Give Yourself over to Death with Christ
Give Yourself Over to Death With Christ
Romans 1:1 ( Acts 26:1-32 )
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
[No audio at the very beginning] … called him to before he eventually ended up in Rome. It’s Acts 26:1 when the king spoke first.
Acts 26:1-32 Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:
“I think myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, because you are especially familiar with all customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
“My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and at Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
“Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles – to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
“Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.”
“And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad.” But Paul said, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian!” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.”
Then the king rose, and the governor and Berni’ce and those who were sitting with them; and when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
But he said it without the crying. So that’s Paul. That’s the guy who wrote Romans. [Missing sentence] … I realized I wrote this 50 years ago. I was astounded, not by the brilliance of it all, but that in this first sermon there are 35 different bible references all carefully marked here. Oh, I’m sorry, my preface was, I thought it’d be pretty easy for me to [repeat these talks] for the next several months or years it would take us to go through the first four chapters of Romans because all of my work is done – as this is the hard work, creating these notes. I thought, “Aw, that’s good! Well of course, as I get to it – first of all, when I point out the richness of the thing – there are 35 bible references that obviously have no chance of getting over to us here without us all going to sleep. Then I discovered of course that this first sermon I preached over three Sundays. It ended up being preached through three Sundays.
I suddenly realized, dare I say it, you feel very conceited if you say this kind of thing, I was surprised not only at the richness of the sermon but this is gratitude to God with tears if not with anything else. I was surprised at what 50 years does. Of course, you have so much more to say. I realized it would take me hours and days to do again. Besides, the more important thing besides the tears side, I realized is that we are still so built together and I have still so much respect for you and love for you – and you have so much respect and love for me – that I realized I couldn’t do other than speak the new thing that God would give me for you. I couldn’t just repeat what I’d said back 50 years ago. It has to be for US – because God has brought us into a sense of reality.
It has to be a new sermon. It has to be a new thing. Of course, I’ll expand the chapters, but I obviously will have to expound them differently. It will be very different because of the different congregation, because of the different audience, our different relationship with each other. In a thousand ways it will be richer. In a thousand ways it will be longer and shorter. So, it will be different. I praise God that such is the reality he’s brought us into – that we can’t just preach sermons to each other. We have to speak truth as in the place and the state of grace and spirit that we each are. It’s good. I was kind of overwhelmed – that’s why the tears. I was kind of overwhelmed by the reality of it and grateful to God that that is what we are. So, there’s no way I can do it.
What I am going to say to you is, what came clear to me, was that we should start in our own hearts, in a real spirit of reality. I thought that – as we have 25-20 minutes – I got very clear from God that each of us should start this new series in Romans by each of us spending time in God’s presence on one particular issue. “Lord, Jesus, in what way have I not entered fully into the death that you have wrought in me and that has been wrought in me through you? In what way have I not entered into
that death?” I say that because it is in real experience of all that he has done to separate you from the world. It is in that experience that real peace and rest comes. It is in that experience that will be wrought the strength that he promised us, “as your years are, so will your strength be.” [Deuteronomy 33:35] In other words, he has a plan for each one of our lives. He is able to bring the peace into your body and your mind and your emotions that he has wrought for you in himself on Calvary. He is able to ease you into the peace so that there is an absolute freedom from strain in your life and a freedom from weariness and a freedom from sickness.
It came clear to me, that we should today, if just for 15 to 20 minutes, bow our heads and our hearts before him, and ask, “Lord Jesus, in what way have I not entered into the death to self, and the death to worry and the word and all the other things that you have wrought in me and that has been wrought through your death?” Ask Jesus to give you light because that’s where everything lies. That’s where everything rises or falls. It’s in the places that you have not yet allowed his death to work. It’s in things that he has wrought for you in himself that you have not allowed him yet to manifest in you. He can show you what those are, whatever it may be: little tinges of worry or anxiety, little tinges of strain, little tinges of wrong attitudes. When you track those down then he will lead you back to show you how those all tie up with the mighty SELF that still exercises some of its power over you.
I thought that that’s important – that we’re as real as we can be in our own spirits as we set out on these first three or four chapters of Romans – that spiritually, we are always being honest with Jesus, “Lord, dear Father, in what way have I not entered into all that you have wrought for me in Jesus? Will you show me that this day.” Let us pray.