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Who Rules Your Life?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you take a Bible please and turn to John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word,” and we normally think of the word “logos” as Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 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.”
The early church fathers went to all kinds of tricky little twists in Latin and Greek to emphasize that Jesus existed with God before the world was created. And one of them was, “There was not when he was not.” There was not a time when Jesus was not, that Jesus was co-eternal with the Father. Yet in some way obviously, they’ve tried to preserve the truth that the Father in some sense must be the Father, and in some sense he was there and begot Jesus. But it’s lost in eternity and the timelessness of eternity.
But the important thing is that Jesus was with God before any of creation took place. And so we all are very familiar with that. It’s in that sense that Jesus is different from Mohammed; different from Buddha; different from all of us; different from Confucius. He had a preexistence before the world was created. And so that, we think of as Jesus. Yes, he’s God’s son. He’s different from all the rest of us. We can well call ourselves brothers of his and sisters of his, but he himself is very different in quality as well as quantity from you and me.
Then there is the other verse that we read last Sunday, you remember, in Colossians 1, which is the part of Jesus’ nature that certainly I have not understood sufficiently. It’s Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God.” That we know from the previous verses in John. But then, “The first-born of all creation.” And of course, we can say, “Well, he’s the only begotten son of God.” We know that, but to call him the first-born of all creation suddenly it hits you, “You mean he’s part of creation?” No, no he’s born of God so he wasn’t created. But still here God is saying, “Jesus is the first-born of all creation.” And suddenly you begin to realize that Jesus was the first-born of humanity and that we shared last Sunday. That Jesus was not only the only begotten Son of God who lived with God before the world was created, but Jesus himself was the very first-born human being. And that he did become a human being and that he remained a human being.
And that I think, I had great difficulty understanding, because I always understood, as I said last Sunday, that Jesus became a human being; then he died of course and that was his humanity finished with; and then he went back up to being the Son of God. But of course, scripture teaches clearly that Jesus became a human being forever. And that scene, you remember, in Matthew 25 is one of those verses that describe the return of Christ. Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of man,” there he receives his title the Son of Man which always speaks of his humanity, of his being a human being. So, “When the ‘Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”
And we automatically think, “No, no, it should be ‘when the Son of God comes’, because you see, when he’s sitting on his throne and all the angels are gathered around him in glory he won’t be a human being at all. He’s the divine Son of God.” But here the Bible says clearly, “He’ll be a human being. He’ll sit on his glorious throne as both Son of God and as human being, as humanity, as the father of humanity.” So Jesus is our great father in humanity. He is the one of whom we have been made. We have been made of his substance. And the whole purpose that you and I are here to
fulfill, which I began last Sunday is, that Jesus, himself, would be incarnate in us. And that’s a very personal thing.
And it ties up with those mystical words that we read in John 6, so just look at them because we’ve tried to talk about them, almost – well, not every time we’ve had communion, but very often we’ve tried to talk about them at communion. But they are so startling. These were the words you remember, that brought about that great insult that the contemporaries leveled at the Christians in the first century, they said, “They’re cannibals! They’re cannibals! They get together and they have a meal and they eat a man’s flesh and they drink his blood. They’re cannibals!”
It’s John 6:53, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
And of course, that’s what drove the dear ones in the Catholic Church, the early church fathers to say, “Alright, this bread and this wine: it actually changes into the flesh of Jesus and into the blood of Jesus.” And then those of us who went to mass then would hear the little bell ring. And that’s the moment when the host changes into Jesus’ flesh. And of course that’s why then, they would take great care of that bread and that wine. And they would feel that is ‘holy’. That is holy.
That is partly why the priest would drink the wine, because only he is holy enough to finish the wine in the challis. And of course we old Northern Ireland protestants, we would say, “Oh those pagans! And that pagan catholic belief, that the bread and wine changes.” But I remember the minor crisis in our Methodist church when somebody went around the back. And he saw the custodian throwing the bread out and throwing the wine out. And then he said, “Oh, you can’t do that.” So, no, no we don’t believe it changes but still we don’t want him to throw it like ordinary bread.
So all of us, whether we’re catholic or protestant are doing everything possible to see, in some way we have to eat his flesh; in some way we have to drink his blood. And that’s what our lofty argument was with Luther, whether the bread really changes or whether it retains it whiteness but inside it becomes Jesus’ flesh. So there’s a whole argument with the reformers and the Catholics over that. And then Luther hung onto the truth, “Well, it’s the real presence of Jesus in the mass. Jesus is really present. That’s what we have to protect. We don’t need to say the bread turns into flesh or the wine turns into blood, but we need to say, ‘Jesus himself is really present.’” And so there were countless arguments over this whole issue. So, men and women down through the years have seen these words as very important and very precious, and that they have some deep meaning that is very difficult for human beings to sound with their own language and limitations of it.
Jesus says, “You have to eat my flesh.” I feel partly because his flesh stands for his being a human being. And he’s saying, “You have to eat my humanity. You have to absorb my humanity into yourself. You have to let my humanity take the place of your humanity.”
So often you see, we think, “Oh, we’ve received Jesus’ Spirit into us and then we’ve to work it out.” Well, Oswald Chambers [Oswald Chambers, 1874 – 1917, Holiness teacher and author of books like “My Utmost for His Highest”] even says that, “Work out what God has worked in. It is God that
worketh in you so your job is to work it out.” And so we get hold of that kind of idea and we say, “Yes, we’ve to receive Jesus’ Spirit, but obviously he’s in heaven now, so he hasn’t a humanity of his own,” or, “he hasn’t a body,” and therefore we say, “He hasn’t humanity.” “So, we have to receive his spirit and then — see these fingers, these hands, my face, the way I speak, my habits, the way I behave, that’s my humanity. I’ve to express Jesus’ Spirit through my humanity.” And Jesus says, “No, I am a human being. I am ‘the’ human being.”
Indeed, he inspired Paul to tell us, “You know, you’re the body of Christ. Christ has a body. And you’re the body of Christ. And you’re each one individually members or limbs of that body.” But he did say, “You are the body of Christ.” He did imply that Jesus has a body; he is a human being.
And Jesus is saying, “You must eat my flesh. You must eat my humanity. You must take my humanity into you, and allow that to be lived in the world again.” And I think we miss the whole wonder and glory of it, when we take the other attitude. “No, no. I’ve to receive the Spirit of Jesus into me, and then ‘I’ve’ to express Jesus’ Spirit in a way that is appropriate to my personality.” Jesus says, “No, I want you to eat – ‘unless you eat the flesh of the son of man,’ ‘unless you eat my flesh,’ unless you take my humanity into you, and express my humanity through you, you have no life in you.”
So it means that each one of us is here for Jesus to express part of his humanity that he cannot express through anybody else, and that our humanity that we have, the human personality that we have developed is in some way corrupted and perverted, as we know it is by the Fall, and that that humanity has to be replaced by Christ, and that therefore our whole life here is to be like that with Christ. The biggest thing in your life and the biggest thing in my life is to be Jesus. Not just because, “Oh, we ought to respect Jesus; we ought to love him; he’s our Savior; we ought to be grateful.” But because, that’s why we’re here! You have a personal engagement with Jesus. You have a personal covenant with him. He has a personal covenant with you, a personal agreement and plan for expressing his humanity through you. It’s a personal thing between him and you. And the only way for that ever to come about, is for you to be in love with Jesus, and hungry for Jesus, and talking to Jesus all the time.
A word did come to me — it’s hard on Myron, but I think it can be hard on me, too. Do you more often say, “Myron says…,” than you say, “Jesus says…”? But I’m willing to put myself on the line, too. Do you more often say, “Pastor says…”? You know we can all wiggle out of it, but you know what the heart of it is: Do you more often think, “Myron thinks…” or, “Pastor thinks…”? Or, we’re not the only two. It can be whoever is in charge at that time. But really what I’m saying to each of us is, “Is Jesus everything to us?” And then I’m not saying, Joe, “Well, he ought to be,” because that just lays another burden on us.
But do you see why? Jesus has a humanity that he was not able to express fully in just one body in Galilee. He has a human side to him, and human ways that he can only express through myriads of people who love him. And you are one of those people. And he has part of his humanity to express through you. In other words, almost every account that you have of an action of Jesus in this dear book, is to be expressed through you in some way, in some situation. Jesus has, through you, the tenderness that he expressed to the woman that was caught in adultery. He has that tenderness to express through you in various situations in a way that he cannot express through anybody else and in a way, strangely enough, that he did not express even through himself in Palestine.
So, there is a whole beauty of all Jesus’ human life in the New Testament that he wants to live
through you and me. And the only way, obviously, we can find that out is by bathing ourselves in him day, after day, after day; in seeing that he is the only reason for our living; he is the only one that can live for us and live in us; he is the only one that gives our lives any meaning.
But it really ties back to the way we run our lives. And of course, you can see what a deliverance it is in any group, but particularly in a group like ourselves which is pretty cohesive, and pretty closely organized, and very closely involved with each other. The only way such a group can operate in health is if each one of them have their mind filled, most of all with one dear Person who made them, and one dear Person who wants to live through them every day. And that is Jesus. Anything else is bound to bring you under – even if you don’t want it. It’s bound to bring you under fear of man, or desire to please man, or desire to please Pastor, or please Joanne, or please me, or please somebody. You’re bound to fall under that, unless the Savior is everything.
And that’s the whole plan. The only way that Jesus – there’s a whole humanity of Jesus that he has, that he made you to express. There’s a whole series of Jesus’ own humanity that he has to manifest in the world through you. And you’re fitted to do that. And he is able to do that through you, but only as you ‘eat his flesh’, only as you are absorb his humanity, only as you put your arms around him, and say, “Lord Jesus, Lord, you are everything! I want you! You be me, Lord! This is your life. This is your body.” But as you do that, then your life becomes a transmission of Jesus himself from the right hand of God. So, it’s a miraculous thing. But it only will happen if Jesus is everything to you.
And I sympathize with anybody who is sitting here saying, “Oh well, I heard people say that before. And I’ve heard people say that, ‘Oh, I love Jesus. I love Jesus.’ And I’ve thought, ‘I don’t love him that much! And I don’t think that much of him! And I don’t spend that much time with him!’” I don’t think you should ‘whip yourself’ to try to make yourself do that. I think you should think about these things. Think about them. Think about this whole business of Jesus being a human being and being the ‘great human being’, and you just being a little part of that ‘human being’ and that somehow he has a whole wealth of a life to express through you that is utterly different from your own life.
See, it means that, no longer do I look back and see, “What are my talents? What are my abilities? What things can I do well?” Now it’s a new life! It’s a whole new life of possibilities, of infinite impossibilities! “Jesus, what are you? What did you want to do? What do you want to become? What kind of person do you want to show yourself to be? And here, you want to do part of it through me. Lord, what do you want to do?” Suddenly it delivers you from all that you have been, and all your own limitations. But it’s something that can only come, if he is everything to you.
And I mean I think that’s not a – it’s a little thing that occurred to me just this morning earlier. But it’s not a bad little test: How often do you say, “Myron says…”? Or, I mean, I’m not around so much, so I’m kind of delivered from this a little, but, “Pastor says…” How much do we say that? And how much do we say, truly from our hearts, “Jesus…” I know, we often say, “Well, the Lord wants us to do this, and the Lord wants us to do that,” as if the Lord is some kind of being out there and some set of laws and regulations. But how much do you say, “My friend Jesus…”, My Savior Jesus says…”?
Let us pray. We want to say that Lord. We want, Lord Jesus, to be closer to you than to any other human being. You are the one who will meet us at the end. You are the one who has sent us here.
You are the one who sustains us every moment. We want to say that. We want to be in that relationship to you. We want to be like that with you. Lord, we do not want to treat you as a cliché. We do want you to be the one that we quote, not some other human being, not some other leader, however dear he may be. Lord, you are our life. You are the reason for our existence. We want to know you. “This is eternal life to know God, and him who he has sent, even Jesus Christ.” We want to know you Lord. We want your character and your personality to be seen through us. We want people to see you when they see us. Not you as you were in the New Testament, you as you’re manifesting yourself here in this present world. Lord Jesus, this life is yours. It’s not ours.
Savior, we see that only if we’re with you day in and day out, is there any way that you will live through us. So Lord Jesus, you are everything to us. You are everything. In you all things exist and all things hold together. Lord Jesus, you are everything. And Lord, we intend to change the focus of our attention if it’s been wrong. We want to respect our leaders; we want to respect each other. But there is one we want to obey above all, and that is you, the lowly and humble Master of Galilee.
Lord, we ask you through your Holy Spirit to replace our rawness with your tenderness; replace our roughness and brashness with your mercy and kindliness. Replace our militant dedication to a cause, and our preoccupation with pragmatic results, replace it with your loving reverent love for your Father, so that you may walk again and speak again; and may catch us up into yourself; and absorb us into your dear heart that we may live together with your Father forever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each of us now and ever more. Amen.