Challenged to Change
Assurance of a Clean Heart
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Marks of a True Christian 1
1 John 3:9
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
You remember he said, “I think some of us, in trying to enter into entire sanctification, and trying to enter into the experience of the clean heart, and trying to enter into crucifixion with Christ, full consecration, baptism with the Spirit, however we designate it, some of us seem to be waiting for the fruit. We’re waiting for the fruit to appear in our lives, and then we’ll believe that we are in the experience of a clean heart.” I think he’s right in great truth that some of us are waiting for the fruit. And we’re waiting – or, “Right now I’m waiting for either a sense of prophecy to be in me, or a sense of praise to be in me, or I’m waiting for a great love to issue forth to other people, or a great joy to come. And then I’ll know I’m in a clean heart.”
And I think he was right when he said, “That’s wrong. That’s not right, because that’s moving by feeling and it’s actually waiting for something to happen.” And that’s what some people do, you remember. They wait. “I’m waiting,” you remember that lady said to Moody, I think it was, “I’m waiting for a great sense of peace to come up on me.” And he said, “You’re waiting for a feeling. It will never come; or if it does come, it will come by the movement of the evil spirits.” So it is wrong to be waiting for the fruit, because the fruit follows from a clean heart.
It isn’t so much the awareness, the witness to you that you have a clean heart, but it follows from a clean heart. And so he said, “Really what you need is the witness, the witness that your heart is clean.” And I think that was quite right. There’s nothing wrong in that. I think it’s right. Until you have a clean heart you can’t have the fruit of a clean heart. And a clean heart is known by the Holy Spirit witnessing within you.
What I did realize, and I think — I’m sure what he saw too — is that the witness itself of the Holy Spirit that you have a clean heart is preceded by one other experience. And it’s Acts 15:9. And of course, we all know it. And you’ll know it immediately you look it up. And some of you know the verse already so you don’t need to. And you can see it starts in Verse 8, “And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us;” and Verse 9, “And he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.”
The witness that your heart is clean is preceded by faith. And what is faith? Well, if you look at the lesson we read, you’ll see what it is. Luke 1:31, is the promise, “God will cleanse your heart.” The angel said, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” “You will!” “And you shall call his name Jesus.” Now at that point Mary hadn’t conceived, and hadn’t born a son. But God said, “You will conceive in your womb and you will bear a son.” “I will cleanse your heart by faith through the Holy Spirit.” And her response is faith in Verse 38, “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.
Mary said, “Whatever you want. Whatever you want. I agree. I accept. Whatever you say.” She moved from, “No, it couldn’t happen to me,” through the promise that a son would be born in her womb by the Holy Spirit. And she then said, “That’s alright. Whatever you want, you can do.” That’s faith. And then the Holy Spirit witnesses that you have consecrated yourself fully, that you are exercising ‘sanctifying faith’.
In other words, a conviction flows in upon you, “You’re on believing ground; you’re on believing ground now. You’re ready to have your heart cleansed by faith; you’re ready for the Holy Spirit to fill you, and make complete in you, the death and resurrection of Jesus. And that witness comes when you exercise full, consecrated faith. So the fruit cannot come before the witness. But the witness of the Holy Spirit that you’re fully consecrated cannot come, in a sense, until you’re fully consecrated. And full consecration is what faith is. It’s a readiness for all that God has said to flow in.
Can anyone remember the actual verses where Jesus asked Peter, you remember, “Lovest thou me?” Can you guide us at all, because that has an example in it? John 21:15, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’” See that’s it.
“Lord, you know everything; you see my heart; you see what I’m willing to do; you see if I’m willing to have no reputation; you see if I’m willing not to be married. You know Lord; you look into my heart; you know if I’m willing never to have any emotional satisfaction again; you know Lord, if I’m willing to be poverty stricken; you know Lord, if I’m willing to be a failure. You know Lord; you know everything.” See it’s that; it’s that openness before God; that’s what full consecration and sanctifying faith is. It’s, “Lord, you know everything. You see me, you can see if I am pretending or not. You know that.”
The Holy Spirit witnesses that you’re on that believing ground. He witnesses that you’re on believing ground. And then immediately that witness comes, the Holy Spirit flows in; reality comes. So it’s when you yourself — there’s something in you, there’s something in you knows, “I’m being honest. I’m being honest. Lord, take me apart, cut me up, show me before the whole universe of people that have ever lived and that will ever live. You know what is here Lord. You see if I am willing to be thought nothing of. You see if I’m willing to be overlooked or despised. You see if I’m willing never to have any position at all. You see Lord, if I’m willing never to be regarded, never to be thought of, never to be respected. You see Lord, if I’m willing never to have the comfort of this or that, never to have the pleasure of this or that. You see Lord; you know; you know all things.” You know that – it’s almost a boldness before God, “Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.”
It’s almost a boldness, “Lord, I dare you.” It’s not really; you wouldn’t dare to say that, but it’s that kind of certainty. It’s a certainty. It’s an absolute confidence that God cannot find within you an unwillingness to be identified with Jesus in every way that he has shown you up to this time. I agree with everybody here, he will show you further things. But everything he has shown you up to that time, that you are willing for it. And the Holy Spirit witnesses, and he will witness, to full consecration, to a state of full consecration in your heart. A state of full consecration is where you have consecrated all to God that he has shown you he wants.
And it’s interesting in that sense you can see there is a negative consecration. In a sense the consecration is a negative thing. Sanctification is actually a positive thing, where the Holy Spirit comes in and sanctifies, and produces the fruit: love, and joy, peace and all the outgoing
beauty of Jesus. But that’s preceded by, in a sense, this negative, this consecration that’s willing, “For whatever Lord you have brought to my old self in Christ of the cross.” And there is a witness of the spirit that you’re willing for that.
And so that’s something you see, that you cannot bring yourself up to without the aid of the Holy Spirit. But you can bring – that’s the bit that is like the power steering. The power steering: the wheel will help; it’s power assisted steering. You put your hand on the wheel and you pull, but there’s power. So the power will not go without you putting the hand on it, but you do put the hand on it; you do bring yourself to a place of full consecration.
In a sense you only start the process. The Holy Spirit is there every moment helping; helping; giving revelation of things you haven’t seen inside yourself. But when you see all those things — whatever is your particular question the Holy Spirit is asking you — when you see those, the Holy Spirit witnesses that you are fully consecrated. And with that witness within, there rises up from you full, sanctifying faith. And the Holy Spirit flows in upon you.
So that in a sense when I say to you, “If the next morning you get up and you find anger or irritability in your heart, you know that you were not fully consecrated.” In a sense it’s the ‘lack’ of that fruit that confirms to you that there’s something that you did not fully consecrate. So that’s the value of that. But the opposite of that is not true, “Oh, if I have the fruit then I know.” No, but if you haven’t the fruit, you know that you aren’t there. But the way you know you are there, is not through the presence of the fruit, but through the witness of the Spirit. You know it’s settled before there’s any outward sign in your life.
And so that’s right, the witness of the Holy Spirit precedes the positive fruit of “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” in your life. But the witness of the Spirit can only be there if the consecration is there. The Spirit witnesses that you are fully consecrated. And full consecration comes from that full, that full – you can hardly call it faith. It’s actually honesty. “Lord, you’re asking me a third time, ‘Do I love you?’ Lord, I don’t know anything else to say. You know all things. You know all things. You see my mind, you see. Lord, if there’s anything here that you can see is wrong, it’s yours. You see it Lord.” It’s an inner conviction, and certainty, and confidence within you, that God cannot put his finger on anything that is not subjected to Jesus’ death on Calvary.
And that’s ‘believing in sanctifying ground’. That’s why the old preachers would say, “You cannot exercise sanctifying faith unless you’re on believing ground.” And the only way to get on believing ground is to be in that place of full and absolute consecration, where God himself cannot find a fault. Sincere is “sine” in Latin: without. “Cera.” “C-e-r-a” is wax: “without wax.” In Italy if they had a beautiful column of marble, and they got a crack in it, you know what they did. You can guess: took some wax, and they filled it in and smoothed it out. And of course looking at it you couldn’t tell. And so then they began to say, “Is that a genuine pillar?” “Yes, that’s a pillar ‘sine cera’.” That’s a pillar without wax. There was nowhere on that that a little crack has been filled in with wax.
That’s, God looks upon you, sees you’re “sine cera,” without wax. There’s no bluff here; there’s no big talk; there’s no unreality. There’s no big thing that you’ve kind of side stepped and said, “Lord, Lord, you know. You know I’m fully sanctified; you know I’m willing not to be married; you know I’m willing to never have satisfaction physically or emotionally. You know Lord.” There’s no bluff. There’s no bluff. There’s a strong witness of the Holy Spirit in your heart that you are
fully consecrated. And then faith springs up in your heart and the Holy Spirit rushes in upon you.
So it’s a very practical, down to earth experience, this one of sanctification through faith. It’s a definite instantaneous act and experience. And it is something that is very clear, and you don’t need to be uncertain about it. And it is — that’s right — it does precede the fruit of the spirit. But the amazing thing is the witness of the Spirit – Wesley will say, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” The Holy Spirit witnesses to a certain state in your heart. You can’t witness to that unless that state of the heart is there. So it’s that kind of sense. There can only be a witness of the Spirit that you’re fully consecrated, if you are fully consecrated.
But the state of full consecration is that of Peter or Mary, “Lord, be it unto me according to your word; whatever you want.” And in strange sense, at that moment a person actually is sanctified. At that moment there is a great rest, there’s a great peace and settlement within you. Even though all the subsequent things, the witness of the spirit and the fruit of the spirit in your life, follow. But actually at that moment you, in fact, are sanctified. So it’s good that any of us here can know that, over these next days, that that’s God’s will for us. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, we thank you that it is possible for us to be honest with you, and come to a place where we know that the Spirit witnesses within, that we are being honest with you. Holy Spirit of truth, you seal our honesty. You see the intentions of our hearts; you know what we intend, and what our motives are. And you can witness to their truthfulness. And we thank you for that.
We pray Lord, we pray for that witness, not only once initially, but day-by-day, that we will walk in the open light of it, with your constant witness Holy Spirit, that we are in a state of full consecration, and in a place where God is able to sanctify us, through faith, to make us holy and clean, like Jesus.
Lord, we give ourselves to you these days for initial certainty for those of us who have never experienced it, and for those of us who have, for continued daily certainty, through the witness of the Holy Spirit. For your glory, amen.