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Is Your Faith Strong or Weak?

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Is Your Faith Strong or Weak?

Ephesian 2:4-10

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Another prediction of general relativity is that time should appear to run slower near a massive body like the earth. This is because there’s a relation between the energy of light and its frequency, that is the number of waves of light per second, the greater the energy the higher the frequency. As light travels upward in the earth’s gravitational field it loses energy and so its frequency goes down. This means that the length of time between one wave crest and the next goes up. To someone high up it would appear that everything down below was taking longer to happen.

This prediction was tested in 1962 using a pair of very accurate clocks mounted at the top and bottom of a water tower. The clock at the bottom which was nearer the earth was found to run slower in exact agreement with general relativity. The different speed of clocks at different heights above the earth is now of considerable practical importance with the advent of accurate navigation systems based on signals from satellites. If one ignores the prediction of general relativity, then the position that one calculated would be wrong by several miles.

Newton’s law of motion put an end to the idea of absolute position in space. The theory of relativity gets rid of absolute time. Then the amazing example, the twins example, consider a pair of twins suppose one twin goes to live on the top of a mountain while the other stays at sea level. The first twin would age faster than the second thus, if they met again, one would be older than the other. In this case the difference in ages would be very small but it would be much larger if one of the twins went for a long trip in a space ship at nearly the speed of light. When he returned he would be much younger than the one who stayed on earth. This is known as the twins’ paradox but it is a paradox only if one has the idea of absolute time at the back of one’s mind.

In the theory of relativity, there is no unique absolute time but instead each individual has its own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving. So, in a way, it doesn’t surprise us because in the 20th Century we have so deified science. I suppose it does surprise us when we find that science is saying the same thing as this dear book says, that there is no such thing as absolute time. That, in fact, if you sent one twin out in a space ship and he came back to earth, he would be younger because the time goes more slowly way out where he would be. Of course, that’s only out where we could get a spaceship.

But, if we consider that the universe itself seems to have infinite space, you can well imagine that there is some place where physically time really stands still compared with what it’s doing here on earth and certainly we begin to see how mathematics and physics are coming together with what we used to think was just a different sphere completely. So it begins to show us how the physical universe melts into the spiritual. It’s a great privilege that we have, that we have lived to see this day.

I feel it, of course, particularly and I don’t know who else is old enough here in Europe to realize that the scientist, especially men of the caliber of Hawking who sits on the seat that Newton sat in Cambridge. Men of this caliber have done nothing but tear down the faith. Men of this caliber have never dreamed of mentioning God in their books and, of course, he has it all through his books. Not because he’s some kind of orthodox Christian, I don’t believe he is at all, but because he’s

driven by the discovery of science itself to see there has to be an infinite intelligent mind behind the creation.

Now, for us, it’s very – I don’t know, it’s confirming, it’s affirming, we don’t need confirmation from science but it is an affirmation from science of what is found in this dear book written so many years ago. It’s in Psalms 90:4, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” But it’s like saying out there where even our own physicists now realize that time goes more slowly. Out there is amazing, he puts it so much more vividly than Hawking, “Out there a thousand years is but as yesterday when it has past.”

So, it’s just a day out there. So, a thousand years passes here on earth but out there, somewhere where God is, just a day has passed and so that time is just relative. It goes so fast here but so slowly where he is. That helps us to understand the startling statement in Revelation 13:8. We looked at it yesterday briefly. Revelation 13:8, “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” And I’ve already explained to you about the adverbial phrase of time “before the foundation of the world” that in the original Greek, it actually follows the verb “slain” so that in Greek the verse reads, “Every one whose name has not been written in the book of the life of the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.” So, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world.

And it’s easy for us now in the light of this view of time to see that God is able to foresee Iris, was able to foresee Marty, and was able to have foreseen me, to foresee Mary and to foresee our lives. And from his great position where all time is one great eternal moment, he’s able to see what would be our grandfather, what would be our great grandfather, what would be our great great grandfather and he’s able to see what we would do, and what we would be. He was able to see how we would pervert our whole personality so that we were little puppy dogs who looked for the favor of the next person and perverted our personalities into little men pleasing things that we couldn’t then control. He foresaw all that and then he had Jesus slain before the foundation of the world.

The amazing thing is, of course, that we were slain with him. 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” So when Jesus died, we all died with him. God put us all into Jesus and slayed us before the foundation of the world. Then you may say, “Well, why let us live this?” So that we would have a real choice.

He was so gracious, he let us be born of our fallen parents and live our faulty, lame, worthy lives with twisted perverted personalities and all the time he had already destroyed all that and recreated us in Jesus but he let us play that out to see what it would be like. He’s so good; he wants us to have free wills that he let that play out.

But of course, Satan has tried to deceive us into thinking, “That’s normal. That’s normal. That’s the way you’re going to be forever.” It isn’t, that’s just God’s little view. It’s like sometimes the television set where we’re able to put a small picture inside the big screen. So it’s really the big screen is our recreated personalities in Jesus. That’s what really exists. The little screen just shows you what used to exist before you were slain in Jesus. What we are looking at here in our fallen lives is the little screen and then Satan is trying to expand that to make us believe that that’s the only screen. It’s not. It’s only the little one and so God is saying of course, “I’ve destroyed you in my son Jesus. It’s all done.”

That is confirmed again in Colossians 3:3, it’s just good to see that it’s several times throughout scripture so that you’re able to settle it in your own hearts clearly. Colossians 3:3, “For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Of course, Paul is obviously speaking to the church at Colossae, so they’re all alive; they had to be alive to read this. So, he obviously didn’t mean that they physically died; he meant you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God, you have been slain. You have been completely destroyed and completely recreated.

The fuller expression of it is in Ephesians 2:4-10 which are verses that it’s just good to memorize because we have to fight for reality and fight to keep reality clear in our minds in this world. Ephesians 2:4, at the beginning you think, “Oh, he’s mixed up the tenses,” but of course it’s not a problem with grammar. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses.” That’s the way the Greek reads, “Even when we were dead.” “Made us alive together with Christ.” And then he emphasizes, “By grace you have been saved.” I mean, this is when you were dead.

It wasn’t when you started to make some move towards God, it wasn’t when you began to repent of your sins, it was actually when you were dead, God out of just grace and love made you alive together with Christ. “It’s by grace you have been saved, and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Now, Paul was still alive at that time, so he’s not talking about coming to heaven. He’s saying that at that very moment he was on earth and there on earth and he’s saying, “God has already raised us up with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” That’s where we’re really are, “That in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.”

This has all been done for you already, “Not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” And then the emphasis comes again, “Which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And so however amazing it is, the fact is that God has already played through our whole lives from before the foundation of the world and then he’s given us a choice here which life do we want to actually have.

But the choice is simply ours and so when we get echoes of heaven in our hearts, as Ecclesiastes says, “God has planted eternity in man’s heart yet so he is not able to find it.” That’s because we really are there. Even old Plato, however non-Christian he was, and he certainly was, Plato knew nothing about Jesus at the time that he wrote, even Plato said, “There’s a perfect chair in heaven.” That’s the way he said it, “There’s a perfect form of a chair in heaven and all other chairs are just pure copies of that.”

How the dear guy got it, I don’t know but he talked about the one true good. He never talked about God but he talked about the one true good and he emphasized in heaven there’s a perfect form of everything. It’s obviously God’s spirit somehow getting through to him. That’s why I think we should always be slow to say, “Oh, there’s no truth in this religion, or there’s no truth in that religion, or there’s no truth even in this spiritualism.” The interesting and dangerous thing about them all is that there is some truth in them all but they’re all poor shadows of this absolute truth in Jesus.

Now, how is that divine deliverance actualized in us here on earth? That’s just what God laid in my heart today. How is this actualized in us? I mean, if we have all been crucified, how is that made

real in us, that wonderful person that is able to live above sin? Romans 6:11 makes it clear. Romans 6:11, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” That’s the Greek word, “Logizesthai” for “reckon.” You must treat yourselves as really dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

But it’s always dangerous for us as we try to make that into, “Oh yes, I must treat myself as dead. It’s a kind of psychological thing. It’s a power of positive thinking. I must keep thinking of myself, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead,’ and that’s how this is made real in me.” Well no, it’s deeper than that because you get the meaning of that word, “Logizesthai” in Acts 26:18. The word “reckon” has a deeper meaning than just a mental affirmation. Acts 26:18, “To open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

You are recreated in Jesus. Your destruction in him and your resurrection in him, your sanctification in him, your cleansing in him is by faith and the reckoning is faith. How is this made real in us today? By faith. Yet it’s important to go another step because we can make faith a work too. So it’s important to see that the Bible always clarifies any ambiguity by some other unambiguous passage and so we’ve just seen sanctified by faith and there’s a tendency for some of us to say, “That’s it we’re made real and raised up in Jesus by faith. It’s by faith, that’s how we do it. It’s not the power of positive thinking — it’s not thinking about the thing — it’s by faith. So, it’s just my faith that does it.”

Well, it’s important to see no, the Bible doesn’t say that faith is the effectual cause. Go back to Ephesians 2:8 and you’ll see that. It clarifies that in some sense faith has something to do with it but it’s not faith that causes it. Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.” So, it’s by grace, it’s by God’s work that we have been made real and resurrected in Jesus and we receive that through our faith. Faith is a condition; faith is not the cause of it.

Now that’s glorious because it means it doesn’t depend on strong faith or weak faith. So if you’re having trouble with anger, and impatience, and jealousy, and you say, “Oh well, I have been crucified with Christ, I have been raised up but this somehow isn’t real in me today so I must exercise more faith.” And you get into that work experience of, “My faith isn’t strong enough. I must exercise stronger faith.” No, it’s not by your faith; God is the one who makes it real in you. You receive that through your faith and as long as it’s faith you’ll receive it. As long as it’s faith God will actualize through the Holy Spirit that resurrection in Jesus.

So, the condition is faith but the effectual cause is the Holy Spirit and grace and the grace of God. So it’s very important for us not to sit here and say, “Well yes, Pastor, I believe that. I believe that I have been crucified in Christ; I believe that has all been done. I believe that I have before me two ways and I want to choose the right way and I do it with stronger faith?” No, you just do it with faith. Just faith.

Now what is faith? I think that’s where we make our error. Matthew 9:22 and I think this will help to save some of us from the old introspection and the mysticism that we get caught in. Matthew 9:22, “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.” What was her faith? He said, “Your faith has made you well.” Was it because she said, “Lord, I really believe in you. Lord, I really, really believe in you. Lord, I have faith in you. Lord, I do believe. Lord, I can see myself well, I can see myself

whole.” No, no, no, not as complex as that at all.

Verse 20, “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.” Jesus is so good. He makes things so simple — not a whole lot of mysticism, not a whole lot of, “Yes, I feel that I’m getting better. Yes, I feel it at last, Lord.” Just, “Reached out and touched the fringe of his garment.” Faith is action. Faith is action. It’s not a whole lot of introspection. Faith is just action.

Luke 7:50, the same thing. How does this mighty pre-creation eternal work? How does it become actualized in us? Simple faith. Luke 7:50, “And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” What was her faith? Nothing very complicated. Verses 37-38, “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” Faith is action. By that act she expressed her faith. Faith is action. Faith is doing outwardly in your behavior what you believe in your heart is true.

Why does God require it? Well, you’ll see it in Matthew 12:13 and you notice Jesus always did require it. Matthew 12:13, “Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other.” So, that was it. The hand was still withered and still weak until he actually stretched it forth. As he stretched it forth, he was exercising faith. Jesus regarded him as exercising faith as he stretched out the hand. The action proves the faith and so it was the action that actually did it.

I don’t know about you all, I was all – well, I mean fascinated by intellectual pursuits and by the ability of thought and the power of thought and I constantly thought, “Lord, there’s no need to be so primitive as to actually do the thing, surely I can think it in my head and you can look down and you can see me thinking it and you know I’m thinking it and therefore I don’t need to do the outward thing. That’s for simple people who aren’t educated or aren’t sophisticated.” But of course, it’s all Satan’s deception. It doesn’t matter what we’re like, intellectual cerebral exercise is intellectual cerebral exercise. Emotional exercise is emotional exercise, faith is action that’s why God has given us bodies in this time/space world and it’s action that is the exercise of faith.

Let’s look in James 2:19-26. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works.” See faith is completed by works. “And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

So it’s the work — it’s the outward act that is the exercise of faith. It was the same in the Old Testament military victories. It wasn’t enough for Gideon or Joshua to say, “Lord, you’ve said you’ve given the city into our hand. I believe it, Lord. Now, okay I want to sit in my tent here and will you actualize that? Now, I believe it Father, but will you just actualize it?” It never worked that way. God never regarded that as faith.

He never regarded faith as a speculative rational thing, a mere progression of ideas in the head. He always regarded faith as outward expression and action. You must admit there has to be some reason God has given us physical bodies here on earth. There must be some relationship between our relationship with him and these physical bodies otherwise they’re just nuisances. If we could just sit at home and think the thing and he would see it was faith, then why would he bother with these bodies? Well, it’s because the body, the action of the body is the exercise of faith and it’s in that very exercise of faith that he begins to do the work.

We’ll just look at one military victory and then I’d like to just highlight what I believe the Father wants us to see clearly today. It’s Joshua 6, and it’s the well-known one of Jericho. Joshua 6, it’s just so plainly put. Joshua 6:16 and 20, “And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout; for the Lord has given you the city.” Now he said, “When that happens you shout because the Lord has already given you the city. He’s already crucified you with Christ. You’ve already been destroyed. You’ve already been resurrected and made clean and whole. But you have to shout because he has given you the city. But of course, the city still stands before your eyes until you shout. Then you go to Verse 20, “So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” But it didn’t happen until they acted.

Now, back to Romans 6:11, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Faith is not inward sight. It’s not inward sight. It’s not yes, I see it. It’s not twisting your mouth in all kinds of shapes to try to see it right. I remember one dear brother said to me years ago, some of you know him, in Minneapolis he said, “Now Pastor, you’re saying you can see Jesus now. How do you see him?” And he was at that business of how do I see it? It’s not that. Faith is not inward sight.

I’ve tried to write it here and maybe I should just read it because I thought it was so important from God. “Faith is not meditation on the death of Jesus, nor mental straining to make it real, nor successful exercise of a vivid imagination.” I thought we get caught in that and it helped me in regard to the “Stations of the Cross” because I always thought, “Boy, the “Stations of the Cross”, it’s good, it’s good.” But obviously you can go through the “Stations of the Cross” and you can be involved in just a mental thing. “But faith is not meditation on the death of Jesus nor mental straining to make it real, nor successful exercise of a vivid imagination. Faith is behavior consistent with the fact that you no longer exist and that Christ lives in your place.” That’s it.

Faith is behavior that is consistent with the fact that you no longer exist and that Christ lives in your place. That’s what faith is. It’s the actual behavior of it that your ankle bones are strengthened. I can almost hear my mother saying, “Ernest if you get up out of bed and get about your business then you’d feel the strength of da-da-da.” And I’d say, “No, I’d like to lay here and imagine it and when I imagine myself strong enough then I’ll get up and go.” It’s amazing — it’s a commitment you see — you have to step out onto the lake. “No Lord, show me it’s frozen, then I’ll step out.” No, you have to step out when it looks just like water. You have to step out when it looks you’re just the same angry selfish heavy person you’ve always been. You have to step out in confidence that you’ve been crucified in Christ.

Faith is not inward sight; it is outward action in the light of your death with Christ at Calvary. It is not prolonged introspection or preoccupation with self. It is not a morbid interest in every detail of your physical or emotional health because I think you can so often sink deeper into self

even when you’re in the very act of what you think is being delivered of self. You can be preoccupied with, “Oh, I’m trying to get deliverance from self.” You can be preoccupied with that whole thing. It is not a morbid interest in every detail of your physical or emotional health. It is not a constant struggle over fuller and fuller consecration. See, it’s not a constant, “Oh, yeah well, I’m almost fully consecrated. I’m almost…” What you end up with is preoccupying yourself and everybody else with yourself.

It is not a constant struggle over fuller and fuller consecration. Jesus said it is finished and that means concentration on self for whatever good reason is simply unbelief that the crucifixion has taken place. I think that’s true. Jesus said it is finished and that means concentration on self for whatever good reason you know, “Oh, I’m concentrating on myself to get myself fully consecrated.” Well, it’s just simple unbelief that the crucifixion has taken place because the more you’re struggling, “I’m struggling to consecrate self.” “Well, I thought self had been crucified with God?” “Yeah, yeah but I have to get it consecrated.” Well no, it’s been consecrated, God has done it. You just believe it and go about your business.

In other words, crucified life is a gay abandonment of self to death. A joyous relief that the old body of sin has been dumped into hell forever and a glorious going forth by Jesus in your body. That’s what it is. I can tell you what it is each day, it’s in Luke 9:23. Without this every day, it’ll be hard for you to walk in Christ above yourself. Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” That is each morning, you deny yourself — you make nothing of yourself — you deny that you even exist and you take up your cross. Like Joseph of Arimathea, you jump out of bed and rush to grasp the cross and walk down the Calvary road singing. That’s what faith is.

It’s not morbidly lying in bed thinking, “Oh, I have to get victory over this.” It’s, “No Lord, I’ve been crucified, I no longer exist, this thing that was known as Earnest O’Neill, that was known as Lucy, this was crucified, dumped into hell before the foundation of the world and I’m new. I don’t know what I am; I’m free as the air and the Holy Spirit, dear Holy Spirit, come and live Jesus in me. Let’s go Lord, out we go.” That’s it.

It helps to explain a very interesting paradoxical verse that I don’t even claim to be fully expanding it well. Who can fully expand anything here but Matthew 11:12? It brings the whole truth home. Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence.” Isn’t that interesting? The footnote c, I haven’t checked the Greek, but the footnote c is, “Has been coming violently.” Isn’t that interesting? “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently, and men of violence take it by force.” Isn’t that strange?

I think this is part of what it means. You go out and you grasp the cross and you walk down Calvary road rejoicing. That’s it. There’s a sense in which you get up and you act, that’s faith. I get up and I go out. I’ve been crucified; let me go to it, Lord. And so I can see it in the mornings, the moment you awaken in the morning, “Lord Jesus, I thank you that I’ve been crucified with you. I thank you, Lord, that it’s all done. I thank you that it’s finished. Lord Jesus, come let’s go up and out.” And as you go up and out indifferent to self with a gay abandonment and a gay indifference to your body and your emotions, the Spirit of Jesus comes in and strengthens your ankle bones as you walk.

But that’s it. It’s a glorious freedom from introspection and from long psychic meditation – that

is a work of salvation. Salvation is not by a work. It’s not by your effort. It’s not something man can do least you should boast but, it’s simply believing God and walking out. We’ve given so many examples of it. You know, I’ve told you about my dad teaching me to swim and you know it so well, it’s a big moment when he says, “Okay now son, okay, now I’ll hold your chin and you get your feet up off the ground.” And you cannot believe if you get your feet up off the ground you’ll do anything but sink you know, but at last you decide, “I’ll bring the feet up off the ground.” That’s the moment of faith and that’s the only moment when you begin to swim and it’s the same, it’s the moment of action.

I think, you know, I’ve struggled as much as anybody here has over mysticism and introspection. But, I think it’s death. The life of salvation is simple faith and simple faith is action that is consistent with the fact that you believe. The fact that we believe is that we were crucified with Christ, we’ve been completely made new and we go out in that confidence. The moment you do that, Jesus begins to rise in you and the Holy Spirit begins to bring resurrection life into you and you begin to float instead of struggle.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, words always fail us, only you through your Holy Spirit can show us how gloriously free it all is and we thank you for that. We thank you, Father, that it couldn’t be more fully proven to us than it is by your word and by the recent discoveries of the quantum physics.

It couldn’t be more fully proven to us that we have been crucified before the foundation of the world, that it’s all done. That all the anger in us, and the desire to be well thought of, the desire to be looked up to and respected, the desire to be successful, the desire to be somebody, the desire not to be a failure, the desire to avoid people’s criticism and thinking ill of us, all that was crucified with Christ. Destroyed and dumped into hell forever and has been and is finished.

We thank you, Lord, that the only thing that really lives is the new creation that you have given us in Jesus, completely new and interesting, an exciting new person that you want to unfold to us and to the world day-by-day.

We thank you, Lord, that ours is simply the choice and we just choose and go forward in that confidence and, lo and behold, you, through the Spirit, make it real in us. Lord, we thank you, thank you that it’s not a matter of long meditation, it’s not a matter of trying to make our minds think something. Lord, we thank you it’s just action that is appropriate to the truth of the historical and eternal fact.

Thank you Lord, thank you that the kingdom of God is taken by violence and that we can do that each one during the days of the rest of our lives for your glory.

Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all this week. Amen.

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