Awareness of God 2
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Awareness of God – Part 2
2 Corinthians 5:17
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Last Sunday we talked about the existence of God. Probably none of us here would question that there is a God. We all see the reasonableness of that verse in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Most of us can see the rationale of that; you look at the sky; it had to come from somewhere. You look at the flowers; they had to come from somewhere. Even if you believe creation was by an evolutionary process rather than instantaneous, you still have to admit that somebody had to program the evolutionary process, if that’s the way it came about.
So I think few of us, except an extreme philosophical skeptic would question that there has to be a God. That’s the only explanation for all that we see around us; there has to be some intelligent mind that is at least as personable as you and I are; in order to make persons like us he must be as personable as we are. And yet we shared the paradox that all of us experience; that in our everyday ordinary life, when we’re struggling with the screws at work, or we’re struggling with the computer, or we’re struggling at home with the dishwasher, we’re not very conscious of God, we’re just not.
We kind of think hard and can work up a feeling about him on a Sunday or when something critical happens in our lives. Then we can think, “Oh God — we need God.” But in our ordinary everyday lives we don’t really sense his presence very much. And the paradox of that is that we know that he’s there all the time — we know that. We know our minds logically conclude, “He’s God, he must be everywhere. He must be in this room, he has to be. He must be able to see every step I take, every move I make. He must not only be able to do that but he must know why he put me here. He must know what my next step is meant to be in this plan and yet somehow I don’t feel close to him. Yet here I am going to vocational guidance counselors and every Tom, Dick, and Harry to find out what I should do and I know fine well he’s the only one that really knows, because he’s the one that put me here.”
Many of us have that experience and I suggested part of the reason for it was; it wasn’t that God wasn’t present with us, but that we were in the same situation as we found ourselves in if we were in a bar or in some embarrassing position and a coach that we had at school, or a Sunday school teacher, or somebody else saw us in that embarrassing situation. You know what we would do; we’d pretend they’re not there. We’d turn around and talk to somebody that we didn’t plan to talk to, or we’d start tying our shoelace; we’d do anything to avoid their glance and avoid them seeing us if possible.
Loved ones, I think that’s the situation with our lack of a sense of God’s presence. It’s not that he isn’t here; he is here every minute with you. But you evade his glance because there are things that you’re doing that you’re ashamed for him to see or you’re a little embarrassed about or you’re not too sure about and you kind of pretend that he isn’t there so that he won’t see you. And then we refer to that verse, “Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord? He that has clean hands and a pure heart.” And you say to yourself, “Ascending unto the hill of the Lord I need clean hands and pure heart? I haven’t got clean hands and I haven’t got a pure heart, how can I be in his presence? I can’t. I can’t bear his presence.” So we are like ostriches; we stick our heads in the sand and
because we can’t see the lion, we pretend the lion isn’t there. So we get into that dishonest attitude with God, and that’s really what it is loved ones.
We get into that dishonest attitude to him and it actually it breaks our perception of his presence. So he’s there, he’s right beside you, he loves you with all his heart, but because you’re playing this evasive game and trying to avoid him, you fail to be able to perceive his presence. So you live an impossible life because it is madness to try to move on a spinning sphere that is flying through space at hundreds of miles an hour and be on your own, not knowing who is in control of it. That’s where a lot of our fear comes from; we’re lonely, because we’ll always be lonely without God. I can be your friend, somebody else can be your friend, a husband or wife can be your friend but only for so long. Finally we’re all lonely, because there’s only one who really makes us feel at home and that’s the dear one who put us here. So when you play games with him like that, and lose the sense of his presence, you become a really lonely person.
So the situation is like this; there is air all around us; if I decide to hold my breath and decide not to breath, it doesn’t matter what you say about the air being all around me, I’ll just look at you and my face will get bigger and bigger and I’ll look as if I’m going to explode. Then I’ll fall faint and I’ll eventually die, even though the air is all around me; if I don’t breathe it in it won’t do me any good.
It’s the same with God; if you fail to perceive his presence and recognize him, and acknowledge him, and be real with him, then you fail to receive the benefit of his life into your life. And that’s where we said many of us are; many of us feel we’re in a catch twenty-two situation. We feel, “Well yes, that’s right. I do that because I’m not like him. I mean, I have feelings of lust at times that I would be embarrassed to death if he knew about.” He does know about it, but we keep pretending he doesn’t. This pretend game, it’s stupid you know, but we do it. There are things that I want in my life that I don’t think he wants me to want and so I just can’t look him in the eye and I know that. I don’t see how I can look him in the eye unless I change and I don’t see what’s going to change me unless he changes me and how can he change me if I don’t recognize him? How can I get close to him if I’m like I am and how can I be other than I am unless I get close to him?”
The amazing gospel is that God, out of the great love he has for you, has taken all the things that you have ever done, all the things that he has noted in his spiritual memory, all the hard things you’ve said to people, all the dirty things you have thought, all the dishonest things that you have done and on the page of his memory he has torn them up and he has brought you close to himself out of sheer love. He has done that, yet you keep on pretending and evading him as if he doesn’t know what you are. He not only knows what you are, but he has lifted you up to be beside himself and at this moment he regards you as being beside himself and he’s treating you as being beside him and he is willing to give you all that he has. But because you don’t believe that, you erect a barrier against him, just as I do if I don’t breathe.
In other words, you’re meant to live in complete confidence in your Father. You’re not meant to live like furtive evasive little children trying to hide behind the trees of the garden. We’re meant to accept what God has done. Now loved ones, you need to look at that because you need to be able to remind yourself of it and it’s in Ephesians 2:4-8, “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses” even when we weren’t making a move towards God at all, even when you didn’t come to church, “even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and
raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” That’s what God has done for you.
Until you die on this earth, because when you die and you don’t believe it, then you finally make real your disbelief and you make it eternally real. So if you continue to believe that God doesn’t love you, that he hasn’t accepted you, that you’re not his child and you live like that, eventually you make that your eternal state. But until the day of your death, God has raised you up and you are sitting beside him and he thinks of you as a friend and a dear child. He does; and all your running around and hiding and pretending that he doesn’t is a lie. He thinks of you as a dear friend and his dear child and he has all the resources of his own home and his own heaven to give you, but he can only give them to you when you believe that.
It’s like this: a very wealthy husband and wife decided to build a beautiful mansion in the center of their city to live in. So they chose a hilltop and put up a most beautiful house. The lawns were perfectly manicured and the grounds were beautifully landscaped and when you went into the house the walls were hung with beautiful paintings and the floors had Persian carpets and patterned rugs on them. Everything was absolutely perfect. There was antique furniture in every room gathered from all the European cities, and the air in the home was beautifully scented, and filtered so that everything was perfect and they themselves were dear people.
They lived ordered lives and lived in real harmony with each other. The whole home was beautiful and absolutely spotless and they had one son. That son was given every advantage they could offer him and then he was sent to college. There he got into drugs and alcohol and despite all their attempts to communicate their love to him, he went downhill and eventually ended up on skid row. One day he was so high on drugs, that of all places he decided, in his wondering mad mind, to stagger up the hill to this family home. So he staggered up the hill and blasted his way through the front door, and as he went through he pulled furniture down onto the floor as he lurched backwards and forwards. He went into the living room and pulled down some of the pictures from the walls and then collapsed on the floor in the middle of his own sickness and his own vomit.
When his father and mother came in they ran over to him and despite the wretched stench that filled the room now, and despite the dirt and the filth that he had spread in the living room in those few brief moments, they went over to him and put their arms around him and told him they were so glad he was back and that as far as they were concerned he was their son and he belonged to them and this was his home, and this was where he should be. He looked up at them, and through the madness of his own drug state, he could hardly believe what he was hearing. He was terribly embarrassed and ashamed and he mumbled, “No, you can’t take me back. I don’t fit into this, this is incongruous; I’m the opposite of everything that you have in this home. You can’t take me back.” And the father said to him, “I look into your eyes and I see my image in you. I can see myself in you. You are still my son and as far as I’m concerned you’re completely restored to our favor and this is your home and we receive you here.” And the son of course, had to accept,” That’s it; that’s what this verse says to all of us.
If the Father says it, we can’t question it, its fact. Then the son realizes, “But I can’t stay. I can’t stay the way I am. If I continue the way I am I’ll just spread my dirt and my filth all over this home and I’ll destroy it for you.” And at that moment the Father stooped down and lifted the boy up and took him up the stairs to the bathroom and with his own hands he washed away all the dirt. The boy had tried to wipe away some of the dirt with his handkerchief but the handkerchief was dirty. Everything the boy had was dirty so it didn’t matter what he wiped — he made it worse.
He couldn’t clean himself because he himself was all full of filth and dirt.
But the father lifted him up and took him up to the bathroom and put him in the bath, and started to lovingly wash all the dirt away. Then he got out a good suit of his own and put it on the boy and brought him downstairs and said to him, “However long it takes, however many times you fall, I will be here to do everything to lift you up, and to clean you, and to make you the kind of person that will be at home in this beautiful heaven we have here.”
Now that’s what God has done in Jesus for you. He has restored you not only to his favor, but he has restored you to his image. The reason God is able to forgive you and me for our sins is because he has a bath in which he can wash us. You’re dead right; if you don’t change you’ll make heaven hell. You’ll fill it with your own dirt. I’ll fill it with my own dirt. If we can’t be changed it doesn’t matter whether God forgives us or not and that was the problem the Jews were in; the Jews knew that God had forgiven them. They didn’t know what he had done, they didn’t know about the great act on Calvary which was that great bath into which God had put all humanity and changed it. They just knew that God had done something magnificent that enabled him to forgive them.
But they still cried out, “The good that I would I cannot do. The evil I hate is what I do. I know Father you’ve forgiven me but I cannot be like you. How will I ever be at home in your heaven unless I become like you.” So the Jews started that massive journey up that impossible hill of self-improvement; trying to obey the law by their own efforts, trying to clean themselves up, trying to make themselves better.
Loved ones, thousands of us in churches throughout the world are in the same situation; we accept that God has forgiven us because of Jesus’ death but we don’t see that why he forgave us was because in Jesus’ death he had bathed us. God changed you in his son Jesus. He restored you not only to the favor of God but he restored you to the image of God. God has put each one of us in his son Jesus and has destroyed us there with all that our old self has produced over the years and he has renewed us and raised us up in Jesus completely new and clean.
Loved ones, it’s done. It’s done for you. That old self of yours that is filled with greed and irritability and anger and resentment was put by God into his son Jesus and God destroyed that there and in eternal reality that is gone and done with. The moment you believe that, that moment you begin to receive the benefit of that.
But loved ones, if you keep on trying to clean yourself up with your own dirty handkerchief you just wipe more “self” over yourself. So tomorrow when you feel anger rising in your heart and try to repress it by your own power and effort, instead look up to God and say, “Lord God, I know that you crucified me in Jesus. I know that you destroyed me in him and you remade me new. I know that you destroyed this old self that is expressing this anger. I know that Lord and I want to thank you for that.”
Just thank him — don’t even do anything else. Don’t make a move to grab your handkerchief to try to wipe yourself clean, don’t. Because the truth is, you believe yourself to death. You believe yourself to death, you believe yourself clean, you believe yourself changed. That’s it — it’s by faith. It’s not by effort, it’s by faith. The truth is that in Jesus you have already been made completely new, you’ve been changed and the Holy Spirit is able to make that real in you if you will begin to believe it. That’s it loved ones; God has done it for you.
So when it comes to Wednesday and you see the old habit coming up again that you’ve been fighting for years, don’t fight the habit. Look up to God and say, “Lord, I know that you have changed me in Jesus. I know that this old self that produced this thing for years has gone for good. I know that what I’m seeing is just the relic of a ghost. Lord, I thank you that you have crucified me in Christ. I thank you that I’m dead. Lord, I thank you that I no longer exist and that you Lord Jesus, you alone exist.” And as you begin to say that and you begin to believe that, God will make that real in you and you’ll find that Christ begins to rise within you.
Now loved ones, the verse that you need is in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” And if you’re in any doubt and you say, “Yes ‘if anyone is in Christ’ but I don’t think I’m in Christ.” Then just look at verse 14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” You’re one of the “all”. You can’t get yourself out of that; you’re one of the “all” therefore you have died, therefore you are in Christ, therefore you are a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. If you say to me, “It’s illogical.” It’s not illogical at all. The air is all around me, if I don’t breathe it I’ll die. There’s no point in me saying to you, “But I can’t see the air.” You’ll say, “Forget whether you can see it or not, breathe or you’ll die.” That’s what I say to you. You say, “Yes, but I can’t see it.” I say it’s true; your God has said it. Believe it and begin to live it, that’s it.
Loved ones, we’re dying. We’re dying because we won’t believe that our God has changed us. We’re dying; wearing each other out, husband and wives, brothers and sisters, business colleagues are wearing each other out because we can’t be changed; and yet we have been changed by God in Jesus. All we have to do is believe it and the moment you believe it, the weight of that great “old self” rolls away off your shoulders and you begin to live a new life. That’s the Father’s plan for us, and it can be yours. It’s what changed my life and it is what changes many lives. It is possible to live above self and sin because God has changed us in his son Jesus, so don’t struggle. Don’t struggle; believe it and begin to live it. Let us pray.
Dear Father, you know the agony that is in a lot of our dear hearts because we want this with all of our being and yet it seems a paradox and it seems illogical. Father, we would bow our great thoughts before you and we would give up all our great reasoning’s which have only got us into more and more futility and frustration. Father, we would believe what your word says, that Christ has died for all therefore all have died, and that’s me. And if I am in Christ I am a new creation, the old has passed away and the new has come. Father, we believe that the old in us has passed away; it has been changed by you, you have remade us in Calvary, but you expect us to believe it for it to become real in us today.
Father, we look up and commit ourselves to you to believe that you have changed us in Jesus and you have bathed us and made us clean.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen.