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Song Sung Before the Sermon: “Fill All My Vision”
(by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).

HEALING THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Thursday Evening, September 8, 2016

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways”
(Proverbs 14:14).


Ask yourself – “Am I filled with my own ways? Has my heart become cold? I try to pray when I’m alone, but I do not sense God’s presence.” Is that you? When you go to evangelism is there a fire in your bones that compels you to seek a lost soul? Or do you really dislike going on evangelism? When you hear someone pray aloud, does your heart and your lips say, “Amen” at each petition? Or do you think of other things while they pray? Do you love reading the Bible? Or do you neglect your Bible, but spend hours on social media, video games or TV? Do you have great joy when someone is converted? I did not see joy in anyone’s face when two important “church kids” were saved last weekend. Or do you think, “They will soon fall away”? Do you dislike serious preaching that touches your conscience? When the preaching makes you think of your sins, do you think, “I will never confess them. You will never get me to make a confession”? Are you as good a Christian as you were when you first were saved? Or has your heart become cold and empty?

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways”
       (Proverbs 14:14).

When you were first saved you would do anything for the Lord. Back then, you said, “I love serving Jesus. I can never do too much for Him.” Could you say that and mean it now? Or are you a backslidden Christian? I’m not just talking to the young people only. I’m talking to “the 39” – I’m talking to the older people as well as the young people. I’m not talking to the lost young people. I’m talking to you who have been saved for some time. Have you lost your first love? Are you as full of love for Christ as you were when you were first saved? Jesus said to the Christians at Ephesus,

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Revelation 2:4, 5).

I have been a preacher for over 58 years. My heart has become backslidden at times in those 6 decades. How do I come out of a backslidden state? It happens this way. First I become aware that my heart is filled with my own ways. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Or I feel sad. Or I complain about how hard things are. Second, I suddenly realize that I have left my first love for Jesus. Third, I remember how far I have fallen. I am convicted of the sins that have come between me and Jesus. Then I remember Jesus on the Cross, dying to pay for my sins. I repent and trust Him anew. It is sometimes almost like a second conversion. “Fill All My Vision.” Sing it.

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” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).

I was so backslidden of heart that I was actually afraid you might not want me to preach to you any more. Then God sent a touch of revival to our church last weekend, and I repented and went back to Jesus for cleansing once again in His precious Blood. Does it seem strange to you that a 75-year-old man, who has been preaching for 58 years, needs to repent? No, it is not strange. It is the only way to be renewed and revived in your heart. “Repent, and do the first works” (Revelation 2:5). Repent again and again. Come back to Jesus and be cleansed by His Blood again and again! The great Reformer Luther said, “Our whole life is to be a constant or ceaseless repentance.” Luther had to constantly repent and come back to Jesus for cleansing. So must you and I.

I believe that James 5:16 has an application in revival. It says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed...” Notice the word “faults.” The Greek word is “paraptōma.” Dr. Strong says the main meaning of the word is “a slip-up; [an] error or fault, and other sins.” What we are asked to confess is not only great sins, but here we are told to confess our “slip ups,” our “errors and faults.” Our anger at someone, our unforgiveness, our jealousies, our lack of love, our dead prayers, other sins that come between us and God.

Often our hearts are healed by confessing our faults to God alone. Last Sunday I noticed _______’s face glowed with love and concern. Before that he had a bitter, angry look. I asked him what happened. He told me, “I saw how the Holy Spirit worked on Mrs. _______. I wanted to have the peace and joy she had. I confessed to God that I was angry with you, pastor. Then my own anger was gone and I had peace and concern for others.” Wonderful! It gave me great joy when I heard him say that! I told him that I love him. That’s what confession is all about. It’s about forgiving others and having new peace and joy from God! That’s what revival does – we have new peace and joy when we confess our faults to God.

But when God is moving among us, we should confess our faults directly to a brother or sister. We should confess our faults to each other. James 5:16 can be translated literally as “‘Make a practice of confessing your faults one to another, and make a practice of praying one for another.’ This means we are not to wait until sickness strikes us before we confess” (R. C. H. Lenski). In China they make a practice of confessing their faults to one another and make a practice of praying for one another. That is why they have constant revival in China.

I told one brother that I would give an invitation for you to come and be prayed for, like I did two other times. I asked him, “Do you think anyone will come?” He thought about it for a while, and then he said, “No. No one will come.” I asked him why you would not come. He said that you think I want revival so more people will come to our church. But that is not the reason. Ask yourself, What good would it do if more people came? How could we help them if they did come? We offer them friendship, joy, and deep fellowship. But we don’t have that ourselves! Do we? All we have is a religion of duty without love. We are not loving and caring for each other, are we? We don’t have deep friendship, do we? We don’t have joy, do we? We don’t have deep fellowship, do we? Our hearts are not deeply in love with each other, are they? Be honest, you don’t have a deep love for Jesus any more, do you? How can we offer these things to others when we don’t have them ourselves?

When I ask you to confess your faults and sins you think, “He wants me to do more work for the church.” No! No! You are already doing work – lots of work! It isn’t more work that we need. It is more love! More love for Christ! More love for each other can only come when we have more love for Him!

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.

I was thinking about poor Samson the other night. Four whole chapters in the Bible are devoted to Samson. He is listed as a saved man in Hebrews 11:32. When was he saved? I believe he was not saved until a few minutes before his death when he finally cried out to God for help. But Jesus had called him to be a holy man, “a Nazarite unto God” (Judges 13:5). “The Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times” (Judges 13:25). But Samson failed to love God with all his heart. For most of his short life he was like you. He thought he could live the Christian life by his own power, by his own strength. But he could not. He failed again and again, like you and I do. At last the Satanic forces took him and put out his eyes, “and he did grind in the prison house” (Judges 16:21).

Oh, brothers and sisters, are not some of you like poor Samson? You have been called by Jesus. You have sometimes been moved by the Holy Spirit. But you are not happy. You have no real love for Jesus now. You come to church with blinded eyes. Your religion is drudgery, hard work with no joy. Drudgery, slave work! That is all! You come to church as a slave. It is sheer drudgery. You don’t love being here any more. You “grind in the prison house” like poor Samson. I don’t know how others think of him, but I have wept bitter tears when I read about him “grinding in the prison house” – bound up with bronze shackles and chains, grinding away, pushing the mill that ground the grain, hour after hour.

And I know that is your religion too, and sometimes my heart weeps for you. You have no joy. You have no love. You have no hope. You just go on grinding as a slave in the prison house. Yes! For some of you this church is a prison house, a prison house where you grind through the services, where you grind through the slave work of evangelism. You hate it so! But you don’t know how to escape! You are bound with spiritual chains, grinding, grinding, grinding with no hope. Sometimes you think of leaving. I know some of you do. But you can’t leave. The only friends you have are here. The only relatives you have are here! How can you ever escape the ceaseless grinding, the hateful drudgery and work of a church that seems like a prison house to you? I want to help you! God knows I do! There is only one way to escape. How do you know, preacher? Because I have been in the same place you are now! I have been chained in a church, grinding, grinding, hating it – but finding no escape! The only way to escape is Jesus! Confess your sins! Why not? Your sins are the chains that bind you! Get rid of them! Repent and be cleansed by the Blood, for only Jesus can loose your chains and set you free again.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed...” (James 5:16).

Confess your fears, your doubts, your sins, your anger, your bitterness, your jealousy. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed...” (James 5:16). Mrs. ______ did it! And Jesus healed her. _______ did it, and Jesus healed him. Just now there is a ray of hope. You think, “Can it be true?” Yes! It is true! Mrs. ______, pray for someone to confess their faults and be healed by Jesus (she prays).

“Christ said, ‘Blessed are those that mourn’ (Matthew 5:4) which refers to those who feel their sin and cry over it. Sin is always a problem to the Christian who is longing for revival, and revival always deals uncomfortably with those things the world does not see. Revival throws light into dark places...to prepare for revival, Evan Roberts would remind them that the [Holy] Spirit would not come until the people were prepared: ‘We must rid the [church] of all bad feelings – all malice, envy, prejudice, and misunderstandings. [Do not pray] until all offences have been forgiven: but if you feel you cannot forgive, bend to the dust, and ask for a forgiving spirit. You will get it then’”...only the clean Christian can live close to God (Brian H. Edwards, Revival, Evangelical Press, 2004, p. 113)... “Every man forgot every other. Each was face to face with God [as they confessed their sins]... [This is] typical of almost every recorded revival. There is no revival without deep, uncomfortable and humbling conviction of sin” (ibid., p. 116)... “We have an unholy church today because Christians do not feel sin or fear it...Those who long most for revival should begin by examining their hearts and lives before a holy God. If we cover our sins and do not confess it now [we will not have revival]... A holy God makes the Christian aware of even the smallest sin... Those who know themselves to be in the presence of a holy God are always aware of personal sin... This deep work of conviction always leads to freedom and joy in the new-found experience of forgiveness. Following the ‘smiting of the heart’ come outbursts of the joy of salvation” (ibid., p. 120).

We had seven young people hopefully converted in four days of meetings. We experienced a touch of revival in those meetings. At the very least these young people were awakened. No one expected Abraham ______ to be awakened. Yet when I announced his name, no one rejoiced in the congregation. Only Jack Ngann and me sang the Doxology when Abraham was awakened. Why didn’t you rejoice? In China they would have wept with joy! Why not here?

[The names of the seven people who were saved are read]

Seven young people were hopefully saved but there were no tears of joy, no joy at all among us. Why? Because “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways” (Proverbs 14:14).

“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

We cannot rejoice in tears until we confess our sins in tears! That is happening in China. Why not in our church? We are afraid to confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another, that we may be healed. Fear of what others will think stops us from confessing. Isaiah said, “Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die... And forgettest the Lord thy maker...” (Isaiah 51:12, 13).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
And know my heart;
Try me and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
   (Psalm 139:23, 24).

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 didn’t come before. You knew you should, but you were afraid. Mrs. ______ told me she was terribly backslidden on the phone a week ago. Then I looked at her on Sunday morning – and Mrs. _______ looked at me. I could see she wanted to come. I took her hand and said, “come.” She came. She had been afraid to come. After all, she was _______’s wife! What would people think if she confessed her faults? Forget about what others think! While we stand and sing, come and kneel here and confess your faults. God convicts you of sin, and then the Blood Christ shed on the Cross cleanses you anew.

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).


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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