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PRESSING TOWARD THE MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP!

by Rev. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 8, 2018

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).


The story of our church is a great story. It is a hero’s tale. It is a story of good and evil. The story of our church is an epic. Our church is not a meaningless church. Our church is a great church. Our church is a living testament of the power of God. Over twenty-five years ago our church nearly died from a great church split. Over 400 people left our church. That event nearly killed our church. We went down to only about 39 adults. And that tiny group of people had to give $16,000 dollars every month. That is sixteen thousand dollars over and above their tithes and offerings. It seemed impossible.

Every preacher outside of our church told our pastor, Dr. Hymers, the building could not be saved. Almost everyone believed that the church was doomed. This church seemed like a lost cause. But Dr. Hymers believed the church was worth fighting for. And for twenty-five years, Dr. Hymers fought for the lost cause of a Baptist church in downtown Los Angeles! Dr. Hymers inspired 39 men and women to fight for a lost cause. Because of the leadership of Dr. Hymers, and because of the faithfulness and heroism of those who fought with all that they had, our church has become a lighthouse for Christ to the entire world through our Internet ministry.

Last Sunday night you heard Dr. Hymers tell you about the valiant heroes of our church! People like Dr. Cagan, Mrs. Hymers, and Dr. Chan. Heroes of the faith like Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Salazar who held the line against all odds. Dr. Hymers and the 39 members of our church who stayed and fought worked so hard and gave so much so that we could have a church here. They pressed toward the mark. They followed Jesus. They did not leave Jesus to charge the enemy alone. They followed Jesus and were not dissuaded by the danger. They were brave. They believed. They pressed toward the mark. They held on tight no matter how hard the storm would rage. They looked past the wind and the rain and saw the light of hope that nobody else could see.

Twenty-five years later, we watched Dr. Hymers set fire to the mortgage note when the building was paid. The leaders of our church bled, and toiled, and sweat, and cried to God. Because of what Dr. Hymers did in leading the church through that dark time; because of what my parents did; because of what your parents did; because of what the members of our church did; because of what Mrs. Hymers, Mrs. Salazar and Dr. Chan did; because of what God did through them – our church did not die.

What was it about Dr. Hymers and those great men and women of God that allowed them to win a fight that seemed like a lost cause? They were disciples! They were true disciples of Christ! They were willing to give what they could not keep to gain what they could not lose. Even if nobody else would go with them, they would follow Jesus! That is what you must become! You must become a true disciple! You must become a follower of Christ! You must not be afraid to lose something in life! You must be willing to fight for what seems like a lost cause!

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I. First, the past does not prevent us from following Jesus. The past equips us to follow Jesus!

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Those dark days of the church split and the sad days which followed were very important. Those days forged this church into what it needed to be. Those days were full of tribulation and struggle. But those days taught the church patience. Patience not to rush a person into a decision and call it a conversion. But patience to insist on a real trust in Jesus. Patience to wait on God in prayer. Our church became like a weathered warrior. Our pastor Dr. Hymers knows that we learned hard lessons because of the past. But because our church through our pastor learned those hard lessons, we have a clearer understanding of how to serve and follow Jesus.

We learned that we must surround ourselves with disciples. We must pursue people that are givers. People that are not willing to drop their nets and follow Jesus cannot be His disciples! Remember, it is better to have less people who are willing to give than to have more people who will only take! We must build our church on people who are willing to follow Jesus!

We learned that we must have a church that is built around young people. As people get older, they often become increasingly less and less willing to give to anyone else. They often worry about what they might lose and so they worry about how much they might have to give. Jesus said that a person that seeks to save his life will lose it. That person cannot be a disciple. Therefore we focus our ministry on young people!

The past has taught us that we must focus much of our evangelism on Chinese college students. We learned that we cannot build a church on people who refuse to give anything back. It is a great tragedy that so many people in the city of Los Angeles have been trained to believe that they must be takers! So many young people have been trained by their culture, by their teachers, and by their parents that they should focus on themselves! They have to look out for number one! What a tragic way to live a life. They live selfishly and therefore they will live their lives for nothing but self-comfort.

A person that will never help someone else, that will never give to anyone else, and that will only take and keep on taking is not the kind of person that can be a disciple! We must have a church that is built on disciples! By long years of experience, Dr. Hymers has learned that we must focus much of our evangelism on Chinese college students! And other young people who are sharp and successful! We do not need people who only want to have fun and feel good! After all, we are going into a conflict and it is going to get worse! That’s what the Bible says! Therefore, we need fellow soldiers to rely on! We need disciples to count on! We need people who will follow Jesus even if nobody else goes with them! These are some of the lessons that we have learned from the past.

We have learned hard and important lessons. We have done well to get this far. But I know that for us to have gotten this far must only mean that we still have a farther way to go! The story of our church is a great story! It is a story of heroes! But that story is not over! Perhaps you cannot believe that. Perhaps you hedge against disappointment by filling yourself with doubt. Christ’s Disciples themselves were filled with unbelief. Remember, they ran away from Jesus when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. After Christ was crucified, they hid together in a room. They were terrified and felt defeated. They could not believe that the Messiah had died! The Bible says,

“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:36-39).

These disciples of Christ had followed Jesus for years. They had healed people. They had seen miracles! Now they had lost hope! But then Jesus appeared and told them not to doubt. Jesus told them not to be afraid. He proved to them that He was alive. He reminded them of His love and power. Jesus forgave His disciples. Jesus gave His Disciples peace.

You too may shake your head in disbelief and fear like the Disciples did. After all, the evidence indicates that all around us Christianity is dying. Faith is going out of style. Christianity is losing its hold on the people. Most people do not believe that God can change things. Maybe you do not believe it either. It seems like people do not want to be Christians! You might feel tired. You might feel doubt. That must have been exactly how the Disciples felt as they huddled in the upper room. They felt defeated, until Jesus came and proved to them that He had defeated death!

But Jesus is still alive. Jesus is coming again. Jesus still calls you forward! Jesus calls you onward! Jesus calls you to press toward the mark! Jesus calls you to be His disciple! Jesus gave his Disciples peace, and then Jesus pointed His Disciples to the great challenge and assignment that remained ahead of them. Jesus told them to go and make disciples! Jesus promised to be with them all the way until the end of the world. That same challenge and assignment is extended to you today! You are called into the army of God! You are called to be a disciple who makes other disciples! Will you answer the call of the risen Christ, the Son of God?

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
   (“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

II. Second, reaching forward to the future as a disciple.

It is true; Christianity is dying in the Western world. I am privileged to be able to spend a portion of time every week in conversation with Dr. Hymers, the founder and pastor of this church. Dr. Hymers has been in the ministry for sixty years. He can remember when Billy Graham was preaching on the radio. He remembers when the average person could tell you about Bible figures like Noah and Moses. Dr. Hymers remembers when all the Baptist churches were open on Sunday night. But as Dr. Hymers went to seminary, and as he started ministering to people more and more, he began to realize that the Western world was in the process of forgetting God! It is a tragedy to admit this, but it is the truth: that process is now complete. The Western world has abandoned God.

If you have been paying attention to the recent sermons, you heard Dr. Hymers give an alarming statistic. In his book The Great Evangelical Recession, John S. Dickerson said that today only 7% of our young people claim to be evangelical Christians. That means that 93% of young people either reject Christianity or have never been exposed to it at all. Stop and think of that number. If you are in your college class, and there are 50 people in that class, at least 46 of those students do not even consider themselves Christians! The entire country forgot about God and now our generation has no memory of Him at all! What a disaster! What a tragedy! But what an opportunity! What an opportunity!

The stage is set. The battle lines have been drawn in the sands of time. This is it. This is the great apostasy. The last days are here. Should we seek shelter in our homes? Should we be afraid to join the conflict? We have a fight on our hands! Christ has called us to represent Him through these terrible times! IT IS TIME FOR THE AGE OF CHRISTIAN HEROES AGAIN!

What should we do then? How can we fight this evil? How can we fight against this apostasy? We should “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The highest calling of God in Christ Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus who makes others disciples of Jesus! This is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. To seek and to save that which is lost: to make disciples! They are all around us. Pursue them at all costs. As a church, we must give all we can. The church must have an attitude of giving. The purpose of our church is to help young people become highly successful. The purpose of our church is to help young people become successful Christians so that they can help others become successful Christians! Press toward the mark of making young champions for Christ who will stand out as leaders in the midst of the apostate darkness of this dying world! Press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Our fight is just getting started. As the world loses faith, our faith rests secure in Christ Jesus. Because God promised us eternal life! But just because the destination is guaranteed does not mean this course will be easy. So many people build their whole lives around avoiding discomfort. They go to great lengths to avoid pain and discomfort. No one wants to be uncomfortable. People look at what it will cost to be a disciple. They see that being a disciple of Christ will be very uncomfortable and hard. They see that challenge and they are afraid of it. Being a disciple of Christ is not for cowards. Being a disciple of Christ is for heroes. Be a hero like Dr. Hymers, like Dr. Cagan, like Dr. Chan, like Mrs. Salazar, like Mrs. Hymers. There is a prize to be won, a battle to be fought, souls to win, and a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

What difference can we make? Christianity is a lost cause! Dr. Hymers told you what Patrick J. Buchanan said, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” You are called to come and make a powerful church here in the darkness of Los Angeles. You are called to make a church of Philadelphia in a time of Laodicea! You are called to be a disciple! To follow Christ and be a light to the world, for Christ is the only light of the world! Look, we are already a light to the world! These sermon manuscripts are being read in 40 languages. We are following Jesus into the battle and into the promised land. We can make a difference in this world, but only if we become disciples of Christ who make other disciples of Christ! The Master has called you to be a disciple! The risen Jesus has called you to be a disciple! Listen to a song that inspired Dr. Hymers when he was young!

The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary
   And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
   We follow the Saviour and cannot turn back;
The Master hath called us, though doubt and temptation
   May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:
“Press onward, look upward,” through much tribulation;
   The children of Zion must follow their King.
(“The Master Hath Come” by Sarah Doudney, 1841-1926).

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Dr. Hymers, please come and close this service.


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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at www.sermonsfortheworld.com.
Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

These sermon manuscripts are not copyrighted. You may use them without Dr. Hymers’
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Master Hath Come” by Sarah Doudney, 1841-1926)/
“Onward, Christian Soldiers” (by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).


THE OUTLINE OF

PRESSING TOWARD THE MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP!

by Rev. John Samuel Cagan

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I.    First, the past does not prevent us from following Jesus. The past
equips us to follow Jesus! Romans 5:3-4; Luke 24:36-39.

II.   Second, reaching forward to the future as a disciple,
Philippians 3:13-14.