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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 30, 2019

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Corinthians 2:11).

“Devices” is from the Greek word nŏěma. It means the ‘thoughts’, ‘schemes’ and ‘tricks’ of Satan. The Apostle says, “we.” “We are not ignorant of his devices.” That refers to himself and Timothy (II Corinthians 1:1). “We” – the two of them, “are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.”

But many preachers today are in fact very ignorant of Satan’s devices. I have never heard a Baptist preacher give a sermon on demons, other than my Chinese pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin. Dr. Lin was a brilliant Bible commentator, one of the translators of the NASB and a professor at BJU and Talbot Seminary. Dr. Lin said, “[Satan] employs his evil schemes with all his might towards restraining people from believing in Jesus” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 95). If that doesn’t work, the Devil will try to cause trouble in the church, to confuse the new Christians and keep them from becoming disciples of Jesus. Thus, church splits are the work of Satan and his demons! Every one I’ve seen!!!

Dr. Merrill F. Unger taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years. Dr. Unger said, “When unable to keep [his] victims from contact with [Jesus] [Satan] resorts to the next device, to further [his] detestable plans. [Satan] strikes at the very foundations of Christian unity” (Biblical Demonology, Kregel, 1994, p. 175). Thus, Satan and his demons are the spiritual force behind most church splits in our churches today. Dr. Thomas Hale said, “Members of the church...must stand united together in Christ. [This is] the chief means of blocking Satan’s schemes for dividing the church” (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1996, p. 696).

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The Apostle Paul said this to the leaders of the church at Ephesus,

“I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves [church members] shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Even from within, leaders of the church, false teachers and false prophets shall rise up. This happens in most church splits.

In our own church, a man named Chan got about thirty people to follow him in a church split recently. Chan did this out of bitter jealousy. He had been a deacon in our church for many years. But he wanted to be the main preacher and leader of our church. I would gladly have let him do that, so I could go and start another church. There was only one problem – Chan had no preaching ability and he was not able to lead people to Christ! He was too timid and fearful. I gave him a large class of Orientals in our church to teach, to test him. But after over six years he had not led one person to Christ! Not one! in over six years of teaching that class! Not only so, but he even lost some people that were given him! Not only couldn’t he preach, he also could not take care of the people given to him!

After six years of fruitless ministry, I finally took Chan aside and told him, “Brother, you are a good man, but you cannot preach or lead people to Jesus.” Chan said he agreed with me and resigned from that position.

But secretly Chan became a bitter and jealous man. The Bible says,

“Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

Dr. Hale said, “Sin is like a bitter root, which makes the whole tree bitter. Sin in our life makes our whole life impure. Sin in the church makes the whole church impure; and in so doing, it will defile many” (The Applied New Testament Commentary, p. 924).

Chan kept his bitterness secret. He pretended to be my friend. But when I was weakened by cancer, his bitterness started to show itself. He began to gather a group of immature people around him. And one day he left our church and took them with him.

This hurt me deeply because he pretended to be my friend. I took him to lunch every Tuesday before he split our church. He never mentioned what he was planning to do. Now he is leading his little group. They are a confused little group, and our church is saddened by their departure. Chan, in the secret bitterness of his heart, has done great damage to the cause of Christ. Dr. Unger said, “The Scripture views the destruction or impairment of Christianity as one of the chief disasters and calamities of demonic deception” (Unger, ibid., p. 175).

How can we escape from the Satanic trap of a church split? Here are three simple Bible passages that will protect you from being ruined by a church split – if you obey them.

(1) Hebrews 13:17. I will give the NASB for clarity in modern English.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17 NASB).

Dr. Charles C. Ryrie points out that these church “leaders” are the pastors (see v. 7), not anyone else. Only the pastors. Not a deacon, not an assistant to the pastor, not “friends,” not anyone but the pastors.

(2) Romans 16:17-18; I Corinthians 1:10.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).

(3) I Corinthians 15:58.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

In my autobiography I listed many of the spiritual fights, and church splits, I have had to deal with in my 61 years of ministry. I now realize that these church problems were demonic in their sources. But what I did not realize then was how to get out of the undertow of depression I experienced after the problem was over.

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices,” (“schemes” and “tricks”).

In the late 1970s I began working with Hippies who became interested in Christianity through the “Jesus Movement.” Since virtually all of them had heavily smoked marijuana, and taken even stronger drugs, many of them were demonized. Each time I led the church through one of their attacks, I felt horrible for weeks afterwards. Keep in mind that I have mild “mood swings” even in the best of times. After one of these “attacks” my mood would sink so low that I could not smile or preach very well. But over time I learned to overcome this, or at least control it.

This time was worse than any other. I was 78 years old, and a recent cancer patient. Chan’s split took out two of my closest friends! One of them was a young seminary student who was being prepared to replace me, so I could retire. Others were the biggest givers in the church. So we lost my friends, half of our weekly offerings, and a great many key people, about 30 of them. I was sure we had lost the church! My mind was clouded by despair and fear!

But I had learned to overcome this type of depression. Here is what I did. You can use this method to get yourself through almost any setback or failure. Turn to Isaiah 40:31.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

First “wait.” Just waiting will often be the first step in overcoming depression. I knew from past experience to “wait.” Second, “wait for the Lord.” The ESV translates “upon” as “for.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait [for] the Lord...and he shall strengthen thine heart.” Give God time to answer you and help you. “They that wait [for] the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” They shall “mount up,” “run,” “walk and not faint.” Give God time and He will “renew [your] strength,” and you will “mount up,” run, and walk in renewed strength. That happens to me every time I am confronted by depression, and think I can’t do the ministry anymore. Right now, as I write this, God is renewing my strength, and I am beginning to know in my soul, that God will help me in the new ministry He has called me to do.

If you feel defeated by Satan, remember Isaiah 40:31. Also, remember God’s promise to real Christians in Philippians 4:13,

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

That is my “life verse.” As you wait for the Lord, He will give you new strength that you never knew you had. Relying on Christ’s power (“dunamis,” from which we get the word “dynamite”) you will be enabled to face all problems with contentment. You will learn the “secret” of power. If you rest in Christ, He will soon strengthen you to meet every problem and come through it victoriously! I have learned this by experience. That is why Philippians 4:13 is my “life verse.” Every time I write my name, I put Philippians 4:13 under it!

Of course, all of this depends on whether or not you are saved. I pray that you will turn away from sin – and turn to Jesus. Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. Jesus shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from all sin. Trust Jesus and He will save you from sin and judgment. And be sure to stay in the same church where you were converted.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

Please stand and sing hymn number four. If you would like Jesus to save you from sin and judgment, please come and stand at the front while we sing hymn number four, “Just As I Am.”

Just as I am, without one plea,
   But that Thy Blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
(“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).