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UNCONVERTED CHURCH MEMBERS IN THE LAST DAYS
(SERMON #5 ON II PETER)
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“There shall be false teachers among you, who privily [secretly] shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Peter 2:1).
The Apostle said that false teachers will be “among you” in the churches. That is increasingly true today.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (II Timothy 4:3).
People want to hear something that tickles their ears. So false teachers are very popular today. The teachers I see on television today are virtually all in this category. They secretly bring in damnable heresies.
Chapter two of II Peter describes these false teachers. The Apostle said they will teach “damnable heresies,” even denying Christ. They deny Jesus by not preaching the Gospel. He said they will be antinomians. They will teach people that they can live in sin and still be Christians. They will work for money rather than God. Their judgment will be severe. They will be judged as the angels who rebelled were “cast down to hell.” They will be judged as the people of Noah’s day were judged in the Great Flood. They will be judged as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were judged by fire from Heaven.
By those three examples Peter shows that the false teachers, and those who follow them, will be judged. False teachers say that Christians can live in sin and still be saved. They are arrogant loudmouths. They speak evil against true Christian leaders. They refuse to obey the authority of the Bible. These false teachers don’t even understand the things they speak against. They are slaves of sin. And they will perish in their sin. These people are “spots” and “blemishes” in the churches. Their eyes are full of adultery. They cannot stop sinning. They seduce unstable people. They are cursed. They are like the false prophet Balaam, who preached for money.
These false Christians are like dry wells, wells without water. They speak well, but they deceive their followers. They promise their followers liberty. But they themselves are slaves of sinful lusts. They are slaves of depravity. They lead new believers astray. They will be judged severely for deliberately turning away from the commandments of the Bible. They are like dogs and pigs. They pretended to be good Christians, but now they return to their old sins. Like dogs and pigs, their natures have not been transformed by Christ. That's what the second chapter of II Peter tells us.
Why does Peter spend a whole chapter talking about these false Christians? First, they have existed throughout the history of Christianity, and we need to be warned. Second, they grow in numbers and intensity in the last days. Look at II Peter 3:3. Stand and read it out loud.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (II Peter 3:3).
You may be seated. Notice it says, “in the last days.” Those scoffers are the same false Christians we read about in chapter two. The Bible has a lot to say about the large numbers of false Christians in the last days. They have an outward form of godliness, but there is no power from God in them (II Timothy 3:5). “In the latter times...[they give] heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of [demons]” (I Timothy 4:1). By the time the world goes into the Tribulation the churches are described as “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Revelation 18:2). At this point the church will be called, “The Great Whore” (Revelation 17:1; 19:2). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said that the “great whore” “will be composed of those who have never trusted Christ as Saviour” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume 5, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 1030; note on Revelation 17:1).
Dr. John F. Walvoord, long the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “A person who denies the person and work of Jesus Christ in the biblical definition is not a Christian at all. He is anti-Christian; he is opposed to the gospel; he is a heretic, an unsaved person. He is one who has not been touched by the grace of God. The tragedy is that what Peter predicted is altogether too evident in the professing church today...Many Christians do not realize the extent and depth of unbelief which has permeated the church...Peter anticipated this long ago. There is no need to wait for a fulfillment. It has already been fulfilled” (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., “Where is the Modern Church Going?” in Prophecy and the Seventies, Charles L. Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D., editor, Moody Press, 1971, pp. 113, 114).
I can tell you, as an eye-witness, that a large number of new-evangelicals have “not been touched by the grace of God” and are “unsaved” – just as Dr. Walvoord said. This is true in the seminaries and in the membership of our churches. As Dr. Walvoord said, “Most Christians do not realize the extent and depth of unbelief which permeates the church.”
My question is this – how did that awful condition happen? All we have to do to find the answer is to look back at what happened. Beginning in the nineteenth century, in about 1824, Charles G. Finney changed conversion into a quick and meaningless “decision.”
The thing that is missing in modern “decisions” is conviction of sin! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “John Bunyan tells us in Grace Abounding that he was [under conviction of sin] and in an agony of soul for eighteen months. The time element does not matter, but any man who is awakened and convicted of sin must be in trouble about this. How can he die and face God?” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Assurance (Romans 5), The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971, p. 18).
Last Friday I was reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. What he said about conviction of sin and real conversion was so common before Finney that it was the general belief of nearly all evangelicals. Pilgrim’s Progress was printed for George Whitefield, and sold at the Calvinistic Methodist churches throughout England and America. Seven editions of Pilgrim’s Progress were printed for John Wesley and were read by Wesleyan Methodists throughout the English speaking world. Pilgrim’s Progress was read and loved by tens of thousands of people in all the Protestant denominations. Bunyan himself is the most widely read Baptist author of all time. First published in 1678, Bunyan’s book has gone through more editions, and has sold more copies than any other book in the English language, with the exception of the King James Bible. Great Spurgeon read Pilgrim’s Progress more than 75 times. Quotations and illustrations from it appear over and over in Spurgeon’s sermons. It is a book about conversion – and this is what virtually all Protestants and Baptists believed about conversion until Finney changed conversions into decisions in the nineteenth century.
In the section called “Hopeful Tells of His Conversion” we learn many things about salvation that have been forgotten as a result of Finney’s “decisionism.”
This section begins with a discussion between Faithful and Hopeful. Hopeful says he first began to think of his salvation when he was shown the emptiness of the world – missing church, lying, swearing, orgies like going to Las Vegas. But he said, “At first, I shut my eyes against the light (of the Bible).” Then he said,
“First – I was ignorant that this was the work of God upon me. I never thought that God begins the conversion of sinners by awakening them to sin. Second – sin was still very sweet to my sinful nature, and I hated to leave it. Third – I didn’t know how to give up my lost friends, for their presence was desirable to me. Fourth – the times in which I felt the convictions were such troublesome and heart-frightening hours that I couldn’t bear them.”
Christian said, “It seems sometimes you got rid of your trouble.”
“Yes,” said Hopeful, “but the temptation would come into my mind again, and then I would be even worse than I was before.”
Hopeful said that conviction would then come back to him and torment him.
Christian said, “What did you do then?”
Hopeful said, “I tried to mend my life.” I tried not to sin. I fled from my sins and from my lost friends. I began praying, reading the Bible, and other good things.”
Christian said, “Did that help you?”
Hopeful said, “Yes, for a while. But soon I was troubled again, even though I reformed myself.”
Christian said, “How did that happen?”
Hopeful said, “When I remembered that all my righteous acts are like filthy rags, and when I remembered that by observing the law no one will be justified, then I knew I was foolish to think I could go to Heaven by being good and obeying the law. I also thought that, even if I could be perfect now, my old sins were still recorded in God’s books. The old sins would damn me if they were not removed – and I couldn’t remove them! I went through more struggles, but I still had no peace. I realized my own heart was too sinful for me to change. Faithful then told me that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a Man who had never sinned, I could not be saved. He told me that this Man was Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of God. Faithful said, ‘You must be justified by Him – who suffered for your sin on the cross.’”
Christian said, “What did you do then?”
Hopeful said, “I objected to it. I thought Jesus would not be willing to save me.”
“What did Faithful say to you then?”
“He told me to come to Jesus.”
“Did you do as you were told?”
“I tried, over and over and over.”
“Did the Father reveal the Son to you?”
“Not the first time, or the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth or at the sixth time either.”
“Didn’t you have thoughts of stopping?”
“Yes, a hundred times over.”
“And why didn’t you stop?”
“I believed it was true what had been told me, that without the righteousness of Christ all the world could not save me. Therefore, I thought to myself, ‘If I stop, I’ll die, and I can’t die except at the Throne of Grace.’ So I continued until the Father showed me the Son.”
“And how was Jesus revealed to you?”
“I didn’t see Him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my heart. This is the way it happened: One day I was very sad. And this sadness was due to a new sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. I was looking forward to nothing but Hell and the everlasting damnation of my soul. Suddenly I knew that the Lord Jesus was looking down from Heaven on me and saying, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.’ I said, ‘Lord, I’m a great, very great sinner.’ And He answered, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Then I said, ‘But Lord, what is believing?’ Then I heard Him saying, ‘He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty,’ that believing and coming were the same thing. And he who came – that is, ran out in his heart after salvation in Christ – indeed believed in Christ. Then tears came to my eyes and I said, ‘But, Jesus, can such a great sinner as I am really be accepted by you and saved by you?’ And I heard Him say, ‘Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.’ Then He said, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ ‘He loves us and has washed us from our sins by His blood.’ From all that I knew that I must look for righteousness in Him, and for pardon of my sins I must look to His blood, that He shed on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I came to Jesus. My eyes were full of tears, and my heart was filled with love for Jesus Christ, for His people, and for His ways.
Christian said, “What effect has this had on you?”
Hopeful said, “It made me see that all the world is sinful and condemned. It made me see that God the Father can justify the sinner that comes to Jesus His Son. It made me ashamed of my own ignorance, that before then there was never a thought in my heart about the beauty and love of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life and long to do something for the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus. Yes, I thought that if I’d had a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I would want to spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus” (Simplified by Dr. Hymers, from The Pilgrim’s Progress in Modern English, updated by L. Edward Hazelbaker, Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998, pp. 180-186).
Dear friends, those words of John Bunyan were a blessing to tens of thousands of hearts, until the dirt and filth of “decisionism” turned salvation into something almost like a magic trick. How I pray that you will read these words over and over, go through conviction of sin, and come to the Lord Jesus by faith.
This is the true way. This is the right away. This is the way to Jesus Christ. It is the way I was saved. It is the way Mr. Griffith was saved. It is the way Dr. Cagan and Dr. Chan were saved. It is the way all our people were saved. And it is the way you must be saved.
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).
Father, I pray that Thou wilt deeply convict some who hear or read this sermon. And I pray that Thou wilt draw them to Thy Son, Jesus, who died on the Cross to pay for their sin, and rose from the dead to give them life. In His name, Amen.
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Peter 2:15-22.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Rock of Ages” (by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778).