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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. John Samuel Cagan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 28, 2018

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).

Many people say that Christians must believe certain things – but they can’t know them. Our text this morning says they are wrong. Again, there are many people who say that nobody can tell who is a Christian and who is not. Our text this morning says that they are also wrong.

There are certain things that a Christian can know for sure. We can know for sure many of the things we believe. And we can know for sure whether we are truly converted – or if we are still lost. This last problem is what the text speaks of directly. When I was attending a secular university the professors often made fun of Christians for believing things they could not know. But those professors could only say that because they did not know! They could not honestly say what we know – because they were not Christians themselves. Just because they did not know certain things does not mean we do not know them. If a blind man says I can’t see because he can’t see he is giving a false assumption. It is true he can’t see, but that does not give him the right to say that I can’t see! He can only speak for himself. He may be blind, but that does not mean I am blind. Whether they agree with us or not, there are some things we as Christians know that they do not know. There are things about God, and about the future, and about conversion that we do not just imagine. We know these things and are sure of them. We have tasted them and experienced them. We know these things are surely as we know our own existence.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).

I. First, we know that we were once dead in sin.

That is given in the text: “We know that we have passed from death unto life.” Many people think that those of us with Christian parents, who grew up in the church, don’t need to be converted. They grow up to be little angels because they were raised in Christian homes. I myself know that they are wrong. Both of my parents are very good Christians. I was raised here in this church. I never missed church on Sunday as a child. Yet I was full of anger and rebellion. I deliberately made friends with those who hated God. I had no respect for my father or Dr. Hymers. I laughed at what they said. I did not believe anything they preached. Although I was raised in this church by Christian parents, I was not a “little angel.” I was a little devil. I know by my own experience, that the heart of every child born in the church is completely depraved. My own heart was “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). I followed “the imagination of [my] evil heart” (Jeremiah 18:12). I hated living in a Christian house. I thought that my father and my pastor were fools for believing the Bible.

Like every unconverted child, I was completely dead spiritually. When I heard about Hell, I quickly thought about something else. I hung out with other boys like me. We did not care about Jesus suffering. We thought He was just a religious zealot who was killed because He made people angry. We did not like to hear the Gospel preached. We looked at the floor or at another person during the preaching. We could hardly wait to get out of church so we could talk dirty and make fun of those who were Christians. We wanted marijuana, not Christ. We dreamed about sex, not about Heaven. Jesus did not attract us at all. We did not believe in His existence. We did not feel any need at all for Jesus and His Blood. We thought it was strange and weird when the people in church sang about being “washed in the Blood of the Lamb.” If you had told me that I would one day be a preacher, I would have told you that you were crazy. We did not pray. When others were praying, we thought about other things. We could hardly wait to get out of church so we could play basketball. Basketball was important. Prayer was for old ladies and fools. Rottenness was in my very soul. My lost friends were as spiritually dead as I was. Our thoughts and words were full of obscenity and blasphemy. It was in everything we thought and did. I know that I was dead because I was rotten. I was dead before God and offensive to my father and the good Christians in the church.

Let those of you who are now converted remember how it was with you. You can be certain of one thing – you know that you were dead! Ask Aaron Yancy. Ask Jack Ngann. Ask Noah Song. Ask Lara Chan. Ask Baiyang Zhang. Ask Sheila Ngann. Every one of them will tell you, “I remember when I was dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Rowland Hill was a bad boy who was converted – and became a great preacher. One day an old man sat looking for a long time at the preacher’s face, at the strange look about his eyes. The preacher said to him, “What are you looking at?” The old man said, “I am looking at the lines in your face.” The preacher said, “What do you think of them?” The old man said, “Oh, I was thinking about what a bad man you would have become if it had not been for the grace of God.” Some of the Christians here this morning must be thinking, “What a great sinner I would have become if the grace of God had not converted me.”

II. Second, we know that we have been changed.

The text says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life.” “From death unto life.” We expected to pass “from life unto death.” But I and my fellow Christians have not gone from life to death! There has been such a change in us that we know it is supernatural. Such a change would never have happened to us unless Christ had changed us. One of the greatest proofs of the power of Christ consists in Jesus turning us from darkness to light – and from the power of Satan unto God! In my written testimony I said, “My faith rests in Jesus, for He has changed me.” I know that some unbelievers read that and said, “I have heard that before. I will wait and see if Jesus really changed John Cagan.” Well now you have waited for nine years. Now you have heard me pray. Now you have heard me preach. Now you have seen how much I respect my father and Dr. Hymers. Now you have seen how much I love the brothers and sisters in our church. You cannot honestly doubt it any more. Now you have seen that it is true. “My faith rests in Jesus, for He has changed me!” And because He has changed me, I know He can change you too! Look at Noah Song. Not too long ago he was just a foolish boy, fooling around in the church, waiting to play another game of basketball. Not serious at all. Now he is a wonderful preacher. I heard him preach all over Africa a few weeks ago. Dr. Hymers heard his brother say, “I can’t believe my brother is a preacher!” To be honest, neither can I! It seems impossible – because it is impossible! It is a miracle of sovereign grace! It is a miracle of God!

It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
But when He saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!
   (“It Took a Miracle” by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).

We know we have been changed!

III. Third, we know something else.

We know that we live. “We know that we have passed from death unto life.” In that new life we have no condemnation. The Bible says,

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The person who has trusted Jesus can never be condemned. All his sins were atoned for by Christ when He died in our place on the Cross. All of his sins have been purged and cleansed by the Blood Jesus shed on the Cross.

I know that sounds like just a bunch of words to some of you. But not to me! I remember being afraid to go to sleep – afraid that I might die in my sleep and go to Hell. I tried not to believe in Hell. But there was always a doubt. What if Hell was real after all? I was always uneasy. Always, in the back of my mind, I wondered if I would be condemned. Now that I have trusted Jesus and been washed clean in His Blood, I never fear being condemned by God. “All things have become new.” Spurgeon said that once a new Christian said to him, “Sir, either all the world has changed, or else I have been changed. People I once liked to be with I am now afraid of. The things that I once enjoyed now make me unhappy – and the things that once made me sad give me great joy.” I don’t just talk about God now. I know Him! I don’t just speak about Jesus. I live with Him. I have now come to know the Blood of Jesus. It has made me clean.

When I was preaching in a church in Africa, a few days ago, a young woman named Ernestine came to see me after I had preached. Through an interpreter she told me that everyone thought she was a Christian. But when I preached she realized she did not know Jesus Christ Himself. She was just trying to be saved by being a good girl. I was happy to lead her to Jesus Christ Himself. I was very glad to see how happy she was after she trusted Jesus and was cleansed by His Blood from all sin. I pray that you will come to Jesus like Ernestine did. All condemnation and fear is gone when you truly trust the Saviour! Then you can say, “We know that we have passed from death unto life.”

IV. Fourth, we know that we live because we love the brethren.

I can say to you without question that if you love God’s people because they are God’s people it is a sign that you have passed from death to life. Can you say, “This is a real Christian. I love him and I love to be with him or her”? Then, this is evidence that you are not of the world. If you were, you would love the sinful people of the world. But when you belong to Jesus, you love those who are His people. You love them more than you love anyone else – even more than you love your unbelieving parents or brothers and sisters in the flesh.

There was a time when I did not love the people in church. I tried to comfort myself by thinking that they were all hypocrites. I certainly did not love Dr. Hymers. I hated to hear him preach. I didn’t want to be around him. Now I love him like the grandfather I never knew. Now I love Mrs. Hymers. Now I love my own father, who I used to think was a fanatic. Now I love and respect him as a true man of God. Now I love everyone in our church because now they are my true brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is a sure sign of conversion when you love to go and pray with a small number of brothers and sisters in a little prayer group. I love them and I want you to love them too. I remember how bad I felt when I was lost. I could hardly wait to get away from the Christians. Now that Jesus saved me I don’t want to go home. I want to stay as long as I can with my brothers and sisters in church. I liked going to Africa to preach. But all the time I was there I truly missed being with you, here in the fellowship of our dear church.

If you are still lost I pity you. I long for you to trust Jesus as I did. I wish for you to have the peace and joy I have in Jesus. I plead with you this morning to trust Jesus, be washed clean from your sins in His precious Blood. Become part of the family of God. For “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Will you turn from your sin and trust Jesus this morning? He will change you. He will save you. He will give you new life through trusting in Him and the Blood He shed for you on the Cross.

It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
But when He saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!

Jesus is ready to do that miracle in your life right now if you will turn away from your sin and doubt and trust the Saviour with all your heart. May God draw you to Jesus for a new and happier life this very morning. Only trust Him. Only trust Him. Only trust Him now. He will save you. He will save you. He will save you now!

If you would like to have us pray for you, please come and sit in the first two rows while the others go upstairs for lunch. Amen.

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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“It Took a Miracle” (by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).



A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).

I.    First, we know that we were once dead in sin, Jeremiah 17:9;
Jeremiah 18:12; Ephesians 2:1.

II.   Second, we know that we have been changed.

III.  Third, we know something else, Romans 8:1.

IV.  Fourth, we know that we live because we love the brethren.