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Hymn Sung Before the Sermon: “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).


by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, April 19, 2020

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14; p. 726 Scofield).

The classical theologian W. G. T. Shedd declared that sin is essentially selfishness. He said, “Adam first inclined to self instead of God.” Thus, selfishness is the essence of sin. By disobedience to God, Adam followed Lucifer in his selfish disobedience to God. Dr. Henry C. Thiessen said, “We have in selfishness the essence of sin.”

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And that takes us to II Timothy, chapter three (p. 1280).

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” (II Timothy 3:1, 2).

Dr. Timothy Lin said, “The third chapter of II Timothy opens with a clear warning: ‘realize this,’ admonishing us because ‘perilous times will come.’ The word ‘perilous’ is used only twice in the New Testament. Here and in Matthew 8:28, where it describes the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes…The Scriptures explain that he was possessed by a legion of evil spirits…In order to hide in today’s church, Satan engages in all kinds of deception…to capture those who are weak in the faith. He can use church-goers to commit murder, as has been demonstrated in numerous cases…”

“The presence of demons in the church [of the last days] is further revealed by the Holy Spirit’s use of the word diabolo in II Timothy 3:3. Although translated ‘false accusers’ diabolo has the root meaning of ‘devil.’ This strongly suggests that demonic forces will instigate and even control all the lawlessness, unrighteousness, falsehoods, and evil works that will infect the [churches] in the last days. Not recognizing Satan’s presence in their midst, most people blindly follow his suggestions and waste themselves with self-delusion and degradation, without realizing…the source of their motivation…” (These quotations from Dr. Timothy Lin are taken from his book, The Kingdom of God. In his endorsement of Dr. Lin’s book, Dr. Eugene Merrill, distinguished professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “This book is nothing short of a manual for Kingdom Living”).

Both Dr. J. Vernon McGee and Dr. Merrill F. Unger agree with Dr. Lin that the third chapter of II Timothy is a picture of the churches of the last days, before the Second Coming of Christ.

Dr. Lin then said, “Scripture shows us that the devil is a puppet master who often uses others to execute his treacherous and poisonous plans. When Abel was murdered, at first we thought it was Cain’s doing. But the Scriptures later tell us that the world’s first murder was actually instigated by the evil one (I John 3:12). Queen Athaliah wanted to eliminate the household of David, but in fact, Satan used Athaliah to exterminate most of the blood-line from which the Messiah would come, attempting to prevent the Saviour’s birth. This was also what happened when Satan stirred up King Herod to try to kill the baby Jesus… Satan is a superb tactician. He hides behind good reputations, good deeds and variable situations in order to cause disaster, and he especially likes to hide inside churches where he uses Scripture and spiritual terms to deceive God’s children. Satan’s deep desire is that they would offend God, deceive themselves and others, and thus get pulled so deeply into his snare that they become hopelessly entrapped.” (At this point, Dr. Lin gave a graphic account of demons being cast out of two women in a church in Taiwan).

Dr. Lin said, “It is God’s desire that the church be glorious, ‘having no spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and blameless’ (Ephesians 5:27). Yet in these last days the church is becoming increasingly impure, to the dishonor of her Holy God, and turning to follow the ways of the world, often becoming part of it. Increasingly overindulgent, greedy and lustful, the nominal church nourishes treachery against God. She inhibits her spiritual understanding by blocking out her conscience and reason… This will continue to be a characteristic of the church of the last days. No wonder the gracious Lord has said to her, ‘I will spit you out of my mouth’ (Revelation 3:16).

Why has the church fallen into such wicked ways? Look again at II Timothy 3:1-7 at the account of the deteriorating situation of [the church] in the last days. The underlying reason for the ungodliness of the Church of the last days is that they have become ‘lovers of self…rather than lovers of God.’

The catalogue of sins in II Timothy 3:1-7 begins with ‘lovers of self.’ A careful reading of the Scriptures… reveals that from the beginning all of man’s sins have originated directly from his own self…All of the sins ever committed by the Jewish people, or by any individual can be summed up in one sentence: ‘Each of us has turned to his own way’ (Isaiah 53:6). Thus the reason for all sin can be summed up in two small words: ‘own self.’

O, self, how frightening you are! How many sins you have created. So much trouble you have started. You pit brothers against each other, you cause husbands and wives to separate, you make friends turn against each other and cause church splits.

The ‘own self’ is engaging in more outrageous activities every day. The land is full of ‘self-ordained’ ministers whom God did not send…by self-righteous elders…will the Lord set up His throne in the church? He will not! Demons enter to fill the vacuum, and the enemy infiltrates the [church] with the assistance of ‘own self.’

The outward manifestation of being ‘lovers of self.’ Second Timothy 3:1-7 reveals many sins originating from one source: ‘lovers of self.’ Thus, the main point of the passage is that self-love leads to all sorts of wickedness – Let us look at them individually.

1. Covetous – lovers of money. People forget God’s warning – ‘For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (I Timothy 6:10). How can individual Christians who are dishonest in their dealings experience the power of God in their daily witness and ministry? The Bible says, ‘If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them’ (Psalm 62:10).

2. Boasters – proud individuals with an elevated sense of self-worth. The boastful person does not recognize that everything he possesses or has accomplished is the result of God’s grace upon him. The Scripture says, ‘What do you have that you did not receive [from God]?’ (I Corinthians 4:7). ‘Being lifted up with pride he [will] fall into the condemnation of the devil’ (I Timothy 3:6).

3. Proud – arrogant. They may feel inside that they are not as good as others. They often act superior to cover up an inferiority complex. Self-conceit is from Satan, the evil one.

4. Blasphemers – railers. Speak evil of others. I remember people who spoke evil of me because I came from what they called a ‘bad family.’ But they did not give me credit for making good on my own, with no help from others. That is what is meant by ‘railers.’ They speak evil of others.

5. Disobedient to parents – Rebellion against a godly father will shorten one’s life according to Ephesians 6:3. I have nothing but contempt for President Reagan’s son, Ron. His father gave him everything, but he rebels against his father even today, mocking his father’s faith in God by becoming an open atheist. Despicable! He has become a dried-up old reprobate! with a warped and twisted face! Every child born in our church who leaves is a disgrace to both their father and mother.

6. Unthankful – ungrateful. The ancient Chinese saying is the reverse of this, ‘Show kindness without expecting repayment; but when you are shown kindness, never forget it.’ I bought, with my own money, two expensive tailor-made suits for one young man and raised money for him to go to India and Africa. But he walked away without ever thanking me. That is a bad character that God cannot bless! My pastor never did anything like that for me. Yet I honor him and give thanks for him to this very day. My mother taught me to be thankful. His mother did not teach him that. I sent him an expensive gift for his birthday. He did not even send me a birthday card on my birthday! Unthankful.

7. Unholy – it means unclean and ungodly. An unholy person is only interested in satisfying the lusts of his own heart. A certain chairman of the deacons took pornographic pictures of himself and a woman and put them on his website. Oh, the insanity of an unholy man! An unholy person mocks God’s commandment, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’

8. Without natural affection – unloving. Such people fail to follow God’s command, to ‘love one another.’ Consequently, the church too often becomes a temple of rituals and form, rather than one of heart-felt love. My wife and I spend time and money to go to a ‘fellowship’ meeting in another state. No one spoke to us or even greeted us. I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go.’ We left and have never gone to another ‘fellowship’ meeting – and we never will. All they do is keep asking us for money. I throw their requests in the waste basket!

9. Trucebreakers – irreconcilable. Unwilling to reconcile. You can ask them to forgive you, but nothing you do can please such people. Jesus said, ‘If you do not forgive men their transgressions then your Father will not forgive your transgressions’ (Matthew 6:15).

10. False accusers – The Devil (literally slanderer). Satan loves to sow dissension by causing people to sow discord through malicious gossip. I remember a woman saying that her pastor lived ‘high on the hog.’ That was completely untrue. I never had as much respect for her after she said that to me when I was a teenager.

11. Incontinent – It means having no power to control one’s degrading passions; without self control. A well-known pastor I knew was a secret alcoholic. One night this ‘pastor’ was so drunk he drove his car into a swimming pool. A deacon in our own church lacked self control and tried to get into a fist fight with me in front of several young people in our church. ‘Without self control’ is regrettably a common characteristic of church members in the last days.

12. Fierce – literally ‘brutal.’ It describes violent, overly aggressive behavior. How it must grieve the heart of Jesus being like this.

13. Despisers of those who are good – better translated, ‘haters of the good.’ ‘Haters of good’ will multiply in the church of the last days because a multitude of the members will be lovers of self. Two of the most ungodly people I know literally despise Dr. Cagan. Why? Simply because he is such a good and faithful man of God!

14. Traitors – treacherous. Used of Judas, the man who was a traitor to Jesus. Finally the traitors will reach a stage where they can no longer repent.

15. Reckless – heady means reckless.

16. Highminded – means blinded by pride.

17. Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God – In the church of the last days there are those who let pleasure become their god. May we be masters of the good things in our lives and not slaves to them. The Bible says,

“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; p. 1210).

18. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
In many churches in the last days, the ‘own self’ reigns supreme and the Devil is the co-regent. Since they have no real godliness, so they compromise by having an outward form, but the power of godliness is missing. A man speaks from the pulpit, but no message from God is heard. If they have a prayer meeting, God’s power is never manifested. If the Gospel is spoken, the hearts of unbelievers are never pierced. I read the ‘sermons’ of Waldrip and Kreighton every week. There is no power whatever in what they speak. They say some things that are true, but they are empty words. No one is expected to be converted. No one is expected to change anything for good by hearing them. What they say could be heard by a limp-wristed Catholic or Episcopalian priest. ‘They heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears’ (II Timothy 4:3; p. 1281). Thus, they are ‘ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (II Timothy 3:7; p. 1281).

19. They captivate ‘silly women.’ Dr. Lin said, ‘Weak women are those swayed by various impulses, who lack both moral fiber and good sense. When the enemy Satan is attacking us with wave after wave of moral relativism, we must not remain indifferent to his tactics.’ If you go to a dead church like those of Waldrip or Chan and you are not grieved, it means you have no spiritual sense!

Today many church members cannot hear God’s voice because they love self above all else, and their lives are full of the sins of the flesh. If your heart is filled with filth and unrighteousness, to be always learning causes grief and is a waste of time and effort, because no progress is made toward coming to the full knowledge of the truth. It is having a clean heart that enables us to hear God with understanding.

Some attend every meeting that comes along, but their hearts have become hardened, and so the more they learn the less they hear.

Many think they know everything when in fact they are ignorant of many basic truths. They come, look and listen, but they fail to perceive because they indulge in the sins characteristic in the church of the last days.” (Dr. Timothy Lin, The Kingdom of God).

I was awake very early on Easter Sunday morning. I turned on the TV and heard all of the Pope’s Easter message. He said a few words about the coronavirus. He said not to worry. That was it! It was no better than the so-called sermons of Waldrip and Chan.

Dr. A. W. Tozer said, “The Devil will not cause any trouble for the preacher who speaks for thirty minutes and the sum of what he says is ‘Be good and you will feel better.’

You can be as good as you want to and still go to hell if you have not put your trust in Jesus Christ! The Devil is not going to cause any trouble for the preacher whose only message is ‘Be good!’”

Again Dr. Tozer said, “Grace will save a man, but it will not save a man and his idol. The blood of Christ will shield the penitent sinner alone, but never the sinner and his idol. Faith will justify the sinner, but it will never justify the sinner and his sin” (“Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” p. 90).

And one last time. Dr. Tozer said, “In the average church we hear…the familiar phrase, the religious tone, the words have their superficial and temporary effect, but the worshipper is no nearer to God, no better morally, and no surer of heaven than he was before” (“Born After Midnight,” p. 89).

“Say, poor worldling, can it be
That my heart should envy thee?”
(Gerhard Tersteegen, 1697-1769).