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Let God be Your Guide

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Let God be Your Guide

Acts 5:1-4

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

But we are such miserable creatures, we human beings, that we have a way of being more ‘Christian’ than God, it seems, or more ‘religious’ than God. And you know we have ways of playing games with God. And loved ones, that’s what we’re trying to break through these Sunday mornings. We’re trying to break through all the games we play with the Lord, with the Father, and see what way he means us to live in our own everyday lives.

And you remember that’s what Ananias and Sapphira were doing; they were really playing games. I mean: big deal! They sold the land. And so they had this land to give to God, and the proceeds of it. And obviously the Holy Spirit had said, “Give the lot!” And old Ananias did a little calculating, and decided he would have enough for retirement, if he held on to a certain amount, and gave the ‘bulk’ to God. But, the Holy Spirit had told him to give ‘all’ of it to God. And obviously what happened was, the Holy Spirit brought about death in both him and his wife.

And that’s what you and I are all involved in. We feel we’re pretty shrewd, and sophisticated, and subtle, and so we all kind of ‘play games’ with God, and aren’t real with him. And that’s why many of us do not experience the healings and the answers to prayer, that are the normal experience of God’s children, here on Earth. And so what we’re trying to do in these mornings is to find out how you, or how I am playing games with God, because you don’t need ‘me’ to tell you there’s going to come a moment when you can’t play games anymore! And you can’t pretend – you are face-to-face with him like that [Pastor puts his hands together]. And there’s no longer any way in which you can escape his glance; and everything is laid open before you and him and the whole world. So it’s essential that we do it now.

That’s what we’re trying to do. I’ll share with you a little illustration that I think I have mentioned in past years, that seems to set forth what you and I have done with God, over the years, and what you, in fact, may be doing with him in your own life, at present.

The dad who can drive — done his test years ago — and the 13 year old little ‘Bright Eyes’ who is anxious to learn and get his license. And so the dad says, “Okay John, let’s get into the car, and I’ll begin to give you some driving lessons.” And so he starts to show him where the clutch is, and how to put it in and let it out gently; get her into gear; turn the ignition key; get the whole thing going. And John begins to drive a little, after the first two or three days watching his dad. Then his dad says, “Now there, you see, you have to change a little earlier; you see, we’re on a hill.” And John says, “Yeah, yeah, I got it; I got it.” Then they go down the next piece of the road, and his dad says, “Now, a little more gently around the turn around there, and use the break a little to power break it back.” And he says, “Got it. Got it.”

And the next day all you can hear is John saying, “Got it! Got it! Don’t bother me. Yeah, I got it. Okay, okay, just sit there I’ll be able to manage; I’ll do it okay.” And he feels he can do it himself, and the dad tries to get his word in edgeways from time-to-time, but John is beginning to get in control of this thing, and he feels he knows the way. Now, he doesn’t realize that there’s a mass of stuff that he doesn’t know about. There are all kinds of difficulties he’ll get into on the freeway. There are all kinds of techniques that he has to learn when he gets on the freeway. But

he doesn’t know that whole area of knowledge that is out there. He just thinks, “Good, I got it! I got what you taught me! I can do it myself, okay.” And he begins to drive that car more and more independent of his dad beside him. That’s what we’ve done. That’s what we’ve done.

“Good, I see the way you work it; I see the way my dad worked it; earned a little money; got a little investment; built up a little background; okay. Then he started a little – yeah, I see how to do that. Good! I see this; I see the way Mom has managed her health; I see the kind of food you eat. Good, I’ll eat that kind of food. Then, I see the way you make friends, and influence people. Okay…” And we’ve got all kinds of ideas as we’ve passed through life, on how to run life ourselves. And that’s the way most of us operate. We operate with a whole series of ideas that we have now got hold of for ourselves, and we feel we can do it, without too much reference to the dear Dad that sits beside us. And we’ve begun to drive the car on our own by our own — as the Bible says, our own knowledge of good and evil. We now know the good things to do and the evil things to avoid; the right things to do and the bad things not to do. We now have a fair idea how to run this life without constantly listening to ‘him’ telling us which way to turn.

Now the fact is we’re like the little guy; there’s a mass of knowledge out there that you and I ‘don’t’ understand and ‘don’t’ know about. And we have no notion what happens after the breath stops; not a clue. And yet we know fine well that the moment the breath stops, the ‘greater part’ of life begins. That’s as far as we can all tell. The ‘greater part of life’ is after this life. There are all kinds of things that you don’t know about; all kinds of things that occur and happen to your money, to your jobs, to your own life and your own heart that bewilder you. You know that. There’s a whole wealth of knowledge of good and evil out there that we have no idea of, but we’ve got our own little track, we’ve got our own little bit in Minnesota, or New York, or wherever we live, we’ve got our own little track. And it’s like that, isn’t it? You’ve got your own little track from your home to your office, and kind of back. Then you make little detours to play games, and then you make little detours for vacation. But you keep on the same track. And we kind of get this little part of the world under our control, and we live it, pretty independent of much direction from our dear Father above. There’s a whole wealth of knowledge that we don’t understand. But we forget about that. We just play the little bit that we know by the knowledge that we have.

Now of course, as our life goes on we do a bit like John. As he begins to get more and more confident that he can drive this car, he begins to determine that he will drive it wherever he wants and he says, “I’d like to go over there and see that,” even though it’s down a very, very steep hill, and it’s winter. And the dad says, “No, don’t go down there.” But he’s so confident he says, “Sure I can do it. I can drive down here. I can take it wherever I want to take it.” And the dad says, “No, no! Don’t, don’t.” But he does and he makes it, and manages through, because the dad kind of puts his hand on the wheel to save him; puts his hand on the brake at certain times to save him a disaster. And so the boy begins to get the feeling, “Well, I don’t need to listen to him. I can really do whatever I want to with this car.”

And so he begins to drive it wherever he wants, and listens less, and less to his father. And as he listens less and less to him, he doesn’t notice, but his dad had moved from the passenger seat, and then has moved into the back seat. And the son notices that he can’t hear his father the way he used to. He did used to hear him telling him what he should do, but less, and less is he able to do this. But he hasn’t time to look around, and he certainly hasn’t time to look back there; he’s so preoccupied with now managing the whole thing himself.

And then one day he looks around, and there’s nobody there. There is nobody there. The father was

no longer able to keep contact with him. And the father who could not abide being in that car with it going all the places that the son was now taking it; it wasn’t the plan that he had in mind at all. And so he actually stepped out of the car, and the boy is now in control of the car himself.

And loved ones, that’s the situation that many of us have got ourselves into. And that’s why at times, you find it so difficult to hear God, because you’re pretty much in control yourself of your own life. And you have certain things that you just are determined you ‘will not do’. I mean, it’s alright hearing other people going to Africa, and going to India, and being missionaries, and all that stuff, but you have organized God pretty well; you know the limits within which you’re prepared to serve him.

And of course the Father in heaven knows that you are really in control, that you do things ‘with a little bit of help from your friends’; you do things ‘with a little bit of help from God’, but you really don’t depend upon him. You depend upon yourself.

And of course, what many of us do is, we discover that that is the case, and we become worried, and we become concerned, and we desperately ask God to come back into our lives. And many of us have done that; many of us have taken the step, “Lord Jesus, I ask you to come into my life and to begin to guide my life again.” And God graciously has done that. And he’s sat beside us again and he’s begun to direct us.

But of course, it’s not long after we are born of God, or are converted that we begin to do the same thing all over again. The Lord directs us to drive the car down through a very muddy road, and we decide, “Not my car. It is clean; I want to keep it clean; I don’t want any danger of denting it in any way. I’m not driving it down there; I’m just not.” Then we begin to get that ‘hand on the wheel’ stuff, you know. The Father kind of, “Come on.” “No! No!” Even where we can’t see, even where we can’t see as well as him, yet we just want to turn the wheel. We want it, because we want it.

And we begin to discover there is within us, not only a kind of independence of him, but now an inbred ‘will of our own’ that we’re surprised at ourselves. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation; but you feel, “I know where I’m going.” In fact, it’s a bit ridiculous, but if you’re trying to adjust the seat belt, and you’re not really looking, it’s amazing isn’t it? Somebody beside you can actually – who is looking, can say, “Look, pull over this…” And you’re, “No!” Even though you can’t see completely; even though you’re not absolutely sure; yet you feel, “My hands, when my hands are on the wheel, I’m safe.”

And so many of us begin to discover within us a willfulness, a determination to do what we want in our life, even though we don’t necessarily know it’s the ‘better’ thing to do. And of course what happens again is, the Father begins to become less, and less vocal, and speaks to us less, and less. And then further along the road, we turn around; he isn’t there; he’s in the back seat; and then he’s out again. And that, loved ones, is what has happened to us men and women down through the centuries, and probably is a picture of exactly what has happened in your own personal life.

And what we’ve been sharing these Sundays is, there is only one thing to do, and that is stop that ‘automobile’ that you’re driving; stop your life and no longer invite God to get in and sit beside you, but in fact, open the door and get out, and walk right around to the other side, and ‘you’ get into the passenger seat. And you say to your dear Father, “Father, you know this part of the road; you know the next part of the road; you know the part of the road that I can’t even see; you know

what you made this thing for. Lord, you get in behind the wheel, and I will go where you want me to go, and I will do what you want me to do, the way you want me to do it. Father, you get in; this is your life; you do what you want, and I’ll obey you and listen to you.” That’s what we’re saying sooner or later, loved ones, has to happen.

God is the God of the whole universe. He’s the God of the whole universe. See, you know it yourself. You’re that, you’re less than that. [Pastor holds his fingers 3 mm apart.] I’m less than that. We’re so small; we can’t even be ‘seen’ beside him. He’s the God of the whole universe. But, you are the only version of him that he has ever made. You are the only version of him that he has ever made. So he has a vested interest in you. So you’re not just a nothing; you’re the unique version of him that he has produced on this universe. And he is anxious, above all else, that you will fulfill the plan that he has in mind for your life. And he is very concerned with having the freedom to be God of your life.

But see, you have to decide that. You have to decide who is god in your life. Is God god, or are you god? And it’s important that you don’t play games. It’s important that you don’t do an ‘Ananias and Sapphira’s’ game, “Well Lord, yes; yes I know you’re really God; and you certainly can control my Sunday life, and you can control some of my money, and you can control some of my behavior, but really let’s face it. This is my life. I’m glad you’re helping me; I’m glad you can deliver me in trouble, but I will live it myself. And I have a fair notion of how to do it.”

See, it’s an atheistic attitude. And what the Father wants us to do, is to take him seriously. And loved ones, that’s all there is to it. It’s letting God be the god of your whole life. And maybe I should share with you, it is very easy, it is very easy, Sunday after Sunday, to listen to this, and I know you agree with it. You’re dear hearts, and I know you agree with it. But it’s easy to agree with it, and never do anything about it. It’s easy to agree with it, and yet live a controlled surrender to God, year, after year, after year.

And I’m sure you’ve been in the spot where I’ve been. I think, “What would I do if I were in Solzhenitsyn’s position [Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918 – 2008, Russian political prisoner, Nobel Prize winner and author of books like “The Gulag Archipelago”], or if I were in the position of some of the loved ones who must, you admit, be still in Siberian prisons, or if I were in the positions of some of the loved ones who are persecuted in other parts of the world? What would I do then? And I’ve comforted myself, as you probably have, by saying, “Well, I’m not in that position, and I have been blessed by being born in this wonderful land. And thank goodness that I don’t have to feel the pain of torture, or I don’t have to decide whether I’m ready to give up my whole life, and my whole possessions, and my home for God…”

See it’s not real. I mean, you ‘are’ being asked that. You ‘are’ being asked it. I mean, it’s not a case of, “Are you going to get into heaven on a lower level than everybody else?” It’s simply that God ‘is’ asking you that. He’s asking you to come to a place in your heart where you’ve settled that whatever he would ask you to do, you’d do it. See, that’s why it’s possible. I don’t know if some of you read “Gulag [Archipelago]”, but I mean, the tortures are hideous. They’re almost impossible to conceive. But do you see they have won, before they’ve won, those guys, and those ladies? They’ve won, before they’ve won. I mean, they’ve settled before they went into the torture chamber; they’ve already settled. All that is over and done with, “Lord you can have my body; you can have my possessions; you can have my whole life.” They’ve won before they fight the battle. That’s what we’re saying, that even if you are not being tried by the KGB, even if you’re job is not on the line, it ‘is’ on the line, because the Lord is saying, “Would you start all over

again with me? Would you start your life all over again?”

Now, if you’re like me I’m sure that some of you who are beginning to get life together say, “Whew! Thank goodness, he won’t mean ‘me’. He’ll mean these young kids who are just starting off, but he won’t mean me.” He ‘does’ mean me. He means you and me; everyone who can hear this, still in their heart, everybody who is not so dead that they can’t hear it; everybody who can still hear in their heart what I am saying, he does mean you.

If you say to me, “Well, do you think he’s going to ask me to go to Africa or India? Do you think he’s going to get me to give up my job, and give up my social security, and all that stuff?” I don’t know what he’s going to say to you. But do you see what he’s saying today is, “Would you come to the place, in your ‘heart’, with him, where you are playing so straight with him, that that would be no problem to you, that of course you will?” “Of course Lord, if you want me to give up my plans for my future, if you want me to give up my home, if you want me to give up my comfort, Lord whatever. I’ll do whatever you want.”

That’s it; that’s what he wants from us. And especially loved ones, I’d say lovingly to those of us who are more than 50, more than 60, more than 70, he’s saying the same thing to us, you see, because all he’s saying is, “Am I God? Am I God of your life? Have I the right to do what I want with your life?” And brothers and sisters, I’d point out to you that if you say, “No,” there’s nothing we can say on the Day of Judgment, you see. I mean let’s just talk as people in the same boat here, there’s nothing we can say a moment after death, if we take that attitude. No, there’s not. I mean, you and I, we’ll just go up before his throne… He won’t need to say a thing. Our hypocrisy, our ‘Ananias Sapphira, hold on to what we need’ attitude, it’ll fill our hearts and our minds so much that we will just sneak away. We’ll know what he’s thinking; we’ll know what the whole world is thinking.

See, there’s only one way to live in God’s world, and that’s with God being the god of your whole life. And loved ones, if you say to me, “Well, what would he ask me to do?” That really doesn’t matter, does it? It really doesn’t matter. Only he knows that. But you can know in your heart if you have given it all over to him.

And you know if you’re sitting there saying, “Well, I can’t,” well, you can. If there’s a little tremor anywhere: “What about your money? Okay, your stocks and shares? What about those? What about your future? What about your marriage? What about your job? What about your home? Would you be ready to give ‘that’ up to him, if you were to go and live in some little rented apartment in some city in Africa? Would you be willing to do that?” See, it’s not hard; you just deal with those things and determine, “Are you willing?” And that’s what God is saying to us today.

And here’s the thing, unless you come to that place where you put him in the driver’s seat behind the wheel, you’ll never hear his voice, you’ll never know what he wanted you to do. That’s it.

A dear person here in this room said, “It’s amazing isn’t it, the way God hides himself from the people who wouldn’t obey him anyway? It’s interesting how God hides himself. Actually, lovingly, because they couldn’t bear the pain of his presence; he hides himself from those who wouldn’t obey him anyway.” And so you can’t know what God wants you to do until you’ve said to him plainly, “I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to do anything. I’m willing to surrender all. And Lord, it is your life, and I give it to you with all my heart to do what you want with.” Now that’s a heart decision. It needs only to be between you and God, but it’s a heart decision that enables him to

start changing your life.

And this is an ordinary Sunday and you can make the decision very plainly and commonsensically today. And you don’t need to – in fact, one thing to know, what will happen is, ‘you still trying to be God’. Giving everything up to God, is letting him at last be God. So I’d ask that if there is one of you, that has been a bit of an Ananias or a Sapphire, hedging the bets, holding back some of the stuff so that – so that – [Pastor chuckles] We’re so dumb. Why? Oh, why? What are you going to do with the extra money? How are you going to buy a new body? I mean, we’re so dumb, we’re pitiful; we’re pathetic.

So it doesn’t make any sense. But that Satan, he so deceives us that he gets us to do stuff that is absolutely stupid. What are you going to do with the stuff you hold back? What are you going to be able to trade it in for? If you lose your job and you lose your home, and you lose your career, and you lose your marriage, and you’re trusting him, you’ve still got everything. But if you give him a kind of a pittance, and hold on to something for yourself for a rainy day, you’ve got nothing, because anything can sweep across you and wipe out 30 ‘rainy days’ worth of savings.

Anyway, you know it for yourselves; you build up the money; you build up the reputation; you build up the career. At the end it goes like that [Pastor snaps his fingers]. And it just goes like that! And actually you know it yourselves; you’ve met people who have not made sufficient provision, and you’ve met other people who have made plenty of provision, and one can still be alive living in a remarkable degree of happiness with the little that they have, and the other can be dead, and all the stuff has been passed on to somebody else.

So Satan mesmerizes us with the things. So step out of it. And you can; you can step out of it today; just quietly in your own place there, you can make your peace with God, and you can say, “Lord God, I have treated you as a consultant up to this moment in my life. I have treated you as an advisor. Lord, this is wrong! You are God and I am the creature, and you know what I am here for. I ask you to blow away out of my mind all the presuppositions I have, all the things I feel I couldn’t do. And Lord, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do from now on. I ask you to come in, and to sit behind the ‘steering wheel’ in this life of mine, and you drive. I’ll sit here in the passenger seat, and I’ll go where you want. You just take over.” That’s it. That’s what it is.

Let us pray. Dear Father, we repent of running our own lives. We repent of trying to have a bit of you, and a bit of everything else. We repent of wanting to share the guidance of our lives with you. We repent of wanting to be able to negotiate a good deal. We repent of discussing alternatives and modifications instead of obeying you blindly and blankly. We repent Lord, of adopting the normal wisdom of ‘this world’ in regard to our right to our own lives. And Lord God, we acknowledge that we are not our own, that we have been bought with a price and that the only thing that will continue to exist after this world is over, is that which has been destroyed in Jesus and recreated in him.

And Lord God, we toss our hat into the ring. We throw our life onto the altar of the cross, and we say, “Lord God, you take it now, and you run it and bring it back into line with your plan, and we will obey you and trust you.” And Lord, where we have possessions like Ananias and Sapphire, either in our own reputation or our possessions or property, we tell you Lord, we want to sell it all in our hearts, and we want to give it all and not keep anything back in our hearts. And then Lord, we know that you’ll be free to tell us what you really want us to do.

So Father, we come now in the name of Jesus who bore all the pain to wipe us out and start us all anew, all over again. And we ask you, because of Jesus, now to take us, take us again under your dear arms, and under your wing and Lord, live this life the way you wanted it lived in the first place, whatever that means for us.

And 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 ever more. Amen.