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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, June 24, 2018

“The Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2).

It’s a simple story. But it is a highly important story. Gideon was a young man who lived in a time of great apostasy. That should grab our attention right away because we live right now in the great end-time apostasy.

I. First, the apostasy.

The people of Israel did evil in the sight of God. And God punished them by letting them become slaves of the Midianites. They were the enemies of Israel. The people of Israel retreated from these savage Midianites. They hid themselves in caves from the godless Midianites. The Midianites were so strong that they destroyed the Israelites’ crops. They stole their sheep and oxen and donkeys. Israel was crushed and hopeless. Then they cried unto the Lord.

Then God came to Gideon. God came to him while he was hiding from the Midianites. And God said to Gideon, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12).

I was not a mighty man of valor when I went to a liberal, Bible-rejecting seminary north of San Francisco. I was a meek and mild Baptist preacher boy. But what I saw in that seminary caused me to become very angry with modern evangelicalism. They did not believe in the God of the Bible. They were controlled by the Midianites – those who wanted to put God in a straitjacket – those who didn’t want God to control their thoughts or their lives.

Dr. David F. Wells has written a significant book on the corruption of evangelicalism in our time. It is called, No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Eerdmans, 1993). Dr. Wells is an angry man. He says, “The evangelical world has lost its radicalism” (p. 295). Evangelical churches do not inspire young people to be radical Christians. They are soft, weak, and selfish – afraid to speak out for fear of what people will think of them. The evangelical establishment will fight anyone who wants to see the churches reformed and alive today. Dr. Wells said, “Conformity is a powerful force in the evangelical world, and it quickly stifles lone dissenters” (p. 295).

They tried desperately to get me to conform to their unbelief at the seminary I attended. They told me I would never get a Southern Baptist church if I kept on defending the Bible. I told them, “If that’s what it costs, I don’t want one.”

I lost everything for taking that stand. What did I have to lose? I had lost everything that mattered to me already. The Southern Baptists no longer had anything I wanted. I hated the denomination. I hated the seminary. I hated my church for not supporting me. I hated my life. I hated everything but Jesus and the Bible. I walked alone in the night. I had to keep walking or it felt like I would lose my mind.

One night I finally drifted off to sleep in my dorm room. God Himself woke me. The dormitory was quiet. Not a sound. I walked out into the night. As I stood on a hill beside the seminary I could see the lights of San Francisco across the water of the bay. The wind blew through my hair and through my clothes. I was chilled to the bone. And in the wind God said to me, “You will never forget this night. Now you will preach only to please me. Now you will learn not to be afraid. Now you will speak for me alone. I will be with you.”

Now I know that was my call to preach. Before that I was a volunteer. Now I was a God-called preacher. I believe that every fearless preacher must go through a similar crisis before God can trust him to speak the truth. There was no emotion. Only this, “If you don’t say it no one will, and it desperately needs to be said – and others are afraid to say it, so if you don’t say it, no one will, or at least they will not say it very well.” I went to be with those thoughts stamped on my mind forever. Dr. A. W. Tozer, in an essay called “The Gift of Prophetic Insight,” said this: “He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom... But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.” Perhaps that is why Dr. Bob Jones III said I am “like an Old Testament prophet in manner and spirit.” For a further explanation of all this, read my autobiography, “Against All Fears.”

That midnight experience with God made me understand a man like Gideon. God told him, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Although I am certainly not Gideon, I at least understand him now. Gideon said, “The Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6:13).

Gideon felt unworthy and unable to do this. Like Moses, Gideon made excuses. Here we are, my friends, in the midst of the great apostasy of the last days. We feel unworthy and unable to fight off the false religion of the new-evangelical Midianites. The apostasy is too deep. The power of the evangelical Midianites is too great. We can’t do anything to save the Bible and the God of the Bible from these apostates.

II. Second, the God of the Bible is still alive!

God said, “I am the Lord, I change not”! (Malachi 3:6). Then the Spirit of God came upon Gideon. He sent messengers who gathered the crowds of Israelites to battle against the Midianites.

“Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand” (Judges 7:1-3).

God said to Gideon, “The people that are with thee are too many.” Go and say, “Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart” (Judges 7:3).

There returned twenty-two thousand. Ten thousand remained with Gideon. That is what happened to us. Our church went up to 1,100 people when we met at Le Conte Junior High School. But most of them were afraid to risk their lives for Jesus. Others left our church in pursuit of “fun” – or sex – or drugs. Those who left were described by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower. In Luke 8:10-15 that parable is explained. The first kind of people are those who hear the word of God, and the Devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts “lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). We see that nearly every week. They come in and look at their iPad instead of listening to the sermon. Or they close their eyes and think of something else. The word of God does them no good at all, because they let the Devil pluck the word out of their hearts.

The second kind are those who hear the word with joy. But they have no root in Christ. So they seem to believe for a while. But when they are tempted they fall away.

The third kind of people are those who hear the word and go their way. Then they are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of life, “and bring forth no fruit to perfection.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee was correct when he said these three kinds of people were never converted. They picture all the people who left our church in the past. Their lives show that none of them were truly converted. They just came for the fellowship and the fun we have in church. But when they were tested they left because they never repented and they never were born again. They are a picture of the twenty-two thousand people who came to help Gideon but were too afraid to stick it out and become soldiers of God! And soldiers of the cross!

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2).

But there were still too many people. God said to Gideon, “The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there” (Judges 7:4). It was very hot there “by the hill of Moreh, in the valley” (Judges 7:1). The Israelites were very thirsty. Most of Gideon’s men ran toward the water, bowed down and stuck their hands in the water, as they gulped it down. “And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men” (Judges 7:6). Most of them stuck their hands in the water because they were so thirsty. But only three hundred took the water in their hands and drank from their hands. They knew they had to keep their heads up, on the lookout for Midianites.

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).

That’s as far as we will go with the account of Gideon’s three hundred men tonight. The Midianites were there in the valley, “like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude” (Judges 7:12). That night God delivered the mighty army of the Midianites to Gideon’s three hundred men. The Midianites ran for their lives. And the Israelites took the princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb, and cut off their heads and brought their heads to Gideon (see Judges 7:25). The victory was won by God with a small band of only three hundred soldiers!

Here is the lesson for us tonight. Most churches today are led by men who are only interested in numbers. These are evangelical Midianites. They think it is necessary to have hundreds of people in attendance. And yet they are powerless. It would do a lot of good for such preachers to think about Gideon and his tiny band of faithful soldiers.

Jonathan S. Dickerson has written a great book titled The Great Evangelical Recession (Baker Books). He gave the statistics. Today only 7% of our young people claim to be evangelical Christians. Forty-five percent of evangelical Christians will die in the next twenty years. That means the number of young evangelical Christians will soon drop from 7% to only about “4 percent or less – unless new disciples are generated” (ibid., p. 144).

Why such a drop in the number of young people in the churches? I am convinced it is because they are not challenged by living Christianity. What is our goal? Our goal in this church is to help young people reach their highest potential in Christ. We are here to raise up a group of young people like Gideon’s Army. We are here to help young people come into our church and become disciples of Jesus Christ. The persons we want to enlist in Christ’s army are young people. They are young people who are ready to do something new and challenging. Jesus said,

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Those who are not interested in following Jesus, no matter what it costs, should be weeded out. Those who want to be taken care of like babies are what I call “takers.” Those who are “takers” do not want to deny themselves. They do not want to give anything to Jesus. If you want to be taken care of forever, this is not the church for you.

My wife Ileana came to our church when she was only sixteen years old. Within three weeks she got her own way to church. She didn’t need to be “picked up” after only three weeks. Right away she became a worker in our church. She became a phoner when she was only 17. She married me when she was only 19. When our twin boys were born she brought them to church the very first Sunday. My son Leslie has never missed Sunday church since the day he was born. Wesley has only missed one Sunday due to illness in his entire life. Several other women said that was too much. They kept their children at home whenever they had a slight sniffle. But my wife was right and the others were wrong. Nearly all their children left the church to live a selfish life. My two boys are here in every service to this day. They are here because my wife is a disciple of Christ. Dr. Kreighton L. Chan, who we will honor on his sixtieth birthday in a few minutes, said of Mrs. Hymers, “I knew her when she first came into our church. She had then, and continues to have, great love for Christ and a passion for lost souls. As a [teenager] she threw her life into the ministry of our church and held nothing back...Young people, let Mrs. Hymers be a model to you. If you follow her example, our church will have a bright and glorious future.”

Since we are celebrating Dr. Chan’s sixtieth birthday tonight I should say that he too is a shining example of a disciple of Christ. He is an ordained pastor in our church. He was very sickly as a child. He was so sick that they kept him in a glass cage at the hospital throughout most of his childhood. He came to our church as a teenager studying to be a medical doctor. Other doctors told him he would not live to the age of thirty. He could have become a weak little man that wanted the church to take care of him. But no! He threw himself into the work of the church and became a disciple of Christ. They told him not to exert himself or he would die before the age of thirty. But the work of Christ actually strengthened Dr. Chan. He has lived a good, strong life for thirty years longer than expected. He took up his cross and followed Jesus. And now he sits on this platform as a mighty man of God at the age of sixty!

I could go on and tell you about Mr. Mencia, and Mrs. Salazar, and Mr. Ben Griffith, who is on vacation with his wife tonight. I could tell you about Mr. and Mrs. Virgel Nickell, who loaned us most of the money to purchase this building. Mr. Nickell is 75 years old with diabetes – yet he drives over an hour each way to be in our church every Wednesday night, every Sunday morning, and every Sunday night. Or I could tell you about this amazing young man, Reverend John Samuel Cagan who will soon replace me as the pastor of this church. All of these people have become disciples of Jesus, and soldiers of the cross.

My pastor Dr. Timothy Lin said, “Less is better than more...Seats in every pew may be filled on Sunday, but the fact remains that there are only a handful of people in prayer meeting...We cannot say that is healthy” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 39).

Look through the Bible. You will see again and again that “less is better than more.” Jesus took 11 men and changed the world because His men were willing to die for Him and for His cause. In church history we see the same lesson. Only 120 people were present at Pentecost. Only a few Moravian Christians ignited the modern mission movement. Only a few Methodists, a mere handful, ignited the Great Awakening. Only a few people followed James Hudson Taylor to evangelize the interior of China.

Those who are not willing to give their best for Christ should be weeded out. Those who wanted to be treated like babies forever should be weeded out. Those who never want to move out of their comfort zone should be weeded out. They are perpetual “takers” who never give anything for Christ. If we want to have a church of disciples we must let the “takers” go, that we may have young people who want to challenge the Midianites of soft new-evangelicalism, and change it. We must encourage those who want to make their lives count for Jesus Christ. And we must not encourage those who want us to treat them like babies that never grow up! We must encourage those who want to become disciples of Jesus, and we must let the rest go home as Gideon did!

Please stand and sing hymn number 1 on your song sheet, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Sing it!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before:
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe;
   Forward into battle, see His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
   Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided, all one body we,
   One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
   Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King;
   This through countless ages men and angels sing.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.
(“Onward, Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).

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Solo Sung by Mr. Noah Song Before the Sermon:
      “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“The Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2).

I.   First, the apostasy, Judges 6:12, 13.

II.  Second, the God of the Bible is still alive! Malachi 3:6;
Judges 7:1-3; Luke 8:12; Judges 7:4, 1, 6, 7, 12; Mark 8:34.