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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, August 29, 2009

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”
(Luke 19:10).

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 2:5).

Back in 1978 Richard Quebedeaux asked, “Are evangelicals becoming liberals?” (“Today’s Evangelicals, Tomorrow’s Liberals?” in The Worldly Evangelicals, Harper and Row, 1978, p. 165). He said there was a slide in that direction, but it was “still too early to discern where this current trend will lead” (ibid., p. 167). Thirty-one years later we know with certainty where it led!

Yesterday’s evangelicals are today’s liberals. And as evangelicals have moved to the left, so has everyone else. Let’s take just one example. Don’t sneer at it! It’s very important!

In 1954 no woman would think of entering the sanctuary of an American Baptist church without having on a dress, a hat and a pair of white gloves! That was in liberal American Baptist churches! I know. I started out as an American Baptist. Today it would be difficult to find any Baptist church without at least some women wearing pants. A hat? Forget it! White gloves? Are you kidding?

Grace Slick was a hippie who sang with “Jefferson Airplane” in the late 60s. Grace Kelly was the dignified, smartly dressed actress who married the Prince of Monaco. Women attending church today look far more like Grace Slick than Grace Kelly! Get the picture?

This isn’t just an isolated social change – it illustrates perfectly the leftward movement of the churches! The whole body of American evangelicalism has moved to the left. Yesterday’s liberals are now disappearing into the mist of Unitarianism. And yesterday’s evangelicals are taking their place as the new liberals. 

This leftward trend has taken place before our very eyes. It amazes me that it happened with hardly anyone objecting! Oh, there were some like A. W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill and Dr. Lloyd-Jones who said a few words in protest. But they were brushed off as “old men.” To be sure, Francis Schaeffer wrote “The Great Evangelical Disaster,” but he was dismissed for having “his brain addled by chemotherapy,” as one left-leaning new-evangelical put it.

One of the few living people who seems to understand this slide is Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California. In his book Christless Christianity (Baker Books, 2008) Horton reaches the conclusion that “American Christianity is self-centered rather than Christ-centered, Jesus is a life coach rather than [the] redeemer, and salvation is focused on therapeutic well-being” (Publishers Weekly, November, 2008). While I think Horton is right, he doesn’t go far enough. He points out the error of Robert Schuller, Joyce Meyer, and especially Joel Osteen. But he fails to say most of the preachers are following the same basic formula – focusing on the “well-being” of church members instead of reaching out to the lost!

If I am wrong please give me evidence of my error! Where can we hear the Biblical message of law and Gospel on any given Sunday? Where do evangelical preachers go beyond “filling” the Sunday morning “time slot” with interesting thoughts aimed at “building up the believers”? Am I wrong to say that the preachers have become “spiritual therapists”? Am I wrong to say that their goal is to keep the “believers” coming by making them think they are being “fed”? Am I wrong when I say that huge numbers of those they “feed” are as lost as Simon Magus? And, if I am anywhere near being right, where are the preachers to correct the situation? Leonard Ravenhill said, “This generation of preachers is responsible for this generation of sinners”? (Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bethany Fellowship, 1979, p. 110).

Ravenhill also said, “Brethren, we have only one mission – to save souls…!” (ibid.). I for one agree with him completely. That was the very reason Christ came to this earth!

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
      (I Timothy 1:15).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Dr. Michael Horton was right. “American Christianity is self-centered rather than Christ-centered” (ibid.). If, by some miracle, the churches became Christ-centered they would “have only one mission – to save souls” (Ravenhill, ibid.). Yes, Ravenhill was right. If they moved from being self-centered to Christ-centered they would indeed put soul-seeking on the front of their agendas.

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
      (I Timothy 1:15).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

If we could get those three verses into our people’s minds, it would do them far more good than a year’s worth of “Bible studies” that drag them through ten or twelve verses, and flip from one subject to another. If we got them to seek the lost as Christ did they would study the Bible on their own!  Dr. John R. Rice said, "If you can go through the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus to win a soul, then you are learning a little of the wisdom of God.  If you, like Paul, can bear in your body the marks of the Lord Jesus to win a soul, then you are learning the lesson of eternal wisdom" (John R. Rice, D.D., The Soul-Winner's Fire, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1969, p. 17).

People often say, “How can I get over my hang-ups?” The answer is, “save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). “How can I feel better about myself?” The answer is, “Seek and…save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “How can I have a closer walk with God?” Go into “the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). “How can I learn the Bible and become a strong Christian?”

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

There is no other way to become a solid Christian! You must “seek and…save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). If you refuse to make that the main purpose of your life it may show that you were never converted in the first place. If you are truly converted, refusing to “seek and save” the lost will ensure that you remain a “baby Christian” crying to be “fed and burped.” Churches should not be nurseries. They should be military outposts, sending forth soldiers of Christ to redeem sinners from a burning Hell!

“Yes,” someone says, “but that will be hard.” Of course it will! But remember,

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

The path to Christian growth is the hard road, the road of self-denial, the Christ-centered road of seeking and saving those who are lost! The poet Robert Frost said,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
   (Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” in Robert Frost’s Poems,
      Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 223).

Let us take the road “less traveled by.” Let us make the Bloody, tear-stained Gospel of Christ central in all we do and think! Away with Bible “teaching” to “feed Christians”! It has been here too long to do us any good! The Plymouth Brethren brought it in and we ought to throw it out! Away with it! Away with “self-centered” teaching to “build up believers”! It has been here too long to do us, or mankind, any good! Away with it! Let us make the suffering, bleeding, nail-scarred Christ both our example and our message! Let us say to a lost world – and an unconverted Corinthian church –

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Let Christ’s suffering drive us to fasting and prayer. Let Christ crucified drive us to the streets and colleges and malls to

“…compel them to come in, that [His] house may be filled”
     (Luke 14:23).

Let the bloody sweat of Christ in Gethsemane inspire us to weep and pray until those who are lost come to Him, and “plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.” Let

“him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5)

move us to be channels of blessing to a lost and sin-cursed world! Then we will stop moving to the left and start moving toward the Kingdom of God! Sing that chorus again!

Make me a channel of blessing today,
   Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
   Make me a channel of blessing today.
(“Make Me a Channel of Blessing” by Harper G. Smyth, 1873-1945).

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