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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, May 25, 2003

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

(The following evangelistic message is loosely based on one given by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on April 22, 1928 at Aberavon, Wales, in the United Kingdom. I am only giving the general thrust of Dr. Lloyd-Jones' sermon, not the main points, or even the illustrations. I have taken the idea of his sermon, and applied it to our current situation in America, and to some extent to other parts of the world affected by modern decisionism and church growth techniques. I should mention that Dr. Lloyd-Jones experienced great revival in his church at Aberavon, particularly in the years 1931-1932. It was this kind of sermon that God used to convert hundreds of people, and bring them into the fellowship of the church. To read Dr. Lloyd-Jones' actual sermon, see "Christianity Impossible With Men," in Evangelistic Sermons at Aberavon, Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 reprint, pp. 1-11).

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

The more I think about it, the less surprised I am at the increasing failure of many churches to have much appeal to the masses of people today. The obvious reason is that we have neglected or disregarded the vitally important message which was given in the great days of revival, in the Book of Acts, in the Reformation, and in the three great awakenings - particularly in the first and second of these awakenings, in the 18th and early 19th centuries - when literally thousands upon thousands of people poured into the churches and experienced life and eternity-changing conversions. They preached two things that we no longer hear very often today.

What is it that we have given up? It is the clear proclamation of the depravity of human nature, and the absolute necessity of the direct intervention by God in the conversion of a human soul. These two doctrines were once held by all branches of Christianity - Protestant, and Baptist, and Wesleyan. The highest Calvinist and the lowest Arminian once believed in the total depravity of man, and that God must intervene to save a human soul. All three of the great awakenings in America and elsewhere came amid strong proclamations of these doctrines. Who then can be saved? Our forefathers said, "With men it is impossible" - God must intervene and do what a man cannot do for himself.

But how many believe that message today? Do many churches in these days give the impression that mankind is doomed apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus? This to me is the main test of Biblical Christianity - the central truth - the essential fundamental. But it seems to me that these basic foundational doctrines have been lost - and replaced with the idea that man is sick or misguided, but not dead, and that by some sort of human "decision" a man can make himself better - the idea that he can make himself become a Christian if he wants to do so.

After about the middle of the nineteenth century, our churches increasingly believed that man was capable of being saved without God performing the miracle of conversion. A man could bring about his own salvation easily and efficiently, and do it all by himself - without God intervening. One of Charles Finney's most famous sermons from this period was titled, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." Finney taught that man is fully capable, within himself, of being converted at any time. Several others carried this on until, in modern times, these ideas have been embraced by the masses - and people think that they can make a "decision for Christ" whenever and wherever they choose.

"And I'm going to ask you to make your decision for Christ tonight. You may be watching this on television or in a hotel. You may be in a bar. Just bow your head and receive Christ. And if you will make that commitment, write to me, Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota. That's all the address you need. And we will send you the same literature people are going to receive here tonight."

Billy Graham's crisp voice echoed Finney's message, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts."

And so our churches forgot that man is

"dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1),

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:10-11).

And we forgot that salvation is a gift, and not obtained by a superficial "decision,"

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [the faith] not of yourselves: it [the faith] is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We ran up and down the streets telling everyone indiscriminately to pray a "sinner's prayer." We asked every Sunday School child to raise his hand, and then pronounced them all saved when they did so. We taught "Lordship salvation" and "Four Spiritual Laws." Evangelists were brought in, and invitations were given, and everyone was baptized with no questions asked concerning why they came forward. All of this was done with an increasing uneasiness, though. Men who could think objectively began to see that Finney-style evangelism wasn't bringing many people into the churches. So, gradually, this style of evangelism (which the British call "decisionism") was discredited, and began to pass off of the scene. Although the zeal of this type of evangelism was commendable, pastors began to see that it added few people to their congregations in most cases.

As decisionist evangelism fell into disrepute and faded, men looked for another way to add people to their churches. The "church growth" movement was born, and with it the various techniques of possibility thinking, purpose drivenness, etc., flourished. The basic idea of the "church growth" movement was to find a human need and meet it. Although this isn't entirely wrong, it certainly has little if anything to do with the gospel of Christ and Christian conversion. It is really a "last ditch" effort to get a few people to attend church - and nothing more. It "worked" in Anaheim, and Willow Creek, Mission Viejo, and a few other places. But "little" preachers tried these church growth methods and found they didn't add many people in rural communities or inner cities.

And that's about where we are now. The older, Finney-style decisionism is nearly gone, and the church growth movement will soon begin to pass away as well. Then what will we look for to add people to our churches? Perhaps we will go back to the pre-Finney evangelism of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. If we do, we will begin to see churches grow as a result of God-given conversions, rather than human manipulations!

A Biblical church is not a "G-rated" entertainment center. It is supposed to be a delivery room, where babies are born into the Kingdom of God! I am concerned that this is no longer the reality in many churches. No wonder such words as "conversion" and even "the new birth" are being heard far less today. A Biblical church is a place where it is preached that God interferes with people's lives, and apart from God's intervention, people are lost.

First, the churches taught that you could run up and down the street and pray a "sinner's prayer" with everyone, regardless of their spiritual state - so there was no longer any need for evangelistic sermons - or even for the church itself! They could listen to a Bible study on the radio!

Second, the churches tried to draw a crowd by entertaining them and motivating them. But they didn't see that this wouldn't bring many people into the church, simply because you can be entertained at the beach - and "uplifted" on radio! You don't need church!

But when you believe that God intervenes and uses the sermons and prayers of the local church to awaken and convert a lost soul - when people believe that, the local church comes to life and becomes vitally important in people's lives.

When you stop preaching that the intervention of God is necessary, and attempt to draw a crowd by entertainment, why, then there is no real reason to go to church. You can be "uplifted" and entertained at the beach, or at a friend's party, or even at Las Vegas! When a church no longer preaches the total depravity of man and the need for supernatural grace from God to convert people, then that church is no longer a Christian church, because it no longer has a Christian message. The message is not what Jesus Christ and the Apostles preached.

The "holy excitement" and sense of expectancy are gone, because we no longer anticipate conversions. And we no longer get conversions, because Christ taught us many times that you will get what you expect. Many churches are not effective, and are not growing, because they no longer believe in the power of God to convert a human soul.

If we want to recapture the essence of New Testament Christianity, we must take this text, as our forefathers did, very seriously, and apply it quite literally:

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

Now I will draw some points of application out of those verses for you who are here tonight but are not yet saved.

I. First, you must believe that you need to be saved.

The Disciples said, "Who then can be saved?" This shows that they believed in the concept of being saved, but they didn't understand the supernaturalness of it. Do you think you need to be saved? That is a crucial question. It doesn't matter whether I think you need to be saved or not. What I think won't affect your salvation. But what you think will greatly influence whether you get saved or not.

Let me ask you, do you believe in the concept of being saved? You should, because it is a concept given many times in the Bible. Jesus said,

"Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17).

"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).

And Jesus Himself divided all of mankind into two groups - the saved and the lost. Jesus said,

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost" (Matthew 18:11).

The purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to save people,

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
      (I Timothy 1:15).

Furthermore, it is extremely important that you be saved. Jesus said,

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).

The salvation of your eternal soul from the damnation of Hell depends on whether or not you are saved. So, I ask you, are you saved? If you cannot honestly say that you are, you should make certain that you are as quickly as possible. You must believe that you need to be saved, and become saved as soon as possible.

II. Second, you must believe that you cannot save yourself.

This is the second thing that is crucially important. The Disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus answered them,

"With men it is impossible" (Mark 10:27).

What He meant was this: you cannot save yourself. Jesus said this in response to the Rich Young Ruler's question, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). Matthew's account gives us a few more words from the Rich Young Ruler,

"What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16).

This young man thought that he could do something good, and that this would save him. Most people think that today, but it is an entirely wrong idea. If you read the New Testament carefully, I am sure that you will agree with me that nothing is more obvious than the truth which is stated by Christ in our text tonight, "With men it is impossible" (Mark 10:27). Being saved is not something you can earn by being good. As the Apostle Paul said, "it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

You cannot change yourself, or make yourself acceptable to God. Your lost nature is too strong. The Rich Young Ruler found that out. He had done many good things, but he couldn't do enough. He couldn't make himself acceptable to God. And neither can you.

When a person begins to see that truth, he is awakened to his awful condition. Then he begins to say within himself,

"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24).

A person in this condition gives up all hope of saving himself. Only when you see that you can't save yourself are you ready to experience real salvation as it is given in the Bible. This can happen in a few moments of time.

"With man it is impossible." Have you seen that? Have you experienced that? Are you ready to say, "I can't save myself, no matter what I do?" If you are ready to admit this, then - and only then - are you ready to be saved by God - through Jesus Christ.

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

III. Third, you must believe that with God it is possible for you to be saved.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).

How does God save sinners? First, they hear the gospel. The Bible makes this very plain. Paul said,

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…" 
      (Romans 1:16).

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).

You hear a preacher tell you that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. You hear him say that Christ rose physically from the dead, and that He is alive up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. You hear him say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

For many people, once is enough. They are pricked in their consciences and trust Jesus Christ, and are saved by Him. Many people in our church were saved the first time they heard the gospel.

But others hear the preaching of the gospel and go on unsaved. Why? They may think that they are saved already, either because they have done "some good thing," or because they believe the facts of the gospel, and they think that believing those facts is enough. Others are looking back to some special feeling or emotion which they have had, and they think that is enough. Still others are looking for a special feeling. But none of those things will save you, because "with men it is impossible."

Then the Holy Spirit convinces you of your sins.

"And when he is come, he will reprove [convince] the world of sin…" (John 16:8).

Suddenly you see it all clearly - often as though you were hearing it for the first time! It is because God has done something for you that you could not do for yourself. God has showed you your sin, and He has showed you your need for Jesus.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).

You may feel hopeless. You may think that a person like you can't be saved. You may think, "I have tried to trust Jesus, but I can't." But you are wrong. "With men it is impossible, but not with God." With God's help you can trust Jesus Christ and be saved tonight. Will you believe that God can help you? Will you stop trusting yourself - and rely on God? God could bring you to Christ tonight. You could be saved before we close the church later this evening. Will you entrust yourself to the care of God - and very simply let Him bring you to Jesus? There is no excuse for waiting any longer. Believe on Jesus Christ.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17).

I would like to speak with you briefly in my office about being saved. We are going to sing a song. While we sing, just leave your seat and come and stand here in front of the pulpit. After you have come, we will go to my office for a few minutes and I will ask you a few simple questions, and then listen to your answers, as we talk this over. While we sing, you come.


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 10:17-27.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "In Jesus" 



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

(Ephesians 2:1; 4:18; Romans 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:8-9)

I.   You must believe that you need to be saved, Luke 8:12;
John 3:17; Acts 2:47; 4:12; 16:30-31; Matthew 18:11;
I Timothy 1:15; Mark 16:16.

II.   You must believe that you cannot save yourself, Mark 10:17;
Matthew 19:16; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 7:24.

III. You must believe that with God it is possible for you to
be saved, Romans 1:16; 10:14; Acts 16:31; John 16:8;
John 3:17.

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