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FIVE SERMONS USED IN THE CONVERSION
Probably the most important sermons I have ever preached were given in June, 2009. These five sermons were used by God in the conversion of the young man you heard preach this morning. They were the five sermons John Samuel Cagan heard just before he was converted. Since I am sure John will become a very great preacher, the five sermons used in his conversion are probably the most important ones I will ever preach. Preaching for conversions is rare today. But preaching is the method God has given as the main means of converting sinners. The Bible says, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). The following five sermons were heard by John Cagan just before he was saved. I will read his entire testimony at the end of this message. But first I will give you a synopsis of the five sermons John heard right before his conversion. The points I will give this evening are the titles of those five sermons.
I. First, “Encouragement to Those who are Not Far from Salvation” (preached on Sunday morning, June 7, 2009).
The text of that sermon was “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). The Holy Spirit was definitely at work in the heart of this man, for only the Spirit of God can break down a man’s opposition to God and his rejection of Christ. The unconverted person is in rebellion against God and an enemy of Christ. I spoke of another young man who asked me, “Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross?” This boy had heard me say “Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin.” He had heard me say that over and over for years, but it had never been received by his blinded mind. You must think deeply about those words, “Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin.” What holds you back from coming to Christ? Are you afraid of what others will say? Forget what they say. Their words will not matter at all when you are in Hell. Turn from your sin and come to Christ. There is no other way to escape from Hell.
II. Second, “Modern Calvinism and Real Conversion” (preached on Sunday evening, June 7, 2009).
The text of the sermon was, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). I did not preach against the doctrines of Calvinism. Instead I said that belief in doctrine will not save you. Even belief in true doctrine will not save you. I said that resting in true doctrine will never save you. You must be convicted of your sin. You must confess your sin. You must come to Jesus Himself or you will go to Hell. When you are sick of your sin – then, and only then – will you see your need for Christ to save you. If you do not desire for Christ to change your wicked heart, you will never be converted. Aren’t you ashamed of the sinfulness of your heart? Doesn’t it trouble you? It must if you ever hope to be converted. Only when you are sick of your sinful heart will the cleansing Blood of Jesus be important to you. Spurgeon said, “There must be a real change of heart such as affects the entire life.” Real conversions happen when a lost sinner feels convicted of his sins and hates them.
In that sermon I quoted a paragraph from Spurgeon’s sermon, “Is Conversion Necessary?” Spurgeon said,
In all true conversions there are four points of essential agreement: there must be in all a penitent confession of sin, and a looking to Jesus for forgiveness of it, and there must be a real change of heart, such as shall affect the entire after life, and where these essential points are not to be found there is no genuine conversion (C. H. Spurgeon, “Is Conversion Necessary?”, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971, vol. xx, p. 398).
III. Third, “Only by Prayer and Fasting” (preached on Sunday morning, June 14, 2009).
The text was, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). I said that the words “and fasting” were removed because two old manuscripts, copied by Gnostic heretics, left those two words out, thus weakening the churches that use modern Bibles. Yet the overwhelming majority of ancient manuscripts have the words “prayer and fasting” in them. In China those words are in their Bibles. That is one reason they have continuous revival, while those in the West, with their modern translations seldom experience true, classical revival. But we must have times of prayer and fasting for many young people in our churches to be converted. We must fast and pray for them to feel their sin, repent, and have a real encounter with the crucified and risen Saviour, and be cleansed by His precious Blood. The sermon ended with a verse from the hymn, “Whiter Than Snow.” It says, “Lord Jesus, thou seest I patiently wait, Come now, and within me a new heart create.” But while the Christians in our church were fasting and praying, John Cagan resented the idea of fasting. It made him angry – even though he would soon be converted as his parents prayed and fasted for his salvation!
IV. Fourth, “Conscience and Conversion” (preached on Sunday evening, June 14, 2009).
The text was, “Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:15). Conscience is the built in power to pass moral judgments on ourselves, approving or disapproving our actions, thoughts and plans, telling us that we have done wrong, and telling us we deserve to suffer for it. Adam sinned and his conscience was defiled, so he made various excuses for his sin. The proof that this ruining of their consciences passed down to the human race is the fact that their first son Cain murdered his brother but felt no conviction and excused his sin. The more a person sins the more defiled and ruined his conscience becomes. People sear their consciences by sinning more and more, “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:2). I told the young people in our church that they seared their consciences by lying to their mother, by cheating in school, by stealing things, searing your conscience again and again with ever greater sins – which I will not mention here in church. You know what they are. You know that it is almost impossible for you to feel guilty now – because you have repeatedly sinned, laughing at God as you sinned repeatedly and thus ruined your conscience. What can I do to help you? It is you that has burned your conscience beyond recognition. I can only pity you – as a ruined creature with no future and no hope. I can only pity you. I cannot help you, because you are doomed and condemned already. Jesus said, “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). You are as sure of going to Hell as though you were already there. And nothing I say or do can help you. Only God can convict you of your sin. If He gave you some conviction of sin before, there is no guarantee that He will ever convict you again. Very often those who once experienced conviction of sin are never again visited by God’s Spirit. After all the mocking and foolishness you have done, you do not deserve even one moment of conviction. If you lose your conviction of sin, God may never give it to you again. Come before God like a beggar! Come bent over with humility, knowing that the Almighty God doesn’t owe you anything. You have spit in His face in your heart all these years. Think of it! You have spit in the face of Christ by your very attitude. Now Christ owes you nothing. He only owes you wrath, punishment and the flames of Hell. Just now you may be thinking, “It’s true – God owes me nothing but the flames of Hell. I deserve nothing else.” Then, if you feel like that I urge you to come to Jesus like the woman that came to Jesus and kissed His feet. Come like the miserable worm you are. Come crying and wailing to Him, as John Bunyan did; as Whitefield did – crying and screaming for mercy. Perhaps He will have mercy on you. But I only say “perhaps” – because the time for you to be saved may already be past. You may already have sinned away the day of grace forever. Come weeping to Christ – and perhaps he will give you another chance – though in your case it is not at all certain that He will. Come down to this place before the pulpit. Kneel down and weep for mercy. Christ may hear you and give you another chance to be cleansed by His Holy Blood. Only His Blood can “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
V. Fifth, “The Valley of Dry Bones” (I preached this the morning John Cagan was converted, June 21, 2009).
The text was, “Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5). I don’t think John was converted through this sermon. I don’t think he was really listening to it. I think it was the first four sermons that were used to convert him. You will see in John’s testimony when I read it – he disrespected me. In fact, John hated me. Even as I preached this sermon John said, he “tried desperately to reject it, not to listen...I was counting down the seconds till the sermon would be over, but the pastor kept on preaching.” That’s why he never mentions anything I said that morning in his testimony. Not one word. John said, “Even as the invitation was given I resisted.” And he said, “The pastor counseled me, and told me to come to Christ, but I would not.”
That is important. It is important because that is the way some of you feel right now. You disrespect me. You dislike me. You don’t want to listen to me.
But something else happened to John that morning. I think I could have read a few pages out of the telephone book and he would have been converted. Why do I say that? Because the four previous sermons had penetrated his hard heart, particularly my sermon on conscience. You see, God Himself used that sermon and the other three to make him think about his sin. And he realized that his struggle was not really against me. He realized that he was really struggling against God. Now listen to his testimony and you will see that I myself had very little to do with John’s conversion. It was God who made the first four sermons bring him under conviction of sin. God was the one who used my feeble words to bring this fifteen year old boy under conviction of sin. It was God who then “so forcefully [drew him] to Christ.” It wasn’t me at all. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” is true. But it is God who uses the preacher’s sermons to convert sinners. As the prophet Jonah said, “Salvation is [from] the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Now think about that as I read the complete testimony of John Samuel Cagan’s conversion.
June 21, 2009
by John Samuel Cagan
I can remember the moment of my conversion so vividly and intimately that words seem so small compared to how great the difference Christ made. Before my conversion I was full of anger and hatred. I took pride in my sins and I enjoyed causing people pain, and associated myself with those who hated God; to me sin was not some “mistake” to be regretted. I had intentionally set myself on this way. God began to work on me in ways I could have never anticipated as my world began to quickly crumble around me. Those weeks prior to my conversion felt like dying: I did not sleep, I could not smile, I could not find any form of peace. Our church was having evangelistic meetings and I can clearly remember scoffing at them as I would completely disrespect my pastor and my father.
The Holy Spirit began to very definitely convict me of my sin in that time, but with my entire will I rejected all the thoughts I had about God and conversion. I refused to think about it, yet I could not stop feeling so tormented. By the Sunday morning of June 21st, 2009, I was thoroughly exhausted. I was so tired of it all. I began to hate myself, to hate my sin and how it made me feel.
While Dr. Hymers was preaching, my pride was trying desperately to reject it, to not listen, but as he preached I could literally feel all my sin on my soul. I was counting down the seconds till the sermon would be over, but the pastor kept preaching, and my sins became endlessly worse and worse. I could no longer kick against the pricks, I had to be saved! Even as the invitation was given I resisted, but I just could not take it anymore. I knew that I was the very worst possible sinner I could be and that God was righteous to condemn me to Hell. I was so tired of struggling, I was so tired of everything I was. The pastor counseled me, and told me to come to Christ, but I would not. Even as all my sin convicted me I still would not have Jesus. These moments were the worst of all as I felt as if I could not be saved and I would just have to go to Hell. I was “trying” to get saved, I was “trying” to trust Christ and I couldn’t, I just could not will myself to Christ, I could not decide to become a Christian, and it made me feel so hopeless. I could feel my sin pushing me down into Hell yet I could feel my stubbornness forcing my tears away. I was stuck in this conflict.
Suddenly the words of a sermon preached years before entered my mind: “Yield to Christ! Yield to Christ!” The thought that I would have to give up to Jesus so distressed me that for what seemed like forever I simply would not. Jesus had given His life for me. The real Jesus went to be crucified for me when I was His enemy and I would not yield to Him. This thought broke me; I had to let all of it go. I just could not hold onto myself any longer, I had to have Jesus! In that moment I yielded to Him and came to Jesus by faith. In that moment it seemed as if I had to let myself die, and then Christ gave me life! There was no action or will of my mind but with my heart, with a simple resting in Christ, He saved me! He washed my sin away in His Blood! In that single moment, I stopped resisting Christ. It was so clear that all I had to do was trust Him; I can recognize the exact instant when it ceased to be me and it was only Christ. I had to yield! In that moment there was no physical feeling or blinding light, I did not need a feeling, I had Christ! Yet in trusting Christ it felt as if my sin was lifted off my soul. I turned from my sin, and I looked to Jesus alone! Jesus saved me.
How Jesus must have loved me to forgive the least deserving sinner who had grown up in a good church and still turned against Him! Words seem to fall so short of the description of my conversion and in expression of my love for Christ. Christ gave His life for me and for this I give my all to Him. Jesus sacrificed His throne for a cross for me even as I spit on His church and mocked His salvation; how can I ever sufficiently proclaim His love and mercy? Jesus took my hate and anger away and gave me love instead. He gave me more than just a new start – He gave me a new life. It is only by faith that I know that Jesus has washed all my sins away, and I find myself wondering how do I know in my lack of concrete evidence, but I always remind myself that “faith is the substance of things not seen” and I find peace knowing that after careful thought my faith rests on Jesus. Jesus is my only answer.
I am so thankful for the grace God gave me, the many chances he extended to me, and for so forcefully drawing me to His Son because I would have never come to Jesus on my own. These are just words, but my faith rests in Jesus, for He has changed me. He has always been there, my Deliverer, my Rest, and my Saviour. My love for Him seems so small compared to how much He loved me. I can never live for Him long enough or sincerely enough, I can never do too much for Christ. Serving Jesus is my joy! He gave me life and peace after all I had known was how to hate. Jesus is my ambition and direction. I do not trust myself, but put my hope in Him alone, for He has never failed me. Christ came to me, and for this I will not leave Him.
You are a lost sinner like John Cagan was. I can only say to you what I said to John at the end of the sermon when he was saved, “You are a sinner. You are lost. Nobody can save you but Jesus. That is why He died on the Cross to pay for your sin – and wash it all away with His Blood. While we sing, get out of your seat and come down here! ‘I’m lost! Oh, Jesus, wash my sins away with the Blood You shed on the Cross!’ Come down here while we sing the first stanza of ‘Near the Cross.’” This was the invitation song we sang when John Cagan was saved. Most of you know it. Sing it. And while they sing, come down here to the altar and trust Jesus.
Jesus, keep me near the cross, There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.
(“Near the Cross” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Aaron Yancy: Romans 10:9-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Near the Cross” (by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).
THE OUTLINE OF
FIVE SERMONS USED IN THE CONVERSION
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
“How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
I. First, “Encouragement to Those who are Not Far from Salvation”
II. Second, “Modern Calvinism and Real Conversion” (preached on
III. Third, “Only by Prayer and Fasting” (preached on Sunday morning,
IV. Fourth, “Conscience and Conversion” (preached on Sunday evening,
V. Fifth, “The Valley of Dry Bones” (I preached this the morning John Cagan was converted, June 21, 2009), Ezekiel 37:5; Jonah 2:9.