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A GOOD MAN LOST AND A BAD MAN SAVED!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 5, 2017

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).


This is a parable. It's a story Jesus told to explain a great truth. Jesus told this parable to some who were confident, who trusted their own goodness and who looked down on everyone else.

Dr. R. A. Torrey was a great evangelist. He often preached on these verses. He called this sermon, “A Good Man Lost and a Bad Man Saved.” Dr. Torrey said, “Some of you may think I have twisted the subject. That it should be ‘A good man saved and a bad man lost.’ But you are wrong. The subject is clear, ‘A good man lost and a bad man saved.’” Christ gave us this story.  Christ spoke of a good man and a bad man. Christ told us that the good man was lost and the bad man was saved.

The Pharisees were good men. They were religious. They lived good lives. The publicans were tax collectors. They collected as much money as they could. They were like gangsters. They forced people to give them large amounts of money. They turned over a certain amount of the money to the Romans. They kept the rest for themselves. The Jewish people hated them. They were considered to be traitors, and very evil. Publicans were the worst of all sinners. They were extortioners and thieves. In this parable Jesus was dividing the whole human race. He was dividing them into two classes of people – the self righteous people who are lost, and those who know they are sinners and get saved. The lost and the saved. The damned and the elect. The chaff and the wheat. Those who are on the broad road to Hell, and those who are on the narrow road to salvation. Jesus divided the human race, and everyone here tonight, is in one of those two groups. Which group are you in tonight? Jesus said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” A good man and a bad man. Which one are you?

I. First, the “good” man who was lost.

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners [robbers], evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12).

In the eyes of the world he was really a “good” man. He was a moral man, a clean-living man. He was a religious man. He was a generous man. He was a respectable man. He was just like me before I was saved. I put on my suit and walked through the living room of my uncle’s house. The others were drunk. They were sleeping on the couch and on the floor. I was about 18 years old. I thought, “I don’t want to be like them.” I was a good boy. I didn’t take drugs. I didn’t get drunk. And I had already quit smoking. I was a good boy. I had surrendered to preach as a Baptist minister. I was very good. But I was still lost! I was proud not to have done the things that other kids had done. I took pride in myself. I thought that there was nothing wrong with me. But I still didn’t feel good about myself. I asked myself, “What more does God want?” I went to church. I went every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. I listened to Billy Graham preach on the radio every Sunday afternoon. I sang in the youth choir every Sunday night. I had given my life to God, to be a preacher. Yet deep in my heart I had no peace. The Bible says, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21). What more did God want? I was like the Pharisee!

He trusted himself. He despised others. He did not admit that he was a sinner. He did not acknowledge his sinful heart. He prayed “with himself” instead of God. He congratulated himself on his own righteousness. You are exactly like that tonight! You think that you are good enough the way you are. You have deceived yourself. You have listened to Satan. You have been deceived by him. You are honest and moral outwardly. But your heart is deeply sinful. The Buble says your heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). When I preach on that, you don’t like it. It makes you feel anxious and uneasy. You don’t want to examine your heart. You want to hide from God, like Adam. You want to cover up your sin, like Adam. You want to blame other people, like Adam. And you are cursed by God, like Adam! You are lost. Lost in religion and morality. Lost in self-deception. Lost in a false hope. And if you die like you are, you will be lost throughout all eternity.

Eternity, eternity,
Lost throughout all eternity.
Eternity, eternity,
Lost throughout all eternity!
   (“Eternity” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

I would ask myself, “What more does God want?” Nothing I did seemed enough! I felt uneasy every day and every night – and so do you! You will never feel happy this way! You will never have peace this way! “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21). You are like the rich young ruler. You have kept God’s law outwardly, but you have given no thought to the internal sinfulness of your heart. You do not understand the spiritual sense of God’s law. God's law condemns the smallest lust of your heart! You are a good person in your own mind. But you are a good for nothing sinner in the sight of God! If you die like this you will go straight into the flames of eternal Hell!

Eternity, eternity,
Lost throughout all eternity.

But I want to show you one more thing about this man. His prayer shows what a fraud he was; he was a complete fake. He had no awareness of God at all. His ”prayer” was artificial and false. A person’s prayers often show that they have never been converted. Their prayers have a false sound to them. They are mechanical prayers. They are a pretense. They are not really prayers at all! They are just hollow words that you say to impress others – or to deceive yourself. This man did not really pray at all! He congratulates himself on his “goodness” – “God, I thank thee, that I am not as others are.” What madness! Doesn’t he know that God sees how false his words are? False words! Does he really believe in God at all? Not in any real sense. God is only an abstract idea, not a personal and real God – not the living God at all! How do I know that? Because he “stood and prayed thus with himself” (Luke 18:11). It could even be translated, “he prayed to himself” (NIV, note a). In reality, this man did not pray to God at all. He only bragged about his own goodness. He prayed to himself, not to God! Isn’t that the way you pray, if you pray at all? Don’t you sometimes feel that you are only praying to hear yourself pray? Isn’t that why you are afraid to pray out loud in the prayer meetings? Isn’t it because you know that others would think your prayers are false? That you are only praying to show off? And does this not show that you are a lost person, a lost person who can’t really pray to God? In verse 14 Jesus plainly told us that this so-called “good” man was not “justified.” He was not a saved man! He was a lost man. He was a religious but lost man. He was going to Hell for the endless ages of eternity!

Eternity, eternity,
Lost throughout all eternity!

The man was a hypocrite - and so are you!. He pretended to pray to God - and so do you! But he was only bragging. One day your own “goodness” will not help you. Something terrible will happen to you, as it does to everyone. But in that day of terror and heartache your hypocrisy will do you no good. The Bible says, “Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites” (Isaiah 33:14). You will die and stand before God, and God will say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23). Your false religion will do you no good then. God will cast all hypocrites like you into the fire of Hell. He was a good man in the eyes of the world. But he was a lost man in the eyes of God! You may be good in the eyes of the world. But you are lost in the eyes of God.

II. Second, the bad man who was saved.

“And the publican [the tax collector], standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but [beat his breast], saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

He had not been a good man. He had not been a moral man. He had not seen how sinful he was. The Holy Spirit had showed him that he was really a lost sinner. He felt that he only deserved punishment from God. He felt like the Psalmist who said, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Dr. John Gill said, “He could not look up; shame filled him with blushing; sorrow caused [his face] to fall; the fear of [God’s] wrath and displeasure, possessed him; he looked upon himself as unworthy of [God’s grace]. He beat on his chest....he did this to arouse and stir up...his soul, to call upon God... saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’! That is his prayer; a short, but very full one...in which is a confession that he was a sinner, a sinner in Adam, a sinner who had [inherited] a sinful nature from Adam, being conceived and born in sin; and a sinner by practice, having committed many actual transgressions; a guilty and filthy sinner - deserving the wrath of God, and the lowest [part of] hell:.. God against whom he had sinned” (note on Luke 18:13).

And yet you may go through conviction of sin and still not be saved. I have seen people’s faces drenched in tears of conviction. But they never were saved, even after going through a time of weeping and sorrow for their sin. I have seen people go through much sorrow and conviction of sin, but they were never converted. I have heard people say, “I felt sinful and wrong.” I have heard them say things like that with tears – but they were never saved! How can that be? Let me make it as clear as possible. Conviction of sin is not conversion from sin. You can come under conviction of sin and yet not be saved by Jesus. I have seen people break down in tears again and again – and yet they never trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones understood that. He said, “Becoming a Christian is a crisis, a critical event, a great upheaval which the New Testament describes in terms such as a new birth, or a new creation...More than that, it is described as being a supernatural act [done] by God Himself, something that is comparable to a dead soul being made alive...” It is a crisis in which God makes you hate your sinful heart. It is a crisis that God creates inside you. It only comes when conviction makes you long for relief. John Bunyan was under conviction of sin for seven years. They were seven years of Hell on earth. I know by experience that conviction of sin is not conversion from sin.

When they see a person with tears in their eyes, modern evangelicals think they are saved! But they have not yet been in the depths of agony. When you see a tear and immediately tell them to trust Christ it usually does not happen. They have not yet been broken down enough to long for Jesus to save them. That is why they often say, “And then I trusted Jesus.” They write a whole page about themselves. But they have very little to say about the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, when we question them a few weeks later, they say, “I believed that Jesus died for me.” “That” shows they only trusted a doctrine, not Jesus Himself. A lost sinner will never trust Jesus Himself. Not until you are very discouraged, not until you see no other way to escape from the pain and anguish of conviction. Sometimes that happens quickly. But usually you have to go through several false conversions. Only then will you say with the Apostle, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from [this body of death]?” (Romans 7:24).  Only then will you cry out for God's mercy as the publican did! Only then will God answer you and draw you to Jesus!

Modern evangelicals want everything to be done quickly and easily. We saw that in the revival last year. Many of you came out saying, “And then I trusted Jesus to save me.” Or “then I believed that Jesus saved me.” The Lord Jesus Christ has been almost entirely left out. Left out because you were not convicted of sin. Convicted of the deadness of your heart. Convicted of your enmity against God. Convicted of the fact that you cannot change yourself. John Cagan said, "I had to come to Jesus, but I could not."  "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" We tell you that you have only believed that Jesus could save you, you are upset and then you go back to spiritual sleep. And most of you are never converted! You must go back and go through the entire process of conviction again. Conversion is the most important thing that will ever happen in your life. You cannot explain your faith in Jesus in one sentence. Or a half of one sentence, as one girl did, a girl who has now gone back to sleep, and now has no conviction at all. If you are not under conviction of sin, with tears, why do you come forward? Do you think we can do something? Something to make you go through the whole experience in a few minutes? Although you come to the altar 1,000 times there is nothing we can do for you. There is nothing we can teach you. There is nothing we can say to help you! Only God can help you – and God never helps hypocrites. Could you earn a doctor’s degree at a university without deep study and sleepless nights? Of course not! But conversion in Jesus is infinitely more important than a Ph.D. A real conversion is the most important experience you will ever have in your life. But you will never be converted until you feel lost. You will never be converted until you feel hopeless. You will never be converted until you hate the sin of your heart and life, until you cry out, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Let us stand and sing hymn number 10 on your song sheet. It’s “Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart (1712-1768).

Now, I urge you to trust Jesus tonight. If you are under conviction, if you feel hopeless, if you feel lost, come down here in front of the pulpit and we will speak to you about Jesus. Jesus came down from Heaven to earth. He was nailed to a cross and died there in your place, to pay the penalty for your sin, to ransom you from judgment and Hell. And Jesus rose physically from the dead and ascended back to Heaven. When you trust Him, He will save you from your sin. Stand and sing, “Come, Ye Sinners.” It's number 10 on your song sheet. 

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
   Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power:
He is able, He is able, He is willing, Doubt no more;
   He is able, He is able, He is willing, Doubt no more.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Bruised and broken by the fall;
   If you wait until you’re better, You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call;
   Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call.

See the Saviour, now ascended, Plead the merit of His blood;
   Throw yourself on Him completely, Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good;
   None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good.
(“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768; altered by the Pastor).


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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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come, Ye Sinners” (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).


THE OUTLINE OF

A GOOD MAN LOST AND A BAD MAN SAVED!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

I.   First, the “good” man who was lost, Luke 18:11-12; Isaiah 57:21;
Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 33:14; Matthew 7:23.

II.  Second, the bad man who was saved, Luke 18:13; Psalm 51:3;
Romans 7:24.