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The Will and a Passive Mind

The Will and a Passive Mind

Colossians 3:1-2

Sermon transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

You remember what we said that the whole world lives this way, lives with the old green direction (referring to a diagram), everybody lives dependant on the things and the people and circumstances in the world. Their whole personality is gauged that way and runs that way and I think it was a great shock to me the idea of dying with Jesus and I’d imagine it was with you too. I felt I was always taught Jesus died so that I wouldn’t have to die. So it was new when Bob Trosan (friend of the speaker) brought out and S.B. Lowry and the old Methodist preachers that wrote “Possibilities of Grace”, “Love Enthroned”, “Perfect Love” by Wood and Steel. And I discovered this whole truth that Christ had died and I had died with him. And I never knew that and I never heard anything about “Was I willing to die with Christ?”

So I’m sure it was the same surprise to you. The whole idea that you were living the wrong way around, that you should not depend on the world. I was convinced what else could you depend on but the world, but with a little help from God. So it was new to most of us the whole idea of dying to the world and coming alive to Christ alone. I think that was a big step in all our minds and some of us have come through it and I’d imagine some of us are still coming through it. You alone know you and God alone know. But that certainly was an important step, dying to the whole idea of depending on things for my security, people for my sense of significance and circumstances for my happiness.

The whole idea of dying to that and that I had already been crucified with Christ to the world and the world had already been crucified to me and the reality was that I was now in Christ depending on my Father’s love and that alone. And that is the step that we call deliverance from carnality or the death to self. I think there is a tendency for us to think that what we had was a will that was depending on things and people and circumstances. I think often we don’t realize that we had no will and that was the problem. We were part of the animal life of this world and when we cried out “The good that I would I can not do and the evil I hate is the very thing I do” we thought, yeah my will is bad.

Well the tragedy was that for most of us our will was none existent. It was passive and we were just driven by these things. The little I saw the things and spoke right through to the body it just was that kind of thing. It was up and down like that, the things spoke here, the will was hardly involved at all. Sometimes we would be willful and our mothers would say, “You’re a very willful child.” But generally we would just go with the flow. We would go with what everybody else did. I think sometimes we don’t realize that. And we think that when we died to self we died to self will and our will immediately began to cooperate the other way. And I suspect that’s some of the reason why we get into trouble with this whole experience of walking in the Spirit.

I think we think at times our will is right there, I was using it to depend on the world now I’m going to use it to depend on God. The fact is our wills are almost dead, they’re almost comatose, they’re passive wills and we lived the way we lived by instinct almost without our control at all. If you think back to how you reacted to somebody getting the prize at school or somebody getting praised and you not praised, you hadn’t exercised your will much you just sprang back with envy. It just was automatic and it was the same with things. Often you hardly knew how you ended up with all

this ice cream in your tummy because you did it almost like a little animal. The ice cream was there and you just ate it. There was hardly any decision of the will involved at all. It was the same with this whole situation with circumstances, your happiness almost came immediately from the things that you were doing. It was virtually an animal reaction.

I think many of us when we came to the place where we died to living off the world we thought now we just turn around and we’ll immediately live the right way around. What we fell into was passivity. I think that a number of us have started to walk in the Spirit thinking that our will was operating normally and not realizing that the will had become very passive and was not used to directing things at all. So the result was that this direction kept operating in us even when we broke this connection off here and we died to self will. We actually did not have a will that was able to control the mind and emotions and that green arrow stayed there. We continued to try to walk in the Spirit and we had half an idea from some of the things we read in Guyon and Fenelon that maybe we just had to kind of “I will not move unless I’m moved.” And we’ll just let it happen.

The result was that the will never did gain any kind of control of our mind and emotions. Even though we had died to depending on the world, the mind and emotions were still operating the usual way they operate. We didn’t realize that turning the mind and emotions meant a real strong exercise of a will that was constrained by our conscience. So I think many of us have trouble walking in the spirit because we don’t exercise the will. We are not used to exercising the will as a result of what we receive from God through our intuition and conscience. We simply let the will lie there and it hardly does a thing. We kind of hope, we’re always looking in to see is my mind changing, is my mind being renewed, are my emotions being changed? Oh maybe if I’ll pray more, if I take part more in worship services then maybe my mind and emotions will rise and kind of fade into Jesus. Of course it won’t work.

The only way the mind will be renewed is if the will exercises power over the mind and directs the mind. So I think we come again and again into situations where we look at the circumstances that we’re facing or we look at the things or we look at the people and the mind goes on its usual way. It looks at all those things and tries to make sense of them and tries to manipulate them so that somehow it will do God’s will. When all the time the Father is giving life from above but the will is unable to pass it through to the mind, the mind is not beginning to understand what God tells it, the mind is just continuing to manipulate things or manipulate people or manipulate circumstances and it’s not learning to understand what God gives to it.

So the mind is virtually ineffective and it wobbles about like a jelly fish hardly affected at all by the will, mostly affected by its own habits, so it carries on the way it did before. It continues to try to manipulate the world in the way that we think God wants. And part of the trouble is if you look at it is in Colossians 3:1-2. It runs, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not of things that are on the earth.” Not, “I must set my mind on things above, I must learn to control my mind, I must set my mind on the place where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. I have to force my mind to think that.”

No, it’s raining so I put my raincoat on. I align my life with the reality. The reality is that I am with Christ at the right hand of God. The reality is that Christ is using me this day to do his work and to do things that he wants. My job is to look at him and see what he wants. Not because Pastor said that we should bring our quiet times into order so I must spend half an hour at the beginning of each day and I don’t know what it means but I must listen to God or listen for his

voice. So I’ll just listen. No, no, reality is that you are at the right hand of God in Jesus. How could you even begin a day unless you know what Jesus wants to do through you that day? How can you even set out in a day? Not do it because you are supposed to do it as a good Christian, not do it because maybe it’ll help you. There’s nothing else you can do. You are rudderless if you don’t do that.

That’s where some of the tragedy is in our lives. We’re still playing games we’re still saying “I ought to do this. I ought to have a good quiet time. Every Christian is supposed to have a good quiet time. And Pastor is right I don’t listen for God, I don’t spend enough time quietly listening.” No, live in reality. Are you in Jesus at God’s right hand or are you not? If you really are then you live in accordance with that. You align your mind with that. If it’s raining you put on a raincoat. It needs you to think through that. It needs you to really decide, is this just a nice idea, this idea that I have been raised with Christ and sit at God’s right hand. Is that just an uplifting idea that is meant to help me along? Or is this reality? Am I indeed at God’s right hand? Am I indeed part of Jesus, is Jesus actually in me?

If he is then, “Lord I have to know what you want to do today. I have to spend time listening to you and talking things over with you.” That’s it you see. But it requires the will to be exercised over the mind to do that, otherwise the mind automatically spends it’s time working out the day ahead, which is what so many of us fight. We get down to prayer and we’re hardly down to it but we’re thinking of the first customer we’re going to see or we’re thinking of the next customer that is going to give us some problem. Or we’re thinking of the next customer that may give us a big order. But it’s not the reality.

The reality is not the earth and not the things in or the people in it. The reality is Jesus and you’re in him at God’s right hand. It’s the same with the emotions. He was ok until he listened to the sound of the waves. That was it. Once he glanced at the waves he was sinking and it’s with the emotions. If the will, will not keep the emotions off the circumstances, if you allow the emotions to be affected by the world that has been crucified, if you allow your emotions to be affected by the atmosphere in that restaurant, that’s a passing scene, that’s what is called ‘skene’ in Greek. The whole world Paul says is just a passing scene, it’s a transitional scene that you see for a moment, and it’s on its way past.

It’s already passed, it’s already been crucified. If you allow your emotions to be affected by that then you are living in unreality, not the reality in which God has placed you. So if the eyes once go upon the waves or the ears once listen to the noise of the waves you’re finished. It seems to me, now think about it, but it seems to me that it’s connected with this. That’s why we have so much trouble. Well you know it still. You know I’ll do the old teacher stuff, I’m sure I drive you crazy, but so often you haven’t your mind together. Your mind, it just isn’t together and it won’t stay together for more than a half a minute. It’s very difficult to get you to read a manual, you know it. I’ve just said to you recently, it’s very difficult to get any of you to read a manual. This dear guy we got into the “FLB” thing because he hadn’t read as much of the flash thing as I had read. I had read enough but I didn’t know as much as him, he was wiser than me but he hadn’t read it.

Often that’s the situation with you, your mind is out to lunch half the time. You keep your will on it for about 15 seconds and then you’re just worn out, you haven’t the stamina to keep it there. That’s why I talk about Barth (theologian) and he has just that massive German mind that just keeps grinding, grinding through an intellectual process. I think it’s because the will is terribly

weakened. Then with some of us of course it is a failure to realize, “You mean I’m really at God’s right hand? Are you serious? Do you really mean that I have been raised with Christ and made to sit in him? Do you really mean it?” For some of us it’s that, we don’t really believe that.

For others of us we kind of believe it but we don’t exercise our wills to bring the mind and emotions or to bring the soul under the spirit. So the soul never comes under the spirit. It continues to operate dominated by the body and by all the things that the body is involved in. So will you think a little about it? I would suggest to you that you consider making New Year resolutions. I almost thought that you should each tell us what it is but I think that’s not right. I think you should make it between yourself and God, but that you would make one or two New Year resolutions. Resolutions that you would keep and resolutions for which you would make a stand, you would make a stand against this torrent of passivity of will that washes through your life. That you would make a stand against it and hold it back and turn the whole direction of your life so that you would begin to be active soldiers of Christ that could actually affect the world instead of constantly be kind of oppressed by it. That’s what God has called us to.

So I respectfully suggest to you because I know it’s not the popular thing nowadays but I suggest to you that you consider making some New Year resolutions during the quiet time we have before we go to communion. Ones that you will really keep and that will connect up with this if this is relevant to you. You will each have to decide to what extent this is true of you but so that there would be a real change in our lives and a real change in what God does through us. Let us pray.


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