Two Choices:Self in Us or Christ in Us?
Two Choices: Self in Us or Christ in Us?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Israel virtually disappeared as a nation. Jews from then on [AD 70 when the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem] have been scattered all around the world. But of course we know this now because they are everywhere, even in Brooklyn. Wherever there are people there seem to be Jews. So it is of course known as the Great Diaspora, the scattering of the Jewish people in the world. It is kind of giving the game away to you, but I would say, Easter is the Diaspora. Easter is the Diaspora. I hope you’ll see in a moment why I say that.
Genesis 1:1 is the beginning. It is right there really at the very start of everything. Really in a way, certainly if not in verses 1 and 2, certainly in verse 3. “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” And then comes the great statement in verse 26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And immediately the question is, “To whom did he speak? To whom did he turn around and say that?” Because it says, “Then God said, ‘Let ‘us’ make man.’ And of course it is right there. He turned round to Jesus and he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so, we all know the teaching that Jesus was there at the very beginning, that Jesus was there when we were created. And Jesus was there when the world was created.
That is stated very plainly, you remember if you flip over to John 1: 1. We know the words so well. It is just a repetition of the same truth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And of course it is obvious that Jesus is the Word. “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Of course that means that each of us were in him. We were made in him. At the very beginning we were made through him. And of course you know the other verse that is so plain to us in Ephesians 2:10. It is exactly the same. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” That we were created through Jesus, by Jesus, and we were created in Jesus.
And he of course, himself personally puts it very clearly in his prayer to his Father in John 17:20, “’I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’”
And of course the change that was wrought on Easter Sunday was the fulfillment of that. Jesus left his own physical body, then appeared several times over those 30, 40 days. So that the apostles felt, “Any minute he could appear.” And then he came back, and that was what it was to them. In the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, it was like him being among them, but dearer than
among them, because he was not only with them, but he was, as the promise was given, he was in them. The Holy Spirit, who was just ‘with’ them in the physical body of Jesus, then was in them. And of course that is why they say, “The Lord is the Spirit,” because for them the Spirit was the spirit of Jesus himself was him himself inside them. And to them there was someone living in them, so that for them it was no longer it was, “No longer I that live, but Christ lives within me.” That’s what I mean by the Diaspora. The meaning of Easter Sunday is that Jesus himself was scattered! And you are part of that scattering. And so am I.
But we’ve destroyed it, because we’ve watered it down. We’ve said, “Yes, yes. You need to let Jesus come into your heart.” “Yes, I must let Jesus come into my heart.” But you are the body of Christ. “Well, yes, yes. I know I’m part of the corpus. I’m kind of the part of the spiritual body of Jesus. Yes I know.”
“You are the body of Christ and individually limbs of that body. You individually are Christ.”
“No, no. Not me. No, no, I’m too unworthy for that. No.”
But way in the back of the humble “no”, is a proud, “I am my own. I am my own. Yes, I respect him. Yes, I love him. Yes I certainly want him to have something to do with my life, and I want him in my life. But I am myself. I am a separate being. He has no right to assume that this is his life. And I make that clear day after day, when I consult myself and ask, ‘Am I happy today? And do I feel good today? Have I things the way I like them? As I look ahead to the next weeks are they what I think I can handle myself?’”
I mean I am with any of you who do feel a real humility which at times we do feel as well as the false kind. And I’m with you. I know how you feel, that you’re really a poor thing. But the truth is, you are the only version that Christ has of you. Or rather, you’re the only version of him that he has like you. And the truth is that Jesus parted from his own human body so that he would be able to be his real self. And his real self is each one of us here. Each one of is him in a way that no one else is. And here I’m saying it not to ennoble you or make you and me feel, Oh we’re really something. We’re like a little god. But I say that to you from his angle, not from your angle, and from his angle, not from my angle. This is his life. It’s not yours or it’s not mine. This is his life.
And the disastrous fact is that it is not only the world that has got used to, “If it feels good, do it.” It’s not only the world that judges a thing as right by what it feels like to it. But it is us who regard ourselves as living to please God. We, ourselves so often, if not all the time, think, “I have right to decide what happens to myself. I have a right to have temperature in the house the way I want it. I have the right to have things this coming summer the way I want it.”
My mother used to say, Ernest – maybe we have the saying in America, when I was babbling away, arguing with her, explaining something, she’d say, “Ernest, I can’t get a word in edgeways.” “I can’t get a word in edgeways.” I suppose that was, you couldn’t get the book in that way, you tried to get it in that way and you couldn’t even. There wasn’t room. There was no space, I was so busy talking.
He doesn’t get a word in edgeways. He doesn’t get a word in edgeways, a lot of the time. Dare I say, “Most of the time?” Really what I’m suggesting to you is, have we in fact not grasped how true it is that you are here and I am here for Christ to live his life over again here on this earth for
the time we are here. Is that not why we are here? And have we not watered that down – as the word is now – parsed it, have we not so parsed this that it has no become, you ought to try to be like Jesus. We feel we’re a step further than, “What would Jesus do?” Because we have grasped the idea that Jesus is alive, so it is not, “What ‘would’ he do?” But he is alive, so we’re a little further than that. But we’re a little further than that, but we are not as far as, “I live, yet not I but Christ lives within me.
We’re still very much people who from time to time consult him and try to be like him all the time, but we very much are in charge of things. And we always think in terms of what we would like, and what would make us comfortable and what would make us feel good. And it doesn’t really matter [chuckles] whether it is the chocolate fudge Sunday, or the vanilla. It’s always, what would I like? What would I like to do? What would make me feel better? It’s not, Lord Jesus, it’s yours. What do you want to do?
And it seems to me that’s what the resurrection is about. It’s about the Diaspora. That’s why we were created in the first place by Jesus. And that’s why we were created inside him, and we were made part of him, because the wonder and the glory of our Father’s vision is that his Son would come to earth and would develop the earth in the way that would please his father, and would fulfil his wishes. And he did that initially through the men and women of the Old Testament, and then he did it through the Holy Spirit. And now he is doing though us if we are willing.
So it is really a –of course it’s wonderful. If you step back from it, it is wonderful, because gone is the question, “Why am I here?” or “Why isn’t somebody noticing me?” or “Is there anything worth doing with my life?” that is all gone, because you are part of God; you are part of Christ. He has things to do through you and he will lead you into them if you relax in him. So it’s a wonderful liberation. It’s a wonderful deliverance. But it can only happen if we grasp that we are not separate human beings who will try to work our lives into the plan that God has for us, or will try to work with him to bring about something. We are Christ himself in the only form that exists in the universe. Nowhere else has Christ a face and a body like Peggy Coleman’s. Nowhere else has Christ a mind and attitude like Ernest O’Neill’s. Nowhere else has Christ hands and feet like Colleen Donahue. Nowhere else! These are the only versions that exist in the universe. And it is our privilege to live in that reality.
I just ask you to think about it, because it’s just very plain to me that we’ve really in a way missed the whole point. And we’re still far too full of ourselves, far too full of ourselves, far too preoccupied. We often excuse ourselves, because we say, “This is the ‘Me’ generation. The society is terrible. They’re all concerned with themselves. Yes, but we’re in the same boat. We do the same thing, just in a more refined way. But the most important thing is that we miss the glorious person that we are. We miss the glorious person that thinks of us as an expression of himself. So I’d ask you to think about it and to listen to him. I’m sure that if we did, our own lives would be very different. And our whole inner life would be very different. And I think that is what he is – That’s why he made us in the first place. That’s why he made us.
Little hymn that we worked the tune out for is saying that:
1 Ye faithful souls, who Jesus know, If risen indeed with him ye are, Superior to the joys below, His resurrection’s power declare.
2 Your faith by holy tempers prove, By actions show your sins forgiven, And seek the glorious things above, And follow Christ, your Head, to heaven.
3 There your exalted Savior see, Seated at God’s right hand again, In all his Father’s majesty, In everlasting pomp to reign.
4 To him continually aspire, Contending for your native place; And emulate the angel-choir, And only live to love and praise.
5 For who by faith your Lord receive, Ye nothing seek or want beside; Dead to the world and sin ye live, Your creature-love is crucified.
6 Your real life, with Christ concealed, Deep in the Father’s bosom lies; And, glorious as your Head revealed, Ye soon shall meet him in the skies.