Are You Alive to Reality?
Are You In Christ?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Loved ones, would you look at Romans 8:1. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I’m concerned that each one of you would know what that means. That’s really the heart of everything that we do here on Sunday mornings. I am concerned that you’d know what that means because it seems to me our present society has all kinds of versions of Christianity. You’re facing it and I’m facing it. We have all kinds of strange ideas of what it is to be in Christ Jesus and it’s very important that we know what it really means.
Loved ones, that whole chapter (Romans 8) actually explains it. If you read it in Greek, you would see that there is very little break between that verse 1 and verse 5. In fact, the Greek actually runs right on. It runs like this, you read verse 1 first then you’d hop right to verse 5. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
In other words, a person in Christ Jesus sets their minds on the things of the Spirit and those who aren’t in Christ Jesus set their minds on the things of the flesh. Actually that determines whether you are in Christ Jesus or not. It’s not whether you were confirmed in the Lutheran church or became a member of the Methodist church or were baptized in a Catholic Church. It doesn’t even matter if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God or that He died for your sins, what does matter is if you walk after the Spirit and set your mind on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the flesh. That’s what determines where you are.
Brothers and sisters to tell you the truth, that’s the whole point of it all. What does it matter, if it doesn’t have anything to do with your everyday life? Wesley said, “Faith is not a speculative rational thing, a cold lightless assent, a train of ideas in the head but it is a disposition of the heart.” Who of us wants some speculative rational thing or some train of ideas in the head or something that we hope we’ll be able to spit out at a priest or a minister just before we die? That isn’t Christianity. That isn’t being in Christ Jesus.
Being in Christ Jesus is something to do with everyday life. I’d love you to know that and to know what that is. Here’s where my heart and my head feels for you. When you go on to read Romans 8:6 it’s pretty strong.
Romans 8:6, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” My heart goes out to you because I think a number of you have little idea of what that means. You want to know, and you say to set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. But still we’re all mixed up about it.
I don’t know who the latest beauty is in the movies but we men think, “Oh yes, I shouldn’t set my mind on flesh, sex or anything like that. That’s death. And to set my mind on the Spirit, that’s thinking of God and thinking of church.” We have all kinds of strange ideas of what setting the mind on the Spirit means and what setting the mind on the flesh means. So that’s what I’d like to try to
share with you today and in the next few Sundays, if God guides us.
What is it to live in the Spirit? What does this business of living in the Spirit mean? We need to start right back in a very basic truth. That is the truth of why God made you and me. You find it there in 1 John 1:3.
This is why God made us — why He made you. 1 John 1:3: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” That’s why God made you. God made you to have fellowship with Him. I hope you don’t go to sleep with that and think “Oh yes that means I’ll be walking around his throne with candles and all kinds of things in my hands.” No. Fellowship is friendship. Friendship, that’s the dearest thing in this world, you know it is.
Friendship is beautiful. The friendships that you have, that’s about all you’ve got because all the money goes, all the businesses go, all the professions die but you’ve got friendship. Friendship is the dearest thing that we have in this world and it’s the dearest thing in the universe. God made you and me to be His friends. Loved ones, you have to cast out of your mind all silly ideas of God. You have all kinds of wild ideas of Him as a kind of holy, holy person who doesn’t know you at all. He is the dearest guy in the whole universe. He knows you better than your mom knows you. He knows you better than your best friend in the bar knows you.
He knows your worst parts. He bore them in Himself on Calvary. He knows you, and yet He still loves you. That’s the amazing thing. All the rest of us can love you because we don’t know you so well, but He loves you even though He knows you with His whole heart. He knows every bit of you and He still loves you.
See, our dear Father made you to have fellowship with Himself, to be His friend. That’s what will go on and on forever. I don’t know if you have ever thought of eternity, but I have said, “Oh, I am looking forward to eternity. It will be great when we’re there.” Thank God we can’t too often conceive of infinity. If you ever do conceive of infinity, haven’t you been frightened and terrified by it? It’s terrible to think of this going on and on forever and ever.
It’s terrible except if it’s a friend that we can trust. Friendship is the only thing that could go on forever and ever and never bore you into hell. So, it’s friendship and fellowship that is the purpose that we’re made for.
Now that’s why God made us with the same capacities as He has Himself. You can see the reason for that. I once had a little dog that was very dear to me, a little Yorkshire Terrier. He is okay when it’s throwing a ball, catching and bringing it back or letting me tickle his tummy. He’s great on that. He’s hopeless on appreciating Chopin or Beethoven. He is terrible in discussing pre-destination or the political situation.
In other words, you can’t have much friendship with something that hasn’t the capacity that you have. So, that’s why God made us with the same capacities as He has. That’s why He said to Jesus what He did say. You see it back in Genesis 1:26. It’s interesting to see that God was talking to somebody when He said that and of course, it was Jesus because Jesus was with Him before the earth was made.
Gen 1:26: Then God said, “Let us (God and Jesus) make man in our image, after our likeness.” You and
I were made in the image of God. We were made like God. We have capacities like God. We have the same capacities as He has. Now you can find the detail to that if you go over to Genesis 2:7. I’ll try to make some of this as clear as I can as we go along. Some of you will know some of the words without me even helping but maybe it’ll help those who don’t.
Gen 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground.” It’s been a long time from when I have written out the Hebrew, but dust is ‘aphar’. And ‘adamah’ is like that. It really turns out to be the word for Adam. This word ‘adamah’ means ‘the ground’. God took dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The Hebrew word for breath is actually ‘ruwach’. It’s the word that means breath or spirit. So it’s a word that means either breath or spirit.
You remember when Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wills and so the spirit is.” It’s because of the similarity between wind and spirit or spirit and breath that he used that analogy. So God breathed into the ground that He took, His own spirit. And man became a living being. The word in the King James Version is the word ‘nephesh’ and that is soul. And so, you have man with a soul, a spirit and of course the ground was the body. Those are the three capacities that God Himself has. The Father made us with those capacities.
Now, He didn’t make us like Himself. He made us with the same capacities as He has but He didn’t make us filled with His own life. He gave us free will to receive or reject him. Do you see that? So you can have a body and a spirit and a soul but they’re filled with a hateful, angry kind of life. And of course you can have no friendship with them. But if you have a soul, a spirit and a body filled with the same kind of spirit as another person then you can have fellowship.
Now, THAT God gave us a choice about. You’ll see it there in Genesis 2:16. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” So God gave us free will and He said, “Now, I have given you these capacities, you’ve got those whether you like it or not. But you have a choice of eating of the trees of the garden that I have put there for you or you can refuse to eat of them if you want.” And particularly He said, “There are two trees in the middle of the garden”, and you see that in Genesis 2:9.
“And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” So you see God put two trees in the middle of the garden: one, a tree of life, and one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, loved ones, the tree of life was later expressed as Jesus. The tree of life is God’s own Spirit. It’s the thing that makes Him work. It’s the thing that makes Him live. It’s the thing that makes Him, Him. It’s His whole Spirit.
You know the way we say, “Oh that person is a great spirit.” You mean that their whole attitude to life is good — it’s the whole attitude. Or we say, “Oh I wish I had my dad’s spirit, I wish I had my mom’s spirit.” What we mean is that we wish we had their whole attitude to life – the way they respond to things. That’s what God made available to us in the tree of life.
At times now, we call it the Holy Spirit but really it’s just God’s own Spirit — the life that runs through Him. And God said, “Now you can eat of that tree, and that’s what I’d like you to do, but you’ve got free will. I don’t want a bundle of prisoners in Heaven with me. You’ve got free will, you’ve got the capacity to have fellowship with me. You can eat of this tree and you can become like me and we can live together forever. Or there is another way to go. I want you to know I am making
it available because I don’t want robots. There is a tree of knowledge of good and evil and you can eat of that if you want but that will eventually bring you to death.”
Now, loved ones that’s the way the Father made things at the beginning. There’s another way to put all that if it helps you. It’s in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. You’ll see it all expressed more clearly.
1 Thessalonians 5:23. “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Your spirit, your soul and your body can be drawn like this. You can think of your spirit as being the innermost part of you. It’s the part of you that can actually communicate with God. Then, your soul is like an overcoat around your spirit.
Your soul, in Greek is ‘psuche’ and you can see the connection that ‘psuche’ has with psychology. The soul is actually the psychological part of you. And around that (your soul) is your body. So God has made us with virtually three layers, like Himself. His will was that we would work in fellowship with Him. We would live off His love and we would receive from Him His spirit. That would fill us with His life and we would fill the world with that life. That’s what He meant when He asked us to eat of the tree of life.
I can put it in more down to earth terms. When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, God’s will was this: “Adam, there is an orange tree over there. You need some orange juice this morning, go and get some orange juice.” That was the Father’s plan. Through His friendship with Adam, Adam would know what God was thinking. God would meet all Adam’s needs through His directing Adam how to develop the world.
In that way, the seagulls from the Santa Barbara coast would never have died from the oil and tar that we produce through our oil spills. It was the Father’s will that He would direct us where to get the oil and how to develop the world’s resources. It was the Father’s will that we would work in love with Him and receive directions from Him. He would provide us our security as we lived in friendship with Him. In that way, we’d do our jobs because God was guiding us to do them, not because they give us security. We would get our security through Him and from Him and He would add all other things unto us.
It was the same with His love for us. It was His will that each one of you would know Him intimately and you would know that He knew your name. You’d be like friends who just walked with God — like Enoch. In fact, it was the Lord’s will that we would be like Enoch (“He was not for God took him”) — that we would never die, that we would be close in relationship with the Father and would just lift off this earth whenever He decided it was time for us to join Him in the other place.
So it was the Father’s will that we would know that he loved us. If the one significant other in the whole universe loved us, what does it matter about anybody else? That would be the end of problems with self-esteem, problems with self-worth, problems with loneliness, and problems with feeling nobody appreciated us. It was God’s will that we would live off His love and in that, we would find our security and our sense of significance coming from Him.
It was also His will that we would walk through this world with the owner of the world beside us — that we would water ski in Hawaii with the owner of the waves right beside us — that we would ski on the snow slopes in Colorado with the Father of those slopes right beside us. It was His will that we would get our happiness from walking in communion with Him as friend with friend. Therefore there
would never be this desperate desire, “We have to get happiness, we have to get happiness”, because we have happiness with Him.
So that was His will, loved ones. In friendship with Him, we would get all the sense of security that we needed because that’s what love gives you. We would get all the sense of significance or importance that we needed because that’s what somebody who loves you does for you. And we would have all the sense of happiness we needed because if you’ve had a dear friendship or a dear loved one whom you cared about, you didn’t need anything else. You had all the happiness you needed with them. That was the Father’s will.
Now loved ones what happened? We men and women decided we would get what we need from the world ourselves. We will get this by our own knowledge of good and evil. Adam said, “Why listen to Him telling you about getting juice from the tree? You know that you got juice from that tree last year, why not note that down in a book and we’ll establish a knowledge of good and evil. It is good to get juice from this tree. It is evil to get it from that tree. Let us set up a whole series of laws and precedents that will enable us to use this world to get what we need from it. We will live by our own knowledge of good and evil.
So we determined to do this by our own power and our own strength. You see it there loved ones if you look at the account of The Fall in Genesis 3. You see how it came about. The very words that Satan used are some of the words that we have used.
Genesis 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” — that is she thinks “I can get my security from this knowledge of good and evil. I can know how to play the securities. I can know how to play the stock market. I can know how to do my job better than everybody else so that I scramble to the top of the heap and get a better salary. I can get food from this if I use my head and avoid what is evil and get what human beings say is good.”
Genesis 3:6 continued: “… and that it was a delight to the eyes.” She thinks, “I can get happiness for myself. I can buy a boat with this money. I can buy a motorbike with this money. I can buy a nice house. I can get happiness with these things.”
Genesis 3:6 continued: “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” She thinks, “I can get power using my mind to control other people. Through my knowledge, I can gain significance and importance and influence for myself.”
Loved ones, what we did was, we turned away from God Himself and we turned to the world. We began to use the world and the love that the world would give us to try to live in this world the way God wanted us to. In other words we were still aiming at being in His image. We still wanted to be God but we wanted to take His place. We didn’t want to be His children and love with Him. We wanted to be God. We wanted to control things.
In actual fact you know what has happened. We had to go to the world for our security so we came under the domination of things. You know how we’re trying to get the security from the number of things that we can amass. We turn to people for our sense of importance and significance and with four billion others trying to do the same thing, there isn’t much significance to go around. So, there are many of us that have trouble with self-esteem. We go to people for that. Then of course you know the domination we come under with circumstances because we’re always trying to make our circumstances right so that we can get some kind of happiness for ourselves.
Loved ones, that’s how we came into our present state. Now, if you say, “What has this to do with spirit and flesh?” This is living by the spirit — living down that way. And this is living by the flesh. (Pastor is referring to a diagram). It doesn’t need to be sexy at all. Living by the flesh is dependence on the world for the love, the security, the significance and the happiness that God intends us to get from Him.
Those who live according to the flesh will die. You will. A terrible thing has happened to this part of us when we decided to depend on the world. So as you go through this coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you yourself are living because loved ones, being in Jesus is a very practical everyday choice that you make moment by moment. You are making it even this afternoon. The interesting thing is, it’s not WHAT you do. It’s WHY you do it and the attitude with which you do it. You can see that.
We can all go to Hawaii. We can all have wonderful holidays everywhere if we have the attitude to God that is right and receive it as from Him. But if there is in us “iron in our soul” — trying to grab what we want with that spirit, then that brings death to us. So do ask the Holy Spirit to give you light this coming week so that you will actually live in Christ during this coming week. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you that being in Christ is something practical and real. Father, walking in the Spirit is something that is understandable and walking in the flesh is something that we can know and reject. Dear Father we know that we can do nothing unless through your Holy Spirit and our friendship with You, You begin to give us light about these things. So we ask Lord that you’ll help us and help the others in this room to know and understand in the spirit what these things mean for each of us. Father we thank you for your plan.
We thank you that you do want to be our friend. We thank You Lord that that’s why you cherish us and you will miss us badly if we fail to come into Heaven and to live with you forever. Father, we bow before you now and are amazed that you would be interested in us as friends. Father we thank you for it and we give ourselves to be a friend to you this coming week. We will begin to regard you as our friend and as our dear Father.
And now the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.