Wisdom and Understanding Through Jesus Indwelling
Wisdom and Understanding Through Jesus Indwelling
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We are looking at today’s verse which is in Colossians chapter 1:9. “And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And that got short shrift before, because it is so deep. “Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And of course, we are always used to interpreting that in a general kind of way. “Oh yes, ‘we pray that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will,’ that you will know what his general will is, “In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And of course it is much more than that in relationship to this holy table we are at again this morning. [reference to communion] Because it is just — Oh well, you can only say our dear Father is so thoughtful to silly little children like us, that he makes it dead easy, “As this bread comes into you, as this wine comes into you…” Well, how much clearer could it be? Here he is making it just as plain as bread and wine. “This stuff comes into you. Okay, you’ve got it? It’s in you. It’s in you.”
“Oh, it’s in me. Oh, yes. Oh, so he is in me. Oh yeah.”
It is just… If we just think, how kind of him! He just makes it so easy for you to understand that he means that, that his dear Son is in us. But of course he knows us so well, knows how wonderful we are at our metaphors and our picture language. “Oh, yes, it is as if he is in us! It is. It is like that. It is almost as if Jesus is in you! That’s what it is like.”
And he says, “No. This bread, put it in your mouth. It is in you. Swallow it. It’s in you. It is not as if it is ‘like’ in you. It’s in you. It’s in you. Drink this wine. It is not ‘as if’ it’s in you. It’s in you. If I took a picture of your body, I could show you it is falling down.” Just so, so plain, and so gracious to give it to us — well, the Methodists every month, the Catholics, every day.
Of course we all get lost in the ‘wonderful sacrament’ and all the rest of it. And of course he — ‘sacrament’, you can call it a sacrament if you want, but he says, “This is what it is. Take my Son into you as you take this bread into you. You’re taking his body into you. As you take this wine into you, you’re taking his blood into you. He’s in you!”
And we say, “Oh yes, yes, yes. That’s right. Yes, nice thought, oh very nice, yes. Helps me a lot when I think, ‘Oh yes! He’s in me.’ Yes I must remember that. He is in me.”
It is just so terrible, so sick, so obtuse. We are so obtuse, so clever, so sophisticated, so good at metaphorical language. And our dear Father, of course, ever practical, “No! No, I mean it. I ‘mean’ it.”
And then we go out. You know how we do. I mean, we’ll face it again. We’ll go up those stairs, “That was such a good communion. And now, what am I going to do with the day?” “Yes, you’re there, of course, but what am ‘I’ going to do with this day?” “Yes, yes, I know you are there.” [coughs] A little indigestion here because he is somewhere there.
But I mean, that is it. We really don’t do too much of, “Well, Lord, what are you going to do in my body? With these hands today? What are you going to do? What do you want to do?”
“Well, I mean that would be talking to yourself. I mean you don’t want to be crazy.”
But you can see it, yourselves. We are very unreal. And we do ignore him most of the time. And we know all this. And we understand it. And you could maybe explain this as well as I do. But when we get up and begin life, we’re not terribly aware of what he wants to do today. Indeed if somebody asked us, “What do you think Jesus wants to do today?” We might not, almost out of self defense we might not say, “I have no idea.” But we probably would be speaking the truth. “I, I’ve never thought of it.” We wouldn’t quite feel confident enough to say, “That is up to him isn’t it,” because we know that is not reverent. But still there is often a ‘slip between the cup and the lip,’ is the saying. There is often a slip between reality and the way we behave: that he is actually in us, that he is actually in us.
And of course, look at that verse. That is what that verse is talking about, “Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Jesus is in you, and he has a will for you this day. And that is what fills your life with content. That is what fills your life with a sense of fullness and purpose, what he wants to do with you this day. And most of us, of course we have no idea what he wants to do with us.
Indeed we are so preoccupied with responding to all the things around us and all the things that other people are doing, that our life is kind of running around like ‘a chicken with its head cut off.’ We run this way to do this and we run that way to do that, and we answer this person this way. And then we have another thing that we have thought of, “Oh we must do that!” and so we spend our whole days running around after what other people are doing, and responding to other situations. And of course we regard that as, “That’s normal. That’s what life is. That’s what life in this world is. It is just responding to the circumstances and the people around you and in doing what is appropriate for those circumstances.”
And of that is why so many of us are running around having absolutely no idea where our life is going, or why we are doing half the things we are doing, or have so little satisfaction in what we are doing, or why we get worn out, because we don’t live the way we were intended to live with the Son of God having a life in us and beginning to bring the universe under his Father’s will through us. We don’t live that way. We live like the rest of mankind. They are all busy responding to each other all the time. So that’s the way we do. We operate that way, too. From time to time, because we are Christians, we do think more seriously of, “I wonder where on earth this whole thing is going. And I wonder what we could do as we do the things that we are obviously supposed to fill our lives with, what else could we do for God? And of course it is all upside down. It is the wrong way around.
And that is why he prays this way. He prays that you may be filled with a knowledge of God’s will, that is, that you might actually know what God wants to do through you this day, or this moment, what Jesus wants to do through you.
“That you may be filled with a knowledge of God’s will…” And then he makes it clear that this is a deeper thing than just, “Oh go there! Go here!” “…In his will … in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” “In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” What that refers to is the other world. The Bible often calls it “the Kingdom of God”. It is really the parallel universe. It is
really the renewed earth that God has already in existence. God has this renewed earth already in existence. And he has brought it about in his Son. And it is there ready for us. We could actually enter into it at this very moment, because eternity is all one present moment. So this new earth actually exists, and God, by his own grace at times brings something of that new earth here to this earth.
And that requires spiritual wisdom and understanding to know what it is. And that is why at times there are little miracles that are worked here on earth, and why at times some things go right, and why at some times you are surprised at a generous thought that you have or a humble thought that you have. Sometimes you surprise yourself. You didn’t know you were so good. And of course it is God graciously bringing some of the new person that he has already made you from the Kingdom of God, from that parallel universe, bringing it down to earth. That is what keeps this present world from breaking up completely. Those are the moments when God is able to bring down some of the new earth to hold back the powers of evil and in some way to express the Holy Spirit.
So there are moments when you surprise yourself. There are moments when you are surprised to see you get a cut in your hand, and you wonder why it does not hurt me as badly as I thought it would. Or there are moments when you go through sickness and you think, “How did I get through that?” I didn’t really feel it. Well of course it is the Savior from the New Earth, the New World that is already in existence, graciously exercising that through us. God brings it from time to time like grapes of Eshcol to give us the sense that there is something already in existence that is waiting for us. And so we experience that.
So he’s [Paul] praying that we would be filled with a knowledge of God’s will so that we would begin to understand the things that he wants to do through us along those lines, because at times we will be the transmitters of that kind of grace from the other world to other people. And so at times he will prompt you to speak to somebody who didn’t expect you to speak to them at all. But you speak to them and it is a word of life to them. And it is really from heaven through you to them. And that is the ministry that Jesus has for each one of us. And he is praying that we will know what God’s will is for those things.
There are 2 things going on in this earth. There are 2 movements against the power of chaos and evil. One are the practical things that we do, like we drill for oil and we bring things into some kind of order with our laws. And from time to time Obama [President Barack Obama of the U.S.] gets a good law through. So there are things that we human beings do by the sheer natural power that God has given us on earth. And that to some extent holds back some of the chaos. You can see it only holds some of it because the world is more and more tipping over into chaos, but that holds some of it. The UN can control some of the treatment that is given to immigrants or some of the treatment that is given to poor children, but only a smattering compared with what is there. And so that is done.
But alongside or over that come the messages or the life that comes from the New World that God has already created, the world that is in Christ “who was slain before the foundation of the world.” So it was all created back then and it has been in existence since then but from time to time God graciously sends that down to earth to do things that are done, actually by his power. It is just by his sheer power of Calvary; it is the power of Jesus’ resurrection that brings them about as opposed to the somewhat natural power that we have when we drill for oil or we organize a United Nations to take care of poor people who are immigrants or that kind of thing.
So through us there is coming constantly this light from above from God’s own kingdom that he has already in existence. And Paul is praying that you will know, you will know the will of God. He has, “not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” So that increasingly you’d know why you have to do this with this person, or you will understand your friend. He will give you spiritual understanding to actually understand her. You probably will admit yourself that you don’t understand her, partly because she is from such a different background and has a whole different attitude, and probably has great difficulty separating you from a normal evangelical Christian whom she has learned to be suspicious of. So there is a whole understanding there that really is difficult for either of you, in a way, to understand each other. But he is praying that we would have the spiritual understanding to know where a person is, and then to understand why he wants us to do this, or say this to them.
And it comes with people like your customer, then, for all kinds of situations that we are in, where we so often do our best. We do our best. We say what we think is the best thing we can say. But it is all ‘us’. It is not from a deep spiritual understanding and wisdom of God’s will. Indeed we probably would be surprised, “What do you mean, his will? His will is for me to bring my friend to him if I possibly can. His will is to influence this customer to draw up a balanced plan. Sure that is his will.” Yes, of course that is his general will, but he has specific things that he can enable us to see and do and understand. Not magical things, so don’t think, “Oh I’ll wait for a vision now. Now I’ll just pray, ‘Lord, tell me what I’ve to do.’” He doesn’t work that way.
But he works with hearts that know that he has things. He has a level on which he works that is higher than the human level. And he can use people like ourselves almost unknown to ourselves. He can use us in that kind of ministry. So it is a deeper thing. That is the important thing. I am not saying it to well, but that is the important thing. It is a deeper thing. Being a Christian; being a witness is a far deeper thing than getting them a little tract. It is good to get them a tract. I’m not knocking it. But it is a deeper thing than that.
And it comes from a life that is used to this ‘Christ within’, a life that is committed to be a ‘Christ bearer’, a ‘Christopher’ I suppose. “Fero” is Latin for ‘bring’ or ‘carry’, then ‘Christ’, a ‘Christ carrier’. It comes from a ‘Christ carrier’, from someone in whom Christ lives and is active. And Paul is praying that they will have a knowledge of God’s will for them, for their lives day by day, for their actions day by day, that they will know what God wants to do. He’s praying that they will know what Christ wants to do through them, that they will have the spiritual wisdom and understanding to know what Christ wants to do through them.
It means that you have to transcend your Christianity; I have to transcend my Christianity. All our Christianities are colored by our own limitations and by our own little prejudices. And some of them serve your personality and some of them serve my personality. And it is God’s will that those would be transfigured into what he really is himself.
That is the reason for dying. The reason we have to die to most of what we are is, it is so heavy on us and it is so dominating in our lives that it prevents us even glimpsing what Jesus wants to be in us and through us. So it is vital that that all dies. So actually it is good when we come up against little personality things that we all do. That of course is coming increasingly clear to the girl [reference to his wife] and myself as we spend our days, as you know, trying to prepare things for when everybody comes from England. And it becomes more and more obvious to us that there is no way in which 10 people will live in beautiful harmony [in one home] unless Christ is alive, unless
Christ is alive among them.
And that becomes clearer and clearer as we begin to know you all very, very well, both on the UK side and this side. And there is only one way it will work in joy and delight, and that is if Christ is allowed by each of us to transform our own personalities, and to transform them into his beauty.
And that is, of course, what Paul is praying for here, “that you would have a knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Spiritual wisdom is revelation by the Holy Spirit. Understanding is the mind understanding the outworking of that. So there is a definite difference between them. The mind is the connection with your body and determines what your face looks like and your smile looks like or doesn’t look like, and what your hands do. Your understanding, your mind does that, but your spirit is what receives revelation from God. So he prays that you may know God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, wisdom of your spirit by revelation and understanding by your mind.
Now of course there will only be revelation from Jesus if there is an awareness that he is in you, and you get up each day expecting him to reveal his will to you. So it gives you some sense maybe of the depth of it and of the fineness of it.
And of course, yet again at this holy table God gives us a chance to enter into a deeper oneness with our Savior and into a greater sensitivity to him, and therefore a greater sensitivity to each other. And that is God’s will for us, that we would be a constant balm and delight to each other, by our way, by our tone of voice, by our actions to one another, by the things we do, and in that way therefore, live in heaven. And then take that beauty of that heaven to the people that we are dealing with Monday through Friday, so that we, ourselves would have a knowledge of God’s will for us in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
So it is a deep thing. It is a great privilege that we can actually be an expression of the kingdom of God as it exists now in this new world – which it does, already. That new world is in existence. The kingdom has come. The new world is there. Christ talked about it as something that ‘is’. The kingdom of God in some sense is within you when you allow this kind of life to develop within you in some sense you are living in the midst of the fellowship of the saints and the archangels. And that is the miracle that God is able to do, to bring eternal life, the life of eternity, here into this temporal life. So it is a miraculous thing that takes place.
Let us pray.