a young man to even think of preaching an evangelistic sermon! And with the “new” emphasis on so-called “expository” preaching, he certainly would not have chosen to give a whole sermon on one-half of a verse! A boy today would have chosen to give a sermon to Christians based on five or more verses, following the deadly method of so-called “expository” preaching which is now in fashion. And a boy today would probably not be able to speak with passion on the “preciousness” of Jesus. Why not? Because it is virtually certain that a young man today would not have gone through the agony and the ecstasy of a real conversion! Coming, as Spurgeon did, from a preacher’s home, the boy would undoubtedly have been led to mumble the words of a so-called “sinner’s prayer” when he was two or three years old. He would undoubtedly have been told he was saved all his life because he said that prayer. Thus, the modern teenager would have been robbed of having a real, life-changing experience with Jesus Christ. That’s the main reason nearly 90% of all young people raised in American churches leave before they are 25 years old, “never to return” according to pollster George Barna. But Spurgeon was not raised in a “decisionist” church that believed in salvation through a “quick prayer.” That deadly, soul-damning custom had not yet come into the churches. And so, the “boy preacher” took I Peter 2:7 as the text of his first sermon – and he preached it with great vigor and unction! (Information on C. H. Spurgeon’s first sermon based on Thomas J. Nettles, Ph.D., Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Christian Focus Publications, 2013, pp. 58, 59).

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

I will give two points suggested by this text.

I. First, who are those which believe?

“Unto you...which believe he is precious.”

Most people are unbelievers today. True believers are becoming increasingly hard to find, even in the theological seminaries. John S. Dickerson has written a book that every pastor and every serious Christian should read. It is titled The Great Evangelical Recession (Baker Books, 2013). I disagree with much that he gives in the second half of the book, but the first half should be put on your “must read” list. Here is what Mr. Dickerson says about our evangelical and fundamentalist churches,

The American church is on the precipice of a spiritual recession. Our overall membership is shrinking. Young [people] are fleeing [from the churches]. Our donations are drying up. Political fervor is dividing us. Even as these crises eat at the church internally, the once friendly host culture of the United States is quickly turning hostile and antagonistic...
       Pastor John Dickerson identifies six factors that are radically eroding the American church... (back jacket cover).

He says that the number of evangelicals and fundamentalists is greatly inflated. He says only about 7% of Americans are evangelicals or fundamentalists. He says that the rest of the people in our country now hate us. He says we are on the verge of bankruptcy. He says that 80 to 90% of our young people leave the church by the age of 25 and never return. He says that we are dividing, with 70% of us no longer supporting the religious right and the Republican Party. He says that evangelicals and fundamentalists are not growing fast enough to keep up with population growth. He says, “The percentage of evangelicals decreases with each younger generation, while the percentage of agnostics and atheists increases in younger generations. The effect over time will be a tsunami-like culture shift as the older generations pass away...45 percent of evangelicals will die within the next twenty-nine years – meaning that evangelicals [will] drop from about 7 percent of Americans to about 4 percent or less. [Thus] the United States of 2030 or 2040 will be radically more secular and atheistic than many [of us] can imagine” (ibid., pp. 113, 116). He also shows that the megachurches, like Rick Warren’s and Joel Osteen’s, make very few converts from the world. They only grow by transfers from smaller churches – so they do not add people to the number of evangelicals as a whole! (ibid., pp. 117, 118).

He says that the total number of “believers” is decreasing every year in the United States, but, as we showed in our books, Preaching to a Dying Nation and Today’s Apostasy, the vast majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists are not born again, not converted, not saved! One reason is because there is so little preaching on the Gospel of Christ! No wonder Dr. Michael Horton was compelled to write a book titled, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker Books, 2008). Every pastor ought to read Dr. Horton’s book, and John Dickerson’s book. The first half of Dickerson’s book is very important. But keep in mind that I personally think the second half of his book is quite worthless. It depends on “techniques’ rather than God-given conversions and God-given revival.

The form of “revival” Dickerson speaks of is built on Finney’s model, which Dr. David Wells criticized, calling it “something that can be engineered by the church with proper techniques” (David F. Wells, Ph.D., No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, Eerdmans, 1993, p. 296).

Self-engineered changes in the church do not, of course, produce real revival. But Dickerson goes right on, telling us we can have “revival” by using his form of “Finneyism.” I completely agree with Dr. David Wells that this kind of “revival” cannot help us. Dr. Wells said, “What the church now needs is not revival but reformation” (ibid.). That’s what Dr. Tozer meant when he said, “The whole evangelical world is to a large extent unfavorable to healthy Christianity...I mean the Bible-believing crowd.” “We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that...paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and is being spread all over the world” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., Of God and Men, pp. 12-13; We Travel an Appointed Way, pp. 110-113).

The root of our problems lies in the fact that so many evangelicals and fundamentalists are not converted. They are “believers” in some doctrines. They are “believers” in some Bible verses. But Christ Himself is not precious to them because they are not “believers” in Jesus, in the Biblical sense of the word.

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

Spurgeon said this refers to believing in Christ Himself. He said that true belief is “when a man believes upon Jesus, or on Jesus, he rests himself upon him...[He can say] ‘I believe that glorious Man; my trust is in him’ [Christ is] all his salvation and all his desire...if you are a believer in and upon him, he will be precious to you beyond all comparison” (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1978 reprint, volume 54, pp. 470, 471).

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

Until you are convicted of sin you will not feel the need to trust Jesus Himself. Until you are convicted of sin you will hide your face from Him, and not esteem Him (Isaiah 53:3). But when the Holy Spirit makes you feel the rebellion and the desperate wickedness of your heart, you will be disgusted with yourself. Only then will you feel that Jesus is precious.

You may have to go through a lot of conviction before your stubborn, sinful heart yields to Jesus. When you feel that you have no hope, none at all in this world, when you feel that you are a sinful wretch, with no hope of changing yourself, then you may be persuaded to trust Jesus Himself and be washed clean from your sin by His precious Blood. Then, and only then, are you a believer in Jesus, in the sense of our text.

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

II. Second, why is Christ precious to those which believe?

The Greek word translated “precious” is “teemay.” It means valuable, costly, priceless (Strong). Only when you feel that you are lost in sin will you come to Jesus and trust Him – only then, never before then! And when you trust Him you will see that He, and He alone, is priceless, valuable, and precious! Then, and only then, will you be able to sing from your heart the words Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago,

So precious is Jesus, my Saviour and King,
His praise all the day long with rapture I sing;
To Him in my weakness for strength I can cling,
For He is so precious to me.
For He is so precious to me, For He is so precious to me,
‘Tis Heaven below, my Redeemer to know,
For He is so precious to me.
(“For He is So Precious to Me” by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932).

After he trusted Jesus, Luther could have sung that song! After he trusted Jesus, great Whitefield could have sung it! All of the following preachers could also have sung it –John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Romaine, Augustus Toplady, John Newton, Robert Hall, Jonathan Edwards, Timothy Dwight, Gilbert Tennent, William Williams, Howell Harris, Daniel Rowland, Christmas Evans, Charles Simeon, Robert Murray McCheyne, C. H. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, A. W. Tozer, and tens of thousands of others who trusted Jesus, found peace through believing in Him, and preached Christ and Him crucified to the end of their days! The Puritan commentator John Trapp (1601-1669) said that Jesus is “Honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and joy in the heart.”

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

Great Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” said that Jesus is

Precious in His essence – in who He is!
   Precious because He cannot be bought – since He is priceless!
    Precious because He cannot be matched – since He is absolutely unique!
     one of a kind!
     Precious because He cannot be lost – since once you trust Him
      you can never lose Him!
       Precious because He cannot be destroyed – since He ever lives above!
        Precious because of what He does for us –

He took our guilt upon Himself and died to pay the penalty for our sin, as our substitute. He rose from the dead and lives at the right hand of God, interceding for us! praying for us! He gives us pardon! He gives us peace with God! He gives us eternal life! He gives us hope! He gives us strength! He gives us answers to prayer!

Jesus is precious above all other things in the hearts of those who truly believe and trust Him! As John Trapp put it, He is “Honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and joy in the heart” to those who trust Him! They can say with the Apostle Paul,

“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

For He is so precious to me, For He is so precious to me,
‘Tis Heaven below, my Redeemer to know,
For He is so precious to me!

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

Jesus is valuable. In fact, He is priceless. He is of greater value than all the jewels, all the honor, and all the glory of this old world. Come to Jesus. He died for your sin – as your substitute – on the Cross – so that you will never be punished for your sin if you trust Him. He is alive – at the right hand of God, up in Heaven – so you will never die if you trust Him. Your sins will be pardoned and you will have eternal life – when you trust the Saviour, Jesus Christ! He loves you! He will save you! Do not be afraid! Trust Him now, this morning, right now! He will save you. He will save you. He will save you now!

If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please leave your chair and walk to the back of the auditorium. Mr. John Samuel Cagan will take you to another room where we can pray and talk. If you would like to become a Christian, go to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus this morning. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Peter 2:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“For He is So Precious to Me” (by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHRIST PRECIOUS TO REAL CONVERTS ONLY!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

I.   First, who are those which believe? Isaiah 53:3.

II.  Second, why is Christ precious to those which believe? Corinthians 1:30-31.