Challenged to Change
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The World’s Way or God’s Way 1
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There are two great beginnings in the Bible. I don’t know if you realize it, but one of them is in Genesis 1:1. If you’d look at it you could see it. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And we usually think of that as the very beginning of everything, but really, if you look at the footnote you’d see that it wasn’t. You would see footnote a, “Or when God began to create,” and so that points to the fact that the Hebrew is in what we call the ‘construct case’. And the sentence reads literally, “In the beginning of God’s creating the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and void.”
And so the sentence really means when God began to create the heavens and the earth — he had done other things before that — but when he began to create them, the earth was without form and void. And so that really isn’t the beginning of the beginning. That’s just one beginning of God making the heaven and the earth. The other beginning is in John 1:1. “In the beginning,” that was way before the beginning of the heaven and the earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And that means that Jesus was with God before God made the heaven and the earth.
And you remember, there are other words of scripture that imply that where Jesus said, “Will you restore to me the glory which I had with you before the world was.” Which shows that Jesus was with God before God made the heavens and the earth. But it even goes further, as you know from things we’ve said about the next verse. ”He was in the beginning with God,” and then, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made.” And then you know how the Greek is translated in other translations and in other manuscripts, because the period is put there after that ‘made’, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made.” And then ‘period’, and then a capital T at ‘that’, “That which was made in him was life.” “That which was made was life in him.”
That’s where you remember, it becomes clear to us that everything that has been made was originally life in Jesus. And that means us, too, that we were originally life in Jesus. We were originally part of Jesus. When Jesus was in the beginning with the Father we were in him. And that’s why scholars say the great thing about Christmas is not that God came to earth. The great thing about Christmas is not even that God came inside a man so that that man then could dwell inside us. The great thing about Christmas is that when Jesus was born here on earth a new human race began, and all of us were in him when he was born. We were born in him, when he was born on earth, because we were in him from the very beginning.
You really can understand it if you look at some of the things we can do with, not only our replays of football games on video, but what we do in radio, public ‘question and answer’ shows. The first show we did was years ago in Minneapolis. And I could not believe it but it was the fellow in KTIS you remember, Paul, I think his name was. And he said, “It’s okay. We have a two second gap. We have a two second hesitation, and that’s enough to cut out bad language, if it comes across from a listener.” And that’s the way every radio program goes over the air in which the public take part. There’s a two second or a three second gap between when it comes across the air, and when the word is actually spoken. So that you can virtually correct it simultaneously. Almost immediately it occurs, you can correct it. And so they have of course, engineers that are trained to pick it up immediately and just flick it off.
Now, if we can deal with that with our technology, do you see the Father had two choices. He could give us free will, and he could let us make a total mess and disaster of the whole universe. And then he could bear all the pain of that, and he could start over again sequentially, and do it all again right. Or he could do it simultaneously. And what he has done is do it simultaneously. He knows what we would do apart from him. And he allows that to occur in this present life. But he has foreseen all that, and put us into his Son Jesus, and brought us forth again in his Son, so that we are a new race. And that’s our only real existence.
We only really exist in Jesus. The part of us that was destroyed in him has no real existence. That’s why there’s such death about it. I mean, you wonder, “Why do we feel a loneliness, and a sadness, and a guilt whenever we do sin?” Because, it’s already been destroyed and cast into eternal darkness, and what we’re experiencing is the sense of that darkness and desolation. That’s why we feel so cut off when we don’t love, or when we don’t trust, or when we don’t believe, because we’re experiencing the darkness and the death that has already been exercised upon us. And so when we act that way, we take part in a fantasy that is a ghost of something that was, but was almost immediately crucified in Christ.
And so actually the only real existence we have is in Jesus. In Jesus we have an existence. When we’re outside of Jesus, it looks, on earth, as if we’re still existing. We still have bodies; we still are able to speak, but actually all we’re observing is stuff that has been destroyed already and utterly cast into outer darkness by God. And that’s why it has such lifelessness and such death in it. And that’s why we feel so hopeless about it. That’s why even a Hitler felt dreadful, in all that he did, because he was touching something that had already died, and there was a ‘death’ about it. And so it is with us. As we go through our lives, the only real existence we have is in Christ. And the only time we’re really real, is when we operate in him.
When we operate outside him, we’re looking back at two or three seconds of the ‘radio broadcast’ that has already been excised. We’re looking back at a replay of the football match that has been destroyed and thrown into the garbage can. So all the time our life is going side-by-side — it’s almost like as we said — I think in summer sometime, when I showed you the video of Mary going up on the glider in France. It’s something that has past. It’s finished with. You can’t get back to it. You can look at it, and it looks real. But it’s gone. It’s done with. It’s the same with us.
So every time we act ‘outside Christ’, act ‘on our own’ as if we’re ‘on our own’, as if we can do what we want, as if we don’t belong to him, as if we aren’t part of him — every time we operate that way, there’s ‘a death’ and a desolation about it for a very good reason. Because that has already been destroyed. It’s dead. God is simply allowing it to ‘pass across the screen’ here in this world, so that we can see what would have been without Jesus.
And so God gives us, all along, that opportunity, and we see it. That’s why he says, “Today is the day of salvation.” That’s why some of the songs sound true that say, “There’s no tomorrow.” Or the guy says, “Tomorrow never comes.” You just have a couple of seconds. You just have a couple of seconds. You’re in death and destruction, or you’re in life and Jesus. You just have a couple of seconds. You have to do it now. You change now. You don’t determine, “Alright I’ll wait. I’ll wait.” Because the longer you wait, the more the death gains the upper hand, and the more the destruction bears its influence in you. So there’s just a second. And so our life is going like that [Pastor snaps his fingers] all the time. And the only reality we have is in Jesus.
It really ties up with our mums and our dads. I mean, it’s hard for us because our mums and dads were so dear to us, and are so dear to us in many ways. But actually that’s part of that old life. And the only true reality we have is in Jesus. You and I exist in him. That’s the only way we exist. And that’s why Christmas is so important. It’s us, all of us, as a new human race coming back to the earth in Jesus. And it’s only in him that we are acceptable by God. It’s only in him that we are crucified. It’s only in him that we are raised from the dead. It’s only in him that we have life. It’s only in him that we have love. It’s only in him that we can receive anything from our Father. It’s only in him that all those things occur.
That’s why all those verses in the Bible occur, “Abide in him.” “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.” All that kind of thing, “Abide in me and I in you.” That’s why all those – “I am no longer alive but Christ lives within me.” That’s why all those verses have reality, because we don’t exist apart from Jesus.
Now, I agree with you, the lie is widespread. And there is obviously a strong urge within us to deal with ourselves, as if we have our right to be ourselves. Old Karl Barth [Karl Barth, 1886 – 1968, (pronounced “Bart”), a 20th century Swiss theologian] has an interesting word about it. He says, “We’re ‘vagabonds’! Vagabonds!” We’re just vagabonds that think we can do whatever we want. We’ll break this up; we’ll do this; we’ll make our life like this; we’ll do whatever we want; we’re vagabonds.” Except that those ‘vagabonds’ have been destroyed forever. They have no existence; they have no reality. That’s why they feel such desolation when they behave that way. But there is within us a vagabond nature, that would destroy us, and utterly take us to death. And all the time it is vital to see that, that has no reality. The only reality we have is as part of Christ, as part of Jesus.
And so in a way he is everything to us. There is nothing outside him. And those moments — and I’m sure you’ve had them — those moments when you think, “What do I want to do? The whole world’s mine. I can do whatever I want.” Those moments are meaningless. They’re a fantasy. You are not apart; you are not separate from Jesus. You are not on your own. You have no life in yourself. You’re an empty shell in yourself. But you see, you know what goes on in your mind, “I’m not an empty shell, I’m not.” But you are.
You’re just like that thing that occurred on the streets of Hiroshima after the atomic blast. That person that looked like a whole person, but the tremendous heat had been so great, that actually it was just a cinder, that looked like a person. And you remember when they touched it, it collapsed. That’s what we are without Jesus. We look as if we’re a real person, but actually as soon as you poke it, there’s nothing inside. And you know that yourself, there’s nothing inside. So it’s not just Jesus coming to earth. We ourselves, we came to earth in Jesus. And the only existence we have is as part of him.
Let us pray. Dear Lord, we see the lie that we have made our own that you are just an option. We could have power steering; we could have power braking; we could have a blue suit or a red tie; we could get our hair done this way or that way; we could have Christ or have ourselves. Lord Jesus, we see it’s a lie. There’s only you. You’re all we’ve got. We don’t have any life apart from you. You had every right to tell us to straighten up, and fly right, or get out! You’re so kind. You want us to love you because we love you, not to love you because we have to.
So Savior, as we look upon you and see the most loving person we can imagine, we realize that we
also see the person who has made us, the person whose life we are part of. And we see Lord, that there is no life apart from you; and there are no choices outside you. And we see, Savior, that every second we spend in ourselves, withdrawn into ourselves, as vagabonds pretending that we can do whatever we want — every second we spend there, we’re catching something of the smell of hell, and something of the darkness, and the brimstone, and the lake of fire, and the misery, and the desolation and loneliness of it all.
Lord, we see that there’s only one way to live every second, and that is in your blessed heart, seeing that we are a precious and a dear part of you; seeing that you have made us with loving hands, and that there is nobody like us in the whole universe, because you could express yourself only through us in this particular way. So Lord, far from seeing that we’re nothing, we see that we’re a vital part of you, that you would miss us. With the pain that you felt on Calvary, you would miss us. And every second we behave as if we’re on our own, apart from you, your heart is in pain and you feel yourself to be missing something.
Lord Jesus, we see that we are dear to you, and that you, yourself, would be deformed without us. Oh Savior, thank you. Lord Jesus, come and do what you intended to do in our lives. Come and live the life that you planned. Come Lord Jesus, we don’t want to spend one more second outside your love, and outside your kindliness, and your mercy. We want to live the only reality that there is. We want to live in you Lord, and give up the fantasy.
Holy Spirit, we pray now that you will come mightily upon us as the body of Jesus. Enable us to live now in reality in all the completeness and the fullness of Jesus. Raise us up Holy Spirit, we pray. Enable us to do the things that Jesus planned to do through us. Whatever we have to create in food, or what we have to create in jewelry, or what we have to create in radio, or in books, we ask now, Holy Spirit, that you will enable us to live in the fullness and the completeness and the adequacy of Jesus, so that you Lord Jesus, may live glorious in us during these coming years.
And we ask you Savior, to be born in us this day, for your glory, and for the benefit of others, and for our dear Father’s pleasure and satisfaction. Amen.