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God’s Love in Christ

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God’s Love in Christ

Romans 8:38c

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

We’ve been talking, loved ones, during these past months about being free, just living as really free people you know. Free from all the character traits and the behavior patterns that prevent us being what we want to be. We’ve talked about being free from those things. And some of us this morning would love after the benediction to really talk to others. We’d really like to socialize, but we just have a crippling self-consciousness and crippling feelings of inferiority that make us withdraw into ourselves and make us scuttle away after the benediction and try to get away from everybody. And many of us here are in the grip of all kinds of vices that we can’t shake and however many resolutions we make it seems that the fear of people, or the lust, or the envy run our lives so that the good we want to do, that we can’t do — and the evil that we hate, that’s the thing we do.

What we’ve been seeing during these months is that the reason our will is so ineffectual to control these feelings and these character traits is that our whole personality is perverted and twisted and so the will itself seems to be paralyzed. And really the whole personality is perverted and twisted because we live like orphans, we really live like orphans. We live as if there is nobody to take care of us. We’ve kind of been placed here by chance, and we have to provide for ourselves and take care of ourselves. We have to somehow make our own way in society, we have to make our own mark on other people. And so we live like orphans and our personalities have developed those traits because we live like orphans, so we have developed animal-like kind of defense mechanisms — of fight, fright or flight — just to protect ourselves.

So we find our personality is that of an orphan or a little animal that has nobody taking care of it, and we fight for recognition and we’re afraid all the time of losing the security that we’ve got. And our life is a constant flight from anything that is unpleasant or that looks as if it would make us unhappy. And yet, though we eat to get rid of our fear, and we curry favor with our peers to get rid of our feelings of rejection, and we go out of our way to try to be happy, yet the real trouble is not our eating, the real trouble is not our main fear or our slavishness to people’s opinions. The real trouble is not our heathenism; the real trouble is our whole personality is the twisted perverted personality of people that live like orphans. People that are committed to trying to get from others the love and the security that can only come from regarding the Father of Jesus, who is our creator, as our own loving Father. And yet we find that our personality does not operate like that.

So you know, we make our resolutions but it seems as if you have a little pick axe and are trying to remove a whole mountain with that little pick axe. You’re trying to affect a tiny little activity or behavior pattern that is part of a whole big problem that is far greater than that. And the whole big problem is that our personalities do not operate like children of God, but our personalities operate like little estranged alienated orphans. And the problem is not how to change our eating habits really or how to change some drug that we take, or how to stop smoking or how to stop being angry, the problem is how to change our whole personality. And you know that’s what we discovered God had done for us.

And that, loved ones, is in Romans 6:3, and maybe you’d just look at it and read it. Romans 6:3,

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” And that’s God’s love in Christ. God took your petty squalid little personality and destroyed it in Jesus and raised you up as a new creation with all the natural attitudes and reactions of a child of his.

Now that’s what happened loved ones, that happened. That was miraculously achieved by God in Jesus. And it’s not up to you to try to make yourself his child, that has been done. God has already done that and so what we’ve been saying is, “It’s a lie,” when you say you can’t stop smoking. It’s a lie, if I say, “I can’t stop losing my temper.” It’s a lie, when you say you can’t stop unclean pictures rising in your mind. It’s a lie, when you say you can’t stop being sarcastic with other people. It’s a lie. You can because God changed the personality that used to be able to operate only in that way. And you’re telling a lie when you say you can’t change, because in fact, God has changed you. All those attitudes that we talk about — being lustful, being unclean, being selfishly ambitious, being sarcastic — come from that little orphan, that little defenseless animal that thinks that he or she is on her own in this world, and has to make her own way. And once that personality has been destroyed in Jesus — which is what it means when God says our old self was crucified with him — once that has been destroyed, all the reactions that it produces are no longer natural to us, and you can simply change them in a moment.

Now loved ones, that’s it, that’s what God says. Now you see it in again in II Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Now we were all sin. Sin is living independent of God and trying to get from the world and other people the sense of importance and the sense of value, and the affection and the love that you should receive from God. Now that created an old rutted personality so that you feel you’re in ruts at times. You want to get out of them but you can’t. That created an old rutted personality, that always struck out at others when you were ignored, that always curried favor with others because you wanted other people’s love and attention. Now that rutted personality was put into Jesus, he became all that we were, and God destroyed that in him so that we are able to become what he is, a loving trusting son of his Father.

So really loved ones, honestly, it is never because you cannot stop losing your temper, it really isn’t. It is that you don’t want to stop losing your temper. It is never that you can’t stop being impure, it is that you don’t want to stop being impure, it really is. It’s just we say, “I can’t.” But really it’s, “We won’t.” It’s not that you can’t change because God already changed you in Jesus; the whole thing has already been done. It’s like someone making this set of clothes for me and I don’t have to come along and sew the whole thing up and fit myself, the suit of clothes is ready, all I have to do is put them on. Now, that’s it loved ones, honestly. And it’s like me looking at a suit of clothes that looks very light and thin. And I say, “Oh, no, those won’t keep me warm.” And you have made them and know they will keep me warm. But I have to go in faith, I have to put the clothes on and then I suddenly feel they keep me warm.

Now it’s like that with us. You have to say, “I’m willing to change. And I believe Lord that if I’m willing to believe that you have done this to me in Jesus and I start believing that and acting on it, then I will actually begin to feel the results in my own life.” And that’s the truth loved ones, that’s what it is. I think some of us here this morning say, “Well yeah, we know what you say

and we really believe it, but there is a little voice that whispers inside me and says, ‘You can’t change. It’ll work for everybody but you. But you’ve treated people this way for so many years that you can’t change. You’ve been addicted to the caffeine or you’ve been addicted to the aspirin, or you’ve been addicted to the alcohol, or you’ve been addicted to using your wife, or using your friends for so long that you can’t change.’” Now I think many of us here probably say, “Yeah, yeah that’s right I believe what you’re saying this morning, but I have to tell you that there is a voice inside me that says to me, ‘But I can’t change.’” Now whose voice is that? With some of us, loved ones, we’d better be straight, with some of us it’s the voice of our own wills, it is. It’s just we’re so subtle that we’ve learned to change that voice. The voice really, if it was honest, says, “You don’t want to change.” But that doesn’t sound too heroic, so we switch it to, “You can’t change.” And really we mean, “You don’t want to change.”

Some of us are like people who observed Mark Spitz, winning the eight or nine gold medals at the Olympics. And we see that and we say, “Oh, I’d like to win eight or nine gold medals at the Olympics.” And we kind of listened to this on Sunday morning and we say, “Oh, I’d like to be that kind of a person. Oh, I’d like to be generous and kind and patient and I’d like to always be at peace. I’d like to just not have so much trouble with myself, I’d love that.” And we say, “Oh I really want it.” What we mean is we really would like to have it, we want it with our feelings, we desire it. But not that we’re willing to face the consequences of joining Jesus in his death to the right to sympathy, or his death to the right to other people’s approval, or his death to the right to comfort, or his death to the right to pleasure except what God gives him, we’re not prepared to face those consequences. We’re not prepared to join Mark Spitz in that swimming pool, up and down, up and down, up and down, half a mile with the arms, a mile with the legs. No, we like the idea of the gold medals but we don’t like the things you have to do to get the gold medals.

And I just don’t think it’s being too hard to say that some of us this morning are in that situation. Some of us have a little voice inside that says, “You can’t change.” And it’s really the voice of our own will saying, “You don’t want to change.” You don’t want to die to everybody else’s approval but God’s because everybody else’s approval you can kind of control by the things you do. You know, you can stand on your head or say the Lord’s Prayer backwards or something and you can kind of get approval when you need to get it, but this business of depending on God to give you his approval, well you can’t switch him on and off. And so many of us are not prepared to die to what we get from the world and people and trust only what Jesus got from his Father, because we can’t control all that. So many of us have a voice inside us saying, “You can’t change,” but it’s really the voice of our will saying, “You don’t want to change.” Now it’s important, loved ones, for you to identify if that’s the situation with yourself.

I think some of us are prepared to die to all comfort but what Jesus received. I honestly think some of us here this morning are really prepared to die to any pleasure but what Jesus received on Calvary. I think there are some of us here who are prepared to die to everything but what God gives us in the way of love and attention. And yet, we too, have a little voice inside us saying, “You can’t change. You can’t change.” Now loved ones, if you are really prepared to die with Jesus, to everything he died to, if you’re really prepared to stop depending on other people, on things and experiences for your security, your significance, and your happiness and if God himself worked the change in Jesus to make you capable of being his child, then it’s not your voice that’s speaking and it’s not God’s voice, whose voice is it?

Loved ones, I’d like you to look at it, it’s in Romans 8:38. You remember that verse runs, “For I am sure that none of these things will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus,” and then

Paul mentions them, “That neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities.” Now “angels” is the Greek word “aggelos” and “principalities” is the Greek work “arche”. Angels are spirit beings that Jesus created to serve his Father throughout creation. They don’t have wings but they are spirits. They don’t have bodies like ours, but they have free wills. And some of them are rulers, that’s what principalities are called. Some of them are rulers over certain areas of the world and certain activities in the world. So there are spirit beings that can control even things like finances. And Satan was one of those angels and he used his free will to rebel against God and to set himself up as a ruler. And God has permitted him to test our free wills during our lifetime here on earth. He has only one power and that’s the power that produces that voice inside you.

That’s why Paul says here, “Not even angels or principalities can separate us from God’s love.” But I think some of us here this morning do in fact allow those angels and principalities to separate us. Now here’s the power that he has, loved ones, it’s in John 8:44, “You are of your Father the devil, and your will is to do your Father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the Father of lies.” And the voice that many of us here this morning hear saying, “You can’t stop swearing, you can’t stop being indolent and lazy, you can’t stop smoking, you can’t stop being sarcastic,” are hearing the voice of Satan, loved ones. And he is lying to you and he is saying, “You can’t.” And yet you see that Paul says that, “Not even angels or principalities can separate us from God’s love.” Why then are you separated often from the transforming work that God has done to you in Jesus? Why are you separated from it by these angels and principalities?

Well I think first of all because many of you don’t believe that there is a personal power of evil called Satan. I think many of us are like that, I was like that. I really listened to people talking about Satan, but I thought, “Well it’s a kind of a picture that they have for personalizing evil to children. But I don’t really believe there is a Satan who can kind of initiate or inject or insert thoughts into my mind.” And loved ones, I think many of you come under Satan’s power because when you hear that voice, you refuse to identify it as Satan’s because you don’t really believe that Satan exists or that he can insert thoughts into your mind. And so do you see what happens? The thought comes up and you identify it as coming from your own reason or it’s coming from your own rutted personality that has become so used to these habits that it’s actually speaking to you saying, “No, you can’t do it, you can’t do. You’ve been lying in bed till this hour for years, you can’t change. You’ve been smoking for years, you can’t change.” You think it’s your whole personality speaking to you and crying out to you and saying, “No, you can’t change.”

Loved ones, your personality doesn’t speak– especially after it has been crucified with Christ. And if your heart is set towards God’s will for you and to a change in your life, it’s not you that are speaking, it’s not your reason that is speaking, it is Satan himself who is whispering to you, “You cannot change.” But do you see loved ones what you do? You identify it with yourself and so you think, “This is my own mental processes saying I can’t change and it’s just the testimony of reality, of course I can’t change. I know the psychologists tell me that once I’ve started being like this, there’s a determinism that keeps on being like this, I can’t change. This is my whole being testifying to me that I can’t change.” And so you identify it with yourself and so you refuse to reject it, that’s it. You refuse to reject it because you think, “Listen, this is my own idea that I can’t change. So I’m just playing a mental bluff game with myself if I start refusing that idea.” Loved ones, the truth is the idea does not come from you.

Now God states this plainly in Ephesians 6:12. And it’s the failure to realize this that makes many

of us align ourselves with Satan’s opinion or with his lies, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Now loved ones, if I could only come with you in your own dear heart when you go to the closet, or you go to the refrigerator for the wine, or for the whiskey, or for the food — there is nothing in your body, or personality, or emotions that makes you do that. You think it’s your body and your personality that makes you do it, it isn’t, that was crucified with Christ. It’s utterly changed. But Satan’s voice whispers to you and justifies it and suggests, “Really you have to do this.” And it is your acceptance of his lie that makes you do this, honestly it is.

It’s not the flesh and blood you’re wrestling against, it’s not that your old personality is used to that and can only operate that way; that has been changed, it has been crucified with Christ. But Satan reminds you of the way it used to be and persuades you that it’s still that today and what actually deceives you and gets you to drink, or to smoke, or to lose your temper, or to be sarcastic as you listen to Satan’s suggestion to your mind that this is a very justified thing to do and it’s a thing that you can’t avoid doing. Loved ones, truly — and actually all you have to do is resist him and he’ll flee from you, that’s it. If you’d only at that moment resist him, he would flee from you, really. Now don’t you come at me and say, “Oh you mean by the power of positive thinking you drive the terrible urge away.” Do you know that there isn’t a terrible urge? I know you won’t believe it, because Satan has persuaded you that there is a terrible urge. There is no terrible urge because that was destroyed in Jesus in Calvary and you’re believing Satan’s lie that it was not and you’re being led out after his lie. And it is not the urge that drives you to do it, it is him telling you the lie, “You have to do it, you can’t avoid it, you’ve been doing it for years.”

And loved ones actually all you have to do is turn around and go the other way, really. All you have to do is resist him. Now that’s in James 4:7. It’s really loved ones the greatest bluff, you know, that is practiced upon human beings. James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And that’s it. The moment that thought comes to your mind that you cannot do it, all you have to do is resist it, resist it and believe what God has said is true: that your personality has been changed in Calvary. Now I warn you, Satan will come round back of you and say. ”Oh you’re just playing games with yourself; it’s just the power of positive thinking.” Loved ones, it isn’t. It’s reality that you were in fact destroyed with Jesus. It’s not a thought that will produce some dynamic in your life, it’s a work that was actually done on Calvary and Satan is the liar that is telling you that it was not done. I think that’s one reason why some of us feel that we’re not able to change or hear that voice inside us.

I think another reason is this: that we listen to Satan’s idea of victory in our lives. Now here it is in Revelation 12:10, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” I think some of you don’t enter into reality because you listen to Satan’s accusations. And you really do exactly what he tells you. He says, “Look at yesterday. Did you get up in time for prayer yesterday? Did you? Did you?” And we dumb-dumbs, we look at him and we say, “No you’re right, we didn’t, we didn’t.” And he says, “Look at the day before didn’t you lose your temper with your friend, didn’t you?” And we follow him, just dragged by the nose and we say, “You’re right, we did, we did.” And he says, “Don’t you have feelings of envy against that person, don’t you?” And we say, “You are right.” And Satan all the time points to the individual things that we are doing or saying that are not in consistency with the fact that we have been crucified with Christ and so he somehow bluffs us into thinking that we therefore have not been crucified with Christ.

Now loved ones, the fact is all the talk in the world cannot change that cosmic crucifixion that you experienced in Jesus. You can live according to a lie if you want, but you can’t change reality and reality is that God has destroyed that old orphaned, parasitic personality of yours in Calvary, and that has been done. And not all the lying in the world will change it and not all the pointing to any failure in you to let that reality live in your life can change the reality. Loved ones, it has happened but Satan tries to persuade you that you’re involved in crucifying yourself, he tries to persuade you, “Listen you lost your temper yesterday, that means you’re not crucifying yourself, doesn’t it? You’re getting sarcastic; that means you aren’t crucifying yourself.” It’s not your job to crucify yourself, it’s been done, it’s been done. Your only job is to let it come out through you.

But Satan persuades you that you have to involve yourself in some kind of self-improvement scheme. In other words, it’s like the old tow rope, you know, that tow rope is going up that mountain and you’re on your skis, all you have to do is put your hand on that tow rope and you’re going up that mountain. You may go up on your stomach, you may go up on your bottom, but you’re going up, one way or the other. And 100’s of people may stand around and say, “Ah, ah you’ve fallen, you’ve fallen.” “Yeah, yeah but I am going up. There’s a power, there’s a power that is taking me up and it’s established by the person who created the world and that power is taking me up.” And your hand may even slip off. And okay a dozen gather round saying, “Yeah, yeah you slipped off, you slipped off.” All you do is put your hand on the tow rope again and you’re on.

Loved ones, that’s it, but you see that Satan gets you all preoccupied with the fact that you’ve slipped for the moment, or you haven’t allowed the death of Jesus to be complete in some part of your life. Yes, but don’t get down under it, don’t make a big battle about masturbation, don’t make a big battle about alcohol, don’t make a big battle about nicotine, just accept, “Lord, I have no need of these things, thank you, thank you that I am a changed person.” And loved ones as you throw out the 25th whiskey bottle out of the car, remember the fellow who says, “Stopping smoking is easy, I’ve stopped it hundreds of times.” And you keep throwing out that thing, that’s what you do, you keep throwing it out, you keep throwing it out. I don’t care how many whiskey bottles you throw out, you keep throwing them out of the car on the way to work the next day. You keep throwing away the packs of cigarettes, you keep standing against the sarcasm that you’ve expressed to your friend, you keep standing against the unclean thoughts, you set your heart on what God has done on Calvary and loved ones, that’s what God looks at.

He’s not looking every time you slip off the tow rope. He’s trying to decide, “Are you determined to go where I have arranged for you to go, to the top of that mountain? Have you set your heart that way? Then that’s all I ask and if you keep, if you keep with me the power of Calvary will actualize itself in your life and will change you.” But loved ones, that’s it, it’s not “I succeeded yesterday, maybe I’ll succeed today.” No, it’s, “Yesterday has been destroyed with Jesus and Lord I’m going that way.” But do you see that Satan’s job is to point out to you, “Now you haven’t kept your resolution, have you? You haven’t done what you said you’d do.” And, of course, he’s laying emphasis on your ability to do it. Your only task it to say, “No and I can never do it. That’s why I was destroyed in Jesus. And I thank God that all I have to do is accept that and keep setting my heart against these things and keep standing off from them and repenting of them and keep moving away from them and God by what he has done in Calvary will make that victory real in me.”

So loved ones, it is his will for us to all be free of those things, it is. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re here to keep doing those things, but do you see the way you come into victory on

them? It’s not laying emphasis on the things or the words or the actions but laying emphasis on the fact that you have been changed. God has changed you, that’s his word. You believe that, you don’t believe any temporary evidences of your own experience.

There’s only one other thing that I’d like to mention that I think brings some of you under this power of Satan’s lie you can’t change and that is, there are some of you who have lived so much in your minds, in the realm of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” and the Occult, there are some of you who have thought so much about these things, about these angels and principalities that you think it is their power that is chaining you to the bad habits.

I think some of you think that, some of you really do think that Satan has power, you really think he has power. And that is why you stop struggling. You say, “Oh no, there’s a power here that’s holding me to the alcohol, there’s a power here that is holding me to the selfish ambition, there’s a power here that is holding me to these critical thoughts that I have, there’s a power that is holding me to these things, it’s chaining me to them. I can’t get away from it.” Loved ones, Satan has no power. That’s it, that’s the truth that God tells us. Satan has no power, he has an ability to lie, and he can pervert us to misuse the power of nuclear energy that God has planted in his world. He can lie to us and deceive us into misusing our abilities so that we exploit the world instead of developing it. But he has no power himself, he has only the ability to lie to us and deceive us to misuse the powers that God has given us, but Satan himself has no power.

Now that’s stated plainly in Colossians 2:15 and it’s these same principalities that Paul talks about in Romans 8, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” Satan has been disarmed and he does not have power. And so loved ones, really it’s true, you could stop whatever you’re doing now, just by deciding, that’s it. All you have to do is decide. The only thing that can stop you from being free from whatever addiction you have or from being free from whatever personality trait is destroying your personal relationships with others, the only thing that can stop you from being free is your own unbelief that you were crucified with Christ or your own unwillingness to accept that crucifixion. But loved ones, if you believe and you’re willing, you can stop today, really, because God changed your personality in Calvary. Your old self was crucified there and God is simply asking you to believe that and stop it. And I know it sounds wild, but honestly, honestly it’s like walking that way when you decide to walk that way, that’s it. It’s easy as that, it truly is.

Now I know the agony because I was in the agony too and I know the agony some of you are in. But it is an agony that comes from accepting lies from Satan. It’s not an agony that needs to be there, no. So I pray that some of you will just decide this morning and then if necessary, decide tomorrow, and decide tomorrow and tomorrow, but never, never, never, never give up. Never accept that what Satan has been lying to you as normal is normal, it isn’t. What’s normal is a life free from anything that would spoil your relationship with your Father or with each other, that’s it.

Let’s pray. Dear Father, we really pray for each other this morning because we know there are loved ones beside us who just want to believe this and they want to have done with it now. Lord we pray now for them, pray for each other, Father. And I pray Lord for my dear brothers and sisters that they will just decide now that this is truth and they’re going to walk this way. However long it takes them to get onto that old tow rope, they will keep their hand on it and they will be dragged by one way or another, by the power of Calvary to that position at your right hand as your dear sons and daughters. Lord thank you for that, thank you. We trust you for each other this week that many of us here will live in victory for the first time in our lives, for your glory. Now the grace of

our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and throughout this week of victory and forever more. Amen.