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Challenged to Change

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The Pearl of Great Price

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The Pearl of Great Price

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Today I just wakened with God’s word in my heart through his grace and so I’d like us to look at the verse in Matthew 13:45. Matthew 13:45, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We talk about people being imprisoned in sin and we usually look at the drug lords of Columbia or the drunks on Skid Row, or the people who have just committed a murder, or we are prepared to admit also that maybe the person who swore today, used Christ’s name in vain or God’s name in vain, they are sinners, or we’re prepared to admit that perhaps people who have had a domestic quarrel this morning and fought and showed hostility to each other, they are sinners. And yet all of those things are not the heart of sin at all, they are many of them immoral actions, or words, or vices, or at times crimes but they are not really sin in itself.

And I think it’s very hard for us to grasp that the way we naturally have lived from we were little children that is sin. And if you look right back you know, to your earliest days when you would waken up in the morning the immediate thought would be, “Oh, what am I going to do today.” Or the immediate thought would be, “Oh, it’s a bright sunny day I’ll be able to go out and play.” Or, the immediate thought would be if your brother lay next to you, “He’s on my side of the bed.” And you’d push him over into his own side. But we automatically began to live with ourselves as the reference point for everything we did and everything we felt.

And the dreadful truth is that though the years go by and we get in the world’s eyes cleverer, or better trained, or more education or the world would even say we get wiser, yet the truth is most of us still live that way. We still waken up in the morning and think, “Ah, it’s a sunny day. Good, I’ll be able to go out and do some gardening today.” Or, “I’ll be able to go to such and such a place and have lunch.” Or, “I’ll be able to paint the house.” Or, we get up in the morning and we think, “Oh, it’s raining. What a miserable day, what a miserable time I’m going to have.” And we think of everything in reference to ourselves and just what we feel and what we think.”

And then I think we don’t realize that we naturally inherited from our mums and dads their ways. Now, we notice it when we go home and visit our parents or we visit our brothers and sisters, we notice that they have the same little mannerisms as we have, or we have the same as they have. And we notice often that we think of the President of the United States or we think about politics the same way as they do but we think it ends there. We don’t realize that much – many of our attitudes to life, many of our decisions about what we do with our time, or what we do in our work, or what we do with our futures, many of those things are just carbon copies of our parents. And of course, they are in turn carbon copies of their parents, and of their parents, and of their parents.

And it’s hard for us to realize that much of our life is not free at all. It’s not free. And that the determinists are right, we are predetermined. Predetermined not by some dreadful dictatorial God but predetermined by our parentage, and by our hereditary, and by our upbringing, and by our environment. And of course that’s the last one, many of us run our lives by what other people do to us, or by what other people don’t do to us. Or, we run our lives by what circumstances do to us, or by what circumstances do not do to us and so we live day-by-day according to how the other people on the road are driving their cars, how they’ve treated us, how the customers have treated us. So we come to the end of a day and if people have been nice to us then we feel kind of up. And if people have rejected us and said, “No,” and been unpleasant than we feel down. Or, if we’ve had a good

phone call and the person at the other end has been nice then we feel, “Oh, life is wonderful.” If they’ve been unpleasant and we’ve had an argument with them then we’re down in the dumps.

And so many of us are not free at all, we don’t live free lives. We live determined lives. We live lives of machines and we are in fact dominated by the world around us. And of course Jesus died to save us from that and we know that. What it seems to me many of us have missed is how Jesus makes that real in our life today. Because we all know that the miserable preprogrammed dictated, predetermined, I could really say ironclad personality that we have, that of course is absolutely unmanageable. It doesn’t matter what you do with it, I mean, you can blast it apart with drugs but then it falls into different patterns of conformity. But they’re still patterns of conformity, they’re still determined. And it doesn’t matter what you do with it, this preprogrammed ironclad machine like personality or robot that we have become, it is impossible for us to change it ourselves.

And that’s actually why life for most people is incredibly boring. I mean, it’s just boring. I mean, they just have nothing new, or nothing inventive, or nothing creative to say. If somebody doesn’t say something to us, or if somebody doesn’t do something unusual to us, our lives just go on in the same miserable boring way so that no doubt the Bible is right when it says we’re dead. We’re almost as good as dead, we’re dead miserable corpses that are uninteresting and unexciting and this machine like robot that we have become can only be changed in one way and that’s if the Creator changes it. And that of course is what we all know is true that this old self has been crucified with Christ.

The tragedy is that many of us say, “Yeah, that’s it we’ve heard that a thousand times and we know that. This old self was crucified with Christ and so that’s what I’ve got to remember this old self was crucified with Christ. And if I remember that enough and if I believe it enough and I get it into my thick head enough then who knows what will happen.” And we don’t really know what will happen but we kind of believe the Bible. “Alright if you believe these things you’ll be saved, so we’ll be saved. Okay, if we get old of that idea then maybe it will be true.”

Then some of us take another step and we say, “Well, if we get hold of that idea and we live as if it is true then maybe that’s it. That’s what faith is, it’s living as if that’s true. So alright, my old self was crucified with Christ so all that I have been up to this moment with all my habits, with all my ways of thinking, with all my selfishness, with all my tendency to think only about myself and to think about what I’m going to do, that’s all been crucified with Christ. Alright now, let me imagine that. Good. Now, think as if I were dead. Now I wonder, if that was true how would I behave?” And so we enter into that kind of play act.

It’s not faith at all it’s a play act. But we say to ourselves, “Well, we’re behaving as if that were true so if we behave as if that were true then once we do that maybe somehow God will be able to do something and make it true.” And so we play act, we pretend and we think, “Now, alright I’m wakening up this morning. Now, I am crucified with Christ. All that I have been is dead. Okay, now, alright, now, now what will happen?” And there’s just a vacuum. We suddenly think, “Alright, I was crucified with Christ, all that I have been is dead. My ironclad machine like robot personality that I inherited from my parents that my environment created, that is all dead. Okay, now I’m free. I’m free to do and think anything I want. No, not anything I want. No, not anything I want because I am dead. Alright, alright I’m dead but I’m free now to – I can think anything. It’s a sunny day today. Oh, it’s going to be a nice day. Oh, I’m going to-”

In other words there’s a vacuum. There’s a vacuum. If all you do is believe that you were crucified with Christ all you’re left with is a vacuum. What Jesus described in the parable about the house with spirits in it and you clear out all the evil spirits and you’re left with nothing in its place. And that’s why many of us have a shot at believing it and then we fall back by default into self again. Because we don’t know how to be delivered and that’s why Jesus said he had to go away.

He said, “It’s to your advantage that I go away. Because, if I don’t go away and you believe what is true, that your old self has been crucified with Christ, and that is true, and if I don’t go away and you believe it that that is true, you’ll be left with nothing because there’ll be nothing to guide you, or to direct you. So you’ll fall back upon your own guidance. But if I go away I will send a Comforter to you. I will send the Holy Spirit to you and he will lead you into all the truth and he will tell you what to do.” And the heart of salvation is believing and being willing to let all that you have been and have become with all your self centeredness die with Christ and then break your back, break your back, break your heart, break your head, break your limbs, break everything you have that is needed to obey the Holy Spirit, to put him first, to do what he puts into your mind to do and to do it immediately. And that is the pearl of great price.

And he is the only one who can deliver us from ourselves and he’s the only one who can deliver us from our habits of thought, from our habits of emotion, from this in turned self enclosed universe in which we find ourselves imprisoned. The Holy Spirit knows what to direct you to do at each moment so that when you waken up in the morning you immediately look to him. But then you don’t only look to him, you don’t only listen to him, you don’t only take under advisement his directives, you act immediately upon his directive.

What I can see more clearly than ever is you can lose everything if you begin to fit him also into a box and that’s part undoubtedly of what Jesus meant when he said, “Any sin will be forgiven you except the sin against the Holy Ghost. That will not be forgiven you.” And it will not be because it cannot be because if once you fit the Holy Spirit into your box and you get him lined up under your will you no longer have a Savior to save you. You then have neutralized the one person who can save you from your own self absorption. And that’s why Jesus puts it as strongly as that you know, “The kingdom of God.”

And I don’t know if you’ve thought of the two words king and dom but dom is from dominus obviously in Latin, lord and it becomes the words like domination and dominate and dominion and king is obviously the king so it’s the domain of the king, or it’s the rule of the king. But that’s why he said, “The rule of the king in your life is like a pearl of great price and when you once found it you sell everything.” And he meant of course you have to sell everything, you have to give up everything. All of your own wishes, all your own preferences, all your trust in yourself, all your own human wisdom, and obey the Holy Spirit immediately. And he is the key to everything and he’s the key to this becoming real in our lives.

There is only one hope we have for deliverance from ourselves and that is the Holy Spirit. And he is in your life at this moment. The tragedy is that you can drive him more and more into a smaller and smaller corner until you eventually grieve him completely. And you can be left with all this, as they say, saving knowledge, with all this knowledge of what has happened to you in Christ but none of it may be real in your life because you simply don’t listen to the Holy Spirit. And I think there’s a great danger for us to substitute our own accumulated knowledge of scripture for the Holy Spirit.

I think there’s a great danger in substituting our understanding of theology and doctrine, in having a great pride that, “Well, yes there are the churches but then there are unusual groups like us who are of course the real true church.” And so there’s a great danger of having a pride in position that blinds you and it’s very easy to have all the knowledge and yet still to have boxed the Holy Spirit in so that you do not listen to him. It seems to me particularly important in regard to things that he has spoken to you in the past. There is a constant working of Satan in the fleshly life that tries to get us to rationalize our disobediences to the Holy Spirit as being not sin but maybe just a preference.

And of course the glorious thing that you find when you first come to a realization that you can be freed from self is a fresh, lively, youthful, desire to obey the Holy Spirit’s slightest whim. And yet Satan is always working to get you to blunt that sharp sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and to gradually get into a position where you begin to take the Holy Spirit’s commands under advisement. And of course there you act as the judge. “Yes, I will take that under advisement Holy Spirit. I will think about that and obviously I know the timing of it better than you do and you’re just telling me that I ought to think about this and I ought to do it sometime when it’s convenient.” And immediately we start doing that we of course have become the masters and we make the Holy Spirit our servant. And we lose, well it seems to me we lose the present experience of salvation.

So the pearl of great price is not simply our crucifixion with Christ but it is the actualizing of that crucifixion and resurrection through the Holy Spirit’s command of our lives. And that means obedience to him day-by-day and moment-by-moment. And there is where life is found in doing that. And I don’t know, I know you aren’t prepared Colleen for this, but if this will go to England also and I think it’s managing to operate with this battery, if you would just tell just in very simple language the experience you had in the restaurant in Minneapolis this past week I think it was. But it seemed to me a very clear example of life under the Holy Spirit.

I had an appointment at Bethany Fellowship at 8:30 in the morning and I had left from Carmen’s house which is way north of the city about seven and so I got to the area kind of too early to sit around out at Bethany. So I was just looking for a McDonalds or something to have coffee and I couldn’t find any. Then I felt that God just wanted me to drive up the road which was Bowman’s Plaza I think Irene where you had your office. I didn’t know why I was there I just thought maybe he wanted to show me a shop or something so I drove around the plaza and I discovered there was a little restaurant at the one end of it.

And so I just went in and the close part of the restaurant was full of people and I wanted non-smoking and so the lady brought me way back in the restaurant to a far kind of back room and it was real pleasant. I was just by myself so it was kind of weird. And right after they seated me they seated another young business woman back there at the next table and I was just going to read a book but I really felt prompted to speak to her. You know, I mean, it was just overwhelming.

And so I said something to her about being back in this room and then she – oh I asked if she wanted to join me and she said, “Oh yeah.” So she came over and sat at the table and we introduced ourselves. And then right away – oh I said I worked with Crown Jewelry which was part of Christian Corps International. I always say that so if the opportunity comes or there’s a spark.

Well it sparked her right away and she was just full of questions. But it was so different because it was good questions. It got right away past work and everything and into Jesus. She just wanted

to know about Jesus and had just recently bought a bible and had grown up catholic and everything and she was just hungry for him not sure if he was the son of God or anything but wanted to know just everything. It was almost like she was shaking in some ways.

She said, “You know, I was going to go to another restaurant and I even turned to go into it and I had to come here.” She said, “I just had to come here I had no idea why.” She said, “It was because of you.” And that was it. We exchanged phones numbers or whatever and we went on our way.

It seems you know, so often we have thought of that as unusual or we have made the Holy Spirit’s guidance feel like something always sensational rather than something ordinary and normal. The Spirit knows, for instance, that that young lady is going to be in that restaurant and guides her there and he will guide us to that place to meet her if we are listening to him. But it does seem that we then have to have been delivered from our own dominating will and I would just mention again to each of us that we operate in the midst of a world that does things because it likes.

I buy this jewelry because I like this jewelry. I like this jewelry and I want it. Or, I like it so I think my customers will like it. And so we move constantly in a world where people do what they like and they feel it’s there right and I want that and I believe I have the right to it. And so it is very easy for us to lose the pearl of great price. It’s very easy for us to be conformed to the image of this world and to live that way ourselves and to feel, “What will I have for lunch today? I mean, it is my right to have whatever I want for lunch. I mean, sure my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I understand, I shouldn’t abuse my body and I shouldn’t pump drugs into it and all that, but I have the right to eat what I want to eat. I mean, I have some sense, I have some wisdom you know, I’m not just stupid. I do know what’s good for my body so I can.”

So it’s so easy to justify ourselves in losing the pearl of great price. And it seems to me Jesus put it in those terms because the Holy Spirit is a pearl of great price and if we ever lose him we can know all the details of crucifixion with Christ, we can know all about the Holy Spirit and sanctification but we will be lost. We’ll be lost in the midst of our own egocentricity and our own selfishness. So it seems again that God is saying to us, “You’re only hope of salvation is in listening to my Holy Spirit within you and doing what he tells you and guides you to do. And he will lead you out into a broad life and into an abundant life, and into life eternal that will be forever with me.” Let us pray.