Symptoms of the Self Life
Symptoms of the Self Life
Sermon transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let’s turn loved ones to that chapter that we know so well, Romans 6. I’m suggesting that that’s the one we use as the basis of our meditation this morning. Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
Think we should do it differently this time. That’s why I have given you that little list. Think we should spend half an hour in prayer without anybody praying aloud. All of us silent before God and you can glance at this or read it or whatever you want to do, but see that those are valuable. Those “Traits of the Self Life” are valuable to let you know where you might not be resting in Jesus on the cross. That’s the value of those. I’d have to say to you that’s why for me it’s good even though it’s hard, it’s terrible and it’s very condemning.
Yet it’s really like a doctor coming to me and saying if you have this on your skin, then you’ve got cancer and you’d better get treatment. And I don’t say to him, “Don’t tell me that, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.” I say, “I want to know.” If I have a love of ease, if as I look back over this year, or I look into my life and I see there are places where I have a love of ease, if you say, just a love? Yes. I take that seriously. I think that these are the first little signs to me that there is something that God wrought in me in Jesus’ death that I have not yet been willing to accept.
Therefore I say to myself, “Lord, will you show me where I have a love of ease?” Usually he brings some actual instance to me and then that for me is just the beginning of the chase. Then I say, “Lord why? Why do I have a love of ease there? Why do I want desperately to have comfort and ease there rather than with Jesus set my face steadfastly toward Jerusalem and walk forward with joy into the discomfort and the lack of ease? Why is that?” And usually it comes back to him showing me something of my self that I prefer to what he has for me. Something of myself that I think I have a right to and that I still want and I want to hold onto.
So it’s not a simple thing. So these are blessings. Formality and deadness, “Lord I have? I do have a formality at times and a deadness. There are times when I come down to prayer here in the chapel and my heart does not rise in prayer and praise. Indeed if I tell you the truth I sit the whole time and I don’t pray at all. And I let the others carry it. So yes I have a formality and deadness. Lord why does that deadness come in? Why has that come in? Why is that in my heart?
What am I thinking of when I go to the chapel? Am I hoping that somebody else will raise a song or make it joyful? Or am I myself looking forward to going to the chapel to let my heart go up to you and praise you and rejoice in you and thank you for all the – do I give you thanks in all things, for this is your will for me in Christ Jesus? Do I give thanks?” The Holy Spirit will be faithful to you.
If you’ll seek it out and search your heart and yearn for the Holy Spirit to show you. Several times the lady (my wife) will say to me, “Well Leslie Duke had enough light to come and been the only one that knocked on your door and expressed his sympathy for your father’s death.” Leslie Duke was the dumb dumb. Leslie was in my class at school, primary school. His brother was the Edmund Duke that played in the orchestra and helped Galway in his early days. But Leslie was the third of the triplet boys, big tall guys. Leslie was the dumb one in our class. Seemed to come to Jesus through something that I said but he spent his whole life at the Belfast Telegraph, the newspaper. Papers come off the machine there and Leslie lifted them and put them there. That was his job.
The lady will say for God through his Spirit could give Leslie light to rise to a kind of gentle fine spirit of Christ. So can any of us. If the Holy Spirit gave Leslie light to rise to a graciousness to do that with me, to come specially over, you know you had to walk a little in Belfast to get from one place to another. Then God can give it to people like us. So I always feel if I’m feeling some of this or some of you are feeling it, the Spirit can give you the light. If he gave it to Leslie he can give it to you.
So I don’t have much sympathy with myself on “Oh I don’t understand. I can’t understand Lord. I don’t know why I have a jealous disposition. Secret spirit of envy in the heart, I don’t know why I have it. I just don’t know. I ask you just to cleanse me from it.” It’s just playing games. It’s just playing games. It’s asking God to do something that he refuses to do because he can cleanse you but it’d be against your will. So there’s light I think, there’s light that the Holy Spirit will give you if you will honestly start at the symptom whatever it may be, whatever it is.
Selfishness, “Lord, am I selfish? Am I ever just thinking of myself Lord? Am I ever just thinking of myself? Oh, yes there. Now why am I thinking of myself? I treasure myself? I think I’m here for my self’s benefit? Do I not really care about the other person at all?” Search out and ask the Holy Spirit to give you light. He is able to bring you and that’s why that whole thing goes on, “The Holy Ghost will enable you by confession and faith to bring your self life to the death. Do not patch over but go to the bottom. It alone will pay.” And it’s the same as Wesley says, “Get to the ground of your heart.” Get to the ground of your heart and that’s what it says, “By prayer hold your heart open to the search light of God until you see the groundwork thereof.”
Until you see the very ground and in other words until you see the thing that you know is what is keeping you from remaining in Christ on the cross. You know, yes that’s it. Yes I’m not willing for that. I’m not willing to be just trampled over and ignored. I’m not willing for that. That’s it. So I would say then you make your resolutions. Well you know since the 60’s it’s been unfashionable to talk about resolutions, New Year resolutions but then you can see, you can see the things that you have to see this coming year. And you can make a covenant, a real covenant with God this morning. So that it has agreements that you have with God, vows that you make to God, places in your life that you’d give up to God that only you and he know. Then at the end of the half hour then we can engage together in a real covenant with him for this coming year. Let us pray.