God’s Way or Mine?
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Covenant Service: Choosing God’s Way or Mine?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you be kind enough to look at now the Covenant Service that Joanne has kindly Xeroxed for us? If you could just look at it patiently with me, let’s take a little time with it. “Dearly beloved, the Christian life to which we are called is a life in Christ, redeemed from sin by him and through him consecrated to God.” Now, normally we think, “Oh yes, you mean it’s a life where we have to get redeemed from sin and where we have to consecrate ourselves to God.” It’s important to see how old Wesley puts it, “We are called — the life to which we are called is a life in Christ, redeemed from sin by him.”
It’s already done. It’s a life that has already been redeemed from sin. It’s a life that has already been through him consecrated to God. In other words, it’s an ark of the covenant, or an ark, a Noah’s Ark. It’s an ark into which we step. We are called today to step out of our present life and into the life of the ark of Christ and that life has certain things applied to it.
That’s really the only choice we have actually today. There is a great argument in theology — how much does man do and how much does God do? Some people would say, “Oh, Wesley and the Methodist say man does too much.” Well finally, Wesley wouldn’t say much more than you can say yes or no. Frankly, that seems to me, maybe the best theological position, that you can either say no to what God has done to you in Christ or you can say yes. If you say yes, then a lot of things follow. Once you step in there and say, “Yes, Lord I accept that you’ve put me in Christ,” a lot of things follow.
Now of course, the great chapter that expresses that is Ephesians 1. If you’d turn to it, you’d see it is just as though you wouldn’t apply this to holy scripture, ad nauseam, scripture ad nauseam, but it is almost ad nauseam in Christos, “in Christ,” the way it is repeated again and again. It’s Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
In other words, God chose us in Jesus. It’s like this — God begot his son and almost at the same moment conceived of his son having millions and millions of people in him, because he saw, “My son is so variegated, my son is so diverse that I cannot express his beauty and his wonder in just one human being. So I will express it through millions of people who will have the same capability as him to say yes or no to me.” God made us in Christ and that’s tricky, but it’s really behind the verse in John and you might want to just hold your finger in Ephesians and yet look over at John 1.
The words, I think, that state that, we think, “Oh God made the earth, God made us.” But here God says plainly in John 1:3, “All things were made through him.” Now he of course, refers back to verse 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life.” And footnote A says “Was not anything made that which has been made was life in him.”
In other words the suggestion is that all of us were life in Jesus before we appeared here on earth. So, do you see how real it is, this covenant that we are called into a life that is in Jesus? It’s a life that already operates; it’s a life that already has certain characteristics. Really, you don’t have a choice. You only have a choice of accepting that you are in Christ or rejecting that
reality and saying, “No, I’m not in Christ I’m on my own.” But after you say you are in Christ, then there’s a whole life around you that follows.
It’s a bit like coming in here to this community. You have the choice of saying, “I’ll come into it or I won’t come into it.” But when you come into a lot of other things follow. For example, you get up at certain times, you do certain things, you eat certain foods, and a lot of other things follow. So, it’s like that only much more so, that you’re called into a life that is in Christ. In a way it’s exciting because it doesn’t leave the burden so much on you. You don’t have to create it.
I think a lot of us have a misunderstanding. We say, “I am a brave disciple shouldering this cross and walking after God and creating a way for myself as I go.” No, you’re not. You’re not a lonely single disciple that is originating a life and trying to find your way through a mass of jungles and forests. You’re not; you’re in a dear loving savior, Christ who is like a large boat with all the other boats. You know, when the tall ships went into America for the 1776 celebration. The large boat went ahead and made the waves, threw back the water and all the other little boats scurried behind. That’s what it is.
Jesus is the Christ, who walks with flowing robes forward, and you’re a little bit of this robe, and a little bit of this sleeve, and you’re a little bit of this, and you’re a fingernail on the finger, and you’re being carried forward by him. So that’s why he says, “This is a covenant that God has made,” with whom? With Christ actually. With Christ. It’s a covenant that God has made with Christ and all of us are put into Christ. The covenant is made with us. So that’s why he puts it this way, “Dearly beloved, the Christian life to which we are called is a life in Christ, a life that is redeemed from sin by him and through him consecrated to God.”
Just one last thing in regard to that phrase: “a life that is redeemed from sin.” Christ has redeemed you from sin and now you’re job is to express that redemption from every part of sin that has caught any part of your life. That’s how Jesus gets his satisfaction. Christ has redeemed you completely from sin and now his glory comes partly from you applying that to every detail of your life. That’s why, I know this sounds strange, I have said to Marty that I myself was for years, I don’t know if my wife would still say it, but was for years of the impression and I’m sure Graham, and Iris, and Mary will appreciate it, I was of the impression that of course if you were creative – the only way a person who was creative could possibly live was in a chaotic room with a full desk that has books and papers all over it, and with socks and shoes laying all around the place. Obviously, no great genius lived in an ordered way. Anybody who had real creativity lived in chaos.
I was saying to Marty, of course it’s the greatest deception of Satan because what it pushes you into is a life that is filled with disorder. You never make your bed, your socks are all over the place, your shoes are all over the place, and your books are all over the place. Your life is filled with disorder that prevents you from ever doing anything creative you’re so preoccupied with holding back the chaos around you. What Christ wants us now to do is to apply the redemption from sin that he has worked into it — every little infinite, dismal detail of our lives?
I agree with anyone here who says, “Can’t a very precise computer expert, the kind of person we all have some knowledge of, can’t a very precise computer expert run a very ordered life too — not because of Christ at all but just because of a human desire to extend his own influence, and his own wishes, and his own personality?” Yes, of course. Yes, and extending the life of Christ as we are doing is very different from that but it still is a way in which Christ can be glorified.
Christ has redeemed your body, your mind, and your emotions from all sin, from all independence of God and you glorify him by expressing that. He has redeemed your mind from all wandering thoughts. He has redeemed your emotions from all right of self gratification and self enjoyment and he expects you to apply that and express that in life. Not by will. Not by will power but by the joy of Jesus, “Lord Jesus, I do not need this caffeine,” if it’s just caffeine. Or, “Lord Jesus, I do not need this alcohol,” if it’s alcohol. Or, “Lord Jesus, I do not need this praise that I look for from my superiors. I do not need it.” “Lord Jesus, I do not need this feeling of being admired. Lord Jesus, you are enough.” That brings joy to Jesus’ heart.
So, that’s why Wesley puts it that way. “You’re called to a life in Christ that has been redeemed from sin and through him consecrated to God as Christ offered himself up to God.” As you offer yourself up, you fulfill what Christ has done. It’s as if God looks at Jesus and says, “My son, what have you wrought in the earth?” And he points to you. I know this sounds ridiculous, he points to you as you pick that sock off the floor not because you’re afraid of your roommate, not because I said this this morning, but because you know Christ wants to pick that sock up off the floor and you put it in the drawer.
God looks down, it’s amazing, God looks down and feels a relief and a release in his own being as more of his universe comes into unity under his will. And it’s the same with everything you do. The moment when you step back from pride, from a prideful remark or a boastful remark and you say, “Wait a minute, I’m only saying that so they’ll praise me. Lord Jesus, you redeemed me from that; I don’t need that.” Every time you do that there comes a, “Ahh,” in God’s heart. A great sigh of relief and release as he sees what his son’s redemption has wrought on the earth. So, it is an amazing thing.
“Upon this life we have entered having been admitted into that new covenant of which our Lord Jesus Christ is mediator and which he sealed with his own blood that it might stand forever.” I do think I should say clearly to you that that covenant has been sealed with Jesus’ blood. Now in a covenant there is always a main initiator and then there is a secondary person. We are the secondary people. The covenant depends obviously on the primary person, the person who initiates it. He is the one that really determines whether there is any covenant for us to take part in and what these words say is that that covenant has been sealed with Jesus’ blood.
In other words, God has already destroyed all of us here in this room for our sin in Jesus. He is not looking to destroy us a second time. It seems to me there is a great deception there that Satan has spread because he spreads among us the idea of “maybe God will not forgive you for that sin?” It’s not an issue of God forgiving you; of course God will forgive you for the sin. The issue is — has he been able to do anything through the sin to get rid of it? Has he been able to do anything to get rid of it? This is the statement, of course, he has. He has destroyed Jesus and he has destroyed you in Christ. He is not looking for an opportunity to destroy you a second time.
Every time we have trouble with thinking that we’re forgiven, we’re dealing with that wrong issue. We must see that God has already destroyed us in Christ. We have already been killed there. He’s not going to kill two people for the one sin. He has killed us in Christ. That is done. The only issue, if you say, “Oh well yes, I understand universal atonement,” because that is what that means — that Christ died for all therefore all died. You say, “Oh well, I understand universal atonement but it doesn’t mean universal salvation.” No, it doesn’t. The salvation and the regeneration is by
faith and only when you say, “Yes, I believe that. I believe that,” are you then regenerated. But that’s all we have to do. So, if you’re sitting there this morning and you’re wondering, “Well, I wonder has God really forgiven me? I wonder can he forgive me?” That isn’t the issue.
Well, I’ll point it out to you very clearly in 2 Corinthians if you look at it. There are some startling verses there that you cannot get around however determined Satan is to bring condemnation to your heart. In 2 Corinthians 5, there’s that verse, first of all, that is so clearly a declaration that God has destroyed us in Christ and that has been done. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” So, he put us into Christ and made Christ sin who knew no sin, “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So, he destroyed us in Christ and then he emphasizes how complete that is, Verse 18, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled,” [past tense] “Reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” Now, what that means is, I know this is hard to swallow, Ceausescu [Romanian dictator, 1967-1989 and his wife Elena,] it’s difficult, we have to be careful not to be pointing at the sins that we are guilty of ourselves, but it is difficult to think of two dearer human beings who seem to have been more cruel and more indifferent to people’s feelings than the Ceausescus. Obviously, they did dreadful things to both individuals and groups of Romanians yet here is this startling implication of this verse that God reconciled the world to himself in Christ. God actually reconciled the Ceausescus to himself in Christ.
It’s up to them if they will be reconciled, but as far as God is concerned they also were included in Christ. Part of Christ’s pain was that of bearing Ceausescu’s lust in himself and the pain of having that destroyed. So up to the very last minute, it’s incredible, they could have turned to God and they could have been saved through faith because the whole thing was prepared, it was sealed with Jesus’ blood. God put all of us into Christ and destroyed us in him including Hitler, including Ceausescu, including the dear person who just this passed half hour has murdered someone in New York City. God has destroyed that person and the reason that person will go to hell is not because God has not destroyed them in Christ but because they will not believe that and will not respond.
So, it is a great salvation that we have here. Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator and he sealed this covenant with his own blood that it might stand forever. On one side the covenant is God’s promise that he will fulfill in and through us all that he declared in Jesus Christ. He will. He will fulfill in and through us all he declared in Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith. “That his promise still stands we are sure for we have known his goodness and proved his grace in our lives day-by-day. God made you with a certain purpose and he will fulfill that purpose in you.” That’s God’s promise, he will fulfill it.
That’s why we don’t need to be worrying about where am I really going to fulfill myself? Am I going to do the job that God gave me to do? We don’t need to be wandering around – I don’t know about Marty and the other guys, but I know we men are always wondering, “Well, am I doing what I was meant to do or am I wasting my time?” It’s great, the covenant states that we don’t have to be concerned about that, God will fulfill in and through us all that he wants to do.
Now, if you look for a moment at people in this world you’ll find that this is true. You’ll find that it hardly matters about the twists and turns of their lives. I think it’s very encouraging to some of us here who have made twists and turns and we’re not quite sure where those are taking us
but God’s promise is sure, he will fulfill what he has planned in your life from his side. He will do that. He will fulfill the reason he made you, you don’t need to worry about that.
On the other side, we stand pledged to live no more unto ourselves but to him who loved us and gave himself for us and has called us so to serve him that the purpose of his coming might be fulfilled. The main purpose of his coming is Romans 8:29, “That we may be conformed to the image of his son.” Then you can see on our side we stand pledged to live no more unto ourselves.
So, that comes down to the morning, so the alarm goes off and at that moment there is a mass of thoughts that invade your mind that come from the outside world, “What would be comfortable for me to wear today?” That isn’t harmful, that seems reasonable but then the next thought could be, “What would it be comfortable for me to do now at this moment?” If you live in a room with someone else that immediately becomes an issue of whether you live unto yourself or the other person but even if it doesn’t you only get as far as the shower room and that becomes an issue. “What would be comfortable for me to do? There are two showers, there is a good one and a bad one. I hear someone coming down the corridor which one do I take?” Right there. Or, you look up at the shampoo and there’s very little left in it and then you determine whether you wash your own hair with a little shampoo or a lot.
Right at the beginning of the day we begin to decide whether we’re fulfilling the covenant or not and on that, upon those decisions, depends the flow of the Holy Spirit of God to us because God himself still loves us every moment but we determine whether we live in the covenant that day or not. We determine whether we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. That’s why you often wonder why you feel a bit depressed today, or why I don’t feel too happy getting into the bus, it’s because you’ve cut yourself off from the joy of the Lord because you started not living unto God but living unto yourself.
So, it comes in everything we do. You get started to your day, you go into the store and you look at the potatoes, you look at the apples, you look at the books and immediately the thought comes, “Oh, all of the things I have to do today,” and immediately the mind engages in evasive action, “How will I make this day enjoyable to myself?” You don’t realize that even the very attitude that makes you think that way is cutting you off from the grace and joy of God.
Actually the truth is finally it doesn’t matter how much Coke, or how much ice cream you eat, or how many beaches you lay out in the sun on. Those don’t bring joy into you because joy is something that comes from above and all that brings is a kind of vague sense of not being hurt but it really doesn’t bring a joy to you.
So, in every situation right through the day you determine whether you live under the covenant or outside the covenant and if you choose to live outside the covenant you cease to receive in this present life the benefits of the covenant. And so God still tries constantly to fulfill his purposes for you. Instead you think it’s always working against you. He wants you to turn that way, you turn that way so he has to go around you and catch you, try to bring you back. He has to be computing all the time to try and find ways to bring you back onto his plan.
We have the choice each day of whether we live unto ourselves or not, “And from time-to-time we renew our vows of consecration especially when we gather at the table of the Lord. But on this day we meet expressly as generations of our fathers have met that we may joyfully and solemnly renew the covenant which bound them and binds us to God.” So today that is what we are to do. We are to
determine are we renewing this covenant which binds us to God?
“Let us then, remembering the mercies of God and the hope of his calling examine ourselves by the light of his Spirit.” In a time of silence that we’ll have, we ask him to reveal to us if there’s any way in which we’re living a little private selfish, introspecting life while living an outward public life for him. “Examine ourselves by the light of his Spirit that we may see wherein we have failed or fallen short in faith and practice.” Because, the reason you fall short in practice in regard to the shampoo is that you fall short in faith. You have no longer an awareness, “Father, it doesn’t matter if the hair is not washed with enough shampoo, you will make the water soft, you will make it work.”
So, every failure and practice is – there’s an old professor of philosophy that said, “You can’t have bad theory and good practice. You can’t have good theory in a sense and bad practice. Good theory produces good practice. In some way if a good theory seems to produce bad practice is because it’s not a good theory really and you’ve just misunderstood it.” But faith produces practice. “We have failed or fallen short in faith and practice and considering all that this covenant means may give ourselves anew to God.” And then he explains what it is.
“And now beloved let us bind ourselves with willing bonds to our covenant God and take the yoke of Christ upon us.” This is so good — this taking of his yoke upon us means that we are heartedly, in the heart you see, not just outwardly, but heartedly and joyously — that we are heartedly content that he appoint us our place and work and that he alone be our reward. Of course right there is the foundation of peace in the life.
This taking of his yoke upon us first of all means, “Lord Jesus this life is for you to live wherever you want, however you want. It’s not mine Lord, it’s yours. You live it whatever way you want, you live it wherever you want, it’s yours now. Lord, I’m not moving, you have me here I’m heartedly content.” It ends all the dreadful discontent.
Do you know it’s as if Satan has a rack and he puts us on it and we get settled in selling, Martha gets settled in selling in Scotland and you are doing it and slowly Satan begins to grind that rack. And he’ll say, “Is this right? Is this what you should be doing? Is it really? I mean, you’ve been at it a number of years now, should you be?” Don’t let him do that to you.
Taking Jesus’ yoke — it’s a bit like marriage, it does settle a lot of questions. For better or for worse, it settles a lot of questions. You don’t choose anymore who you sleep with, you don’t choose anymore whether you plan your own vacation or whether you plan your own meals. It settles a lot of questions. It’s like coming in here, it settles a lot of questions.
Now, it’s like that with the covenant that you make with Christ, it settles a lot of questions. Here’s your master, here’s your Lord, you do what he tells you. Don’t you think that it’s patently obvious that asking this person and that person for God’s will for you — it’s the disease of today. How do you find God’s will? You ask everybody. We know it in America especially; yeah, you talk to this person, you talk to that person, you talk to the other person and standing to the side is Christ.
Right there standing in a corner is Christ, the one who not only has called you but the one who has died for you. The one who has born the pain of your going to hell, he stands here and you’re going around all the crowds asking, “What do you think I should do, Pastor? What do you think I should
do, Reverend? What do you think I should do, Doctor? What do you think I should do, Brother?”
It’s just patently obvious that it’s foolishness. None of them know. None of them can tell you. It’s finally Christ himself that can tell you and really he’s the only one that can tell you. Certainly, if you’re uncertain, if you think, “Maybe I’m being deceived.” Except, I would say this to you, when Rick said, “I’m going to marry that girl. I’m going to marry Linda. I believe that’s the one I should marry.” Right up to the very last day he was hoping that he would be ill. It’s madness, we wonder, “Oh no, it couldn’t be.” Yes, that’s what he said to me. He was hoping on the very last day before he got the flight that he would get a cold or something and wouldn’t be able to take it.
Doubt was still there. Actually, you might have thought it at times, those of us who heard him, that it was kind of a dogmatic thing, “Ah, say it quick so that you won’t step back from it.” But it’s interesting, even up to the very last moment he was filled with doubt even though outwardly, he seemed so confident.
Now, I would say to you first of all, that most of us know if we’re doing the thing in full faith or not. So, that’s one thing. But it is just possible that you’re in deception. On the other hand, that’s why I brought the illustration of Rick into it, if you’re in deception, it must be showing somewhere else in your life. You can ask, “Wait a minute, am I living in fellowship with Christ day-by-day? Am I studying his word day-by-day? Am I praying to him day-by-day? Am I obeying all I know to do day-by-day? Am I witnessing to others?” In other words, “Am I living the life of a normal Christian?”
If you are, then it’s very unlikely that guidance you sense in the most important part of your life about what you should do with it is from Satan. So, you can see that it’s very unlikely that Satan has got a straight line right into the center of your heart. If you, at that time, are living like a child of God it is unlikely that he who looks after the children of the devil will be sending a signal that is coming repeatedly to you. That’s another way in which you can determine — is this coming continually to you? This guidance, is it continual?
In other words, is it part of your normal life? And if it is, that is Christ’s guidance. If you say to me, “Isn’t there a place for the fellowship’s confirmation?” Yes, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. It’s good certainly to go to some people, if you sense that God is prompting you, if you sense God is saying, “Now, wait a minute, you might be deceived here.” But, be sure it’s God saying it, be sure it’s not yourself saying it.
In other words, at the end of the day, who appoints your place? Here it is plainly, “We are heartedly content that he appoint us our place and work and that he alone be our reward.” Then that comes to our told attitude to Christ’s service. I don’t know how you all feel but I think we all get under this deception — am I being fulfilled? Am I being fulfilled?
We are little nothings and we are asking are we being fulfilled. God had said plainly you are going to be fulfilled by allowing my son to live in you and allowing him to be himself in you. That is how you will be fulfilled. It is not by doing this job, or that job, or by being in this country, or that country, or by using these abilities, or those abilities. It is by allowing my son to be himself in you. Do you see it is unarguable when we proceed along the lines, “Oh, well that’s what I’m concerned with, I’m concerned that Christ being himself in me? So I’m trying – how do I let Christ be myself in me? Well, I have the ability to play the piano.” But immediately you get into
that you’re under a secondary argument. You’re saying, “Oh, I can play the piano,” as if playing the piano is first and Christ in you is second. No, Christ is in you, he will fulfill himself through you as you listen to the intuition of his spirit in you as the day goes by.
We, in a way, have to turn our backs as Schweitzer did on many great abilities. With Albert Schweitzer, do you remember how many people said, “Oh, he’s throwing himself away?” He ended up in a leper colony, a pretty crude leper hospital that he operated throughout his life. Also, he was probably one of the chief exponents of Bach on the organ and obviously was a very capable theologian and philosopher but was content to do what the Spirit of God guided him to do. Of course, the world did not terribly much approve of it even though, in some way, it admired him.
So, it is with us, it is not a matter of saying, “Well, I can play the piano, I can speak, I can draw, I can design, I have to fulfill A, B, C, and D and then I’ll be fulfilled.” It is not so. The truth is that many of us have been misled even by teachers, even by our own experience of school, even by our own job experience, we’ve been misled into ways of life that aren’t Christ’s plan for us at all.
Finally, it is Christ that is our reward; it is not that I’m fulfilling my singing ability; I’m fulfilling my writing ability; I’m fulfilling my linguistic ability; I’m fulfilling my selling ability. It is not any of those things, all those are dead and gone a second after you die. But the issue is Christ, he alone is your reward. “Lord Christ, I have done all that I know you want to do in me. I can’t do anymore and Lord, that is all that I need as my reward. It doesn’t matter if another person knows me.”
What is the second classic next to the Bible? Most people will answer with one voice whether they’re Protestant or Catholic, whether they’re old or young, they’ll all answer, The Imitation of Christ. Who was Thomas a Kempis? Well his brother ran a monastery at Zwolle in Holland. His brother was the head of the monastery.
What was Thomas? Nobody really knows much about Thomas and what he did. He was a little librarian at the library, that’s what he did. He just looked after the archives, he looked after the history of the monastery. That was Thomas. He wasn’t very important at all, but he wrote The Imitation of Christ which is set next to the Bible in inspiration in the judgment of most Western scholars. So, it doesn’t matter what other people think about you, or what impact you seem to be making in the world, the issue is you let Christ be what he wants through you and he alone is your reward.
Now, there’s some truths that follow from that and that’s why Wesley points them out. “Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult.” It’s madness that we get all worked up, “Oh, this is so hard. This is so hard.” I just – I was brought up in seminary to think that business was evil and that business men were some kind of robots that just went through motions day, after day, after day, for money, money, money. Business seemed to me very unattractive and certainly very difficult. Spending days in this library would be easy, that was natural for me, but sitting at a computer working out a cash flow was a most unpleasant, unattractive, undesirable, and a most difficult task.
It seems that some tasks are easy and some are difficult and we should never say, “Oh, this task is difficult, so it’s not fitted to me.” If it’s not fitted to you, it is because God has determined that there is a change that needs to come about in your life and he has given you a difficult thing. Besides, it’s the same with Nee’s example, where he’s running an evangelistic campaign and he has
one man who is a very good preacher and the other man is a very good organizer. And he gives the organizing work to the preacher and he gives the preaching to the organizer and he says, “Because they will pray far more that way because they are doing something that doesn’t come naturally to them.”
Even though I don’t think we all do that, yet it is true that God can achieve a great deal through giving us tasks that are not necessarily easy for us. The ease or the difficulty of the task is no guide as to whether God wants you to do it or Satan wants you to do it, some tasks are easy, others are difficult. Sometimes you’re in front of everybody and everybody thinks you’re wonderful, others bring reproach, others bring great opposition, great criticism.
That’s why you have to go very carefully on guidance because I could tell you that – I don’t think I could get through the poem without crying but I certainly would have a go at a few verses, “I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” Certainly, taking the road less traveled by makes all the difference. It is not necessarily the one that brings the greatest honor or brings the greatest success, but it makes all the difference, if you walk by the light that Christ has given you in your own heart and life and often that brings reproach. But in a way, don’t you think that’s more in keeping – we ought not go out of our way to get reproach but in a sense walking in reproach is more in keeping with the Savior? He said, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” It’s more in keeping then it is to walk with the flags flying on each side of you.
It is that we have been brought up in the belief of what most people approve of is right, and in the belief that if you can once get on television you are wonderful. So we’re brought up with the idea that the admiration or acceptance of our peers is everything. Of course, it’s plain we are not following that kind of a leader. Jesus did not go for that kind of fame or approval. “Some bring honor” — an occasional time you get honor but usually we should face reproach. “Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests.” This is so good, isn’t it?
“Some are suitable to our natural inclinations.” They’re what we would be naturally inclined to and temporal interests and sometimes we get doing things that we like to do. We’re good at writing so we’re given writing to do. Sometimes we’re given mathematics to do because we like mathematics. Sometimes we’re given business to do because we like business. Sometimes we’re doing physical things, we like physical things. “Others are contrary to both.” Don’t you think it’s so important for us to receive that?
Some services that Christ has to be done are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both. Let’s be very slow to say, “Well, I don’t like this. I don’t like this. It just doesn’t suit me, I don’t know why I’ve been given it. I can’t do this kind of thing, I’m just not fitted to it. I’m not fitted to it.” But immediately transpose yourself 2,000 years, “I’m not fitted to this cross. I’m not fitted to it. I’m not fitted to carrying this. I’m not. I was made to be king of the universe, master of all. I’m not fitted.” As he wipes the spit off his face, “I’m not made for this. I’m not made to be spat upon by the Pharisees.” I’m not fit to tie the laces or the straps of this man’s sandals, John the Baptist said. Then we say, “We’re not fit.”
But it’s a privilege, it’s a privilege to brush off dust in this library not because of any pitiful creature here but because this is part of God’s will; because these dear books are written by saints in whom Christ lived. It’s a privilege to do anything in connection with Jesus. It’s a privilege
to brush the driveway for him. It’s a privilege to walk in Covent Garden where the vegetables and the fruit are. I remember the first time I did it the first thought was, “Oh, if any of my fellow pastors could see me here wheeling the apples on a trolley.” I went with Greg in the early days or whoever was doing it and then I thought, “No, this is the greatest thing that I could do. This is the most wonderful thing I could do.”
I remember W. E Sangster used to say — despite all the miserable Methodist ministers we ended up visiting on our bicycles with the clips on our trousers and our black suits on, our clerical collars, and our black raincoats — he was puttering along a country road in one of his first parishes and a fellow that he had known at university blasted by in his Bentley and splashed the dirt all over him. Just for a moment he thought, “Oh,” and then he thought, “No, I have the place of honor. I am the honored man. I am the messenger of Christ. It is an honored position I have beyond anything that the world could give.”
That is what Wesley is getting at here. There are some things that are suitable to us and others are contradictory to both. “In some, we may please Christ and please ourselves,” and those are the most dangerous. Probably the most dangerous. We think of them as, “Oh, give me that, give me that. Give me a place where I can marry a husband that I like, marry a wife that I like. Give me a place where I can have a nice place to live. Let me live in a nice bedroom.” “In some, we may please Christ and please ourselves.” Probably, those are the most dangerous. You know why? Because, you can easily be drawn to the pleasing of yourself.
Really, it’s inspiring to see the Dans. The house isn’t, I mean, it isn’t comfortable like ours. The house in Taiwan is up in the mountains, it’s at least out of that unbreathable air and it has a swimming pool; it’s spacious. It’s bright and light, and I know with what readiness Dan moved out of the room he was in and moved into a little room probably about a sixth of the size. And then how they’re more than willing to leave that house, which actually I think cost maybe $1,200. It’s an incredible rent per month that we pay for it. Then, they’ll move to one we hope will cost us $300 and will be much more modest in Thailand. But the main thing is they would move into a tent if God – if that was the next move that God had for them.
So, it’s important not to get too attached to the things in which we are pleasing ourselves. It’s important to see, no God may call some of us away from here to start all over again in Africa with none of the advantages that we have here. So, sometimes you can please yourself and you can please Christ but maybe those are the most dangerous.
“In others,” and isn’t this so vital, “In others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.” So, don’t get into that position where you say, “Well, well, I mean, wouldn’t Christ give me something that would suit me?” Often not. He’s looking at something deeper than your psychological fulfillment. He’s looking at the bending of your will to his. “In others, we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves” — by making nothing of ourselves.
So, sometimes we’ve had discussions – I think both Colleen and Sandra are fitted for martyrdom, as many of us are. That means we say, “This is the unhappy way so it’s probably God’s way.” So, Satan by that means fills us with fears. He fills us with fears. We come to a place where we’re about to consecrate ourselves to God and Satan gets in and says, “But what if he asked you to do this? What if he asked you to do that?” So he knows that he can so fill us with paralysis as we contemplate all the dreadful things that God will make us do that he manages often to hold us back.
Of course, if we look at the Father and see his nature and we see this world, and we see little birds, and flowers in spring time, and we see our bodies and all the nice things he has given us, we see that it’s a trick of Satan. This God of ours has been most kind to us. This God of ours seems to be looking out for what enjoyment he can give us rather than what hardness he can provide.
So, the first thing is to see that God himself loves us and wants the best for us. But the next thing is to see that undoubtedly God knows when you need to be prepared to deny yourself and he mixes, doesn’t he, he mixes lovingly and kindly the difficult with the easy. And so we must never step back from the difficult because it seems not to please us or it seems to require denial.
“Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ who strengthen us. Therefore, let us make the covenant of God our own. Let us engage our heart to the Lord and resolve in his strength never to go back. Being thus prepared, let us now in sincere dependence on his grace, and trusting in his promises yield ourselves anew to him meekly kneeling upon our knees.” And then what I suggest we do is first of all to look quietly at this declaration of our fulfillment of the covenant and just see the words as you read them through and see what you’re seeing.
You can see “I’m no longer my own but thine, put me to what thou wilt.” Let’s nail that down then. If you’re going to say that this morning, nail it down and leave it and don’t pick it up again from the ground. Nail it into the ground. Put me to what thou wilt. Put me to whatever you want. That’s an open invitation, Lord. Put me to what thou wilt. I will never again question, or refuse, or hesitate, or argue, or have long discussions with somebody else to try and get myself out of it. Put me to what thou wilt. Peace comes to the heart when you do that. Put me to doing, if he has things for me to do good. Put me to suffering, if you have any sickness or any suffering of mental circumstances, or emotional circumstances, or relationships that are painful, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee. If you want me to be active or laid aside for thee. If you want to lay aside, lay me aside, if you don’t want to use me at all.
As we get into so much of our temptation by saying, “Oh, I want to be used by God.” Really what we say is, “I want to be used.” “Let me be laid aside for thee, exalted for thee, let me be lifted up, or brought low for thee. Let me be ignored. Let me be full. Let me have plenty. Let me be empty.” If you choose to take all my money away and left me with nothing I’d be content. Let me have all things. Let me have everything that I need, or let me have nothing.
Doesn’t it hit at that trick that Satan has, it sounds so self righteous. “Well, I mean, God will supply every need through his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.” Well yes, but if he doesn’t supply it then isn’t the right conclusion that he judges you don’t need it. But we so often don’t take it that way, we try and use God’s word against him!. We say, “Well, doesn’t it say, ‘My God will supply every need of yours from your riches and glory in Christ Jesus?’ Now, shouldn’t I expect God to supply all my needs?” Yes, but you’re not the one to judge what your needs are.
But you see how we use it against God. I mean, we stand up on our hind legs in just outright defiant opposition to God and we say, “I need this. I need this man, I need this woman, I need this job, I need this money, I need these clothes, I need this fulfillment. I, I, I,” and we condemn ourselves with every “I” into hell and into separation from God’s grace. “Let me have all things, let me have nothing.” If it’s your will to supply me with nothing then that’s what I need. “I freely and heartedly yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. Now, o glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit thou art mine and I am thine. So be it and the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.”
And what you’re doing is you’re saying to the Father in Jesus, “Lord, I give my whole life to you. What you give me that I receive. What you don’t give me that I’m content to be without.” And that brings great peace to the heart and great settlement deep down. So, let’s just maybe get on our knees and we’ll pray that together to the Father as we kneel.