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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, October 11, 2015

“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

Dr. W. A. Criswell was the great and mighty pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He preached there for nearly sixty years. At the age of eighty this white haired patriarch of the Southern Baptist Convention foretold the doom of America and the West. And Dr. Criswell said,

We have done away with moral absolutes...Government and politicians condone murder, lies and theft as justifiable... Professors [in our colleges] justify sexual promiscuity as expressions of personal freedom. Ministers in the pulpit, by uncounted numbers, excuse [attacks] on the Word of God as academic freedom; we do that in our own [Southern Baptist] universities and seminaries. Filth, violence, and immorality are accepted in song, drama, radio, and television. This generation and the generation yet to come will drown in materialistic hedonism and pleasure-seeking...The whole [Western] world is becoming un-Christian at the rate of 125,000 a day (W A. Criswell, Ph.D., Great Doctrines of the Bible, volume 8, Zondervan Publishing House, 1989, pp. 148, 147).

Since Dr. Criswell gave that sad report the Southern Baptists have been dying. Their numbers go down every year now. Last year alone 200,000 Southern Baptists left their churches never to return. Every year over 1,000 Southern Baptist churches close their doors forever in this country alone. Last year the Southern Baptists had to bring home about 800 foreign missionaries from the mission fields of the world. The amount of offerings for missions has dropped so low that they cannot support them any more. And our independent Baptist churches are not doing any better. An Assembly of God pastor told me that their denomination is barely making it. And it is even worse in all the other denominations. I have in my hands two books that tell the story. One is called, The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church (John S. Dickerson, Baker Books, 2013). The second book is titled, The Coming Evangelical Crisis (John H. Armstrong, general editor, Moody Press, 1996). Every book I read, and every article I see, points to the fact that our evangelical churches are in deep trouble. The young people raised in the church are leaving, and the churches are not able to win young people from the world. John Dickerson said, “We are failing to make new disciples. Our existing disciples are not generally reproductive in their living or transformed in their thinking” (ibid., p. 107, 108). But then he went on to suggest a number of things to correct the problem. I’ve tried them all, and I know they don’t work. Why? Because they do not go to the root of the problem.

Take me as an example. As a teenager I was a ripe piece of fruit, ready to pick. I wanted to be in the church. I came from a broken home. I didn’t live with my parents. I really wanted to be part of the church. But the white (Caucasian) church in Huntington Park, California didn’t get me! Why? There were a lot of reasons – the services were designed to please carnal middle-aged women, not a lost teenager. The people in the church were not interested in me, even the pastor wasn’t very interested. After all, I was just a teenager without any money, from a bad home environment. Then, too, there was the preaching. I had three pastors while I was there. I tried hard to listen to them, but for the life of me, I cannot remember anything they said in their sermons! Nothing at all from the first two. And nothing very important from the last one. Their sermons just didn’t speak to me. They didn’t inspire me. They didn’t challenge me. They didn’t convict me of my sin.

That is where the root of our problem lies – in the preaching! Unless our preaching changes there is no hope – none at all – for our churches! I just read an article in the February 2014 Banner of Truth magazine by John J. Murray. He gave seven points on “the condition from which we need deliverance.” I agree with all the points he gave, but I disagree with the order in which he gave them. He gave “powerful preaching” as the seventh thing that needs to change. I disagree. I think it is the first thing. He said we need to be delivered from “the lack of powerful preaching.” He said, “Preaching is not popular today.” Why not? Because it is boring. It’s as simple as that! He said, “There is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Why is there a famine of hearing? Because the preaching is boring. It’s as simple as that. But why is today’s preaching so boring? There are several reasons.

First, most preachers have never been “called to preach.” We don’t even say it is being “called to preach” anymore. And many preachers are not even converted. And those who are converted have usually not been called to preach. They have no burden, no fear, no anointing, no compassion for the lost. Most of them don’t even know the difference between teaching and preaching! Dr. Timothy Lin was my pastor for many years. He said that a seminary professor made this remark, “Teaching and preaching are exactly the same.” Dr. Lin said, “As a seminary professor, he could not even tell the difference between teaching and preaching. Can his students preach then? The answer is a clear ‘no’” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 20).

Listen to John MacArthur. Is he preaching? Listen to John Piper. Is he preaching? Listen to David Jeremiah, or Paul Chappell, or Bill Hybels, or Rick Warren, or Charles Stanley. Are they preaching? Do they even know what preaching is? Some of them are good men. Yes, they are good men, but I don’t think they know what real preaching is. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “What is preaching? Logic on fire! Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 97). Are the men I mentioned on fire? Have they ever even heard a preacher who is on fire? The only man like that on radio is a man who has been dead for about 30 years! Who preaches like Oliver B. Greene today? Yes, “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire” – a man like Luther, a man like Whitefield, a man like Howell Harris, like Daniel Rowland, like W. P. Nicholson, like Dr. John Sung, like Spurgeon, like McCheyne, like John Cennick or John Knox.

In the same Banner of Truth magazine was an article on John Knox (pp. 29, 30). The article said Knox preached “with power.” “The sermon was delivered with the force of a lightning bolt from heaven.” The article concluded by saying, “If the church is to see another Reformation in these days, there must be a new generation of such fiery preachers...Like Knox of old, they must herald the full counsel of God, [whether it is] popular or not, without stuttering or stammering.” Spurgeon said, “John Knox’s gospel is my gospel; that which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again” (Autobiography, vol. 1, p. 162).

Away with these men who put us to sleep with their soft words and feminine touch! They bore us! They bore us to death! No wonder our young people hate to hear them! “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire!” Who are they afraid of? Think now! They must be afraid of somebody! Who is it? I will tell you who these modern preachers are afraid of. They are afraid of the carnal middle-aged ladies who run their churches. How do they run them? “If you preach like that we won’t come back!” I know how that works! They tried it here! I just kept on preaching the way I always did – until I outlasted them! John Knox was not afraid of Bloody Mary – and we must not be afraid of the carnal lady organist or the carnal lady Sunday School superintendent! I think we should preach them out – and then the young people will come in! That will not be boring! That will get the young people’s attention! And in the end we have a group of young people who are on fire for God – like we have here this Sunday morning! Stop being afraid and preach like John Knox!

Preaching isn’t just giving out information! Away with today's so-called “expository sermons.” Away with them! Dr. Lloyd-Jones only preached on one or two verses, like the Puritans did. He said, “The preacher is not in the pulpit merely to give knowledge and information to people. He is to inspire them, he is to enthuse them, he is to enliven them and send them out glorifying in the Spirit” (The Puritans, p. 316).

“Preaching,” said “the Doctor,” “is designed to do something to people” (Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, p. 85). What should preaching do to the people? Well, first, it should make them either angry or afraid! Angry because you are telling them that they have filthy, rebellious hearts! Angry because you are telling them that they are not so smart and so smug as they think they are. Are they unbelievers because they are smart? There’s not one of them as smart as Dr. Chan. There’s not one of them as smart as Dr. Cagan. And there’s not one of them as smart as me, in my own way, and I know it. That’s why I am not afraid of them! Ron Reagan went on TV last week and said, “I’m Ron Reagan. I’m a life-long atheist. And I’m not afraid of burning in hell.” Does that slimy, sick, ballet dancer really think he is smarter than his father, President Reagan? He will never hold a candle to his father. He can stick his finger in his dead father’s eye, but he will never be the writer, the public speaker, the leader of the free world, the greatest president in the second half of the 20th century, that his father was! He will never, ever rise above being a weird ballet dancer (that’s what he was) – a has-been ballet dancer who can only make money off of his dead father’s name! No, they are not unbelievers because they are smart. They are unbelievers because they will not face the fact that they have an evil heart of unbelief, a twisted rebellion against the God who made them! “Don’t say that! You’ll scare them off!” Well, I might scare one off, but it will scare two in – so we’ll come out one ahead! If I don’t preach like this nobody will be saved. In my preaching I have to tell you that your heart is dirty, unclean, weird, and rebellious! Yes, and I have to tell you that Jesus Christ said you will go to Hell for your sins. Ron Reagan isn’t afraid of Hell because he is such a complete fool that he thinks he is smarter than the Lord Jesus Christ, and the President of the United States of America. You can’t help a fool like him. That “fool has said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). He’s too old to be a ballet dancer anymore. He can only make money by ridiculing his father’s faith. What a scum bag! He’s beginning to look like an old woman! A carnal scum bag!

There is a Hell waiting for those whose hearts are set in rebellion against God! The Lord Jesus Christ said,

“Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:13, 14).

Yes, there is a fiery Hell awaiting those who are too rebellious to trust the Lord Jesus Christ!  

But “[God] is not willing that any should perish” (II Peter 3:9). And that is why He sent His only begotten Son to die in the place of sinners, as a substitute, dying on the Cross to pay the price for our sins.

And that takes us back, at last, to our text. The Apostle John was given a vision of Paradise. And there he saw “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues [who] stood before the throne, and before the Lamb... These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). Those in Heaven have been made clean by the Blood of Jesus, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Dr. Andrew Murray (1828-1917) said,

I can meet death with full confidence – I have a right to heaven... Who are they who will find a place before the throne of God? “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”...Do not deceive yourselves by a hope of heaven if you have not been cleansed by that precious blood. Do not dare to meet death without knowing that Jesus Himself has cleansed you by His blood (Andrew Murray, D.D., The Power of the Blood of Jesus, CLC Publications, 2003 edition, p. 221).

I challenge you this morning to trust Jesus. The moment you put your trust in Him alone you are washed clean by His Holy Blood! That is when you become a real man! That is when you become a soldier of the cross!

Listen to the words of some recent converts in our church. These are real young people who are here this morning. A young woman gave this testimony,

“Will you trust Jesus?” Dr. Hymers asked me. “Kneel down and trust Him.” I did. I trusted Him. I threw myself on Jesus. Jesus loves me! Jesus loves me! There was no more questioning and no longer a need to feel assurance...Jesus loves me! He bled and died on the Cross for me, to pay the penalty for my sin...Amazing love! I thank God for drawing me to His beloved Son. I love Jesus because He first loved me.

Here is another one, from a college-age boy,

The morning I was saved, Dr. Hymers preached on how Satan blinds those who are without Christ. He said one of the ways that Satan does that is by working inside the mind of a lost person and making him think that he must have a feeling of assurance so he will have something to say to the counsellor. I thought to myself, “That’s me! That’s exactly what I have been thinking”...I had been going in circles and never once looked up to Christ. There life was, waiting for me, and yet I refused to risk myself on Him... How could I spurn Him again? How could I hold on to my sin and not look to Jesus? the One who loved my soul? Oh, how desperately I needed Him to take the load of sin from me. How the darkness of my heart contrasted with the pure beauty of Jesus and His righteousness...I did not wait to listen to the lies of Satan. I knew I needed Jesus then and there. I must not wait! To wait was to stay in bondage, to remain a slave of Satan. I had to go to Jesus for cleansing from sin. So I went to Him!... Praise be to God that He gave His Son, Jesus, to rescue me and pardon my sin with His Blood!

And here is one more. These are all real young people. One of them was raised in this church. The other two are college-age young people who were brought to our church to hear the Gospel. Here is one from a young man who had never been to church before we brought him in. He said,

      I thought little of the world as to what it will become ever since high school. I lived my life just passing by. Graduate from school, get a good career and start a family. That was my ideal future but it was all meaningless to me. At that time, I had no specific religious beliefs – only those that I thought were of good morals. Different religions were an interesting topic for me as well. However, Jesus was just a religious figure to me at that time. His crucifixion was just mere words in a story.       
      After hearing the Gospel, I began to wonder who Jesus is. In my sinful nature, I tried to study how to be saved through reading the Bible and watching every person. Each time I tried to trust in Jesus was a failure, and the times when I thought I was saved were only me trying to save myself. Jesus seemed further away every day. The further I tried to catch up, the longer the distance was between Him and me.       
      On June 7, 2015, I was told by Dr. Cagan and Dr. Hymers that I was still lost. I had been told several times how lost I was before but it was different this time. God was there. My sins started to cause heaviness within my heart as I had never felt before, and I hated myself for rejecting Jesus again and again. I had lost all hope of myself, but at that moment, a miracle happened. Jesus was real! His loving sacrifice was all I could think about as I shed tears, prayed and thanked Him for His love. He let Himself be tortured and shed his Blood on the Cross to wash away my sins. It is astonishing how much love He poured out upon us sinners. No one else would do that but Jesus. And all He asks in return is to simply trust Him. Oh, how amazing it is to know Jesus. I am no longer lonely, for I have Him to speak to. I am no longer wandering, for He is guiding me. He is my friend, my God and Saviour.

And now, my friend, will you trust Jesus and be cleansed from all your sin by His Blood? When you trust the Saviour you will be able to sing,

It tells me of a Saviour’s love, Who died to set me free;
   It tells me of His precious blood, The sinner’s perfect plea.
Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus,
   Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me!
(“Oh, How I Love Jesus” by Frederick Whitfield, 1829-1904).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Revelation 7:9-17.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Oh, How I Love Jesus” (by Frederick Whitfield, 1829-1904).