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A SHINING CITY ON A HILL! - 2017

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, August 25, 2017

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).


Bishop Ryle said, “The Lord Jesus tells us that true Christians are to be in the world like ‘light.’ ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ Now it is the property of light to be utterly distinct from darkness. The least spark in a dark room can be seen at once… without [light] the world would be a gloomy blank” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015 edition; note on Matthew 5:14).

I hate to say it, but most churches are not like that today. By the grace of God, we pray that our church will be a “light to the world.” I’m going to tell you what a young man wrote about the churches tonight. His comments are very interesting.

Someone gave me what he wrote. It was written by Jonathan Aigner. I don’t know who he is, but I agreed with a lot he said. It was an open letter to the churches. Jonathan is a millennial, a young person born from about 1988 to 2005. Jonathan is about 28 years old. He said,

“We don’t want to be entertained in church. Follow the simple yet profound formula that’s worked for the entire history of the church – Gathering [together], preaching, breaking bread [eating together], going forth in service. Give us a script to follow, give us songs to sing, give us the tradition of the church, give us Holy Scripture to read. Let us participate in the drama of the gospel. It’s not supposed to be fun.

Keep giving us entertainment and there’s no hope. You can’t compete. You’ll lose every time. Just be the church. Be yourself. Sing your regular old songs.

Save us from ourselves. We need each other. We need to look into the faces of old and young, rich and poor, of different colors, races, and ethnic backgrounds. That’s right, we need community, not bound together by age or skin color, but created with the hammering of nails on a wooden cross. We don’t need you to be a therapist, we need you to be the church. We need you to grapple with us, to push back.


It’s not too late, church, but your tactics aren’t working.

It’s time for a new strategy.

It’s time to be uncool. To be radical. To be different.

It’s time to be yourself.

Your Friend,

Jonathan.”


I think a lot of what Jonathan said is true. And it is my life’s work to try and fix it! Yes, I agree with that boy when he said, “Save us from ourselves.” Yes, I agree with him, “We need each other.” Yes, he was right when he said, “We need you to grapple with us, to push back.” The only way I can do those things is to be honest and open my soul, and pour out what I’m feeling. My pen was moving as I wrote these words. This sermon is not homiletically correct. It is a stream of consciousness, pouring out on the pages before me in my study. Someone reading it will say, “That’s not great preaching.” I say, “To heck with great preaching.” I do not want to be a “great” preacher. There is only one thing I want to do. I want to be with you and help you trust Christ and live a Christian life. That’s it! That’s my life’s work!

“Save us from ourselves.”

Yes! I know that’s how many of you feel. I will do everything I can to save you from yourself. I may even make you mad at me. I will risk having you mad at me if that’s what it takes to save you from yourself.

Jonathan said, “We need you to grapple with us, to push back.” Yes! And I’ll do that too. If I think you are wrong, I’ll tell you. If I think you should do something, I will “push back.” Because I have lived three quarters of a century. It takes a lot of living – to know about living. I will “grapple” with you. I will “push back.”

One of our young men told me something I’ve been thinking about for days. He was talking about our text,

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).

He said that young people coming into our church see it as a shining city on a hill, referring to our text. He said they see our church as the answer to their problems.


1.  They were very lonely, but in our church they have friends at last.

2.  They had no real home life. But our church becomes for them a happy home.

3.  They knew there was something wrong with the world, something unfulfilling about the world.
And they came into our church as an alternate world.

4.  They knew, to some extent at least, that there was something wrong with them.


So they are joyful to be here. They think of our church as a shining city on a hill.

But what about young people who were born in our church or have been here a long time unsaved? Actually that’s what Jonathan is – a “church kid” – he’s been in church a long time. Church-kids are far less likely to see our church as a shining city on a hill. For one thing, this church didn’t begin to come to life until recently. They remember the “bad old days” – which really didn’t start to end until about 2012 and 2013. So they endured, dragging themselves along. You had to be a “loner” to make it back then. It’s hard for some of our church members to see that this is a new day in our church. I don’t blame them. I can hardly believe it myself!

We see it, but we don’t see it. A long time ago I told you that a church is like a big ocean liner. A really big ship turns very slowly. That’s what happened to the Titanic. They saw the huge iceberg in front of them. They turned the ship as hard as they could to avoid hitting it. But it was too late. The ship turned too slowly – and so it scraped along the side of the Titanic. The water poured in – and a few hours later it sank.

A church turns very slowly – like a big ship. Thank God our church did not sink. It almost sank, but it didn’t. Yet our church was deeply scarred. Four hundred people got on lifeboats and left our ship. Only a few of us were left. We lost our friends. We had to walk alone. You had to be a loner to even stay with us.

We rolled around on the water. But it’s very hard to turn a church around. It takes years and years to do it. But in 2012 some new kids came and stayed. In 2013 a few more came and stayed. By 2014 we started to cook. In 2015 it was even better. And now they are coming.

The water was churning! But then I got cancer and it took the joy and fire out of me. The Devil told me I was going to die, and it clouded my mind, and I couldn’t think straight. I gained a lot of weight and started feeling like an old man. So I took my family on a vacation to Cancun. They were running around, looking at the Mayan ruins. I stayed alone and looked out over the ocean. I read a book about the great revival on the Isle of Lewis. Gradually I began to feel a little bit alive again. You may not know it, but I am essentially an introvert. Yes, I can speak and it seems like I’m an extrovert. But I always have been a person who gains more strength from being alone than by being in a crowd. I spend hours alone in my home office. I wrote most of this sermon after 3:00 in the morning. Alone there in Cancun God began to tell me that our church was going to live again.

A week after we got back from Cancun I started preaching every night. And in only eight weeks 14 people were hopefully converted. All of them were new kids. I hardly knew their names! They were rolling in! Then I asked a missionary to preach for us. Dr. David Ralston was so thrilled by our young people that he wrote on his Facebook page,

      I preached last night and this morning here in downtown Los Angeles at the Baptist Tabernacle, where Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr. is pastor. Amazing services, every seat filled, half the people looked under 30 years old!...Great spirit, with many amens and applause as the message is preached. Pastor Hymers’ sermons are read online by 120,000 computers in about 210 countries in 36 different languages, also seen on YouTube.
      I do not know of another gospel preacher who is reaching that many people, that consistently, all over the world.
      I think of this ministry like a modern-day Spurgeon’s.

When I was nineteen years old I felt that God was telling me to be a missionary. I joined a Chinese Baptist Church to prepare for the mission field. But the real reason I went there was providential. I did not realize it then, but God drew me to that church to study under the pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin. He was an Old Testament scholar who taught Biblical languages at Bob Jones University, Talbot Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. He was not only an expert scholar in Old Testament. He was also the most effective pastor I have ever known. When he came to the Chinese Baptist church there were only about 75 people there. He left to become the president of a seminary in Taiwan. In the twenty years he pastored the Chinese church it grew from 75 people to well over 2,000, with an additional membership of several hundred in branch churches that came from the original church.

I learned many things from Dr. Lin. He taught me systematic theology, and how to outline a sermon. He encouraged me to preach, and gave me the Junior Church to pastor. He let me preach in most of the evangelistic meetings at the church. I literally learned how to preach from Dr. Lin. But the two most important things I learned from him were how to nurture revival in a local church, and who to target in evangelism.

All the other Chinese churches focused their evangelism on adults, especially married adults. But Dr. Lin said that group was the hardest to win. Instead he taught us to focus on winning young high school and college students. He said other pastors were too short-sighted. They wanted adults who could tithe their money right away. But Dr. Lin taught us to win young people without much money. He said that in a few years they would be professional people deeply involved in the church. How right he was! What an insight! Before too many years went by the church had the largest tithes and offerings of any Southern Baptist church in California!

But he also taught us how to nurture an atmosphere of revival in the church. He taught the many young people to confess their sins publicly, as they do in China. He taught us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. He taught us that this was the way to foster real love for each other in the church. Again, how right he was! After he pastored our church for a few years a powerful revival broke out. It started at a summer camp in the mountains. The night before he rebuked us strongly for presenting a program without praying sufficiently for the power of the Holy Spirit. We went to sleep chastened by his strong rebuke. But the next morning everyone in the camp was down at the place where we prayed together. I had slept in and got there later. One by one the young people in the camp confessed their sins and we prayed for them. We spent several hours doing that, and then giving testimonies of how we were blessed by opening our hearts to one another. That was on Saturday. The next day was Sunday. Dr. Lin had the wisdom to close the Sunday School and the morning service. He turned the whole meeting over to those who wished to give testimonies and confess sins, and pray for one another. The meeting went on all day. He closed the evening service too, and the prayers, testimonies and confessions went on without a break until about ten o’clock at night. Then we met every night, Monday through Sunday, with the felt presence of the Holy Spirit in all the meetings. It was a remarkably pure revival. There was no wildness and no commotion. William Sprague in his book Lectures on Revivals said, “Such a revival affords the most beautiful sight ever seen upon the earth...giving some faint image of the heavenly state...In such revivals there is great solemnity and silence...every other refuge but Christ is abandoned; but when least expected, it dissolves under a grateful sense of God’s goodness, and Christ’s love....a forgiving spirit predominates – the love of God is shed abroad – and with some, joy unspeakable and full of glory fills the soul” (Dr. Archibald Alexander, in W. B. Sprague, Lectures on Revivals, 1832, reprint by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1978, appendix, pp. 4, 5). “Here is Love.” Stand and sing it. It’s number 19.

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;
   Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.
(“Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” by William Rees, 1802-1883).

You may be seated. That is the great theme song of the 1904-1904 Welsh revival that spread from Wales throughout the world.

We have had a taste of revival here the past three nights. But we want more. “Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” Some of you have held back. You have secret sins you have not confessed, sins of your heart, bitterness, lack of love, holding grudges, feeling overlooked and not appreciated, jealousy, lack of faith, and other things that keep you from the joy and happiness that God wants you to have.

The other night I rebuked the young people. They heard me and confessed and prayed for each other – and their souls were healed by the love of God and the sweet ministry of the Holy Spirit. But last night I reproved and exhorted a group of the adults. I am afraid they will not hear me and repent. Oh, we don’t want to leave you behind. We want you to be with us forever. Oh, I ask you now to be a good example to the young. Be a good example to the young ones and come up here and let me know that you want to be prayed for. Come now. While our sister plays the Welsh revival hymn on the piano, you come. You may be older or younger. You may be a leader of the church. You may have already come, but you want to come again. Do it now. You may sense that you are not saved. You come. You may have a prayer request you want us all to pray for. You come. You may want to rededicate your life to Jesus. You come too. Whether you are older or younger, you come. Sing it softly.

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;
   Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
   And Thy grace my need is meeting, As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and power on me,
   Without measure, full and boundless, Drawing out my heart to Thee.

You may be seated.

We all see that our church could be a shining city on a hill. But we have been discouraged. We worked so hard. We suffered so much to save our church building. We gave so much money. We lost our dearest friends. We had no real friends left. We walked alone for years. We thought revival would never come. We lost all hope. But God did not forget you. He saw how hard you worked, and phoned, and suffered alone. God saw you and He heard your prayers. Even though you feared He didn’t love you, you were wrong. He loves you very deeply. That is why He answered your prayers and gave us this revival – because He loves you. Please don’t turn Him away. I know you are a private person. I know how hard it is for you to come. But I pray that you will hear the still small voice of God as He says to your heart – “Please go.” Please come. There is still time for God to heal the hurts in your heart. Come on, while we sing. Sing it again softly. Just the ladies.

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;
   Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
   And Thy grace my need is meeting, As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and power on me,
   Without measure, full and boundless, Drawing out my heart to Thee.

God is cleansing our church. God is reviving many of us. Our church will now live. But we want you to live with us too. There are some big, strong men who need to come. Men, be an example to the young people and the women. Come on.

God is remolding our church. This can be a new beginning for our church. We can be a light to the whole world through the Internet and YouTube. Come over here and pray. But we must have revival to become a shining city on a hill!

Our church is really becoming a shining city on a hill! Sing the chorus with me!

I’ll live for Him who died for me,
   How satisfied my life shall be!
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
   My Saviour and my God!
(“I’ll Live For Him” by Ralph E. Hudson, 1843-1901;
      altered by Dr. Hymers).

Not only do I see what a treasure this church is now – I also see what this church ought to be, what it can be, and by the grace of God, what it will be! I see us bringing in 50 new people very soon. We can do it! God is with us! Bring in 50 new people to our church! In the visions of the night I see every corner of this auditorium filled with people! And in those visions I see the Spirit of God coming down in wave after wave of gentle revival! I see the happy faces of people who have found Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord! In the night visions I see people weeping and praying like the old-time Methodists, and the old-time Baptists did! I see young men surrendering their lives to be preachers of the Gospel – and some even going to foreign fields as missionaries for Jesus Christ! I see a mighty church, bursting at the seams – with the love of God streaming forth from this place to the dark corners of our nation, and our world! I see Christ Jesus lifted up and pouring down His love to hundreds upon hundreds of lost and lonely souls in all the world, through the ministry of this church! And in the night visions I can hear them singing,

I’ll live for Him who died for me,
   How satisfied my life shall be!
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
   My Saviour and my God!

Sing it with me! “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean.” Sing it!

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;
   Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
   And Thy grace my need is meeting, As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and power on me,
   Without measure, full and boundless, Drawing out my heart to Thee.

Amen.


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 Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 5:13-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Bring Them In” (by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).