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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, June 27, 2014

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that this is a picture of a man or woman who is convicted of sin. He said,

John Bunyan tells us in Grace Abounding that he was in this condition and in agony of soul for eighteen months. The time element does not matter, but any man who is awakened and convicted of sin must be in trouble about this. How can he die and face God? (Assurance, p. 18).

He tells us about some people in Scotland, in a revival, way back in 1630. As a result of a sermon they heard the day before “there were many people who were in an agony of conviction as described perfectly [in our text] in the second section of Romans 7...They felt utterly lost...They could not find...relief...mourning, crying for relief which they could not find. That, it seems to me, is the position described so perfectly by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-25. It is a very early manifestation of spiritual life; but no more than that – conviction but not conversion” (The Law: Its Functions and Limits, p. 262).

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that this feeling can only come from the Holy Spirit. And he said you must feel some of that or you cannot be converted in a real conversion. Here is how one young woman in our church described her feelings of conviction of sin,

[The time before the day I was converted] I can only describe as the most miserable of my life...I knew I was a terrible sinner, but I was too wrapped up in self-pity to be concerned with my sin. But eventually the Holy Spirit bore down on me and convicted me of my past sins. They haunted me and I could never get away from them...The Holy Spirit revealed to me that these sins came out of my wicked, devious heart and the utter and total depravity of my nature...I was disgusted and so ashamed at what I knew God saw [in my heart]...Every time I went to church, I felt like a leper among the clean Christians. But yet I would not trust Christ. “Jesus” was just a word, a doctrine, someone I knew existed, but yet was so distant [so far away from me]. Instead of [trusting] Christ, I was looking for a feeling of salvation or some kind of “experience” to [prove] my faith.

A young man in our church described his conviction of sin like this,

The Holy Spirit seemed to press down on my heart further and harder. I could no longer argue against Him...I knew that I was the vilest and worst of sinners, but I would not surrender to Christ’s call to come to Him. I became so tired of myself. I became so tired of my life, of who I was, of who I had become ...I could not stop crying...I myself was a disease. I felt corrupt and unholy in the sight of God.

In other words, this young woman and this young man felt like the Apostle when he said,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

They felt like James Procter (1913) when he said,

My soul is night, my heart is steel –
   I cannot see, I cannot feel;
For light, for life, I must appeal
   In simple faith to Jesus!
(“In Jesus” by James Procter, 1913).

Another young woman in our church said,

Through the preaching and the inquiry room, I felt worse about my sins. I hated them, I felt filthy, wicked, useless...and that there was nothing good in me...I felt convicted because I had forgotten to please God. I felt more and more dead in my sins as I listened to more preaching, and Hell became real to me. I knew that I deserved Hell because of my sins. For many days I could not sleep and I felt the fear of dying in my sins. [But] I had one false conversion after another. Dr. Hymers and Dr. Cagan knew I was looking for a feeling. When I was told to come to Jesus, I wouldn’t come...

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways
   My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
But what I need, the Bible says,
   Is ever, only Jesus.

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Here is one more, from another young woman in our church.

Finally that Sunday I felt sick, not physically, but sick of my sins. I felt so ashamed and guilty. I wanted to drop down on the floor and break down in tears. I went to the inquiry room that Sunday and was so ashamed to even show my face to Dr. Cagan, and especially to Dr. Hymers. I was crying and I couldn’t stop. I felt so disgusted with myself...Then Dr. Hymers showed me Jesus’ beautiful face, covered with His Blood. Thinking of it still makes me break into tears. I will never forget that face, the face of Him who lovingly died for me. I wanted to end my agony. Then Dr. Cagan asked me, “Will you come to Christ?” I replied without hesitation, “Yes, I will come to Him! I will come to Him!” I threw myself on Jesus that day. I surrendered myself to Him...Jesus embraced me wholly and washed my sins away [with His Blood].

Joseph Hart knew exactly what she felt, because he had the same experience after rejecting Jesus for many years. He said,

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
   Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power:
He is able, He is able, He is able, doubt no more.
   He is willing, He is willing, He is willing, doubt no more.

I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood That flowed on Calvary.

Though some should sneer, and some should blame,
   I’ll go with all my guilt and shame,
I’ll go to Him because His name,
   Above all names, is Jesus.

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