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A TALE OF TWO CHURCHES

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, August 18, 2019

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
(Lamentations 3:27; p. 837 Scofield).


A yoke was a collar of wood that farmers used to hook up an ox so it could pull a plow. A yoke symbolizes subjection, causing a young man to obey someone else.

How you are raised in youth says a great deal about how you turn out as an adult. Psychologists say the years of youth are “formative years.” What happens then forms you for the rest of your life. If you are disciplined and trained as a child, it will help you to be a responsible man or woman. If you are not disciplined, it is hard to grow up and live your life as you should. If your parents let you do whatever you want, you won’t have self control and you won’t make much out of your life. But if you are under your father’s yoke, it will help you when you are older. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837).

Commenting on our text, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says, “[Youth is] the time when his passions are strongest and therefore most need the discipline, which, if established ... then, will hold sway throughout his life.” The commentator Albert Barnes wrote, “By bearing a yoke in his youth, i.e. being called upon to suffer in early age, a man learns...the lesson of silent endurance, and so finds it more easy to be...patient in later years.”

That’s why the baby boomers, the hippie generation born from 1946 to 1969, are not much good. They didn’t have to bear the yoke in their youth. Their mothers let them have whatever they wanted. They didn’t discipline their children. And so the baby boomers went wild. They took drugs. They committed sexual sin. They didn’t want to settle down. They are the most selfish generation our country has ever had. Now they are from 50 to 73 years old. Some of them are in high positions. But they’re still the same as they always were – irresponsible and undisciplined.

Our text says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Today I want to talk about how that applies to our church. I will do that by telling you the story of two churches.

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I. First, the church at Corinth.

The city of Corinth was a trading city. It had two seaports. The city became very wealthy. The Corinthians loved their money. The Bible warns about the love of money. It says,

“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:8-12; p. 1277).

But the Corinthians loved their money, which is the root of all evil.

Corinth was also a city of sin and debauchery, like Las Vegas is today. They worshipped Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sex. The historian Strabo said,

The temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple slaves, prostitutes, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was also on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich; for instance, the ship captains freely squandered their money.

The word “corinthianize” meant “to have promiscuous sex,” and to run around with unsaved girls, etc.

Corinth was full of idolatry. Besides the Greek gods, they had temples to the Egyptian goddess Isis and the Iranian god Mithras. Corinth was a sinful city. It was that way for years before Paul preached there.

Paul went there and founded the church at Corinth. He wrote two letters to that church, I and II Corinthians. There were a minority of real Christians in that church. But sadly, that church showed its culture. Even in the church, many people acted like their culture. They brought their culture into the church. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote to them,

“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; p. 1212).

Why did Paul have to write that? The answer is in the next verse:

“For it hath been declared unto me of you... that there are contentions among you... every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:11, 12; p. 1212).

That church was in a constant state of split and argument. But that’s not all. These people acted like their culture. Paul had to warn them,

“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (I Corinthians 5:11; p. 1216).

This verse proves that those sins were going on in that church. There were “brothers” who were fornicators, covetous, idolaters, railers, drunkards, and extortioners there. If they weren’t, Paul wouldn’t have had to tell the people to stay away from those “brothers.” Again, Paul said,

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9, 10; p. 1216).

These verses in chapter 6 tell us that some of them sinned that way in the past. The verses from chapter 5 tell us that some were still sinning that way in the church! The people brought their culture with them. Our text says,

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
        (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837).

But their youth wasn’t like that, and so they brought their culture and sin into the church.

Finally Paul had to say to them, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5; p. 1239). Most of them weren’t Christians at all!

Did the Corinthians get better? No, their sinful culture stayed with them. Thirty years after Paul was killed by the Emperor Nero, a man named Clement was the pastor of the church at Rome. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians, almost fifty years after Paul wrote to them. Clement told them,

Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then... flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and has become blind in his faith... nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts. (Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 3).

They had fallen deep into sin. But not only that, they made one church split after the other. They had rebelled against their pastors. Those pastors had done nothing wrong, yet the Corinthian church members had put them out. Clement told them,

If we eject from the [pastorate] those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties... It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that...the...church of the Corinthians should... engage in sedition against its [pastors] (ibid., chapters 44 and 47).

Our text says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837). But they didn’t, and so they had a terrible church, built on terrible people from a terrible culture. We have had endless trouble in our church with that kind of people. Brothers and sisters, let’s get out of Corinth and go to somewhere better! We tried the Corinthians for 40 years and more. That’s long enough. Let’s get away from the Corinthians and work with people who can build a church! Let’s go to the Chinese in the San Gabriel Valley!

II. Second, the church in China.

The greatest revival in the history of the world is happening right now in China. It has been going on for about 70 years. Instead of being wiped out by Communist persecution, the house churches in China have grown and thrived. Today there are more than 130 million Christians in China. The churches in China are the best in the world. Through prison and torture, they stand firm. They win others to Christ. Nothing can stop them!

There are two main reasons for this. You know the first, but you may not know the second.

The first reason is the blessing of God Himself. Revival is not a human work. We cannot make it happen. The Psalmist wrote, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6; p. 641). The “thou” here is God. It is God who revives a church. They don’t revive themselves. The prophet Habakkuk knew that only God could send revival. That’s why he prayed, “O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years” (Habakkuk 3:2; p. 957). It was God who could revive the work, and God alone!

The 70-year revival in China is not a work of man. It didn’t happen because of some clever tricks. They had no book besides the Bible. Sometimes they had no Bibles, or only part of one. They had no money. They had no computers. But they had GOD. And God did infinitely more than man could do. God sent the greatest revival in history!

But there is a second reason why the Chinese build good churches. That reason is in our text,

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
        (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837).

If anyone has borne the yoke in their youth, it’s the Chinese people. For 2,500 years they have lived under the philosophy of Confucius (Kung Fu-Tse). He taught them to respect authority. He taught them to control themselves. He taught them to treat others well, saying, “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself.” He was one of the most important people in Chinese history. Confucius taught them our text,

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
        (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837).

Those teachings are deep in the culture of China. It is deep in the memory and DNA of the people. They don’t go against their fathers. They respect their teachers – including their pastors. They work. They behave themselves. They are the kind of people who can build a good church.

And there is another “teacher” the Chinese have had. For seventy years they have been under the power of Communism. It was very strict. The Communists made everyone obey them. Everyone had to wear the same clothes. Everyone had to believe what the Communists said. Everyone had to do what they were told. If someone said a different word, or did anything different, that person was instantly put into prison or even killed. They learned to obey because they were forced to obey.

The Communists were not Christians. They were cruel. But they did something for the Chinese people. On top of what Confucius taught, the Communists made the Chinese people into a “trust and obey” society. They weren’t rebellious people. They knew how to obey. They didn’t expect much, for they didn’t have much. And they built a country that grew and grew. Today it is one of the two strongest countries in the world. Soon it will pass America and be number one, if it hasn’t already. Without knowing it, the Communists taught the people our text,

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
       (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837).

The Chinese people are not like the Corinthians. The Chinese people can build a good church, because they have borne the yoke of discipline in their youth. They have carried it for generation after generation, down from Confucius and underlined by the Communists. And the sovereign and Almighty God has chosen to bless the Chinese people with revival. Leave Corinth and bring a Chinese person!

Someone may think, “Let’s go and win ‘the Chinese’!” There are many thousands of them in the San Gabriel Valley – that’s true. But we won’t win them thousands at a time. We won’t win them by processing hundreds of names with nobody actually coming into the church, as the apostate Chan does. Each person is important. Each person must be saved on his own. Each person must come into the church and trust Jesus by himself, one at a time.

When the thief on the cross trusted Jesus, Christ told him, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43; p. 1111). He didn’t say that to the other thief, or to the Roman guards. He didn’t say that to the whole world. He said it to the one man who trusted Him. That thief was converted. Nobody else was saved right then.

You can’t win any souls by going after a whole group at once. Doing that would keep you busy. It would make you feel like you did something. But it would not bring anyone into the church. It would not win anyone to Christ. All that activity would come to nothing. We’ve seen it. So I don’t say, “Get hundreds of Chinese names to phone, so we can have visitors.” I say, “Bring in one Chinese person.” You can bring in one Korean or Japanese person too, for the teachings of Confucius have taught them as well. But especially bring in one Chinese person. Each person has a name. Each person has a soul. Each person will decide to come into the church by himself. Each person must trust Jesus by himself and for himself. Bring in one Oriental person. You go and talk to him. Tell him about Jesus. Bring him to church and sit with him. Go visit him at his home. Be nice to him. Bring one Oriental in!

Some of you are sitting here today, but you aren’t really behind our church. You sit here, but you haven’t trusted Jesus. Christ shed His Blood on the Cross to wash away your sin, but you don’t think about Him much. Your sin doesn’t mean much to you. Jesus doesn’t mean much to you. But if you trust Him, He will forgive your sin and save you forever. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please come and stand at the front of the room now. Please stand and sing hymn number 10.

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, and waiting not
   To rid my soul of sin’s dark blot,
To Thee whose Blood can cleanse each spot,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, though tossed about,
   With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
(“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).


THE OUTLINE OF

A TALE OF TWO CHURCHES

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”
(Lamentations 3:27; p. 837 Scofield).

I.   First, the church at Corinth, I Timothy 6:8-12,
I Corinthians 1:10, 11, 12; 5:11; 6:9, 10;
II Corinthians 13:5.

II.   Second, the church in China, Psalm 85:6; Habakkuk 3:2;
Luke 23:43.