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Lesson 94 of 225
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To Live completely for God

Are You Living Completely for God?

Acts 17:30

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

I’d just like to talk for a little while, loved ones. We are just overwhelmed, you know, when you talk about the murder that just happened to someone we all know in our church here. You just begin to be overwhelmed, don’t you? Even the lightest of us. The most casual of us have to begin to admit the days are evil; whatever way you look at it. They are serious days.

And this is probably a Sunday a little more serious because Carl is leaving [pointing to a man on the platform] and changing his way of life and going to another country as a missionary. And all of us are American enough — maybe except me — that we can sense what a big break that is. Loved ones, I think it’s my place, just to point that out to all of us this morning. I really often myself listened to people who were called to go to the mission field. And I NEVER thought of myself as being in that kind of group. I was a school teacher and I didn’t feel I was called to the mission field. And I did have an interest in the Methodist ministry, but I still thought that was almost more of a career and something that I could do within the context of Ireland where I lived.

I would hear people like Carl [nodding to the man on the stage] getting up and declaring they were going off to Africa or something, and I always comforted myself by the thought that some people undoubtedly have to do that kind of thing. God calls some people to do that. Thank goodness, he doesn’t call me to do it! I always had in my head the idea — I wasn’t Catholic — but I did have in my head the idea that so many of us who were Catholics were brought up with. And that is, that there were two levels of commitment. There was the level that the brothers make, the Christian brothers and the sisters and the nuns and the priest. And then there was the commitment that the laity — the lay people — make. And the two levels were very, very different. And all of us who were lay people kind of thank God that we weren’t in the clergy and we didn’t know how the clergy felt but we were happy that we weren’t in that group. And we could carry on with our own lives and live them more or less for ourselves and a bit for other people and give to the church and help the other people to make their full sacrifice.

And so, I don’t know how many of you are in that spot. But I’ll tell you, I was in that spot for years. And I comforted myself with that. It took a long time for it to dawn on me: How am I going to get into heaven with my level of commitment to Jesus, into the same heaven as he [nodding to the missionary man] is going to get into with his level of commitment to Jesus? If you say to me, “Oh works, works, works. That’s what you were caught up in.” No, I wasn’t terribly concerned with the fact that he was a better man than I was. I didn’t necessarily think that the clergy were better than I was. I didn’t think the pastors or the ministers, as we call them, were better than I was. And those of you who were in the Catholic tradition, I don’t know that you think necessarily they are better. In fact, some of us think all kinds of things about priests and ministers, and we can judge them in all kinds of ways that make us feel superior to them. I’m not talking about good works.

I’m talking just that I knew in my heart there was no bluff about it — that that guy was giving his whole life to Jesus — whether he drank or whether he smoked or whatever he did. He was at least giving his whole life. He was going into some seminary or going into some place where he trained

for full time work. And I knew that he was giving everything he could. Maybe he was dumb or maybe he wasn’t so bright or maybe he was worse ethically than I was. But at least he seemed to be giving everything. I began slowly to realize, that I wasn’t giving everything. I was playing a kind of clever game — shelling out the money that I could afford and the time that I could afford — but on the whole, not giving my whole heart to Jesus.

I could pinpoint it for you exactly. I remember one time when I was in a Methodist Church as a minister in North Minneapolis and a mad American marine, a rough tough guy who was a minister, and I think I have told some of you about him before, came to do evangelistic services in the church. He stood up in the pulpit and he said among other things, “Are you willing to give everything to God? Well then this is offering time, so whatever God tells you to put in the plate, you put in the plate.” And I was sitting up somewhere near the pulpit and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have our check book and that Irene my wife was sitting in the audience and she had the check book and I began to realize that if she obeyed God we could be in trouble here. [Laughter] That’s what I mean. It’s the difference between saying to the Lord Jesus, “Lord whatever you want of my life I will give to you.” It’s the difference between that and retaining the control yourself and saying, “I know you have a lot for me. I known you have died for me. I don’t understand fully how you have gone to hell for me but I know you have suffered for me. Now I do recognize that I owe you some things. And I am certainly prepared to be fair here and I am prepared to give you some of my money and give you some of my time and certainly I am going to ask you to receive me at up the end of my life into heaven.” There is a difference, see.

There is a difference between that kind of negotiation and what surrender is. Do you see that? Surrender is not saying, “Lord I will go and be a full time missionary.” That’s not surrender necessarily. Surrender is not necessarily saying, “I will change my whole way of life.” Surrender is not necessarily saying, “I will give away all that I have.” None of those things might be surrender for you. Surrender is, “Lord Jesus, you put your finger on anything that you want and it’s yours. I give you the right to tell me how you want me to live from now on in.” And that applies to those of us who haven’t many years to get in; and those of us maybe who are at the beginning of our life and have a lot of years. “From here on in Lord, whatever you want, I give to you.” That’s what began to come home to my heart.

And I think, loved ones, you can see that there is little safety now, in these days. There is little safety outside Jesus. There just is little safety. And you see it yourself. This isn’t even “Fire and Brimstone” – it’s just impressing itself on all of us in this room increasingly, that the days are evil, that the times are chaotic. Even the most liberal, the most intellectual of us, the most sophisticated see that the days are dangerous days now. These are days when you have to decide which side you are going to be on. Well, I won’t apologize for bringing it up. It’s just such a clear illustration, it’s just obvious to all of us: who is safe? I don’t want to put fear into this but who is safe from Aids? Who is safe from Aids? I should say it, because this Irish accent might spoil it, who is safe from getting Aids? We seem to be pressed in round about — you never thought you would be telling of a murder in your own church family. How many of us here know somebody who has committed suicide? It’s harder and harder to get any of us who are clear now of these tragedies, isn’t it? It used to be that we, who live in normal families, we would say well, these are things we read about in the newspaper. But now it’s more and more difficult to live away and separate and untouched by the increasing pressure of evil. Loved ones, that’s why I think there’s only one safe place. There is only one safe place.

I found the verse that we read last Sunday, just before I got up to speak. And so I think it is

God’s will just that we look it up. It’s in Acts 17:30. And it’s that statement you remember by Paul about the Old Testament days — the old covenant days. It’s Act 17:30. “The times of ignorance God overlooked, 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.” And I won’t go over all the sermon last Sunday but if you want it, you should get it on cassette tape and listen to it. Because God impressed on all our hearts that the times of ignorance, the Old Testament times when God covered man’s sins, he forgave them their sins — those days of ignorance God overlooked. But now, he has brought Jesus and destroyed in him all our sin, and Jesus came to take away our sins. And God commands us now to repent and to turn from our sins and be done completely with it and to be freed from them and to live above sin. That’s what we said last Sunday.

What I believe the Lord is saying to us today is, “Loved ones, the times of ignorance in YOUR OWN LIFE.” You know, the times when you didn’t realize exactly what it was about? The times when you thought you could offer a “sop” to God — maybe some money or some of your free time. Don’t you think those times are gone? Doesn’t it look like that? That those times are gone. That now you’re either for Jesus with all your heart or you’re beginning to be picked off. Do you not think that’s so? I don’t want to be silly about the things that have happened among us over the past three years. But it seems you are either for Jesus completely, or Satan seems to come along and just knock you off one by one. It just seems that way. That you’re either whole-heartedly for God now or you lose everything. In other words – they’re kind of fearful days. There’s something in the air. There’s something in the air.

I don’t know about those of you who have lived in this city of Minneapolis. I’ve been in it 23 years. I think I came in 1964. I have been in it 22 or 23 years. It’s a different city, isn’t it? I agree with anybody who says, “All of the big money has come in.” I agree. The Eastern money has come in and Chicago’s influence has moved over here. I understand that. The sophistication has moved in — the big buildings and the big companies and all that, Gucci and everybody else. I understand that the commercial situation in the city has changed but don’t you think that there is something else strange? I mean there is a difference in the character of Minneapolis. There’s a difference in the Twin City area. And I thought it was just here. But several of us are out on the road selling our products in the States. And they come back with the same feel. There’s a difference now. There’s an increasing difference especially in our cities. There’s an increasing hardness and harshness. There’s an increasing indifference — inhumanity of man to man — and increasing violence in our cities.

I remember 20 years ago your moms and dads or your relatives in these small towns were saying, “Oh, America has changed,” because of course, the sixties changed everything, with President Kennedy’s death. It just was a complete change from the fifties you remember. For a while I used to go to your small towns and think, “Oh, you’re not talking about small towns. They are beautiful.” They were still the little picket-fence small towns that we saw in American movies in Ireland. They were still, seemed to me, the times of the 50’s. But your times are changing. The small towns are changing. The same troubles are beginning to impregnate even our country towns. There’s just a difference, loved ones. I just think wherever you look, there’s a difference in the atmosphere. And could I be so bold as to say, for those of us who know the Twin Cities: Gordon Peterson [an influential local pastor] has died and is gone, and his church Souls Harbor has closed. You can just list them one by one. Ted Hegre [another influential local pastor] has died and is gone. You can just list them.

There’s a sense in which we don’t have the atmosphere in our country that we used to have. And I am not talking about the laws, to tell you the truth. I think some of the Christians here are winning the battle more than the laws are. But in the hearts of our people, we are not winning the battle. And I don’t know about your heart. I would say to you: the only thing needed for the progress of evil, is that good men do nothing. And doing nothing is in this case, equal to an inadequate response to Christ — that’s doing nothing. It’s giving Christ part of your life, when he gave all of his life for you. That really is doing nothing. And I think you know that — in your heart. You know it in your heart. You know that, if you love me and I was standing here bleeding, from a hole in my side and from holes in my hands, and you knew I was bleeding to death, and I said to you, “I’m doing it for you.” Even though you don’t know why I’m doing it for you. And then you said, “Thank you,” and put a dollar, $25, $100, even $1000 — put $5000 even in the plate in front of me and walked on. It’s just unthinkable. It’s an insult to friendship, an insult to manhood. You may as well take a sword and put it into my side. And you know — me, if I did that with you — it would be the same.

So, I do think these are serious days. I think that we’ve all heard the story of Jesus. We have all heard about him dying for us. I don’t know how many services you’ve sat and listened to somebody like this dear man [motioning to the missionary man near him], saying he was going off, and like me how often you have excepted yourself from the situations. I think loved ones, these are serious days — while you can still hear this call. Because make no mistake about it, if you don’t respond today, it will be harder to hear it tomorrow. It will. Somebody like me will keep talking, but you won’t hear it this clearly. You won’t. Every time you listen to somebody pleading that Jesus died for you and he needs all of your life, and you don’t give it, you dull your own conscience, and it’s harder to hear that call, next week. I think it’s time to be serious. You either have to be all for him, or you’re really all against him. And all for him means, “Lord Jesus, whatever you want.” It’s just between you and him. See, it doesn’t need to be a big showy thing, doesn’t even need to be something that you say to your wife. It needs to be something real and grim and grave between you and your Savior. You need to have a clear understanding with him. “Jesus, you gave your life for me. Here is my life. Whatever you want to do with it, I’ll follow you through.” That’s it.

If you say, “Do you think there will be some part-time people in heaven?” It doesn’t makes sense to me. I’m not the judge and you’re not the judge. But it doesn’t make much sense. If you ask me, “What’s my opinion?” I don’t see how it can be. Do you? Do you? I mean, I don’t see how it can be. We don’t have to have the lashes that Paul had — I understand that. We don’t have to have the scars that he had across his body. But if we haven’t the heart that is willing for that, I don’t see how we can be with him in eternity. I mean it just appeals, doesn’t it, to your common sense? It can’t work. We all have to be the same heart, for it to be heaven. So, I would just ask you loved ones, to deal with Christ, and deal with him very honestly, in days like these. The times of ignorance God has overlooked in your life. Now he commands all men to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world by a Man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given us assurance by raising Him from the dead. And we should just be quiet as we close our eyes and just deal with God ourselves. Let’s pray.

Dear God, we thank you that we are not being presented with a set of neat instructions that man has created or a list of the things we have to give away or do. Lord, we see that that’s not what you’re after. But we know when we’re being real and appropriate in our response to you and we know full well when we are being religious. And Lord, we’d throw away our religion and all our games. All our self-justification and our self-defense. And we’d acknowledge before you that your Son

Jesus has died and given up his life for us. He has given up everything he had — for us. And we know that there is only one thing we owe him that is appropriate and right, and that is our life. And we don’t know where this will lead us, and we don’t know what you’ll ask us to do, but Lord Jesus Christ, we give our lives to you now. We give our life and our possessions, and our future to you. And we tell you that it is yours, and we have no desire to rule it any longer or to treat it as ours. We have been bought with a price, and we are no longer our own but yours. And we ask you now to take our lives. And to save them from this catastrophe that is increasingly overtaking our world. But we give our lives to you because you’ve given your life for us. And it’s the only thing that is right to do. So, we give them to you now, Lord. And ask you to show us by your Holy Spirit, after this service, and during this day and the coming days — what you want us to do, and we will go forward with you wherever you lead us — whatever that may mean for us. We ask this Lord, so that life may begin to have eternal meaning and value for us, in your sight. 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 until we see Jesus face to face. Amen.


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