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THE WEANING WORK OF THE SPIRIT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, September 20, 2015

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).


The Apostle Paul went through great trials in his life. They had beaten him to the point of death five times – for preaching the Gospel of Christ. He had been stoned. He had been in shipwrecks three times. He had nearly drowned in the ocean. He had been robbed. He had been through hunger and thirst and fastings. He had been in prison. When you read the eleventh chapter of II Corinthians it seems nearly impossible that a man could suffer for Christ as he did.

Of course I never met the Apostle Paul. But I knew a man who suffered as Paul did. His name was Richard Wurmbrand. His main book is called Tortured for Christ. Pastor Wurmbrand spent fourteen years in Communist prisons for preaching the Gospel. He was starved almost to death. Red hot pokers pierced his body eighteen times. His feet had been so severely beaten that he could not stand up to preach. He had to take off his shoes and sit in a chair whenever he preached in our church. He had escaped from prison by a miracle. If you have never read his book Tortured for Christ, I hope you will buy a copy of it from our bookstore. It is a short book. I make it a habit to read it once a year. I have read it more times than any other book except the Bible.

What kept Paul and Pastor Wurmbrand going? Why didn’t they give up and turn away from Christ? Paul gave the reason he could go through such trials and hardships. He said,

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal [temporary]; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

This verse gives us the secret for a successful Christian life. We must not look at the things which are seen. We must look at things which are not seen.

I. First, look not at the things which are seen.

Why not? Because they are only passing fancies.

Most people focus all their attention on the things of this world. They are very excited when they graduate from college. Then they are depressed when they can’t find a good job. They are happy when people say how good they are. But they are unhappy when people criticize them. They are always looking for something in this world to make them happy. And they never find it.

I have just finished reading a long biography of Walt Disney by Neal Gabler (Vintage Books, 2006). Disney was a driven man. He made millions of dollars, but that was not his goal. He was a workaholic, driven to create one new thing after the other. He made the first cartoon with sound. But he wasn’t satisfied. He created “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – hailed as a masterpiece. But he wasn’t satisfied. He created “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Cinderella,” “Treasure Island,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Mary Poppins,” and “The Jungle Book.” But he wasn’t satisfied. He built Disneyland and started to build Disney World. But he wasn’t satisfied. He “popularized conservation, space exploration, atomic energy, urban planning [and] had built one of the most powerful empires in the entertainment world” (ibid., p. 632). He won several Academy Awards for his movies. But he wasn’t satisfied. The Los Angeles Times said, “One wonders how a greater legacy will ever be accumulated by one person” (ibid.). But he wasn’t satisfied. He had rejected his father’s religion and never went to church.

He died on December 15, 1966 of lung cancer. His nurse at the hospital wrote to his family, “I took care of Walt in his final days, and just want you to know that the poor man was so fearful” (ibid., p. 631)… “[he] had been so terrified of death that he hadn’t left instructions for his [burial].” He had won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor our nation can bestow. But he died without any hope at all. The Bible says, “The rich man…died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22, 23).

The Apostle Paul and Pastor Wurmbrand went to Heaven. Walt Disney went “into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

God does not want you to go to Hell. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). That is why God shows all of us, over and over, that the things of this world are only temporary. Dr. Cagan’s life verse is I John 2:17,

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:17).

God began to show me that truth at an early age. They gave me a baby duck at Easter. I was so happy I jumped up and down for joy. But the baby duck ran under my foot, and I killed it. I cried for days! My father left when I was two years old. Then we lost our house. Then my sweet little dog named Conchita was run over by a car as I watched. I held her in my arms and pleaded with her to wake up – but she was gone. It was terrible to an eight year old child. My grandmother held me in her arms, and I went to sleep when I was afraid. Then I saw her poor, withered body in a coffin, and I ran away into the trees. Later I found my stepfather’s mother dying in a chair. I carried her over my shoulder, like a sack of grain. I left her in the hospital and never saw her again. Still later I was ostracized at the liberal seminary for believing the Bible. I was so discouraged that I quit the ministry and walked through the darkness at midnight. I started a church. Then all my friends turned against me.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9).

I literally felt what the prophet Jeremiah felt – and I knew I had to preach again.

Every human life experiences heartaches like these. Why does God allow it? He wants to wean us away from the world. He wants us to see that the world is only a dream – a dream that will soon fade away.

I sit in the big house my mother gave us. I never thought I would have a house like that. I sit there alone at night – and I think, “I won’t live here too much longer. Someone else will own it – and I will be gone.” I reach out and hold my wife’s hand as I go to sleep. Sometime, not too long from now, I will be gone. I will only be a memory to her then. Why does God lead us through these times of sorrow? He wants to draw us away from the world of our senses, and our idols, and our fancies, that will soon be gone.

And if we follow His gentle guidance, we will see that this world is only an illusion. We will feel within ourselves that “the things which are seen are temporal,” only temporary. Never fully satisfying. Never what we really wanted after all.

II. Second, look at the things which are not seen.

How do we look? We look with the eye of faith. We see what no human eye can see. We see with our hearts,

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give [us] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

Look to the Lamb of God,
Look to the Lamb of God.
For He alone is able to save you,
Look to the Lamb of God.
   (“Look to the Lamb of God” by Henry G. Jackson, 1838-1914).

John Huss (1369-1415) was a reformer before Luther. He preached salvation by faith in Christ alone. They burned him at the stake. While he was burning he said,

“What I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” And singing a hymn “in a loud and cheerful voice,” John Huss was burned at the stake for the Master he loved.

John Huss had been greatly influenced by the writings of Wycliffe, the English reformer. And his preaching against the evils in the Roman hierarchy could not long go unnoticed by the Pope. Huss was excommunicated and summoned to appear before the Council of Constance. There he was charged with treason and sentenced to die as a heretic.

A paper miter was prepared for his head with the inscription, “a ringleader of heretics.” And John Huss said, “My Lord Jesus Christ for my sake did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then for His sake wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that willingly.”

When the miter was placed on his head, the bishop said, “Now we commit thy soul unto the devil.”

John Huss, lifting his eyes to heaven, said, “But I commend into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, my spirit which thou hast redeemed.”

When the chain was put about him at the stake, he smiled and said, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” And thus on July 6, 1415, he died, courageous and joyful to the end.

But his message was not lost. From the followers of Huss there arose a group which called themselves Unitas Fratrum, the Unity of the Brethren. Through much persecution, a hidden seed was preserved; these followers of Huss held their services in secret and prayed for the revival of their church. Such prayers were heard, when on the 13th day of August, 1727, God’s Spirit fell upon the congregation of Moravian Christians at Herrnhut. And the Moravians took the Gospel that John Huss preached to the ends of the earth – the first great Protestant missionary movement. (John Greenfield, When the Spirit Came, Strategic Press, n.d., p. 6).

If you have never been converted, I urge you to do what John Huss did. Commit your heart and soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot see Him with your eyes, but you can trust Him with your heart. He will cleanse you from all sin with His precious Blood!

“Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Trust Jesus now and you will see that is true. He will wash away all your sins with His Blood, and you will be converted, saved for all time and all eternity. Amen. Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. 

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: John 20:24-29.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“May Jesus Christ Be Praised” (translated from the German
by Edward Caswall, 1814-1878).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE WEANING WORK OF THE SPIRIT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

I.   First, look not at the things which are seen, Luke 16:22-23;
Matthew 25:46; II Peter 3:9; I John 2:17; Jeremiah 20:9.

II.  Second, look at the things which are not seen, II Corinthians 4:6, 18.