2 Corinthians 5
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There’s an interesting verse in 2 Corinthians, a strange verse really, and maybe you’d look at it 2 Corinthians 5:13, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” If we are beside ourselves it is for God, and if we are in our right mind it is for you. And no doubt Paul was trying to answer some I suppose gibe or criticism that was leveled at him by the opponent saying, “They’re crazy,” or, “They’re mad.” Along the lines I suppose that the people used when they saw the Apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they said, “They’re drunk with new wine,” and presumably it was that kind of gibe you know, “Oh the fella’s crazy.”
But I thought that the English idiom that is used brings home part of the real truth, that is the English idiom for being crazy, he’s beside himself, implying he’s not really himself, he’s beside himself. And yet Paul takes that and he says, “If we are beside ourselves it is for you.” And then it is interesting of course, that this piece follows Chapter 4, you remember, where he says in 2 Corinthians 4:10, “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” And then what follows that verse, we are beside ourselves is down there you remember, in 2 Corinthians 5:17. 1 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 then it is all summarized in the famous verse that we all know, “It is not I that live, but Christ that lives within me.” And it brings home to you that that is the truth of reality that we are to live beside ourselves. We are to be beside ourselves, or another way to put it is, we’re to be outside ourselves. We’re to be outside ourselves, we’re to live apart from ourselves. In fact, this is not our life any longer.
I just thought again you know, how real that is, the center and the heart of living here on this earth. That not another hour are you to live inside your own body. Not another hour am I to live inside my own body. This is Jesus’ life and it’s really probably the plainest way to face what living for God is about, simply deciding in your own heart, “Am I actually ready to get out of this body? Am I actually ready to give up this life? Am I really prepared to hand this over to another man? Am I actually ready to let Jesus who made me admittitedly, he made me, I know that, and he made me in himself, so I suppose I am part of him and he certainly says he is in me, he said, ‘You Father are in me, and I am them,’ so he certainly regards himself as being in me. But am I actually ready not anymore to live this life as if it were mine?”
And I think that’s the heart of everything. I mean, that’s the heart of our whole existence here. And I was just thinking of it when I considered often what we feel is our concern for each other. I can see how it is good, it is good to love each other, and it is good to be concerned for each other, and it’s good for you to ask me, “Well, how did you sleep?” Or, “How do you feel?” Or, me to ask you, you know, “How your week went?” And that is good, but I can see too that if we find ourselves being preoccupied with, “Oh well, how do I feel today?” Or, “What should I eat tomorrow?” Or, “What kind of thing do I like?” Or, “Am I really a blue person or a green person?” Or, “Am I
really an ice cream person, or not an ice cream person?” I can see that in a way there’s something there that is – that does not gel with the fact that this is not my life.
In a way I can just see that if this is really Jesus’ life then I will want to know, “What would you like to do Lord? What do you really like? Are you a blue person or a green person? Are you a yogurt person? Are you a selling person?” I can see that that is more the response that comes from our hearts. I know it so well because sometimes I think Irene can be a bit cut and dried, you know, “Well, just get up and get out,” you know, whereas at times I would be an old Northern Irish guy whose, “Oh, I’ve got a sniffle of a cold today.” And she would say, “Oh shake yourself and get out,” and all that kind of thing. And I can see that in a real way at each point in our daily lives, there is an opportunity to sink back into the fantasy that I’m on my own, that I have this life to take care of myself, that I have to make what I can of it, and I ought to enjoy all I can, and get all I can from it. There’s an opportunity at every moment of each day to sink back into that fantasy, and that lie. Or, there’s an opportunity to step out into the broad sunlit upland that this is Jesus’ life, and Lord what would you like?
I don’t know if you have ever felt it, I have on occasion glimpsed what another person – what another person’s life was like, at least I thought that’s what I was glimpsing. What I was actually seeing was their life from the outside. But I would think I was glimpsing their life and I would think for a moment, “Oh it would be nice to live as separate, as enjoyable life, and yet as detached as that.” And then I’ve realized I’m not actually seeing their life as they see it. Their life as they see it from the inside, is as preoccupied with themselves as mine is, I just happened to be looking at theirs detached from the heart of their concerns. And I would see for a moment what it would be like to actually let Jesus live, and be beside myself. Be actually outside this life, and let him be living it, and me just taking part with him. And I can see that that is the heart of reality, this is Jesus’ life. This is his life.
I think maybe there comes up in our minds a little bit of a feeling, “Well wait a minute that sounds a bit crazy,” or, sometime we might say it sounds too easy, but often we will think, “Oh it’s kind of miserable.” And we’ll think, “Well it’s impossible to live like that, and any way I don’t want to live that way. And any way, where would I be, where would I be if that happened? I mean, where would I be floating out there in space somewhere and he’s in here enjoying it, or doing what he wants to do? It would mean I would cease to exist.” And don’t you think that’s the whole fear that Satan plays on and that Jesus answers when he says, “If you lose your life for my sake you’ll save it. You’ll save it. You won’t be lost. You will be unconscious of yourself and unconscious of your own concerns, and your own interests, and your own desires, you will be, but you’ll still be alive. You’ll be alive in me. I won’t let you fade. I won’t let you disappear from existence. Trust me, just trust me. I will keep you in existence. Actually you’ll be more alive than ever before. You would enjoy yourself far more if you weren’t in the center of things the way you are, if you’d let me be in the center of things. You would actually enjoy yourself more, and you’d be freer to do what I want to do.” So it seems to me the heart of our whole life here on earth is the reality with which we actually hand our life over to reality, or the extent to which we ourselves simply enter into reality, and it seems that that is Jesus’ will for us you know. That in a sense we are beside ourselves, because it is not I that live, but Christ that lives within me.
So maybe you’d think of that as I’m trying to think if it, and begin to live that, “Lord Jesus, am I or am not I? Are you – are you going to have your life, or am I going to keep on playing this game here where I kind of let you have a little word in here, and a little opinion there, but really it’s my place, it’s my place. Or, is this yours? In which case every second a thought of self occurs I
reject it.” And then of course Satan can get in and say, “Well wait a minute, I mean, you have to take care of yourself. You have to look at after your clothes, you to-” well of course we all know that but that’s, that’s living at him for Jesus’ sake. We want him to look well, we want him to dress well, we want him to be seen well, so you can take care of all those things without it being attached to me, me, me. It can be attached to Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. So really there’s no contradiction between taking care of ourselves and our appearance, and the things that are needed, and yet doing it as unto Christ, because it’s his life and we want him to look well, and we want him to be comfortable.
But I can see how every time the thought occurs to us, “Do I feel tired?” I can see that immediately the right question is, “Lord Jesus, what do you want to do? Whatever you want to do, you have energy to do so, what do you want to do?” I can see how it affects all those questions. And of course it especially effects the questions like, “What a way to speak to me? What disrespect that person has shown me. How offensive they have been to me in the store or over the phone.” I can see that those questions immediately you reject because this is not you, this is Christ, and you guard him, but you have no interest in guarding yourself because you’re beside yourself. It’s no longer you that are alive this is Christ’s life, and it’s him, and his Spirit, and his heart that comes out in the same meekness and loneliness that he exhibited in Galilee. So I can see that every time a question comes to us that concerns our own comfort, or our own position, or our own happiness, every time that kind of question comes to us there is only one response that is real and that is rejection of it completely, and looking to the one who is really alive here, and saying, “Lord what do you want to do?”
So I think probably we’ll have to decide you know, is this case of a mystical experience and a kind of psychological game, or is this fact? Is this really Christ called by the world, Sandra Tomczyk, or is this Christ called by the world Ernest O’Neil, or is this Ernest O’Neil or Sandra Tomczyk, or Colleen Donahue, or Myron Kliewer, pretending to like Christ, or trying to be like Christ? It seems to me one is a mystical psychological experience the other is simple factual reality, and we need to decide which it is for us. And it seems to me that there is only one thing that is real, and that is part of what Paul means by saying, “We walk by faith and not by sight,” because sight is a temporary fantasy that is passing away, and what is by faith is real and eternal. And the real eternity is that you and I are part of Jesus, and he is us at this moment in this life. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, we see Lord, that you are here and that this is your life. We see Lord, that every moment that our emotions or our mind respond as if it is our life, we bring a great strain of futility into your dear heart. We cause you to bear our sins. We see Lord, that every time we respond inappropriately every time we respond verbally, or emotionally, or mentally, or spiritually as if this is our life, we see we tear your limb from you. We bring pain to you, and because you dearest Father, love your son Jesus, we bring pain to you, because we are part of you Lord Jesus, and this is your life to live, and you have things to do here on earth using this body and this mind. And as you do those things so delight will come to your Father, glory to you and wonderful fulfillment to us.
So Lord, we come to you now to renew our covenant with you, but more to renew our surrender of everything that we are and have to you, for you to use as you please so that we may get out of it all, so that we may be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom our Father of your beloved Son for his glory.