Give us the Bad News First!
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The Simple Gospel
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
For about five years we’ve been studying God’s explanation of reality in Romans and we really do it in great detail because we do about a verse, and sometimes just half a verse every Sunday. And as with all large jobs like that, that are being covered in such detail, it’s good at times to kind of stand back and look at it from a distance. And you know, when you’re painting the old house it’s good to stand back and just see how it all looks, and to see the thing again in perspective. And so loved ones, every three, four months, just as Jesus guides me I feel it’s important for us to stand back and just break for a while from the detailed study and look at the whole truth just once. And just look at the plain simple gospel from a distance.
It’s good I think, for those of us who are Christians because it just enables us to see the wood and not look at all the trees. And it enables us to realize again why we have any relationship with the Creator of the universe at all. And it’s good for those of you who are not Christians yet, or who don’t have a real alive relationship with God because it enables you to know what to do. So that’s what I’d just like to do this morning, just preach a simple gospel. And you all know the verses, I just want to comment on them and let Jesus make them real to us.
The first step in the gospel is bad news. Gospel is two Anglo-Saxon words god and spell and that’s where they got the title of that musical Godspell. It means good news. But the first part of the gospel is bad news. Unless you, as you sit there, are willing to identify yourself with the bad news you’ll never enter into any relationship with God. Now loved ones, the bad news is this, it’s Romans 3:23, all of us here in this auditorium, all of us have sinned. It’s just so easy for you to sit there, and me to stand here and say, “Yeah, that’s right. That is right for that. Oh, I hope there’s somebody here this morning that needs to hear that. I just hope there is. That girl beside me, she looks as if she needs to hear it.” And then if we’re over 50, “That guy there with all that hair in front of me, he looks as if he needs to hear it.” And isn’t it – loved ones, it is wild but we are just the worse at that, aren’t we? And you know, even as we’re all laughing, we’re kind of tending to do it ourselves too inside.
But all of us have sinned, and I think we keep getting into the mess because we think it means, all are guilty of vices. That is a society concept, a vice. You know, gambling is vice. I’m sure it’s almost also a sin but it’s primarily a vice. Even drunkenness, it’s regarded in our society as a vice. Certainly, it’s a sin too. But we tend to sit here this morning and say, “Well all those who have committed vices, they have sinned.” We can see that but it’s not that. Sin is a narrower term in a sense and a broader term in another sense than vice. It does not mean a vice. Some of us tend to say, “Well, Patty Hearst, or the guy who shot his mum and dad, and his sister in Anoka, anybody who commits a crime they have committed sins. They have sinned.”
Loved ones, it’s not a crime. A crime is a legal concept, sin is a deeper thing than crime, it’s a deeper thing than vice. And God says, as a matter of fact and truth all of us here have sinned. All of us. He doesn’t need to prove it, he just says, “That’s a fact. I know it is. All of you have sinned.”
What is sin? Sin is transgression of the law. Sin is disobeying God’s law. So all of us have disobeyed his law in some way. That’s it. All of us have either committed adultery, or we have hated someone with a murderous hate, or we have committed adultery in our hearts by lusting after
someone without expressing it in outward act. All of us have stolen, “Thou shall not steal,” if we haven’t stolen money, or if we haven’t stolen something from someone, we’ve stolen someone’s reputation by criticizing them and tearing them part. All of us have sinned in some way. We have disobeyed God’s law in some way.
Now loved ones, here’s an important verse in scripture that I think you need to look at. It’s James 2:10, because a lot of us have a tendency to say, “Well, yeah I’ve sinned but not nearly as much as other people.” Or, “I haven’t sinned as great a sin as somebody else,” and this kind of puts it very straight, you know. James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’ If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.” So whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it and that’s what God means when he says we’ve all sinned.
We’ve all sinned as badly as Adolph Hitler. We’ve all sinned as badly as Mao Tse Tung. We’ve all sinned as badly as the fellow that shot the Kennedys. We’ve all sinned as badly as someone who has just murdered someone in New York City today. We have all sinned as badly as that, because loved ones, once you sin one little sin, one little thought of envy against someone, that’s as bad as if you’d done everything. And the reason is that sin is not so much something that you do as an attitude that lies behind the action.
You commit adultery because you really don’t trust that the Father has everything for you that you need and will give it to you when you need it, or you’re not willing to believe that. You steal because you’re not willing to trust that the Father who made you is actually going to provide all that you need in this life. So the attitude behind sinning is one of, “I’ll make it on my own. I’ll do it my own way, I’ll do it without his aid, and I don’t need his help, and I don’t need his life.” So loved ones, sin is most of all a declaration of independence against the dear person who made us and that’s the heart of sin. All of us have sinned in that way.
Now loved ones, once we did that certain things followed. First of all, we felt a real sense of being on our own in the world. We realized that we’re on our own. We had a real sense of not knowing where we were going in the world, a real sense of purposelessness because we couldn’t figure out who put us here or why we were put here because we’d rejected anything from him. And, we had a tremendous sense of desolation and loneliness. And all this came because the Creator withheld from us at that moment all that he wanted to give us: the life of his Holy Spirit; his own love; his own favor; his own friendship; his own kindly reassurance; his own recognition of us; and his own guidance of us in our lives, he withheld all of that and that’s why we have such a sense of desolation.
Moreover, God at that moment determined that he would have to destroy us and the reason for that was that once we started to live on our own we became absolute perversions of what he intended us to be. He intended us to be loving, kind, relaxed, trusting people who received all they needed from him and therefore could give everything that everybody else needed to them. But instead of that, we became very needy people, very empty people. People who hadn’t enough of anything. We became parasites who wanted to live off everybody else, who wanted to get all we needed from everybody else. We turned into self dependent monsters, world dependent monsters, people dependent monsters. We turned into people who would destroy his universe and at that moment he determined that he had to destroy us. And loved ones, that’s what that Bible verse means, “The wages of sin is death.”
We keep thinking that we haven’t done too much harm to ourselves, and so we keep thinking, “Okay, so we sinned a little, so we’ve lived a little independent of God. Alright, we can get back to him. We can just determine now to get back to him and start trusting him.” But loved ones, you’re not facing the fact that your personality has become permanently damaged. Instead of a personality that would give love to others, it’s become a carnal personality that demands love from each other.
Loved ones, I’d ask you yourselves, is it not true? Do you yourself not feel again, and again, “I wish people would love me more. I wish my wife would love me more. I wish my children would love me more. I wish my friend would love me more.” Everybody needs love, aren’t we all crying that? And loved ones, that’s proof positive that we have been permanently damaged in our personalities. If you say to me, “Ah, you mean we weren’t meant to?” No, we weren’t. We were meant to be people who did not constantly need to grab love from other people, who did not constantly need to worry about whether the money was coming in next week or not, who did not need to worry about whether somebody was giving us recognition or acknowledgment. No, we were meant to be free people but we have become permanently damaged because we have rejected our Creator, and rejected the life of his Holy Spirit and his Holy Spirit does the same for us as blood does for a brain, it keeps it operating perfectly.
But stop the blood flowing to the brain and the person, that’s the whole discussion with Karen Quinlin, stop the blood flowing to the brain for too long and the brain sustains permanent damage and the only answer is some kind of transplant, some kind of complete change. You have to send the thing back and get it completely renovated. Now loved ones, that’s what they wages of sin is death. God knows that we have sustained permanent damage in our personalities and those personalities have to be destroyed and recreated again. That’s another reason why he says, “The wages of sin is death.” Not just to protect his heaven, not just to protect the rest of us from each other, but because that’s the only way to change the permanently damaged and perverted personality that all of us now have because we’ve sinned.
Now loved ones, that I think is the problem with many of us. It was certainly my problem. I listened to Billy Graham and all the other fellas preaching the gospel but I could not get that bit that something else had to be done outside me. I thought, “Okay, I now see what I have done wrong now let me start moving back towards God. Let me will myself to obey him.” I did not realize that the problem is by rejecting the Holy Spirit, by not having the Holy Spirit flow through us for so many years, our personalities have become inturned, selfish, perverted, seeking significance, security, happiness, from everybody else but God so that even our emotions are strained and are upturned. Even our mind works in perverted ways, you know it yourself.
Two people can be talking in an office and they’re not talking about you at all, but your whole mind can work out, “They’re talking about me. They’re talking about me.” And the mind continually finds itself going off in wrong directions. Loved ones, all of us here this morning have a thousand examples of minds, and emotions that are perverted, of bodies that have become habituated to wrong actions for so long that we cannot do anything with them it seems. Now loved ones, that’s why the wages of sin is death.
I was trying to put some sheetrock up on the ceiling of a room that we just built, and decided to put Styrofoam for extra insulation in, and you use a stapling gun to put Styrofoam on the two by fours. And I got the old staple gun out and every fourth time I triggered it I got a staple, you know. And as the day went on, every 25th time I triggered it, and I decided obviously the thing is
wrong and so I looked up the instruction, but I am a born fiddler. Yeah, I love to fix things. My wife says, “Yeah, you really fix them good.” So I started to take the thing apart, you know, and those brothers who know a staple gun know what I was into. So I took the thing apart. Three weeks later it was still lying on the desk, apart. I should have obeyed the guarantee, you know, that said, “Send it back. Send it back and we’ll repair it.” But, I decided I’d fix it myself.
Loved ones, I think that’s what a lot of us are doing. I think a lot of us think we can fix it ourselves. The wages of sin is not death, it can’t be death, there’s no need for it to be death. The wages of sin is going to church, go to church, go to church and we’ll kind of overcome the sin, and we’ll heap in a lot of goodness and a lot of nice thoughts, and somehow the sin will get drowned in all the good thoughts that come. Or some of us say, “The wages of sin – bible study, bible study. I’ll study the bible, that’ll make me right with God. I’ll study the bible.” Or some of us say, “The wages of sin is new resolutions. I’m going to resolve more. I’m going to exercise my will more. That’s the wages of sin, that’s what sin is due.”
Loved ones, sin is due death. That’s the only thing that will deal with sin. That’s the only thing that will deal with our poor old broken perverted personalities. The wages of sin is death. And really, if you’d just grasp that loved ones, it would give you such deliverance. If you’d just see that something has to be done to your personality that you cannot do yourself. And each time you tamper with it and tinker with it you just make it worse because the problem is independence, self-deliverance, self-righteousness, that’s the problem and every time you try to fix that you’re fixing it with self effort, self will, self-trying so you’re not fixing it you’re just compounding the whole mess. So the more you try to save yourself the more of a mess you become and the more self-righteous you are. And the truth is the wages of sin is death, you know.
That’s it. Let’s just accept that the wages of sin is death. And then the gospel is that God has commanded his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God has put all of us in Jesus and destroyed us there. That’s a cosmic truth. God has taken our perverted, selfish, inturned personalities that we can do nothing with, with all our books, and all our psychology, and he has destroyed that in Jesus, and he is able to recreate a new personality through the power of his Holy Spirit. Now that’s what the gospel is loved ones.
That what you need most is to be destroyed but instead of God sending another flood to destroy all of us, he sent a supra spacial, supra temporal flood in Calvary on the cross and he destroyed your miserable perverted personality in Jesus. That’s what it means in Hebrews when it says, “Jesus tasted death for every man.” Instead of you and I being actually destroyed by another flood such as that in Noah’s time, God has put us into Jesus and destroyed us there.
Loved ones, the truth of the gospel is God has done everything that is needed to make you and me right with him. He has done everything that is needed, you don’t need to try and do things yourselves. You don’t need to try to beat yourselves into being the kind of person God wants you to be. You’d never do it because you’re working on a personality that can never be patched into rightness. You don’t need patching, you don’t need a little bit of repair work, you need to be smashed completely by the maker and recreated again. You need to be sent back to the manufacturer. You don’t need a little tampering, or a little tinkering, or a little fixing. You need complete renewal and loved ones, that’s what God has done in Jesus on Calvary.
That’s the beginning of the gospel. Now, how do you enter into it? Well John 1:12 goes like this, “To as many as received him,” Jesus, “To them gave him the right to become the children of God.”
That’s how you become a Christian. That’s how that complete renovation is made real in your life, you receive Jesus. Not accept Jesus, not accept Jesus. Oh, I could accept Carter as president but I don’t think I could accept Harris as president. Accept, you know, accept the intellectual concept, no. No. It means receive Jesus. It means if this dear person is prepared to suffer the death of his own brain so that I can have his mind transplanted into mine, then it is not just a matter of, “Well, I’ll accept that. Yeah, yeah.” It’s not.
It’s a throwing your arms around him and saying, “Thank you. Lord, thank you. Lord, I want to receive all of you into myself. I want to take you complete. I want my life to be yours. If you’ve done this for me, Lord Jesus, here I want everything.” It’s that receiving loved ones, it’s not accepting, it’s not a proud intellectual acceptance of the concept that Jesus has died for you therefore God will forgive your sins. No, it’s a whole human real red blooded receiving of this dear Jesus because he has allowed his emotions to be destroyed and he has given them up so that they could be transplanted into you. He has allowed his whole being to be destroyed so that you could receive his whole being into yourselves.
So it’s as too many who have received Jesus, to them gave he the right to become children of God and that’s how you become a Christian. If you’re sitting here this morning and you’re not sure, that’s how loved ones. You look to this Jesus and you say, “Lord Jesus, if you died for me like that, to allow me to be utterly destroyed and recreated then Lord, here I give my life to you. What do you want to change in me? Do you see anything you want to change? Lord, I grasp you, I receive you into myself. I turn from everything that is my own way and my own desires. I turn from the way I want to live this life. Lord, it’s as good as dead anyway. Lord Jesus, I give it to you.”
Now loved ones, I’d have to be honest with you this morning and tell you that it is true that those of us who do not receive the son of the Creator as the Creator intended him to be received, we will die eternally. That is right, you just can’t get around it, you know. It’s right through all of Jesus’ words, those of us who don’t receive Jesus in that way, we will die forever.
Sartre I suppose, expressed it the best way, you know, those three people you remember, one was a homosexual and the other one was a constant burning critic, and the three of them were in a room with one electric light bulb, and you remember about half way through the play they suddenly realized, “This is hell. This is forever. We are going to be tearing each other apart, and criticizing each other, and burning against each other forever.” And you remember, they tried to get the light out, tried to put the electric light out and they couldn’t get it out. And they tried to get out of the room and there was no exit from the room. And Sartre, you remember, called the play No Exit because loved ones, there will be no exit from hell, and there is a hell, you know.
However sophisticated we try to be, we had better just be honest and see that there is a hell and it is not a crude physical experience, it is a burning against each other forever. A continual destroying of each other with our selfishness. And loved ones, there is that simply because the Father has to preserve a place where people who want to live like him can live like him. And you know in our present society is it pretty obvious in order to do that you have to keep others out. And so there will be a place where God is not. There will be a place where people burn against each other forever. But loved ones, the gospel is that God has destroyed us in Jesus already and that if we are willing to believe that and receive this Jesus into our own lives, then we will live forever with our Father.
So loved ones, if you haven’t ever entered into that I would say just take the step now. I’d pray
maybe for just about a minute, and you should just take the step yourself. And if you see it all, and you say, “Well pastor yeah, I see it all and I’ve seen it for many weeks but I’ve never taken a step.” Loved ones, you do have to take a step. This Jesus took a vital step for you – you owe it to him to take a step towards him. So you do need to take the step. You do need to speak to him and say, “Lord Jesus, I believe that that has happened for me and as far as I’m concerned I give you my life to make it real here in this present time.”
So loved ones, I’d encourage you to take the step if you haven’t. And those of us who are children of God, let’s see that wonder of it, that God has done it all and God has done what we ourselves could never do and will never be able to do. And that’s the relief and the peace, you know. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, those of us who have never received you as our Savior would now look to you this morning. And Lord Jesus, we thank you for dying and we have hardly ever realized what we could do in response to this but Lord, we know that an intellectual accent to it is not appropriate. Lord, we see that if you gave your whole life for us, we have nothing that we can do but give our whole lives to you now. And thank you Lord Jesus, thank you Lord, that you allowed us to be destroyed in you. And Lord, we now want that new personality.
Lord Jesus, we want to go back to our maker now and be destroyed and completely recreated, and born all over again. So Lord Jesus, will you come down here now into our lives and will you make all that real in us Lord Jesus. Lord, we ask you now to come in and we know that your words are that you stand at the door and knock and that if any man hear your voice and open the door you will come in and will supp with him and he with you.
Lord Jesus, we believe you that if we invite you to take over our lives you will do it. So Lord Jesus, we would do that now, ask you to come in Savior, those of us even who know you will rejoice to ask you to come in again more fully than before and fill us with yourself Lord. Wherever you see anything in us that needs to go to that dear cross Lord Jesus, will you point that out and we’ll let it go gladly and Lord, will you recreate us in your image and make us like yourself. Lord Jesus, we receive you now as our Savior, and as our Lord and we give you the right to live in our lives whatever kind of life you want to live Lord, even if it’s Calvary all over again, we want to go your way because of the sacrifice you have made for us.
We thank you Lord. Thank you.