No Compromise! Stay Safe in The Word
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No Compromise! Stay Safe in the World
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
In the first Sunday — 1967 it was. It was November ’67 we began in Bethany Presbyterian Church, and I started at Romans. She [Dr. Irene O’Neill, Pastor’s wife] said I would never get it finished, and she’s right; I’m still at Romans 15, 20 years later. But this is the first sermon, and I started by a newspaper cutting, [Pastor reads] “Synod suggests theology panel to resolve crisis.” The Vatican City — this was in ’67. “The World Synod of Bishops, by an overwhelming vote asked Pope Paul, Friday, to issue a positive pastoral declaration on the doctrinal crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.” This was ‘barricade time’ on the campuses [all over the USA]. You know the whole story, that’s what was happening. It was that kind of atmosphere on the campus [University of Minnesota]. “They urged him to form an international commission of theologians to solve it. The document however struck a note of compromise acknowledging the existence of a serious crisis of faith within the church. The document deplored the unfortunate state of affairs, adding that unwarranted innovations, false opinions, and even errors in the faith have been committed. It listed as causes the decrease of personal prayer, insufficient teaching by the hierarchy, imprudent discussions by theologians, and a certain decrease in the super natural faith among men conscious of their own natural powers. The document said the Pope should give a secure direction to the faith of Catholics through a statement.”
And actually I started by saying that that was the difficulty in our world today. I said that 20 years ago. The difficulty was that the old principles and the old bases were falling away and being undermined. The old authority figures that we never questioned before were now being questioned. Indeed, the old authorities that we depended on were even questioning themselves, and were becoming unsure of themselves. And of course, the campus at that time was filled with all kinds of young men and women who didn’t know whether we should be at war or whether we shouldn’t be at war. And they didn’t know ‘where’ the world was going.
The rest of us, of course, were looking at them, feeling that they were part of the problem, and they were creating the chaos. And the ensuing years of the ‘hippy movement’ increasingly impressed upon all of us that our world was falling apart. So we’ve improved a lot in 20 years [speaking tongue-in-cheek]. Well you know it’s worse, because at least the institutions were still kind of standing. Now that generation have become the people who run the institutions, and of course the very institutions are falling apart. And there’s even more uncertainty! Indeed, uncertainty is part of life today: uncertainty about where we’re going, and uncertainty about right and wrong.
And you know the hideous situation we’re in with AIDS [acquired immune deficiency syndrome]. Any of us who have any love in our hearts, just are broken hearted, for the dear ones that are dying dreadful deaths. Any of us that have any love of Jesus in us feel nothing but love and sympathy and pity for those who are caught in that disease, and those who are involved in homosexuality. But we are bewildered at the attempts we are all making at saying that you can be homosexual, practicing homosexual, and you can do those things, and that those things are not wrong. And yet you know how difficult it is now to actually say what is right and what is wrong, because everybody is mixing up sympathy and human empathy with each other, with ‘what they do’, and ‘what they think is right and wrong’. In the midst of that situation I said, “There is only one place we can go.” And so that’s the first thing I’d like to share with you on this last Sunday.
They give this [holds up a Bible] to the Queen of England on her coronation, and they say, “Receive this, the most valuable thing that this world affords.” So that’s it. Now you will need to know what is right and what is wrong in these coming years. And you are going to hit death without me anywhere near you. Now you need to know what is right and what is wrong.
This [indicates the Bible] is where you find that. I don’t say that because my grandmother told me it, though she did, or because my dad told me it, or because some other old person told me it. I want you to know — and I know you think that I can think, you don’t think I’m dumb — I believe it, because I’ve looked at the manuscripts that lie behind this. This is real history. This is real history. This man Jesus actually lived. You can be surer of that than that Julius Caesar or any of the greats ever lived. This is history; this is true; this book is true.
The Old Testament depends on Jesus’ attitude to it. You establish first his authenticity, his historicity, and then because he believes the Old Testament, you believe the Old Testament. This is God’s book. This is truth. If all the popes fall away, and all the preachers fall away, this is still where you can find right and wrong. Some of us know I’ve ‘beaten us over the head’ on this thing, because I need the help that it gives me, too. When it says, “Homosexuality is wrong,” it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter how dear the person is we love. When it says, “Fornication is wrong,” it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter what we say. This dear book we need, because we’re all in the same boat; we’re weak poor little creatures who love each other so much that we do wrong things, even to please each other.
This dear book keeps us up; it holds us up. You have to stay with this book. Don’t ‘bluff’ on it. I came through a seminary that taught me to rationalize it. I know how to take the bits out and say, “They’re due to higher critical theories; they’re not God’s word.” I was brought up that way. That’s not true; this is God’s word! Every part of it is God’s word, especially when it speaks to your conscience. So especially when you disagree with it, take note. John Wesley said, “Every one of us is prone to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.” Be humble. Be humble about yourself.
If I’m a twerp — that’s an English word I suppose — you’re a twerp. If I’m a rat you’re a rat. Be humble about it: you are a rat; we’re all rats. We’re pitiful little creatures that want our own way, and if we could get it, and get into heaven, we’d do it.
And this dear book is an anvil upon which God will break us and remake us in his own image. So you have to stay with this book. If you go to another church where the guy [the pastor] — and think of him, think of the wee soul; he’s fearful. He’s fearful, “That’s what we’ve got.” He’s fearful.
I was helped a little because this dear girl [Dr. Irene O’Neill, Pastor’s wife] was a dentist, so if you stopped paying me, I could still eat. The other guys weren’t like that. They weren’t. They have difficulty; so we have lots and lots of us here standing up at pulpits, “And if you want to fornicate, and you won’t come to church unless you get fornicating…” Well you see the pressure to keep the church going, because maybe it will do somebody some good.
Now loved ones, if you have a dear guy that is under that kind of fear, and he bluffs on this thing, and he makes it suitable for your hearing, stop, and see that you’re putting yourself into hell. Now stop blaming the dear guys that are up here. He’s wrong, and he’ll go to hell, too, if he keeps at it. And you have to pray for him. But you and I are responsible for how we respond. And if you
become one of those that encourage preachers with ears that are itching to hear what you want them to preach, it’s your fault. You’ll go to hell, yourself, by your own choice, because you don’t finally need a preacher.
This book, everybody has. This book is your book; it’s your Creator’s gift to you. Abide by it. If you’re struggling with some sin that it condemns, continue to struggle. Yes, even if you end up repenting day-after-day, for the rest of your life, keep repenting. Never, never rationalize it.
Look, I’ll read a little bit; don’t bother looking at it; I’d like you to hear it. Just concentrate on it. But, it’s serious. It’s near the end, and it says this, “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plaques described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” That’s true. Don’t do it; don’t do it.
This book is God’s words. If you’re caught in a sin that is condemned in this book, keep opposing the sin even until you enter into death. Keep opposing the sin. ‘But’, God has a deliverance for you. But even if you never get that deliverance, never, never get into a position where you set your life against this book. Why? Now you can look at the book. It’s Acts 17, and I’ll show you why. It’s Acts 17:31, “Because he,” – I’m sorry you should really look at Verse 30. “The times of ignorance,” Old Testament times, “God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”
After you die, you’ll immediately be in eternity. And in eternity there’s timelessness. So you can see, we all could be here today, but you will be into timelessness immediately. You’ll be in the day that God has fixed, as will John Wesley [John Wesley, 1703 – 1791, Anglican evangelist and founder of Methodism and the Wesleyan Tradition], and Lucretius [Titus Lucretius Carus, 99 BC – 55 BC, was a Roman poet and philosopher] and all the other men that lived. You’ll be judged; God will judge you. Now, God will judge you. He will judge your words; you’ll give account for every careless word you utter. And he’ll judge your works; you’ll be justified by your words, and you’ll be justified by your works, because your works show your faith. So God will look at the kind of person you are.
Now loved ones, that’s why you have to let this book be your guide, because he will judge you out of this book. So your life has to line itself up with this book. Now loved ones, don’t you see – I want you to see it — it does not depend on a guy like me. See that. See, I appreciate your love of me, and your respect for me, but finally I can’t do anything. Nobody can do anything for you on that day; you have to be before God on your own with a life that lines itself up with this dear book. So loved ones, whether you go to church or not, this book is the meaning of life, and it’s this book that will get you ready for death.
Hugh Peacock was an Englishman that we got to know, in the days that the British Consulate was still in Minneapolis. We met him at a party, one of those mad British parties where we all played blind man’s bluff. And we met him and his wife Rosemarie and Hugh ended up the planner for the University Campus. He was a very able architect. Then of course he got cancer, and he died over in the University hospital there. And Rosemarie sat beside him, and she read him out of this book. I think 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Now at that time in your life, see this book is the only book that can do anything for you. So this book is the key to everything.
Now I just want to warn you once more, before we go on to the next important thing, it’s no use, after the light that you’ve had, it’s no use getting into some church where they slide over this stuff. And then you think you’ll toddle along into God’s presence, and explain that you went to this church or that church, and they thought it was ‘okay’ to do this. That’s not possible. The Creator will say to you, “You had my book. You had the standards in my book. You knew I would judge you by this book.”
So loved ones, that’s it. We use this book – see, do you see it’s not because I feel I’m like this book? It’s because I know my heart is like yours; unless I have something that I can keep holding on to, to drag me out of myself, there’s no hope. So this book is our only way out of our own standards which are false.
Now God will judge us by, “A man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” In other words, this book is not an end in itself. Now there are people who take this book and use it simply as a standard or as a source of principles, by which they then try to live like God by their own power. And they end up in legalism. It’s just a modified, nice form of legalism, but it is basically dependent on their own efforts, and their own will power. Now, if you end up like that, you will go into heaven proud of your own ability to live by the standards of this book, and that is what sin is. Sin, fancy enough, is not lack of ‘knowledge’ of this book; sin is knowledge of this book, and trying to live by your own ‘power’ according to this book. Because actually the whole purpose of this book, is not an instruction manual, but it is a diagnostic tool, by which God’s Holy Spirit shows you beyond all measure of doubt, that you are living in dependence on yourself and not on him.
So the purpose of this book — if you cry out and say, “Pastor I study this book but I cannot live like it,” that’s the purpose of this book. The purpose of this book is not to enable you to live like God, but to show you clearly that you ‘have not that within you’ which would enable you to live like God, that you are not capable of living like God; you’re not the kind of person that is like God. You have to be changed. Now, that’s spoken clearly loved ones in another verse, if you’d look at it. It’s John 5:39. “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
And that’s what a lot of us do. In our pride we search the scriptures, because we think that in the scriptures themselves we have eternal life. You haven’t loved ones. You cannot live like this book. The only way you can ever become like God is to come, not to this Word [holds up a Bible], but to the living Word that is within this Word. Jesus says, “You search this book, because you think that in it you have eternal life, and it is this that bears witness to me; but it’s only a ‘sign post’ that points you to me. You have to come to me myself.” You have to get to know Jesus. You have to get to know Jesus.
You don’t have to please your wife, though it’s nice to do that, if you can. You don’t have to please your husband; you don’t have to please your father, your mother, or your minister, or your priest; you have to come to Jesus. Finally, your wife might be with you at the last moment of death, but it won’t do you any good, because it will feel as if there’s a great gulf between you and her. Or, your husband may be right by your side and may be holding your hand, but there’ll come a moment in death when you can’t feel her dear hand; and it’s as if she’s not there at all, or he’s not there at all.
In other words, there comes a moment at death when you feel, “I’m on my own there’s nobody here.” Except one: and Jesus will be there. But unless you have come to know him, at that moment it will be virtually impossible for you to experience a death bed conversion, because real things don’t come that way; you see that. You can’t live one way for 40 years, and in a second change like that. [Pastor snaps his fingers] Theoretically you can, but most of us don’t. The only way to meet that moment with Jesus is to come to know him in this present life.
You don’t need to do it the way anybody else does it; you’re unique; you’re different; you’re different from all the rest of us. Jesus will know you in a way that none of the rest of us do. You don’t need to do it the way everybody else says you should do it; do it your own way. But you have to know him; you have to know Jesus, see.
Now don’t get all mixed up in mystical presences and what way you pray; that’s unimportant, that stuff. It’s Jesus. If you say to me, “Well brother I can’t make it real.” Cry out to him! Hunger for him! Desire him with all your heart! You know the terrible moments in your life when you haven’t known what to do, and you’ve just cried out and you’ve yearned; that’s what you do. You yearn him into you! You hunger him into you! Grab him whatever way you can! Don’t check up with other people, “How do you experience Jesus?” Don’t do that. Jesus is alive! He’s real! He’s God’s Son! You need to get to know him yourself.
You don’t even need to talk about it, if you don’t want to; maybe you won’t be able to. Maybe you won’t say the same things about him that somebody else will say. When somebody else tells you about great things they’ve experienced, don’t bother with it. Let them go. You get to know him your way. Maybe he won’t say such wonderful things to you; that’s up to him. But you concentrate on Jesus. Don’t get into these clubs that talk about Jesus, and that compare notes about Jesus. Don’t! You do it your own way; you be honest with him yourself.
As you get to know him, you’ll find out that he’s saying one very clear thing to you; he’s saying, “There’s only one person that will get into heaven and that’s me, and if you’re going to come in, you’re going to have to come in inside me.” And as he begins to reveal that to you, you open yourself to him. He’ll want to control your whole life, but you take that step-by-step, but never step back. If you say to me, “Will he keep pushing me on and on to the very end?” Yes, yes he will. If you say to me, “Will he be trying to expand his influence over me right up to the very end?” Yes he will. And you keep saying, “Yes!”
Sometimes he’ll do it through your conscience; sometimes he’ll do it through your feelings; sometimes he’ll do it through your mind, but you keep moving with him. Other people say, “You have to stop smoking.” What do they know? They don’t know. “You have to stop drinking.” What do they know? Don’t bother. If you do it, you’ll do it only for them anyway; so it won’t do any good.
Talk with Jesus; listen to him; let him guide you, but be honest with him. See, be honest with him. [Pastor says it with emotion in his voice] Don’t be dishonest with him. Be dishonest with the clergy, or the priest, or the pastor; be dishonest if you want with them. I’d rather you weren’t, but do it. Be dishonest with your wife, though it’s better if you’re not. But don’t be dishonest with Jesus! See, when you’re dishonest with him, you pass over from sanity into insanity. See, you lose touch with reality when you’re dishonest with Jesus. Don’t do that.
[Again Pastor speaks with a choked up voice] I cry, because I think of you, and I hate to think of
any of you doing that, because you lose everything. Of that little quotation at the end of this — this wasn’t where this sermon was going. Of course, you know that. But this was “A Man for All Seasons” [1966 film based on the play where the British statesman, Thomas Moore refuses to pressure the Pope into annulling King Henry VIII’s marriage]. Thomas More, “At certain moments a man holds his life in his hands, and if he opens his fingers, then he will never find it again.” See? And I think he actually used the simile, like water, “At certain moments a man holds his life in his hands like water and if he opens his fingers then he will never find it again.” Don’t be dishonest with Jesus, see. Don’t!
Do you know what I mean by that? He says, “I want to do this in you. I want you to let me do this in you.” And you side-step it, and you keep side-stepping it. If you keep side-stepping it, soon you won’t be able to hear him anymore; and you’ll have opened your hands and you’ll never find your life again. Don’t do that! Be honest with Jesus! Be honest with him; honor him and respect him within you, because that is his Holy Spirit that is prompting you and guiding you.
And loved ones, if you will live like that, then we will be together forever in heaven. And that’s the whole of it.
But you have to do it, see? Those of you who are dads and mums, you know that you feel a bit lost at a moment like this, because here I am saying to you, “My dear sheep and my dear friends, now you’re on your own.” So loved ones, it has to be Jesus, and honesty with Jesus. That’s everything. That’s everything. And if you are like that then you will go into heaven.
There’s no way, I think, after this sermon in which we can express to each other all that we mean to each other. [This was the last Campus Church sermon.] And I used to say often in London, or Amsterdam when we had the hotel and others, and I said, “Okay, no big goodbyes, because you can’t say them properly. There’s no way in which you can express all that you mean to each other.” And so I really think after this service that you should go easy on the goodbyes. Besides, believe it or not, we have a baby dedication immediately after the benediction.
But I would appreciate it if you’d write to me, and let me know how your life is with Jesus. And then if you have difficulties in your life with Jesus, that you’d write to me too. I’d rather you’d do that. Or, if you want to send me a tape, send it there to that box number. But in a way, that would be more real. I know you love me, and I know you want to say goodbye. But in a way it’s going to be just hard on all of us, if we all try to do it. And it’s always, finally, unsatisfactory. So it might be good to let me get on with my baby dedication, and you pray for me. But, we can do that as we want.
But the most important thing loved ones, is that you would know Jesus, and that you’d be real and honest with him. And that if you were having difficulties in that, you’d let me know, so that I could pray for you. Now, I don’t know how Paul and Peter and the other guys did it you know… Let’s pray.
Dear Father, we do thank you that we are in your hands and that men and women that we come to know are only parts of you, and that they pass, but you remain. And so Father, we commit each other into your hands today. And Lord Jesus, we intend to be honest and straight with you and to be men and woman of integrity in our relationship with you, and we refuse to take advantage of the fact that you are not here in a physical body. And we reject now any compromise or rationalizing about our attitude to you.
Lord, you speak, and we will listen, respect, and obey. And we ask you Lord Jesus, to bring us, each one, into heaven with you at the end. And if you find us playing ‘fast and loose’ with your directions, will you convict us so deeply that we will break in despair before you, and we will ‘come to heel’ and live our lives in obedience to your will and to the life described in this dear book of your Father’s.
And now Lord Jesus, we thank you for all the years that you have blessed us together. And we thank you Holy Spirit for feeding us and giving us inspiration for each other. And we thank you for providing a tongue and dear listening ears and obedient wills, and loving hearts. We thank you Lord, for the miracle of providing the preacher and the hearers, and making them friends in you. And Lord, we thank you for all your generosity to us.
And now Father, you know that we all fall into incompetence at this moment, and so we lay ourselves before you.
Now Lord Jesus, we commit ourselves to you anew and give you ourselves in our own lives to live again in us and through us for your Father’s glory and for our salvation. Amen.