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THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, November 1, 2015

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).


Who did Christ say this to? He said it to all of the 12 Disciples here. But note that He said to all the people in the parallel passage in Mark 8:34,

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

So it is clear that Jesus said this to many of His would-be followers – including the Twelve. To be a disciple of Jesus you all must deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Him. If you don’t do that, you cannot be a real Christian – only a nominal Christian, a Christian in name only! Jesus says, “Do you want to be my follower? Then you must deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow me.”

What happens when you refuse to do this? The passage makes it clear. In verse 24 we read,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

Some preachers turn this verse into “Lordship salvation” – but they are wrong. It is a matter of trust. If you are afraid to trust Jesus, you will lose your life. If you trust Jesus, you will lose control of your life, but you will be saved! One who will not trust Jesus because he is afraid of losing something, will lose everything! – his life and everything else. That’s why Jesus said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

Somebody says, “There’s too much to give up – too much to lose.” So, he loses everything! To trust Jesus, you cannot trust anything else. If you trust anything else, you lose everything!

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

When I was seventeen years old I “surrendered to preach.” I like that old-fashioned term, “surrender to preach.” I don’t hear it anymore. But it is as true now as ever. A real preacher has to “surrender” to preach. He knows it isn’t easy. He knows he won’t make much money. He knows he won’t have the applause of the world. He knows a little bit of the hardness and suffering he will go through. At least, the best preachers know these things. They also know they will have to go through years of school – to get a job that pays very little – a job that the lost world thinks is useless – a job that will cause him to be ridiculed and fought against by most people in the world. I knew a lot of those things shortly after I was 17. It took me eight years to get my college degree at night (working eight hours a day and going to college at night). It took me three more years, in a seminary I hated, to earn a master’s degree. It took me over thirty more years to have a good church like this. Would I do it all again? Oh, yes! No question about it!

Why did I go on in it? I had surrendered to preach. It was as simple as that. Would I do it again if I was 17? Oh, yes! Absolutely! There’s no question about it! I have found that there is great joy – and great satisfaction – in being a God-called preacher. If I had the choice of any other job in all the world – from President of the United States to an Academy Award winning actor, I would unhesitatingly choose to be the pastor of this church. And God knows I’m telling you the truth!

Look at the great Christians who stayed, when our church was falling apart. They saved this church. We call them “the thirty-nine.” All of their friends left. They lost every one of their friends – in the church split! You think that’s easy? They worked harder than any other Christians I know – including all you young people. They gave thousands and thousands of dollars – over and above the tithe. They came to every meeting and stayed on and on into the night – to save this church. Many of them had their own children turn away, and go back to the world. They suffered great losses to save this church for you.

Ask them if they regret giving their all for Jesus! Ask them! Ask them! Many of them trashed their lives to save this church for you! Ask them if they made a mistake! Ask them if they would do it again. Go ahead, ask them!

Ask Mr. Prudhomme. He lost a house with a swimming pool. She took it. She screamed at him all night. He felt like he was in Hell. She trashed his life! You know who it was. Did Mr. Prudhomme make a mistake? Does he regret losing everything before God gave him Dora and his son? Does he look back in sorrow for denying himself and taking up his cross to follow Jesus? No, he does not! I didn’t tell him I was going to say this. I didn’t need to tell him. He knows, deep in his soul, that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). Ask Mrs. Salazar! Go ahead, ask her. Her husband is dead. Her children are gone. Ask her if she is sorry she took up her cross and followed Jesus. I didn’t ask her if I could say this. I didn’t need to ask her. I know she would do the same thing all over again. She knows that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Ask Mrs. Hymers. She got nothing by marrying me! We had nothing. We lived in a one room apartment. We had no furniture. We had no TV. We sat on the floor and looked at a parakeet in a cage that someone gave us. I only had a very small salary. Everyone attacked us. She had to put up with me – and most of the time I was torn apart inside by the horrors of one church split after the other. No young girl should go through what my little wife went through to have the great church we have tonight. Ask her if she made a mistake. Ask her if she would do it again. I didn’t ask her if I could say this. I didn’t need to ask her! I know she would do it all again for Jesus! Ask Mr. Lee. His parents turned against him forever because he took up his cross to follow Jesus. Ask him if he made a mistake by trashing his life to follow Jesus. I know he would do it all again, without murmuring or complaining. Ask Mr. Matsusaka. He could have gone into the police force. They wanted him. But he would have had a schedule that would have made it impossible for him to help this church. I remember when he walked away from a good job on the police force to help us save this church. I remember how he took up his cross and denied himself to be one of “the thirty-nine.” God bless you, dear brother! I will never forget what you did – and neither will God! Jim Elliot was killed as a martyr, trying to bring the Gospel to a tribe of heathens. And it was Jim Elliot who said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Amen.

A young man in our church told Dr. Cagan, “I’m a professional now. I can’t do more than two hours extra work in the church.” Dr. Cagan said, “What about Dr. Chan? He’s a medical doctor. He’s a professional! He does countless hours of work in the church – and countless hours doing extra evangelism in the colleges, far above what anyone else does.” Yes, look at Dr. Chan! He knows that Jesus was right – “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Then look at Dr. Cagan. They offered him a very high paying job with security and great benefits – not once, but four times. He turned them all down. Why? Because he would have to leave Los Angeles and move to New York City, or Washington, D.C. He turned them all down – hundreds of thousands of dollars – to stay in this church and save it from ruin in the church split. Was he a fool? Listen to the martyr, who gave his life, again,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I could go on and on, and mention the cross bearing and self-sacrifice of every one of “the thirty-nine” – Mr. Song, Mr. Mencia, Mr. Griffith – who dragged himself to church with a tube hanging out of his body after cancer surgery. I can see him with a white face and sweat running down his brow, clinging to the pulpit to keep from fainting – singing

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
   I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
   This world affords today.

Was Mr. Griffith a fool?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I could go on and name every one of the women, and every one of the men, in “the thirty-nine” – who denied themselves and took up their crosses daily to follow Jesus Christ, and make a lively, happy church for you tonight.

When we burned the mortgage on this building I told you young people to stop and think. We will soon be gone. Who will take Mrs. Roop’s place on the organ? Who will take Mr. Roop’s place guarding the door? Who among you will take the place, day after day and night after night – who among you will deny yourselves and take the place of Richard and Ronald Blandin? Who will lose his life, hour after hour, day after day, with no reward, to take their place when they are gone? – as all of us in “the thirty-nine” will soon be gone – far sooner than thoughtless young people ever dream of. Who will replace Mrs. Cook in the kitchen? Who will replace Robert Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Duque, Nelson Smith and Willie Dixon? You eat their food. But I cannot think of one of you who could replace even Mr. Dixon, who is now seventy-seven years old. I don’t see even one of you young people man enough to replace that dear old man! Do you even know what he does? Is he a fool to spend his days, and several nights a week, to feed you? Is he a fool?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Who among you young people will sacrifice everything to make this church go on in strength for another thirty or forty years? I will be gone. Who will replace me? Dr. Cagan will be gone. Who will replace him? Dr. Chan will be gone. Who will take his place? Most of you couldn’t (I mean it), could not replace Mr. Dixon or Rick and Ron Blandin. You think they are not important, but you could not replace them! It will take self-sacrifice. It will take cross bearing. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23, 24).

When God was calling Dr. Cagan he read Tortured for Christ by Pastor Wurmbrand. It was natural for him to love Pastor Wurmbrand because he, like the pastor, was a Jew. And when he read “Tortured for Christ,” Dr. Cagan thought he would like to find a church with the same sacrificial values taught by Wurmbrand. Dr. Cagan saw me preaching on the street near UCLA. He saw people screaming at me and throwing things at me. Dr. Cagan thought, “That is the man I would like to hear preach.” So he found out where our church was and he came. The other night Dr. Cagan told me that he had heard me say, “You are going to burn out for something. Why not burn out for Christ?”

Dr. Cagan was just a young man then, in his twenties. What a thought for a young man to have~ “You are going to burn out for something.” Of course! Everyone “burns out” soon enough. Your hair begins to fall out. Lines come to your face. Life at best is hard. The next thing you know you are getting old. Then you burn out and die. “You are going to burn out for something.” Yes, indeed, that will happen to all of you. You will burn out!

But then an even deeper thought – “Why not burn out for Christ?” All the great Christians through the ages have thought things like that – “why not burn out for Christ?” I don’t know how you can read about Henry Martyn (1781-1812) and not want to “burn out” as he did at the age of 31. I don’t know how you can read the life of Robert McCheyne (1813-1843) and not want to “burn out” for Christ as he did at the age of 29. Are you so afraid to read about them that you won’t even look them up on Wikipedia? Are you afraid they might influence you? Where are the men like Henry Martyn and Robert McCheyne? Can’t we have even one man like them? God help us.

Our own Mrs. Cook fell in love (you might say) with an old man who died twenty years before she was born. He was born into a very wealthy family and he inherited all the money. He was also a world-famous athlete. Then he got saved. He gave away all his money very carefully and very deliberately. Then he went to China as a missionary, into the interior. For fourteen years he was kept away from his wife and child by his call to preach to the heathen. Later he went to the very heart of Africa, and he opened up a new mission field. At last he died, far away in the interior of Africa. His career and his fortune had gone – for Christ. His home and his family life went also. Near the end of his life, this wonderful old man said, “I do not know of anything else that I can sacrifice to the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our Mrs. Sally Cook fell in love with that old man who died twenty years before she was born. And I’m glad she did. If she hadn’t loved him and hadn’t been influenced by him she would have been just another selfish, well-to-do middle-aged white woman, raising thoroughbred dogs out in the San Fernando Valley. But because she was influenced by C. T. Studd she spends hundreds of hours feeding and caring for you young people, here in the heart of Los Angeles. A few years ago Mrs. Cook made a little plaque for me with the words of her hero, Mr. Studd, on it. I look at it every day in my study. It says,

“Only one life,
   ‘Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ
   Will last.”
      – C. T. Studd.

And Jesus says to us all,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

Amen. Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 8:34-38.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“More Love to Thee” (by Elizabeth P. Prentiss, 1818-1878).