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THE WITHERING WORK OF GOD’S SPIRIT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 12, 2017


In the liberal seminary they taught us that there were two Isaiahs. But they were wrong. The first 39 chapters speak of the sins and coming captivity of the people. But from chapter 40 to the end, the prophet speaks of their redemption. The second half speaks of salvation through the sufferings of Christ.

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness, NASV; their glory, NIV] thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

“The voice said, Cry.” What voice was it that spoke to the prophet? It was “the mouth of the Lord,” spoken of in verse five. The Hebrew word for “cry” is qârâ. It means “to call out – [confronting] a person met” (Strong #7121). It is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 58:1,

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

That’s the way John the Baptist preached. John the Baptist referred to Isaiah 40:3. He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3). The Greek word translated “crying” in John 1:23 is bǒaō. It means “to shout...cry out” (Strong). The Hebrew word and the Greek word say it is to “cry aloud” (Isaiah 58:1). It means that the preacher must speak loudly as the mouthpiece of God... “Shouting and crying out” to those who are lost and confused! Preachers should cry out to their hearers the Word of God. Sadly, this is not the popular style of preaching today. There is a fundamental disobedience to the Bible in preaching today. Modern ministers have “quit preaching and gone to teaching,” as the old-timers put it. These modern ministers do not obey God. God said to Isaiah, “Cry aloud, and spare not.” Modern preaching does not follow the example of Jesus. Jesus “cried...in the temple” (John 7:28), nor is it like Jesus when He “stood and cried” in John 7:37. Nor is it like Peter on the Day of Pentecost. He “lifted up his voice” and shouted the words God had given him (Acts 2:14). Dr. John Gill said, “And lifted up his voice, that he might be heard by the whole multitude...as well as to shew his zeal and fervour, of spirit and fortitude of mind; for being endued with the Spirit from on high, he was fearless of men” (An Exposition of the New Testament; note on Acts 2:14). So, I must repeat, there is a fundamental disobedience to God in our pulpits today, a terrible disobedience in the very manner and style of preaching. The Apostle Paul gave this as a sign of apostasy in the last days. He said, “Preach the word... For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (wanting to have their ears tickled, NASV)” (II Timothy 4:2, 3). There is constant “teaching” in our time, but preaching has been forgotten. All we hear is teaching – “teaching” without urgency and fire! That’s all they learn in today’s seminaries! Dry-as-dust, verse-by-verse teaching! No one is confronted with the Gospel and no one is disturbed from their spiritual sleep by “teaching.” You cannot “teach” goats to be sheep! They must be preached out of their sinfulness and sloth! “The voice said, Cry” (Isaiah 40:6). That is the style of real Gospel preaching! Nothing but preaching will be used by God to move dead hearts and sluggish minds! Nothing but soul-stirring preaching can do that! Brian H. Edwards said, “Revival preaching has a power and authority that bring the Word of God like a hammer to the heart and conscience. This is exactly what is absent from most of our preaching today. The men who preach in revival are always unafraid and urgent” (Revival! A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1997 edition, p. 103). Dr. Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century. He said, “What is preaching? Logic on fire!...It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire is a defective theology... preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire... I say that a man who can speak on these things without passion has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 97).

Then Isaiah said, “What shall I cry?” (Isaiah 40:6). One young man told me what a seminary professor said. He said that a six-month plan of sermons should be prepared in advance. I utterly detest a man doing such a thing! A man who does that cannot have real, God-given sermons! It is not possible! Spurgeon was the greatest preacher of all time. He never did that. The true preacher must ask God for his sermons, and wait for God to give them to him. “What shall I cry?” I must cry out the message God has given me to preach. Someone said I preach like Hitler. In a sense he was right. Hitler spoke lies with great passion. We should speak the truth with great passion! Only passionate preaching can move men to action. Bible expositions put them to sleep! Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Present day preaching does not save men. It does not even annoy men, but leaves them precisely where they were, without the slightest disturbance.” This is wrong! They need to be disturbed!

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness] thereof is as the flower of the field…The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8).

I. First, I must cry out on the shortness of life.

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field…The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8).

Soon life passes away. That happens very soon. It seems like your youth will go on forever – but it passes very quickly. I am writing my autobiography. My son Robert asked me to do it. I will be seventy-six years old in a few weeks. It seems like I was a young man only a few months ago! And so it will be with you! The summer sun comes up. The grass turns brown. The flowers wither and die. Life is transitory, fleeting, temporary, brief, and short-lived. The Apostle James spoke of this. He said,

“But the rich...is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways” (James 1:10-11).

Very few people see that. They work and grasp to advance in this world without realizing the obvious – it will end sooner than they think! C. T. Studd (1860-1931) was one of the few rich men to see that. He inherited a large fortune, but he gave it all away and went as a missionary to China – and later he went to the heart of Africa when it was dangerous. And it was C. T. Studd who said,

Only one life,
   ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ
   will last.

I wish every young person would read about C. T. Studd, and make him one of your heroes! If only you could see the truth of his poem!

Only one life,
   ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ
   will last.

Jesus said,

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37).

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness] thereof is as the flower of the field…The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8).

Therefore I must preach often on the shortness of life! And you should think about the shortness of your life. The Bible says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

II. Second, I must cry out on the withering work of the Holy Spirit.

The word “wither” means to shrivel, to dry up, and lose its freshness. Isaiah 40:7 says,

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

Spurgeon said, “The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of your souls, and cause [your] beauty to be as a fading flower. He must convince [you] of sin... that [you may] see [your] fallen nature is corruption itself, and that ‘they which are in the flesh cannot please God.’ [That we may feel] the sentence of death upon our former carnal life...only the sick will want a physician...The awakened sinner, when he asks that God have mercy on him, is astonished to find that, instead of a speedy peace, his soul is bowed down with a sense of God’s wrath...for you would never value the [Blood of Christ] which cleanses us from all sin if you had not first been made to mourn that you are an unclean thing” (“The Withering Work of the Spirit,” pp. 375, 376).

That is the withering work of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that dries up your false hopes, that shows you the deadness of your heart, that withers away all hope from your mind, that makes you see that your only real hope is in Christ, who died in your place to save you from sin. When the Holy Spirit “withers” your soul, then you will see that your so-called “goodness” is nothing but filthy rags, that nothing you have done so far can make you acceptable to God; that all you have done cannot save you from judgment and Hell.

That is why God lets you have a false conversion. He may let you have many false conversions before He gives you peace. It doesn’t mean that God has left you. Not at all! God is using these false conversions. He is using them to make you cry, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” God is withering, drying up your false hope of doing or saying something to save yourself. John Newton said,

I hoped that in some favoured hour,
   At once he’d answer my request,
And by his love’s constraining power
   Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
   The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
   Assault my soul in every part.

Ask Ayako! Ask Danny! Ask John Cagan! Ask me! We all cried out for God to give us rest – but instead He made us feel like Sheila Ngann. She said, “I felt so disgusted with myself.” Another girl said, “I am so displeased with myself.” Dr. Cagan and I told her she must feel more than just “displeased.” Like Sheila, she must feel “disgusted.” Until you feel that you are totally “disgusted” with yourself, you will not experience the withering, the inner lostness that is common among those who are really converted.

The word “wither” is very important. You must know what it means to understand what is happening to you. The word “withereth” means “to be ashamed...to dry up (as water)...to be ashamed, confounded, and withered away” (Strong #300).

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

That’s what must happen in your heart. The Holy Spirit must wither and dry up your self-confidence. Until your heart wilts like a dying flower – until you are embarrassed and ashamed of your own depraved nature. As Sheila said before her conversion, “I felt so disgusted with myself.” That is what happens in a real conversion.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

When you are disgusted with yourself, then we must tell you to trust Jesus. He will cleanse you from sin with His Blood, and save you from God’s judgment.

The great evangelist George Whitefield said, “Did God ever show you that you have no faith in Jesus? Did you ever pray, ‘Lord, help me lay hold on Christ’? Did God ever convince you of your inability to come to Christ, and make you cry out in prayer for faith in Christ? If not, you won’t have peace in your heart. May God give you solid peace in Jesus, before you die and have no further chance” (“The Method of Grace”). You must experience an intense struggle with sin before you will have a real conversion. You must feel some of what Christ felt when your sin was placed on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. You must feel some of what He felt when He cried out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:38, 39).

Please stand and sing hymn number 10, “Come, Ye Sinners.”

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).

Now listen to the words of a hopeful convert. Here is one young person’s testimony.

I was looking for a way to save myself. I was full of pride, too proud to even admit to myself that I was too prideful. I still remember how I fought against God to not trust in Jesus… I started to read the Bible, to "practice" praying every day, to be more involved with the church's activities. But I found no inner peace in myself. Deep down inside, I knew I was still lost but too proud and too cowardly to even face it. I hid myself from the thought that I was a sinner. Did everything I could to put that thought away, to distract myself. I looked for any excuses to justify my faith, to make myself feel better from my sinful nature. And then God opened the Heaven and sent down the revival, and once again, my pride was too great to admit that I needed Jesus to save me…At this point, I was mentally exhausted. I began to see that no matter what I do, I couldn't save myself from my sin, my sin from not trusting in Jesus, my sin from being self-righteous. I was helpless. I was struggling within myself trying to trust Jesus but my pride wouldn't let me… I gave up on all hope, I gave up on myself. I felt my sin pressed on all my thoughts, all my senses. I felt sick of being alive. And at that moment, by a miracle, Jesus came to me, and for the first time in my life, I trusted Him. I was trying to come to Jesus but I couldn't, and Jesus came to me when I thought I would never be saved. When Jesus came to me, it was so simple to trust in Him… Jesus accepted me and washed me with His Blood... Every goodness in me is because Jesus saved me. I cannot stop my tears when I think of Jesus, tears of joy, tears of thankfulness for what He has done for me. With all the love Jesus has for me, I cannot possibly love Him enough, I cannot thank Him enough. All I can do is to give my best, my life for Jesus, my Saviour.


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(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
      “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748;
to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE WITHERING WORK OF GOD’S SPIRIT

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

(Isaiah 40:5; 58:1; 40:3; John 1:23; John 7:28, 37;
Acts 2:14; II Timothy 4:2, 3)

I.   First, I must cry out on the shortness of life, Isaiah 40:6;
James 1:10-11; Mark 8:36, 37; Psalm 90:12.

II.  Second, I must cry out on the withering work of the Holy Spirit,
Isaiah 40:7; Matthew 26:38, 39.