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UNBELIEF AND REVIVAL - A NEW INSIGHT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 17, 2016

“When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:3).


John Cagan and I are in the process of becoming friends. It will be an unusual friendship. A friendship between a young man and a man old enough to be his grandfather. It’s a friendship being forged in a struggle between two men. Two men who are very different. But two men that are also much the same. Both of us sometimes have periods of deep depression. Both of us are introverts at heart. Both of us feel more comfortable alone than in a crowd. Both of us have learned to act more outgoing than we really are. And there is another way we are alike. Both of us doubt that we will have a revival. Both of us doubt that we will ever have a “new” Baptist Tabernacle.

In his sermon last Sunday John told us about his doubts. He told us about his fears. Fears that it would not happen. Fears that our church would never change. To me that was the most important part of John’s sermon. Here is what he told us in that sermon.

Dr. Hymers said, “We must fast and pray for God to come down and make our church live again in His sight.” I must admit to you that I have had doubts about that...I also hesitated to believe the challenge Dr. Hymers gave us. You too may shake your head in disbelief... Maybe you do not believe it either (John Samuel Cagan, “Forget the Past and Reach for the Prize!”).

I think those words were the most important part of John’s great sermon. I thought about taking those words out as I helped him work on it. But finally I knew that those words should be left in. Now, as I re-read his sermon, I realize that those words were very important. Highly important. The most important of all!

Those of you who have been in our church a long time have doubts too – don’t you? Those who grew up in our church like John did, those of you who are “church kids” like him, must “shake your [heads] in disbelief... [because] you do not believe it either.”

That’s great stuff! That’s real honesty. Honesty like that makes a sermon sparkle! And I think it is very important that you too admit your doubts – at least to yourself and to God. Honesty like that is really the first step toward revival. Listen carefully to this: I myself don’t believe it will happen. That is my confession to you tonight. I don’t believe it either! In the end, honesty like that may spill over into open confessions, repentance, and heart-felt prayers for each other – if the Lord sends an outpouring of His Spirit among us. Honesty with ourselves – and then with others – is often the first step in a God-sent revival!

So, admit it. Admit that you don’t believe we can have a “new” Baptist Tabernacle! Admit that you don’t believe God will send down His power and make our church live again! Why is that important? It’s important because unbelief is a sin. It is often the worst sin of all. And we must confess our sins to God now, before we even think about confessing “our faults one to another” in the future. Before we can truly “pray for one another, that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16). Deep healing cannot happen unless we confess our unbelief – at least to ourselves and to God! Then later we may confess our unbelief to each other, as well as other faults we have.

But here is the most important question I must ask tonight – Can we have an outpouring of the Spirit while we still don’t believe it can happen? Can we begin to have a “new” Baptist Tabernacle while we still don’t believe that God can change our church and make it live again? The answer is a resounding YES! Yes – we can have an outpouring of God’s Spirit, even though we don’t believe it can happen! Yes – God can give us a “new” Baptist Tabernacle, even though we don’t believe it can happen!

How can that be true? Well, it has to be true because God is sovereign. God is the one who decides whether or not to send His Spirit among us! It doesn’t depend on us! It doesn’t depend on our faith, or our unbelief! It depends on God alone! That is the opposite of what that old Pelagianist heretic Charles Finney taught. He said it depends on us! But the Bible says it depends only on God, not on us at all! That is Reformed theology! That is a good point in the old-fashioned Calvinism our Baptist forefathers believed! Finney taught what is called by theologians “conditionalism” – that we must meet certain conditions before God can be persuaded to send an outpouring of His Spirit! “Conditionalism” is a dirty lie! It comes from Satan himself. And it is the lie, above all others, that has stopped our churches from having mighty revivals for close to 200 years in the Western world! Finney taught that revivals “could be guaranteed if only man created the right conditions” (Brian H. Edwards, Revival – A People Saturated With God, page 71). That is a lie. It isn’t true to the Word of God! It is a “doctrine of devils” (I Timothy 4:1). Brian Edwards said, “Charles Finney firmly believed that revivals could be produced by following a set of rules” (Edwards, p. 31). Well, we have been using “rules” like that for close to 200 years – and they have not produced revival. Real revival has not been produced by anything man does. Not even trying to work up faith in ourselves! Nothing man does produces an outpouring of God’s Spirit. It is entirely a work of God. Revival can even come without prayer! “Heresy,” you say? No, not heresy, but from the Bible. The Bible says, “Power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). All power belongs to our holy and Almighty Sovereign. He is the one who releases power in revival. God is in complete control. He does not even need us to believe before He sends the Holy Spirit. It does not depend on our belief or our unbelief.

Those who are influenced by Finney base their “conditionalism” on II Chronicles 7:14, but it does not bring revival! Where are the revivals produced by following II Chronicles 7:14? All you have is Pentecostal foolishness coming out of those appeals. Those revivals have no resemblance whatsoever to the classical revivals of the past! They get people to fall on the floor, but a few years later they will fall into Hell because they were not saved! That is sadly true in the Western world when Pentecostals and other evangelicals use II Chronicles 7:14 as a formula. But that verse applies only to Israel in the Old Testament. It is not speaking of New Testament Christianity! They base their whole idea of “conditionalism” on an obscure verse that God gave to the Jewish people in Israel! A simple knowledge of what I just said ought to show you that II Chronicles 7:14 has nothing to do with us today, and never has. It’s a Finney idea! It is not a Protestant idea, or a classical Baptist idea! Here are two examples in the Bible. There was no preparation before the great revival at Nineveh, recorded in Jonah, chapter three. Dr. J. Vernon McGee called it “the greatest revival in history.” In the New Testament, we read about the great revival in Samaria in Acts, chapter eight. There was no preparation. Philip simply went down to the city, “and preached Christ unto them.” If you read Acts, chapter 8, verses 6 and 7, you will see that a tremendous revival came. It came without prayer. It came without fasting. It came without any sort of forcing or preparation. We need to rethink our whole concept of revival, and begin to see it as something that God does, whether we are prepared or not. I believe that “conditionalism” angers God, so He withdraws His power from us instead of giving it. The old-timers begged God for it and did not put conditions on it. Therefore, God answered them. They were God-centered rather than man-centered men. That’s the way we need to be today. God is in complete control. He does not even need us to believe before He sends the Holy Spirit. That is why Jonathan Edwards called revival a “surprising” work of God. They had not used Finney’s “conditionalism” before God sent the revival down. Edwards lived before Finney. He did not follow Finney’s Pelagianism on revival. As I said, God does not even need us to believe before He sends the Holy Spirit. It does not depend on our belief or unbelief.

I know that by experience, an experience I have already told you. But I tell it again tonight to show you something new. I have been an eye-witness to three real revivals. In the third revival I saw, there was no preparation at all. At the last minute I was told to preach in the evening service. It was decided, as I said, at the last minute. I asked a young man who attended the church what I should speak on. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t preach an evangelistic sermon. That’s almost the only thing the pastor does. Everyone in the church has already been saved.” That’s when I started to sweat and worry. I only had one sermon with me, and it was an evangelistic sermon. There would be a great many leading preachers in the church that night, as well as seminary professors and other Christian leaders. What would they think if no one responded to my sermon? I sent Ileana and the boys away – and spent that afternoon worrying, alone in our motel room. I did not pray for revival even once. It was not in my thoughts. All I did was pray for one person to come forward. I was still sweating and worrying as the service went on that night. At last I thought, “I’ll give it everything I’ve got, even if no one comes forward at the invitation.” I preached that sermon with every ounce of energy I had. Then I gave what is called a “cold invitation” – no hands raised for prayer – just a cold invitation to come forward. To my great surprise 75 people came forward. They came forward a few at a time all evening. It was a real revival. The invitation went on for about three hours, with many church members getting truly saved, and others confessing their sins and getting right with God. One very old man, in overalls, who had been a member of that church for many years, crawled on his hands and knees to the front of the sanctuary yelling, “I’m lost! I’m lost!” Three teenage girls stood on the platform to sing a trio. But they couldn’t sing. All three of them broke into tears. They stood up in front of the people and confessed that they were lost. We dealt with them for hours. But like almost all revivals, the time stood still. I was shocked when I finally looked at my watch and saw that it was after 11:00 o’clock! Time stands still when you are in a revival. No one left. Every single person stayed to the very end. God was working, and they could feel His presence in that church. In the next three months over 500 people were hopefully converted, were baptized, and joined that church.

That was the third revival I saw with my own eyes. I have told you about it before. But I told it again tonight because it shows that God can pour out His Spirit in revival with no preparation at all. I myself did not expect it. I myself did not believe it would happen. I didn’t even believe one person would come forward! That shows revival can come even if you and I don’t believe that it will. Even if you feel like John Cagan when he said, “I must admit to you that I have doubts...you too may shake your head in disbelief...Maybe you do not believe it either.” I think those were the most important words John said in his great sermon.

We can pray for a “new” Baptist Tabernacle not really believing it will happen. We can pray for God to open the heavens and come down not really believing He will answer us. That’s OK. Keep praying for it even if you don’t believe it. Even if you doubt, God can answer your unbelieving prayers. John Cagan wrote down some words from a poem and gave them to me to put in this sermon - as he remembered them, from the poet Wordsworth.

There is a place beyond sadness
   And that is where I reside...
Where thoughts do oft lie,
   Too deep for tears.

Where prayers do often lie, too deep for tears. Where doubts do often lie, too deep for tears. But God hears our prayers, even if we don’t truly believe He will answer us.

And that takes us back to the text. The prophet Isaiah was praying for God to rend the heavens and come down. Please turn to Isaiah 64:1 again. It’s on page 768 of the Scofield Study Bible. It’s Isaiah 64:1-3. Please stand as I read it again.

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:1-3).

You may be seated.

The prophet prayed for God to rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might flow down at His presence. But he did not believe it would happen. Look at verse three.

“When thou didst terrible [awesome] things which we looked not for [which we did not expect, NASV].”

When they prayed for things they “did not expect.” Matthew Henry said, “They despaired of deliverance, so far were they from any thought of deliverance.” Then “thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:3). Their prayers were answered even though they did not expect it. Their prayers were answered even though they “despaired of deliverance.” Even though they had no “thought of deliverance”!

I prayed for my mother to be saved for over forty years. I didn’t believe God would answer my prayers. I gave up all hope – but I kept on praying for her – even though I didn’t believe it when I prayed. But God finally answered my poor, unbelieving prayers. My mother was wonderfully saved at the age of 80.

Noah Song gave a great sermon this morning. He told us how David gained faith to kill the giant. David gained faith by remembering what God did for him in the past. He had killed the lion. He had killed the bear. Thus David knew that God would give him strength to kill the giant as well! We should remember that too. Our church has already overcome many obstacles in answer to prayer. Because He has done so much for us in the past, it should strengthen our faith. It should strengthen our faith to believe He will answer our prayers and send down the Spirit to give us a new and revived Baptist Tabernacle!

Oh, my brothers and sisters, keep on praying, even when you have doubts. Pray for God to come down among us in revival. Pray that God Himself will give us a “new” Baptist Tabernacle! Pray like that man who wanted Jesus to save his demon possessed boy. Jesus said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). The poor man did not believe his son would be saved. He didn’t believe it would happen. But that man desperately wanted his son to be delivered. He was so very desperate that he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). I hope you will repeat those very words when you pray for revival, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Dr. Ryrie correctly said, “The man cried for help for his own weak faith” (Ryrie Study Bible). An old hymn says it well.

Simply trusting every day,
   Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
   Trusting Jesus, that is all.
(“Trusting Jesus” by Edgar P. Stites, 1836-1921).

Even when your faith is small, keep on praying for God to come down and create a revival among us!

Please stand and pray for God to give us a “new” Baptist Tabernacle (prayers). Now pray for God to rend the heavens and come down among us in revival (prayers). Now pray for God to increase your weak faith when you pray for these things (prayers).

Please remain standing and sing hymn number 7 on your song sheet. It’s “Fill All My Vision.” It is hymn number 7.

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
   Let me see only Jesus today;
Though through the valley Thou leadest me,
   Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.
Fill all my vision, every desire
   Keep for Thy glory; my soul inspire,
With Thy perfection, Thy holy love,
   Flooding my pathway with light from above.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.
(“Fill All My Vision” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).

You may be seated.

And now I must speak to those of you who are not yet converted. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sin. Jesus shed His Blood on that Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. He is now in another dimension, up in the Third Heaven, at the right hand of God the Father. If you trust Jesus you will be saved from sin and judgment. When you repent and trust Jesus your sins will be washed away by His holy Blood.

If you would like to be counselled about trusting Jesus, you need to make an appointment with Dr. Cagan for him to counsel you. Or you can phone him at his home office during the week to make an appointment, or you can speak with him tonight about an appointment. Amen.


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: Isaiah 64:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Trusting Jesus” (by Edgar P. Stites, 1836-1921).