God’s Life in Us in The World
God’s Life in Us in The World
1 Corinthians 4:1-18
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There are two purposes that exist here on earth. First, is that God himself may be seen. Secondly, that the world is not like God. That, seems to me, are two clear messages that we need to get through in all of our websites. First of all, “What is God like, himself?” and secondly, “This world is not like God.” Don’t get tied up in the whole problem of suffering thing that the world likes to distract itself with. This world is not like God. It’s not the way God wants it to be. It’s here, in fact, to show us what God is NOT like. We are here to show people what God IS like.
Those are the two emphasis it seems to me in this piece that we’ll read from, 2 Corinthians 4, which you’ve often read before. It talks just about those two things really, in a way: about US who are like God and are here to express God to the WORLD that is not like God and is here for that purpose, too – to express what God is not like.
Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 4:1-18
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,”
That is the part we need to get hold of ourselves – and, what should I say – not be irritated by it or surprised by it. The “earthen vessel” is part of the world that we bear. We are attached by that earthen vessel in some way. We need to see that God has a way to deal with that and it DOES have to be dealt with. I think we need to see that and be open about it.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way” — “OH! Surprise! The tire burst!” And we’re surprised. Instead, God is saying, “These things you’ll meet every day! You’ll meet these things every day. That’s the plan! These things are here to show everybody what I’m NOT like and to begin to work on you, to take away the things in your life that have not my patience, or my long suffering, or my forbearance.”
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 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.”
“Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
That’s why we’re here. I’ve emphasized to you before what I think we do kind of overlook. Whether you like it or not, there’s no other version of Jesus like Marty. So, you can say, [chuckling] “Thank goodness!” And he can say that himself! Our dear Lord had made each one of us to express something of himself that nobody will express — so the theoretical therapists say and agree. They agree. 99.8 percent of your DNA is the same as everybody else’s but there’s a vital .010 percent that only you have – not only that YOU have, but nobody ever had, nobody else will ever have. You’re not being truthful. You’re not being honest if you don’t accept that, if you don’t face the fact honestly that that is true. You remember that story, that Jesus left the earth and went to heaven. And Gabriel asked him, “What arrangement have you made for the proclamation of your gospel?” He [Jesus] said, “Twelve men.” And Gabriel said, “What if they fail?” And Jesus said, “I made no other arrangements.”
You may treat yourself any way you want, and treat yourself as casually as you want to. And, you can treat yourself as your own and belonging to yourself and your life as your own, but it won’t make any difference to reality. Jesus has made no other arrangements. You’re it! I’m sure I would say the same about myself as you would say about yourself, “What a pathetic creature I am.” But, there is only one like me. There is only one like you. There is only one expression of Jesus like you and that is a precious treasure that you have, and it’s your responsibility to preserve and to look after, and to allow other people to see. You have the doing of that – whether you let it be seen in all his beauty – or whether you cover it up with (and I think of myself) your “great big swelling self”. We’re so full of ourselves, so preoccupied with what we want, so preoccupied with what WE think while he forbears quietly inside us and lets it all go on and continues to give us strength to live the next day.
That’s that reality – that you and I are here to express Jesus in way that he has made no other arrangements to express to anyone else. So, it IS important what you do – NOT so that your mom will be pleased, or your dad will be proud of you, or the teachers will think how clever you are, or because you will make a lot of money – but to express the part of Jesus that you are here to express, to be truly what he is in you.
I agree with you, you have to find that out because there are a lot of people inside us that we THINK are Jesus. There are a lot of imitations that we produce of him. He is often far freer than we are and often more disciplined than we are, often more joyful than we are, often more compassionate than we are – but that’s our task, to let Jesus be himself through us and mould us into his own likeness.
That comes to the second thing. The world is here to show us what God is NOT like. That deals with all the problem of suffering stuff. It SHOULD deal with our tendency, “Aw! Did you see what happened in the world today?” Oh, surprise, surprise – another 3000 people killed, another 4000
people killed. There is a limit on how far we should cry over the world’s destruction of itself. We should have compassion on the people who suffer. I don’t think we’re meant to be surprised at what the world does to itself. That is what the world is here for. God allowed us men and women to make this mess out of this world so that we would see what life without him is like – and it would be clear before us. Therefore, we would be able to know what life WITH him was like because you cannot know it until you’ve seen the opposite.
The purpose of the world being the way it is is actually to drive people towards God until they can’t bear it any longer. They’re finally faced with either an anti-Christ which has no answer or a Lord who is loving and wants the best for them all and rules in peace and in love. The world is here for that purpose. Therefore, the world will be used that way with you, in that way, in your life.
I’m sure I’ve bewildered you at times with the, “I don’t’ care about sales” because we’ve heard a lot of people say, “Ah, I don’t care about sales” – but they drive their workers to death to get the sales. That’s why I don’t care about sales. I don’t think we’re here primarily to produce the sales. We’re here primarily to be moulded by the experience that God allows us to come through, to be moulded into his image.
You know we have the tendency to think the same about that as we think about the world. We think, “Surprise, surprise! What a terrible world this is! It shouldn’t be like this!” And we have the same attitude, “These things shouldn’t happen to me! I shouldn’t have the irritating things that take up my time or stop me BEING the person I want to be.” But God has arranged our lives carefully and filtered all the experiences we have through his loving fingers so that they come to us, only the experiences that will deal with the things in us that are not like Christ.
The part of us that will not forebear: “I will NOT put up with this any longer! I CANNOT! “I cannot”, as Amy used to say, “I cannot endure it! I cannot endure it!” I cannot put up with this any more. I WILL not! I ought not to be asked to. I cannot overcome this attitude I have in myself.” All those things are God’s messages to us. Every time I feel any strain or stress inside me, I go to work – because some way, I’m not looking at things as God is. There is some way in which I am not exercising faith. There’s some way in which I am standing up for myself as if I’m treating myself as on my own, having to make my own way. I go to it and I search with the Holy Spirit for what it is in me that is not trusting God and is not relaxing in him. What is it in me that is standing on its own trying to live life on its own?
All these experiences are sent from him. I’d emphasize to every one of us, every strain and stress that we feel – “We’re not to live in strain and stress” – You’re right! We’re not meant to live in strain and stress. But what we need to see is if there is strain and stress there is something that isn’t Jesus. Jesus was at peace the whole way through. “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit” [Luke 23:46] – with them putting a spear into his side, yelling names at him, making fun of him – he was at peace and at ease. So he is in us. The only thing in us that isn’t in peace is US separate from him – and that is just downright sin.
It’s precious the things that happen to us that seem unpleasant and inconvenient and hard. If you say to me, “You mean sin is a good thing?” Well, in so far as it acts like a symptom of a disease. Yes, it IS a good thing. It lets you know that there is something not right here. There is something isn’t right. Old Stanley Jones used to say, “When God says, ‘You’re wrong’, then you say, ‘You’re right, Lord. I’m wrong.’” Never say, “You’re wrong, Lord. I’m right.” Always, “Lord,
you’re right. I’m wrong.” That is always the right thing. That’s always the right thing to say.
It seems to me, it’s a blessed path we have to walk. Every day we are in a world that is showing what God is not like, and in that way, often giving us hints as how to be like him – but most especially in our own personal lives, the things that happen to us, especially the things that are inconvenient, especially the things that are not favourable, including the poor sales. I know that’s a hard one, poor sales. All those things are loving messages from God to us. There’s a place in my heart where this is overcome and is transformed.
I think that is our message when we go to the websites: This world is not like God. We ourselves, and you — speaking to them as people– you are here to show something of God that nobody else can show. I think that’s the right message. I think that shocks them! I think they don’t immediately believe it. But, there is something hopeful in it. There’s something that surprises them in it. “That’s why you’re here. There’s something of God in you that isn’t in anybody else.” Even if they swear at you in the answer, that’s something that will stick. It’s true. There is something in every human being that God has planned to show himself, something only that person can do. They are unique because of that. It’s a great gospel and we have the whole world before us.
You should read the little email I sent today because it was a surprise to me. It’s a little email today congratulating Trish for her work on YouTube. I was just looking up “fully formed” on Google. Lo and behold I’m seeing the guy in Richmond preaching a sermon, not a great sermon, but there he is! Google has him up! I look up “fully formed in you” and there he is preaching the sermon.
So it’s a wonderful weapon, well, servant for us if we can do the same thing. We can take those pieces that you’ve done, the transcripts, particularly that you’ve done along with those video clips, and can begin to make them available to the search machines. It’s a world-wide gospel preaching system that dear Google has arranged for us. It seems to me that the message that we want to get through in that is that, “This world is NOT like God. And you are here to express something of God that nobody else can.” Let us pray.