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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached in Malibu, California at the combined retreat of
Calvary Road Baptist Church and the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, August 22, 2004

"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:9-14).

George Barna has put out a poll which says that 88% of all young people raised in gospel-preaching churches will depart from the church, never to return again, between the ages of 18 and 25. This is a horrible condition in our churches in America. Why does this happen, with all the preaching and teaching they receive?

The answer is simple - in spite of all our preaching and teaching you remain hardened against Christ. No matter how many times you go to the pastor and other leaders for counselling, you only fool yourself. You may very well know the plan of salvation. You may know it by heart. You may fully understand how to be saved in your mind. But the great evangelist and theologian Dr. John Dagg was correct when he insisted that sin is an inbred antagonism toward God, and that salvation means a radical change of heart. A radical change of your own thinking must occur or you will be one of the 88% who leave the churches in the next few years - without ever truly experiencing real conversion. You may go off to some other, "easier" church, but it will only be a stopover, a way station, on your road away from God. In the end you will go to Hell, as surely as any drunkard or drug addict, for Jesus said that

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).

Make no mistake on this. Christ is speaking to every unconverted person here tonight when He tells you this:

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).

Notice that the fire of Hell will be everlasting. Notice that you will be under God's everlasting curse when you enter those flames.

Eternity, Eternity,
Where will you spend eternity?

I want to draw your attention to the passage of Scripture I just read. It says a lot to "church kids" and to "new people" as well. I am going to drop out the words "Pharisee" and "publican" and replace those words with "church kids" and "new people"! By "church kids" I mean those who have been in the church a long time without being converted. Some "church kids" were raised in the church. Other "church kids" have come into the church within the last few months. But you have copied the unconverted young people in the church, and have become just like them. You are as hardened against Christ as they are, because you have socialized with the young people who were here before you, and you have unconsciously copied them, and modeled yourself by their cold and indifferent way of treating Christ. But I will baptize two young men in a few weeks who came in as "new people," and were saved within a short period of time. Instead of becoming "church kids," they became Christians. With that in mind, I will read the passage, using those words:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one was a [church kid] and the other was a [new person]. The [church kid] stood and prayed with himself, God I thank thee, that I am not as other [people] are [dope smokers, sex addicts, heathens who don't attend church], or even as this [new person]. I [pray, I go to church every Sunday, I tithe, I have prayed the sinner's prayer, I have been baptized - or will be soon. I am not like this new person! Why, he doesn't know much of anything!]. But the [new person], standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but [beat] on his [chest], saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:10-13).

And Jesus said,

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [saved] rather than the other" (Luke 18:14).

That makes it very plain, doesn't it? Isn't that the application of this passage to our situation?  The new person got serious about the things of God. He felt pain in his conscience over sin. He seriously listened to every word of each sermon. He did exactly what the preacher said. He became a real and serious Christian. But not you, oh no! You rested at ease in the church services. You listlessly listened to the sermons on and off. You let your mind wander to other things while the all too familiar sermon droned on in the background. You knew it all. You heard it all before. It made no deep impression on you. As soon as the service was over, you thought about other things. After all, you heard it all before - didn't you?

So, the years will go by. New people will come in and get saved. But you will drag along, unconcerned, with no anxiety over the lostness of your soul - until one day the Devil chokes you suddenly. I promise you, on the basis of Christ's words, that day will come! The Devil will suddenly choke you. I don't know when it will happen - perhaps sooner, perhaps later - but it will happen to you. And when Satan chokes you at last, it will happen suddenly. Jesus said so,

"They…when they have heard, go forth and are choked"
    (Luke 8:14).

The Devil will grab you all of a sudden and choke you so hard that you will leave the church, and go down the broad road that leads to destruction.

Some greedy man, masquerading as a Baptist preacher, will suddenly appear and

"grievous wolves [shall] enter in among you…Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). .

You will look good to them. After all, you are a "church kid." They will want your money in their offering plate, and they will be glad to tell you that your old pastor was too strict! Alas, they are workers of iniquity, and though they may preach quite well, they care nothing for your soul - only for the money they can get from your pocketbook for a while - until you fall away there as well. But you will be on the broad road that leads to destruction - to Hell.

You say, "That won't happen to me! I won't let the Devil choke me and ruin me." But he will - and at last, my dear church kid, you will be given up by God, and sooner or later your life will be gone - and you will sink down into the flames of eternal damnation - for you were never converted to Christ!

Consider what it will be like for you in Hell. The Bible teaches that the wrath of God on unconverted people is dreadful beyond imagination. The Bible says that the lost will be thrown into a furnace of fire.

"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41-42).

"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

"Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them" (Psalm 21:9).

"And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…" (Revelation 14:11).

Do you think that I have lied to you about Hell? No - I have only read verses from the Bible which describe it. If I have described that dreadful place untruthfully, then the Bible has done the same. If God has spoken the truth in the Bible, then you will find that it only said a little about it, and what it says is only a faint picture of the horrid reality.

It is right for God to send you to Hell. You have refused to let go of those things that God hates. Since you have refused to part with your sins, isn't it reasonable for God to give up on you? Would it be unjust for God to leave you alone, since you will not give up your idols?

It would be just and right for God to leave you, since you have left Him. You have not sought for Christ. You have not striven to enter into Christ, as you should have done. You have neglected Him, and would it not be right for Him to neglect you? How long have you neglected to seek Him? How long has it been since you prayed earnestly to Him? Since you have refused to seek His presence and His help, and did not think they were even worth praying for, isn't it right that He should withhold His blessings from you, and leave you alone - in Hell? You have resisted God and done many things to drive Him away from you.

"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear" (Zechariah 7:11).

It is right for God to leave you. It is right for you to go to Hell.

You live as an inner enemy of God. Your enmity toward Him is well hidden by you, but it is very real. He has given you many benefits that others do not have. He has given you good health. He has given you good opportunities. He has given you a good mind. He has given you a good church. He has loaded you with the benefits that many others do not have. And yet you have treated Him badly. You have not prayed to Him in secret, as you should. You have not sought for Him. You will even use this camp as an excuse for play and fun, without ever thinking deeply and honestly about God. And you have done this time after time. And you fully intend to do it again this year. You fully intend to leave this camp at the end of the week as unconcerned and unconverted as when you came. Isn't that true? And isn't this a great sin before God?

"If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?"
    (I Samuel 2:25).

You have had God's commandments and threatenings preached to you many, many times. You have been warned repeatedly. Yet you have gone on in sin and inner rebellion against Him. You have defied God to His face. Why should you be surprised when He makes you know His terrible wrath, in your utter misery, in the horrors of eternal flames?

"Church kids" like you are very much like the Pharisees of Christ's time. You have an outward form of religion, but inwardly you are dead to God. In the time of Christ, most of the Pharisees were against Him, and so are you. They would not come to Him that they might have life, and neither will you. Yes, most of the Pharisees were much like you "church kids."

And yet the gentiles, who were not Pharisees, came to Christ willingly in great numbers. A few Sunday nights ago in our church I told you about one of them, the Ethiopian Eunuch. Turn with me in your Bible to Acts, chapter eight, verses 26-28. Let us stand and read those verses aloud.

"And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet"
      (Acts 8:26-28).

You may be seated.

This man was serious about finding salvation. He travelled hundreds of miles to Jerusalem to go to the Jewish temple and pray. To get into the temple, he must have converted to Judaism. He went to a lot of trouble to do that. He had to be circumcised. He had to change his diet and eat only kosher food. He had to learn Hebrew, so he could read the Old Testament Scriptures. He had to travel hundreds of miles through the hot, desolate Sinai desert to get to the temple where he hoped to find some rest for his troubled soul. On his way home to Ethiopia, he again had to cross that barren, burning desert. Yet his mind was fixed on the scroll of Isaiah, open before him in the chariot.

All of this shows that he was very serious about finding salvation and knowing God. He had gone through extreme difficulties and had surmounted large obstacles in his search for salvation.

No wonder it was so easy for Philip the evangelist to lead him to Christ! That man was an earnest seeker for the Lord. Jesus said,

"Seek, and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7).

This Ethiopian sought Christ, and found Him, with the help of Philip, and the aid of the Holy Spirit. He found Christ and rejoiced in his salvation there in that empty wilderness. Why? Because he was dead serious about wanting to know Christ and be saved.

Compare him to the Pharisees in Jerusalem. They had been spoon fed the Bible since childhood. They knew the Bible intellectually from cover to cover. They could go to the temple any time, because they lived very near it. They could read the Bible easily, for they had been trained in it from earliest childhood. Yet most of these religious-but-lost Pharisees rejected Christ, and later died and went to Hell.

At the same time this "stranger" to Israel found Christ quite easily, "and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).

And we are finding this true in our church. The young people trained up in the church treat the things of God lightly and do not hold Christ in great esteem. Yet there are new young people coming in like that Ethiopian, and they are getting saved, while you are not. Jesus said,

"There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger" (Luke 17:18).

The "stranger" in this incident was a despised Samaritan, not a Pharisee. The Ethiopian "stranger" got saved, while the pious Pharisees went on in the ritual of their religion - without salvation.

Is there no lesson in this for you? Aren't you like the hardened Pharisees? Aren't you completely different in your lack of zeal and seriousness from the Ethiopian "new person," who came along with deep interest in salvation, and was soon converted?

So, I say that this Ethiopian wanted salvation very badly. And he soon trusted in Christ and was saved. But the Pharisees went on with the ritual of their religion - and only a few of them were ever saved by Jesus.

Will it be like that for you church kids? Will you muddle along in the outward practices of religion until God gives up on you and you are doomed - as the unbelieving Pharisees were doomed? Or will you catch the zealous spirit of the "new person," the Ethiopian, and strive with all your might to enter Christ for salvation?

That's the way it was in my Sunday School class as a teenager. The "church kids" fooled around and were not serious about God. But I was the stranger, the Ethiopian, in my Sunday School class. I wanted Christ, not their tomfoolery. Needless to say, I, like the Ethiopian, finally found Christ. The Pharisee church kids never did find Him. I never heard of any of them that went on to become serious Christians.

Make no mistake here, the vast multitudes of Pharisees rejected Christ, and are now in Hell. The Ethiopian searched diligently and strove

"to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke 13:24).

He found salvation in Christ, while the average Pharisee went on his merry way to a life of doom, and an eternity of unending suffering.

Which will it be for you? Will you go on and be doomed in Hell some day? Or will you go to great lengths to find the truth of God in Christ, like that Ethiopian stranger from the commonwealth of Israel?

The Ethiopian is now rejoicing with the angels of God in Heaven. The unbelieving Pharisees, like many church kids, went to Hell.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other" (Luke 18:14).

"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

"And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…" (Revelation 14:11).

You have had God's commandments and threatenings preached to you many times. You have been warned repeatedly. Yet you have gone on practicing sin, and having rebellion against God in your heart. You have defied the living God to His face. Why should you be surprised when He makes you a vessel of wrath - fit only to be cast into the burning flames of Hell?


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