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THE PLAGUE OF YOUR OWN HEART

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, January 12, 2020

“If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (I Kings 8:37-40; p. 398 Scofield).


I am lifting out these words from verse 38, “which shall know every man the plague of his own heart.” Solomon says that plagues and troubles come. He says that through these troubles “each man is brought to know the plague of his own heart” (Ellicott). The prophet Jeremiah said,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
        (Jeremiah 17:9; p. 790).

A man or woman can examine themselves, and yet miss the “plague of their own heart.” I think that this plague of the heart refers to a person’s weak spot. And it is at this “weak” spot that Satan works. When Satan examined Peter he found cowardice. When Satan examined Judas, he found love of money. Satan found the plague of the heart in those two men, and he ruined Judas and almost ruined Peter.

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The strange thing about this weakness, this plague of the heart, is that hardly anyone will admit that he has it. No one likes to hear about the inner spot of weakness in his character. All men and women put on false faces and pretend that they have no weak spot, no plague in their heart. They even hide it from themselves – and they try to hide it from God too. But in a time of crisis this heart plague shows itself; even then we try to excuse it and hide it from others, and from God. But the plague of the heart comes out in the open during a time of trial or stress.

Look what it did to Cain! Do you think he was altogether bad? His own parents, Adam and Eve, didn’t know the plague of jealousy in his heart. Surely Cain had a normal human affection for his younger brother, Abel. But one day the plague of his heart came out in the open. The Apostle John said, “Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And [why] slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous” (I John 3:12; p. 1323). He was jealous of his brother! It was jealousy in the heart of Cain that caused him to murder his brother, Abel.

See the recent tragedy of Kreighton Chan. He did not have the ability to be a preacher. He even admitted it to Dr. Cagan, on September 15, 2016. Chan wrote to Dr. Cagan,

      I believe that if God calls a man to be a pastor He would equip him for that office. Therefore God could not have called me to become a pastor…I now accept that I have not been called by God to be a pastor.

But, in the plague of his heart, he was jealous of me. And he was deeply jealous of John Samuel, who had the gifts of preaching and counselling that Chan did not have. I recently saw a photograph of Dr. Chan, standing beside John Samuel and me. His very face showed the jealousy in the plague spot of his heart – green with envy!!! That is why Chan plotted and schemed to destroy both me and John Samuel. The ugly plague-spot in his heart came out at last – and he started another church, and nearly destroyed this one, but for the grace of God.

Then, there was John Samuel himself. He definitely had a God-given gift to preach the Gospel. When we sent him to India, John’s preaching converted ten Hindus, who went on to be baptized as Christians! There can be no question that John Samuel is a God-called preacher. But he failed. Why did he fail? Because he failed to see that he was “a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (I Timothy 3:6; p. 1275), and worst of all, John was “greedy of filthy lucre” (I Timothy 3:3). That was the plague in John’s heart. He wanted the so-called security of becoming a lawyer. So he ran after money, and the security that would give him. He failed because he forgot that “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” (I Timothy 6:9; p. 1277). Look what the lust for money did to Judas, who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver!

But I have not given up on John yet. Because the Bible says, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29; p. 1206). I write an email to him once a week to try to salvage him for the work of Christ. I pray that God will show him the plague of his own heart! I pray that he will repent and be restored!

Then, there was Achan (Joshua 7; pp. 265-266). He was outwardly a good man. He was so good and decent that no one discovered that he was the one that stole the gold of the Babylonians, thus disobeying God’s command. There seemed to be nothing wrong with Achan. But he had a plague-spot in his heart. He lusted for gold and the security it would bring him. His face must have turned pale when they found out his sin and stoned him to death, at God’s command. They stoned him to death in the Valley of Achor. They put a pile of stones over his bones so that all generations could see what the inner plague of the heart can do to a man who refuses to repent!

Then there was Herod. He used to listen to John the Baptist preach (Mark 6:14-28; p. 1052). He would send for John the Baptist to preach to him. He was afraid of the Baptist, but he never repented of the plague-spot in his heart. One night, before all his friends, a girl danced for him. She flirted with him as she danced, and old Herod offered her anything she asked for. She asked for the head of John the Baptist. He sent the executioner, who brought in the head of John the Baptist! Do you think he meant to murder a prophet like the Baptist? No! But in a moment of weakness the plague-spot of sexual lust was revealed. He never meant to do it, but he didn’t deal with the plague of his own heart!

Aaron was a friend of mine. He was our chairman of the deacons. But, like Herod, he had a weak spot of lust he had never dealt with. He took photographs of a pornographic nature with a woman. He put them on his website so he could look at them. One of Chan’s people tried to blackmail me by saying I agreed with his pornography. The police were involved, and Aaron and his wife left our church. He was ruined because he never dealt with the lust that plagued his own heart!

Then too, there was the “mixed multitude,” the people who followed Chan and left our church. Why did they follow him and leave? They seemed to be such nice young people. Personally I don’t think all of them were lost. I do not believe that for a minute. Chan’s son likes to say that I teach that everyone who leaves our church is lost. But it is a lie. I have never said that because it is not what I believe. I challenge Chan’s son to go through my sermon manuscripts and tapes and prove that I said that.

This is a teaching that is hidden from an unconverted man. Yes, I have quoted I John 2:19 (p. 1322). But that verse, in context, refers to what was said in verse 18, “even now many antichrists have come.” “They went out from us…” (v. 19). John MacArthur is correct when he says that verse 19 refers to “antichrists, i.e. false teachers and deceivers.” Dr. MacArthur goes on to say that “they [the antichrists] arise within the church and depart from true fellowship and lead people out with them” (note on I John 2:19). Thus the apostate false teachers “crept in [and were] ungodly men” (Jude 4; p. 1328). Jude 19 says they are “sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit” (NKJV). Dr. MacArthur says they are “unbelievers.” I have always felt that these apostates are not real Christians, “ungodly men” (Jude 4). I have no problem in saying that Chan and Griffith are such men, described in I John 2:19, and in Jude. Thus, I believe that the main leaders of a church split, like Judas, are unconverted men.

Some true Christians may follow these false prophets in a church split out of immaturity and ignorance. But they subject themselves to spiritual shipwreck. The Apostle Paul said, “Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith, have suffered shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:19; p. 1275). This implies severe spiritual catastrophe. I have been in the ministry for 61 years. I have seen many people follow false teachers and leave their church. But I have never seen anyone who did that become a strong Christian. All who go off with false teachers either fall away completely or become stunted, self-centered apostates themselves.

I give my wife as an example. Not long after she was saved, the entire class she was in left the church to follow a man named Rigoberto. Later, Rigoberto himself admitted to me that those who left with him finally became “shipwrecked.” But my wife stayed with us, even though about 80 of her friends left in the split. My wife became one of the greatest Christians I have ever known. All those who left with Rigoberto were ruined! The Bible says,

“The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16; p. 687).

Do people that leave in a church split repent and come back to the church where they were saved? I have never seen even one person do that in 61 years of ministry! Not one! Why? Because they are caught up in pride, and refuse to repent. The Bible says.

“He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat. HE THAT TRUSTETH IN HIS OWN HEART IS A FOOL: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Proverbs 28:25-26; p. 693).

Now here is the conclusion. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves” (II Corinthians 13:5; p. 1239). If we examine ourselves, and honestly ask God to show us our weak spots, He will do it. What should we do when we are shown the plague of our own hearts? Again, we turn to Proverbs for the answer. It’s Proverbs 28:13 (p. 692).

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Confess the plague of your own heart to God. But, wait, there is more. Not only “confess,” but “forsake” this plague-spot. This is called “mortification.” We don’t hear much about “mortifying” our sinful flesh in these days of apostasy. But it is absolutely imperative that we do so! When God shows you something in your heart that is wrong, don’t blame someone else! “Forsake” that weak-spot in your heart. “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” And come back to Jesus, or come for the first time, and “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son [will cleanse] you from all sin” (I John 1:7; p. 1321). Amen!

I wrote this to another preacher recently,

Conversion and discipleship are DEEP subjects. I do not pretend to know too much about them. But I know that these are very important questions.

What I have done in these areas is to be thoroughly pragmatic. If something didn't "work" I would get rid of it and try something else every time. Even though I explained this over and over to the people in my church, none of them "got" it because they were not preachers.

I now think that discipleship is as equally important as conversion. This is a new thought for me. When people backslide they go back. To what do they go back? They go back to the only thing they know very well, which is their culture. That is the reason we are leaving downtown Los Angeles. The culture of virtually everyone in downtown LA is a shambles. So, when people are disturbed or confused, they go back to the shambles of their culture, almost invariably. These are new thoughts for me. You can know about something without "knowing" it! It is just a thought in your brain, and does not correspond to a subject like evangelism.

Now my feelings are that the black, white, and those from a Hispanic background are usually too unstable, in their culture, to be solid Christians. That is almost universally true. I spent 44 years with them in downtown Los Angeles and I pretty much think that they are usually not capable of being solid Christians. Too emotion-driven, and not willing to repent.

The only solid and dependable church I've ever been a member of was the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, under Dr. Lin's pastoral authority. I was a member of a white church before I went there, but it was replete with church splits, backbiting, and various other modes of rebellion. The Jesus People that I went to were delighted that they had finally invented the wheel!!! Because everything had to be "invented" there was no stability, just a consistent picture given in Isaiah 57:20, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”

At 78 years old, I just can't take the inner city any more. It's not because of my age so much as the fact that I simply cannot live under constant pressure from dozens upon dozens of emotionally unstable people in the inner city.

I believe that I will be able, with the great help of Dr. Cagan, to do a more stable church in the San Gabriel Valley, adjacent to Los Angeles.

We are working on a plan for more stability. Pray for us.

With Love and Respect,

Robert
Philippians 4:13
Pastor Emeritus

The preacher wrote:

I agree with your argument because that was my salvation experience. 

Please stand and sing hymn number 3, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from [the Saviour’s] veins,
   And sinners. plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains;
   And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day;
   And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away;
   And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood Shall never lose its power,
   Till all the ransomed church of God Be saved, to sin no more:
Be saved, to sin no more, Be saved, to sin no more;
   Till all the ransomed church of God Be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
   Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die:
And shall be till I die, And shall be till I die;
   Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.

When this poor, lisping, stammering tongue Lies silent in the grave,
   Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save:
I’ll sing Thy power to save, I’ll sing Thy power to save;
   Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save.
(“There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” by William Cowper, 1731-1800;
       first line altered by Dr. Hymers).