Do you want to change your life now?
Have You Given Up Your Rights?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
The eyes are one of the senses and the ears another of the senses, and then touch is another of the senses, and then taste is a sense and then smell is a sense. So those are the five senses. And loved ones, you have a real choice at the beginning of this year. You can choose whether this year is going to be just another drag really, whether it’s just going to be a continuation of what has been or whether it’s going to be different; you can determine that. You can determine — and you know it actually in your heart as you sit there — there is something that rises when I say that and there is something that says inside you, yeah that is true, I know that. And there is a French saying, which if I were my wife I’d remember completely, and it begins “Plus ca change”– would you be daring enough to say it again? “Plus c’est la meme chose”, the more things change, the more they remain the same. And you know that so often that’s been the truth in our own lives. We come to the beginning of another year and we’ve thought, well it’s a new year and we should do something differently. But we get to the end of that year, and the more the year has changed, it’s been 1986 not 1985 the more our life has continued in the same, unsatisfying often, progress and development.
Now loved ones, you can determine this morning whether your life is going to change at this crucial moment that we face this Sunday. It is a crucial moment, there is no way to get around it, it doesn’t matter how cynical you get about New Year resolutions. This is a crucial moment in your life. This first Sunday in a new year comes to most of us only about 70 times and maybe if by some particular strength God says it might be 80 times; but rarely does it come more than 80 times. We will only hit this spot in our lives about 70 times more and of course many of us know here, most of us are at least over the 20 mark and we know that we don’t have more than 50 more new years like this. And then of course I would remind you of the obvious fact of human life that you have already experienced; that the more often you hit it and don’t make a change, the more easy it is to hit it next year and not make a change. In other words, the more often you start each year with no change taking place the more likely it is that your life is going to go on like that and you are going to be like so many of us in our dear world. You know what we are — we are a bunch of drifters. We just drift, we don’t necessarily believe in Skinner’s Determinism, we don’t necessarily believe that we are predestined but we act like we are — we act like we are. We just keep on making the same mistake, the same errors, the same messes year after year after year; we don’t change radically. Indeed, it surprises us at times when we see how much the same we are now as we were five years ago.
Now, loved ones, you have an incredible opportunity today to make a change in the way your life is going and I can tell you very simply, the key to it. Those five senses are what bind us to this world; believe me I am not talking about the terrible irreligious world of alcohol and drugs. That is a terrible world and its not attractive at all, but that’s not — you know its not that “Aunt Sally” that we all shoot at; that’s not the world, that’s not the most terrible thing about the world, the vices that we can enumerate on our fingers.
I’m talking about the subtle spiritual fallen world, that binds us to it so that we become increasingly its prisoner. I’m talking about the world that binds us through our five senses. Somebody writes a book, somebody preaches a sermon and we listen to it and we say yes, we must change, we must change. But there is a little voice inside us that says, but look at the way you behaved towards your friend today, look at the lie that you told yesterday. Look at the circumstances that surround you, it makes it impossible for you to be different. And we, like silly
little puppets, turn our five senses on those things and we look at the things that we did yesterday; and we listen to the things that we have said to others in the past.
And we are all taken up with our circumstances. We allow all these facts to come through our senses and we allow that sense world to utterly dominate our thinking. And we come to a Sunday like this and we say, yes, I want to make a new covenant with God, I do, but from what comes through my five senses, I think there is no real hope of me ever changing. And you know how it works, you make your covenant today with God, and tomorrow you are dishonest about something or you lose your temper with someone, or you let an unclean thought come into your mind and that little voice says, look at what you have just done. And you, like a little robot, set your eyes on that and you say, that’s right I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed, I’m just the same miserable creature. And you live by your senses. You live by what you see of yourself in this present world.
Loved ones, this present world is a world under water, it’s a world under water. This present fallen world that governs us by its so-called pretended ability to supply us with security, to supply us with a sense of esteem and a sense of importance, this present fallen world was destroyed by God in a flood before you and I were born. And it was destroyed then in a flood to express what God had done in his son Jesus, in his death he crucified this world. He destroyed it — and in his death on Calvary, he destroyed you and all that you have been for eternity. He destroyed you absolutely and completely so that this fallen world is a world underwater and you are an old self that is under water, neither of it really exists any longer in God’s eternity. And he is saying to you, that’s reality. Not the things that come through your senses, through your eyes and through your ears, not the things that come through your taste and through your sense of smell. That is not reality. Reality is that your old self was crucified with Christ and when Christ died, this whole fallen world was crucified also, and you are free to live above it.
And God says to each one of us this morning, you can live differently from this day on. If you believe what I have told you in my word: that I have changed you, and I have changed this fallen world and every time you see yourself failing in some way that’s the fallen you that I crucified with my son. Forget that, it’s dead and gone. And see that I have raised you up and made you sit with me in the heavenly places. And that you are a new creation, fix your spirit on that, fix your mind on that, fix your heart on that, that you are a new creation. Because I put you in my son, you are a new creation.
And if you say to me, “Really? Do you mean, that tomorrow if I lose my temper and that voice comes inside me and says, ‘See? See with your eyes what you are. You are the same miserable bad tempered old creature that you always were.’ Do you mean, that at that moment if I reject that as a lie, if I reject that as a description of what once was and what has been crucified with Christ, and I instead set my mind on what God has made me in his son, that I begin to be able to live in that place?” Yes, that’s it. Yeah, that’s it, that’s exactly it.
You believe it first, and then you live it — that’s it, see? You don’t first live it and then believe it — that’s walking by sight. You first believe it and then you live it. That’s it loved ones, that’s how you break the vicious circle of years of bad habits, of years of knowing yourself too well. That’s where the adage — you remember that originated I think with Seneca, one of the old classical writers, that’s where that adage is not sufficient, “Know thyself.” It’s one step; but if you only know yourself, all you will know is a miserable heap of garbage that grows year by year by year. And gets more and more offensive to you — then more you know how subtle it has become in it’s own selfishness. No, don’t just know yourself; but know the new self that God has made you in his
Now loved ones, I will just give you something to hang on, on that because I think you need to see that it’s in his dear word, it’s in Ephesians. And it’s chapter 2. It’s an amazing statement if you really note the tenses that are used and see the significance of it, Ephesians 2:4.
“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,” see, that’s before you were even alive, see that. It’s before you ever thought of going to church. It’s before you ever thought of making a New Year resolution. It’s before you ever thought of doing anything that would justify God in doing anything for you. “Even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” God made you alive with Christ before you were even born into this physical world. “By grace you have been saved.”(You see by grace, just by generosity) “and raised us up with him, and made us sit” (you see those are all past tenses) “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” That’s where you are, that’s where you are.
You are not some miserable little American or Irishman or Frenchman or German trying to hack it out down here on earth, just standing on top of the garbage that you have heaped over the past year and trying to get a foot in. To get up clear of the garbage, and sinking deeper into it every time you push to get up? No. You are a person that is already been crucified with Jesus by your creator. And has been made new in Christ and is being raised up out of his sheer grace and kindness and put right beside him in heaven and he is allowing you 70 years here on earth to believe that. And the moment you believe it, you have grabbed hold of the rope by which he will lift you out of that heap of garbage. That’s it.
There is a rope. Try to get up out of the garbage of the old self of years and years of failures and you will sink deeper into it, it’s like sinking sand and you know it. But just raise your hands and there is a rope there, a rope that has dangled right down through the years here on earth; and it is the rope of Jesus’ mighty death and resurrection. And you are in Jesus; and the moment you believe that, you grab hold of that rope and God just lifts you clear of the garbage and you begin to live new and clear and clean.
Loved ones, once the failure of falling back into that heap of garbage is gone, you find that it’s easy by the power of Christ’s Spirit to live far above anything that you have lived before. That’s why I’d ask you to seriously consider making an absolutely new covenant with God today. And taking an absolutely different attitude to yourself throughout this New Year. No longer receiving the evidence of your senses as to what you are or what you have been or what you are day by day but beginning to see yourself as God sees you — a completely new creation.
Loved ones, that’s the way through and that’s the only way. And that’s what God asks each one of us to do this morning. I encourage you, as my heart goes out to any little one here who is like myself or has been over the years. Where you try and you try and you try again, and you try to change and you try to improve and you can’t do it and you fall back into the mess that you were. Loved ones, there is a way out. It’s by beginning to set your eyes on what God says you are in his son. I am a new creation. The old things have passed away, the new has come, and a little voice — that is the voice of Satan, says to you, “no, look at the way you behaved towards that person today, you are not a new creation.” You answer, “I am new creation, God says I am a new creation, he says that the old has passed away and what he has done to me in his son Jesus. I believe that, Lord, I believe that, I
am a new creation, I thank you for that.” And take your eyes off what you can see with your eyes and hear with your ears. Stop living in the sense world and start living in the spirit world. That’s it.
Walk by the spirit and not by the flesh, don’t let Satan bury you in your own refuse and garbage anymore — don’t loved ones, don’t. God has moved it away — why should you live in the middle of it? That’s why I encourage you to make a new covenant with him on this first Sunday of 1986. And then to keep that covenant through every day of this year by refusing to live by what comes to you through your senses and live by what God says is true in his son Jesus.
Now what we’ll do is we will all take part in the covenant and the communion service. But I would encourage you only to take part in your heart and in reality in the bread and the wine if you mean it, because it’s very important not to take the bread and the wine unless you really mean it. You don’t have to be a member of the church. You need to be just real about what we shared this morning. But I would encourage you to only take it if you are real about that; because otherwise you know, you eat and drink damnation onto your own soul if you take it lightly. So I would encourage us all to take part in it, even in the words. But then when it comes to the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, it’s very important that you do just what you wholly and entirely mean because the great creator of the world sees what we do in this room this morning and he deals with us accordingly. So I’d encourage you to prepare your own hearts loved ones, as we make anew our covenant to God on this first Sunday of 1986 and I just ask Gentry to lead us into the covenant.
Dearly beloved, the Christian life to which we are called is a life in Christ, redeemed from sin by him and through him consecrated to God. Upon this life we have entered having been admitted into that New Covenant of which our Lord Jesus Christ is mediator and which he sealed with his own blood that it might stand forever. On one side, the covenant is God’s promise that he will fulfill in and through us, all that he declared in Jesus Christ who is the author and perfector of our faith. That his promise still stands, we are sure. For we have known his goodness and proved his grace in our lives day by day. On the other side, we stand pledged to live no more unto ourselves, but to him who loved us and gave himself for us and has called us so to serve him that the purpose of his coming might be fulfilled. From time to time, we renew our vows of consecration especially when we gather at the table of the Lord. But on this day, we meet expressly as generations of our fathers have met that we may joyfully and solemnly renew the covenant, which bound them and binds us to God. Let us then, remembering the mercies of God and the hope of his calling, examine ourselves by the light of his Spirit, that we may see wherein we have failed or fallen short in the faith and practice. And considering all that this covenant means, may give ourselves anew to God.
Let’s stand together loved ones, and maybe you just have a bulletin with you which has the words of the covenant in it on page 3, and then, when we come to that we can just make our own personal covenant with God as we repeat those words together.
And now, beloved, let us bind ourselves with willing bonds to our covenant God, and take the yoke of Christ upon us. This taking of his yoke upon us means that we are heartily content that he appoint us our place and work, and that he alone be our reward.
Christ has many services to be done; some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honor, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ, who strengthens us.
Therefore let us make the covenant of God our own. Let us engage our heart to the Lord, and resolve in his strength never to go back. Being thus prepared, let us now in sincere dependence on his grace and trusting in his promises, yield ourselves anew to him.
And let us use the words of this covenant, loved ones, together, as we speak these vows to God personally.
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, Oh glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine, so be it. And the covenant, which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in Heaven.
And now you that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in his holy ways, draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort and make your humble confession unto almighty God.