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The Spiritual Life Defined


The Spiritual Life Defined

Ephesians 2:4-6

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Ephesians 2:4-6 talks about how God in his love, took us when we were dead in our sins, and raised us up to live in Christ with God in heaven. The greatest need is for us to live in that reality. You may have all kinds of wanderings in your own mind. “What more can we do?” or, “What are we not doing?” — all that kind of stuff. But the greatest need is for us ourselves to live in it — because if you lived in it, it would be very dear to you, and he would communicate through you.

So — if you look at this page {shown on the overhead projector}, I think I could work off this diagram. If you remember my outline, this is how it should work. This is how God has planned for it. God has planned that we would have a real relationship and communion with him. Through that would come a real experience of his love.

That is, on security – we’d feel secure. We wouldn’t worry about — in the case of the wives here — whether the husband will have enough money to keep them alive. In the case of all of us here — brothers and sisters — we wouldn’t be worried about the car, or whether we can have enough money for this coat or that jacket, or the future.

We would spend time with God in real communion, so that we would be filled. I don’t know if you’ve got hold of it, but to live off God’s love means: you’d waken up in the morning with a sense that you were in the arms of a rich Father, and that there’s nothing that you could not meet this day, and that your security would be sure.

There’d be no worries about the little pain in your body, or the little bit of not feeling so good. There’d be great deep security. That’s what that means {pointing to the diagram} — that you’d live that way, in communion with God, so that you’d have a real sense of security.

Then you remember me saying that your conscience would direct your will. That means that in that communion with God, you’d bathe yourself in his heart and his attitude — so that his attitude to everything filled you. You would be able to make sense of the day — because you’d have a sense of him inside you, and his whole attitude to the day would become yours. It would be as the girl sang in her solo — that, “The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing.” You’d experience the peace of Christ.

I think you have a tendency to sit there and think, “Oh, I see! Somehow the peace of Christ comes down to me. If I do these things, the peace of Christ — wshhttt! — hits me.” No! It’s you, with your Father, your real dad, with his arm around you!

You don’t look up and say, “Send me some peace, Father!” You don’t! His arm is around you. You sense you’re in his arms.

Why you don’t sense this is, our prayer time and communion with him is, “Lord, will you bless Myron Kliewer? Will you bless this person? Will you bless my mother? Will you bless my father?” It’s all that stuff. It isn’t sitting in our Father’s presence.

The important thing is to really get through our thick heads — “God is real. He’s here in this room. He’s here with me. I — dum-dum that I am — have got used to saying that and not believing it. But he’s here.”

You need to think that through: having communion with the Father, so that you’d look at the world that way he does — you’d actually see you’re next business call at the next shop through his eyes. You’d see it through his mind. You’d think what he thinks. That’s what it means: your conscience constrains your will.

Then your will directs your mind. That’s the way it goes. Your will directs your mind to bring every thought into captivity to Christ Jesus.

But the knowledge comes by communion. That’s why it says “intuition” {on the diagram}. The way it works is {pointing to the diagram} — God’s love in Christ comes, and brings security, significance, and happiness. But through communion, it gives you intuition. It gives you a sense of what you should do.

You may not be aware of that intuition. A voice doesn’t say, “Go to the blue shop at the end of the road, and offer them this particular product.” That’s so stupid! It isn’t like that at all. You spend time in your Father’s presence.

You think, “What is God thinking at this moment? Lord, what are you thinking?” You actually commune with God. You get a sense of him, then, lo and behold, you just know what to do.

That’s what intuition is. That’s why we say “a woman’s intuition.” She senses what to do, even though nobody told her. She hasn’t thought it through. It just comes to her.

This comes from God when you’re in his presence. You just know what to do, and through intuition which comes through your spirit, that touches your conscience. So your spirit has communion with God, through that comes intuition, through your intuition it touches your conscience, and your conscience constrains your will. Then your will directs your mind. That’s the way it works!

We just make a mess of it. We say, “I have to make my mind think the right thing. That’s it! I start with my mind, and I bring every thought into captivity of Christ Jesus. Then I sort of know what to do.”

No! You commune with God. You spend time in his presence. You say, “Lord, that sunrise today. It was wonderful!” You spend time in his presence. You wait upon God. Then intuition gives you a sense of what you should do, and that goes through to your conscience. Your conscience then constrains your will.

You can see that’s the key point. “Consceo” in Latin – ”to know”, or “to know with”. To know very, very well. To know deeply. Your conscience knows intensely what should be done. It wants your will to obey that. But your will — the poor thing has not been used for so long, that it’s primarily passive. It just lies there — dead, or asleep! Or it’s so used to going this way and that way, whoever calls through your ears and through your eyes. They bring all kinds of things and impose themselves on your will.

So your will is either just like a tank that just keeps going because you’ve trained it with the

Power of Positive thinking. Or, you’ve used it so little that it just lies there like a wet, soggy facecloth, that you can’t do anything with. So the conscience tries to affect the will, and the will doesn’t even bother to act.

We think, “My conscience is what tells me to oppose the Viet Nam war. My conscience tells me what to do about abortion.” It’s so sick. The conscience is a delicate part of our spirits, that is able to reveal to us and to constrain us to do certain things.

That’s why doing something that God reveals to you is not hard! You think obeying him is hard? Obeying him is easy!

That is — obeying him is easy. But if you’re obeying your man-made conscience, or you’re obeying what your mind thinks is right, or what your emotions want to do — that’s hard! But when you’re obeying your conscience, your whole being is filled with the thing. You’re integrated completely, and you go! That’s why it’s easy when God gives you a sense you as a salesman should go into that shop. You almost waltz into that shop.

So it’s a whole experience that moves together. Your conscience constrains your will, and your will directs your mind. And the emotions, as Plato said, are what give you the energy, the explosive feeling, the lift, the rise, and the exhilaration that enables you to do the thing! So you do it! You go right into it.

I think I drive my wife crazy some times, because I sense, “We should do something. We’ll do it!” And if I do it then, it’s no effort. I don’t have any trouble with energy. I don’t have any trouble with how to do it. You do it.

It’s all one. There’s a oneness in your movement. That’s the way we’re to live every day — so that the psychological part of us is just an expression of the living spirit that has communed with God and has received intuition, so that the conscience knows what needs to be done.

What does the mind do? It understands. At times you need to break it down into directions for your body. The mind spends its time understanding the intuition that’s coming through your spirit. It understands the details. As an example, you have to count this number of chairs to fulfill this particular thing. The mind primarily understands.

You see — the world doesn’t work that way. First of all, without Christ the sprit is dead. So there’s virtually no life in the spirit at all. There’s no communion.

We talk about, “They’re communing with witches.” Most of them aren’t communing with witches. They’re communing with stories that they’re making themselves. A few may be communing with spirits from the dead. But it’s generally a terminology they use to explain games that they’re playing-mental and emotional games they’re playing. But the communion is dead because the spirit is dead. Christ is not there, so there’s no life within.

It’s the same with the conscience. “The conscience is what my mother told me.” Dear help us! We’re so pathetic. “It’s what my mother or my father told us, or what my school teacher brought me up to do.”

All that’s good. That is invaluable. But it’s not conscience. Conscience is what God’s Spirit within

you is directing and suggesting that you do. It’s a fine and delicate thing that only you know. That’s why “the spiritual man cannot be judged by anyone.” {This is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 2:15.} Nobody can judge what he is doing, because he himself is listening to God’s Spirit. And nobody else can tell what God’s Spirit is saying to him.

Others can confirm, and God can graciously give you outward confirmations. But it’s just confirmation. You already know what is to be done inside.

But of course, when the spirit is dead, there is no communion. There is no conscience, and there’s no intuition. So actually, it’s like a ship without a rudder! There’s no direction anywhere!

That’s why everybody’s doing the same thing — because all the information is coming from the “Red Carpet” {the fashion runway where designers feature new clothing}. It’s coming up from below. That’s why everybody wants to know what everybody else is thinking — because they have no guidance themselves.

It’s coming from books. It’s coming from singers and songs. It’s coming from what’s popular in religion and what’s popular in the entertainment world. It’s coming from other people’s opinions. It’s coming from circumstances.

It’s either coming from the desire for things: “I need this or I need that. That’s what guides what I do. I need to buy this thing. I need to have this thing.”

Or, it comes from people’s opinions — what they think you should do. Or it comes — mostly — from circumstances. Most people are like billiard balls on a table. The billiard balls bump into each other, and knock each other along. Circumstances are what are guiding most people.

Who’s in charge of circumstances? Only the prince of this world, and only the elemental spirits of the universe.

So, it’s a very different life. The carnal life is utterly different from the spiritual life! The spiritual life is absolutely different from a soulish life. A soulish life is lived by most of the people who call themselves Christians. They live in their souls.

They don’t use their spirits. They don’t walk in their spirits. They don’t walk the walk. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.

That’s why I say: they fake the new birth — because if there is a real new birth, it’s the Holy Spirit inside you, and you have to grieve him to ignore him. If you don’t grieve him, he’ll lead you on into this full life that we’ve talked about.

But if you grieve him, you begin then faking the new birth, because it’s no longer alive in you. You just go through the motions.

You need to think and spend a little time, and find out what this wonderful walk in the spirit is about. It doesn’t matter if I’ve explained it exactly right or not. What matters is: are you really living in the spirit? That’s where everything is. That’s the message God has given us.

I would say this to you: I have tried to work it out so that it’s logical, so that it’s sensible.

You I think know already — the present gospel as preached — it would make no sense to me. I would just say — God is unjust. He killed the wrong guy! He battered his son to death! Now I should be battered to death instead of him!

So to ordinary people it doesn’t make sense. I thought for a long time: “All right, the wisdom of God is foolishness of men.” It’s foolish, because they do not understand the wisdom of his working. But it doesn’t mean anything that is foolish must be God’s wisdom.

So, the gospel that is preached is dreadful. Don’t say that to anybody! — because it doesn’t help anybody, least of all the dear hearts that share it. But this makes sense {referring to what he has said in the message}.

What is the big heresy? Help yourself books! You listen to me when I say that, but I know fine well that {that is, what he is saying}, we’re all in danger of falling into a self-help thing! That’s why I tried to make the point clearly: the nature has been corrupted.

That’s the problem — our nature has been corrupted. That’s what the death of Christ is about. What we’re saying is: the parallel universe here, where Christ has destroyed our old selves and our fallen natures — he has destroyed them all, and there is a new parallel universe where we can live the way we were originally made, before we fell.

So God has dealt with the broken, old, corrupted nature. That’s why you can do anything. That’s why the death of Christ is so significant. If there has not been a cosmic death, if God himself has not looked upon us, and seen that we twisted the whole thing up, that we have created a perverted nature that will no longer operate the way he wanted us to operate — if he has not done something about that — we’re struggling.

That’s the problem with the self-help system. It’s struggling with a nature that will not and cannot do what they’re saying it should do.

So the key is the death of Christ, and the cosmic death of each one of us in him. Then if you say to me, “What is our job?” It’s to find out if there is any way that we are not accepting what has happened to us in Christ.

I know it’s unthinkable. But in Christ, before the world was made — Martha Nelson was destroyed completely. The old Martha Nelson that we have seen in this world, the only one that therefore we know — has been crucified with Christ. That old person has no existence any longer. Now there’s a new Martha Nelson that Christ has embodied himself in, and that’s the one that is alive here.

That for each of us is the reality. Our job is to see, “Lord, that’s what I want. Wherever you see that I am living in deception, in something that has ceased to exist — Lord, make me aware of that.”

That’s why to me, it’s exciting. To me, it’s an ever-unfolding experience. It’s an ever-unfolding adventure. That’s why it’s so endless — the possibilities of it.

So, that’s our message. I agree with you — it’s not today’s normal. But it is what God has graciously put into our hands.

I have to say, it just made sense to me –when I saw it in 1964. It just made sense of everything. So, I was settled in my mind from that day on. But, because I respect intellectual competence, and I respect the intellect and reasoning, it is enjoyable to see that Karl Barth has come down the same line. It surprises me! I knew him for years back in seminary days. But I didn’t know he thought this way.

So — this is truth. God has given it to us. So all I would do is encourage you. I wouldn’t say, “You have to do this! Or, we must try harder!” I’d just encourage you to live it yourself, get it clear in your mind, to go over things, and read whatever books — so you can answer the question, “I wonder – do I understand that properly?”

But it’s not the understanding — it’s the living. If you’re living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit — others will catch it. It’s caught, not taught. They will catch it.

You may say to me, “What about conversion of other people, and all that?” I think it will just flow. I don’t think you’ll be interested in “collecting scalps” {counting how many people you’ve seen converted by what you do}. I think you’ll see how unreal that whole thing is. But you will see fruit. You’ll see other lives changing quietly, and becoming fruitful.

I think that will just follow. So that’s a detail. What we have to do is — this walk. Are we walking the walk — or are we just talking the talk? I’d say — for goodness sake — start! And just take it slowly! Stop casually tossing clichés around! Stop casually talking about it. And get down to things — you and God alone.

I think we’re very privileged. I don’t think you’ll find the brightest people in our world thinking, “This is stupid!” They’ll see where it meets all the problems that we keep running up against.

I’m not just talking about Christians. I think intelligent men and women are bewildered about life! In all the jumping into bed with everybody, they don’t know where it’s going. They’re not confident that we’ve come to the place of maturity as a race. So I think there’s great uncertainty in the world today — and desperation.

Why is Stephen Hawking able to get all the attention, when he talks about the single great principle that will join everything together? Everybody’s desperate. They all feel: there has to be one! It’s spooky and it’s vague. He talks about one uniting principal that will unite things in one.

Isn’t it funny? He’s convinced there is one! Why would anybody be convinced there is one? In a world that is breaking apart! Here they are — talking about one uniting principle!

We’re so far from it — even a basic plan for maintaining life — so it’s hopeless.

So it is a great privilege and a great opportunity. You’re {speaking to the immediate audience for this talk} trying to do too many things, I think. Spend some time getting to know your own gospel. Get it clear in your head. Most of all, in our hearts. Let us pray.

Dear Lord, we can only ask you to look down upon us, pathetic creatures that we are, and hear our hearts’ cry. We want, Father, to be what you have made us to be. We want to be the expression of your truth in our time here on this world. So we ask you to lead us forward. By the scruff of the neck, Lord, catch hold of us, and pull us forward, into reality and away from our foolishness. Away

from all our pretenses, and into your own arms. We ask this in Jesus’ name, and for his sake. And now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with each one of us, now and ever more. Amen.

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