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LEARNING FROM DR. TIMOTHY LIN
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Sermon: “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280 Scofield).
In re-reading Dr. Timothy Lin’s book, The Secret of Church Growth, I became more aware of why our church has largely failed up to now. All of our weaknesses and failures stem from my own weakness.
I was a young man from a “bad” family. It was that simple. I exerted myself with all my power to become well trained. I worked from 8:00 until 5:00 on a secular job – and then went to college at night! I spent Friday evenings, all day Saturday and Sunday, working in the Chinese church. To my own surprise, I became a “self-made” man. But still there was a cloud that kept me from becoming a strong missionary. I worked sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, but I could not escape being from “a bad” family. Being from a “bad” background, I had to go to a sub-standard seminary. It was all I could afford because I had no help from my “bad” family. Only my dear mother encouraged me, but she had no money to help me then. This situation made it impossible for me to become a “good” missionary from my Chinese church.
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But I did learn things in the ten years I spent working under the excellent teachings of Dr. Timothy Lin. For instance, I learned how to prepare sermons and Sunday School lessons from Dr. Lin. I learned how to prepare lessons and sermons from him. Dr. Lin taught us how to prepare lessons and sermons, not from methods made available from the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, but to prepare them directly from the Bible. Dr. Lin taught us to –
(1) Have your students in mind.
(2) Have the lesson in mind.
a. Study the passage of Scripture thoroughly until the main subject is clear to you.
b. Based on the main subject, construct a complete outline.
c. Examine the context of the outline carefully. Is the explanation of the passage clear? Is the application of the truths practical? Has the motivation for the application been made clear?
(3) Ask God for wisdom – be a wise teacher.
a. You must have a knowledge of God’s truth.
b. You must have the wisdom to know God’s purpose to bring out how to apply its purpose.
c. Teachers must understand that the “wisdom of this world” does not win souls or help students, that the teaching may be clear and dynamic with insights from the Bible – so unsaved students may trust Jesus and be saved, and those who are saved may march forward to maturity in Christ.
Explanation – use words and phrases that are familiar to the students. Motivate students to think. Insert questions to get students involved. Explain new insights in detail. Use illustrations appropriately.
God’s love gives the Bible duties of Christians, and weaknesses of the Church today, necessities for spiritual growth, conditions for the Lord’s Second Coming.
To put these things before the Sunday School teachers, Dr. Lin held a weekly lesson, given by himself, to help the teachers internalize these principles (see pp. 74-87 in Dr. Lin’s book, The Secret of Church Growth).
Dr. Lin ended this outline with these words: “A strong Sunday School ministry will bring about the growth of the whole church, and will help the church to fulfill the Great Commission: ‘teaching them to observe all that I command you!’ Then the church will be blessed and God’s Kingdom will come all the sooner. Amen! ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’”
I was never able to put together a Sunday School ministry as outlined here in Dr. Lin’s book. The inner-city people in our church were too worldly to trust to do a good Sunday School. But now God Himself took out most of the emotional people, and perhaps we may be able to start a Sunday School in the new church. I will probably start by teaching the first class myself. Then, later, others, like Dr. Cagan and Mr. Ngann can be given classes of their own. But we must move slowly at first.
I think you can tell, from Dr. Lin’s outline, how much his teaching has influenced my own preaching.
Kreighton and Waldrip never learned what Dr. Lin taught me. Thus neither one of them know how to outline and preach to this day. Neither one of them would have been selected by Dr. Lin to teach or “preach.”
Waldrip tries to preach “expository” sermons by going through various books of the Bible verse by verse. Kreighton doesn’t do that yet. He tries to copy what I did. But he cannot do it because he is not sent by God! Dr. Lin said, “The desolation of the church of the last days is due not to lack of pastors, but to an abundance of pastors who serve without God’s sending. Since they are not sent by God, how can they expect God to be responsible for them and provide them with His message? Not only is God not responsible, but He may also be against them (Jeremiah 23:30-31).” Please stand and turn to Jeremiah 23:30, as I read the passage.
“Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:30-32; p. 797).
You may be seated.
John Cagan was definitely sent by God, and was given the gift of preaching by God. But John failed because he did not obey I Timothy 6:6-14, and Matthew 10:36-38. I pray for John to repent every night.
WHY THE KINGDOM IS IMPORTANT
“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5; p. 1254).
Three things are required to establish a kingdom: land, authority, and people. During the days of English viceroys India had people and land. But India lacked the authority to be a self-governing nation. In the same way, the Kingdom of Heaven also must be prepared in all three areas: people, land, and authority. As Christ ascended back to Heaven, He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). So the church does not need to prepare authority. But the earth has been given to men (Psalm 115:16 – “the earth he hath given to the children of men”). Then what is left for the church to prepare? It is people, the overcomers who are qualified to reign with Christ. The Bible says, “He who overcomes, I will grant to sit down with me in my throne” (Revelation 3:21).
In the last days believers do not have a clear concept of what the Kingdom or the church is. God’s goal for the church is the task of training Kingdom personnel, completely forgotten or completely unknown. Therefore the church today is like Israel of old, wandering around in circles in the wilderness, unable to enter into Canaan. If the church had understood the importance of training overcomers, the Kingdom of inheritance would have arrived long ago!
Churches do not thrive and grow mainly because the members today lack the hope of future glorification. Lack of hope has made many church members’ love for their Lord to be shallow and unenthusiastic.
Dr. Cagan already knew when he typed this sermon that it was almost word-for-word from my dear pastor Dr. Timothy Lin. Dr. Lin, in his book The Kingdom of God, wrote about what I just gave to you. At the beginning of his book, Dr. Lin quoted a paragraph from Dr. A. W. Tozer. Dr. Tozer said,
God wants to prepare you in your daily Christian life so that you will be ready indeed for [eternity]…God has been trying to do something special within our beings day after day, year after year. Why? Because His purpose is to bring many sons – and also daughters too – unto glory.”
W. Tozer, “Bringing Us to Glory!”).
Just what should our hope of glory be? Scripture says, “He who overcomes, I will grant to sit down with me in my throne” (Revelation 3:21). Without a knowledge and a strong desire for this hope, our testimony as Christians is to follow our old nature and become “lovers of self” rather than lovers of God – and thereby fail to inherit the Kingdom, prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Here is an example – A Chinese pastor married a woman from a non-Christian family. She was saved before they were married. The pastor, filled with love for the Lord, served God day and night, even when he was studying at the seminary. His duties often took him away from home. At first his wife was understanding. But finally the situation became burdensome to her. One day she asked him, “Honey, didn’t we trust Jesus?” “Yes, by God’s grace, we have accepted Him as our Saviour.” “Then we will go to Heaven?” she asked. “Certainly! We became His children by faith, and Heaven is sure to be our home when God is ready for us to leave these bodies.”
Losing her temper, she shouted, “Why do you serve day and night then? Serve! Serve! Serve! If you serve all you get is to go to Heaven. The other believers who do not serve also go to Heaven. Why are you so stupid?”
Shocked and upset, this brother went to the senior pastor in tears. The senior pastor told him, “Brother, it is good that your wife can verbalize her feelings. As a matter of fact, most people in the Chinese churches today think just like she does. They often think that since they have accepted Jesus and have had a born-again experience, they have already obtained their ticket to Heaven, and there is nothing left for them to do. Since they believe Christians go to Heaven whether they serve the Lord or not, they think they can live in this world like the rich man, and in the next world live like Lazarus. They think this is smart.”
Such an arrangement would certainly be convenient, but it does not conform to the Bible. This is exactly why Christ said, “You cannot serve two masters.” The younger pastor was thus able to improve his wife’s spiritual perception of the need to diligently serve God.
An emphasis on the Kingdom of God is needed today, to enlighten believers to the tremendous importance for Christians to live their lives daily – not to obtain salvation, but for the sake of God’s glory, for the sake of God’s Kingdom and their future inheritance in it.
A young man should carefully explain these things before he asks a girl to marry him. One of the greatest tragedies in Mr. John Wesley’s life was his marriage. She expected him to stay home, but he could not, so she left him. Be very careful who you marry, or it will be a bad experience for you and the girl. My own wife is so good that I know for sure that she is God’s great gift to me and our church. Please fast and pray one day a week for God to help us start the new Chinese church!
Now stand and sing, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).