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Lesson 93 of 225
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The true gospel


Justification to Preach the Gospel 2

Jeremiah 8:20

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Loved ones, you remember last Sunday we shared a very solemn verse and that’s the verse that I would like to share again today — because I believe someone needs to hear it today. It’s in Jeremiah and it’s 8:20. You know the way it runs.

Jeremiah 8:20: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” The King James Version puts another word in there, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not yet saved.”

You remember, I said to you, “Is that true of you? Is it true for you that the summer is past, the harvest is ended, and you are not yet saved?” What brother Catz [a minister] referred to earlier today is the increasing refusal of our day to put up with the real gospel. That’s what he’s saying. “We will not put up with it! We will not endure it any longer.” You remember that there’s a piece in the book of Timothy that we looked at together last Sunday that describes the present age in which we live. Loved ones, I think you should look at it so that you know that it is in scripture there. It’s in Second Timothy 4:3. Paul is talking about these days in which we are living.

Second Timothy 4:3: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings.” Loved ones, we will not put up with it! We don’t like being told negative things in our day. We don’t like it! We don’t like some guy standing up here and saying we’re sinners. You remember what I mentioned last Sunday. There is one dear man in this nation that says, “People won’t PAY to be told they’re sinners. They won’t PAY for stuff that is not healthy-minded, positive and up-building.”

Loved ones, that’s the situation. That’s why this thrashing and this screaming and this blasting and shaking is going on in our nation. I said to him before service, “Well, you know, there’s no question the whole Jesus movement and the whole charismatic thing — it was not a revival.” Of course the dear man responded, “Of course it wasn’t! It was spurious.” But we were all in some way involved in listening to things that tickled our ears. And we do not like things that are negative. And we don’t like things that tell us where we stand before God. It’s in that context, loved ones, that I quote to you, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended and we are not yet saved.”

It’s harder and harder to get dumb men like him or me. It is! It’s just harder to get hold of us. There aren’t too many of us now that are prepared to have the ground taken out from under us. So it’s very, very tempting — if you’re a preacher in these days — to preach what draws the crowds. And not to preach what is truth. That’s why I say to you — the harvest is past. That is, the time when everybody was reaping, everybody was bringing in sheaves. There was a glorious feeling that Christianity was taking the heart of the American people by storm. That harvest is past. That summer is ended.

Then, you remember I shared with you, some of you have been here for 15 or 16 years. Or have been here at least 10 years. And you’ve listened to truth, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. And in a very real way, it may be that this summer is ended. It just doesn’t go on forever, loved ones. I plead with you to see that. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t go on forever. We are a privileged

people. The Father has made his word very plain to us and we have had it put very plainly in ordinary simple language. And in a very real way, those to whom much is given, much will be required. It’s important that you and I are not found in that position: The harvest is past, the summer is ended and we are not yet saved.

You may say, “Not yet saved? Of course I’m saved. I have been coming to this church for years, and before that, I was going to another good church. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe what you say is true! I believe I’m with you in all the things you are preaching. I think that we were made to live like God, and that Jesus can enable us to live like God. I believe all these things. I believe that Jesus has died for us. I believe these things. Of course I’m saved. Because I believe these things, and these affect me.”

Loved ones, that doesn’t prove that you’re saved. Even if you believe all those things — yes, even if those things cause you strong emotional feelings. I’ll just point you, loved ones, to the verse, in this dear word, that makes it clear to us what a lie that is. It’s James 2:19. James here is talking about the deception and the spurious gospel that will go out in these days.

James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder.” See, I think you and I have a feeling that believing the right thing and even feeling strongly about the right thing is a proof that we’re saved. But do you see that even the demons believe and shudder? The demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The demons believe that he has died to enable us to be like God. The demons believe that we are meant to be like God. But even the demons believe and shudder — because they don’t DO what it’s necessary to do — to be saved.

John Wesley said, “Faith is not just a speculative rational thing, a cold lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head — but a disposition of the heart.” It’s very tempting, especially on a college campus like this, to be so preoccupied with believing the right things, that you think, “Well, it’s believing it. That’s what makes me saved. I understand that! I not only believe it — I understand it. I not only understand it — I feel it at times in my heart.” But faith is not just a speculative rational thing. It isn’t a mental assent to these things.

Some of us think, “Well, it’s a mental assent, plus trying hard.” No it isn’t! That’s moral rearmament. Mental assent to the fact that Jesus is God’s Son, and then trying hard and doing your best — it isn’t so. What then is a proof that you’re saved? There’s only one thing — your life. Your life. That shows whether you’re saved or whether you’re not. Your life. And please stay with me in this because this could save some of you from hell — if you’ll go with it. This will save you from deception and from hell.

Your life proves that you’re saved. Why? Because that’s what Jesus came to do. He didn’t come to get you to believe the right things. He didn’t come to get you to try harder. I’ll show you, loved ones. It’s Matthew 1. It’s the very words that the angel spoke to Joseph about what he should call the Son that God was going miraculously to give him.

Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people FROM their sins.” Jesus will save his people from their sins. That’s what you’re saved from. You’re not saved from wrong beliefs. You’re not saved from not going to church. You’re not saved from not trying hard enough. You’re saved from your sins. That’s it.

That’s what you’re saved from. You’re saved from your sins. You can know that the harvest —

though it’s ended and though the summer is past — you can know you’re saved — if you’re saved from your sins. That’s it. Not saved in your sins — but saved from your sins.

Now, Art [a Jewish member of the congregation] knows better than I do. The Jewish people knew about being saved in their sins. They knew about that. They knew about being saved IN their sins. That was what the old covenant was about. I’d like to show you it. It’s in Psalm 103:3. This is a Jewish Psalm, loved ones. This was long before Jesus was born and in physical form on the earth.

Psalm 103:3: “who forgives all your iniquity.” The Jewish man and woman knew that. They knew, “God will forgive us our iniquity.” They were saved in their sins. They knew that God was holding back punishment from them. Despite their sins, he was holding back that punishment and he was forgiving them their iniquity. Even though they themselves were not free from their iniquities. You’ll see that just a little further on in the Psalm if you look over the page at verse 10.

Psalm 103:10: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities.” See, they knew that. They knew, actually, the sins in our lives deserve punishment. But God is not dealing with us according to our sins. He’s not dealing with us according to our iniquities. He’s treating us better than we deserve! And yet it was always clear in all their minds that the reason for that was simply that God was covering their sins. He was covering them.

See, their sins were there [points to the ground] and he was covering them [putting a piece of paper on top of where he had pointed] and looking into their face [looking straight ahead at the audience]. He wasn’t taking them away. He was just covering them. And he was dealing with them as if there was no sin there. [He picks up the paper again.]

They lived with a certain promise that was offered to them – faithfully — by some prophets. They lived with a promise that was given to them — because the kind of life they had been living was a death life. They lived for a new covenant that God promised that he would give them. And he promised that it would be an utterly new kind of salvation. It would be absolutely different! It would be no longer this covering of sins, no longer this treating them not according to their iniquities and pretending that they hadn’t done it. It wouldn’t be like that. It would be different.

And as the years wore on towards the time of Jesus’ coming, so the prophetic voice got stronger and stronger. In Ezekiel 36 you have the promise that they lived for. Ezekiel 36:25: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” That was it!

They knew that God promised that there would come a time when he would cleanse them from all their idols and he would cause them to actually walk free from sin. Walk above sin! He would save them from their sins. Now the Jew was not in that position, loved ones. The Jew wasn’t in that position. Here’s the position the Jew was in. Here he is. He talks about it to us, in the New Testament, in Romans 7. This was the Jewish experience. He had the law before him and he knew God forgave him and did not deal with him according to his iniquities but his actual everyday experience was this, as portrayed in Romans 7:15.

Romans 7:15: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now, if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.”

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

That was the Jewish experience. Now here’s the tragedy. How many of you — I won’t even ask you to raise your hand because it would be embarrassing. How many of you have thought that that’s the gospel? I mean, how many of us have believed that the gospel is — that because of Jesus’ death — God will overlook our sins and it’s up to us to do our best to obey him? And where we fail, his blood will cover up our failure. And that’s about as high as we’ll get in this life. You know that that’s the gospel under which most of us have been brought up.

It’s the old covenant. It’s not the new covenant at all. It’s the old covenant. In fact, God TELLS us that he actually — it’s interesting, it’s an amazing expression to use of God — he actually WINKED HIS EYE — during those days of the old covenant. He winked his eye. I’ll show you it. It’s in Acts 17:30. Paul is preaching. He talks about those days of the old covenant. Really, he calls them the days of ignorance or the times of ignorance.

Acts 17:30: “The times of ignorance God overlooked.” And the King James Version says, “And the times of ignorance, God winked at.” The Revised Standard Version continues, “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.”

In other words — the old covenant is finished with — and God winked the eye at men’s failure to live free from sin in those days, because the provision was not yet put on the earth. But NOW — that that provision has been made on Calvary — God commands all of us to repent. To turn from our sins — not to turn IN our sins — but to turn from our sins, and to turn wholly to God. And loved ones, that is how you know you’re saved. When you’ve been saved — FROM your sins.

Now, why does Jesus’ death save us from our sins? Because — sin is not a matter of ignorance. Sin isn’t a matter of ignorance. Do you know that? It’s not that you don’t know enough or I don’t know enough. That’s not what sin is. Sin is not equivalent to ignorance. In fact if you want to know what sin is, it’s the very opposite actually of ignorance. You’ll find it there in James 4:17 — and it actually excludes ignorance.

James 4:17: “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” See — that’s the very opposite of ignorance. Sin is knowing what is right to do and not doing it. You have lots of things that you do wrong -–that you don’t know about. They’re wrong before God but you don’t know about them. The Bible talks about that as unconscious sins — still sin to be covered by Jesus’ blood — but what the Bible is laying emphasis on here is those of us who know what is right to do and fail to do it. For us — it is sin.

That’s why — do you understand? — law will not save you from sin. Law actually just lays it on you more and more! Law makes the sin exceedingly sinful — by convincing you more and more that you’re doing it. Law doesn’t save from sin. You remember there’s a verse in the Bible that says, “If there had been a law that could be given that would save from sin and give life, God would have given it.” But the law didn’t do that. The law in the Old Testament simply convinced the majority of men that they could not obey God.

You sin not because you don’t know what is right — and you know that. You sin not because you don’t know what is right. In fact the things that you don’t know about, they don’t bother you. You don’t have guilt about things that you don’t know about. You have guilt about the things you know you shouldn’t do — and those things you do.

You know you shouldn’t lose your temper. You lose your temper. You know you shouldn’t swear. You swear. You know you shouldn’t be excessive in your habits and you are excessive in your habits. You know you shouldn’t steal. You do steal. You know you shouldn’t lie. You do lie. You know you shouldn’t be sarcastic. You are sarcastic. You know you shouldn’t have a caustic tongue. You have a caustic tongue. That’s sin — and that’s what brings guilt onto your heart.

The reason that Jesus’ death saves us from our sins is because the problem of sin is not knowledge or ignorance. The problem of sin is your heart. That’s it. That’s it. The problem of sin is your heart. That’s why you sin. That’s what all that stuff in Romans 7 is about. See, if you’ll look at it, you’ll see it’s analyzed very clearly, loved ones. It’s Romans 7:20.

Romans 7:20: “Now if I do what I do not want.” See, I’m wanting to do it. I’m wanting it in my head. Even my will – I’m exercising my will. My will wants to do it. I want to do it. I want to keep my temper tonight. I want to be kind to the person I’m living with tonight. I want to speak out firmly for what I believe is true in the midst of this office situation. My mind knows it’s right. My will wants to do it. And yet — I am not able to do it. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.”

There comes up out of your heart such a sewer of dirt and such a sewer of selfishness, and such a sewer of egotism — that you cannot stanch the flow. The stuff spurts up as if a sewer pipe had broken underneath the city roads and it comes up and you can’t hold it down. You try with your will. You try with your mind. And the stuff spews right out — and you sin. There is within you a volcano of evil that you cannot control. And that’s why Ezekiel says, “God will give you a new heart.”

That’s what we need. We don’t need more laws. We don’t need more teaching. We don’t need more instruction. We need our hearts changed. That’s why Ezekiel said, “God will give you a new heart. He will take out of you your heart of stone, and he will give you a heart of flesh.” A soft heart that will want what he wants. That’s, you remember, where Jesus said the problem was – your heart.

You know people were arguing about whether you should eat this meat, or drink this alcohol, or what you should do. And you remember what he said? It’s in Matthew 15:17. He answers them in verse 17 over these arguments about drinking or eating meat.

Matthew 15:17: “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For

out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” It’s out of our hearts that sin comes. And Jesus said that he had come to deal with the heart. That’s why he talked about it like that. And when Peter was preaching, he shared that what had happened to him and the other disciples was, God had given the Holy Spirit to them and he had cleansed their hearts by faith.

He had cleansed their hearts by faith. Being saved — from sin — means being cleansed in your heart so that at last you’re able to obey the Lord’s commandments. That’s it. Being cleansed in your heart. It’s your heart that needs to be changed. What is your heart? Well, you know, I’m not talking about the blood pump. When the Bible talks about the heart like this, it’s not talking about that.

You know what you’d mean when you talk about the heart of an oak tree. You’d mean the very center of it, the very essence of that tree. Or you know you’d say to somebody else, “Well, let’s get to the heart of the matter.” You mean, “Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Let’s get to what this thing is really about.” That’s what your heart is. Your heart is you. You may protest, and say, “No, no, no, no it’s not. I’m not like that.” You are. That’s what your heart is.

You may say, “No, I do many nice things. I do.” Yes, but it’s veneer. It’s veneer. It’s civilization veneer or it’s religious veneer. Your heart is what you are. That’s what you are. Your heart is what you are. That’s why Isaiah said, not, “I speak unclean words,” but he said, “I am a man of unclean lips. My lips are me — they’re unclean. They don’t just speak unclean words. They are unclean. Uncleanness is built right through my lips, right through my body, right through my lungs, right through my heart.” That’s why Paul said, “I know there is no good thing in me.” Loved ones, that has to be seen by you and me.

[Editors Note: the end of this talk is cut off on the recording]

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