Description: What will happen to you the moment after you die? What have you done that will count when God asks you to give an account of your life?
What Governs Your Behavior?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Do you remember John Wayne and Bing Crosby and Jack Benny? You’re probably saying, “Yes, I hear
people talking about them all the time. Yes, I remember them well. I mean they were household words
in America. That’s why we talk about them all the time.” Yet you’re also saying, “Wait a minute. No,
we don’t talk about them all the time. I do remember them but actually this is the first time I’ve
heard them mentioned besides the fact that the John Wayne movies are going to be on this week. Yes,
I remember them but people aren’t talking about them all the time.” It is interesting, isn’t it?
People who are so well known as that are quickly forgotten.
Really this dear old book (the Bible) puts it very clearly if you look at Psalm
103:15-16. “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the
wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Actually another translations
reads, “For the wind passes over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.”
It’s interesting that people so well known as that are very quickly forgotten and their place
remembers them no more. Even though the Hughes Tool Company still exists and is part of a business
deal that is being negotiated now, yet he himself we’ve long ago forgotten. Nobody talks about him.
You and I have a tendency to say, “Yes, but that’s them. I certainly agree it’s very true what the
scripture says, ‘For man, his days are as grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field; for the
wind passes over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.’ That’s certainly true of
John Wayne, certainly true of Bing Crosby, certainly true with Howard Hughes but it won’t be true of
It’s funny, isn’t it? We detach ourselves from it and say, “Oh that’s so true. Man’s days are like
grass, yes. Except mine aren’t, mine aren’t.” It’s funny
how we do it. We know we’re going to die, but somehow we don’t think it’s going to happen the same
way with us. We think, “yes, they’re all gone and people have forgotten them but with us it’s going
to be different.”
Why do we do that? You might say, “Well, we’re not morbid. That’s it. We’re just not morbid.” Or you
might say, “Well, we don’t want to think about it. I’ve been to funerals and sure I’ve seen people
die. I’ve seen my own mother being buried. But I still think I’m not going to end up in that spot
the same way. It’s not going to be exactly like that. The reason I think that way is, I think I’d go
crazy if I actually thought that that would happen to me.”
It’s interesting loved ones, but there is another reason why we can be so
philosophical about other people’s death and why we do not face the fact that it’s going to happen
to us. It’s actually a true and real reason. I’ll show you where to find it. It’s in Ecclesiastes
12:7. There is a reason we keep all thinking, yes it happens to Wayne, happens to Benny, happens to
Crosby, happens to my mother, but it won’t happen to me.
Ecclesiastes 12:7- “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who
gave it.” That’s why. “The dust returns to the earth as it was.” Your body crumbles up and becomes
dust or ashes that we could put in a box and spread on water if we wanted. But your spirit returns
to God who gave it. Your spirit inside you is immortal. It’s immortal. You actually are immortal.
That’s why you think “But it won’t happen to me”. If you say, “Well, then I’m right, aren’t I?” No,
you’re wrong — because we accept two lies about that truth.
The first lie is that it means we continue on this earth forever. That’s
not true. It’s your spirit that is immortal. You will not continue on this
earth forever. Actually I’d ask you to look over how fast the past 5 years have gone. Look how much
faster they went than the 5 previous years. Let me assure you that the next 10 years are going to
whip by so fast that you won’t even see them. So it’s not hard for you and me to realize that time
The truth is you will not continue on this earth forever. That’s a lie that Satan creates from the
real truth that you have a spirit that is immortal. It’s your spirit that is immortal. Your body is
not immortal. You will not continue on this earth forever. Your body will crumble and cease to
exist. The things that you can see, the grey hairs or the things that are beginning to bulge in the
wrong place that didn’t bulge before, those are the things that tell you it’s moving on. It’s moving
on and you can’t stop it. It will come to the
end as far as this earth is concerned a few years down the line.
The other lie is when we think, “Oh well my spirit’s immortal so that means I’m going to dwell in
God’s presence forever.” No, loved ones. That’s a false sense of security. If you believe that just
because you’re a human being and just because your spirit is immortal, (because it is immortal),
that you’re automatically going to dwell in God’s presence forever – NO. No, this dear book [the
Bible] is very clear that at the end of this life there is going to be a great dividing among all of
us who have been at unity for so many years as human beings.
I’ll show you where that is. It’s in Matthew 25:34. “Then the King will say to those at his right
hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world.'” Then in verse 41 there is a great dividing. “Then he will say to those at his left hand,
‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'”
All our spirits are immortal but some of us will live in the eternal
presence of God forever and some of us will live in a hell of separation and of critical selfishness
forever. That’s it. So our security can be a false security. If we keep on saying, “They forgot
about Wayne, they forgot about Crosby, they forgot about everybody else, but not me. I will
continue” — you will continue, but that isn’t the issue. Who wants to continue forever in a hell of
selfishness and a hell of hatred?
Loved ones, the question is, what will happen to you the moment after you die? What will happen to
you the moment after you die? What is important at that moment? What have you done in this world
that will be important at that moment? What have you done that will count when God asks you that
moment to give an
account of yourself? Someone has put it this way: what have we done on earth that will count a
moment after we die? What is it that you and I have done on earth that will count at all a moment
after we die?
Well, our achievements: the things we’ve done, the money we’ve made, the buildings we’ve built, the
jobs we’ve had. These are the things that will count the moment after we die. Think of it. Think of
Walt Disney. Think of how he was. He came up and there he sees, the moment after he dies, the mighty
Creator standing before him and he says, “Look, there is Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.” Even
though those dear creations (made by Walt Disney) have given so much pleasure to so many of us, you
know what you think when I say that. You say, “No, all that will be ‘Mickey Mouse’.” Disney won’t
say that. He wouldn’t think of saying that. That’s not important. That’s not what will count a
moment after we die.
You and I have a tendency to exclude ourselves. We say, “Yes, but we’re different. It would be
“Mickey Mouse” for Disney to point to those things — Goofy, the Seven Dwarfs and all the rest.
Those are silly things and weren’t worth anything. But, what I’ve done in my life, what I’ve
achieved at Control Data and Dayton’s and what I’ve achieved at The Ford Motor Company — I’ve spent
years of my life achieving things in these businesses.
Think of Henry Ford. Think of how he went before God and said he founded the Model T. God looked at
him and said, “That’s the one without air conditioning, without radials ….” It’s all passing. It’s
out of date. It’s nothing. The things that we fiddle our life away with, that we used to get this
stuff here, we’d be embarrassed at that the moment after death. It doesn’t matter what way you put
In a world where we can say, “I built Charlie’s Café Exceptional”,
……which used to be there. “Well I built the Foshe Tower, the highest
building….”, no, not any longer. Everything you mention. Everything
you think of that you’ve spent hours doing and your life doing is all
out dated. It’s all gone. It’s all been transcended by what
somebody else has done or it suddenly seems petty and silly at that
moment after death.
It seems that none of those things really count or really make any
difference because the fact is this whole world is going to be burned
up. It’s going to be replaced with a new earth and a new heaven. All of the buildings on it, the
gardens and the yards that you and I have taken care of, they’ll all be burned and they’ll all
disappear. None of those are worth anything a moment after we die.
Is there anything then that you and I do in this present life that is
worth anything the moment after we die? Is there anything that we can do while we’re on this earth
that is worth anything the moment after we die? Well there is.
I don’t know if you remember how this book (the Bible) talks about heaven. It
talks about it in terms of a great city, of a garden or of a marriage feast. Jesus often talked
about it as a great house where there were many mansions. He was going to prepare a place for us. In
other words, heaven is going to be a place where there is togetherness. There is a great sense of
being together. It’s going to be a great place where all kinds of people live together forever.
Then there comes into your mind, with my boss – forever? Will I live with that character that lives
next door to me, with that critical creature that I meet at church every Sunday — forever? That’s
true isn’t it? If those people are going to be in heaven it’s going to be hell. If all the people
that we know are going to be in heaven it’s going to be unbearable.
Loved ones, we’re getting down to the only thing that is worth doing in this present life because
God knows that fine well. He knows fine well that there’s a Gorbachev. He knows well there’s a
Charlie Manson. He knows well that there’s a Hitler. He knows well there’s that critical neighbor
that you have. He has so designed this world to take care of that.
I’ll show you the verse where it’s explained. It’s Romans 8:28. God says everything in this world,
everything, all things are working together for a certain purpose. “We know that in everything God
works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Now what purpose
does everything work together for? Romans 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be
conformed to the image of his Son,” – Why? — “in order that he might be the first-born among many
That’s the purpose of this world’s existence. It is that we might become
like Jesus so that we can live together forever with our maker and with each other.
That’s the only thing that is worth living for and that will be worth
anything a moment after we die. It is that you yourself have become like Jesus in your own character
and that you have spent your days bringing others into that same likeness. That’s it. I’m not
talking about converting. I’m not talking about preaching. I’m talking about exactly the things that
we’ve shared this morning.
Now the only way that heaven will be heaven is if it is filled with people who are like God and like
his son Jesus. The only thing that will count a moment after you die is the extent to which you
yourself have become like Jesus and the extent to which you have helped others to become like him.
That’s it. Nothing else matters, loved ones, beyond that.
That’s why this verse that we’re looking at today says what it says. Remember God states in this
verse that nothing else matters but the work of God. The work of God is to bring others into the
likeness of God. Nothing matters but that. It doesn’t matter what your views of homosexuality are
(and I’m not for that), it doesn’t matter what your views are on the cemeteries or on the Jewish
visit or the SS visit. It doesn’t matter what your views are on which Holy Days you should observe.
It doesn’t matter what your views are on what people should eat or what they should drink. If you
destroy the work of God for that which is bringing other people into his likeness it doesn’t matter
what great and mighty judgments you set forth. If you’re not making others more like Jesus and
you’re not growing more like him yourself then all your knowledge is of no value. That’s what the
verse says. It doesn’t matter what you eat or drink. If for that reason you destroy the work of God
then you may as well have no knowledge at all.
Loved ones, here’s the error — well two errors that many of us make when we hear this. One is we
say, “We can’t all be pastors. We can’t all be missionaries. We can’t all be fulltime Christian
workers. We can’t all spend our life making other people like Jesus.” Loved ones, this whole
clerical thing came in late on. It really did. This whole clergy thing came in late on.
The Jewish Rabbis were not permitted to take any money at all for the purpose for which they lived
their life. The purpose they lived their life for was to teach people about God. Jewish Rabbis are
not permitted to take money for that. They all have to have trades and professions. That’s why Jesus
was a carpenter for 30 years. That passed on into the early church.
In the early church, apart from the apostles who traveled from place to place in the countries, the
early church was composed of people like us. There were no fulltime pastors. There were no fulltime
clergymen. There were no fulltime ministers. You were a pastor and you had a job as a finance man.
You were a deaconess and you had a job as a manageress in a restaurant. You were an elder or a
healer, (a healing minister) and you were a secretary. In the early church everybody had ordinary
jobs. By that means they expressed what we call the sustaining grace of God to maintain order in the
world while the redeeming grace of God was working to make people like Jesus. But, they all also had
as a primary task an expression of their redeeming grace of God bringing people into Jesus’
likeness. So there were no fulltime clergy in the early church. We have gotten into this game
So loved ones don’t say to me this morning, “Do you mean if that’s the thing that will count the
moment after we die, are we all to become fulltime ministers and fulltime missionaries?” That’s the
last thing we need. We don’t need more of us in that thing. We need all of us in ordinary job
situations knowing full well that the main purpose of our life is to become like Jesus ourselves and
to bring our colleagues and friends into that same character likeness.
Loved ones, your job is important to do well in that it makes you more like Christ and it is a
blessing to God in the world. It counts for nothing the moment after we die. The only thing that
counts the moment after we die is to what extent that you helped God complete his creation by
becoming more like him and to what extent have you helped him to create and populate heaven by
bringing others into his likeness.
I’ll tell you the second error. The second error we have is when we say, “Oh, you want us to teach
people what the attributes of God are so that they will
become like him. You want us to preach to them and share on every occasion we can what God is like
so that they will be able to be like him.” No, not at all — because they can never be like him.
They can never be like him. It doesn’t matter how much they try. They can’t be like him. All the
knowledge in the world that you push down their throats and into their ears won’t make them like
God. They can’t be like God. The work of Jesus on Calvary was God destroying them as they are and
remaking them in his image. They’ve already been made like God. What they have to do is begin to
know that, have faith in that, express faith in it, and move in obedience to that.
In other words they need to see you walking in the reality of the change that God wrought in you on
Calvary. That’s it. They just need to see plumbers who are honest, who are gentle and kindly, who
have clean mouths and lives, who have a spirit of joy as they work, who have a spirit of love, and a
spirit of outgoing care.
That’s it. They need to see secretaries who come in the morning rejoicing because God is their
Father and because they know there is a place with him in heaven waiting for them. They know he’s
with them every moment of the day and when the Xerox machine won’t work properly they look up to him
and receive the patience that he is able to give them through Christ. They are able to express that
patience. People need to see that. They need to see that there is a miraculous way in which they
have been made like God and that they have a chance of heaven.
Loved ones, what are you doing that will be important the moment after you die? What are you doing
in your present life that will be important the moment after you die? In other words, are you
involved in the work of God? Thank God it no longer means becoming a fulltime Christian worker. It
means, is that (the work of God) the primary purpose of your life tomorrow through Friday? Because
when you come to that moment (of death) the stocks won’t matter, the house won’t
matter, even the lovely children or the grandchildren won’t matter. The moment after you die God the
Creator will look at you to see if his image is reflected in you. Then he’ll look behind you to see
how many others you have brought
into his likeness. That’s the one thing that counts the moment after we die.
Could I just say a word to those who are of Catholic backgrounds? (But we Protestants are in the
same spot.) Remember how in Catholicism we often said there is this level for the clergy and sisters
and then this level for the ordinary people? It’s not so.
We Protestants say there’s this level for the ministers and evangelists and this level for the lay
people. It’s not so. Loved ones we’re all in the same boat. The moment after we die God will look to
see if you’re like him so that you can live with him forever. Then, he’ll look to see how many
others you have brought into his likeness.
So I’d say to you let’s get started. Let’s begin now. If you have
spent too much of your life in wasted time and in things that will not
count the moment after you die, I would encourage you to settle it this morning. Why not give your
life to Christ this morning and ask him to come into your life and begin to make you like God so
that you will be with him forever and so that you can begin to bring others into his likeness this
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