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THANKSGIVING IN CHINA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, November 23, 2014

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:17-19).


The title of this sermon is “Thanksgiving in China.” That may sound like a contradiction of words. After all, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that we will celebrate on November 27th. How can Thanksgiving be connected in any way to people living on the opposite side of the world, in China? And yet I think that the kernel of this story, the very heart and meaning of it, comes clearly into view when we compare China with America at Thanksgiving this year.

The Bible story is a simple one. As Christ was passing through Samaria and Galilee He saw ten lepers. Nine of these men were Jewish, and one of them was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a mixed race of people who were not part of the Jewish nation. You may recall what a Samaritan woman said to Christ,

“How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9).

It is important for us to remember that “the Jews [had] no dealings with the Samaritans” as we think of this story. Christ healed nine Jewish lepers who went on their way. Only the Samaritan came back to thank Jesus.

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at [Christ’s] feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).

We are seeing the essence of this story repeated – in America and China today. Americans have been blessed beyond measure by Christ, but they largely go on their merry way, with no time for Him, no real Thanksgiving to Him in their hearts. But China turns back to the Saviour, giving Him thanks! China is like that Samaritan in the time of Christ. And so it is – real Thanksgiving in China – and only another gluttonous meal in America! That’s the way I am applying these words from Luke 17 this morning.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:17-19).

I. First, America takes God’s blessings for granted.

I have read a book titled, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization by Dr. Alvin J. Schmidt (Zondervan, 2001). It shows the impact of Christianity on Western civilization. The chapter on the sanctity of human life is very revealing. It shows that infanticide (killing unwanted children), child abandonment, abortion, suicide, and cremation were all practiced heavily by the pagan Romans. Christianity abolished them all until recently.

The Christian view of the sanctity of human life is a direct blessing on our culture which only now is being eaten away by modern paganism. Why do we have hospitals? Because of Christianity. Why don’t we have slavery? Because of Christianity. Why do we believe in liberty and justice for all? Because of Christianity. Why are women treated with dignity? Because of Christianity. Where does our educational system come from? You guessed it – from Christianity! Now, you won’t hear that in a secular college classroom, but it is the truth from history. Get the book and read it – Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization by Dr. Alvin J. Schmidt, Zondervan, 2001. It is in our bookstore. Dr. Schmidt retired as a professor of sociology at Illinois College in 1999.

Think about this. Where would you rather live – in India, Africa, Vietnam or the United States? For nearly everyone, the answer would be the United States. But most people don’t understand that it is the impact of centuries of Christianity that makes America a desirable place to live. I am not saying that very many Americans are real Christians today, but I am saying that our culture benefits greatly from centuries of Christian background.

Dr. Schmidt points out that Christians caring for throw-away babies, the sick, the poor, and the elderly overthrew the inhumanity of the pagan Roman culture. He shows that Christianity’s founding of hospitals in the fourth century, and the beginning of orphanages and charitable organizations, made our culture a safe and humane haven, compared to the savagery and inhumanity of, say, a country like India, to this very day. Dr. Schmidt also points out that universities and the idea of higher education came from Christianity. The very country we live in, the United States of America, was founded by Bible-believing Christians, who came here so they could practice Christianity without being persecuted.

But America, and the Western world in general, is like the nine lepers who were healed and went their way, without even so much as thanking Christ for healing them. Yes, our culture in Europe and America has been healed by Christianity of many diseases that plagued mankind for centuries. That’s why people are still flocking to America. You don’t see anyone trying to immigrate to Pakistan, India, or any Arab country! Oh, no! They all want to come here – because we are so blessed in our culture by our Christian heritage.

But America has largely turned its back on Christ. We have been no more thankful than those nine lepers who were healed – and went away without thanksgiving to Christ.

And what about the churches in America? Out of 15.9 million Southern Baptists, 10.7 million don’t ever come to church on Sunday morning. That’s right – two thirds of those who call themselves Southern Baptists never attend church! More than half of all Southern Baptists gave less than $1.00 each last year. That’s right – less than one dollar a year!

Evangelical Christianity in America is failing. It now has no real impact on our society. Most evangelical Christians don’t pray, don’t win souls, don’t tithe, and are not faithful to their local church every Sunday morning and Sunday night. What good are these American “Christians”? I say that most of them are no good at all! Jesus said,

“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…I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:17, 16).

Most of America’s so-called “born again” Christians will be spewed out of Christ’s mouth into the flames of Hell. Christ said,

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not…in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).

I say that many American “Christians” are a disgrace to the name of Christ! Where are they at prayer meeting time? Where are they at witnessing time? Where are they on Sunday nights? That’s what Jesus said about those nine lepers, “but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). They got a material healing and material help from Jesus – and went on their unthankful way – lost and going to Hell – just like many Americans! Jesus said,

“Where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (Luke 17:17-18).

II. Second, China’s persecuted House Church Christians express true thanksgiving.

The American Thanksgiving is largely a sham – a joke. People will gorge themselves with food with no thought of Christ. Yet in China there is real thanksgiving this morning.

The Communists came to power in 1949 and began expelling all foreign missionaries. One of the last missionaries to leave was Miss Gladys Aylward, whose courageous story has been told in a somewhat fictionalized movie titled “Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” I had the privilege of hearing Miss Aylward give her testimony in person for three hours in 1962. It was a soul-stirring testimony, and I remember much of what she said today, more than fifty years later.

With all foreign missionaries expelled by them from China, the Communists then banned the ordination of the Chinese themselves. It was in this period that my former pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, left China to study theology and Semitic languages in the United States. I learned a great deal of what happened in China before the Communists took over directly from my pastor, Dr. Lin, who passed away at 98 years old on October 11, 2009. Dr. Lin’s ministry made a deep impression on my life in the 1960s, for which I will always be grateful. He taught me to have complete faith in the Bible as the very Word of God. Dr. Lin’s father was also a pastor, in old China, before the revolution in 1911.

The Communists did not allow any Chinese to be ordained to the ministry between 1955 and 1985. Ordinations had to be carried on in secret among those in the underground “house church” movement. In 1995 the Communists banned what they called “evil cults” in the house church movement. They gave that name “evil cults” to the best Christians in Communist China!

Jonathan Chao had an article in an issue of Reformation Today (November-December 2000) in which he said, “In China, the Protestant Church grew a hundred times from 1950 to 2000 under adverse circumstances and a hostile environment. That environment has been one of persecution by the atheistic [Communist] state” (Reformation Today, Nov.-Dec. 2000, p. 3).

Chao continued by saying, “In January 1950…there were 834,000 Protestant… members. Today, while there is no reliable survey available, an educated estimate would put the number of believers at nearly [130] million…in a variety of house churches scattered throughout the land” (ibid.). Then Jonathan Chao said that “Today in North and Northeast China reports indicate that there is a church in every village” (ibid.).

Chao spoke of the phenomenal growth of the Chinese churches under intense persecution. He wrote about such faithful pastors as Wang Mingdao (1900-1991) who was imprisoned for twenty-three years for preaching the gospel; Yuan Xiancheng of Beijing, who was imprisoned for twenty years for preaching the Gospel; Xie Moshan of Shanghai, who was imprisoned for twenty years; and Samuel Lam, who spent 20 years in prison for preaching the gospel of Christ.

These extraordinary Chinese pastors, and thousands of other totally dedicated Chinese people have led the Chinese house churches into an explosive revival, the greatest revival on earth in the last fifty years.

Jonathan Chao said, “As a student of Chinese church studies, I can say that the ongoing expansion of the church in China has already passed the point of the [Communist] state’s ability to control it. There are already more Christians than [Communist] party members, some of whom are turning to Christ” (ibid.). The success of this mighty revival is astonishing, particularly when you realize the great suffering many Chinese Christians have had to endure.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent fourteen years of torture and suffering in a Rumanian Communist prison, where he witnessed the courage and commitment of many suffering Christians. I had the privilege of knowing Pastor Wurmbrand well. In his book, Tortured for Christ, Pastor Wurmbrand said,

It must be understood that there are no nominal, half-hearted, lukewarm [house church] Christians in…China. The price Christians pay is far too great. The next point to remember is that persecution has always produced a better Christian – a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands [like America]. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet [to Christ] (Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, Diane Books, 1976, p. 105).

The house church Christians in China are like the Samaritan leper. Christ said of him,

“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, [except] this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:18-19).

I want to be as much like those Chinese Christians as possible. I do not want to be like the average AmericanChristian.” I hope and pray that you will become a true disciple of Christ. I hope and pray that you will follow the example of the Chinese Christians, whatever it costs. I hope you will be in church every Sunday morning and every Sunday night – no matter what happens! I hope and pray that you will help make this church, the Baptist Tabernacle, as much like those sold-out churches in China as possible! That’s why I urge you to come back here tonight at 5:30 PM to our Sunday evening service! That’s why I plead with you to be with us for our Christmas banquet, and our Watchnight service on New Year’s Eve. Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 17:11-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I’d Rather Have Jesus” (words by Rhea F. Miller, 1922;
music composed by George Beverly Shea, 1909-2013).


THE OUTLINE OF

THANKSGIVING IN CHINA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:17-19).

(John 4:9; Luke 17:15-16)

I.   First, America takes God’s blessings for granted,
Revelation 3:17, 16; Matthew 7:22-23.

II.  Second, China’s persecuted House Church Christians
express true thanksgiving, Luke 17:18-19.