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WITH DR. JOHN SUNG AT A LIBERAL SEMINARY

(A SERMON GIVEN AT THE CHINESE MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 23, 2018

“He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).


I have been reading the life of Dr. John Sung, the great Chinese evangelist of the 1930s. In my study of Dr. Sung’s life I discovered several parallels, and some differences, between his life and mine which I think may be of interest to those who read my sermons.

Early Life

There are several differences in my early life from Dr. Sung’s. He was born into a Christian family. I was born into a non-Christian family. My father was a salesman. Dr. Sung’s father was a pastor. Dr. Sung’s father wanted him to become a minister. My father did not want me to be a minister. Dr. Sung was a brilliant student from the beginning, earning a Ph.D. in 21 months as a young man in his mid-twenties at an American university. I, on the other hand, dropped out of high school, struggled to finish it, and went on to fail in Bible school, but was converted just before leaving the school. Dr. Sung was always a brilliant student. He earned his Bachelor’s degree Cum Laude. He earned his Master’s degree in chemistry in just 9 months, and a Ph.D. in chemistry in only 21 months. I was a very poor student until after my conversion. I failed in high school, and I failed the first time I went to college. He was converted when he was in seminary, while I was converted when I entered college the second time. I was converted during a chapel sermon given by Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge at Biola College [now University] at about 10:30 in the morning, on September 28, 1961. Dr. Sung was converted at the end of his first year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. “All For Jesus.” It’s number three on your song sheet! Sing the chorus!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.
   (“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).

Seminary Life

When Dr. Sung was attending the liberal Union Seminary several parallels occurred that made our lives similar. I had been called to the ministry, before my conversion. Like Dr. Sung, I became very interested during this period in evangelizing the Chinese people. After reading a book on the life of James Hudson Taylor, and The Journal of John Wesley, I felt that God was calling me to preach as a missionary in Taiwan or Hong Kong. I began to study the Chinese language in the early 1960s, but broke off my study of Chinese when I started studying at Los Angeles City College. In January of 1961 I joined the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. I was nineteen years old. I had a very heavy schedule during those years of study, attending college at night, while teaching Sunday School, preaching every Sunday to the children in the Junior Church, and serving many hours in other duties on Friday and Saturday at the Chinese Baptist church. I was working full time during the day and attending college at night. With all the work I was doing at the church on the weekends it was a very difficult schedule indeed. I worked and studied 16 hours a day, seven days a week! I had read a book recommended by Vice President Richard Nixon, titled The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. I did not know at the time that Dr. Peale was a liberal. But there was one chapter in his book that made a positive impression on me. In that chapter Dr. Peale said to memorize Philippians 4:13 and claim the promise in it,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Claiming the promise of that verse was one of the turning points in my life. I meditated on Philippians 4:13 every day, and that promise became a reality to me, as Christ gave me strength to finally do well in college, while working full time at the Division of Corporations of the State of California in the mail room, and file room; while carrying a full load of courses at night, and doing all that work at the Chinese Baptist Church on the weekends. I graduated from Cal State L.A. in the spring of 1970. “All For Jesus.” Sing that chorus again! Stand and sing it!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

The First Chinese Baptist Church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. I was told by the Southern Baptists that I must go to seminary to be ordained. Although I had been licensed to preach at the First Southern Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California in September 1960, and had already completed a Bachelor’s degree by 1970, the Southern Baptists would not ordain me unless I went on to complete a three-year Master of Divinity degree at their Seminary. I did not have enough money saved to attend the more conservative Talbot School of Theology at Biola, so the only option I had was to attend Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Marin County, near San Francisco. I knew the school was liberal but the leaders of the First Chinese Baptist Church said it would not harm me because my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin had given me a rather thorough training in conservative theology and Bible during the years I studied under him at the Chinese church.

They meant well in sending me to Golden Gate Seminary, but it was not the best advice. I came very close to leaving the ministry as a direct result of studying at that seminary, which was extremely liberal. When I went to Golden Gate it was a literal hot-bed of extreme liberalism, very similar to Union Theological Seminary in New York, when Dr. Sung went there in the fall of 1926. Union Seminary taught from the same liberal perspective as Golden Gate. Dr. John Sung’s biographer said of Union Seminary,

[John Sung] soon found that the approach to the Bible and to the Christian faith was largely philosophical. Every problem was discussed in the light of human reason. Anything in the Bible which was not justified scientifically was rejected as being unworthy of belief. Genesis was held to be unhistorical and belief in miracles unscientific. The historical Jesus was presented as an ideal to imitate, while the substitutionary value of His death and His physical resurrection were denied. Prayer was rejected as largely [worthless]. To dissent from such views was to become an object of pity and derision (Leslie T. Lyall, A Biography of John Sung: Flame of God in the Far East, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1965 edition, pp. 29-30).

This was exactly what I was taught during my three-year Master of Divinity course at Golden Gate Seminary.

At the seminary, Dr. John Sung lost the childhood beliefs taught to him by his father, who was a pastor. He began studying Buddhism and Taoism, and wondered if the teaching of Lao-Tze might bring him the peace he sought. He translated Lao-Tze’s Tao Teh Ching, and read a paper on the Chinese philosopher to one of his classes. He even started chanting Buddhist scriptures alone in his dormitory room, “hoping that through self denial he might obtain the salvation of which the Buddha spoke…But his own heart remained in darkness” (Lyall, ibid., p. 31).

He said, “‘My soul wandered in a wilderness. I could neither sleep nor eat…My heart was filled with the deepest unhappiness’” (Lyall, p. 31). Click here for the best biography of Dr. Sung, “I Remember John Sung by Rev. William E. Schubert, or go to www.strategicpress.org.

Many of the feelings and experiences Dr. John Sung had at that liberal seminary, I also felt during my third year at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. By the third year I was completely alone, deeply depressed, and seriously contemplating leaving the ministry for good. In all of this, my feelings at that point were very similar to those of John Sung. “All For Jesus.” Stand and sing it again!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

The Change

But there was one major difference. John Sung had not yet been converted. I had experienced a real conversion back in September, 1961. I had come to Christ in a definite way, had been washed in His Blood, and was born again that day at Biola College, several years before.

In a similar state of deep depression, Dr. Sung turned to Christ and was converted. I already knew Christ, but I was so deeply tried and tested by the Devil that I felt I could not go on in the ministry.

Then late one night I woke up with a verse of Scripture going through my mind,

“He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

I got out of bed and looked the verse up in a concordance. God seemed to say to me, “This is for you. You are ‘accepted in the beloved.’ You are accepted because you are ‘in’ my beloved Son, Jesus. No one else accepts you, but I do. You are accepted by me because you are ‘in’ my beloved Son.” I got out of bed, put on my clothes and went out into the night – up to a little flat-topped hill behind the seminary. I go there to that spot every time I am in San Francisco. In the distance, I could see the lights of San Francisco to the Southeast, and Tamalpais Mountain to the West. The icy wind blew through my hair, and God seemed to speak to me again. He said, “Now you will not preach to please man. Now you will preach to please me. Now you are my preacher.” God also told me that I would not do my main work until I was old. I went back to bed, chilled to the bone, knowing that God had called me to preach. “All For Jesus.” Stand and sing it again!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

I will never be a great evangelist like Dr. John Sung, or even a foreign missionary, as I had intended. I wasn’t as intelligent as Dr. Sung. But maybe you will take my place! At the age of 77 I am too old now. But I pray that others here – or in those far off lands of Asia, and the world, will take my evangelistic sermon manuscripts and preach them, standing in my place, preaching my sermons from the Internet, doing what I had wanted to do when I was nineteen years old, back in 1961.

Now, just a word to our young people here tonight. In the Foreword to the recently published Extracts from the Diary of John Sung, Genesis, 2008, Rev. Hwa Young of Malaysia said,

In the past forty years or so of my own adult life, I have seen the churches in Asia grow in numbers and confidence. Increasingly, I sense that God is calling us Asians to play a vital role in the task of proclaiming Christ [throughout the world]. But if the Asian church is to be faithful to this task, there needs to be many who will take to heart what James Denny said and what John Sung so clearly understood…What must emerge is a new generation of Asian Christians, especially among our young people today, who know clearly “that in this present evil world there must be great renunciations [self-denials]. If there are to be great Christian careers,” and dare to live accordingly… especially among the younger generation! May it be a movement of those who know what great [self-denial] means, which will lead to many great Christian careers for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the glory of God (Rev. Hwa Young, The Journal Once Lost: Extracts from the Diary of John Sung, Genesis, 2008, pp. xiv-xv).

“All For Jesus.” Stand and sing it again.

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Renunciation and self-denial begin with conversion. You have to confess your sins and renounce them to be converted. John Sung was a great Christian because he had a great conversion. He had a great conversion because he had great self-denial. He threw his scholar’s medals, and gold fraternity key into the ocean. Although he had a Ph.D. in chemistry, he turned his back on academia and went to preach the Gospel to the people of China and Southeast Asia. John Sung denied himself the pleasures of life he could have had. A few nights before he was converted, God said to John Sung,

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

“All For Jesus.” Sing it!

All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Give up whatever sin is holding you back. Confess your sins to God in detail. May the Holy Spirit deeply convict you of your sin. Renounce the world! Give it up! Give Christ first place in your life. Come to Jesus Christ and be washed clean from all sin by His Blood. Then live for Christ with all your heart and soul and life! Be with us on Saturday night. Be with us every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. Live for Christ with all your heart and soul and life! Click here to read “The Real Conversion of Dr. John Sung.”

Please stand and sing hymn number three on your song sheet, “All For Jesus.”

All for Jesus, all for Jesus! All my being’s ransomed powers:
   All my thoughts and words and doings, All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside;
   So enchained my spirit’s vision, Looking at the Crucified.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Looking at the Crucified;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Looking at the Crucified.

Oh, what wonder! how amazing! Jesus, glorious King of Kings,
   Deigns to call me His beloved, Lets me rest beneath His wings.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Resting now beneath His wings;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Resting now beneath His wings.
(“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).


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 rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (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.

(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“All For Jesus” (by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).