Salvation is Trust
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Many of us believe there is a God somewhere but we ourselves have not been able to find him or to
maintain a consistent sense of his reality and his presence in our own life. What we’ve been saying
over the past few weeks is that the way to make contact with that God is really to stop trying just
to please him or to please everybody else and instead to start trusting him, just trusting him as
I think a lot of us feel, “Well, what do you trust him for? Do you trust him for everything? Do
you trust him for your shoes being tied? Do you trust him for your money? Do you trust him for
your jobs? Do you trust him to get the assignment done tomorrow?” Then some of us say, “Well, I
just can’t trust him, I can’t. I’ve heard what you’ve said but I just cannot trust him. I’ve tried
Now brothers and sisters the answer to both of those questions is in beginning to trust the things
he has said plainly about you and me. I’m with you, I don’t think you can suddenly just throw
yourself back in one of those famous ‘trust falls’ and say, “I trust you Lord. I trust you,”
because you don’t know what you’re trusting him for and you try and you can’t do it. Now the only
way to begin to know what to trust him for is to begin to trust what he says about you yourself.
Start there. Start at something concrete.
A lot of us, I think, go off into mysticism and all kinds of guru practices, and all kinds of
meditation trying to get in touch with the Supreme Being and we don’t need to go through all that
complicated deal. You remember, old Blaise Pascal, 17th century scientist philosopher, he said,
“God is a hidden God.” And he referred to Isaiah 45:15, it was in his Ponce, you remember, he said
this, his thoughts. Isaiah 45:15, “Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the
Savior.” And old Pascal said, “Look, God is a hidden God and you can only discover him if he wills
to reveal himself to you.” And brothers and sisters he will reveal himself to every one of us who
will trust this morning what he says about us. That’s it. You can’t, you see, climb up to him by
mystical meditation. You can only fulfill the conditions which enables him to reveal himself to
you. That’s all you can do. But you can express your initial trust in him by at least doing that,
by believing what he says about you.
Now, you know, it’s very simple. I just want to deal with four of the things he says about us just
this morning and it’s very, very simple. And the first one is one we just keep on rebelling against
and you know it, we’ve talked about it before, it’s Romans 3:23. Romans 3:23, and it just is the
truth that God has – that Satan has managed to complicate this verse in thousands of ways to all of
us so that there’s a lot of us here that just rebel against the whole idea, “All have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God.” And that’s the first thing that God says about you.
And, I mean, we rebel against it. We rebel against it either because we think it’s too fanatical or
fundamentalist, or it’s too evangelical. Or we say, “You’re dead right, everybody has sinned and
fallen short of the glory of God. Oh, especially those winos who are outside the theater when we
come into it. They certainly have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You’re right, the
whole world has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and I am glad that I am not one of
And brothers and sisters, do you see in this old stupid intellectual sophistication that we have, we
think whenever you say ‘sin’ you’re talking about becoming an alcoholic, or you’re talking about
been a pimp, or being a prostitute, or murdering somebody. But we don’ see that really what God is
saying is, “Look, you have done this. You have sinned, very nicely in a very sophisticated manner,
but you have sinned.” And you and I have fallen short of his glory. And brothers and sisters, you
may think, “Oh, brother, that’s basic everybody knows that.”
Dear ones, that’s why half of us have trouble with our relationship with God, because we won’t
believe that; we won’t accept it. We won’t accept that when we get irritable with the roommate
we’ve sinned. We won’t. We say, “No, you see Pastor, my mother was an irritable kind of person.
Kept getting irritable with us children, and I’ve just inherited from her but it’s not sin. It’s a
psychological trait that I’ll work out with more basket work, just exercising more patience.” Or,
you know the other deal, “Brother, I feel if I express it more it will eventually go. I express the
irritability and somehow it will vaporize and go away.”
Dear ones, do you see that is our problem, many of us are in the difficulty, we can’t find God
because we won’t believe that first thing that he said: that we’ve sinned and we’ve fallen short of
his glory, that you were made to be like Jesus. That I was made to be like Jesus. You were made
never to lose your temper. You were made to be kind, and loving to lepers who didn’t have anything
for you, whom you didn’t need. You were made to be loving to them. You were made to have a clean
and absolutely pure mind like Jesus. You were made to walk in this world as princes and princesses
of God, giving delight and glory to him every time he looked at you, getting the same delight and
more delight from you than he gets when he looks at a flower, or a field, or a lake.
Now that was God’s plan for you. And every time you fall short of that plan at all, you’ve sinned.
And that’s what sin is. Sin is ‘not doing what God wants you to do,’ you see. So every time you do
something that you know is wrong that is sin. And what God says is, “Look, you’ve sinned; you’ve
fallen far short of my glory.” You see we keep looking along the line and saying, “Oh brother you
couldn’t mean that nice girl along the row, or that nice fellow along the row, that they’ve sinned.
They may be a little immoral but surely they haven’t sinned.”
Brothers and sisters do you see that sin is not a question of morality. Sin is a question of an
attitude to God. You may be the best person – you know, my people thought I was just a wonderful
son. Everybody in the church just thought I was one of those wonderful little church mice that were
just goodie goodie. Yeah! But I was a rotten, miserable type inside as far as God was concerned.
And you see it didn’t show outwardly. A lot of it doesn’t show outwardly. A lot of us have
inherited reasonable dispositions. We’ve inherited our father’s humor, or we’ve inherited our
mother’s gentleness, and it doesn’t show too much.
But do you see that sin is an attitude to God. It is not doing things that God wants you to do.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Well in fact, we are more preoccupied with our academic
future or our material success than we are with God. That’s our god and that’s what we think of day
after day. We don’t find ourselves riding along in the automobile thinking of God, we find
ourselves thinking of the exams, thinking about our future, worrying about what’s going to happen to
our money. We spend most of our time on other gods. That’s what sin is. Sin is an act, or a word,
or a thought that is disobedient to God.
Sin is also an inward thing because I mean, why do you tell a lie? Why do you tell a lie? Because
you think you have every right to tell a lie. You think you have the right to manipulate people in
the way that you want. That’s why you’re critical of people; that’s why you gossip about your
friends; you think you have every right to tear them down if need be in order to build yourself up.
Now do you see that comes from an inward attitude which thinks that you are God? Which takes it for
granted that you can do whatever you want in the universe; it doesn’t matter; you have every right
to do it.
That’s what sin is. It’s an attitude to God that says, “Look, this is my life I’m going to run it
the way I want to run it. Now you can help me a bit and I’ll consult you when I’m in difficulty but
I do the main running. You can help me, you can sit in the passenger seat and you can tell me from
time-to-time when I get lost, but you’re not getting into this driver’s seat.” Now that’s what sin
is. And it’s an inward attitude.
Now brothers and sisters, perhaps this will help you: If you say to me, “Brother I am not sure
whether I am in that category or not.” Dear ones, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to you this
morning. You know if some of those things are true of you. The Holy Spirit can witness in your
heart if that’s true of you today. If you’ve that attitude to any part of your life, then you have
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And God says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s it.
Romans 6:23 says that, “The wages of sin is death.”
Now loved ones, it’s not death if you’re just a prostitute that have worn out your body by continual
intercourse. It’s not that, you see. A lot of us keep thinking, “Oh, we know what you mean
brother. You mean if you murder somebody and go to the electric chair the wages of sin is death.”
No, loved ones. If you sin ordinary little sins, the wages of that sin is death, because God has
determined that to preserve his universe as he wants it, he will exterminate, destroy, drive from
his presence every one who will not trust him.
Now the reason for that is obvious, you know it. You get a drunk coming in among us at this moment.
Let’s imagine a drunk full of Irish whiskey coming down that aisle singing away. Now you know it
cuts the atmosphere like a knife, doesn’t it? It’s just impossible for us to continue to have any
fellowship together if he comes in. Now do you see that that’s the situation with the Father? It’s
not that he wants to send any of us to hell, or he wants to keep any of us out of his presence, but
do you see that one positive plan excludes its opposite. You can’t have a heaven unless you keep
out of it all the people who don’t want a heaven, and who don’t want to be like God.
[Someone in the audience asks something]
Well brother, it seems to me that that’s what you come to when Jesus talks about it. But do you see
that until we’ve come to Jesus, until we’ve dealt with Jesus and I’ll try to deal with that in a
moment or two, there’s no forgiveness. Do you see that we’re all under that condemnation unless God
has provided a way out? I think he has, but I think that many of us feel, “Oh, these things are not
true.” I think in other words brother, there is a great deal of what some brothers prayed about, a
‘sugarcoated gospel’ in these days, where you see we tend to say, “Oh well, God isn’t going to
really drive any of us away. He’ll take anybody that comes.” Well brother he won’t. It seems to
me in order to preserve his heaven, the wages of sin will always be death. And it seems to me those
are the only wages. It seems to me there are no other wages.
I think brothers and sisters we have a feeling, “Well maybe we can substitute some other wages.
Maybe we can substitute good works and God will be satisfied with the good work. Or, maybe we can
substitute a bit of mystical meditation and he’ll be satisfied with mystical meditation. Or, maybe
we can please him by going to church and that will sort of make up for these sins.” Brothers and
sisters do you see that God says, “The wages of sin is death.” And you have to take those wages if
nobody else will take them for you. And that’s our situation, you see. That’s our position.
That’s why all the angst is in the world, you know. That’s why old Jaspers [Karl Theodor Jaspers,
1883 – 1969, German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher] in Switzerland says, “All you can do is seek
for the final experience.” And some poor soul says, “What about suicide?” And he says, “That may
not be the final experience.” That’s why we’re all foolishly, and philosophically, and
psychologically trying to deal with this sense of guilt and this sense of angst, because we really
are under condemnation of God. The wages of sin really ‘are’ death because all of us ‘are’ in that
position. Now brothers and sisters you either pay those wages yourself or somebody pays them for
you. You either receive those wages yourself or somebody receives them for you.
And do you see that this Sunday morning if you have trouble with your connection with God, it’s a
sign that that old death is beginning to work and operate in you. Do you see that? Death makes
itself manifest even when you’re 30. I can count grey hairs. With some older people you can count
wrinkles. You can see death beginning to work in a person long before they’re dead. Now, do you
see it’s the same with spiritual death? You can begin to sense an absence from God even before you
die at 70 or 80 years of age.
Now, if you’re having trouble with hearing God’s voice, if you’re having trouble with sensing God’s
favor, do you see it’s not that God isn’t there or that God isn’t showing us favor, it’s that this
death is working in you. Why? Because you won’t be ‘honest’ about the things that you’ve done in
your life that are wrong, and that you’ve sinned against God.
And then what does God say? Well, God says this and he asks you to trust this, its Romans 5:8. We
should look at it, especially in the light of the brother’s question. Romans 5:8, “But God shows
his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died ‘for’ us.”
Now loved ones, do you see that you have to die that death, or somebody has to die it for you. I
shared with you before the old experience I had. I wasn’t long in Minneapolis and was just preparing
to take the old driver’s test, and came up to one of those signs that said, “Do not turn right
between seven and nine PM.” And I turned right between seven and nine PM and one of those gallant
officers came up beside me and said, “Do you know what you did wrong?” I said, “No, I don’t know.”
He said, “You turned right.” And I said, “Well, I had to turn right.” And he said, “Yeah, but it’s
between seven and nine o’clock.” So I said, “Well, I’m sorry officer, I really am. I’m just about
a month in the country and I’m just getting used to driving on the right hand side of the road and
really I’ll be different next time.” And he said, “Yeah, well I hope you will be because it’ll save
you $10. Now could you give me your name?” And I said, “But officer, I’m studying the test. I’m
studying the driver’s test and I’m going to take it next week and really, I mean I’ll have no
trouble with this next week.” He said, ‘That’s good it’ll save you $10.” Now do you see that I had
to pay the $10 or somebody had to go up to that window and pay it for me?
Now it’s the same with the Father. You either have to pay with your own death for what you’ve done
wrong with God or somebody has to pay it for you. And do you see what God asks you to trust? God
asked you to believe that his Son Jesus has died that death for you, and therefore God has nothing
But brothers and sisters do you see God has something against you while you are unwilling to trust
him? See, if you won’t trust God then the wages of sin is death, that penalty stands. And that’s
why brother, I come back at you, there’s no use this ‘easy believism,’ you know, “Oh well, God loves
everybody.” He does love everybody. And he’s anxious to ‘forgive’ everybody, but he can only
forgive the people who trust him and believe what he said about them.
In other words loved ones, you can have no sense of the reality of God if you keep on saying, “Oh
well, my sins aren’t so bad I’m just going to try praying hard, try a few mystical meditations, and
I’ll sense his presence.” No loved ones, the only way to come into forgiveness of God is to face
honestly the things that you’ve done wrong in your life and to deal with them, and to see that only
then is God’s sacrifice in Jesus able to be made real in your life.
And how is it made real? Well, God asks you to trust this other thing, you remember, its John 1:12,
“To as many as received Jesus, to them he gives the right to become the children of God.” In other
words dear ones, it’s only if you receive Jesus that you have a right to be God’s children.
Otherwise you are his enemies. You are his condemned enemies. And only if you’re willing to
receive the Spirit of Jesus into yourself is God justified at all in forgiving you and in receiving
you as his own. Now that’s what it means.
Now you may say, “Oh well brother, how do you receive Jesus?” God made it plain. He said, “If you
confess your sins I’m faithful and just to forgive you your sins.” But do you see that’s the first
step? Loved ones, do you see that those of us who have become Christians and are having trouble
with a sense of God’s presence, those of us who are trying to be Christians and don’t know how to do
it, that’s where we’re failing. We’re not confessing our sins.
Do you know the Greek word for confess doesn’t mean a whole lot of speaking it with your voice, it’s
not that. God is not concerned with speaking the thing out. But the Greek word means, “I put up my
hand and I agree with God that what he says is a sin is a sin.”
Now loved ones, that’s where we on the campuses go astray. For years I brainwashed myself that
these things were not sins. I kept thinking sin was some terrible immoral action. It isn’t. It’s
being irritable with your roommate. It’s being unclean in your imagination. It’s being covetous of
something you see in Dayton’s [department store] and thinking about it again, and again, and again.
It’s putting yourself before God. That’s what sin is. And confession is agreeing with God that
that is wrong. And that’s the first step.
Brothers and sisters, if you would say to me, “Brother, you talk to a lot of us, where do you think
most of us have trouble?” Dear ones, that’s it. Honestly that’s it. It almost always gets back to
that deal that there’s something in your life or my life that we will not agree with God is wrong.
We hang onto the smoking, we hang onto the masturbation, we hang on to the petting, we hang onto the
covetousness, we hang onto the selfish ambition, we hang onto the pride in our grades, something we
hang onto in our own lives, and we will not admit that that is sin. So, we’re always putting
ourselves on Satan’s side against God’s side. And therefore we never come into a place where we can
know God. The first step is confession.
The second step is repentance. Repenting! And brothers and sisters do you see there’s so much
silly talk about repentance. We’re all making it out that repentance is a big emotional deal, where
you come up to the altar and you cry your eyes out for a solid hour and that’s your repentance.
Loved ones, repentance is sorrow to Jesus for sending him to the cross, and stopping doing the act.
You know, I’ve done this with you, you know it so it’s no mystery. Tim gives me this picture, says
to me, “That’s a picture of my mother and I want you to be careful of it.” And I say, “Boy, it’s a
lovely picture, it really is I’ll put it into my pocket – ah, I’ve torn it. Oh, I’m sorry. Oh Tim
I’m sorry I’ve torn this picture. I really am sorry Tim. I want you to know I’m really repenting.”
Well loved ones, you only repent when you stop doing it. Don’t you see it? I mean, there’s no
point putting on a whole theatrical show for God if you don’t stop doing the thing you haven’t
repented. And repenting you see, is stop doing the thing. Okay, so you’re thrusting a sword into
Jesus’ side every time you swear, every time you think a dirty thought, every time you’re unclean in
your actions you’re thrusting a sword into Jesus’ side. How do you stop doing that? You pull the
Jesus and the Father are very honest, straight people. They know that if you’re continuing to kill
them then you aren’t repenting. And do you see that’s what it’s like. It is like that in the heart
of God. I know that Jesus has died once and for all, but do you see that he portrayed on Calvary
the agony in the Father’s heart every time we sin. And repentance is you just stop sinning.
And the last thing God asks you to do is to receive his Son. He says, “To as many as received him
to them gave he the right to become the children of God.” And the only way to come into any real
place where you begin to trust God is to receive the Spirit of Jesus into your own life. And that
just means that you make room for the Spirit of Jesus.
It means that you say to him, “Lord Jesus, you can run my life the way you ran your own, even if it
ends up in Calvary or ends up in some remote area of China destroyed, lonely, with nobody and with
nobody knowing that that’s happened to me. Even if that means I’m poverty stricken. Even if it
means I don’t become a PhD. Even if it means I don’t become famous. Lord Jesus, my future is yours
even if it means I don’t have lovely house with two car garage, I don’t have children, even if it
means I don’t get married. Lord Jesus, I want to receive you now and give you my life.”
Now brothers and sisters God deals with you as honestly as you deal with him. And if you will
honestly confess your sins, agree with him about the things that are wrong in your life, and if
you’ll honestly turn from those things as far as you’re able — he will give you the grace for what
you’re not able. And if you will honestly give your life to his Son and receive his Son by faith
into your spirit, then you’ll begin to come into a place where you find yourself trusting God day
after day. And there comes a sense of rightness in your own heart. And that inner turmoil goes.
And you just know you’re right with the Maker of the world.
But brothers and sisters that is it. And really you need to do it. You know, you need to do it
honestly. The mystical meditation won’t help, honestly it won’t. I was on that kick and many of us
have been. And the drugs certainly don’t help, and going to church doesn’t help. It has to be you
and your Creator dealing honestly about the things for which Jesus died. And if you’re honest about
that, God will be honest with you.
There’s a dear one — and she won’t mind me saying — there’s a dear one at the back, and her
husband Al was very enthusiastic, about the body here over the years and he died just this last
week. And it’s a great sense, he was 51, great joy to know he’s alive –and Jim is here, his son —
and great joy to know we have no doubt that he’s alive at this moment, absolutely no doubt he’s
alive. And they presumably, because Jesus allows the spirit to stay for a little while with the
dear ones, presumably they have some real sense of his aliveness as I had with my father.
Now do you see that’s what happens as a result of this? There is not only an imminent sense of God
but there is a transcendent certainty about where the person is after this life is over. Now that’s
really what it means to come into a right relationship with God. And that’s what it means to begin
So you see, don’t start off with, “Oh well, I’m going to trust him for my bank account, I’m going to
trust him for my exams.” Start off trusting him with those things that he said about you. Get
right with those. Get right with him over those and then you’ll find that he’ll guide you what to
trust him for and he’ll guide you when to work. He’ll guide you when to pray and he’ll guide you
when to act. He’ll guide you when to think and he’ll guide you when to listen to him. But first
you must establish that relationship with him.
Now, I don’t know how you all think about that and what you know of it and what you don’t. But if
you’re anxious at all to make any move towards it I’ll stay behind, I’m going to try to talk to
Puerto Rico people first, but I’ll stay behind and if you want to stay behind I’ll pray with you if
you want, and if you want to stay behind and pray in the theater nobody bothers you, or if you just
want to talk you should do it. But don’t go on endlessly coming to church hoping that sometime by
osmosis you’ll come into a sense of God’s reality. No, trusting God is a down to earth business. I
trust him by confessing, by repenting, and by receiving Jesus. That’s it. Trust is a down to earth
Then you can dig into and move into trusting him for your salary, and your finances, and your
business, and your future. So will you think about it and decide where you are and stop – dear ones
stop fiddling around, stop second guessing God. Just believe him, do what he says and let him do
the rest. It is his responsibility to make Jesus real in you; it’s not your responsibility. It’s
your responsibility to fulfill the conditions and show that you trust him. Let us pray.
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