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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the combined retreat of Calvary Road
Baptist Church and the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Morning, August 29, 2003

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
    (Hebrews 2:3).

I do not agree with Billy Graham. I have come to disagree with him on decisionism and separation. But I have also heard him preach much better than he does now - for I have been listening to him preach for six months short of fifty years. As a boy of thirteen I put the radio under my covers so no one else in my uncle's house could hear. And there, under the covers, I listened to Billy Graham preach on the radio. Back then, in 1954, he preached strong gospel messages. I am sure that God used Billy Graham's sermons in the 1950s to help awaken me to my lost condition, and my need for Christ, although I did not get saved until later.

Billy Graham was still preaching far more clearly than he does now when I took my lost mother to hear him at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1963. The music was clean and beautiful in that crusade. The choir sang "How Great Thou Art." No one moved. The atmosphere was absolutely electrifying. I can't think of any better word to describe it. Then George Beverly Shea sang, and Dr. Graham came to speak.

It was not at all like Graham's crusades now. As I said, all the music was clean - and much of it breathtakingly beautiful. In 1963 every man had on a suit and tie. Nearly every person in that vast throng of people had a King James Bible. Every woman wore a dress. Every child there was silent and obedient, causing no commotion. It was a different world then, before our nation turned and the turbulence of the late sixties tore away from us the good things of the old America forever. John F. Kennedy was still the President. He was killed a few months after this crusade. There was no real war yet in Vietnam, no drugs, no Kobe Bryant sex offenders, no Watergate, no Bill Clinton. It was a different world.

That night in 1963, George Beverly Shea sang, and Billy Graham came to the pulpit and delivered a short, direct, memorable sermon on my text,

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
      (Hebrews 2:3).

I will never forget that sermon as long as I live. I suppose I have heard Billy Graham speak more than 500 times, but this was the most striking sermon I ever heard him give. It went straight to the heart of that hushed audience.

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
    (Hebrews 2:3).

His sermon had three simple points: escape, neglect, salvation. Although I am not going to give his sermon tonight, I am going to give the points - escape, neglect, salvation - the three main words in the text. Think of those three words.

I. First, escape.

We live in a society that uses various means to escape. We try to escape responsibility for our actions. We try to escape boredom by hours of entertainment on television and on the computer, and in endless sports events, and in Las Vegas, and in sin of various kinds. We try to escape the anxieties of problems in life by smoking marijuana, and drinking, and taking drugs. All these forms of "escapism" are around us in our society on a daily basis.

Many people try to escape the calling of God, and the goading of their own consciences. Many of you here tonight do that. Your conscience bothers you over sins you have committed, and of the sinful state of your very heart. But instead of facing your conscience and admitting your sin, you dodge the issue. You find some way to escape the responsibility you have for sinning. You may say, "Everybody is doing it." That's a form of escapism - blaming others for the sins you have committed. You may say, "I'm no worse than the next person." That is also an attempt to escape your own responsibility for sin. Or you may say, "I wasn't raised in a Christian home." That is an attempt to escape personal responsibility by blaming your parents for the sins you have committed. Others of you may say, "I was raised in a Christian home, but I saw inconsistencies and sins there. I saw church members do things wrong." This may be true - but it is also true that you are using the inconsistencies and sins of others to try to escape your own guilt and your own sin.

But our text says,

"How shall we escape…?" (Hebrews 2:3).

Adam and Eve tried to blame others to escape the guilt of their own sin. It didn't work. God held them responsible - and they died spiritually and then physically because they could not escape the judgment of God. The Bible says,

"The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

What is death? The death of the body is its separation from the soul. But death in Romans 6:23 means much more than that - it also refers to the death of your soul. That is much more terrible than the death of your body. It is the separation of your soul from God. It does not refer to the loss of consciousness or feeling. We read in the Bible of a worm that never dies, which preys on the tormented conscience. We read in the Bible of endless fire, of weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And all of this will last forever. How will you be able to stand it?

"Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isaiah 33:14).

The sentence of damnation hangs over you tonight. You will be doomed to outer darkness, burning fire, and the company of demons, frightening beyond human imagination, and the endless groaning and screaming of the damned, where the fire never will go out, where horror and pain will never be relieved.

How can you escape it? Your excuses are all forms of escapism, but they will do you no good whatever when you are cast into the flaming pit.

"How shall we escape …?" (Hebrews 2:3).

Going a little farther, how can you escape the pollution and depravity of your own heart? You have made excuses to yourself for remaining unsaved. These excuses are attempts to escape judgment that come from your depraved heart. But how can you escape from having such a sinful heart? Mr. Finney said that you can change your own heart. But you know, down deep inside, that he was wrong. You know, better than anyone else, that your heart is incorrigible. You know your sinful thoughts better than anyone else. Your mind and heart are like a cage of poisonous snakes - and you know it. And, if you are a thoughtful person, you know that you cannot escape from the sin that dwells deeply in your heart and soul. When you think of the sin in your heart, have you ever asked yourself

"How shall we escape …?" (Hebrews 2:3).

II. Second, neglect.

Our text says,

"How shall we escape, if we neglect …?" (Hebrews 2:3).

You have neglected many things that God has provided for you, to bring you to salvation. Some of you have neglected reading your Bible every day. God has given you the Bible,

"…a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place"
      (II Peter 1:19).

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple"
      (Psalm 19:7).

God gave you the Bible to convert your soul. Yet some of you neglect reading it every day. It  is  a  deliberate  sin  to  neglect  the  reading  of  God's  Word.   Have  you  ever  committed  this  sin?

"How shall we escape, if we neglect …?" (Hebrews 2:3)

the Bible?

Have you prayed daily for the salvation of your own soul? I'm afraid you have not. Yet the Bible says,

"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6).

Yet you have not called on God in daily prayer to convert you. You have neglected to pray for the salvation of your own soul each day. No wonder you are still lost! The Apostle Peter told Simon the sorcerer,

"Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts 8:22).

Have you prayed like that? Or have you neglected daily prayer for the salvation of your soul? No wonder you are still lost! If you will not pray for your own salvation, how do you expect to be converted? Neglect of serious prayer has left you in a hopelessly unawakened, dull state. You should awaken now - and call on God to save you in Christ! You have neglected prayer for your soul too long already. This camp will soon be over - and you will go back to your previous dull and sleeping habits unless you arouse yourself and pray that "the thought of thine heart may be forgiven" (Acts 8:22).

You have also neglected the preaching of the Gospel. In our churches the Gospel is preached every Sunday, yet you often let your mind wander during the preaching. You do not force yourself to listen carefully. You often think, "I've heard that before," and so you let your mind drift away to other things.

And when you do listen to the Gospel, you don't obey it! The Apostle Paul said,

"How shall they hear without a preacher?…But they have not all obeyed the gospel" (Romans 10:14, 16).

You have neglected obedience to the sermons you hear. The preacher tells you to come to Jesus, but you make excuses. You don't obey the Gospel. You neglect the preaching by not coming to Jesus.

"How shall we escape, if we neglect …?" (Hebrews 2:3)

I am telling you tonight to come to Jesus. Will you do what I say - or will you once again neglect the preaching?

"How shall we escape, if we neglect…?" (Hebrews 2:3)

III. Third, salvation.

The third great word in our text is "salvation."

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
      (Hebrews 2:3).

This is

Salvation, procured by the death of the only begotten Son of God. How near was I to the brink of hell! How deeply was I fallen! How great my sins, to make such a salvation necessary! How dangerous must it be to neglect it! God has no other Son to give. If you are unconcerned about it; if you take no pains to secure it; if you are unaffected with your danger and with the salvation that is [offered] to you; how can you escape? It is impossible. You reject the only Saviour, and therefore commit the greatest sin…There is no [hope] provided for those who finally reject Christ. "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). [Your] ruin is certain, is near, and will be eternal and intolerable…If you die without Christ, you can never see the face of God with comfort. You must hear the Judge pronounce your sentence, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!!!" (Matthew 25:41). God forbid! (Sixteen Short Sermons, published by the American Tract Society, n.d., Sermon number 16, in A Pastor's Sketches by I. S. Spencer, Solid Ground Christian Books, 2001).


Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Too Long I Neglected" (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
                              (Hebrews 2:3).

(Luke 7:39, 47, 49)

    I.   Escape, Hebrews 2:3a; Romans 6:23; Isaiah 33:14.

    II.  Neglect, Hebrews 2:3b; II Peter 1:19; Psalm 19:7;
    Isaiah 55:6; Acts 8:22; Romans 10:14, 16.

    III. Salvation, Hebrews 2:3c; 10:26; Matthew 25:41.

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