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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, January 20, 2008

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29).

This morning I am going to give you a stripped-down version of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon, “The Urgent Need for Revival Today” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1994 printing, pp. 7-20). I will leave out the beginning of his sermon, and begin with his exposition of the text. I will change and edit some of what he said, while trying my best to give you the sense of his famous sermon. Dr. Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century. His early ministry was marked by real revival in Wales and England. He had a vast knowledge of the Puritans and the Great Awakening of the 18th century. Please hear him this morning.

Let us start by considering this incident in Mark 9, and then focus on these last two verses,

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29).

In the earlier verses we are told how Christ had taken Peter and James and John and had gone up into “an high mountain apart” with them. And on that Mountain of Transfiguration they had seen the amazing events that took place there. But when they were coming down from the mountain, they found a crowd of people surrounding the remaining disciples, with much argument and questioning. Jesus, Peter, James and John could not understand what it was all about. Suddenly a man stepped out of the crowd and said, “In a way, I am responsible for this. I have a son here, a poor boy who has had fits, attacks of convulsions, from his childhood.” “And,” he continued, “I brought my boy here for you to heal him. I came to your disciples and they could do nothing. They tried, but they failed.”

Christ asked the man a few questions, received certain information about the man’s son, and then quite simply proceeded to exorcise the demon out of this boy, and the boy was healed and restored in a moment.

Then Christ went into the house, and the disciples went with him. And when they got into the house, the disciples turned to Christ and said, “Why could not we cast him out?” It is easy to understand how they felt. They had tried their best to cast out the demon, but they had failed. They had succeeded in many other cases, but here they had failed completely. And yet in just a moment, with great ease, Christ just spoke a word and the boy was delivered and healed. “Why could we not cast him out?” they said, and Christ answered, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”

Now I want to take this account and use it as a perfect representation of our problem today. Here, in this boy, I see people in the modern world who are lost, who are in “the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:26). And in the disciples I see our modern churches at this present hour. Isn’t it plain to see that the Gospel preaching churches are failing miserably to convert the lost? Certainly the churches do not have the evangelistic power they had a hundred years ago. The whole situation shows that to be true. And today we have the churches trying, like the disciples, doing their best, in a sense more active than they have ever been, and yet obviously failing to deal with the lost. Even those young people raised in a church usually fall away. [We are told by pollsters that evangelical churches now lose 88% of their young people before they reach the age of twenty-five, never to return.]* And we see that in spite of all our evangelistic work, yet we are not achieving success. And the question therefore that we should certainly ask, and ask very seriously, is “Why cannot we cast him out?” What is the matter? What is the cause of our failure? What is the reason for the failure of our evangelism?

Here in our text Christ seems to be dealing with that very question. They divided the question up into three main points. Why could we not cast him out? The first answer is “this kind” of demon. There we have an important statement. “Why could we not cast him out?” Christ said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” He is telling them, in other words, that they have to learn to tell the difference between one case and another. The disciples had been sent out by Christ to preach and cast out demons, and they had done those very things. And they had trod upon serpents and scorpions “and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). They returned full of excitement. They said that the very demons had been made subject to them, and they had seen Satan himself fall before them.

So, when the man brought his demonized boy to them they had great assurance and confidence that they could cast it out. And yet, in spite of all their efforts the boy was no better at all. He was as demonized as he was when the father first brought him to them. They were in trouble, and Christ helped them at this point. He said, “This kind” – there is a difference between “this kind” and the kind you were dealing with before, the ones you were so successful with.

This is a principle that you cannot help but notice in reading through the New Testament. This, like the other cases, was a case of demon possession. Ah, yes, but there is a difference between one kind of demon and another. In the evil kingdom of Satan there are gradations, different grades of demons. The Apostle Paul said,

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

There are grades of demons, and at the head of them all is Satan himself,

“The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

There Satan is, with all his mighty power. But under him are these various other demons, these spirits and powers and forces, which have different degrees of strength and power.

Therefore the disciples could very easily deal with the weaker ones, and master them, and exorcise them, casting them out. But here, says Christ, is a demon of greater power. He is not like those other weaker spirits that you have been able to cast out. “This kind” is altogether different, and therefore is a much greater problem.

It is important for us to know this, because it is still as true today as it was then. But it is sheer madness and a waste of energy to attempt any kind of treatment until you make an accurate diagnosis, until you know what is the real cause of the problem. There is a danger of rushing into activity before you realize fully the nature of the problem with which you are dealing.

So, as we look at the expression, “this kind,” I wonder if Christian people are aware of the real depth of the problem which confronts us, in a spiritual sense, at this present time. I ask this question because it seems clear, from the activity of many Christians, that they have not even begun to understand the problem. They go right on using certain methods of evangelism which may once have been successful, but they do not realize that they are not only unsuccessful, but they cannot be successful, because they do not understand the nature of the problem confronting them today.

When this man brought his boy to the disciples there was an obvious need. The disciples did not know what it was. The problem for us today is the same – to know the precise nature of this need. What is it exactly? A medical doctor [Dr. Lloyd-Jones practiced medicine before he became a minister] must know exactly what is wrong with his patient before he operates or prescribes certain medicines or drugs. If he does not know what is wrong with the patient, it is foolish to start operating or prescribing certain medicines.

Today everyone knows that there is a need for evangelism in the churches, which is not being met. But what exactly is that need? I see a very great difference between today and the past. Going back two hundred years, there was no general denial of the Christian faith. It was just that people usually didn’t practice it. They more or less assumed it. All you had to do was to disturb them and awaken them from their sleep. All you needed at that time was an occasional evangelistic campaign to rouse the people and to awaken them. And that was enough – back then.

But the question is whether that is still the solution. What is “this kind”? What is the demonic problem that is confronting us today? I feel that the demonic problem facing us is altogether deeper and more desperate than anything which has confronted the Christian churches for many centuries. The problem for us is not only apathy. It is something far more profound and diabolical, and demonically malignant. It seems to me to be a complete unawareness, even a denial, of spiritual things altogether. The whole idea of the spiritual is now gone. The very belief in the God of the Bible has virtually disappeared. We need not seek the causes of this, but the fact is that the average man today thinks that all this belief about God and salvation, and all that the churches teach, is something that has no place in our secular society, or in our lives in general. The average person believes that the Christian religion has been preventing, holding back, the development and evolution of the human race. They think that Christianity is dangerous, and should be gotten rid of altogether. The modern person dislikes Christianity and dismisses it completely from his life and thought. [Surely, you young people attending a secular college know that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was exactly right. Wasn’t he?]

The Bible, as the Word of God, is attacked as being full of mistakes and errors. The deity of Christ as the God-man is denied. His virgin birth is denied. His atonement on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins is denied. All that is really valuable to us about Christ is denied, and Christ is reduced to a mere human example, or a great teacher, certainly not God in human flesh. Certainly not to be obeyed as the Creator of the Universe!

And then, we are confronted by the way people live. It is no longer a question of immorality. This has become an amoral or non-moral society. The very idea of “morality” is not recognized at all by most people.

Now, surely, it is time that we who are Christian people had a better understanding of the anti-Christian philosophy that stands against us in this godless society. Our Gospel means nothing to them. They have plenty of money. They are able to buy whatever they want, and they have no concern for spiritual things – like prayer, Christ’s death as the atonement for sins, the need for church attendance – they have no interest in any of this: no interest in their souls, no interest in communion with God. Their only interests are in eating, drinking, having recreational sex, entertaining themselves, getting ahead in business so they can be rich and enjoy life – on earth! They have got what they want, and all they are anxious to do is hold on to it, and keep it as long as they can.

There then, as I see it, is “this kind” – the demonic problem with which you and I are confronted when we try to evangelize the modern Western world today. Now it is important to understand this because Christ goes on to say, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”

The power that the disciples had was a good power, and it was good enough to cast out weak demons, but it had no ability to help this boy. Until you and I see that, until we come to see the greater need we have in evangelism today, we will continue to be utterly ineffective in seeing conversions, in real revival.

What are some of the things that are useless? Let me begin with apologetics – the field that tries to prove that the Christian faith is really acceptable today. It just doesn’t work. I mean it doesn’t convince the average man. He is not impressed by books “proving” the Christian faith. The only value of apologetics is to bolster the faith of someone who already is a Christian. Few people are evangelized by it. Few are converted by it.

What about “modern” Bibles? We are told that modern versions will help people be saved from “this kind.” But I don’t see it happening. Everybody buys these “new translations,” but do they read them? And if they do, does it help them? Is the old King James language the difficulty? No. It is as good as ever. Whatever may be their value, these new versions are not going to solve the problem.

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

[I am sure the Doctor would have included a paragraph on music if he had given this sermon today. He often wrote critically of modern music. He felt there was far too much music in the services and that it was often worldly. We should ask ourselves, Does this emphasis on music help people? Does it actually bring people from the world to a Christian conversion? Or does it detract from the Gospel message? I think the Doctor would say that it detracts and does not help.]

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Again, what they say is that we need new literature and new tracts. And off they go to give out these tracts. They write them in a popular form. Now people will understand the message, they say. But we see that tracts are virtually useless today. [They nearly always present a “decisionist” message, and people don’t read them anyway.] They are not the answer.

Then there are popular evangelistic meetings. Every technique known to modern man is put into these meetings. But I think the time has come to ask the simple question: What are the results? Is the modern “kind” being touched at all? Is anybody being added, except perhaps some who are already in a church? What of the religious condition of the country? What of the whole state of society? [Have the Billy Graham crusades helped us? Have the Franklin Graham Festivals been effective? Do Robert Schuller or Benny Hinn add many (if any) to the local chuches who were previously unchurched? Does Rick Warren add many new, unchurched people to the churches? Or is he mostly transferring in large numbers of people from other churches? Do you know many coming in from the world to their meetings? Do you know any? For all the effort, the results seem pitifully small].** Is society being touched by all our activities?

Well, my answer is that all of these activities put us into the same position of the disciples when they said, “Why could not we cast him out?” By what means then can they be cast out?

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

You failed there, Jesus said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power from God. You will never be able to deal with “this kind” unless you have prayed earnestly to God for the convicting and converting power of revival. You must realize that you are confronted by an evil power that is too strong for your methods to cast out, or to deal with. You need something that can get down beneath that evil power, and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God.

We have got to feel our helplessness until we become desperate. We must be utterly and absolutely convinced of our need. We have got to realize that however great “this” kind is, the power of God is infinitely greater. We need a power that can enter the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them, and convict them of sin, and then make them into new creations. And we must be confident that God has this power as much today as He had one hundred years ago, and two hundred years ago. And so we must begin to pray for the power of God to convict men of sin and convert them to Christ.

God must do what we ourselves cannot do – convert lost sinners from the error of their evil hearts. Only God can deal with “this kind.” And God has that power today, as much as He did in the time of Christ, as much as He did in the time of Edwards and Whitefield and Wesley! God has the same power today!

We shall not be interested in true revival until we realize the futility, the uselessness of all our own efforts and endeavors and the utter and absolute need of prayer, and seeking the converting power of God alone.

“Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29).

*Statistics of pollster George Barna.
**This section added by Dr. Hymers, in the spirit, if not the words, of Dr. Lloyd-Jones.
    The Doctor wrote against the “decisionist” system and separated from
     Billy Graham over it.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 11:1-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Revive Thy Work” (by Albert Midlane, 1825-1909).