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Mental or Spiritual Life?




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Mental or Spiritual Life?

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

As we begin our talk today, I wanted us, including myself, to see something clearly. You may rightly think that the work God does in each of us is in three stages: being born of the Spirit, then being baptized of the Spirit, and then walking in the Spirit. I would just say strongly to each of us – even if we’re baptized in the Spirit, we’ve come to the place where our heart is clean, we know it’s clean, and we know we’re willing to die with Christ — that’s all locked up in there {pointing to a diagram}, unable to get out to the world, if this does not take place. {Pointing to place in the diagram where your spirit is shown working the right way – directing your soul.}

Why do I say that? Because the connection between your cleansed heart and spirit, with your outside body and the world, is made there {pointing to the conscience and will}. If your conscience does not constrain your will, so that your will is actually able to direct and control your mind — it doesn’t matter whether you’re filled with the Spirit or not – because it won’t get out!

I wonder if that is not where some of us have stopped. I think I’ll be able to explain it very clearly to you. If the mind does not become a faithful servant to the spirit, then your spirit has no way of getting out through your body to the world. I fear that we don’t really see the importance of that – partly because of the self-help books.

The self-help books have said, “Oh, forget about all that ‘born of the Spirit’ and ‘be filled with the Spirit.’ The thing is, organize the psychological part of you – your soul here. Organize that.” It’s “psyche” in Greek. It’s “soul” – the psychological part of us.

The self-help books are constantly saying to us, “Deal with the psychological part of you. That’s how you serve God. That’s how you live as a good Christian.”

We know of the weakness of that, because we have so often tried that and then ended up with, “The good that I would I cannot do.” We’ve found that that has not done the job — because the thing that is necessary is to have the heart cleansed through the work of Christ’s death. Because we know that, we have a tendency to think that this isn’t important {pointing to the diagram showing the conscience and will directing the mind}.

But in actual fact, if we do not allow the Spirit to begin to renew our souls, our soul becomes not a servant to our spirit, but a blockage to our spirit. So if our mind continues to operate the way it did before we were crucified with Christ, it will not express Christ through us. It will express what it used to express of the old self.

I think sometimes we don’t see the importance of that. Of course, it’s built in everywhere in the Bible. I’ll just mention the obvious one that we read in our Scripture reading this morning. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

In other words, you won’t know what God’s will is, unless your mind is renewed. I think there’s a strong tendency for us not to see that. In fact, we end up being conformed to the image of this world. But the mind when it’s renewed sets itself not on the things that are on the earth, but on the things above, where Christ is, seated at God’s right hand.

But if our mind is not renewed, it won’t do that! Our mind remains attached to the things of earth. I wonder if that’s not what a lot of us do. The mind continues to operate much as it did before we entered into any experience of Christ’s death.

We think the same way. “It’s sunny today. Well, that’s nice. It certainly makes me feel better.” “It’s a gray old day today. It’s an old, rainy, English day. It’s a depressing day! This is going to be a hard one.” “I wonder what is going to happen next week. I wonder what will happen in that situation I’m going to be in, when I go to that shop.” The mind works in the way it always has worked.

It works pre-occupied with the outside world and pre-occupied with the future. It hasn’t changed at all. If we were melancholic before we were crucified with Christ, we’re melancholic after.

If we’re used to being concerned with the difficulties that we face in a situation – if that’s the way we worked before we were crucified with Christ – that’s the way we work after we were crucified with Christ. Even though we’ve been crucified with him, we have not allowed his Spirit to renew our minds. In other words, we haven’t changed the way our mind works.

I think it can be partly because we think, “Oh, that won’t do the job.” You’re right! That wouldn’t do the job — while your heart was not cleansed, full of selfishness and pre-occupation with your own way, and with a desire for your own respect. Then it wasn’t able to do anything.

But after you have been cleansed in your heart, and you’re willing to be nothing if necessary for Christ, if your mind is not renewed to be a good servant to that new spirit, then your spirit will not get out to the world. But more than that, you’ll begin to sink back into the old self.

So walking in the Spirit is not just an “optional extra.” I think sometimes we’ve seen it as that. We say, “Oh yes! You have to be born of the Spirit, and you have to be baptized with the Spirit. Then we walk in the Spirit. Isn’t that right? We just walk in the Spirit.” We’ve thought, “Yes, that’s a kind of ‘extra.’ It’s not essential. But that’s what you do. After all, if you’re born of the Spirit, if you’re baptized with the Spirit – presumably you walk in the Spirit.”

But the Bible often implies – it’s not necessarily so! The Bible says, if you’re born in the Spirit, and don’t completely renew this soulish part of you – then it will carry on as it’s always done, and will not only prevent the fruit of God’s work being done in your life and prevent you transmitting the life of Jesus to other people, but it will in fact begin to reclaim some of the full commitment that you’ve made when you were willing to be crucified with Christ.

So it’s something we need to think about. It’s the same with the emotions. If the emotional life continues the way it used to be, before you were crucified with Christ, then eventually that emotional life – that soulishness – will drag you back into self.

So you may say, “Well, I’m just this kind of an emotional person.” Oh you are, are you? I thought that person was crucified with Christ! I thought that it’s Christ now that lives within you, and it’s his emotions that govern your life. But we’ve found, even in other fellowships, “Well, you need something else. We need to have a psychologist come in. We need to have somebody who can counsel us, so that we become the kind of fruitful personality that God wants.” But this is all part of the work of the Holy Spirit — the renewal of the mind and the renewal of the emotions.

So I think it’s something that we need to give ourselves to prayerfully. “Holy Spirit, will you begin to show me where my mind is still going in the old way it used to?” Set your mind on things above, where Christ is, not on things upon the earth.

Every moment you become aware that you’re trying to work out what will happen in this situation, or you’re trying to think through what you’ll say in this situation – every time your mind goes on things on the earth, you know you’re in dangerous waters. The mind is to be set on things above.

I think it’s very true. We’ve talked about it with regard to prayer. If your mind goes very much on the people you’re praying for, instead of on Jesus at that moment and lifting them up into his presence – then you fall back into yourself.

So the renewal of the mind and the renewal of the emotions is part of what walking in the Spirit is. I wonder if we don’t run ourselves into trouble because we don’t see the importance of this walking in the Spirit. The King James Version of the Bible preposition is better: walking AFTER the Spirit.

Have you ever sensed a little intuition inside you, just momentarily, where it said, “Look up! Look up!” All you have to do is resist that a little, grieve the Holy Spirit there, and look down – and the link with heaven is no longer available to you while your mind is set that way.

I think it’s the same with the will. When the Holy Spirit guides you with your conscience to do something, you must do it at that moment. If you miss it, you lose everything. So it is instant obedience. It is, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” {Line from a famous hymn.}

So I’d ask you just to think about that side of things. If you block off your soul from your new spirit, then your new spirit itself will cease to express the life of Christ to others. And more than that, your own spirit will begin to be crushed.

It seems to me it applies to all kinds of momentary situations. It’s almost an instantaneous thing. The moment is there, and you either go with it and with the Spirit of Christ within you — or you step back, and then it’s a long hard climb up that hill to get back to where you were.

So this is an introduction to the whole subject. It gives you some idea that this walking in the Spirit is something very definite and very clear. I’d like next time to go into it in more detail and more verses from Scripture.