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DON’T SLEEP – AS OTHERS DO!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 22, 2014

“Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).


The Apostle Paul is speaking here of the “Day of the Lord.” This is a period of time that begins with the Great Tribulation, and it is going to come as a “sudden destruction,” and as “travail” - as “birth pangs” come suddenly on a woman who is going to have a baby. When the day of the Lord comes, there are going to be millions of people who are not prepared for it. Most of our church people will fall away as soon as the troubles and pains of that period start to happen!

Then the Apostle told them that they “are not in darkness.” They know about Bible prophecy. They are not in the dark about the coming Tribulation, and the Rapture. But then he says, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Because he exhorts us not to sleep, we can say that it is possible for truly converted people to “sleep.” It is also certain that those who are not converted are asleep. I am going to speak of both groups this morning.

I. First, let those who are converted already say, “Let us not sleep, as do others.”

There is no question about this. True Christians can go to sleep. The parable of the ten virgins makes that clear. Jesus said,

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept”
       (Matthew 25:5).

I think that is a picture of many true Christians today. They are slumbering and sleeping. That is the state of some Christians, even in our church, this morning.

A Christian may go to sleep and not even know it. If you say, “I am asleep” it is a sign that you are not asleep. Those who are really asleep don’t know it. You may be drifting off to sleep and not be awakened because your friends here in church are also sleeping. If someone tries to awaken you, you may reject what they say, or judge them, and think they are too critical.

Sleepiness in a Christian is very dangerous because you can do a lot while sleeping that makes you seem to be awake. Some people talk in their sleep. And some sleeping Christians talk like they are active and warm hearted. This is especially clear when they pray. They are spiritually asleep when they pray. The very sound of their voices when they pray aloud shows that they are praying in their sleep. They use the same words over and over. They have no real zeal. Not only are they asleep, but they put everyone else to sleep when they pray aloud in the meetings. I have heard people try to pray, but their very voices show that there is no zeal in them. They are not really praying, but just saying the words of a prayer, like someone who is talking in his sleep. Others let their minds wander when someone else is leading in prayer. They do not follow the one who is praying, adding their “Amen” to the prayer that is given. Then, when someone who is truly awake gives out a prayer that is strong and alive, they suddenly jump – as though they are startled by it.

Many people also sing in their sleep. While others are singing from their hearts, the one who is asleep only mumbles the words. Their lips make a sound, but their hearts are not in it. The song leader has to remind them again and again to “sing it!” It is hard for such people to know they are sleeping because they can still say the words of a prayer, or the words of a hymn, and yet there is no life or zeal in them, because they have gone to sleep spiritually.

There are even some people who walk in their sleep. I am sure you have heard of sleepwalking or “somnambulism.” Have you ever seen someone go to evangelism as though they were walking in their sleep? Have you ever wondered why some people go out soul-winning and bring back many names – while another person can go out and bring back only one name, and sometimes not even one? They are spiritually asleep! And when we bring new people into the church, there are some who are very eager to make them feel at home and take care of them – while others, who are asleep, forget all about this – because they are too sleepy in the things of God.

I fear that there are far too many preachers who are asleep themselves today. They drone on and on with their verse-by-verse Bible studies. They are not even aware of the fact that many of the people aren’t really listening – and many more of their people, though they come every week, are actually lost! Such pastors are actually afraid of a preacher who awakens the people! They don’t want their people to be awakened! They are happy to have a few sleeping sheep come on Sunday to sit through another half-dead “Bible study.” God help us! No wonder so many churches are so dead! No wonder there is so much carnality and outright sin! No wonder that some churches are so sound asleep that they have given up prayer meetings, or changed them to “midweek Bible study.” I have heard people “pray” in some churches that sound like the words of a dead man! These are not real prayers at all! There is very little real prayer in our churches today! One of our men was attending another church's prayer meeting. He stood up and prayed like a man, but the other pastor told him to be quiet. He wanted our man to pray a dead, sleepy prayer like his own people did! No wonder our nation is crumbling! No wonder, as George Barna tells us, 88% of the young people in those churches leave before they are 25 years old, “never to return.” God help us! They are asleep, and don’t even know it! May the Lord God keep enough of us awake in our church that these things may not happen here as well! “Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).

Dr. Cagan told me that pastors love to come here and preach “because our people lean forward in their seats, listen intently, and sometimes even applaud.” May it ever be so! “Let us not sleep, as do others!” One preacher told me the elderly ladies in his church would leave if there were applause. I thought, "They should go to the Methodist church, they would fit right in there! Go to the Episcopal church if you want a dead service!"

II. Second, we pray that those who are not yet converted will say, “Let us not sleep, as do others.”

I love to see these little children here on the first rows. I pray that they will come to fear God and love Christ, while they are still young. But I am overlooking them right now. I am speaking to young people who have been coming to our church for some time, but are still not saved. The Bible says to you,

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

This is a commandment, but it is a command that cannot be obeyed until God Himself awakens you. Man is a sinner by nature. That means you cannot know or understand how to be saved. We can explain it in detail, and you still won’t understand it. You can hear the simple Gospel a thousand times, and still be completely blind to it. The Apostle said,

“The natural [unconverted] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).

That is why some of you have come to see us about salvation many times, but it has done you no good at all. We say to you, “Come to Jesus.” And you say, “But how do I come to Him?” We say, “You don’t need to know how – just trust Him.” You say, “But how do I trust Him?”

I’m sorry, but I have told you many, many times that we cannot explain those things to you in a way that will help you. You must be awakened by the Spirit of God, or our words will never help you! You must be drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit. You can't learn how to come to Him! The hymn writer Andrew Reed said,

Holy Ghost, with light divine,
   Shine upon this heart of mine;
Chase the shades of night away,
   Turn my darkness into day.
(“Holy Ghost, With Light Divine” by Andrew Reed, 1787-1862).

In the Second Great Awakening, Thomas Charles (1755-1814) said, “The most inconsiderate of the people have been awakened...with cases of conviction so strong as to nearly drive the people mad...weeping in greatest distress, under a sense of sin and danger, crying out for mercy...under concern about their souls” (Paul E. G. Cook, Fire From Heaven, EP Books, 2009, p. 34). That is what happens to many people at once in a God-sent revival. But that is also what happens to a single person in conversion. When a lost sinner is distressed “under a sense of sin and danger, crying out for mercy” it is usually only a short time before people like that come to Christ and are saved.

How does this happen? Here is the way conversion usually happens to a person who comes to church from a non-Christian home. I will give you a condensed version of the conversion of a pastor, whose book I have been reading.

He was not interested in church, but he was interested in basketball. He was invited by a pastor to join the church’s team. He was willing to come to church so he could play basketball with the team. The sermons he heard in church didn’t make much sense to him, but he kept coming. Gradually the church itself became more important to him than basketball. After a while the word “saved” stuck in his mind. Whatever it meant, he knew it was something he didn’t have. He didn’t want anybody to know what he was thinking, so he did not go to talk with the pastor when the invitation was given. He decided to become a “better” person, so he stopped using foul language. But all his efforts to become a better person failed. He was shocked to find out that he had no power in himself to change. He said, “My first attempts to be a better person ended in failure.” At the same time he began to think thoughts about God and Jesus that he had never thought before. For example, why did Jesus die on the Cross? He had never thought about that before, but now it seemed very important to him. He said, “I found myself to be a very confused young man as this new world began to open up for me.”

At last, under conviction of sin, he responded at the end of a sermon and went to see the counsellor. He said, “It was a very emotional experience.” He trusted Jesus that night. Then the pastor said that this happened to him almost fifty years earlier, but he still remembered that night “that changed the direction of my life on earth as well as my eternal destiny.” He has been a Reformed pastor now for many years. I have paraphrased what he wrote. May you be awakened and saved as he was! (Stephen Smallman, What is True Conversion?, P & R Publishing, 2005, pp. 8-10).

“Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).

As I read that testimony I realized how closely it followed the pattern of my own conversion. The next-door neighbors took me to a Baptist church with their children. I kept going to church with them because they were nice to me. I didn’t understand the sermons, but I learned the word “saved.” I tried to clean up my life, and even made a public decision to go into the ministry, thinking that would save me. When that didn’t help I decided to become a missionary, and joined a Chinese Baptist church. When that didn’t help, feeling miserable and sinful, I went to study at Biola College. There I heard a sermon from Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge, and Christ came down in that service and I trusted Him, and was saved by His Blood and righteousness.

I went “forward” many times, but was not saved. I rededicated my life to Christ many times, but I was not saved. When Jesus Himself came to me, He saved me by His mercy and grace, and washed me clean from my sin with His own Blood!

What is similar in my testimony and that of the Reformed pastor? Both of us came to church because we were invited. Neither one of us had a Christian background. Both of us kept coming to church because people were nice to us. Neither one of us could see how the sermons applied to us. But we both knew we were not “saved.” Both of us tried to become Christians by becoming better persons. We both failed. Under conviction of sin, we both found peace and salvation by simple faith in Jesus.

We came to church with no faith at all. Finally, we were awakened to the fact that we were lost sinners. Then the Holy Spirit drew us to Jesus. Neither one of us “knew how” to come to Jesus. When we were awakened and convicted of sin, then the Holy Spirit drew us to Him. It was so simple that we knew it was all by grace, all by the drawing of the Holy Spirit, all by the Blood of Christ washing away our sins!

“Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).

But what about people who are born and raised in the church? How are they converted? Here is one of their testimonies. This is from a young person who had been in this church all his life. In fact, he was brought to church here as a new born baby. I am giving you parts of his testimony.

     As much as I tried to get some rest, sleep would not come as God began to wear my will down. By the time Sunday morning...came, I was mentally and spiritually exhausted, yet my fight against God seemed to become stronger and more intense. As the sermon was preached, I would physically try to resist the feelings of guilt and pain that engulfed me by clenching my jaw and closing my eyes...I knew I was the vilest and worst of sinners, but I would not surrender to Christ’s calling to come unto Him...the sermon seemed endless...I felt corrupt and unholy in the sight of God. My sins became less and less of the things I had done, but increasingly more who I was. The pastor called for the invitation...Dr. Hymers [then] urged me to trust Christ, and come to Him. I seemed willing, but I still would not let go of myself. In those moments, as I knelt trying to figure out how to trust Jesus, I saw the worst sin I had committed was my unrelenting rejection of Jesus Himself. Even so I tried to...force my way to Him by my own strength, but even in this I was rejecting Him. As much as I tried to trust Jesus, I could not. I felt hopeless and defeated...Jesus was calling me to Himself...but I stubbornly was still trying to do it my way. Suddenly the words of a sermon came ringing softly to my ears, “Yield to Christ! Yield to Christ!” In a moment, the thought of how I rejected the very Christ who hung on the Cross for me gripped my heart. The very Son of God had come down from Heaven to die for me, even though I was His enemy. This thought broke me to the very foundation of myself. In a single moment I yielded to Christ and trusted Him. I let go of all that I was, and simply rested on Jesus...Jesus claimed me for His own. Jesus took me. He did not reject me as I had rejected Him. The great struggle I was in did not come from how difficult it was for Christ to save me and forgive all my sin, but from how I would not stop resisting Christ. It is almost as if, that as soon as I “allowed” Jesus to save me, He immediately rushed to me, and washed me with His Blood! Trusting Jesus was not an act of my will at all, but instead I had to yield to Him! The moment of my conversion was so simple and had so little to do with my own action, it seemed as if I had nothing to do with it at all. It was all of grace...I love Jesus with all that I am, and rest in Him alone.

May someone else become aware of their sin and need for Jesus to cleanse them with His Blood! Oh, this morning, may you say,

I hear Thy welcome voice, That calls me, Lord, to Thee
   For cleansing in Thy precious blood, That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in the blood That flowed on Calvary.
(“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

“Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).

Go right now to the inquiry room. Go to the back of this auditorium and Dr. Cagan will take you there, where we can pray and talk. 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 Thessalonians 5:1-6.


THE OUTLINE OF

DON’T SLEEP – AS OTHERS DO!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Let us not sleep, as do others” (I Thessalonians 5:6).

I.   First, let those who are converted already say, “Let us not sleep, as do
others,” Matthew 25:5.

II.  Second, we pray that those who are not yet converted will say, “Let
us not sleep, as do others,” Ephesians 5:14; I Corinthians 2:14.