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Description: Nobody is perfect. How often do we offer this familiar excuse? What do we do when we find that our outward and inward lives seem so opposite?
The Holy Spirit Brings Purity
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We have often talked together here in the past years about mankind’s biggest problem. You all know
what it is without me even going over it again. It’s moral impotence — moral impotence. The real
meaning of impotence from the Latin word ‘impotens’ is ‘not able, inability’. The greatest problem
that all of us know fine well in our personal lives is that moral inability. That inability to do
consistently what we know we should do. That feeling that is expressed in those timeless words in
Roman 7:15. It doesn’t matter how often you and I hear them does it. We still feel yes, I can
identify with those words. They may be old and they may be worn and they may seem boring at times
but I can certainly agree with Paul, “The good that I would I cannot do.” That’s my experience so
often. “And the evil that I hate that’s the very thing I do.” I think all of us know that.
That’s our experience because up from deep down within us somewhere rise urges and drives and
passions and feelings that we cannot control. And it’s as is if deep, deep down somewhere in our
personalities there is a heart of darkness that we have never ever fully explored. Outwardly we try
to be reasonably unselfish, moderately respectable members of the human family — attempting to live
day by day in peaceful coexistence with the other three and a half billion people in the world. But
there do come moments when that entire civilized exterior is shattered and there is a savage rising
up with in us that shows there is a deep conviction inside that we really believe we are the
important people in this world and that all the rest of you are here for our convenience.
That savagery rises up so violently and vehemently that many of us wonder, is it us at all? Probably
that’s why the Iran situation is so frightening to us. We feel that what we see there, the
shattering of the little tenuous framework of international law and understanding that holds us all
together in diplomatic immunity, that same framework is very, very tenuous in us here.
That’s what shatters us and scares us in a ‘Son of Sam’ situation or a ‘Jack the Ripper’ situation.
Suddenly that very tenuous, thin ice of sophistication and civilization and peaceful coexistence is
broken and we see placarded in a news media, that savage heart of darkness that we know fine well
resides deep down inside us. So probably there isn’t one of us who doesn’t understand that story of
Dr. Jekyll and how he used to suddenly become a different person entirely and Mr. Hyde who could do
all kinds of murderous things. Yet during the day he would be the quite, thoughtful, philanthropic
doctor trying to help people. I think many of us know that there lie deep down within us, in an area
that we have never been able completely to plumb, attitudes and desires that we cannot control. No
one else knows about these attitudes and desires but we know about them.
That area of our lives is often called the self-life. It’s easily the most impure part of us; it’s
easily the most unclean part of us. It’s the part that we don’t want anybody to see, even our
dearest friends. That self-life seems to hold within it all kinds of savage anti-social attitudes
that we manage to suppress or we come to repress them after a long period of time. Someone has
written down some of them and I will read some of them to you. Maybe it will help you to realize
that there are others who have this kind of feeling. I think one reason many of us have never been
able to do anything about it is, we felt we alone feel this way and so we’ve decided to live with
Here’s the description of some of what is down there in that heart of darkness. There is a secret
spirit of pride, an exulted feeling in view of your success or position, because of your good
training or appearance, because of your natural gifts and abilities, an important independent
spirit. There is a love of human praise, a secret fondness to be noticed, a love of supremacy, a
drawing attention to self in conversation, a swelling out of self when you have had a free time in
speaking or praying. There are the stirrings of anger or impatience which worst of all you call
nervousness or holy indignation. There is a touchy, sensitive spirit, a disposition to resent and
retaliate when disapproved of or contradicted, a desire to throw sharp heated flings at another.
There is self-will, a stubborn un-teachable spirit, an arguing talkative spirit, harsh sarcastic
expressions, an unyielding headstrong disposition, and a driving commanding spirit. There is a
disposition to criticize and pick flaws when set aside and unnoticed, a peevish, fretful spirit, a
disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored.
There is carnal fear, a man fearing spirit, a shrinking from reproach and duty, reasoning around
your cross, a shrinking from doing your whole duty by those of wealth or position, a fearfulness
that will someone will offend and drive some prominent person away, a compromising spirit. There is
a jealous disposition, a secret spirit of envy shut up in your heart, an unpleasant sensation in
view of the great prosperity and success of another, a disposition to speak of the faults and
failings rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated then yourself.
There is a dishonest, deceitful disposition, the evading and covering of the truth, the covering up
of your real faults, leaving a better impression of yourself than is strictly true, false humility,
exaggeration, straining the truth. There is unbelief and a spirit of discouragement in times of
pressure and opposition, lack of quietness and confidence in God, lack of faith and trust in God.
There is a disposition to worry and complain in the midst of pain and poverty, an overanxious
feeling whether everything will come out all right. There is formality and deadness, dryness and
indifference, selfishness, love of ease, and love of money.
Those are not God’s normal plan for our lives. They aren’t. I agree with all of you that probably
the great majority of us here can say part of that describes part of me. But despite that loved
ones, that is not God’s normal plan. That is not normal humanity, it isn’t. Normal humanity is the
kind of heart that we saw in that dear man of Nazareth. That’s normal humanity. Everything else is
parapsychology. Everything else is sub-normal. Now we have taken different attitudes to that stuff.
Most of us in the church have said, “No one is perfect.” So we have concentrated on an external
conformity to certain behavior norms. You don’t drink too much, you don’t swear too much, you attend
church on Sunday, you try to be fairly honest in your business and you try to be a good family
person. But our attitude to all that other stuff is, “Nobody is perfect, we are all the same.” The
price of that hands off attitude to inner impurity is that we have thousands of churches that are
absolutely torn apart by conflict, that are spoiled by sarcasm, that are fouled up by criticism.
We have churches all over the place that spend more time fighting than they do loving. The other
price of ignoring this internal impurity is our family lives. How many loved ones are outwardly so
wonderful on Sundays and their family life is a mess. I remember when my mom first said to me,
“Ernest, if your friends at church could see you now!” How many of us are in that situation? How
many of us are big men and great women and very noble Christians on Sunday but our family lives are
in bits and pieces? The people who know us best could not give our testimony. Why? Because they
don’t see the outward conformity to certain behavior norms, they see the self-life. It’s in the
home; it’s in the family that the self-life manifests itself. You can even cover it up pretty well
at the office. But at home they see you, day in day out, night in night out and it comes out. Yet
loved ones, you must admit that the great majority of us in churches have that attitude. We say, “Oh
well, nobody is perfect”, as if internal impurity is the norm for God’s people and is the norm for
God’s plan. It isn’t.
Now some of us do some other things. There are some religious counselors, healthy minded religious
counselors and some psychologists who say, “The trouble is simply with the mind and emotions. You
have certain habits of thinking and feeling, that you outlined, that are wrong. All you have to do
is retrain those. You have to reroute them. You have to renew your mind. You have to think good
thoughts as the lady says on television. You have to rewrite and re-stimulate the right emotional
responses. That’s all you need.”
The problem that psychologists and healthy minded religious counselors, who take that attitude, the
trouble they run up against is regression. It is incredible how regression takes place every time
the external stimulus of either the counselor or the group is removed. In other words it’s
unbelievable how quickly the mind that has been retrained falls back into the old pattern of
thoughts, or how quickly the emotions that have been renewed and re-stimulated fall back into their
old habits. There is a regression there that no one seems able to understand. Most of Christendom
just continues to try to keep reprogramming itself.
That’s why they are such wrong emphasis on fellowship. Fellowship is not for our sake, it’s so that
we can minister to the world. But so often there is an attitude to fellowship that you need the
group reinforcement. That’s why so many loved ones are so skeptical of Christianity. They think we
are nothing but a bunch of psychological reinforcement people who exists just by help of their herd
instinct. That’s so often the case because of our attitude to internal impurity. We think it’s just
a matter of renewing the mind, thinking the good thoughts, renewing the emotions, feeling the right
things and then get a group together that will keep you doing that. Well there comes a time when
eventually you are on your own at night, or you are on your own at the end of this life. Then there
is nobody to keep reprogramming the mind and emotions.
There are other psychologists, who are not very popular in these days, who have been so concerned
with this tendency to regression after you have reprogrammed the mind and emotions that they have
posited another level underneath that is the subconscious or the unconscious. They say, “This
regression, this tendency to fall back into the old patterns is so strong that we don’t believe the
mind and emotions are simply a neutral thing. We don’t believe they are just a slate on which you
write things. We believe that what they are is just a receptacle for some things that are coming
from deeper down. All we are seeing in this sense of pride or this jealous attitude or this critical
spirit or this sarcastic feeling — all we are seeing is that there are symptoms of a disease that
actually exists deeper down.”
You remember those psychologists said that our job is to get to the bottom of that subconscious, the
bottom of that unconscious area and to clean that out. Well, of course part of the reason they are
not in vogue at the moment is that time and ability were just not there to do that. Human beings do
not have the time to be able to get to the bottom of that heart of darkness. They don’t even have
the ability to do it and so we are left back on that other level.
Now loved ones, Jesus has explained to us the problem and strangely enough it has some similarities
to the beliefs of those psychoanalysts. Jesus says, “Underneath your mind and emotions is a spirit
and it’s out of your spirit that these things come. It’s out of your spirit that all the trouble
comes. When your spirit is wrong then you begin to experience these feelings of jealousy and anger
in your emotions. You begin to manipulate other people with your mind and you begin to criticize
other people to try to build yourself up. When your spirit is wrongly related to my Father that’s
the kind of stuff that fills your mind and emotions. Some of it comes from your body’s desire for
other people just to applaud you, acknowledge you or recognize you and some of that filters into
your soul. Some of the anger and irritability that you feel in your soul at times is because there
is a general attitude of that in the office. Some of us experience that. You go into the office
where there is a whole critical attitude and it’s not long before you’re beginning to feel it too.
But Jesus said that a lot of the other emotions, feelings and thoughts that are wrong that come into
your soul come from your spirit — a spirit that is not clean, a spirit that is alienated from your
Maker. He said in that passage we read in the New Testament, “It’s not what comes into a man’s mouth
that defiles him, it’s what comes out of a man’s heart.” Jesus meant by “heart” the innermost part
of our beings. He said, out of the heart come adultery and anger and jealousy and hostility. That
was Jesus’ diagnosis. The reason the power of positive thinking books don’t work, the reason the
group reinforcement stuff doesn’t work is because there is a power underneath your mind and emotions
that sends up twice as much volcanic eruption as you can ever handle in any group psychology
experience. As soon as you get rid of some of the stuff the spirit sends up more. Have you not found
Have you not discovered that you can take an attitude to jealousy and say, “I am going to master
jealousy, and this is jealousy week”? You start to pray about jealousy. You start to read books
about ‘How Not To Be Jealous’ and you concentrate on jealousy. So you are in good shape regarding
jealousy. You’ve got that under control; no jealousy. You have no jealousy for a week or two and
then you decide, “I did so well with that I’ll have a shot at anger.” So you make a big deal on
anger. You campaign against anger, you pray about anger and you read books about ‘How Not To Be
Angry’, and practice self-control and you get anger under control. You are just beginning to get on
your feet and jealousy pops up. Isn’t that it? You hold it down, and you hold it down and you hold
it down and you hold it down and then you run out of hands, because they are bouncing up all over
And Jesus said, “Do you see it’s not those individual things that are the problem, those aren’t the
problem. It’s the spirit inside you that is not clean. Of course that’s the frustration of
psychologists who aren’t Christians. They can’t get out the spirit, they can’t. By their own terms
of reference they can’t accept that there is a spirit outside a Christian faith. And by their own
ability, with mind and emotions, they cannot get at the spirit even if they believed in it.
That’s why Jesus gave us a precious gift. I’d like you to look at the verse where it is mentioned.
It’s Acts 15:9. Beginning at verse 8, Peter is speaking and he says, “And God who knows the heart
bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction
between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.” Loved ones, God cleanses your heart or
your spirit through your faith by the power of His Holy Spirit. That’s the only way, honestly.
That’s the only way.
We are all exactly the same. We are little, selfish children who want our own way and are angry when
we don’t get it. And that’s why we get irritable. That’s why we get jealous. That’s why we
experience all these symptoms of inward sin. The victory we talk about that many of us have which is
just an outward victory managed by continual suppression of all the stuff inside is a shallow
victory. It isn’t the victory that God has for us at all. God’s plan is that we should be pure
through and through. That’s true. God’s plan is that we can be cleansed inside. Our spirits that are
unclean can be cleansed by His Holy Spirit, so that you would not feel anger rising within you.
Now that’s very important to make clear to you because you have heard me share this before. You have
thought all He means is that the Holy Spirit gives you a power to suppress anger, gives you power to
keep it down, gives you power to keep jealousy under control when it rises up from within. Loved
ones, that’s not the meaning of that verse. The meaning of the verse is that the Holy Spirit
cleanses our hearts and the fruit of the spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, (which is
directly opposed to irritability and impatience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,
begin to rise up from within us. In other words, where you once experienced anger rising up from
within you, you now experience patience, positive patience rising up within you or positive love.
That’s what it is loved ones. That’s what victory is, that’s what being saved is all about or being
filled with the Holy Spirit is all about. It isn’t a toe-to-toe battle with Satan and with inner
feelings that are constantly rising up and trying to prevent you doing what you would. It is an
experience of cleanness inside you, positive dynamic cleanness.
I remember one friend putting it: where it was natural for him to sin, now it’s natural for him to
obey. Where it was as natural before for him to hate and to criticize, now it’s natural for him to
love and to build others up. Now loved ones that’s the meaning of that verse — that the Holy Spirit
is able to cleanse your heart by faith. He is able to make you pure inside. That’s what Christianity
is about. I sympathize will all of you who think that it isn’t that, no it can’t be exactly that. It
is. That’s what being filled with the Holy Spirit is about — where you feel right inside. And of
course you can see the benefits of that. You can see that.
If I asked you, what I have asked you before — would you let me take a picture of your heart, of
your self life, where all those secret things are, all the things that you alone know — would you
let me take a picture of your heart? Then we’d have Bob show it as a slide on the projector and we’d
all look at it there. Would you? Well do you see that’s why so many of us feel furtive? That’s why
we aren’t great witnesses. That’s why there isn’t much joy in our lives. Do you see that? We know
that deep down we are carrying a can of gasoline and as soon as a fiery dart from the wicked one
hits it, it will blow up. And then everybody will see what we are really like. That’s why we walk
pretty tight. We are a Christian, yes, but just managing it on a razor’s edge. And that’s why other
loved ones aren’t seeing the joy of God’s children and the joy of God’s people. But you have seen so
often that the chief mark of the old saints is joy. It’s because at last they don’t need to hold
things in. They don’t need to hold things down. They don’t need to pretend. Isn’t that the heart of
it? I think that’s really the heart of it. I know that’s what got to me from my mom, when she said
you are a hypocrite. That what really gets to you, doesn’t that? When you feel, yes you are
hypocrite. You remember the Greek actors who wore masks. That’s what a hypocrite is, a person who
wears a mask.
Isn’t that what spoils everything in the office? When the person gets the promotion and you put out
your hand and say congratulations but you don’t mean it? Or you mean a lot of it but deep down there
is a jealousy. Or someone enters into some good fortune and you say, “Oh! I am really glad for you.”
But inside there is a little voice that says, “But I am sorry for me or I wish it were me.” Isn’t it
interesting that we always think that’s a very human thing to say, I wish it were me, isn’t it? We
think we are very justified in saying that. We say that’s a very human thing to say, I wish it were
The deepest love that we ever experienced from our dad or mom was when we were sick, do you
remember? Your dad said, “Oh! I wish I could be sick instead of you.” Isn’t that right? We thought
that’s the deepest expression of love and indeed that’s what we sense in Jesus. We sense here’s a
man who would rather bear the thing instead of us. And so many of what we call human feelings – “I
wish it were me”, are just downright carnal. They are evil. What’s the problem, loved ones?
Well the problem is that outwardly we all recognize God but inwardly we ourselves want to be God.
That’s it. We have never settled that and that’s the problem with most of us. We have never finally
settled that. We have never dealt with that heart of darkness. That’s why Joseph Conrad wrote that
book, you remember? He likened the heart of darkness to a journey into a dark, dark jungle where
unbelievably savage and uncivilized things took place. That’s why he wrote the book because there
are many of us here in this life who have never made that journey because we are afraid of what we
will find in there.
Loved ones, that’s what the Holy Spirit can do for us. The Holy Spirit is able to lead us to the
deepest part of that heart of darkness. And then when we are really willing, He is able to cleanse
that and to fill it with Himself. And that’s why Peter said, “God made no distinction between them
and us but He gave them the Holy Spirit and He cleansed their hearts by faith.” Loved ones, that’s
what every one of us need. And that’s what this Holy Spirit is able to do in your life. He is able
to cleanse your heart by faith.
I think the first step is you recognizing the problem down there and then beginning to talk to Him
about it. He alone can do it. No psychologist, none of us counselors can ever take you to that inner
heart of darkness within you. There is only one that can take you there and that’s the Counselor
that Jesus has sent.
Our time is up and I think we all need to talk about this just one more Sunday. I need to share with
you how God worked in our different lives and revealed to different ones of us how to be free, but
you loved ones can begin yourselves, the Holy Spirit will listen to you.
Let us pray.
Dear Holy Spirit, we certainly know the reality of what we have discussed this morning and our dear
friends and relatives, we are sorry to say they know it too because they have seen the savage under
the civilized exterior. Holy Spirit, we would ask you to begin — begin and show us. However
difficult it may be, will You begin to take us into this inner part of our lives that we have never
touched before, that is dominating our life and is making our life so partial in its fulfillment.
Holy Spirit, we ask you, will you begin to give us a revelation of why we are like this deep down?
And reveal to us what we have to do so that you can cleanse us from this. Holy Spirit we do believe
that you are able to cleanse us and we would give ourselves to you for that purpose, for Jesus’
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