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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, January 16, 2004

"I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early" (Hosea 5:15).

The Hebrew word translated "affliction" means "anguish, distress, sorrow, trouble." "In their affliction, sorrow, distress and trouble they will seek me early." The Hebrew word translated "early" means "early in the morning," and implies great concern and great earnestness. We might paraphrase the verse, "In their affliction, distress, sorrow and trouble, they will seek me with great concern and earnestness."

This is what happens in conversion. In conversion, you are made to feel distress, sorrow and guilt for your sin. That's what happened at the Chinese church. I remember that we sang a chorus of Scripture over and over in those days of revival. Dr. Lin had us sing Psalm 139:23-24,

"Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
And know my heart; try me and know my thoughts,
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting."

Then, many people came under deep conviction of sin and turned to Christ.

But what happens to many people in a time of revival happens to an individual when he is awakened. For instance, in our camp last summer, a man became deeply troubled about his soul. He heard me preach on judgment, and the sermon made him feel so troubled that he felt blown away, and stayed away from my preaching the next night. But I saw him later that night, and told him to be sure to come the next time I preached. He did come back, and the next time I spoke, he was awakened. Tears ran down his cheeks, and he was converted.

It will do you no good at all to come to the inquiry room after this sermon unless you feel like he did. You must feel anguish, distress, sorrow, and trouble, over your sin.

"In their affliction [sorrow, distress, and inner feelings of turmoil] they will seek me [earnestly]" (Hosea 5:15).

You must think deeply right now about your sin, if you wish to be converted tonight. You must think right now about your sin. It will be too late to think about your sin in the inquiry room. Right now, while I am speaking, you must think about your ruined heart, and your actual sins. Right now, you must feel sorrow, distress and inner turmoil over your sins. Right now, as I speak, you must feel bad about your sin. Right now, you must be afflicted and mourn and weep. Too late in the inquiry room! You must feel these things now. You must feel anguish, distress, sorrow and trouble in your heart now, while I am speaking.

"In their affliction they will seek me [earnestly]" (Hosea 5:15).

Some will be afflicted by feelings of trouble. You may not be able to put into words the deeply troubled feeling you have. You will simply feel bad all over. You will have terrible thoughts of judgment, the brevity of life, the fear of being given up by God - and other deeply troubling thoughts. The prophet Jeremiah said,

"In the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us"
     (Jeremiah 2:27).

You must feel troubled deep inside over your rebellious heart, and personal sins. These thoughts must bother you deeply in your heart right now, while I am speaking. It will be too late to seek such conviction in the inquiry room after the sermon. Too late then! Seek to be troubled over your sin right now, while I am speaking.

"In the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us"
      (Jeremiah 2:27).

Again, some will be filled with feelings of shame. The Psalmist said,

"Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord" (Psalm 83:16).

Isn't this what you need to feel right now? Isn't it true that you need to be ashamed for your sin? What difference does it make if other hardened and unconverted people see that you are troubled and ashamed? What difference does it make what they think?

Just as I was writing this sentence of the sermon, a girl in our church phoned and told me that someone had run through a red light and smashed into the car, with her and two other unconverted young people from our church inside. What if the other car had been coming a second later and had hit the side of the car instead of the front? One of those unconverted young people could easily be dead. Their body would be cold and stiff in a drawer at the city morgue right now. And their soul would right now be in Hell. We would be planning their funeral tonight. Their mother would be crying uncontrollably. Our thoughts here tonight would be full of darkness and horror. What would I say at the funeral next week? I would not be able to give even one word of hope to the wailing, crying people at the funeral. Think deeply about that. A few days ago, I was in an automobile accident right before the evening service. I was nearly in another accident on the way to church a little later.

What if such an accident happened to your car tonight, on the way home? Death occurs virtually every night on these streets. What would we be able to say at your funeral? What hope could we give your mother? And think of this - what difference would it make then what others thought about seeing a few tears come to your eyes, or a sound of anguish come from your lips, in a meeting like this - during a sermon like this?

If you had died in a crash like that, you would think, "Oh, how I wish I could go back, and be in the service, and hear the preaching! Oh, how I wish I could go back! I would bewail my sin. I would groan and cry out to be saved, right now, even while Dr. Hymers is preaching. I would not wait and shuffle into the inquiry room unmoved. If I could go back, I would stand up right now and shout, not caring what anyone said or thought. I would stand up and say, right now, 'I'm lost! I must be saved!'"

Too late, then, in the dark and raging fires of Hell, you will bewail the fact that you had no shame for your sin while you were alive on earth.

"In the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us"
      (Jeremiah 2:27).

"Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name,
O Lord" (Psalm 83:16).

Yet again, some will be pricked in their conscience over a particular sin. Peter told those men at Pentecost that they had crucified Christ, and

"When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart"
      (Acts 2:37).

Can you think of some terrible sin you have committed in the past? Right now - think back. I want everyone here to do that right now. Whether you are saved or not, I want you to think about the worst sin you ever committed. Right now. Think about it. I will give you a moment of silence to do that (pause).

If you are unconverted, that sin will condemn you at last. In fact, you are "condemned already" by it.

"He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18).

Think deeply of it. Be distressed and sorrowful and troubled over it.

"In their affliction they will seek me [earnestly]" (Hosea 5:15).

And again, some may have such strong feelings that they tremble at the thought of their sins - as the jailer at Philippi trembled.

"And he…came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:29).

You, too, may actually fall down trembling when you are awakened. You may actually fall down trembling during the sermon. That sometimes happens when a person is awakened by the Holy Spirit. Ask the old Methodists. Ask the old Presbyterians. Ask the old Baptists - who experienced such things in the day that God manifested His power. Ask John Wesley. Ask George Whitefield. Ask Francis Asbury. Ask Asahel Nettleton, or Jonathan Edwards, or Duncan Campbell. Ask the Christians in China, where such things are happening on a large scale tonight - with 1,200 conversions every hour in China.

"In their affliction they will seek me [earnestly]" (Hosea 5:15).

You may actually fall down trembling in the service, when you are in distress and sorrow, and trouble, and anguish - over your sin.

Some of you may "cry out with a loud voice," like those who were awakened in Samaria - as we are told in Acts 8. In the great revival of the 18th century, when John Wesley preached many people cried out and screamed during his sermons. But George Whitefield didn't like it and tried to stop them from crying out while he preached. Lady Huntington corrected George Whitefield. She said, "Let them scream. It will do a great deal more good than your preaching."

Some of you may weep, with great tears coursing down your cheeks - as that sinful woman did who kissed the Saviour's feet. She "stood as his feet weeping" (Luke 7:38). And so may you, when the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin.

"In their affliction they will seek me [earnestly]" (Hosea 5:15).

I saw tears course down a strong man's face last summer at the camp. I saw a former Green Beret cry like a little child. In the inquiry room I said, "Why are you crying?" He looked me and said, "My sins!"

Some of you may even wallow and foam when the Holy Spirit afflicts your heart for sin. This is commonly reported in accounts of true revival. And it may happen to you when the Holy Spirit afflicts your soul by conviction of sin. It may happen to you, as it happened to that young person in Mark 9,

"And when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming" (Mark 9:20).

Do not hold yourself back from such a manifestation, if God should grant it to you by His grace. Do not hold back lest you should fight against the Spirit of God!

In real conversion manifestations like these are the result of conviction of sin. That is always the case in classical conversions. People do not laugh, or come for physical healings, or speak in "tongues." The manifestations are restricted solely to strong negative feelings connected with the conviction of sin.

"I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence [their guilt], and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early" (Hosea 5:15).

When the Holy Spirit comes to you, He will convict you of sin. Some of you will be troubled. Some of you will feel shame. Some of you will be guilty over a particular sin. Some of you will tremble. Some of you will scream. Some of you will wail with tears running down your cheeks. Some of you may even wallow and foam, in the shame of your sinfulness. But all of you will feel self-condemnation and fear of God! All lost people who are awakened will feel what the condemned thief felt when he said,

"Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but his man [Jesus] hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:40-41).

Indeed, Christ committed no sins. He was crucified for your sins.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).


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

"Search Me, O God" (Psalm 139:23-24).

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