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Victorious Life

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God’s Control of Your Life


God’s Control of Your Life

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Please turn to 2 Corinthians 5:16. You will recognize it immediately. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

And what I was going to remind you of was, “Welcome to the exotic Marigold Hotel,” and to say to you that, “Everything will come out alright in the end. And if it’s not right it’s not the end.” [Lines from the film “Marigold Hotel”] And that is the message of this today that God brought before my heart, that that is the truth, that everything will come right in the end, and if it’s not right it’s not the end [laughing because the film was so funny].

And of course that is the whole meaning of that, because I started to think, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” And of course we always think, “Yes, he was making the arrangement for the forgiveness of our sins,” and all that kind of thing. And of course I have tried before to point out to all of us and myself that ‘reconcile’ means more than that. It certainly does mean that. It means reconciling himself to the world and the world to him, bringing peace between them. It certainly means that. But it doesn’t mean that when I said, “Have you reconciled your bank book?” You know I’m not asking if you have made peace with your bankers, or have you made peace with your bank book. I’m asking you, “Have you added up all the figures that you have for your spending, and is it the same as what your bank book says? And if there is a variation then does it mean that some checks have not been cashed yet?” And so that is what we do. We tot up what we have actually spent ourselves, and we tot up what the bank says we have spent. And we find, of course the checks that have still not yet been cashed. And so we reconcile the figures. And so ‘reconciling’ is making two things that seem to be opposed to one another and contradict one another, we reconcile them. We show how they actually agree, and how they add up together.

And so I began to realize, of course that has to, in some way, have been done. It has to in somehow be done. The world is filled with murder and slaughter and hatred. It’s filled with people who despise God. It’s filled with people who use his name as a curse. It’s filled with all the things that he doesn’t want and that he is not. And does this mean that in some way God has reconciled the world to himself? Maybe he has given up. Maybe he has become a cruel tyrant himself. Maybe he murders and slaughters people. And he’s, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Is that what he has done? And of course we know that that is not what he has done because when he came to earth, he didn’t behave as a murderer or a slaughterer. He, in fact, behaved as a person who was the victim of the murderers and the slaughterers. So we know he certainly hasn’t given up his character.

Well what does it mean then, that “He has reconciled the world to himself?” And I ask you to give a little thought to it, because you do have to think around some corners. I start that God knows all

things. God knows everything. He doesn’t simply know everything that is at this moment, he knows all the potential of everything that is. And he isn’t just as good as our mightiest computer at computing what the weather will be like next week here in Raleigh (North Carolina). He actually knows the truth, the inner truth of everything. He knows not only the potential of everything, he not only knows who Hitler’s parents were, he knows what is in Hitler’s heart that his parents don’t know. And he knows what Hitler is capable of. But more than that he knows all things. He is not sitting up there wondering, “What powers that I have no control of may come in and spoil this whole thing. We joke often about old Macmillan [Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1894 – 1986, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1957 to 1963] who was in a conversation with Dick Cavett [Richard Alva “Dick” Cavett 1936ff, American television talk show host], and Dick Cavett asked some question like, “Well, I mean, what could spoil all the plans that you have?” And Macmillan said, “Events, dear boy. Events!” [Pastor laughs] And we joke about that, because, of course, it’s true.

But is our Father in that position? “Well I’ve planned this whole thing, as long as events don’t come in to destroy it!” Well, where would the events come from? He alone is life. There is no life outside him. Is he afraid that there are aliens out there somehow that he didn’t know about? No! No! He knows all things. He knows everything. He knows what Hitler not only may do but will do. He knows how this whole thing will develop. So then I began to think, “But, why doesn’t he stop it?” And of course we all know why he doesn’t stop it, because we know his purpose is to show us what he is like and to show us what he is ‘not’ like, so that we are not little blind nobodies who choose him because there is no alternative. We are people who see what he is and what he is not. And we make our choice.

And so he allows these things to take place. But does he know where he is going? Well just look again at Romans 8:28. And we often use it to prove certain things, but just look at it again. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” Or the well known King James translation, you remember, is, “All things work together for good for them that love God.” “All things work together for good.” “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” And what is his purpose? “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” That’s why God made us in his Son, so that he, himself would be reproduced in many different versions. And there would be a whole family of different beings, each with individual existences as we have, who would be conformed to the image of his Son, so that it would be a great family of people who were like each other and who loved each other. And of course that is what is the purpose that governs all that he does.

And so what our Father is involved in now is enabling us to see what he is not like, and yet using all that, all of those events in that world that is not like him, using that to set against his Son, and the Spirit of his Son who is constantly working in us. And so as those two work with each other, we would gradually be conformed to the image of Jesus.

And it was then that I began to see, “Oh I see. God has created this whole situation so that we as free-willed people would become conformed because we wanted to, to the image of his Son and would come and be part of his family, because we know what the alternative is, and we know what we have seen and want of him. And so God has reconciled this whole world to his own original plan to have other children like his Son. And then I began to glimpse that that’s part if not the main part of what it means that “God has reconciled the world to himself.” He has seen all this. He has seen what will happen, and he has made plans for bringing it all into the completion that he has planned. In other words, “If it’s not right, it’s not the end.” He will bring all things right.

What lifted my heart was the realization that that means that God sees all the things that I’m going to experience, over this next day and over tomorrow and the next day and the next week, and the month when I die or Marty dies. And he has seen all those things. He has seen not only the time when the left rear tire will be flat, but he has seen the time when the money will not work out exactly right. And he has seen the time when I will catch a serious disease. And he has worked all those things out already and reconciled them all to his plan for my life. And he has brought everything under the counsel of his will, so that God works everything according to the counsel of his own will.

Then it came to me, does he permit it? Does he permit that dreadful — I try for the sake of the validity of the thought to think of the worst thing for me, or one of the worst things that I heard was the one that I have difficulty telling without tears, where the little girl was going into the gas chamber and a German soldier wanted to haul her brother away from her and she said, “Leave him alone. My precious brother will die with me.” But I try to think of that, “Did God will that?” We do our best. We say, “Well, not his ideal will. It wasn’t his ideal will. It was his permissive will.” And I — that satisfied me. I came from the Arminian [theology that God allows His desire to save all to be resisted by an individual’s will] angle in theology. And so that satisfied me. But obviously these people that believed that God foreknew everything and had actually fore-ordained everything, they said, “No, you are trying to get out of it. You are trying to wiggle there. I mean permissive will, ideal will, it’s still his will.” I think that is right. And I think there is a difference. You can see someone hurting someone else and you can either stop them or let them do it. And there is, therefore a difference between doing it and allowing another person to do it. Whatever way you say it, our Father knows what he is about.

And I think if you hesitate as I did, if you hesitate on that you’ve only to look at Calvary. I’ve done all I could to ameliorate those words. You know the words, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to grief.” We know it isn’t the “pleased”. “Pleased” is the sixteenth century way of saying, “God was willing for it.” I don’t think God was up there laughing as his Son suffered. But he was satisfied for it to happen.

It seems to me that is the seriousness of the situation. So when we have a tendency to think, “No! No! God would not have allowed Hitler to do the things that he did. That in no way could be God’s will.” But if he ahs in mind something that only can be achieved when we have seen what “not God” is, as opposed to “what God is,” if that’s the situation, in order to bring us to himself rather than to have us in outer darkness forever, then I began to see, “Our Father is faced with a mass of maniacs, of virtually insane people, who are indifferent to their own good and to everybody else’s good, and he has the task of bringing them to an awareness of himself.”

And it seems to me that that’s part of what this verse means when it says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” He was, in Christ, facing the worst that the world or the non-God people could do to him. And he was allowing them to do it and still showing them mercy. So it is almost as if God is saying, “Even if you kill me, I will still show you mercy.” And of course implicit in that statement is, “You actually can’t finally kill me. I can survive, but even if you kill me, and in your own minds have killed me, I will still show you mercy. I will still say, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”

So in a deep, deep way, God has reconciled the world to himself. That is, he has set everything up in such a way that everything, however bad, however outside his will it is, he will use it to bring

us round in some way where we are in a position where we can see what he is and what he is not, and we can have an opportunity to make the choice for ourselves.

Where it helped me was in regard to the things that don’t go quite right. It certainly helped me immensely when we start talking about the terrible state of the world. I certainly saw, “Wait a minute. There’s a limit — first of all there is a limit to how much pity you can feel for it. There is a limit for how much just exasperation you can feel for it, but especially it is an endless conversation, because as far as we can see, it is going to get worse and worse. And it’s time we stop being surprised. It’s time we saw, God has seen all this. And he has allowed it to happen. And he is not distraught. And again and again in his Word, he has said, “The nations are a drop in a bucket compared to him.” So in reality, what we see around us is what he has told us to expect. “In the world you will have tribulation.” “My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation.”

So I saw, first of all — well it’s interesting conversation. It’s what everybody says, “What a terrible place the world is!” What terrible things the Syrians are doing to ….” But that is what we are to expect. That is what God has told us the world will be. The world is not going to get better and better. It is going to get worse and worse, so that we will see, that is specifically God’s purpose, so that we will see plainly what he is not like, what heaven is not like. And we will see the choice between him and what is against him.

So it helped me with that. But then it helped me with also with my own personal disappointments, or the things that happen in our lives that aren’t convenient: the bank account that isn’t working out right, or the car is not going too well, or even the sickness that we encounter. I saw, “Did God know about this? Or was he caught out?” “Is he sweating it out? Or has he a way through this bank account?” God has reconciled the world to himself. He’s not sitting up there bewildered. He’s not sitting up there chuckling over our troubles. He’s sitting there at peace. Why? Because he’s reconciled… He’s totted up the bank account records, and he’s totted up his own check book, and he’s reconciled the two. He has seen how far off his will this is and he has seen how to bring the two together. And so he is content.

So it helped me to see that there are no stray bits. There are no pieces that don’t fit in. There are no events in our lives that have not already been dealt with by him, that have not already been reconciled. It may take me a while to see how it has been reconciled, and I can rest in that. And continuing to rest in that is his will. If you say to me, “Even if I die in agony with cancer?” Especially then. Especially then, because he would not for one moment want us to be in pain. So there must be very, very careful planning by him to arrange this. He must have a very deep work of Jesus to bring about in my heart if he permits that.

So it seems to me there’s nothing ever to fear. There’s nothing ever to wonder, “Will I have the strength for this?” He would not dream of leaving anything unreconciled. He would not dream of letting us face anything that will not bring about our final place of comfort and joy in his presence. So you need to think through it, because obviously there are a lot of things that we don’t normally think of as being contemplated by God or being permitted by God, least of all being willed by God. But isn’t that the expression that you get in Job, and the expression that comes from other godly men in the Old Testament, “Even if you slay me I will trust you”? And surely is the heart of that original sacrifice of the son [reference to Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac, Genesis 22] in the Old Testament: “Even if you slay me, I will trust you.” Why? Because we know God himself is only satisfied when everything is right. “So if it’s not right, it’s

not the end.”

Let us pray.