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COMING TO SALVATION BY DEGREES
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
"He asked him if he saw ought [anything]" (Mark 8:23).
Great Spurgeon said, "The state of mind which we describe as believing is a result, following upon certain former states of mind. We come to faith by degrees. There may be such a thing as faith at first sight; but usually we reach faith by stages…" (C. H. Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate, Pilgrim Publications, 1992, p. 57).
The man who was restored to sight in Mark 8:22-25 is a good picture of what happens to a person who is awakened and then converted. Matthew Henry says, "Thus Christ would show how, and in what method, those who are healed by his grace, who by nature are spiritually blind; at first their knowledge is confused, they see men as trees walking; but, like the light of the morning, it shines more and more to the perfect day, and then they see all things clearly, Proverbs 4:18" (Matthew Henry, comment on Mark 8:22-26).
What happened to this man physically must happen to you spiritually, if you hope to be converted.
I. First, you are blind.
That is the state of every human being naturally. The Bible says:
"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).
"The natural man" is the way this verse describes every person before he is awakened, and then converted. It means that naturally, by nature, you are dead and blind to the things of God.
You are dead, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). You are blind, "through the ignorance that is in [you], because of the blindness of [your] heart" (Ephesians 4:18). You are like that man in Mark 8:22-26. His eyes were dead in his head. His eyes were utterly blind. He could see nothing. Your spiritual eyes are just as blind as his.
You may very well have heard a great deal about God and the Bible, but it is all unreal to you. You must understand that the reason God and the Bible are unreal to you is not because you are smart, or modern, or any such thing. God and the Bible are not real to you because there is something wrong with you. You must understand that: the things of God are not real to you because you are spiritually dead and spiritually blind. Notice Mark 8:22:
"And he [Christ] cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him" (Mark 8:22).
This blind man was brought to where Jesus was. That is what happened to you, isn't it? Someone brought you to church, didn't they? This is where Christ is preached, isn't it? So, like this blind man, you were brought here to hear how to be saved by Christ.
Perhaps your parents brought you. It is a good thing that they did, or you wouldn't be here at all, would you? Your parents are Christians, and they care about you. They have brought you to church for years, hoping that Jesus, in His mercy, would touch your eyes, so you could see. You ought to thank God that your parents cared enough for your soul to pray for you, and bring you to church to hear the gospel. Senseless "church kids" often grow up hating godly parents who prayed for them and brought them to church regularly. But this is extremely foolish. It is as foolish as it would have been for this blind man to have been angry that they brought him to Jesus to be healed of his blindness.
What if the blind man had said, "I'm angry with you for bringing me to Jesus to be healed"? You would think he was a fool, wouldn't you? And you are just as big a fool if you ever get angry with your parents for praying for your salvation and bringing you to church.
Perhaps, on the other hand, you were not raised in a Christian home - but someone brought you to our church to hear the gospel and get saved. That's what happened to me as a teenager. I have known many people who got angry at those who brought them to church. Sometimes they have a relative or friend lie for them on the phone and say they aren't there, when friends from our church call and try to get them to come back. Isn't this extremely foolish also? What would you think of that blind man if he had done that? Wouldn't you think he was a fool if he said, "Don't bother me any more; Leave me alone; I want to stay blind"!
A person who is blind to salvation ought to be very glad that someone cared enough for his soul to bring him to church, and was kind to him, so he could hear the gospel and get saved. Even if you are still spiritually blind and unconverted, you should have enough sense to be thankful toward those who care about your soul enough to compel you to come to church.
II. Second, you begin to have some sight.
When Jesus spit on the man's eyes, "and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought [anything]. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees walking" (Mark 8:23-24).
This is the way it is when Jesus begins to open your eyes. As Matthew Henry put it, "At first their knowledge is confused." You may begin to see that it is good to come to church, that there are friends here who care about you, and it's good to be here. Those are important things to see. Most people in the world never see them. But that is not salvation. Far from it. It is only the very beginning of what may become salvation. I hope you come to see that you can have real friends in the church to heal your loneliness. That's good. But it is far from seeing things clearly in full salvation.
Then, as God works within you, you may begin to think about your sins. If you begin to think about your sins, and worry about them, you are moving into awakening. Awakening is when your sins trouble you. There is nothing we can do to help you if your sins don't bother you. The greatest error of modern evangelism is that preachers try to get people converted without first making sure that they are awakened to a sense of their sin. It's as impossible to get an unawakened person to be truly converted as it is to teach a blind man to ride a bicycle or to get a deaf man to appreciate Mozart. Kids often say, "I want to be saved." But they are seldom thinking about their sins. They only want to "get in" to the church, or escape from Hell, or some such thing. It is very foolish to have a person who says "I want to be saved" say the sinner's prayer, without asking him what he means. What do you mean when you say, "I want to be saved"? By asking them what they mean, we discover that almost none of them are thinking about their sins at all! They have really seen nothing.
Sin must become an intolerable burden to you. You must be awakened to the awfulness of your sin. Spurgeon said,
When I was under conviction of sin I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin…became to me an intolerable burden… I knew myself to be so horribly guilty [of sin] that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin, He ought to do so. I felt that the judge of all the earth ought to condemn such sin as mine…The sin that I had committed must be punished (C. H. Spurgeon, How Can a Just God Justify Guilty Man? Chapel Library, n.d., pp. 1-2).
That is what must happen to you, if you want to have a real conversion. You must be awakened by God to your sinfulness and guilt. Your eyes must be opened to your sinfulness!
Now if God begins to show you your sins you may do something to feel better. That is always a mistake. You will never be converted if you think something to make yourself feel better. It is believing some lie, hiding in some false hope. Here are some of the false hopes that many sinners use to make themselves feel better, and to close their eyes to the truth.
(1) You may think, "I'm saved already." That is a terrible mistake, simply because it isn't true. You are not saved already. You have never really been converted at all. You have to get rid of that false idea once and for all, or you will never be awakened to your sin and truly converted.
(2) Or you may think, "I'll ask God to forgive me." This, too, is a false hope. No one is converted by "asking God to forgive him." If that were true, then every Roman Catholic would be converted! Why, don't you know that? Every Roman Catholic "asks" Christ to forgive him in every Mass! They say, "Christ have mercy" in every Mass! But they are not saved by such a prayer, no matter how sincere it is! And neither is a Baptist or evangelical saved because he "asks" to be saved, or asks for mercy. This is a great abomination in modern churches, where thousands of unconverted people are certain they will go to Heaven because they said the words of a prayer. I say that this is nothing more than a Roman Catholic false hope - a damnable practice! Away with it from the face of the earth! No one is saved by mouthing the words of a prayer - either in a Catholic church or in a Protestant church - or a Baptist church! No prayer can save you!
(3) Or you may say, "I will come back and rededicate my life, and try to do better." This is more Roman Catholic rubbish! It is an attempt to save yourself - by "doing better"! No one can be saved by trying to do better. Why? Because the very best you can do will not be enough. What if you actually lived a perfect life from now on? How would that save you? Even if you could live a perfect life from now on, which of course you can't, but even if you
could, how would that cancel out the sins you have already committed? God has recorded every sin you have committed. Even if you lived perfectly from now on, the sins of your past would be more than enough to condemn you for ever.
Look at your heart. It is swarming with sins. Isn't it? Don't sinful thoughts go through your mind continuously? Aren't these sinful thoughts alone enough to condemn you for ever?
I ask you to think about your sins. I ask you not to hide from them, or try to think about something else. Let God awaken you to your horrible sins against Him.
Young people, do you want to be converted? If you do, you must be awakened. Your eyes must be opened to your sins. You must wake up to your sins! Pray for God to show you how sinful you are. Pray for God to make you feel guilty for not loving Him as you should. Think about it. You don't love God, do you? You don't love to pray to Him and worship Him, do you? Pray for God to show you how sinful you are for not loving Him! Let God probe your heart. Let Him convince you of your sin. Let Him awaken you to your self-love, and the selfishness of your heart.
Are there sins that you have committed that no one knows about? Think about those sins and pray for God to make you feel so bad about those sins that you can't stand it any longer!
Spurgeon was only fifteen years old when he was awakened to his sin. He said,
Sin…became to me an intolerable burden… I knew myself to be so horribly guilty [of sin] that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin, He ought to do so (ibid.).
That is awakening. That is what must happen to you as Christ opens your spiritual eyes. Until you are awakened to feel your sinfulness, you cannot have a true conversion. You may very well experience a false conversion, as thousands of Baptists and evangelicals have, but you cannot have a real conversion.
III. Third, you see clearly.
That's what happened to the man we read about in the eighth chapter of Mark. "He was restored, and saw every man clearly" (Mark 8:25). Suddenly, when you are fully awakened, it will all become very clear - for the first time in your life. It won't just be something you heard in church! It will be real - inside of you! You will say, "I see it! I see it! I am a sinner, horrible and guilty! I see it! I see it! Christ died for me! I see Christ! I believe on Him! He cleanses me with His Blood! It's real! I see the Son of God clearly! He saves me by His Blood!"
That is the full work of grace. That is awakening followed by real conversion! Do not let anything stop you until you have felt your sins, inwardly and strongly! Don't let anything stop you until you throw yourself upon the Son of God, and are fully cleansed from your sins by His Blood - and are fully saved by His life. "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead" (Matthew 28:6-7).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
And God bless you as you do it!
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 8:22-26.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Open My Eyes" (by Clara H. Scott, 1841-1897).
THE OUTLINE OF
COMING TO SALVATION BY DEGREES
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
"He asked him if he saw ought [anything]" (Mark 8:23).
I. You are blind, I Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1;
II. You begin to have some light, Mark 8:23-24.
III. You see clearly, Mark 8:25; Matthew 28:6-7; Mark 16:16.
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."