Ephesians is probably the most complex book in the New Testament and probably in the Bible. It talks about the blessings and love our Creator God has intended for us to experience in this world and in our relationship with Him. Colossians discusses the role of Christ in the church and Christ’s position as the image of the invisible God: the Creator and sustainer of the universe. We are reminded that Jesus has reconciled all things to Himself through His death on the cross giving us victory and freedom.
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We The Least Are Called to Give Life - EPHESIANS
We the Least Are Called to Give Life
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to 2 Corinthians 11:22. 2 Corinthians 11:22, “Are they
Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are
they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received
at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once
I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on
frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger
from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false
brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without
food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my
anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not
indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father
of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor
under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket
through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands.” May God see how good our lives are. Amen.
Loved ones let us turn to Ephesians 3:8, and we could look at it briefly before communion.
Ephesians 3:8, and it runs like this, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this
grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” And I was saying to
Greg before the service that it’s a wild Greek word that is used for the very least, it’s
“elachistoteros” and it’s a superlative with a comparative added on. Superlative, you know, is most
of anything and comparative is better than anything. So superlative is always best and comparative
is better and this is better than the least and that’s why it’s translated I am the least of the
apostles. I am the least of the apostles, the very least of them.
I am the very least of the apostles, the very smallest and really one of our translations has, “I am
less than the least of the apostles.” And it’s important to see that he wasn’t just putting it on.
Paul wasn’t just trying to be very, very humble and Uriah Heepish (a Charles Dickens character) but
he was really serious, he really meant it because he had persecuted the Christians. You remember
it’s in Acts 22:3. Acts 22:3, and it’s really something we know ourselves. Acts 22:3-4, “I am a
Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in the this city at the feet of Gamali-el, educated
according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this
day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” And
that was in his mind that he had persecuted the very Christ who had now called him to his work and
so he felt he’s lower than the lowest and he really did feel that.
And really, it’s just worth looking at ourselves in the light of what we read about his
imprisonments and his being shipwrecked, and his being beaten, and his being in all kinds of ways
tortured and persecuted for the faith, it’s important for us to see that this is the man who says he
is less than the least of the apostles. And it kind of brings it home to you yourself, not what am
I from the point of view from my natural inferiority because of my poor human characteristics, but
what am I in my heart towards Jesus compared with this man? I have not suffered as he has suffered.
I have not been shipwrecked as he has. I have not born insults has he has, cold and exposure,
hunger as he has. And if he is the less than the least of the apostles, than I am less than the
less of the least of the apostles. And it’s worth thinking of because I think it is easy for us to
drift into – I don’t know that we’d call it pride, but a complacency about what we are doing for
God, or about what we deserve, or about how important we are.
I think I’ve said that to you before, it is remarkable in a way what kind of importance we do have
just because of some degree of success in business, and it’s very easy to receive the way people
speak to you and think, “Oh, it applies to me personally. It’s my own brilliance that they’re
respecting,” and it’s very important to pass it right onto Jesus every time it comes. I say that
because I think I’ve said to you at times before, it is kind of dangerous when you’re a great leader
so called, and people lionize you. It’s very easy for you to fall into a kind of attitude that I
don’t know, at first wants to ignore it and then kind of is used to it, and then if somebody doesn’t
treat you in that strange way then you wonder at it.” And so it’s very easy to come to take for
granted the respects that people give you and then be set back when they don’t give you that. And
so it’s very important to always see ourselves as less than the least of the saints.
People who – I don’t know how you all feel, I feel I’m a rat compared with what I’m supposed to be,
I feel – so it seems as you – I hope it is, that as you go on with Jesus you see more and more your
own feelings and your own weaknesses, and your own lack of Christlikeness and as life goes on you
sense more and more, “I need thee every hour most precious Lord,” and “I cannot do without you and
there’s no way in which I can live this life unless you live it for me.” So, I think that that is
what happens to us as life goes on and it is important that it does. It’s important that we do come
to see ourselves as less than the least of the saints.
So that’s that bit that I thought I should speak about. And then do you see the next piece in the
verse, “This Grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Unsearchable is another wild word, I don’t know if I can even pronounce it in Greek,
“anexichniastos”, “anexichniastos”, and it means, “ane” you can guess is usually “not” in any
language but anonymous means the same, with no name, but it means something that cannot be traced
out or tracked down. So it’s the unsearchable riches of Christ in that way that there’s no way to
track them down. There’s no way to trace them out. There’s no way to explore them fully. That’s
what he’s called to preach.
Now I think I can explain that, at least explain the idea to you. Can you imagine a computer into
which we fed all the six billion lives that are here on the earth? We fed into it all the names and
then we fed into it every action and every word that each of those people had said or done up to
this point in time. And then if we could, if we were able, to extrapolate all that, and we were
able to feed into it all the things that they were going to do over the next 40 or 70 years of their
lives, and then we were able to feed into it actions that the computer would suggest to them. Not
to change them, not to force them to do it, but just to lead them back to give them another shot at
it. Now you can imagine how difficult it would be to track, well as you would say, the riches of
that computer. But then you know, if you turn the computer into a person and you have that person
feeling everything that those six billion people did and then knowing all the things that were going
to happen in their lives, and all the things that they would do. And if that person not only did
that but if he felt the sympathy of all the other people who would be hurt by those things, and then
above all, since they were all made inside him, and they were all part of him, he felt the pain of
all their actions inside himself. And then on top of that, he bore that pain and initiated all
kinds of counter moves to continually draw them back and draw them back, to give them another chance
to see what he and his Father were after.
Those are part of the unsearchable, really untraceable riches of Christ. And the great privilege
that Paul had was that he was called to preach those to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were the people
who didn’t know those things and who were regarded as not the people who would benefit from those
things. In fact, the Gentiles were regarded as outside the benefits that God had brought through
his suffering servant. The Gentiles were the non-Christians. The Gentiles were the people that
everybody regarded as having no part in this miraculous work in Christ and they didn’t know they had
a part. They didn’t know that all their lives had been fed into this Jesus and all their future
lives had been fed into him, and that he had already lived their future life and had seen all the
difficulties they have and had sorted them all out so that they hadn’t a thing to worry about.
The Gentiles are the non-Christians who are in that state. And that’s why I think it’s such a great
privilege that we have. The wee souls don’t know any of that and so they labor under all their bad
balances in the banks, they labor under all their fear when they find they have a terminal illness,
they labor under all their anxiety as to how they’re going to get this car repaired when they have
no money. They labor under all the fear of another year like last year with no relief because they
don’t know that there is a loving God who has foreseen all that and has worked it out, and has a way
through for them and that’s our privilege, to somehow get that over to them so that they can live in
So really we could put ourselves in this verse and say to us who are the less than the least of the
saints, has been given the grace to preach this gospel to those that we visit each week in the
stores and that we talk to. We who are the least of the apostles, the least of the saints are
called to explain the unsearchable riches of Christ and to set them forth in our lives and that’s
some privilege. Let us pray.
Salvation is by Revelation of God’s Love - EPHESIANS
Salvation is by Revelation of God’s Love
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn please to today’s verse that we’re studying, it’s in Ephesians 3:9, and it follows on
from 8 there. If you look at 8, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace
was grace was given, to preach to the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ,” and then in verse 9, “And to make all men see what is the plan of
the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” That’s exactly our gospel, “And to make
all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”
Everybody that we meet day after day are ignorant of that, they haven’t a notion about that. I
guarantee that, they have no idea of that at all. They have no notion what that verse is about and
the worst thing is they have no idea of what the content of it is. They have no idea of the mystery
hidden for ages in God who created all things, they don’t have a clue. They have a kind of idea
that if somehow you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are very vague about what that means,
but if somehow you do that and you try hard to do what these Christians say you should do, then they
will have successful life and they’ll go to somewhere called heaven, but it’s very vague in their
minds. But it doesn’t make any sense to them, they really don’t know why believing in Jesus Christ
will do anything about that and they don’t really know how to believe in Jesus Christ and anyway
they’re so uncertain about the truth of this book that they hardly believe that he exists.
So the people that you’re meeting day after day haven’t a clue about reality and because of that
they live – well, they’ll say it themselves, they live lonely lives, lonely lives that are filled
with fear and insecurity and have no purpose beyond getting the next meal, and getting the next car,
or the next house. So it is very important for us to waken up and see that we no longer describe
them as dark and in the depths of Satan’s power. We no longer talk of them that way, we no longer
talk about them as people who are on their way to hell. But these dear hearts are in hell, they are
in hell. Most of them are living dreadful, desperate lives.
I mean, actually you have an idea of it yourself when you look at the pubs and they’re all standing
around in town or wherever and they’re all drinking their pint, and it’s not the pint that is the
terrible thing, it’s they – their heads are empty and their hearts are empty, and you know that.
They’re all joking with each other, and they’re trying to laugh their way through the thing, but
they don’t really want to go home, most of them, because there isn’t much point in going home and so
there is a dreadful deadness. And just because they are not crying out to us to help them, it does
not mean that they are not in desperate straits and I think we do have to see that. They have no
idea of this mystery; they have no idea of this mystery that we’ve been talking about. And you know
what the mystery is, it answers actually all their needs, because they feel they’re nothing, they
feel they’re unimportant, they feel their life has no point and purpose. They feel its seven
billion now, we believe in the world population, and every billion that adds on just makes them feel
smaller and smaller, and more unimportant.
They have no idea that when God conceived his own Son Jesus, his only begotten Son, that he
conceived him as someone who would be his divine Son, and would live with him forever, and also
someone who would be the big brother to thousands and millions of other creatures that were a little
different from himself. They have no idea of that. If they think of themselves in regard to Jesus,
they think of themselves as very distant from him, first of all. Then they think of themselves in
regard to God as not even a second or a third thought, but they don’t believe for a moment that they
were a primary thought in their Father’s mind. They don’t think for a moment that when God had his
only begotten Son Jesus, he was thinking of them, that when he had Jesus, he had Jesus to be what
the Bible says, “The first born among many brethren.” And that God had Jesus so that inside Jesus
he could create all kinds of little beings that would have many of his own qualities and above all
would have the free will that he had. And he made them in Jesus so that as they exercise their free
will he could hold on to them. He could put up with the murdering that they did, the squabbling
that they did, the cursing that they did, the cruelty that they brought about. He would bear all
that inside himself as it occurred in Jesus and from the very beginning of the world the lamb was
slain, because God saw all that. And of course the dear hearts that we meet, they have no notion of
that at all.
If they ever thought about it, they might think, “Now the Supreme Being, if there is one behind this
universe, he must certainly know how things work.” And if you ask them, “Well do you think he knew
how things would turn out?” They might say, because they’re not sure themselves, they might say,
“Well I don’t know if he knew that.” And of course then tumbles into all their minds the problems
of suffering and so forth, and they stand back in horror because they can’t make any sense of that,
and they say, “Well no I don’t – well yeah – well if he doesn’t, if he didn’t know how things were
going to turn out, who does?” And so, deep, deep down they would begin to conceive of the idea that
a supreme being who was perfect would be able to foresee everything that would happen, but they
never – they have no ground that we have in verses like, “Whom he knew, he also predestined.”
They have no ground in verses like that, to believe for a moment that God was able to foresee
everything that they would do in their lives. And if any of them ever do that then they think,
“Well the only – if God knew that then he must not respect our free wills.” And they can never
conceive of the idea that God was able to foresee what they would do and yet was able to respond
accordingly so that he would not wipe over the top of their free wills, but would stimulate it and
motivate it to keep coming back to his plan. They have no idea of that kind of a loving God,
especially one who all at the same time would bear in his own body on the tree, constantly the
effects of their disobedience and their rebellion. They have no idea of that at all. So they have
no feeling for the suffering heart of God, they don’t have any understanding of that and that’s why
what God has shown us is so important to get over to other people.
Now what I’d like to do is just take you through the verses that you know very well, but I’m going
to put them up so that you at least are very clear what our gospel is. And so if you start at that
Ephesians there 3:9, then even the RSV gives us a little footnote to John 1:1-4. John 1:1-4, “In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the
beginning with God,” and this is of course Christ, “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
light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Now they have no idea of John 1:1-3. And if they have, they believe that the third verse applies to
everything but them, “All things were made through him,” they say, “Oh yes that’s the ocean, and the
mountains, and the birds and all.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not
anything made that was made.” But they have no idea that Jesus made them in the sense that they
were made through him. They have no sense of Ephesians 2:10, “You are God’s workmanship,” it would
change their whole attitude to themselves. If they thought for a minute, “You mean I am God’s
workmanship? You mean I am not the result just of mum and dad? You mean I am God’s workmanship?”
And then it would blow them away if they knew they were created in Christ Jesus. And then the peace
it would bring to their lives if they knew created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has
prepared beforehand that you should walk.
I tell you, it tends to bring tears to my eyes, because the wee souls have no idea of that. They
have no idea that their lives are planned. They have no notion that anybody has ever foreseen the
things that they will come up against. So they’re lonely, they’re as lonely as they can be, and
they don’t know what to do about it. So if they ever grasp that it would change their whole
attitude to everything. Of course, of course, it would change the attitude to God. I mean they see
God as somewhere between the bishop’s gaiters and all of falderal that goes on in the cathedrals,
but they have idea that God is a dear gentle Father with a loving heart who has carefully planned
each stage in their lives, and has foreseen all their difficulties, and has already planned the
So that, first of all, just that they are in Jesus. In Jesus, they would have no notion of that.
They think, “Maybe Billy Graham was in Jesus, maybe Teresa, Mother Teresa is in Jesus, maybe my
great grandmother who is very religious was in Jesus, but I am not in Jesus, and I was not made in
Jesus.” And the tragedy of this whole thing is that the Savior is bearing them every day. They are
in Jesus and he is bearing the pain of their lives every day, but they don’t think they’re in Jesus.
So that’s the first thing.
Then that the whole thing is planned from the beginning. And you have it there in its Colossians 1,
and it’s those verses that we’ve often quoted and of course, they’re glorious. Colossians 1:15 and
it goes right on through those next verses. “He,” Jesus, “Is the image of the invisible God, the
first-born of all creation.” They don’t understand that. They say, “Jesus is the divine Son of
God, far above us, maybe through Mary we might be able to have some contact with him, but that’s it.
Yes, he became man but then that was just 33 years and he went back to heaven so he’s up there, and
he’s one of the trinity, and he has no connection with us.” No idea that he’s the first-born of all
creation, no idea that Jesus was the first human being, no idea that he is the great human being and
all of us have our humanity from Jesus, and that when you want to see real humanity as Barth says,
“You look at Jesus.” No, they think you look at the images or the perfect patterns that the
psychologist set up in their books.
No, you look at Jesus if you want to see a real man, and Jesus is a human being. And of course you
can see how that gets over what the Catholic Church was trying to get over with its emphasis on
Mary, that Mary was human, and we could have some contact with her, but of course, this is the
truth, that Jesus not only was human, but is human. And you know the famous verse, Matthew 25,
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then will be gathered
before him all the nations, and he will separate them one as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats.” And it’s the son of man who will do that. The person who is still a man, the person who is
at God’s right hand still a human being with all of us inside him, and they have no idea of that.
Colossians 1:15 and right through, you remember how it goes, “For in him all things were created, in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or
authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things,” and they
have no idea of that. They just know Jesus came to earth as a baby in 6 BC or 4 BC and that was it.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” They have never heard those verses
before, and they’ve never had anybody explain them to them.
But of course it changes your whole life. If everything holds together in Jesus then it means I
hold together because I’m in Christ. That means Jesus is right around me holding me together. It’s
almost as if he has his hands on me, and he’s holding my ribs together, and it transforms a person’s
attitude to their life. Those wee souls they feel if a bomb drops they’ll be blown to bits and
that’s the end. They feel there’s nobody that really cares much about them since their mother loved
them and used to put them to bed at night and kiss them. They feel there’s nobody. Husbands,
wives, it’s so loose now all their human relationships that it’s hard for them to feel any security
in anybody’s care and so they have no idea that they are held together by somebody who has given his
life for them.
So that’s that. Then there’s the whole truth – that’s in Jesus, and then there’s the whole truth
that we talk about really, I avoid the word because it’s so – it’s so misunderstood, and I mean
there’s probably no harm in using that word instead, but it is an important part of things that they
realize that God foresaw the whole thing. That we’re not dealing with things that he didn’t know
would happen. These are things that he foresaw, and so the future is not an unknown mysterious
threat, it is something that God has foreseen. And so you get it in all kinds of places, of course,
you’ll obviously have it in that Colossians verse where he foresees everything. It’s in the
Ephesians 2:10, “Works, that he has prepared beforehand, that they should walk in them.”
But then you have it in 1 Peter, I’ll just put to some of these verses so that you can see them
later. 1 Peter 1:20 if you like to glance at it, it’s the verse you remember that talks about what
has happened from the beginning of the world. 1 Peter 1:20, “He was destined before the foundation
of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have
confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are
in God.” He was destined before the foundation of the world. God did not think of Jesus dying as
an afterthought, he had it planned from the beginning of the world. He knew what would happen to us
men and women from the beginning.
Revelation 13:8 is the verse, you remember, “The lamb slain from before the foundation of the
world.” I’ll just give you two others that you can look up yourself, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is one of
them and refers again to the fact that God has foreseen all this, and has planned it, and 2 Timothy
1:9. It changes – it changes the whole fear that fills a man today. Man is filled with fear
because he doesn’t know if George Bush is going to attack, and he doesn’t know if he attacks whether
Sadam has nuclear or has chemical that he’ll let loose on the rest of us. And anyway, we all feel,
“We get through this one there’ll be another one will come up in 10 years’ time.” So nobody feels
secure in the world, nobody feels anybody knows what’s going to happen. So it is vital that they
have their eyes opened to the fact that of course our Father knows, and our Father has foreseen it
all, and he has planned it all, and yet in such a way that he does not destroy our free will. He
works with our free will much has a mother works with her child to bring him around to her way of
thinking without forcing him to do the things; that is part of the gospel.
If you say to me, “Can this be got over without getting people to kneel down on their knees and
receive Jesus Christ as Savior?” Of course, of course. You can see it yourself, this is truth and
light. Our job is not to get them down on their knees, our job is to get them – behold, behold the
lamb. That’s what that hymn says, “Behold, behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the
world.” Our job is to get them to look up and see reality, see what God is like, see who he is.
Then they will bow the knee, then they will receive him as Savior and Lord. But first they have to
see who God is and what he is like. And can that take place in ordinary conversation that is
unembarassing? Of course it can.
If you have a desire to do it, if you have a desire to tell them this, there will be opportunities
that God will open up, and much of this – you hear me talking, much of this can be explained just in
a commonsensical way. Just in little bits of sentences here and there. But this is our gospel, and
you know, I’d just remind you – I don’t want to push it too far because my wife would say it’s
Belfast coming out, but I’d ask you to look at Ephesians, maybe it’s just the chance of the
translation, and the words that the people picked, but still Ephesians 3:9, here’s what you’ve to
do, “And to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery.” It’s funny that it’s – I have to
look at the Greek to see what that – but, “Make all men see.” And there’s no doubt Wesley and the
others had an urgency about them, and a determination. And to some extent if you are just wishy
washy and, “Well if you want to talk about this I’ll talk about it.” In a way you’ll probably get
nowhere just as you’d get nowhere if you tackled selling the jewelry that way.
You have to go with some determination, and some commitment, and some real conviction in your own
heart that this is – this will change their lives, this will make a difference– even if it doesn’t
change their lives it’s good news. It’s good news that they ought to hear, and we ought to give it
to them because it’s true. And whether they just laugh at it, or rejoice in it, or whether they
make a mess of it, that is not our concern. Our concern is to present the good news, to tell them,
“Here is some good news,” and you don’t even need to use the word good news. They just need to see
that there is a brighter side to life than what appears here in this fallen world that has ignored
its Creator and its Savior. So that is what we’re to do.
Now deal with the other issue, is this not just for Christians? “I mean wait a minute, I swear my
way through each day, and you say I’m in Christ? I use Christ’s name as a swear word.” 2
Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died
for all; therefore all have died.” That’s all, that’s not just the Christians, it’s not just the
Jews, it’s not just the Gentiles, it’s everybody. We are convinced that one has died for all,
therefore all have died.
But as well, John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that
was made.” And Colossians 1:18, “All things in him hold together,” everything. It’s not just the
Christians, it’s all. And each person has been made in Christ and Christ has died for all therefore
all have died, and so they too have died with Christ, and they have been raised in him, and they
have within them Christ, and all his power and his life that can now be manifested in their lives.
And so, what you’re saying to them there, and Colossians 3:3 is, “You have died and your life is hid
with Christ in God”, and all that you are up to the moment has been destroyed there and has been
made new. And that’s reality, and you actually at this moment are in Jesus and you’ve been changed
by him completely. And you in this life have two lives that are available to you. You can continue
to live the life that you’re living as if you were not in Jesus, and as if you had not been
crucified with him, and as if you had not been raised with him, and as if you were not sitting at
the right hand of God, or you can believe the reality and your life changes. But that’s the good
news, and it’s news that makes sense to them.
If you say to me, “Well what about the whole normal presentation of the gospel to convince them that
they’re sinners and that they need to have their sins forgiven?” Well it seems to me that that is
pretty meaningless to most of them these days. First of all, they’re against you because you’re
using an old fashioned word sin, and they’re against you because they don’t understand what real sin
is, that real sin is living as if this isn’t true. They think you’re trying to say, they’re
immoral, or they’re not as good people as you are. And so it seems to me, no, this is where they’re
at, this is where they are. They’re desperately lonely, they think they’re utterly unimportant and
that their lives don’t matter, and they’re fearful about today, and about the future, and they don’t
think that anybody really cares about them. And the reality is that our dear Father and his beloved
Son is bearing them inside themselves every moment. And every moment, as they are living in that
desperate loneliness, and that hopelessness, they are doing it inside the dear people that are
holding them together and our job is to tell them that, that’s our gospel. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we would ask you for the anointing of your Holy Spirit so that we may, during these
days that you have given us, explain your heart to our brothers and sisters. Lord, we pray that you
will so fill our own spirits, and our own minds, and our souls, and our wills with you, that the
reality of all of this will bubble out from us at those odd moments when others can receive it in a
natural and an easy way. So Lord, we pray that you will now enable us to breakthrough this dreadful
curtain of darkness that Satan has drawn between your children and the children of this world, and
that you will breakthrough into their hearts, and that they may open up their eyes and hear the good
news, and see the beauty and the wonder of the person who has made them. So Lord, we ask you to use
us for your glory and to lift our brothers and sisters out of the dreadful darkness and loneliness
in which they live and into the brightness of your presence. 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 evermore.
Religious People and 2nd Class Citizens - EPHESIANS
Religious People and 2nd Class Citizens
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Those two lines in the Wesley hymn, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensively made man.”
That’s usually thought of as a mystery. How could you squeeze a whole infinite God into a little
baby like that? And many of us thought, “Yeah that is a mystery and it’s remarkable,” but of course
what we’ve been seeing is that that’s not half of it even.
The mystery is much deeper than that, and in a way you can find it back in Genesis if you look at
it. In Genesis 3:2 because that is where in a sense the mystery starts, here on earth. Genesis 3:2
and you remember it’s Eve speaking and she says, “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the
fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is
in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
And there is the mystery in that first sentence of Eve’s. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may
eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden,” and just briefly speaking that is free will. That God
said, “You can do what you want, you can do what you want.” But when you think of it for a moment
of course he knew what the trees were, and he knew there was a tree of good and evil, and it was his
will that we would know good by doing it, and we would know evil just as being the opposite of good.
But never the less he did say, “You can eat of even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,”
and I know it’s unthinkable to us, but it’s what God said.
“You may do evil if you want,” you may do evil if you want, and the mystery is that God foresaw the
evil that each of us would do, and that’s why he created us inside his own Son so that we wouldn’t
be lost even if we did it, and we wouldn’t destroy ourselves before we had a chance to know him. So
God foresaw everything. We have a friend whose daughter I believe it was, was married and had three
dear children and we used to hear about them, the funny things that they would do. Little Irish
children, and it was a very happy marriage, and then they decided they’d move to a different house
and so they found a house, and they made a deal on it, and they were planning to move in the next
day. And he came home and said, “I’m not going to move in with you, in fact I’m going to leave you.
I have a wife and a child on the other side of town, and I’m going to live with them.” And then the
lady discovered that he had another wife and child in England. God foresaw that, and that happened
inside his dear Son because it was as we said at the beginning of the service it was through Jesus
that everything was made, and without him was not anything made that was made. And then indeed in
Colossians it says that all things hold together inside Jesus, and so all that took place inside
Christ, and that is because our Father did not make us as we’ve often said, “Silly little animals or
little inanimate objects that he could play with, but he made us as part of his own Son, part of
Jesus, and he has not only foreseen everything that we would do, every action that we would take,
every person we would hurt, but he himself has taken the hurt, he has received the hurt in the other
person and even more than that he has been inside us bearing the strain of being forced to do
something that he didn’t want to do because we wanted to do it. And that’s the mystery that Christ
is in each one of us, and we are in him, and we are still in him, and he is still holding us within
himself and hugging us to his Father even as we do these things.”
And that is part of that mystery and of course the incredible thing is that in the midst of that God
himself has acted and he has neutralized the effects of our actions. Our actions would be far more
disastrous than they are, far more disastrous, there would be no world left if God had let us go on
with our actions, but he has born them in pain of those actions. That’s the sense in which he has
born our sins, he has actually born the pain and filtered through to us and to the people who suffer
the results of our actions, he has filtered through to them as much pain as they’re able to bear so
that there’s no trial come upon any of us of what we’re able to bear, but with the trial has come
even a way of deliverance that he himself has wrought inside his Son Jesus.
And so it begins to come home to you that of course Jesus was not just incarnate in 6 BC, Jesus was
incarnate when he was born of God, when he was begotten, he was begotten by his Father as humanity,
as all the human beings in the world, and so that’s when God became incarnate. I know it it’s
another part of the mystery, it’s almost bewildering to us how can God be God and yet be human as
well? But in Jesus that’s what he is, God is part of us, and we are part of him. And so that’s
part of the great mystery, and the other part is what I’ve begun to mention that God counteracted
all the actions and attitudes and the things that we have done through our lives, he counteracted
them in Jesus and that’s part of the meaning of that verse, God really commended his love towards us
and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and even when we were dead in our sins God
raised us up and made us alive together with Christ.
And so God counteracted all the actions of our attitudes and our lives in his Son Jesus, and made
them bearable by burying them himself, and so that’s all part of the mystery, and that’s what Paul
is saying, you remember in Ephesians if you look at it. That’s what he’s talking about when he
talks about this secret that was hidden because of course the Jews didn’t know that about the
Messiah they always thought of the Messiah as a national military leader who would lead them into
political freedom. They never saw him as someone who existed from the beginning of the world, and
in whom all men and women were created.
So that’s why Paul say’s in Ephesians 3:1, you remember, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for
Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that
was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written
briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not
made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles
and prophets by the Spirit; that is how the Gentiles,” you Gentiles, “Are fellow heirs,” it was not
just Jews that were in this Messiah, but you Gentiles were created in him all things were made
through him and without him was not anything was made. How the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members
of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, and that’s what we
caught up with last time here, last Sunday here in London. That all of us had been made in Jesus
and had been changed in Jesus, and had been lifted up and made part of God in Jesus, and so every
Gentile is in Christ even if he doesn’t know it.
Of course what we’ve finished saying was, every one of our customers is too. They are not second
class citizens, they’re not the non-Christians we witness to, they are people who are part of Christ
even though they don’t know it. And they are in him, and he is bearing them every day.
You know, when we meet somebody rather unpleasant not just with bad breath but somebody who swears
and is filled with anger or hatred we can separate ourselves from that little respite, move to the
next room or move to another table in the restaurant, but Christ can’t. He is stuck with it really
and so that’s part of the reality of it that God lives. We say, “You have to live with your
mistakes,” except that it wasn’t a mistake for him, he knew as he made us and gave us freedom of
will that he would have to live with that, and that’s some love really.
So we come to next verse in Ephesians 3 and Paul is going on and he says, “Of this gospel,” this is
the gospel that he’s just preached, that each one of us is just in Jesus and each one of us has been
born by him and made new in him. “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of
God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am very least of all
the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and
to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;”
and just as Paul said that about himself of course in a smaller infinitesimal way is true of us. Of
this gospel we have been made ministers according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to us
by the working of his power.
And I think I’ve said to you several times that we probably don’t realize the unbelievable
opportunity God has given us. I used to think I was saying to I think Marty the other day, I used
to think other people are going to see this, other people are going to do it, other people are going
express it. And I thought of course there are most people must or many people must see this. And
they will share it, and at last I’ve realized, no, no there are not many that seem to have seen it
and there are fewer that seem to share it and few have the unbelievable ability we have to share it
with the people who don’t for a moment suspect it, the people who don’t go to church, the people who
don’t want to be with religious people, the people who think it’s all foolishness. Those are the
people that God has called us to be ministers to, and he has fitted us for it.
There is just no other church that can buy space on the underground in London, I mean there are but
they don’t do it, and relatively few of them are capable of doing it. There just aren’t churches
that have people going around meeting ordinary people in everyday life as you are, the customers.
And so we may think, “Ah, were a pathetic little bunch, we are, we are a pathetic little bunch and
we’re a pitiful, pitifully small little bunch, but we are Gods little bunch, and he has given us the
opportunity to be the ministers of this gospel to people who do not know it.” And it’s to make
known a mystery that has been hidden from before the beginning of the world.
You know nobody really believes that, you know people don’t think, “Made in Jesus, in Jesus you mean
the Christ of God, you mean the Jesus that the Archbishop of Canterbury talks about? You mean the
one who we see in stain glass windows? Oh I’m part of him, Oh yeah, yeah I’m part him.” They know,
they’re sure that is somebody they aren’t part of they are absolutely sure of that. And you can see
the irony of it, that that’s the very person of whom they are part, they are part of Jesus and Jesus
bears their sin not only has born their sin but bears their sin moment by moment, and day by day.
And it’s him that they wonder at times, “Oh where did that come from? I didn’t know I had it in me,
Ah oh that was a nice thought,” and of course it’s Jesus within them that has produced that thought.
They wonder why they have a good time at times at Christmas, they wonder why they have this
generous feeling, why they somehow do feel loving towards everybody at Christmas, and that’s because
the baby’s inside them. But they don’t know that at all, and so that’s the gospel that God has
entrusted us with, and that’s what we have to do in every way we can on the old websites.
Every way we can do it, every image we can use, every different kind of language we can use, every
illustration we can get from movies, whatever we need to do we need to express that in a way that
enables people to see the wonder of it. You know it would transform. You can think of so many
pathetic things today I’m afraid, but do you remember the little guy, the little guy that fell off
the train and he was trying to get from France to England, you remember, and he was in that camp
that the French have for the immigrants.
And he was from somewhere Middle East, you remember, and got on the train, fell off it, you
remember. And was all shattered his face and everything and the other little guy that was with him
was called Mamoo and he was shattered too and I mean they were absolutely fell off the train when it
was going at 70 miles an hour and something like that. And they were just utterly wounded and
bleeding, and taken to the hospital, and one visited the other, you remember, the next day and the
fellow was all in bandages, and they had only met each other casually a week previously when they
were both running away, and one says to the other, “Mamoo, is that you?”
Couldn’t see him through the bandages whether it was him. And so that little guy was in Jesus,
hasn’t a clue, wouldn’t believe it for a moment. But what a change if he knew. What a change if he
knew reality, it’s not just if he knew, oh yeah if he thought like that it would be nice or if he
could imagine this how it would help him a lot. No, no he is in Jesus, Jesus knows him. He was
made in Jesus, Jesus bore every error that he ever committed. Jesus bore every insult that he has
ever been given, so he is in Jesus. What a change it would make, even if he was to die the next
minute, so that’s part of the mystery and part of the glory.
Of course it’s for us all pragmatic people, the purpose of it is a bit strange and then Paul comes
to that because we always think, oh yeah the purpose of this is so that the people will be happy, so
that Mamoo will be happy, and the purpose is to do each other good and to make the world a better
place. No, it isn’t, no. Verse 9, “And to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden
for ages in God who created all things;” why?
Verse 10, that the world may be a better place that we may be happier people, no. “That through the
church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the
heavenly places.” And in a way at first it seems very abstract and then it gradually brings you
freedom, because the purpose of it all is so that all the powers in heaven and earth will see the
kindly mercy of our Father.
As we see the body of Jesus, the church entering into the reality of all these things, as we see the
members of Jesus body the church coming against difficulties in their lives, and realizing this also
has been born by Jesus, has been overcome by him, and God my God foresaw this would happen to me.
So whether it’s a flat on the freeway or whether it’s cancer in the body, this has been overcome and
I am at peace and rest. Then the principalities and powers look down to see this cowering timid
little creature scared and fearful, and disappointed in the failure of Gods world and instead they
see this joyful person who is absolutely at peace, because they know the truth, that God foresaw all
these things and has solved them and has resolved them, and will bring them through into triumphant
and victorious life.
And that’s interesting isn’t it that that’s the purpose of it? The purpose of it is not primarily
earthly so that we’ll be happier people, or so that the world will be a better place. The purpose
is beyond that, it is to set forth the whole kindly mercy and foresight and graciousness of our
Father in making little human beings whom he let do whatever they wanted to do inside him and yet
bore it and endured it, and brought them through into victory despite it, and so that’s the purpose
It’s a purpose way beyond this world, it’s so that the church, Jesus body, will enter in this life
into the victory of that situation. And so really it happens every morning we waken up, and you
feel the pain in your right leg or you taste the taste in your mouth or you think of that person I
have to see today, or you think of that financial difficulty that you’re going to hit whether you
like it or not. And then at that moment you look up and you see, not only this too shall pass but
this has passed Lord. You have born this, and you have taken the sting out of it in Jesus, and you
have already foreseen the answer to this, and you have it for me and it will be an answer that will
It may not the answer that I want or that I think is necessary, but it will be the real answer that
you see is needed, and so Lord thank you. So let’s go and get it, and that’s it, and the
principalities and powers look down and see that, and glorify the Father. Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we thank you for being the God whose heart is most wonderfully kind. We thank you
father, that you feel everything, and not only feel it all, that because you have planned for us to
be your children. You have a work around for each situation, you have brought about a solution and
foreseen a deliverance in every situation so that instead of worrying and fretting we are able to
recline in your arms and rest in the certainty that our loving father is taking care of things.
Review 2:The Mystery of Christ Revealed - EPHESIANS
Review 2: The Mystery of Christ Revealed
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let’s turn in our Bible to 2 Corinthians 5:14. Well known verses to us, but they’re applicable
today to the study. 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are
convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who
live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From
now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ
from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is
a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who
through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in
Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and
entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his
appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made
him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Amen.
We’re studying Ephesians and what I’m trying to do is synchronize us so you’ll excuse some
accelerated exiguous these days. The verse that we’ve reached is Ephesians 3:14 and I’ve not very
graciously dragged London together with Raleigh so that we’re both more or less on 14, so Ephesians
3:14 runs like this, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” For this reason I bow my
knees before the Father; for what reason? Well, if you look back to 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul,
a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles,” then a dash and that’s probably rightly
interpreted as a parenthesis of Paul’s where he’s talking about his particular stewardship to this
particular group of people and then he repeats it in 14, “For this reason I bow my knees.”
Now let’s go back to the first this reason therefore, in 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner
for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles,” he’s talking about the Gentiles and the reason is there
in the previous chapter if you just go back to 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and
sojourners,” you Gentiles, “But you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household
of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the
cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the
Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” For this
reason I bow my knees to the Father.
Really, it’s a lesson on how we think of our business associates. That’s really what it is, because
Paul is talking here not to Jews, not to God’s own people, not to God’s well known children, but
he’s talking to the Gentiles, the people who are regarded as outside the fence, the people who are
regarded as not Christians, as not children of God. And he’s saying, “For this reason I bow my
knees to the Father, because you are part of God, the same as we are.” Now how do you prove that?
Well, it’s not too difficult and we know it ourselves. I think John 1:3 is very definite, the word,
“All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”
That includes the person that you don’t enjoy doing business with very much. Irritable, or using
bad language, or bad tempered, or utterly selfish, or obviously greedy, or acquisitive, or
preoccupied with getting as much money as they can, that person is one of the things that were made
by Christ. All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made. It
doesn’t matter what they’re like, they were made by Christ. And you remember how strongly that’s
brought out in those Colossians verses, Colossians 1:15 where it talks about Jesus as the very image
of God himself and the first-born of all creation. And just look at it again because it is so
strong and is so refreshing really in the way we think of other people.
Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him
all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions
or principalities or authorities,” or dictators, or hateful people, or angry people, or selfish
people, or unpleasant people, “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all
things, and in him all things hold together.” And that I think is hard for us to grasp, that the
person who was nasty to us last week was nasty to us by the strength of Christ’s life. Christ
continued to hold that person together as they were nasty to you. Christ continued to hold together
the Roman soldiers as they pushed a spear into his side. In him all things hold together and all
things were made through him and were made for him.”
So there is no one on the other side of the tracks for Jesus, and there is no one on the other side
of the tracks for any who are made in him and by him and are his children, and that’s what these
verses bring out. And there’s a verse in Romans 8:29 that really puts the whole truth right in the
middle of old Einstein’s infinity and eternity. Romans 8:29, it follows that famous Romans 8:28,
“All things work together for good.” And then in 29, “For those whom he foreknew he also
predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among
many brethren.” And God who foreknew what Hitler would do, who foreknew what that person that you
don’t like would be, he predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son in order that he
might be the first-born among many brethren.
So God foresaw what they all would do. He foresaw what they would choose, what choices they would
make and he predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son, somehow to bring them into
conformity to his Son. It’s not for us to say how God will bring that about, but he undoubtedly did
that. He determinedly looked at them and saw in them the murders they would do, and the wrong
choices they would make, and yet he still predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
He made them so they could be made like Jesus and he thinks of them that way. And that’s why of
course Paul says that wild thing in 2 Corinthians 5 that we read, just almost uninterpretable
really, in the light of our normal attitude to things.
2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died
for all; therefore all have died.” And unless you just ignore it completely, you have to make some
sense of it. You have to say, “Well, that’s a plain statement, we were all made in Christ, we are
held together in Christ, and when Christ died we all died, all,” and you can’t get rid of the all.
It’s just so strongly there, all died, and if Christ died for all then all died. And what we do of
course, you know is we all say, “Oh well yes, you know, in a kind of way that’s true. Christ died
symbolically to represent all of us, you see, he’s the goat and we put all our sins,” and back to
the old thing, the substitution not the representative. But this is presenting him as the
This says so strongly, Christ died for all not so that all would not have to die, but when he died
all of us were in him and we died with him. So Christ died for all. However, it appears that they
are like today, they died with Christ and they are people that Christ has borne inside himself. He
has borne their sins, he has borne all the things they did inside him, he’s borne their hatred and
their anger, he’s been forced to put his hand out and hurt someone within whom he himself lives. So
he was forced to hurt himself in a sense, by these very people, but yet he holds onto them and they
die and are resurrected and made new with him. And he sees them that way and that’s the way they’ll
be until – well, that’s not our place.
We don’t know. Barth is baffled he says, “Perhaps just before the abyss they will turn.” But he’s
driven like the rest of us to avoid universalism and yet driven by the verses of scripture to see
that God holds onto his children to the very end it seems. And certainly, that all have died
because Christ has died and it’s because of that that Paul says the things he says. You remember,
in Ephesians 2:1, he begins the whole presentation, “And you he made alive, when you were dead
through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,” when you were dead.
So many of us think, well, look at them, they’re dead, they’re dead in their sins, they have no
feeling for God, they have no respect for him, they curse him. But that’s when God made them alive,
“When you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course
of this world, following the prince of the power of the air.” These people care nothing about
religion. They care nothing about humanity. They’re driven by the powers of the air. Yes, but it
is while they were doing that that he made them alive, “Following the prince of the power of the
air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in
the passions of our flesh.”
“But God,” in Verse 4, “Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even
when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been
saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in
Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is
the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
And you can almost see him reaching out his arms to them and saying, “We are God’s workmanship
created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in
them.” And he’s saying, “We, we together died with Christ and were raised in him,” and that seems
to be the attitude.
It seems to be God’s own attitude. His attitude doesn’t seem to be, “When you’ve changed, when
you’ve turned, when you’ve become what I want you to be, then I’m prepared to be concerned with
you.” His attitude is, “I love you. I have you in my Son. We’ve borne all that you’ve been over
these years. Come, we’re here together.” And you know, just look at it in that verse that we read
in the New Testament lesson 2 Corinthians 5. It’s the whole spirit of those verses. 2 Corinthians
5:16, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” We don’t look at them
as to what they appear like, what they seem to be, “Even though we once regarded Christ from a human
point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new
creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through
Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God
was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to
us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through
us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” But that’s the spirit.
Not thinking of them as non-Christians that we have to pray for that they’ll come into the light
like us. But dear people, who are made in Jesus and whom Jesus still bears within himself. Dear
people who have died with Christ and have been raised with him and we are saying, “Come, be
reconciled to God.” We’re treating them as people who have experienced what we’ve experienced. And
you know, I’ve said it once before, which do you think is most likely to bring them in? You
standing off praying for them, trying to share your Bible with them and some verses, and slip them a
track and hoping that they see truth? Or, you embracing them as dear friends who are in the same
Savior as ourselves and gradually they begin to sense that, that you accept them and you really seem
to accept them almost more than their mother, or their father, or their brother, or their sister,
all of whom have some judgmentalism in them, but you don’t seem to have any and they can’t
understand it, but they kind of feel it’s nice and it seems right.
And, “I wonder what this person really thinks? They seem to be to be quite serious and what they
say and their attitude certainly is what I’d like it to be. I would like there to be a God
somewhere who is thinking of us, and who is kind, and who looks after us, and cares about us. And
I’d like – I’d like to think that and that’s the kind of world I dream of. Hmm, well maybe I should
start thinking that way a bit.” Of course, of course, of course, they’ll come more readily. But
you might be pulling somebody in who ought not to be in. You might be pulling a goat into the sheep
fold who shouldn’t be in, and we’re burdened with that, we’re burdened with settling their eternal
destiny and making sure that we know whether they are justified in coming into heaven.
That isn’t our place at all. Jesus said plainly that even he didn’t know the times and certainly we
are not only ignorant of the times, but we are not fitted to be the judges of the people. And I
still remember that verse, I can’t remember where it is, but it’s in Romans and I remember coming
across it and the Greek gives – when you go to the original Greek it comes out very clearly, that
this is not a time for condemnation, this is a time for the grace of life. And whatever we do these
days, it’s not the time for judging, it’s not the time for condemning. We’re not called upon to
sort out that – what is an impossible task.
I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end, only God does. But it’s very plain that the verses
of scripture imply that it’s not just the Jews, but the Gentiles also, and it’s not just the
Christian Gentiles, it’s the people who are not thought of as Christians, that they also were
included in Christ and they will not be lost because they weren’t included in Christ. We don’t know
if they can be lost because they eventually die in unbelief, but they certainly won’t be lost
because they’re not included in Christ and our responsibility and our attitude to them is based on
the present moment.
We are not called upon to behave to them as if they’re condemnation has already been settled and as
if hell had already opened up. We are called upon to treat them as they are at this moment and even
God himself, when they were dead in their trespasses and sins made them alive and raised them up,
and his Son Jesus bore them even while they were crucifying him.
So, I’d just ask you what is your attitude to your customers and to the people that you meet
day-by-day and I would say that I certainly have been tinged for a long time with the normal
attitude of religious people and Christian people, and it is that those people do not believe in the
same things as we do and do not think the same way as we do, and we must pray for them that they
will think the same things as we do. And all the while, God looks upon them as a precious part of
his dear Son and longs for them to know that they also have been crucified with him and have been
raised, and now sit at his right hand and he wants them to enjoy that place, and to come into that
revelation. They’ll do it a lot easier if we believe for them and we think that way about them.
Let us pray.
Covenant Service: Ministers of Reconciliation - EPHESIANS
Covenant Service: Ministers of Reconciliation
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
And will you take a Bible please and turn to 2 Corinthians piece that we know well, but it is part
of what I think God wants to say to us this morning. 2 Corinthians 5:16, “From now on, therefore,
we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point
of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ
reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was
reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us
the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of
Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God.” May God help us to do that in our lives, amen.
Get a Bible please and turn to Ephesians and we’re together at last on verse 14. Ephesians 3:14,
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is
named,” and some of the manuscripts have a Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “For this reason I bow
my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth
is named,” and that’s the Simpsons, and everybody, and all the families that we know, all the
strangest people in the world.
The ones that are furthest in our minds away from God. Every family and in heaven and on earth is
named from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we know in what a real way that is true,
because Jesus is the one in whom all things were created, and in whom all things hold together. So
you and I know that even the person who is furthest from God in our minds and in their own minds if
you could think of that person, we can all think of certain people that seem miles away from any
kind of religion, that person holds together in Jesus, Jesus holds that person together.
And that’s why I wanted you to read that 2 Corinthians 5, “from now on, we regard no one from a
human point of view,” and that’s actually our contribution. We think our contribution is we’ve said
it before, somehow getting them into conversation about God. Somehow getting them to read “Mere
Christianity”, I’m not saying those are bad things, but we have tended to think that’s our main
task, our main task is to regard them no longer from a human point of view but to see them as people
in whom Jesus lives, and people who are held together by Jesus. They don’t see themselves that way.
Nobody else sees them that way, you’re the only one who can have faith, and you’re the only one who
can see them as they really are, that’s our contribution. That’s why he says, Paul say’s, “For this
reason, I bow my knees to the Father,” that’s the best thing we can do. Actually it’s about the
only thing that we can do, to bow our knees before the Father from whom every family on earth is
named and to see them in Jesus, in reality.
Please I urge you not to try to imagine them, not to play games, not to practice the power of
positive thinking, not to say what the little guy said, “What is faith?” you know it’s believing
what you know isn’t true. Not having that attitude, not having the attitude well I know they
haven’t a clue about God, they have no interest in him, but let me see I’ll try to see them in
Jesus. No, no, either God’s word is true, or it’s not true.
If it is true then they are in Christ, and Christ is holding them together, and that’s reality.
They don’t know that, they don’t believe that, they’re not living in the benefits of it, but that is
reality according to God’s word, Jesus has died for all, therefore all have died. And we know that
if we’ve died with Christ then we’ll be raised up with him, and we know that if anyone is in Christ
he a new creation and they are in Christ because they were created in Christ, and they hold together
in Christ. So there’s no way you can get out of the sheer simple fact that when your thinking of
anyone else in this earth your thinking of someone who is in Jesus, and whose sins Jesus is bearing
at that very moment, and who is being held by it, together by him, and is being kept alive by the
All we can do, all, the greatest thing we can do is to see them as they really and truly are. To
see them as they are. I thought of that as usual late one night, or early one morning and I thought
so then they’re coming at you with a gun, and you keep saying, “I believe in Jesus, I believe they
are in Jesus, I believe they are in Jesus.” No, no, they may not believe in Jesus, but they might
not be acting in reality, so no you do the sensible thing. Sure you’re not stupid, we’re not
playing games. There are times when you to have to look after your money, yeah. You don’t go on
and say, “This guy’s a robber, he’ll take all my money but I have to believe as in Jesus,” no. He
doesn’t believe that so he may not act according to that, it’s not a game, you see.
I think we often think it’s a game, I think we often think it’s some kind of game where well if we
treat them, you know, as if their different from what they are, then they’ll be, no they may not be.
That’s not the issue, the issue is that they are in Christ, and you have to see them assuredly in
Christ. You have not to be stupid in your practical everyday life. You know fine well that they
may not believe that and they may not act in accordance with that and even God himself cannot force
them to. And he cannot force upon them grace that they will not receive, and he cannot, he cannot
deliver you from things that he would have to overrule their wills in order to do. No, but in your
heart and in your mind and in your whole attitude to them and most of all for this cause I bow my
knees before the Father.
That’s the place where you see them as they are, that’s the place where you think of them before God
and you see them in Jesus, and you see God as having his arms around about them, and you see them
there in the presence of God. That’s praying and that’s having faith for them, and that God is able
to bless to them. I don’t know if you’ve got what kind of theory you have for Jesus intersession,
but obviously Jesus intercedes before the Father for all of us, for all the saints, and for all
people. Jesus is interceding at this moment before the Father, but his intersession seems to only
have power on earth when he in somebody in this world is able to exercise their free will alongside
his and his Fathers will.
And when those two things come together then there is power of the Spirit that works to bring
revelation in the other person. But some will here, and of course we’re talking about our wills,
some will here has to exercise itself right alongside the will of Christ, and the will of his
Father, and then the Father is able to manifest reality and manifest it vividly to that person. So
the only thing we can really do is for this cause I bow my knees before the Father, but you know
that you and I have a tendency to say, “Oh yeah, yeah well the only thing we can do is pray, you
know, that’s about it. That’s about all we can do for that person, pray, and that’s our attitude.
Prayer is kind of okay, you’re really better if you can witness to them, you’re really better if you
can get them to read the right book but, you know, if can’t do any of those things then you better
pray for them. Paul puts it all the other way around he says, “For this cause I preach to you for
this reason I travel miles to see you, for this reason I write all kinds of letters to you,” No, he
says for this reason I bow my knees before the Father, it’s the greatest thing you can do, because
no one else is exercising the faith of Christ for them. No one else is seeing them as they really
And of course you have some idea of the power of that when you think of the difference between your
quiet time before God and the chaos out on the freeway when you’re going only 65 miles an hour, but
when you’re driving fast, or when you’re in the midst of a crowd in a restaurant or a coffee shop,
you know the difference, huge difference between the quietness in God’s presence and the chaos out
there. And what you’re doing when you bow your knees before the Father is seeing things as they
really are, and in some way God’s Spirit uses that to build up reality around that person.
It may only be a moment, for a moment that they see the reality but God uses that to build up
reality and things as they really are around that person. No other time do they see anything
verging on reality, and you know that of course, you know that most of the people we know they don’t
see themselves in Christ, they would laugh at it. That’s the point that Satan brings about in this
world, he has brought them to the place where the actual reality, things as they really are most of
the world laughs at, and thinks in Christ I don’t care about Christ I am not in Christ, I’d be the
last one to be anywhere near God, I’m so different, I’m so poor, I’m so pathetic.
So people don’t see reality as it is, and so when you bow your knees before the Father and you see
them, yeah, yeah, don’t have to pray a whole lot of things for them, you know we really wear
ourselves out often praying for all the things that we think they need. We don’t need to wear
ourselves out with all kinds of little prayers we just need to see them, think of them in Jesus, and
think of the way Jesus thinks of them, and the way God thinks of them, think of reality that’s it.
You don’t have to even imagine all kinds of things, the streets of gold and the New Jerusalem, you
just have to think of things, think as they really are. Now wait a minute, start with somebody you
know, your dad, so my dad is held together by Jesus everything in him, every little atom of his body
is held together in Jesus, and Lord Jesus you see him and your eyes are upon him, and you know him.
And dear Father, you, you have him in your arms, you have loved him from the very beginning, you
just think of the person and you think of your dear Father, and your dear savior, and you bow your
knees before the Father, and you are probably the only person seeing that one that your praying for
as they really are.
And that’s what we have to do, and that’s why God has said also in that verse, that we are ministers
of reconciliation, and not just that we’re beseeching you as Paul says, be reconciled to God,
because in fact of course that’s what we’re really doing when we say to a person in the store,
“Well, you know, there’s somebody in charge of this besides us thank goodness,” and they say, “Oh
yes, Blair.” Well yeah, but there’s somebody even better than him, you know, I mean there is
somebody up there, some people call him the person up there but he’s there and he’s holding the
thing together otherwise you know it would have blown it apart.
And they say, “Yeah, yeah there must be somebody.” That’s beginning to be reconciled to God, that’s
beginning to say, “I beseech you, be reconciled to God.” That’s the beginning of saying, “Well you
know there is someone who cares about you.” And you need to get together with him, and bit by bit
you can move on into that kind of thing, but that’s what God has called us to, to be ministers of
reconciliation, to be people who say, “You know our Father has made all things right, and he has
actually foresaw all that would happen to you. And he has it all organized, you know if our
computers can do it you bet you that the creator of the world can do it. And he does, and really
everything is ready we only need to agree to it, and need to see that it’s true and it will begin to
be real in our lives,” that’s being reconciled to God.
We have to beseech them in every way we can to be reconciled to God, but that the love that they
sense I would say even in the fellow, you remember, that ran the drug ministry in New York, David
Wilkerson. I would say that’s what got over to the little guy that he first met, you remember, when
he said, “Jesus loves you.” I would say the little guy wasn’t just impressed with it, “Oh Jesus
loves, oh so I’ll start,” he was cutting the button of his coat I believe at that moment. Oh I’ll
stop threatening you with my knife, he knew that was something true and real behind that because
Wilkerson was before the Father on his knees, and so those words came home as truth and reality to
the fellow, who was it? Nick Cruz, yes, it came home to Cruz as reality not because of the words
spoken by Wilkerson up in some ally in New York, but because of the prayers that Wilkerson had
prayed not necessarily just for Cruz but for the people that he was, that he knew he would meet on
the streets of New York as he stopped you remember.
He stopped watching television and started to go to New York and visit the back allies and so forth.
And it comes from being before the Father on your knees in prayer. Then the customer knows that
you’re not just throwing off a couple of quick comments. They know this person has actually thought
about me, they’ve thought about me. So that’s why the greatest thing, indeed really the only thing
we can do is for this cause I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family and every nation
on earth has been named, that God owns them all. They all belong to him, they all kept alive from
him, and he wants us to see them in reality.
So that’s what it is, it’s very easy, it’s just seeing people as they really are. It’s not playing
games, it’s not playing tricks with your imagination, it’s not doing all kinds of trickery in verbal
witnessing, its seeing things as they are and treating people as they really are. And of course
that does obviously mean seeing them better then they appear at this present moment, but not seeing
them better than they really are in Jesus, seeing them just as they are in Jesus.
So that’s what we’re about and that’s what we’re about in the websites, in the newsletter, and the
scanning of the books, and all that we do. We’re actually endeavoring to keep our eyes on reality
to see it plainly and clearly whether we’re with people, or whether we’re on our own in our room
before Jesus. To keep seeing that, that is faith, and faith is what changes things. That is faith
is what brings eternity to earth and manifests what is, has already happened in Jesus here in the
temporal life that we have here, let us pray.
Dear Lord, thank you for such clear reality in which you’ve called us to live, and thank you Lord
that we can now make our covenant with you to live in this truth everyday of this coming year, and
we know Lord that you will bring about the results from that that glorify you in Jesus name, amen.
Let’s stand loved ones, as we begin the covenant service. And now beloved let us bind ourselves
with willing bonds to our covenant God and take the yoke of Christ upon us, this taking of his yoke
upon us means that we are heartily content that he appoint us our place and work, and that he alone
be our reward. Christ has many services to be done, some are easy, others are difficult, some bring
honor others bring reproach, some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests
others are contrary to both. In some we make please Christ and please ourselves, in others we
cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves, yet the power to do all these things is assuredly
given us in Christ who strengthenth us. Therefore let us make the covenant of God our own, let us
engage our heart to the Lord, and resolve in his strength never to go back, being thus prepared let
us now in sincere dependence on his grace, and trusting in his promises yield ourselves anew to him.
Let us repeat together, I am no longer my own, but thine, put me to what thy wilt, rank me with whom
thy wilt, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee.
Exalted for thee, or brought low for thee, let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things,
let me have nothing. I freely and heartedly yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal, and now
oh glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine so be it,
and the covenant which I have made on earth let it be ratified in heaven, amen. Let us be seated as
Christ is Alive in You - EPHESIANS
Christ Is Alive In You
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
The key to our life is being in Jesus here on earth, that’s the key to everything, to living inside
him really regarding him as the world rather than living in this world that we see and touch. And
that’s meaning really of the latter part of the verse that we began to study last Sunday, it’s
Ephesians 3:17 and we really covered to some extent as much as one can say one can cover a verse as
deep as this we covered 3:17a and 3:17a, you remember runs like this, “And that Christ may dwell in
your hearts through faith;” and then b is, “That you, being rooted and grounded in love,” that’s
what we’d think of today.
But the whole verse, you remember, comes from the fact that Paul states in verse 14 just a couple
verses above, where he says, “”For this reason I” pray, “Bow my knees before the Father, from whom
every family in heaven and on earth is named,” and then the prayer is what we’ve described before is
what one of the deepest spiritual aspirations that are expressed in the English language or is
expressed in the English language. “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to
be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your
hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love,” and in a way the most important
part of the whole prayer is the first part there in verse 16, “That according to the riches of his
glory,” and I think I’ve tried to say something of what that means the riches of his glory.
And it just gets back always of course to well I suppose you could look at it even though you know
it by heart. Ephesians 2:10, because that’s really another statement and a clearer one of the
riches of his glory, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And we share repeatedly the fact that obviously,
obviously God knew what any of us know who make anything, you know, anything we make we have a fair
idea how it will work and what it will do, and whether it’s just a piece of carpentry that we men
would make, or whether it’s a sweater that you ladies would knit. We have a fair idea what it’s
going to be like and what it will do, and what it can do.
And of course it’s obvious that our creator did not just think of Marty Poehler, and think, oh well
I’ll flip this up from this little piece of scum on the pond if that’s the way you came about.
I’ll flip this up and create it and we’ll see what it will do. Einstein says, God doesn’t create
things by the throw of a dice and its obvious to us that God doesn’t work like that, God obviously
knew what he was doing, and he determined that he would have other sons like his Son Jesus, and that
he would be able to love those sons and those daughters and they would be able to love him back.
And he didn’t suddenly find that they had little wills of their own, he didn’t suddenly say, “Ah I
never knew they would do that. I never knew that they’d want to do that kind of thing in the world
that I’ve given them. God obviously is all wise and all knowing, is absolutely omniscient and could
foresee what we would do. He saw how he made us, he knew whether we were capable of driving on the
left hand side of the road or whether we were capable of driving on the right hand side of the road,
and he knew whether we were capable of losing our temper or not losing our temper. He knew what he
had put in us, and he was aware that if we were going to ever be able to love him or share the love
that he has with his Son Jesus, he would have to give us freedom not to love if we so chose, because
only people like that could really love.
Others could be made to fear, others could be made to do what he wanted them to do, but only those
who could chose would be able to choose to love him freely, and to enjoy therefore the infinite
eternity and possibilities of love. And so when God made us all, he made us knowing that that was
so. And yet he chose to give us all that he possessed, and all that he possessed was his own son
Jesus, and that’s why he determined to make us inside his son Jesus. And that’s where we were made,
each one of us were made inside Jesus.
And really when you think of it I’ve tried to give illustrations of it before but it’s very
difficult to find one that is so astounding and so incredible as what really did happen. I think if
I had a son, could I bear to inject him with cancer, you know if you could inject with cancer, or to
inject him with some poison that would go to work inside him, and would cause him pain? And yet it
has to be that kind of illustration to bring home to us what God was doing, he was making inside his
own Son, beings who could actually even destroy his own Son. He was putting inside his own Son
germs that could choose, either to be part of his Son and to grow like him, or could choose to act
apart from his Son and to actually eat away at him from within.
And he did that because only this way could he ensure that we could exercise our free will and yet
could still remain inside his love and inside his care, and could still partake of his life and
continue to exist, and that’s what he did. And he allowed us, you have to see that it’s in eternity
in timeless space, because this time and space that we have is just God’s concession to us so that
we will be able to see what he is like, and to see what he has done, but in the eternity of timeless
and spaceless existence he created us inside his Son and allowed us to do what we wanted to do
whether we chose to reject him or to accept him. And he bore all that inside his Son, and that’s
part of the riches of his glory, that he has chosen to make beings like ourselves that are free to
tear him apart if we so choose, or to love him as he loves us, and he made that in that way, and the
riches of his glory consist of the fact that not only did he bear all that we did in Jesus, but he
accepted it and took it to himself, and experienced it himself, and still held onto us.
The only way I can see it is that as some soldier in Bagdad disemboweled a child in front of its own
father and mother, so Jesus was forced by that soldier to allow his hands to do that deed upon
himself as he dwelled in that little child, and to bear the dreadful pain of that as he looked
through the eyes of the father and mother. And watched the pain and agony of their child and Christ
himself bore all those pains and all those strains, and all the impossible agony of that, and God
himself in Christ in that way bore all that himself and reconciled the world to himself. That is
made it possible for a world that opposed him to continue to live inside him, and that is part of
the riches of his glory, that the all mighty God, the omnipotent creator of the universe would bear
all that and endure all that so that we ourselves might have a real choice, might see the world that
we have before us now might see it in all its agony and all its hatred and all its destruction and
all its lack of peace, and may see that is the way life would be if we continue to have our way.
And we would see that on the one side and we would see the world that took place in Christ and was
expressed through him in the first century of our era, a world of peace, and love, and forbearance.
A world where the God of the universe would put himself at risk at the hands of those beings that he
had created, and those are some of the riches of his glory. And Paul is praying that’s why he prays
as he does. “I pray that according to the riches of his glory,” in verse 17, “According to the
riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might, through his Spirit in the inner
That is that more and more you would be strengthened inside in your spirits so that that would
become more real, and the life that you have in me would become more real and more powerful than the
outside world and that in your inner man you would live in the world where I and my Son live. “That
Christ himself may grow inside you,” and that’s what he’s saying in verse 17a, “That Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith;” that you might receive what has really taken place in my Son.
Where you have been placed in my Son and my Son has been placed in you that Christ may dwell in you
by faith. That’s what we shared last day, you remember, that the Greek word means that Christ would
come and make his home in your hearts that Christ would take up his dwelling in your heart. Rather
than just visit from time to time, and give you moments of brightness when you know what God is, and
you know what Jesus is like, that Christ would come and dwell in your heart and that your heart
would become his home, would be filled actually with heaven. That’s really what it means, that your
heart would be filled with heaven that Christ would come and dwell in you and the emphasis is the
same as Jesus words abide in me, and I in you.
Abide, and I think Andrew Murray says, “So many people think Christ says, ‘Come, come onto me, and
then go, and preached the gospel to all nations,’” and Murray says, no, Christ says, “Come and abide
in me,” stay in me, dwell in me, make this the chief goal and the chief purpose of your life your
abiding in me. Not your doing my works, not your going out and preaching the gospel to all nations,
but the abiding in my Son, and his abiding in you. And that in that way you would be rooted and
grounded in the love that is the creation of my riches in glory. The love that I have shown, the
love that I have expressed by creating all of you with free wills so that you could destroy me if
you wanted to and the love that enables me to put myself at risk at your hands, that you would be
rooted and grounded in that love because Christ who is the heart and the soul of that love would
dwell within you.
And somebody has said that the two Greek words translated, rooted and grounded are come from
botanical life, and from architectural life, that the Greek word for root, is “rooted” it’s planted
that your rooted in Jesus. Much the same way as people have said about with John 15, that the vine
is one plant where you can’t tell where the root ends, and where the plant begins, it’s all one. It
flows into itself, and so we’re part of the vine of Jesus we’re rooted in him, we’re so inextricably
absorbed by him and part of him that you cannot tell where he ends and we begin, and so your rooted
in Jesus in an organic way.
And of course in another way your established and built up in him architecturally, your built by the
experiences that you come through day by day in your own life, your established in that love. So
you’re rooted in that love and you’re grounded and established in it, and that’s because Christ is
in us, and so the love that God has expressed in Jesus is the love that day by day is working in us.
And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the heart of that verse that faith worketh by love, or faith
works through love. And repeatedly really we’re faced with that in our everyday life because you’re
faced with either people who don’t do what you think they should do, or don’t treat you the way you
think you should be treated, or you’re faced with circumstances that aren’t going exactly as you
think they should go, and at that moment God has planned that your faith, the faith that sees that
in Jesus God has reconciled the world to himself. In Jesus God has made all things work together
for good to them that love him, in Jesus God has taken that intractable person or that intractable
set of circumstances and has reconciled them to his plan for our lives, and your faith grasps that,
and the faith works through love by your acceptance of that whole situation.
I often wondered how, how could the Quakers allow people to stone them, and to insult them, and to
beat them, and to physically mistreat them, and yet they would still bless the people in Jesus name?
And you can see that the only way they could do it was if they in fact saw that these people
themselves were under the control in a remarkable way of what God had done to them and for them in
Jesus, and that they would not do anything to them themselves that God did not allow them to do.
And they would not do anything that would spoil Gods plan for their lives, and God would take every
action of the person who was actually stoning them and insulting them and maltreating them, he would
take all those actions and he would so control them that they would not bring death to them, that
they would never in fact die because they were in Jesus.
And so the faith that they had in what God had done in Jesus to the world worked through their love
of those people, and they were able to love them with no resentment, and with no desire to control
them or manipulate them, or stop them even hurting them. And that that is part of what it means to
be rooted and grounded in the love that God has expressed and is continuing expressing through the
Savior. So it is something other than just kind of abstract terminology, it is a life that we
ourselves are called and are privileged to live moment by moment, and hour by hour as we’re rooted
and grounded in this love.
And that you might say that actually there is no power in Christianity but the power of love, but of
course so often we have thought, “Oh yes, that’s you know they see that you love them and then their
influenced by that.” Well sometimes it may appear that that’s the case, but often it appears that
their not influenced by it at all, and of course the fact is that it’s not through the effect of our
love on them that faith works. Its just faith does work through that. The power of the facts comes
home to them when you really live in the reality of the facts yourself. Then it’s simply that God’s
mighty work that he has done in Jesus is imparted to them through the Holy Spirit. But it is, it
comes home to them partly through the love that you express to them, because in a way you by your
love are expressing the reality of what has happened in Jesus, and so you in a way draw them partly
into the reality of reality by your love.
But really it’s the miracle occurs because of what God has done, but the faith works through your
love of them. So it is a holy life that he has called us to in the life of victory. Let’s pray.
Firmly Grounded in God’s Love 1 - EPHESIANS
Firmly Grounded in God’s Love 1
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
One of the things that has meant most to me through the years has been when either a theologian or
somebody else says something that takes you beyond where your own mind has been and you suddenly see
something that you know what it means but you’ve never thought out in that area at all. And old
Karl Barth is like that, he kind of surprises you at times with the things that he says. And one of
the things that he says in his early volumes is this not just you remember, what Fromke deals with
in Unto Full Stature where he says, “What did God do before the creation?” But Barth says, “Does
God know himself? Is he able to get outside himself and see himself?” And you kind of think to
yourself, “Oh, I’m lost in that one, I mean, where can you go with that.” And then he says that is
the meaning of the Word.
The Word is not just God making himself known to us through his living Son, who is the living Word,
but Jesus is God projecting himself outside himself and manifesting himself to himself and it just
is amazing. And I never thought of course, of Jesus, I always – typical of our egocentricity, you
know, I’ve always thought, “Oh Jesus is God’s Word, yes to us.” I knew there was something not
quite right about that, that the reason for Jesus must be us, that didn’t seem right but yet that
was what I thought was the meaning of Jesus being God’s word. But I never thought that it was a – I
knew it had to be, I knew God had his Son Jesus irrespective in a way of us, but I never could
understand exactly what the significance of that was and Barth says, “That is the amazing miracle
that God actually projected himself outside himself and could see himself and his Son Jesus is the
expression of him himself in infinite eternity.” And of course, what has come home to all of us is
that it gives meaning to the statement that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus,
because if Jesus is God projecting himself outside himself, then if we are made inside Jesus we have
been made inside God himself and that’s our existence.
That’s the importance of our existence and in that way, of course, you can see too that when God
conceived of his Son he conceived of him not only as a projection of himself in eternity, but he
conceived of him as the first-born of all creation. And so at that same moment, or a second after
it must have been, God conceived of the creation and of not popping it into a little Yorkshire
terriers, and little fleas, and little insects, and just little bits of stone, but projecting into
it himself, his own dear beloved Son as the first-born of all creation. Not only in other words,
did God do what Barth was referring to at the beginning, project himself outside himself in infinite
eternity but that projection of himself he made also a creation and indeed the first-born of all
creation and indeed so that Jesus would be the first-born among many brethren.
So of course, you can see the more you think of this, the more you realize how we came into being,
and what kind of creatures we are, the more you see that we are bits of God. We are bits of God you
know and infinitely, infinitely precious and eternal. Eternal and probably is the reason why the
worst human beings in this world still have some kind of a feeling that they’re valuable in some
way, or that they will go on existing in some way, and we can say of course, “Oh they’re mislead,”
and perhaps they are, we don’t know the whole story, but you can see why there’s some bit of them
that keeps on thinking, “I’m meant to live forever. I’m meant to live beyond this world,” and
however wrong they may be in their ideas of heaven and however light hearted and superficial maybe
their understanding of eternity and how to enter into eternity, yet you can see why in some way they
think that, in some way they feel that and why, even though you know, you wonder if Schweitzer
didn’t get too philosophical and too general in his idea, that all life is precious you remember, in
the leper colony that he started. He wouldn’t let them even squash a fly because all life is
precious, but you can see where that comes from.
It comes from the fact that everything is part of the first-born of all creation, part of Jesus.
And of course, that’s what Paul is getting at in Ephesians. You remember, if you look at it, what
I’d like to do is just bring us all together with Raleigh in this study of Ephesians and I apologize
to you for not getting, because I had trouble with my sound in Raleigh, not getting to you the
sermons, but that’s where Paul starts, you remember, in Ephesians 2:10, he says, “For we are his
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should
walk in them. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh,” you were once
separated but now you yourself, in 2:21, “In whom the whole structure is joined together and grows
into a holy temple of the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in
the Spirit.” And so Paul is saying, look, we were all created and Jesus and you Gentiles, you were
created in Jesus too and you’re part of him. And that’s why he goes on in 3:1, “For this reason I,
Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.”
For this reason, the reason that you also were made in Christ Jesus just as the Jews were, you were
part of Jesus and I, Paul, have been called to bring this home to you. And he says, that’s the
reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, it’s that reason you were all
made in Christ Jesus. And then he goes on in verse 13, “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am
suffering for you, which is your glory,” because your glory is that you are made in Christ Jesus.
You are part of him and so, “For this reason,” in Verse 14, “I bow my knees before the Father.” So
it’s all tied up with that and Paul says of course, really what is the glory, “Well the glory is
Christ in you. You were made in Jesus and Jesus himself is in you.”
I think in the early years the Catholic Church somehow tried to hold on to that concept. I mean, we
may all say, “Well, now when they eventually end up kind of looking rather condoningly at the mafia,
they’ve carried it too far.” Yes, but in some way the early church was brought up to sense all of
us are created in Christ Jesus and therefore in a strange way, the church and it seemed particularly
the Catholic Church or maybe the early Orthodox Churches held onto that idea, that’s where the idea
of Parrish came from. So even today in England they talk about, “Oh you’re part of this Parrish,”
in spite of the fact you’ve never been to church since you were born you know, yet you’re part of
The idea that all of creation was made in Jesus and in actual fact the church therefore is
responsible for all mankind, and that was preserved for many years and there was a good truth that
was being held onto there I thought, particularly by the Catholic Church in recent years. And then
of course, we all know how it was abused. Then they began to think the important thing is you’re a
human being, you’re part of Christ, you may not manifest it in anyway, you may not respect him, you
may not love him, you may not obey him, but you’re part of him so it all was diluted into a general
feeling of respect for you as part of the community. And of course then, the Protestant Churches
and particularly the Evangelicals went to the other extreme and they said, “No, no, we’re not all
the same. Some of us obey Jesus and believe in him and some of us don’t.” And whatever was your
origin, what is important now is your attitude to Christ.
But then you can see how that goes to the other extreme because they get preoccupied with their
little formula for determining whether a person loves Jesus or not, and they become preoccupied with
those formulae and now of course, that tends to dominate everybody’s attitude. So of course, the
people that you visit week-by-week would say, “Oh, I’m not a Christian.” I mean, some of them may
say, “Oh yeah, I’m Christian as opposed to Muslim,” but most of them will say, “I don’t know
anything about Christ. I don’t have any belief in him. I believe somewhere there’s a God but I
don’t see how I – he would have anything to do with me.” And so the problem nowadays is to convince
a person that Jesus would have any interest in them and you can see the tragedy of that.
The tragedy is that Christ is bearing them day-by-day. Christ is bearing all their sin every day.
He is bearing the pain of it, the agony of it. He is bearing the dreadful things they have in their
heads and their hearts. And so of course, you can see what our task is, it is to enable them in
every way we can, to see that. And that’s where I would point you to point you to the only way,
it’s in 14, and Paul expresses this as the height of his ministry. In Ephesians 3:14, “For this
reason,” because of all these things, because this is all true, all the things that we’ve just been
saying, “For this reason I get you more books that will explain this to you. I encourage you to
think this way so that it’ll become real in you. I try to persuade you to read more of Andrew
Murray. I try to get you to repent of your sins and to confess. I try to get you to go onto our
Internet and look at some of the things that are said there by the writers.” And you see it, none
of those things.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is
named, that according to the riches of his glory,” riches of his glory are in Christ. In Christ he
has made each one of you, he has crucified each one of you, he has raised each one of you up, “So in
my Son Jesus you have all been changed and transformed.” So, “According to the riches of my Glory
in Christ he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.”
There’s no way you can bring that about by more books, you know. There’s no way you can bring that
about by them just getting onto the website. And Paul makes it clear in the very words he uses, he
prays, “That according to the riches of his glory, God the Father, may grant you to be strengthened
with might,” “dunamis”, with all mighty supernatural power, “Through his Spirit in the inner man.”
Not in the outer soulish man where the mind and the emotions play, where people read books and think
through things, but in the inner man in the spirit deep where only God can touch that God, “May
grant you to be strengthened with might through his spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith.” And that’s the only thing that we can really do.
Do what we’re doing with the Internet, do what we’re doing with radio, because God told us to do it
not really because of what that will bring about, but because God has told us to preach the gospel
to all nations. That’s why we do that. But the work, the work that enables them to glimpse that
they are actually part of Jesus, and that what has happened to them in Jesus can be manifested
inside them, that is brought about by revelation of the Holy Spirit, and that comes about by us
praying for them. That’s the only way. And so it’s our expressing the truth plainly in the
Internet, and the radio, and the books but it’s primarily our praying for them. Our wanting and
yearning for them to realize that they are in Jesus. And of course, it ties up with us ourselves
because obviously you can only pray what you believe and you need to settle in your own heart that
these dear people that we meet day-by-day are part of our Savior and in a sense part of us and he is
bearing day-by-day all their sin, and all their sickness, all their errors, and all their harshness
and their hardness, all their indifference to him and we need to love them into him in our own
hearts and our prayers. And of course, that’s really where we finished I think last day that the
only way that that can come about is if verse 17a comes about, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts
The word “dwell” is take up his abode. Not just come in but come and stay, come and dwell, “That
Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” that he may find himself at home in your hearts
through faith. And that means that we ourselves would think and feel things that Christ himself
would be comfortable with. And I don’t know about you, but I do think all of us have that
experience. We come to the end of a day and we think, “I’ve been so occupied with the business,
I’ve been so occupied with getting that car around the corners, I’ve been so preoccupied with all
the things that I’ve been trying to remember to do Christ never entered my head.” And so far from
living in Jesus’ presence moment-by-moment, there are times when you haven’t thought of him even,
let alone lived beside him. And I don’t know loved ones, it seems to me that’s the key to it and it
seems to me that’s the key.
I think when you walk through a store – when you walk into a store and you say, “Good morning,
Mrs.,” at that moment you you’re either utterly preoccupied with Mrs. So and So, and with making
sure you don’t trip over the step or whatever, or you’re going in saying, “Lord Jesus, Lord,” and
he’s in your heart and your head and when you’re speaking to the person you know that he’s listening
and there’s a restraint because of that. Not a restraint that you put on, not a tenderness or
sweetie sweetness that you put on so that you look like a good Christian, but just a sense that he’s
there and therefore a restraint in your voice and a kindliness that comes from that. But it seems
to me that you either walk moment-by-moment in Jesus and he is able to dwell in your heart, or he is
pushed from your heart by the hardness and harshness of the tone of your voice and your
preoccupation with the things around you.
So it does seem to me there is some relationship you know. It’s not – if you say to me, “Oh, is
that what causes it? Is that what causes them to be influenced because I have a nice tender
feeling, because I am thinking of Jesus?” No, no, no it’s done only by God. That’s why Paul prays
that God may grant you to be strengthened. This is a supernatural work that takes place by the
power of the Holy Spirit whereby God, through his Spirit, strengthens the Spirit of the person so
that they are able to see more clearly and more really and vividly the spiritual world than they are
preoccupied with the physical world around them. So it’s a mighty work of God that brings that
But in relationship to ourselves, Christ himself is at home in our hearts when we live according to
his presence. And it seems to me that’s something just worth thinking about, is he really at home
in my heart? Is he comfortable here or is this kind of an alien atmosphere to him that makes him
feel this is the last place he wants to be? So it is a great privilege we have. You can see the
connection of course, Christ in you and Christ in the other person, you can see that. You can see
there’s a consistency comes into the spiritual world when you yourself are living in Jesus’ presence
as he lives in you and then he, in the other person, is manifesting himself inside them and you can
see there’s a drawing of those two spirits together that takes place. You can see the way all of –
I suppose it’s true of the universe, that in some deep way we’re all drawn together and spirit
speaks to spirit. And indeed that’s true in 1 Corinthians somewhere, you remember, comparing
spiritual things with spiritual things and spiritual things speaking to other spiritual things. And
so there is a miracle that takes place when Christ is living and respected by you inside you and he
is also working to bring a life and awareness to the other person and those two spirits speak to
each other. So it is something holy and something miraculous. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have called us to a miraculous ministry. We thank you Lord, for
the jewelry and we thank you for some reason to be in that store, but we see Lord that once we’re in
you have us there for miraculous transactions that you alone can bring about and yet you give us the
privilege of experiencing some of it. So Lord, we come to you this morning to ask you to give us
awareness and consciousness of you and of the desires of your heart so that we may exercise our
wills in accordance with your will and you may align our spirits with yours, and with the working of
your Spirit in our friends and associates, our customers and our clients.
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 evermore. Amen.
Firmly Grounded in God’s Love 2 - EPHESIANS
Firmly Grounded in God’s Love 2
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’re tackling the last bit of that verse, loved ones, that we’ve been looking at in Ephesians 3 and
you’ll know it yourselves almost without looking it up but Ephesians 3:17, you remember. It’s part
of Paul’s prayer and he’s saying in 14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,” and then
he’s praying in verse 17, “And that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being
rooted and grounded in love,” and that’s the bit that we’re looking at today, that you being rooted
and grounded in love.
And I was looking at one of the trees that have fallen over in Raleigh. They are pine trees and
they appear to have very shallow roots, they seem to splay out to the side, but when those trees go
over you see the extent of the root system and it is remarkable how tree roots entwine inside
themselves for one thing, and then stretch out into all kinds of places in the earth and hold the
tree. And of course it’s even greater the root system in other trees rather than pine trees, but
they’re very, very strong and very complicated.
And I was looking at it because I was thinking, “How would we get rid of it you always have to pay
so much to get somebody to remove those trees that have tipped over?” And I was working out how I
would cut and I saw that I’d have to cut at a number of places just to disentangle the roots from
each other, and then they were tangled through other things to that belonged to other plants. So
you can see how a root system seems to find its way into all kinds of different places in the earth
to draw up the nourishment from the earth and from the water that is in it. And it brings home to
you a little what the Greek word means “rooted” rooted in love.
What came home to me was this, how often have we looked at these hands. How often have we looked at
these fingers, and perhaps sometimes not only the ladies but the gentlemen wonder, “Well I wish they
were a different shape or I wish they were longer, or something like that.” But still we look at
those hands and fingers and we realize that there is no human being with all the skill of a highly
educated surgeon, there is no human being that can give me a hand like that. There’s just no one,
and if I lose that hand the artificial attachment that human surgeons put on is crude and gruesome
compared with the beauty of this hand.
Who gave me that? Who gave me such a present? Who gave me such a hand? I know who gave me this
cough here, and this tie, but who gave me that hand? Who thought so much of me that he would give
me a hand like that? And it just comes home to you, oh what love there is in the person that gave
me that, how he must care about me. And here’s another one, looks the same and yet it’s not the
same. And then I go on and I think of all the trouble that the surgeons took on this blood plump
inside, and all the money that it took to fix a little bit of it and re-, well he didn’t replace
they just took a vein out of my leg here and stuck it in there.
So they didn’t even produce that, and then I think of all the hours, eight or nine hours they spent
unreplacing those little bits, and then I think that there’s no way in which they can make a heart
like that. Again the thing that they make is a crude kind of clumsy thing that still doesn’t work
as well as this one. And I think did you give it to me? Did you give it to me? Did my mother give
it to me? No, and I think what must be the thoughtfulness of the person, or the being who gave me
And I don’t know but when you begin to think of just what you have, of just the things that you have
in your body, it’s impossible to avoid realizing, “Wait a minute, however this came to me, whether
it came to me by evolution, or whatever way it came to me, whoever created the thing that resulted
in this body that I have, that person has an interest in me. He certainly has an interest in me he
has given a lot of money, or a lot of care, or a lot of thoughtfulness into giving me these things.”
And of course you realize that there is over whelming love in that. And I put it like that because
I think we have failed to realize the love that there is in just the things that we own, and we
think, “Oh well yeah of course that’s it, you know, that’s our body, that’s our body, that’s what we
have all human beings have bodies,” but think of the love of the person who gave us that. And so
that’s the beginning of being rooted in that love, that’s part of what it means.
Every moment of our days we’re bound if we have any common sense to think, “Oh another breathe, I’ve
taken another breathe, and another breathe, and another breathe, oh thank you, thank you, thank you
that I can take another breathe.” Every time we look at a flower, every time we enjoy it’s color,
and enjoy the shape of its petals, every moment we feel the wind in our faces you’re bound to think
right then, there’s great love, great love given to me. There’s somebody who has given me something
every day. This isn’t my dad saying son have you money for the bus? This isn’t your mum saying,
“Have you something to wear that is nice this evening?” This is somebody who every second is taking
care of the circulation of your blood, taking care of your breathing, putting little thoughts into
your mind that give you a sense of happiness. We’re rooted in his love if we just in any way think
of all the things we have.
And of course then when you begin to think of the details of the creation and you begin to think we
were created inside his own Son, our God made us inside his Son. And he made us inside his Son so
that he would have us forever, and he made us inside his Son giving us unconditionally all the
benefits of his Son. He did, he gave us unconditional benefits of his Son, that’s what it means,
you remember if you look at Ephesians and those early verses. Ephesians 1:4, “Even as he chose us
in him,” you remember he’s just said in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as
he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before
He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
God did all that before the foundation of the world. So you know, we can’t really say, “Well yes,
he’s going to choose us if we do what he tells us, and if we obey him, and if we believe in him, and
if we’re good children.” No, no before the foundation of the world he chose us in his Son, before
the foundation of the world he made us inside his Son Jesus.
Well really what the Bible says, you remember, in just one chapter later, Ephesians 2:4, “But God,
who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through
our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
I don’t know about you but it struck me, I mean I shouldn’t use this word because this is dreadful,
the guy’s stupid. The dear God is crazy to choose us even when we were dead in our trespasses, and
to put us inside his Son and raise us up with his Son. I mean that’s not just love, that’s crazy
love. I mean to do that for people who have not even declared themselves to you, or if they have if
any of them have declared themselves to you, they’ve declared themselves against you, and you’re
still creating them inside your Son, and you’re destining them to be your children.
That’s silly, especially if it means that you from that moment on are going to be bearing all the
consequences of the ridiculous things that they might chose to do. Now that’s, that’s silly, I mean
they could do anything, they could kill you, they could kill your Son, and your saying your
steadfast love endures forever. But it can’t endure forever, it has to end, you have to stop it
just to protect yourself. You mean you won’t protect yourself? You won’t protect yourself? You
mean you’ll let them nail you, and destroy you? You’ll let them do that to your Son, and you’ll be
inside your Son as they do it?
So you know, as you think it through, as you analyze it, as you go over and over it again in your
head, I used to think the Old Testament is just stupid, it’s just stupid, God say’s, “You must obey
me,” and then he forgives them. “You must obey me,” and then he forgives them. “You must obey me,”
and then he forgives them. I just thought it’s silly, it doesn’t make sense. Until gradually it
came home to me that is what God’s love is. God does love us unconditionally, and he is committed to
us, he will stick with us. He will stick with us beyond the end, and that’s part of what it means,
rooted in love.
Once you begin to appreciate that God has committed himself to you, has put himself at risk for you,
whatever you’re going to do he has committed himself to you, he has said, “Lo I am with you always,
even unto the end of the world. Even though your sins are scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.” When he says that then, you know what can
you say? You have to just say, “I can’t surely be in that position? Surely, surely the dear one
who has made me, surely he has not committed himself to me as irrevocably as that.”
But he has, he has, I’m safe, I’m safe, I am safe, I have nothing to fear, and that’s something you
know of what it means being rooted in love, because that gives you strength and nourishment
yourself. And of course, what it does if you have your eyes open at all, and often I have my eyes
closed, but if you have your eyes open at all you begin to sense then what right have I to be
critical of this person, or that person, or to demand that this friend of mine or this colleague
does this, or to be annoyed with this person because they don’t do that, or to try to impose my
opinion or my will on this person? What right, what reason, have I to do that if my God is ready to
deal with all my own short comings and to counteract them, and to work with them lovingly and
patiently, and to gradually work them into the purpose of his own will?
Then isn’t he going to do the same with all my friends, with all my colleagues, with my relatives,
with my husbands and my wives? Isn’t he going to do that with them and what a self righteous little
creature I am that I should feel I have a right to demand this person to do that, or that person to
do this? And it brings home to you that whole series of I suppose it’s virtues that is mentioned
there in those verses we read from the New Testament lesson that would be good to look at them.
It’s Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness,
lowliness, meekness, and patience,” and this one that seems to be so much at the heart of God
himself. “Forbearing on another, forbearing one another,” and you know forbearing means accepting
things from another person without resenting them, and without judging them or criticizing them.
Extending to them a patience that maybe the world does not expect, forbearing one another. Not just
putting up with them but accepting what they say to you and not judging it, and not resenting it.
And if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so
you also must forgive. “And above all these, put on love which binds everything together in perfect
harmony.” And that’s a little of what means rooted is the old botanic metaphor of the tree and the
roots system, and receiving nourishment from the love of God that surrounds us, and then being
grounded is an architectural metaphor. The structure that you build on or the foundation of that
structure, and it means that it is the foundation on which your life is built, and that we’re meant
to be rooted in God’s love for us.
And then we’re meant to build on that a foundation of our attitude to each other. And there’s only
one expression that is right for our attitude to each other, and that is “if I speak in the tongues
of men and of angels and have not love. Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful,
it is not irritable or resentful, it is not rude, love bears all things, believes all things,
endures all things.”
And in our own attitudes to each other, I think the heaviness comes because we turn away from the
love that the Father has for us every moment. And so we fail to express positive love to each
other. I think that’s where heaviness comes from really. We always say, “Oh well I feel heavy or
anxious because I’m worried about this or worried about that,” but heaviness comes really from being
preoccupied with ourselves, and taking our eyes off each other. And once you put your eyes back on
each other and sense that, yes you owe only one thing to each other and that is love and
thoughtfulness, and the consideration that makes our own lives possible.
It’s that love and consideration of God for us that enables us to breath another moment, and that’s
why we exist. And you remember that we might live no longer onto ourselves but for him who gave
himself up for us. And the only reason we’re here is for Jesus and for each other, and you get
heavy and you feel a heaviness when you’re preoccupied with yourself.
And it’s the same actually in our own family here, there comes a heaviness when you ignore each
other, when you actually ignore each other, when you take each other for granted, and you regard
each other as bits of furniture. That’s when the heaviness comes in, but as long as you see each
other as part of Jesus and gifts to you, and people to whom you not only owe love, but to whom you
have the pleasure and the satisfaction of giving love, because you actually will be healthy only
when that love of Jesus is flowing through you.
And when you don’t let the love of Jesus flow through you to others then it dams up inside you and
there comes a heaviness in your heart. But it is remarkable how even in the non-spiritual world
people who live for each other are surprisingly happy. We often think, “Why does he live until a
100?” Bob Hope and the dear guy is always, that was his job, to laugh and to smile. So he laughed
and smiled, but he always was kind of out going to others.
And there’s no doubt that it is the old story of the Dead Sea and when the water flows in and
there’s no out flow then it gets salty and bitter, but if the water flows in and there’s outlet then
the water keeps the whole, as in our pond up here, it keeps the old pond from becoming stagnant when
there’s a flow through it. And that’s a little of what it means rooted and grounded in love. Let
Understanding The Depths of God’s Love - EPHESIANS
Understanding the Depths of God’s Love
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn loved ones, to Ephesians chapter 3? And really it’s just the very last phrase of that
verse that we’re looking at this morning. Ephesians 3:18, you remember Paul praying that you, “May
have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the
fullness of God.” That you “may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth
and length and height and depth,” and of course of God’s love; that’s it.
And it is maybe “strengthened.” “Exiscuo” is a Greek word meaning “to strengthen.” That you be
strengthened to comprehend, to lay hold of, with all the saints what is the breadth and length and
height and depth. So it’s obviously a grace that comes from God that enables us to understand the
breadth and length and height and depth of his love. And we have, obviously, a tendency to say, “Oh
yeah, the length and breadth and height and depth, okay, to understand all about his love,” and then
to toss it off quickly. But we do know ourselves from reading some of the saints lives, that they
obviously were able to perceive and to see that in a fuller way than we do, and that there is a
depth of love, that it is possible to perceive, that we have no idea of.
I caught a little of it, when I thought about, what I’ve shared often with you, that God at the very
beginning decided to make us inside his Son. And I know I’ve explained it often to you. And I know
in a way you grasp it. But really when you think about it, it is incredible, that any father would
do that, that any father would, as it were, open up his own son, and make inside his son not just
one or two difficult little creatures, not just even three or four awkward characters, not even five
or six people who weren’t quite in agreement with his son, but made millions of us, millions of us
inside his son. And specifically made them inside his son so that they would b e with him forever,
and gave them free wills, and therefore committed himself, not to living next door to them, or
living across the road from them, or living in another planet from them where they could do whatever
they wanted to do and he wouldn’t be bothered with them, but made them inside his own Son where he
himself dwelled: Adolph Hitler! And then it goes on; it just goes on and on after that:
Us ourselves! Think of us in our worst moments; think of us in our most selfish moments, in our
most rebellious moments, in those moments when we care only about ourselves. And he made us inside
his Son knowing that those moments were going to come! And he made us inside his Son so that he
would feel every little twinge of whatever we did and whatever we said. He would feel it; he would
not only feel it as a little pin prick, he would not feel it through a coat of mail [chainmail,
maille], he would feel it in his own heart, where his own beloved Son dwelled. And that’s something
that gives you some idea of the breadth of his love.
It just encompassed all of us and it was a commitment to love us whatever we did. It was like
putting yourself on a rack, and saying to billions of people, “Do your worst on me; I am going to
take it, and I am going to bear it, and I am going to keep you alive. I want you to be with me
forever.” And he therefore, committed himself to bearing all the things that ever happened in our
world, and that will still happen. And he feels them before the murdered feels what the murderer
did to him; he feels it first!
I don’t know if you’ve thought about it, but I have thought at times, especially when you read of
soldiers dying in dreadful conditions; I have wondered, or I often think to tell you the truth — I
shouldn’t say it because we’re all going to be flying soon — but I think how do you bear it? If
the plane blows apart, how do you bear it? And you think of how many things people bear, and they
all answer the same way, “At that moment somehow I seemed to be separated from it.”
There are people who have died of the most terrible wounds, and they don’t complain. It’s not the
pain that they think of. Somehow or other there is Someone who bears it before you bear it. There
is Someone who bears the unbearable and then allows only that of it that you can bear to come
through to you. So there the Father bears everything before we bear it. He is the one — I know it
sounds paradoxical, but he is the one who makes sin possible without it destroying the world
completely, because he bears the brunt of it. He is the one who enables us to stay alive when
something happens that would kill us, that would destroy us. So his love is beyond — it is beyond
conception; it’s beyond thinking of. When I think of someone at the beginning of my life saying,
“Everything that you do wrong, I am going to feel it, and I am going to receive it because I love
you. And I am going to bear it. So, alright, this is your life. Go ahead.” And that is what our
Father did to all of us.
So the breadth of his love is just beyond understanding, really. That’s what keeps coming home to
you in The Old Testament. That’s why I read the Psalm 136. If you look at it, I’ll just remind you
briefly of what that Psalm is referring to when it keeps repeating, “For his love endures forever.”
If you look at Psalm 136:11, “And brought Israel out from among them…” And of course what did
Israel do? They started to complain. They started to complain, “Why did you bring us out into this
[Pastor starts to read again]
“For his steadfast love endures for ever;
With a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who divided the Red Sea asunder…”
They get to the Red Sea and say, “Why did he bring us here to be destroyed by Pharaoh?”
So God — his love would show itself to them and then they would turn around and complain. He would
deliver them from that, and they would turn around and complain. It just went on like that.
“To him who divided the Red Sea in sunder,
For his steadfast love endures forever;
And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For his steadfast love endures forever;”
Because they got into the desert and then they said, “Have you brought us out here to starve us?
There is no water.”
“But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who led his people through the wilderness…”
And they complained the whole way,
“For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who smote great kings…”
Because then they said, “Here are kings that are going to destroy us.” And they kept complaining,
complaining. And it just goes on like that through the whole Old Testament. And God endures,
So it is something for ourselves to think about in our own ups and downs, because I’m sure you have
the same story as I have. And you feel embarrassed don’t you? You just feel embarrassed; you feel
embarrassed by the numbers of times that you’ve resolved to do something and you haven’t done it.
In fact, I’m sure you’ve got to the point that I have got to at times, and just disgusted with
myself. I cannot believe how anybody could put up with me. And our dear Father does for us what he
did for the Israelites down through the centuries. So that’s the breadth of his love.
The length of his love: well it’s just as amazing: in Ephesians 1:4. I mean it’s like a crazy
arrangement, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and blameless before him.” Because all of us will say, “Yeah, yeah, he may have been merciful to
the Israelites; he may have been merciful to this person; he may have been merciful up to a certain
point with me, but still finally, he is dependent on me responding in some way.” And here it is:
before the foundation of the world, he decided you would be his dear child in his Son Jesus, from
before the foundation of the world. When you weren’t in existence to do anything, to say, “Yes or
no,” he resolved that he would bear all that was necessary to bring you into his own heart.
So it’s something that — that’s why it says, “His steadfast love endures for ever.” That’s why I
think Barth [Karl Barth, 1886 – 1968, Swiss theologian] is finally is driven into a tight corner,
because I’m thinking all the time, “Well now Karl, you’re driving yourself close to universalism,
and if you keep going this way nobody is going to be lost.” And the dear fellow deals with that,
towards the end of a certain volume and his words are, “Who can tell whether the lost will, at the
very edge of the abyss repent?” He is just so overwhelmed by the grace of God, and the mercy of
And I sometimes think, when we think of our own fathers and mothers, or our brothers and sisters, or
so many others that aren’t exactly signing the dotted line where we would sign it in regard to
Jesus, I often think, “They are in the hands of a gracious Father.”
But that’s the length, the durability. It says, “It endures for ever.”
And the height: I thought Psalm 136 in regard to the height, that is the sublimity, the sublime
nature of his love, and the high and mighty things that his love has brought about. And beginning
there at verse 4,
“To him who alone does great wonders,
For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who by understanding made the heavens,
For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who spread out the earth upon the waters,
For his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who made the great lights,
For his steadfast love endures forever;
The sun to rule over the day,
For his steadfast love endures forever;
The moon and stars to rule over the night…”
That his love has no limits to its height, no limits to the things that he has created. His love
makes things that we would say, “We don’t need those, Lord. We don’t need those.”
Sometimes you’d get a present, you remember when you were a child, and you thought, “Oh this is
beyond anything I could have expected.” And indeed it happens at times when we’re adults. We get
some present and we think, “Oh I’m not worthy to have this.” I’m sure that somebody thought that
when Joe made his present for I think Eileen, was it? Yeah, you thought, “Oh you’re not worthy of
all the care that has been put into this.”
And of course that’s what we face here. We look at the stars, and we look at the sky, and we think,
“This dear God made that so that we would enjoy ourselves.” I don’t know if you’ve ever thought
that but that hit me one day. Suddenly, I realized, “This dear Father has made all these toys so
that I would be happy.” And you suddenly realize how great and how high his love is, and how
wonderful it is. It just does things for you that you wouldn’t dream of, and yet you see in the
Bible, there are places where it says clearly, “All these things were made for us, for men and
women.” And that’s why God made them all.
We’re the ones that can perceive it; we’re the ones that can see it. And then he made all those
amazing things that it takes us years to see: parts of the ocean that we’ve never seen, and parts
that we actually never will see. And you go down there and there are the most beautiful colors, and
you think, “Oh now come on! Why put these down here? It’s taken us so long to see them.” But
that’s part of it. Amazing love!
And why I mention this to you, too often we’ve thought, “Oh yes these are wonderful things.” But
suddenly it changes it all when you realize, “Wait a minute! These were made for me by a loving
Father who wants me to be happy, and wants me to enjoy life.
So it’s part of the length, and the breadth, and the height, and the depth. And then I thought the
depth: I thought Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery. And his love touches everybody.
And then I thought of the horror of it: Soham. Isn’t that the village where the two little girls
that with their David Beckham football shirts were murdered? And I thought that there’s no depth
that he will not go down to in his love, because whatever way they died, he was in their little
hearts when they died. And he felt everything that they felt. And then he was in the man who was
doing whatever was done.
And you realize, “That’s beyond what we know as love, that’s unbelievable that you could be with the
little ones as they suffered and with the dreadful man who did the thing.
And that’s some of the depth of God’s love, that there’s nothing that is too low for him or is too
hideous or too evil for him to touch, and for him to care about.
So that’s very poorly done, but it’s remarkable when you start thinking of the length, and breadth,
and height, and depth of the love of which we are the recipients.
Let us pray.
The Fatherly Love of God - EPHESIANS
The Fatherly Love of God
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you turn to Ephesians 3:18 please? And Paul is praying that you, “May have power to comprehend
with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,” and of course he means of
God’s love. “That you may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and
length and height and depth of God’s love.” And it came home to me how we kind of destroy that and
dry it up by getting into all our mental concepts; how we try to explain to each other the details
of God’s – the breadth of God’s love and the depth of it and height.
And it just came home to me so clearly that the big thing is “God loves you!” “God loves you!” Not
all the complication of the atonement, and hell, and heaven, and sins, but, “God loves you!” God,
our dear Father, loves us, loves us. Has a warm affection for each one of us in this room. Has a
warm affection and an attitude to us that he wants us to be happy. Our Father loves us. He loves
us with a warm love. He doesn’t just have an attitude to us. He doesn’t just have a plan overall
for us and the universe, our Father, God, our God loves each one of us. Loves us, has an affection
for us, wants us to be happy today, wants us actually to enjoy ourselves today.
It’s crazy that we can see all these beautiful things around us, and we know fine well if one of us
here in this room gave us a fraction of all these trees, and these leaves, and the sunshine, and the
air that we breathe every second, we would just almost bow down to the person and we would say, “How
could you? How could you give us all these things? That’s so kind of you! This must have cost you
a bunch!” And yet that’s what he is doing for you today, and for me.
He’s giving us all these things because he loves us. And it came home to me that verse, “Perfect
love casts out fear.” And I thought, it would make all the difference to all our little fears. You
think of them. You think of all the little fears that tumble in upon you; all the little anxieties,
all the little fears about today, or tomorrow, or about next year, or the future. All those would
disappear if we really accepted that the one who owns everything has our life in his heart, and has
our health in his mind, and has our future planned, and intends us to be happy with himself forever,
and to live with him in joy and delight. That he really does feel that way towards us. And that
that is more important than everything else, and that that’s something warm and real and present
It isn’t just a concept. It isn’t just, “Well I don’t know what he’s thinking of me; and am I
pleasing him? And am I doing what he wants me to do? And am I trying to bring in the kingdom in
the right way? And am I doing my job right? And have I the right attitude to this person and that
person? And am I doing my Bible study right?” It’s not all of that. It’s our Father loves us with
a warm love and affection. And that’s why he’s given us all these things so that we would know,
that we would have no doubt that, of course he loves us. Of course he wants the best for us.
But I do think we roll over that our God of law so often. And we get preoccupied with, “Oh yes, but
he wants me to do this and avoid that sin, and do that good thing.” And we get all wrapped up in
the things that we think the God that we have in our mind, wants. And what he wants us to do is to
see, “Of how much more value are you than the sparrows? And yet, even two sparrows don’t fall to
the ground without me knowing, and you’re of far more value than many sparrows. And look at the
lilies of the field, they don’t toil, and they don’t reap, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these. Of how much more value are you than the lilies, or than the birds?”
“Don’t have any anxiety about anything, but in everything let your request be made known to me, and
my peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And that’s his whole heart.
I just thought again of Sarah, you remember, it’s just one — I think one of the funniest lines in
the Bible. And Sarah, yeah she laughed. She cried, “Could I have a child at this age?” And then
the angel says, “You laughed.” And she says, “No, no I didn’t laugh.” And then God says, “Oh but
you did laugh! You did laugh!” And it seems — I know it’s the wrong thing to say theologically,
but it seems so human. And of course, then you suddenly realize that that’s where our fathers got
there fatherliness. They got it from him, who is the Father.
So really often if we could think of some of the dearest things our own father said to us — and we
all have little moments that we can think of. Or our mothers, we all have little moments that we
remember. And if we could think of those, that’s our dear Father. That’s his heart for us; that’s
the heart that he has for us every moment of our lives.
And so the breadth of his love, and the depth of his love, and the height of his love, and the
length of his love is something infinite. And that’s why Paul puts it that way, “I pray that you’ll
have strength…” That’s the actual meaning of the Greek word, not that you’ll just be able, but that
you’ll have strength, that you’ll be strengthened in your spirit so that your able to overcome all
the kind of silly little petty soulish ideas you have of God, and you’ll have strength within
yourself to open up your heart and realize your Father loves you, he loves you. He has good plans
for you; he wants the best for you; not he wants you to be a goody-goody, or he wants you to be a
wonderful saint, but he wants you to be happy. He wants the best for you. He wants you to enjoy
what he enjoys. And that’s what his love is about.
I think so often I – there are so many things. That’s why, of course, you can guess, I typed them
out. And you can take – you need to take one of each page, but there’s so many: “As far as the East
is from the West, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” “As a father pities his
children, so the Lord pities those who fear him.” That our dear Father pities us with a warmth and
an affection. “For he knows our frame.” “He remembers that we are dust.” “He knows our weakness.”
I thought at times, especially when I’m close to — not death myself, but when I’m close to somebody
ill, dying, or close to the thinking that is connected with say, a Ewen [a person some knew] dying
or something like that, I’ve thought, “Maybe it’s scary out there;” that moment when you leave
earth, maybe it’s scary. And then I realize the odd time that I’ve been anywhere near it, he of
course removes all the scariness away. There is no scariness. And then I suddenly realized, “He
knows our frame.” He is not a horror movie. He is not going to put us out into a dark emptiness
where we’ll be scared. “He knows our frame.” “He remembers that we are dust.” He knows – he knows
inside our little heads what we feel and what we think. And he understands that. And he’ll make
sure that it’s easy; that it’s easy, and it’s a joyful thing.
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.” And of course we
talked about that in that Psalm. It keeps on going, again, and again, and again, boring: “His
steadfast love endures forever.” But it’s so clear that he just put up, and put up, and put up. He
blessed the Israelites, then they turned against him. He forgave them and blessed them again. They
turned against him. “He…” It just went on.
So we know – so we can testify in our own lives; so we can testify how often he has just stayed with
us, and has tried again. So really we know it by experience, and we know it by his word that he is
committed to us. Our Father is committed to us. He has committed himself to us. If you say, “This
stupid God committed himself to us? You mean unconditionally; you mean whatever we do?” That’s
right. That’s right, he’s committed to us. Yes, you have the best of the bargain. Yes, you have.
He says, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” So his love is beyond anything
that we understand.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in
the midst, they said to him, ‘Teacher this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the
law Moses commanded us to stone such, what do you say about her?’ This they said o test him, that
they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down wrote with his finger on the
ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin
among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’” That was somebody caught right in the very act of
adultery; very obviously in their eyes the worst of sinners. And he still loved. And he has that
love towards you and me.
And so most of our unbelief comes from our constant judging of ourselves, in a way. We do something
that isn’t really up to the level that we know we should live, and then we get a bit shaky. We
think, “Well we’re horrified at that, and so God must be pretty horrified at it, and he won’t have
anything to do with us.” Well of course, the next second his love is around us and his arms are
around us and he is saying, “Come on, come on; let’s not do that again.” And he’s right there. And
so looking at his heart we can be in constant peace and in constant rest about our lives.
And it’s the same with everything; it’s the same with tomorrow. He does not “quench the flickering
torch.” He will not allow us to “come into anything above what we’re able to bear, and with the
trial he will provide a way of deliverance.” His love is always around us. And it’s beyond what we
understand ourselves. “Therefore I tell you, ‘Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat
or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?’” You know you can almost hear his dear heart and the words, “Look
at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap…” Now you see him like a father with a little
child, “Look! Look up at the birds! Lift your heart up!” “And yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit [18
inches or 45 cm] to his span of life.” So you can’t grow any bigger than you are. “And why are you
anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so
clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he
not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s
own trouble be enough for the day.”
But he loves us with a warm and affectionate love. And he wants the best for us. He wants the best
for us, and he wants us to be happy; he wants us to be happy. That’s why he said, “Rejoice, and
again I say, Rejoice.”
So really there’s every reason to look up into his dear face and to know that our Father does love
us. And in a warm way: this is our dear God; this is the dear one who made us persons. This is not
some big impersonal force; this is a dear Father who is more personal and loving than our dear dads
and mums. This is the one whose heart is soft towards us. This is our Father.
Let us pray.
Christ’s Love Surpasses all Knowledge - EPHESIANS
Christ’s Love Surpasses All Knowledge
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn loved ones, to Ephesians 3 and the next verse we’re looking at today, Ephesians 3:19.
The prayer is, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” Paul says, “For this reason I bow
my knees before the Father,” and then he says in verse 18, that “you may have power to comprehend
with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,” and in verse 19, “and
power to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the
fullness of God.” We might even get to the last part of the verse, but the first part we can
probably think about today, “And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”
There was a picture in the Herald Tribune newspaper this week of a little girl who was in Baghdad.
She was 10 years of age and she was a pretty little girl. She was sitting there, really I would
say, utterly depressed and sad. The picture explained how she was now in one of the Islamic
schools, and how before, when she was beaten by the authorities, it was because she was out in the
streets. Now she was beaten by the Islamic people because she was disobeying their laws. So it was
a pathetic picture — but then it got even more so as you read that her grandmother had died in the
war. She had been roaming the streets of Baghdad until she eventually took up with a gang of older
boys and then gave herself just to prostitution. You looked at her dear face and it was the face of
a woman, not a girl. So it was really pathetic looking.
Of course, the truth is in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship.” So you have to say, “She is
God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that she should walk in them, and she was
made in Jesus just as we were, and she is part of him.” We’ve dealt in the past with the idea that,
“Oh well maybe it’s just we are his workmanship. We are Christians and we’re brought up in that
tradition and we believe the Christian gospel. But she of course is obviously a little Islamic girl
and she’s just a little piece of the flotsam and jetsam floating on the surface of the world’s
life.” She isn’t.
We have talked about John 1:2 where it says clearly that, “All things were made in him and without
him was not anything made that was made.” We know, too, that it’s true that everybody, whatever
they are like today, they were made in Christ, and he is the complete image of the invisible God,
and he’s the first-born among all in creation and in him all things hold together and there’s no one
that is apart from him. So of course, that little girl has been in him all the time. All the time
— right from when she was one year old, and through all the things that have happened to her in the
slums in Baghdad, and through all the desecration that her dear little body has suffered. She has
been in Christ and he has borne her in him all the time. That’s part of what Isaiah 53:4 means. It
says, “He has borne our sins and carried our sorrows,” because he has borne in himself everything
that has happened to her.
That’s the meaning of it — from the beginning of creation she was made in him and she has been in
him in everything that has happened. The almost inconceivable truth is that he was also in each man
who took advantage of her and he bore that pain also. The man had nothing but presumably lust or
even hatred, but he himself was in that person. He bore the agony of guilt and the sense of
abandonment to evil that that man felt –and at the same time, he bore the pain in the little girl
and the dreadful sense of fear and shame that she felt.
We can begin looking through the eyes of relativity — or the theory of relativity that Einstein has
brought to us — because that’s really what Barth does: he brings home to us the sense of the
infinite and the fact that everything is bound up in God, and that he holds all of us inside himself
and bears everything that everybody does to everybody else, and bears what is done to every person.
As we look at it in the light of truth and infinite reality, you can see that the love of Christ is
beyond anything that anybody else is in a position to show, but obviously is beyond anything that
you and I can even think of. That’s part of what it means to “know the love of Christ” that Paul is
praying — that we would begin to know and understand the depth and the breadth of Jesus’ love that
he still has all inside himself.
It’s important to see that he knew what it was going to be like, that when he acquiesced in his
Father’s heart and wanted the same as his Father wanted, he knew what he was wanting. He knew all
that was ahead. He knew all the agony, all the terror that he would endure through centuries,
through centuries. That’s part of what Paul means when he says, “This love surpasses knowledge.”
That comes home to you in all kinds of situations: when they hauled Mary Magdalene, the woman
caught in adultery before Jesus, they were expecting the great teacher to point out exactly where
she had broken the law and exactly why they had every right to stone her and punish her. Of course,
he didn’t go into that at all.
So there’s another way in which it surpasses knowledge. His love, Jesus’ love, surpasses certainly
our knowledge of that kind of love in ourselves. We’ve never met that kind of love that has that
commitment, but there’s another way in which it surpasses knowledge. He did not come out with
knowledge. He did not come out with a whole lot of learned disquisitions on the law and on how they
had done the right thing to pick out this woman that had offended against their traditions. He
didn’t. He just said, “Which of you?” And then he said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
What it did brings home to an idiot like me, that Jesus’ love surpasses knowledge. Though it is
very useful at times to know how to sell and to know how not to sell, and though it’s very useful at
times to know how to do business and how not to do business, and though it may be very useful for
each one of us here to be able to point out to each other exactly where we have messed up, the “Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” doesn’t heal anybody. It can help a little to enable a person to
know what they don’t know, but as soon as the Tree of Knowledge is used to try to make people what
you want them to be, then it becomes a tree of death. It’s interesting that Christ’s love always
It’s very irritating, I mean, how he can put up with this miserable crowd that we are, year after
year, after year — as not only he watches us, and feels us hurting each other, and hurting other
people, and hurting ourselves — but as he sees us then self-righteously standing up on our two
little legs, and thinking that the good things that we do manage to do are due to our own brightness
and brilliance? And all the time, it’s him that puts the idea into our minds — and yet, he stands
silently by and loves us even as we claim the brilliance that is his alone. His love goes on past
knowledge, and leaves knowledge behind, and puts its arms around us and says, “I love you. I love
you. I will love you to the end.” It brings home to us ourselves that the final reality in this
life is a love and care for each other, and a desire for each other to enter into the good place
that God has given us in Jesus – and that that is greater and more powerful than everything else we
might manage to say or do to each other. It brings home to you that there really is little place in
redemption for just informing each other what to do — or thinking that if we tell each other what
to do, that will do the trick.
Redemption is not about knowledge. Redemption is about love, and a good will towards each other,
and a desire that each other will be all that God has made us to be. You see that very plainly with
the dear old prodigal son. I always had a sympathy with the elder son, so that tells you where I
was. But it is interesting that the dear father doesn’t get involved in a whole lot of postmortems
on the younger son. He doesn’t get involved in pointing out to him that he’s learned his lesson now
and now he knows what not to do. He doesn’t even do that with the elder son. He doesn’t even start
explaining to him the finer points of doctrine and theology. He just says, “You’re always with me,”
because love finally is an attitude of heart towards each other, something that goes beyond
knowledge, something that goes beyond the desire to point out to each other where we failed or where
we could do better.
I think we’ve talked often about the importance of Joe [member of the church] showing me how to use
this tool or that tool. Or if I can do it with him, it’s important for me to share what I know. So
there’s nothing wrong with knowledge as we’ve often said. There’s nothing wrong with advertising
that is information. It’s when it becomes motivation that you have to be careful. So it is
especially with knowledge. It’s when we try with our knowledge to thinking that the other person
hasn’t got it, and that we just have to hammer it into them a little more firmly. It’s when we do
that, that we’re involved in falling back into the disaster that Adam entered into in the Garden of
Eden when he thought that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was what he needed.
Jesus makes it plain what we really need is the Tree of Life. That’s why we need to pray for each
other that we’ll know the love of God and we we’ll know the love of Christ that surpasses all
knowledge. Let us pray.
The Fullness of God Dwells Within Us - EPHESIANS
The Fullness of God Dwells Within Us
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who for a little while was
made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that
by the grace of God he might taste death for every one.
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation
perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin.
That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will proclaim thy name to my
brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in
him.’ And again, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.’
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same
nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and
deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not
with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made
like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in
the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has
suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” May God help us to receive
that into our hearts, amen.
The gospels seem — especially Matthew, and Mark, and Luke seem preoccupied with the historical
figure or the person and what he does in the Palestine area in the first century. And then, of
course, it all changes with John and if you look at it, you’ll see it. The whole thing just is
different, the whole atmosphere. John 1:1, and suddenly he just throws you back on your heels. He
starts not with Jesus was walking in Galilee, and talking to the other people that he knew, but, “In
the beginning…” And he jumps right back to the beginning of everything, and says, “In the
beginning…” And you realize this is somebody that isn’t just focusing his binoculars on that little
area of Palestine; this is someone who’s looking back into eternity and saying, “In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
And of course in the other verses you can catch that he’s talking about Jesus. He says, “We have
beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” But the whole atmosphere in which
he speaks of Jesus is different. And I would submit to you that it’s different from the normal
interpretation of Jesus in ‘this’ century and through most of the centuries that we’ve passed.
There is a very, very strong emphasis on Jesus the man, the great teacher in Galilee, the man whose
example we ought to follow. And perhaps it starts with us in Sunday School, I don’t know. But
somehow we catch the idea that Jesus is our example, and that we ought to be like Jesus if we want
to get to Heaven. And that I think is as far as many people get throughout their whole lives. And
of course John just shatters the thing in the next verse. “He was in the beginning with God;” this
man Jesus did not just start in Mary’s womb in 4 or 5 B.C. he was in the beginning with God. He was
with God from the very start. And then verse 3 — we hardly touch it in our language about Jesus
these days and for most days. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything
made that was made.”
And of course we all know the verse, and we have talked about it often, but still I think there’s a
very strong preoccupation in all of us with Jesus the physical man that lived in the first century
and the things that he did, and there’s a very strong determination in us to see him as over there,
and us over here. And we read that verse, but we still think, “Well yes, but Jesus is there, and
he’s Gods Son, and he lived in the first century, and I have to try to be like him. And when I die
I will go to Heaven and I will meet him. But he is over there and I am over here.” And of course
this verse 3 just shatters that: “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made
that was made.”
And of course the translation of that verse and the next one: It usually is… The Greek really says,
“Anything that was made, was life in him.” That’s the way the Greek reads. “Anything… “ It takes
the last few parts of that clause in verse 3 and it makes it the subject of the verb, ‘was’, in
verse 4. And it runs, “Anything that was made was life in him,” and of course it ties up with what
we have all talked about in Ephesians 2:10 that, “We are God’s workmanship, created ‘in’ Christ
Jesus…” “Created ‘in’ Jesus.”
And yet we are so egotistical; we are so tied to what we can see and touch and feel ourselves that
we keep on thinking of ourselves as separate individuals. Part of it, I do think, is what sin is.
We always think, “Sin is immorality or sin is rebelling against God.” And really sin is
independence. Sin is just thinking of ourselves as outside of God; thinking of ourselves as on our
own. And of course you don’t need me to tell you that all our anxiety comes from that obviously. I
mean, at our worst moments of anxiety we see ourselves alone, with only our own abilities and our
own strength to do anything. And that’s, I think, what the heart of sin is! It’s a separation from
God. It’s seeing ourselves as ‘not’ part of the one in whom we were created.
And so everything, of course, becomes very, very difficult for us: especially verses like this:
Matthew 5:48. It just lays us flat on the ground. We just think it’s utterly unfair! And of
course we ignore it. I mean it’s just horrifying isn’t it, it’s just we just say. “No, no it can’t
be. I mean Christ would not lay that on you. I mean it’s impossible! It’s impossible!” [Reads]
“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [We say] “It’s impossible! I
don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know how to expound it. I don’t know how to get out of it.
But it is impossible, and it’s unfair, and it’s not right.”
And we say that ‘all because’ we think of ourselves still as separate from Christ. We think of
ourselves as separate from God and we put ourselves in the position of people who are not really
part of God, trying to be like God.
And of course that’s what this verse that we’re studying today deals with. It’s Ephesians 3:19. If
you look at it, it’s what I call C part of the verse, the last part of the verse if you divide it up
into A, B, and C. And you remember Paul is praying “That you may know the love of Christ which
surpasses knowledge, ‘that’ you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” “…That you may be
filled with all the fullness of God.”
And we have a tendency to say, “That is impossible! It’s a nice thought, but ‘to be filled with all
the fullness of God,’ it is high; I cannot attain to it. It’s impossible; it’s a poetic aspiration
that Paul is expressing, but you can’t be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And I think we think that because we have this old attitude inside ourselves, just a secret mental
conviction that we are ‘little Martha Nelson’, born of her mom, Mrs. Nelson. We are little Ernest
O’Neil born of his mom. We are little Trish Overby born of her mom. And we keep on thinking of
ourselves as just these little people that are born of our human mothers, and we’re part of them,
and we have their characteristics. We’re not part of Jesus; we don’t have his characteristics; we
hardly even know him, and we certainly don’t have his fullness… And yet loved ones, those are all
the things that this dear Word says are true. There’s a verse — you’ll know it when you see it.
Actually it is John 1:16, “And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.” “And from
his fullness have we all received grace upon grace.”
Those of us who love English literature and Wordsworth, it throws us back to old Wordsworth, who has
talked about children being nearer to heaven — of course it wasn’t tapping the depth of
interpretation that scripture has, but he talked about children as being nearer to heaven than the
adult. And he said, “At length the man perceives it die away and fade into the light of common
day.” That is, the glory that he comes with. “And we come trailing clouds of glory.” That’s what
he says, “And we come trailing clouds of glory.” And so he in some way saw, in, presumably, the
light that God gave him, that we actually come from something that is filled with glory, and we’re
trailing clouds of glory behind us. And you see it in us when we’re little children. There’s a
brightness, and a lightness, and a clarity in our perception. And that is because we have taken and
partaken of the fullness of Christ.
And that’s why Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Not because we can do
it on our own, living in the lie that we’re separated from him, but because we are part of him, and
because from Jesus we have received some of his fullness, and the fullness of God that dwelt in
Jesus is coming to us through the Holy Spirit, and that we are meant to be filled with the fullness
of God. And that’s what the verse says, “That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And you, I think, can see very well that if you don’t rise into the wonder and the beauty and the
infinity of that, life sinks back into self. And I’m sure you’ve noticed; I’ve seen it very
clearly. We sink back into a manipulated surrender where we’re still surrendered, we’re still
filled with the Spirit, we’re still crucified with Christ, but we actually run our own lives, and
are preoccupied with our own lives, and are limited by our human powers. And we settle into a
complacent — really it’s a half surrendered life, but it’s a complacent controlled life that has
nothing of the wonder and the beauty and the infinity of the Holy Spirit. And this is why this Dear
Word says, “We’re to be filled with the fullness of God.”
And from Jesus we receive that fullness. And of course when you or I think of Jesus we don’t only
think of “the Lord of life as he goes meekly by.” We don’t only think of Jesus walking down the
highways of the road and of the earth, but we see him looking on each situation and each person, and
filled with his Fathers love and desire for them, and filled with an absolute confidence, when he
comes to a difficult situation that, of course his Father has already solved it, and its easy. And
so he is filled with the fullness of God and the confidence of God as he walks through life, and
that’s what he has for us.
Why? Because to avoid it you have to jump out of him. To avoid having the attitude of Jesus, you
have to jump out of him. That’s what we do. That’s what we do. “Stop the world I want to get
off.” We get off. We get off at all kinds of moments; we get off. You can know it; I mean, I know
it: anxiety, worry, tension, irritability, they’re all… There’s just an angel tapping on the
shoulder and saying, “You’re off; you got off; you’ve got off; you have jumped out.” Because if you
remain in Christ you receive of his fullness constantly, and you move with his dignity, and you move
with his optimism.
But see, I think there’s a great tendency for you even, or me, as we hear that and say, “Oh yes, I
want to do that. I must start moving with his optimism. Yes I must, I must keep myself up. I must
avoid…” No, no, no you mustn’t do anything. You just receive of his fullness, just be what you
are. You’re part of the Savior. That to me is the exciting thing.
If you say, “Do you not think we’re a remarkable bunch?” Yes, I do think you’re a remarkable bunch,
but I don’t think you’re really a remarkable bunch. I think your remarkable bunch, because you do
see that this is what we’re meant to be, and you do want to be that. And I think you’re remarkable
in that Jesus, the Savior, has a life that he has planned to live through Greg Leitschuh, that he
has not planned to live through anybody else. And he has a life that he has planned to live through
Martha Nelson that he has not planned to live through anybody else. I think that’s what makes our
lives exciting. I think that’s what makes them exciting, that Jesus is creating something in each
one of us that he has not created in anybody else; that he is pouring his fullness into us so that
it will be expressed. And if it isn’t expressed through us that particular fullness will never be
And I think there’s a strong voice inside you that says, “Well very nice pastor, that’s very —
that’s a very nice thought. I wish it were true. Of course I am just an ordinary little
character…” No, that is the truth. You and I were each one of us created in Jesus and we have
received of his fullness and he wants us to continue to receive it increasingly day by day.
Sometimes I’ll say to Martha Nelson, and I’ll say to myself, and sometimes my wife says to me,
“Don’t exhort, don’t exhort. You exhort! Exhort!” Where we’re always anxious for everybody to do
better, and we’re trying to encourage everybody to do better. And I think to myself, “Yeah that is
right. There’s something wrong with that. There’s something ‘full of self effort’ about that.
There’s something of ‘living for a cause’ in that, that is not right.” Yes, that’s right. And yet
somehow I think, “But the other isn’t right either: just, “Here I am a lump of lead. I am what I
am; take me as I am; I’m not going to change. This is it; I don’t have any yearning beyond; I’m
just satisfied with where I am.” There’s something not right about that.
You can see, you can see what is God’s way: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after
righteousness for they shall be filled.” It’s wanting, yearning, receiving, increasingly the
fullness of Christ. That’s what it is: always wanting more of a fullness of Christ; and not wanting
necessarily to ‘be’ like Wigglesworth [Smith Wigglesworth, 1859 – 1947, British evangelist], but to
‘be’ like Wigglesworth [Pastor laughs at the paradox and thinking of Wigglesworth’s amazing
confidence in God]. To walk down the… filled with Jesus confidence that sickness has no place
here on God’s earth; filled with his [God’s] confidence in every situation, that God was at that
very moment solving that.
Receiving increasingly of the fullness of Jesus, walking more and more a supernatural life, being
perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Not hiding behind your little barricade and saying, “We
can’t be perfect, you know, we’re just poor old sinful human beings.” Yes we are [that], on our
own. But ‘inside Jesus’ we are filled with the fullness of God.
Blessed Lord, we thank you that your resolution is to walk this earth in each one of us, and to do
what you promised: that we would do more and greater works than those that were done in the first
century, because you will do them yourself, in us and through us. Oh Lord, we would look up to you
today and say, “Yes Lord, even so come Lord Jesus and fill me with the fullness of your Father with
which you have been filled, and walk fully and completely yourself, and do and say the things in me
and through me that you alone can do and say.”
God Provides Beyond Our Expectations - EPHESIANS
God Provides Beyond Our Expectations
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Please look with me at today’s verse, one that we know well, but when you begin to get into it, it
is incredible what it says. And it’s Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who by the power at work within us
is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” The word abundantly is a wild one
in Greek. It’s “huper-ek-perissou” which is kind of like the best of the best of the best,
“exceeding abundantly,” “beyond anything that you could measure.” And Paul is therefore doing
everything he can to say, “The God who holds all the stars in their places, the God who holds the
planets, the God who controls the mighty spaces of the universe, he is able to do exceedingly
abundantly beyond anything that you can think.”
And that’s what is says, “To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or
think.” And actually the Greek runs, “To him who is able to do everything.” That’s actually the
way the first one goes. “To him who is able to do everything…” And of course it’s referring back
to the fact that he has done everything. I mean all the stars are his; all the spaces are his; he
holds the Pacific Ocean within its bounds; he takes care of all the spaces that even our telescopes
have not plumbed yet. So God is able to do everything.
And then the next bit goes, “…Exceedingly abundantly beyond what we are able to think or even ask.”
So, whatever you would think or ask, God is able to do away beyond that! I mean we found a little
of that in our own lives, but it’s such a tiny bit because we are such kids in interest in God, and
we are such kids in what we pray for and what we hope for. And we are so small in our aspirations
that we just have little tiny little trickles. You know them; there are things when suddenly you
find that God has given you something that you never thought you’d have.
I feel absolutely dumb Trish, because I know fine well that the weight under which people like
myself, brought up in Northern Ireland labor, is: “Whatever hurts is good for you. And don’t expect
things to come to easily.” It’s good training; it’s the old Puritan training. It’s good training.
It’s better to be that way than wanting ease all the time, and thinking everything comes easy. But
I know fine well that that is a tendency in people like myself who are brought up where I was
brought up. And so I know fine well that God is good, and God does want to give things to us, and
he’s generous, and everything that I have has come from him. And I know that. But it was — I
mean it was just like a thump in the back of my head when I realized — I know you’ll smile at this
because Americans take this kind of thing easier than this old ‘New American’ [referring to his
original immigrant status in the US]. I at last came to the point where I accepted that God did
want me to have that SL, that SL Mercedes [The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, formerly known as the SL
Roadster, a grand tourer manufactured by Mercedes since 1954]. I mean you’ll say it’s stupid
because it doesn’t cost – it didn’t cost any more than what the girls [Sales Reps in the USA] pay
for their ‘new’ cars. But of course to me it was an SL Mercedes, and “I shouldn’t have that kind of
And of course what you do with that — I don’t know if you’ve found yourself doing it. But what you
do with it is: you actually think that you got it yourself, and you might have offended God in
getting it. And so it takes away from all the fun of it, and the enjoyment. I mean it’s a
ridiculous attitude to take, but suddenly I realized that God had wanted me to have it.
I mean I believed it at the time when I bought it. But then I got into the –“No, no I shouldn’t
have this nice of a car as this!” I don’t know if you do it, but I suddenly realized that’s
dreadful. I mean all that I have has come from his loving kindness, from his generosity. There are
hundreds of things that I don’t deserve at all, and he’s given them to me. And of course everything
comes from God’s hand, so of course the good things come. And of course he knows I’ve got it, and
he wanted me to have it.
And it was such a lightening thing to realize that our Father wants us to have beautiful things.
That’s why he’s put us in the world, that’s why he’s given us all the gifts that we have around us,
that’s why he’s given us life, because he wants us to be happy today. He wants us to enjoy
ourselves. And it’s very easy for us to have the attitude, “No, I mean I’m here to use the
abilities I have to do what I’m supposed to do, and to get a little help from God from time to time,
but primarily it’s up to me to use my own efforts: ‘God helps those who help themselves,’ and I
ought not to expect too many wonderful and beautiful things.”
And so it’s very insulting to God. It’s very, it’s very offensive. It must be very offensive to
him, because there he is, knowing that every breath we take is because he arranged that it would
come to us, and everything we see and have delight in, it’s because he keeps our eyes connected with
that, with all kinds of complicated photogenic processes so that we are able to see the beauty of
the sunshine. And yet we somehow think it’s due to us, and it’s our ability to perceive that has
brought it about. But in fact God has of course given us everything we have. And he is able to
give us way beyond what we ask or think. And that’s why he puts us in places that are bigger than
we are able to deal with ourselves.
That’s why he says to Gideon, “You have too many men. Yes, you have 32 thousand, and that’s too
many. I know you’re going against thousands and thousands more, but you have too many. So cut it
down to ten thousand and then cut it down to 300, so that there’s no doubt in any of your minds that
it’s me that has brought the victory of the Mideonites.”
And I thought, “Yes it’s a bit like ourselves.” Martha often talks about “We few, we happy few.”
And it’s a bit like ourselves. It’s not the 1500 that we had at times at Campus Church. There are
15 of us. And I thought, “Yeah, well, it’s almost as bad as Gideon!” Then my little mathematical
mind went to work, and of course 300 is exactly one percent, more or less, of 32 thousand, and of
course, 15 is exactly one percent of 1500.
And it was just so plain that, of course, God must have it so, so that we are absolutely out on
limbs where we can be lifted out of ourselves, and out of our own smallness and can begin to enter
into this truth, that God is able to do way beyond anything that you or I can think of. And why he
puts us in places that are too big for us is, it prompts us to have to begin to ask for as much as
we can possibly think of. And so we have a world that — I think I would be saying a true thing if
I said, “All of us here really do know that the world would be transformed if it knew how much God
loves it.” I mean we do believe that. We believe that Iraq would be transformed if people began to
sense that there wasn’t just an inscrutable deity that had put them on the earth to make their own
way, but there was a dear loving Father who had made them in his own Son Jesus and who loved them
like his own Son, and who had already solved all the things that they were going to meet in their
lives ‘in Jesus’. It would transform them. It would change everything. And I think all of us
really do believe that, and we would want them to know that, and we want them to sense that. And
God has sent us into the world, in our interpretation of the Bible, to preach the gospel to all
And he’s done that so that we would see, “That’s what we have to do.” He has given us certain
advantages. He has given us the 25,000 great books; he has given us the ability to do radio and to
do the web; he has shown his ways to communicate with masses of people, and to get truth over in the
websites. But he’s asking us to grasp that, and to go out and grasp that with both hands, and to
ask him mightily to work and to answer our prayers, and to speak to thousands through his Holy
And so he puts us in positions that are too big for us, so that we will actually ask him for mighty
things, and we’ll form large prayers for him. And you know how important it is. Otherwise it’s
very easy to sink down into looking after your own ‘tent’, and taking care of yourself and being
preoccupied with, “Will I make it through another day?” And the Father wants us to live way above
ourselves, and way beyond our own little needs, and in these vast realms where only his power is
able to work.
Old Adam Clark, puts it like this, “All that we ask or think – We can ask every good of which we
have heard, every good which God has promised in his word; and we can think of, or imagine, goods
and blessings beyond all that we have either read of or seen: yes, we can imagine good things to
which it is impossible for us to give a name, we can go beyond the limits of all human descriptions;
we can imagine more than even God has specified in his word; and can feel no bounds to our
imagination of good, but impossibility and eternity: and after all, God is able to do more for us
than we can ask or think; and his ability here is so necessarily connected with his willingness,
that the one indisputably implies the other; for, of what consequence would it be to tell the Church
of God that he had power to do so and so, if there were not implied an assurance that he will do
what his power can, and what the soul of man needs to have done?”
I think we tend too much to calculate: “Well it’s unreasonable to ask God to do this; well probably
he wouldn’t be able to do this within the terms of his righteousness and the way he deals with
people.” And so often we ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ and we fall short of what God has for us,
because we don’t ask and we don’t believe. And I think that’s why he’s put this verse in: “That he
is able to do exceeding and abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”
And how? “Through the power that is at work within us,” the power of the Holy Spirit. And who is
the Holy Spirit? The Lord is the Spirit: through the Lord Jesus himself who is within us, God is
able to do anything, and way beyond what we ask or think.
So, it’s worth, I think, thinking about; and thinking about in what we pray for ourselves. “Are we
limiting God, just because we don’t ask, or because we have certain ideas or principal that we think
govern prayer, and we forget that there’s a loving face looking down on us who has given us all that
we see around us and has given us magical things none of us can really explain?
We look even at that cedar tree out there, and you can’t explain how it has stayed there, year after
year down through centuries. And we can’t explain really how all the leaves and all the branches
are held in position and wave in the wind and don’t break. And we can’t explain why the air stays
as it does at exactly the right pressure. And we talk about the earth spinning through space but we
know we’re baffled. I mean we call it, “Law of gravity,” but we’re baffled as to why it is able to
spin exactly as it does so regularly through the centuries and in exactly the same orbit, and all
the meteorites and planets fly over the space – fly through space and yet don’t crash into it.
There are all kinds of things that remind us that we’re surrounded by God’s miraculous power, and
that it’s not surprising for this to be true, that “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above
all that we can ask or think,” and that he has already proved to us by his gifts that he wants us to
be happier than we can imagine, and he wants us to have things that are way beyond what we think we
ought to have. And that is our dear Father, and I think that’s what he has given to us.
So I think, I think you all agree, we’ve done very well. I think the – I’m happy with million
dollar sales. I don’t know what you — or million pounds of sales [speaking to the group living in
the U.K.]. I think that’s great. I think we could live very happily and we could do what God wants
us to do with simply a million. I would just say this that “God had a reason for cutting Gideon’s
army down to 300. And it was so that it was plain and obvious to everybody that it was not this 300
that did the job.” And I think the Father has something in mind for us along the same lines, that
we would not just be a good little company in business, or we would not just be a good little group
of witnesses who got some things up on the web and did some radio work, but that God alone could do
the mighty things that were done during our watch.
So, it’s not something to cause a strain; it’s not something certainly to try harder at ourselves,
because that would be the very contradiction of what God is after. But I think it is our place to
grasp that our Father is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above what we are able to ask or think.”
And he is able to bring the sales into millions and millions of dollars and pounds, so that it’s
very obvious to everyone that only God could do this. And he is able to cover the world, I think,
with our radio and to make our websites accessed by people all over the world in all kinds of
And I think that the only thing that limits that is the size of our prayers, and of our ambitions
and our aspirations. And I think God is here saying, “See how big and how great and how magnanimous
I am. Take me as I am. Look up and see that you have someone who not only ‘is’ rich, but who loves
you with all his heart and wants you to do things that only he is able to bring about.”
Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you for Gideon and for the little David who brought down the mighty giant
Goliath. We thank you Lord for the little group of people that came to the edge of the Promised
Land, and believed that they would have the whole land and not just a little piece of it. We thank
you Lord for their ability to receive your vision, that they would take the land despite all the
Amalekites, all the Jebusites, all the Philistines. We thank you Lord for the way they set their
eyes upon you, their God.
We thank you Father, for the disciples and for their commitment to go out into the Roman Empire
whatever the hostility and criticism, and even if it meant to their own death, to give themselves
with all their hearts to telling the world about you. Father we thank you that you have called us
to the same life. And we thank you that you have not called us without equipping us. And you have
not called us without giving us the power. So we do thank you Lord, that you “are able to do
exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think through the power that works within us.”
So Lord we pray now that by your Holy Spirit you will fill us with your vision and fill us with your
desires. Save us from our own foolish ideas, and bring us Father into your presence where we can
see what you want, and we can see that there is nothing that can oppose your power, and nothing that
can frustrate your will, and that all you need is one little heart here on earth that believes you.
Lord, we would pray that you would make that heart, ours.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with each one of us now and evermore, amen.
God Provides Beyond Our Imagination - EPHESIANS
God Provides Beyond Our Imagination
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Barth [Karl Barth, 1886 – 1968, Swiss theologian] mentions it and I thought, “That’s something I
nearly never thought of.” But, the more I thought of it the more I thought, “You’re right.” He
said this, “A lot of us have our idea of God from the Greeks and Romans.” And at first I thought,
“That’s silly, that can’t be.” And then of course, I realized that so many of our priests and so
many of our ministers have, of course, come through the education that was based on the teaching of
the classics. Many of them did Latin and Greek [as language studies], but even if they didn’t, they
know the stories of the Roman gods. And a lot of that influenced parts of Christianity heretically,
really, in the first century.
And then I saw some of the things that he said. He said, “Many of us think, therefore, of God as a
kind of impassive, inscrutable being who is at a great distance from us and who cannot suffer, who
can not suffer, and who is unfeeling and distant.” And I thought, “Often I think we’ve been in that
situation that we’ve started off with the idea that somewhere in the great spaces of eternity there
existed a God like that.” And we kind of imagine him as being there on his own, even if it was only
half a millisecond. We think of him as being there on his own and then — not quite he scratched
his head, but he thought, “It would be nice to have somebody with me. I think I’ll have a Son,
Jesus.” And then several million years later he thought, “Oh maybe I would — we could have some
other people like my Son, and I could make them, and put them on a planet.” And it is surprising
how much of our thoughts about God are tied to that kind of gradual progress from this unknown
inscrutable, impassive being that is out there, who strangely enough, still in a way, in our minds,
retains some of those attributes even though he seems to have this warm Son of God that he has as
his only begotten Son.
And I think we’ve often thought of it that way. And of course this dear book [indicating the Bible]
is remarkable, because it doesn’t give that kind of revelation about God at all. This book says,
“In the very beginning was the word.” Right at the very beginning Jesus was there. And it gives
the whole revelation to us that we were not a long after-thought, that we were in Jesus from the
Indeed it’s interesting, if you do struggle through Barth a bit, you’ll see that he says very, very
clearly that you can almost say — and I mean this is startling I think to us. You can almost say
that we were right at the beginning with God, that he had the whole vision of not only his Son, but
all of us in his Son right from the beginning. That is what God is, God is a loving… God is love.
And we often say that, but we kind of think that, “Oh yes, somewhere in the spaces when there was
no Christ, there were no human beings, God was still loving. Except, who was he loving?
And so it does make sense the more you think about it, that our dear Father had us in mind from the
very beginning, and that he had us in his Son and created us in his Son. And his plan was that his
Son would come to earth inside us, and would complete the creation that he had made, complete it
according to his will. And if you’ve read Fromke [Devern Fromke, American Christian author],
“Ultimate Intention,” you have touched that a little, where he has said, “Yes, it was always God’s
will for us to be in Christ, that Christ was not just sent in as a kind of savior to deliver us from
the mess we got into.” But it was always God’s plan that we would be in his Son, and that his Son
Jesus would work upon the world and upon the creation through each one of us.
And of course then, the Bible goes on to make it clear that God also, so that we would be in every
way like his Son, gave us free wills. And of course we came to earth and he foresaw all that, which
is reasonable you must admit. It is utterly reasonable to believe that of course God knew what he
was making. Let’s say he knew the trouble he was going to cause himself or even the pain he was
going to have to bear. And so he made us with free wills; we came to earth of course, and got full
of ‘ourselves’, as he knew we would. And we began to decide, “Forget this person that is inside us
or that we are inside! We will do what we want to do in this earth. And we’ll do it by our own
And of course he foresaw all that. And what sometimes we don’t realize is, what we are or what we
have been before we came to know Jesus is the result of that kind of life. And the things we have
trouble with in our present lives come from that lie that we entered into back then in the first
Adam, and the lie that continued right down through the centuries. And most of our anxieties come
from that: that we come from a race that has for centuries thought ‘wrongly’ that it is on ‘its
own’, and that it has to do what it must do by its own ability, and that it has no one else to look
after it, but itself.
And so we are actually the results of that. And much of our present lives — even those of us who
have come to know Christ — much of our present lives is still affected by that. And many of the
little habits we have in our personalities come from that whole attitude. So, often when we
suddenly find ourselves worried, because it looks like red ink in the bank balance, that is
something that has been bred into the race for generations. And in a way we’re acting not only
against what we call our own foolishness, or our own lack of faith, but we’re acting against a long,
long strain and stream in humanity that has developed that kind of “flight and fear” approach to
And so that’s really the situation we are in before we come to know anything about Christ. We are
the end of a long, long race of human beings who have lived a lie. And what God of course did for
us right from the beginning — right from the beginning he knew that he would have millions of parts
of his own Son Jesus that had developed in perversion, and that would have to be changed. And
that’s what he did. He himself was in each one of us in Jesus, and he bore all the destruction of
that in Jesus from the before the foundation of the world.
And that was all done. And we have come to earth living in the midst of the lie. But he himself of
course has done away with that lie, has changed it back to the reality that he had in mind for us in
Christ, and has recreated us in Christ and made us completely new.
And that’s why Paul, in this chapter that we’re looking at — really you could say it’s the mystery
chapter because it’s the whole presentation, you may remember, of what Paul says is, “The mystery,
the amazing mystery that Christ is in us, the hope of glory. The amazing mystery that we have been
created in Christ for good works which he prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” And so,
in this mystery chapter, that’s why Paul prays as he does. So if you look at it you’ll see it in
the context that I’ve just outlined. In Ephesians chapter 3 he refers first of all to the mystery.
Then in Ephesians 3:10 he says, “That through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be
made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the
eternal; purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and
confidence of access through our faith in him.”
And he says that that is the mystery: up in verse 8, “To me, though I am the very least of all the
saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to
make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…” The mystery hidden for
ages in God has been this miracle of creating us in Christ and then destroying us and remaking us in
him. “…In God who created all things;”
And then he says you remember in verse 14, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from
whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may
grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to
comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the
love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And of course what we dear hearts struggle with is, we know that that is all true, but we think to
ourselves, “But we’re our parents’ children. And I have my dad’s face, and I have my mom’s way of
speaking. And they are my parents, and I’m really ‘their’ child. And of course we struggle with
that whole thing. I mean we know that God made us in Christ; we know that our moms and dads are
just as temporal as we are, and as transient as we are.
But somehow there, we call them mother and father. Somehow they are our parents; we’re closer to
them surely than to anybody, and yet we know that that isn’t right. We know that they have no
ability to save us once they die. They have no ability to save us once we die. They even are
limited in their ability to do much for us now as we’re grown up. And yet somehow we struggle with
the idea, “Yes, but they’re our parents, and we are like them, and a lot of our traits and our ways
and our attitudes come from them. Yes, I know I was created in Christ. Yes I know I was created in
Christ from before the foundation of the world. Yes I know that first and foremost he is my origin.
I am held together by him; I exist in him. I know that but, but, am I not close…?” And that’s the
battle. “Am I not closer to my parents?”
And of course the fact is, what is “clinging to us closely” there, is the good things about our
earthly creation. Our earthly creation and being made in another lady’s body is not evil. There is
goodness in it. And so that’s where we get confused. We think, “But there were many good things
about being attached to this world.” And we tend to think the good things surely, we ought to hold
The difficulty we have is we hold onto the good things and then it brings a lot of other
disadvantageous things, too. We have attitudes that our parents have; we have ways of speaking that
our parents have; we have whole abilities that our parents have. And in a way they tie us down.
And of course what Paul is saying is, “I pray that you may enter fully into the fullness of the
stature of Christ, that you may be filled with ‘all’ the fullness of God, and that you may be
completely changed. You are a new creation in Christ but I pray that you will experience that
completely, and have a total new birth, a total new life that is absolutely different, where you
yourself are preoccupied completely with the fact that you are here in this earth so that Christ
himself can live a different and individual life through you. And that your life is in him, and
that he is closer to you than anybody else is. And you are closer to him than you are to anyone
else. I pray that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” and that’s what he’s asking.
And what we saw last Sunday was he is not asking a foolish question; he is not making a silly
request. What is the Person going to do who is hearing that prayer? Just look at it in verse 20,
“Now to him,” God our Father. “Now to him who by the power at work within us,” Christ himself, “Is
able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think.” And you remember how we discussed —
we studied that Greek word for “abundantly.” And it’s “exceedingly abundantly.” It’s beyond
anything we can imagine. He is able to do far more than we can ever imagine, far more than all we
ask or think! God is able to do that.
“To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.” And Paul
says, “This is magnificent, that what we are praying that God will do for is in Jesus, he will do
way beyond what we’ve asked!” In other words God is able to absolutely change you completely, and
me, and to completely make us new creations and new beings who have nothing of the ‘old’ tainting
our lives. He is able to destroy us utterly and completely so that we are dead, and only Jesus
lives. And from then on we are able to live ‘constantly’ preoccupied with him. And that is what
God is able to do. He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above what we ask of him.
And I think we need to see that anew. We are able, this very day, to rise up from our seats as
utterly and absolutely and completely new creations.
I know you’d have to leave your mom and dad with Jesus. You’d have to really say, “Lord that was a
good life, and there were many good things in it, and many good things I received from my parents.
But I see that you are calling me to die to all of those as well, and to allow even the good things
to be destroyed in Christ, where you put them to death, where you wiped out all our former life,
where we had misunderstood the importance of this person or that person, and we had substituted this
person or this experience for you, all those things, you destroyed in Christ! And I now ask you to
bring me into the complete deliverance from all those things.
And God’s word says, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think.” So we
are able to be utterly and absolutely free.
I could testify to you that it does just absolutely change your whole inner feelings and attitude
when you live your life, looking up to Jesus every moment, and saying, “This is your life, Lord.
It’s not mine. It is yours. And not the way we do at special times when we realize we’ve sunk
pretty low, but that you can live that way all the time, because God has done this work. And he is
able to make it real in each one of us. He is able to make it a complete work in us, so that, “It
is no longer I that live but Christ lives within me.”
Let us pray.
Mighty Father, we can glimpse that you have done something thorough and real for each one of us in
your dear Son. And Lord Jesus, we can hear your voice assuring us that you are ready now to live
fully in us and to free us utterly and profoundly from all the past, from the bad things in the past
and also from the good things, so that we are utterly dependant on you in whom we have been created,
and so that you are able finally to live fully the life that you have planned in us.
So Lord, we ask you by your Holy Spirit to bring us into the completeness of the new creation that
you have brought about. We thank you for your plain assurance that if anyone is in Christ he is a
new creation, all things are passed away, and all things have become new. Lord, we would open our
arms and grasp the reality with our faith, and rejoice in it, and no longer look back, remember and
thank you for our dear mums and dads. Thank you for all that you have given us in the past, but
Lord, we would now cast it into the depths of that grave, and we would ourselves shake off the
remains of the old grave clothes, and we would stand up with you new creations, no longer ourselves,
but you alive and strong and vital within us, thinking your thoughts, and doing what you want to do,
and in the process lifting us into a new life of joy and trust.
Inward Renewal and Victory - EPHESIANS
Inward Renewal and Victory
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It seems to me Jesus in each of us changes the way we talk to each other and the way we deal with
each other. In respect of what I said was right or not, it’s really important that I speak mindful
that Jesus is in me and is right beside me. I’m sure Greg can analyze his attitude better than I
can but I think both of us had certain attitudes in some ways, in some ways actually he tumbled over
himself just speaking quickly and not really wanting to appear stubborn or kind of controlling
everything himself at all. He didn’t want to do that I’m sure.
But in some way he may have felt as I have often felt as a leader — look at that’s a thing I have
organized, I’ve got it organized, I’ve done everything really nobody can do anymore that I have
already done. Yet, of course, I felt on my part, wait a minute if the President can’t ask you
about the irrigation system or can’t take it over himself than there’s something wrong, but my
attitude needs to be the Savior has this organized.
Our Lord Jesus has Greg in his hands and he has this irrigation system in his hands, and it may be
appropriate for me to point out in a loving way to Greg — look it’s very reasonable for me in my
position to ask you in your position how this thing is going, and even to take part in checking it
out. It’s very reasonable to do that but in a loving and a tender and a kindly way so that it is a
ministry of Jesus loving him and strengthening him.
Of course he’ll be able to work out the way it would change your response to me but it does seem to
me vital that we keep real about this. I mean and that’s part of the reason why I bring it up even
at the beginning of the study this morning because I don’t know how you all operate with each other
when we’re not here. But it’s very much super important that we grasp that if it doesn’t change the
way we talk to each other, well we’re hypocrites to put it bluntly, and certainly the Savior is not
So it just is very important however embarrassing and it shouldn’t be embarrassing for us to speak
honestly to each other and to apologize to each other and that’s why I put my arms around him,
because I want him to know that I love him and respect what he does and all that kind of thing. But
it’s very important that you too deal with each other in that way. Otherwise the Father can’t
answer our prayers because he can’t answer us according to integrity of our heart because he sees a
lot of little people saying, “Oh this Jesus in me, Jesus is in me,” and they’re not letting Jesus
speak through them, they’re not letting Jesus live in them. They’re continuing to live their own
lives and to deal with people in their own way.
So it is very important that we are real about our letting Jesus live in us, and seeing that that
does mean letting him use these lips here and this tongue and these hands in the way he wants. That
will change the way we deal with each other and it seems to me every moment when that isn’t so it is
not only pain again to our savior and crucifixion again of him, but it is a building up of the
spirit of lying and unreality that fills the world. To that extent, it brings something of death
to all of us, and something of sickness and weakness to us. It weakens in a way the fortress and
opens the way for Satan to get in.
So it’s in connection with that that I’d like us to look at that verse again that we have already
spent some weeks on. It’s the verse that we’ve reached in our study of Ephesians. Ephesians 3:20,
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we
ask or think,” I think it’s very easy for us to say, “Oh yes that bit we know very well. Who is
able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think? That’s what George Muller did.
[1805-1898, director of Ashley Down Orphanage] In Bristol, for his orphanages, Muller would pray
and God would do far more abundantly above all that he asked or thought. That’s what it refers to.
It refers to prayer. It has nothing to do with us ourselves or what we can do. It’s all what God
can do as we pray.
Except that you read the first part of the verse, “Now to him who by the power that works within us
is able to do far more abundantly.” So the emphasis is not just on what God can do in answer to our
prayers, but what he does in answer to our prayers he does by the power at work within us. He does
it by the power that is at work inside us, ourselves. And what is that power? Well Galatians 4:6
is one of the verses that state it plainly. Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent
the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” The power at work within us is the
Spirit of Jesus, and that Spirit is working inside us.
That isn’t just our conscience, but Jesus is always giving us light about situations. I use my PDA
at times to put in little lights, little revelations that I get. This one was there is a power
within you that is moving all the time to change you, and that hit me so firmly one day.
There is a power inside me that is working to change me all the time, and that’s Jesus power. It’s
working inside you all the time to change you. There is a different person inside you from you
yourself and that Spirit of Jesus is working all the time to change you. You know it’s the same
truth in Colossians. Colossians 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles
are the riches of the glory of this mystery.” The mystery, “Which is Christ in you, the hope of
glory.” It’s Jesus in us that is working all the time, and is a power inside us. And it’s by that
power that God is going to do things far abundantly above all that we ask or think.
You may say, “Ah, we’ve heard this before.” but why I’m bringing it up is, I think we believe Jesus’
Spirit kind of influences me and through my conscience he tells me what’s right or what’s wrong and
an odd time now and again he gives me a little light and he’s kind of an addendum to my own life but
I’m the main mover here. Of course it’s the other way around completely.
There is really only one human being and that is Jesus. He is the great human being and all of us
are members of his body, and we are just members of Jesus. But we are so full of ourselves. We are
just desperately full ourselves, and we say we were brought up that way. Yes, I agree that’s why
we’re full of ourselves. We just are so full of what we can do and what we cannot do. And of
course God sees it as the other way around completely.
He has put one great human being on the earth, Jesus, and he has made us inside his Son. We are all
members of Jesus and so the Spirit that is at work inside us is Jesus really trying to save his own
way. He’s really trying to do what he’s supposed to do with his body, but of course you and I have
the opposite attitude. We think, no, it’s our body, it’s our body, and we’ll let him maybe use it a
little because of all that he’s done for us.
But, of course, it’s absolutely the reverse of what reality is. Reality is Jesus thinks of this as
his body. That’s why he sees it as easy to heal a leper through us today as when he did it 2,000
years ago. He sees it just as easy to heal a leper. We, of course, are filled with the idea that
this is our life, and the thought of us healing a leper seems ridiculous. But Jesus is inside us
and is still able to heal a leper. That’s why he is able to do abundantly above all that we could
So in what way is Jesus within us? Well, it’s further back in Ephesians 3 there that chapter that
we’re studying. It’s Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays in 16 that
“according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his
Spirit in the inner man and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Uh, oh I hurt my
arm. Oh I’m very conscience of that lectern because I just bashed my body against it. Look at the
color of your dress, it’s really nice. Everything is what we see and what we touch and that’s not
where Jesus dwells.
He dwells inside in our spirits, in the inner man not in the outer man, not in the eyes and the ears
and the arms, but in the inner man. That’s why God is moving all the time to separate us from our
preoccupation with this world of what one might call sensibility. The world of sense, the world of
elbows touching, of eyes seeing, and ears hearing, and tongues tasting, God is working all the time
to separate us from that world with which we’re preoccupied. Why? Because it affects our attitude
and therefore our faith or not faith. The truth is Paul prays that God may enable Christ to dwell
in your hearts through faith. Christ dwells in your heart anyway, whether you know it or not.
Christ is in you whether you know it or not, but his power begins to be manifested when you see
Christ will not take Martha’s arms and lay them there, he will not. The whole purpose of Calvary is
that we would be drawn into God’s will by our own wills submitting and acquiescing in his. God has
refused again and again to send 10,000 angels to overwhelm what human beings did to his Son. God is
committed above all things to bringing us into willing submission to himself. So Christ is in you
but he will not force your hands to do what he wants to do. He will only do what you see he wants
to do and are willing for him to do, and that’s why God begins to bring us into this kind of
experience that separates us from the world of sensibility.
That’s why he brings us into a situation where somebody says something to us that tempts us to
respond just to what they say. Instead of quietly looking over to the Savior inside and finding out
what he really feels about this person, and then expressing that to the person, and so God brings us
into what we used to call breaking experiences. There breaking in the sense that they are breaking
our willfulness, but many of them are not very hard, some of them are a little hard but God is all
the time breaking the outer man. That’s why you remember, 2 Corinthians runs the way it does.
Its 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our
inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are unseen;
for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” That
follows verse 7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” We have Christ within us inside
our earthly bodies, “to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.”
This is why, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death
of Jesus.” Why? “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we
live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be
manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
God is working all the time to break us of the preoccupation of the outward and the physical and the
emotional, and even the relationships to other people. So that we will more and more be preoccupied
with Jesus inside us and we’ll do what he does and we’ll say what he says. The only way to do that
is to bring us through those moments, and it’s so that we will constantly respond as Jesus responds,
and that’s why we’re here.
Was your dad dear, or was your mum dear? Yeah, I think all of us think of little things that our
dads or our mums did. We remember them with affection, and some of their little ways we liked. We
know that some of their little ways we have followed just spontaneously. But after all they’re just
humans like us, and it’s Jesus inside you that has a new life to live. He has a new life to live
inside you, and inside me that he has lived in no one else. That’s why we’re here to let him do
that. It’s Christ in us that is the power, and as we yield more and more to him we will more and
more enter into a new person. We will find him doing the same thing as he did in the first century
and working the same miracles in other people’s lives, and healing sicknesses, and delivering
others, and bringing others into light, but it will be him through us. It will be because we are
utterly preoccupied with him.
I mean I don’t know what you all thought, but I thought it was a fanatical thing to say when Paul
said, “For to me to live is Christ,” I thought the guy is neurotic, but that’s what it is, living
becomes for you Christ doing and speaking in you. It’s Christ that is everything to you, and he
takes over everything you do, and it’s him that is the power within us, and it is by that power
within us that God is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think.
So it is true, it is an exchanged life. We have been created to be changed from glory to glory, to
be transformed by Jesus taking over. That’s why it’s important to me, if you say, “Oh listen its
supernatural life you’re talking about.” That’s it. It is a supernatural life. That’s why there
is no — you cannot live higher than God wants you to. That’s why the revival in Uganda was the way
it was. In East Africa, they wondered why it went on so long, and there were some principles that
it followed just two or three of them. One was every house that went into it had up the wall at eye
level height, it had the cross hanging. You always looked up to the highest when you came into a
room. You looked up to the highest and that’s what, that was their way of saying, “That’s the way
We always looked to the highest, and we expect Christ to live his highest in us every day, and
that’s I think what God has called us to. Christ in us and by that power within us he is able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that guys could think. I think that Marty was talking about some
substance in our bodies that warns your body a little ahead of the time when it collapses. What the
scientists have found is that if you rejoice that substance in your body can actually do more than
you thought it was possible for it to do.
Of course, that’s just God’s way of illustrating to us that that is repeatedly and deeply the truth
in this life. We are able to do far abundantly above what we ourselves are capable of because there
is within us Christ himself. And I just mention again to you, that’s not a myth, that’s not just a
high thought to inspire you. That is reality, Christ himself has told us, “Abide in me, and I in
Let us pray.
The Deep Mystery of Christ - EPHESIANS
The Deep Mystery of Christ
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn to Ephesians 3, please. It’s the very last verse — verse 21, “To him be glory in the
church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” You know as I do that
Christ to everybody means Jesus of Nazareth. It means to them a man who lived in the first century,
and is worshiped by some people as the Son of God, but they think of him simply as that one ordinary
human being who was perhaps elevated in some way, or was in some way that they don’t understand, the
Son of God. But they never, never think of him as being the person in whom they were made. They
never think of him as the person by whom all the stars, and the planets were made. They never think
of him as the person through whose power the whole universe was created.
They never think of him in those elevated and glorious ways, and I think that explains partly why
they even ever come to use him as a swear word. I think it’s part of that that makes them under
interpret Jesus in all kinds of ways. Even I would say when they come to worship him, even when
they begin to believe in him, I think they often think of him as just a self-contained being of some
kind, but they never really accept that they were made inside him, or that it is by his life that
they all hold together. Not for a moment. I don’t know what you think but I honestly think they
would not have the daring, or the chutzpah to regard someone on whom their life depended as a person
that they could in some way despise, or set aside, or use as a swear word. So there is a great
misunderstanding about Jesus in our world, unthinkable though it is.
You and I would believe that surely for generations the church has been communicating these facts to
the world, and we would think, “No, that cannot be.” But, you reflect for a moment and I think
you’ll come to the same conclusion as me, that when people talk about Jesus Christ, they think of
Jesus of Nazareth as a human being that lived in the first century and who may be the Son of God,
and who certainly is worshiped as the Son of God by some people. They don’t think of him as the
great being by whose life and in whom everything hangs together. But to my mind it makes the
humility of Jesus beyond expression, beyond explanation. That he should bear such animosity, and
such contempt, and such disrespect and still keep us together, still hold us together within
himself. Whatever pain it may cause him, he still holds us together. Holds together the very
person who uses his name as a swear word. Holds together the very person who is at that moment
destroying another being inside himself, whose pain he is feeling more intensely than the person
themselves. It is so incredible that there is no word to describe the love that you feel for him
when you think of those things.
Now, that of course – that whole misunderstanding of Jesus as just an ordinary human being is what
Paul is tackling here in this whole chapter, and he is setting forth what he calls the mystery of
Christ. And I would submit to you that the world doesn’t know that phrase. People don’t know what
the mystery of Christ is. They don’t know that there is a mystery in Christ. Indeed, we have
probably done wonders in our Sunday Schools. We probably have done wonders making sure that so many
children know about Jesus of Nazareth but we probably too have done a great disservice because we
have presented him continually from the point of view of a simple person that is easy for a child to
understand. In truth, he is that. I’m sure at the end of this world we will see that he is the
great unifying principle that people like Hawking and Einstein have looked for through the
generations. I’m sure we will see how unbelievably simple the whole explanation is and that it is
as simple as Jesus himself.
But, I think the other side of teaching the children how simple Jesus is, is that we have never
stressed the mystery of Christ. That there are things inside Christ that we do not see when we look
simply upon his face as we see it described in the New Testament as a man in Palestine. Of course,
Paul is correcting that in this chapter because he’s setting forth all the great complexity of
Christ. He’s talking about the mystery of Christ that has been hidden in God for generations.
This mystery that has only recently been made known through the apostles and he points out how this
is the mystery that God had as a plan from the beginning of the world. From before the foundation
of the world God planned to make all of us inside his Son and to bear with all that we would inflict
upon him and upon each other, to bear all that inside his Son.
You remember we said because God himself is responsible and he must understand and feel all the
consequences of his action. Once he determined to make free will beings he had to make them in
such a way that he would bear, even to the point of death, everything they would bring about in
their lives through the exercise of their free will. So Paul sets forth all the wonder, and all
the complexity of that, and makes it clear to us that in Jesus everything that has happened in this
world has been felt by God our Father and has been experienced in him in detail. He explains that
that’s why the world holds together at all.
I was saying to Joe yesterday that it is remarkable how – I suppose it’s the principle of mechanics.
I don’t know how much mechanics you did, but we had to do it in mathematics at some point in our
careers and one of the laws of mechanics is resultants — that every action brings about an opposite
and opposing reaction. And I was saying to Joe that in a deep way that’s part of what God did when
he crucified the world in Christ and redeemed the world to himself. He set forth in the world all
kinds of corrections to the errors that man would bring about himself.
I as a little guy found it just with nettles, I hated nettles. Nettles were the big bane of our
lives when we played around our little bit of wild territory in Belfast. Nettles were horrible
because they left you with this rash that you couldn’t do anything about until someone said, “Oh,
try a docken [dockweed] leaf.” I don’t know how you spell docken even, I just know we called it a
docken leaf and here was these leaves beside the nettles and you rubbed that and that dealt with the
nettles rash. That was my first experience of that principle of reaction and of what God had done
in Christ. Because of course, I think Irene puts it that way, the answer lies to your hand,
everywhere around the answer lies to our hand.
There are antidotes for all – it seems for all the diseases and all the sicknesses and then of
course, there are antidotes for all the economic ills because what we do is we get cheaper and
cheaper products from China, and cheaper and cheaper until it’s not worth us running our own
manufacturing operations so we let our whole manufacturing base in America or in the west die, and
all the production goes abroad until eventually we discover that all the people who made hammers,
and made refrigerators have no money now to buy the goods the rest of us make. So we decide, “Oh
well, we better bring the manufacturing back so that we have a balanced society.” In economics
there are all kinds of balances that seem to occur and that God has worked out carefully and much of
it brings tremendous pain to himself because there isn’t a person who suffers, there isn’t a little
poverty stricken person in the Rust Belt that suffers but he does not suffer inside him.
So God has borne with all our foolishness and yet has corrected it, even as he has borne it. Part
of that is what God has done in Jesus and that’s all part of the mystery of Christ and that’s why
Paul ends the chapter as he does you see. That’s why he says in that last verse, “To him be glory
in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” ‘Aionon’ at the
very end means literally “eon.” You can see to the ages of the ages. It means forever. It’s the
Greek idiom for ever. “To the ages of the ages, throughout the ages of the ages to him be glory in
the Church and to Christ Jesus to all generations.” Glory actually is the Greek word for opinion.
In the New Testament it always means good opinion, but of course, it also means glory and praise.
So, to God and to his Son Jesus, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus because it is in
Christ that that glory will be.
I would just point out the phrase ‘in the church’ because it is interesting that he brings the
church right in there in the middle. It’s because he believes that people like ourselves will be
among the foremost to allow Christ’s miracle to work in us. And that there will be seen in us the
joy, and delight, and liberty, and freedom that comes from knowing that God has corrected everything
in us. That God has foreseen every difficulty that would come up in our lives and has met it. That
God has made all the rough places plain and has taken all the bends out of the road, and therefore,
that we ourselves will live a life of lighthearted joy and that’s why he says, “To him be praise and
to be glory in the Church.” Not just let the praise and glory rise from angels. Not just let
everybody at the end praise and glorify God for what he has done in Jesus, but let that glory be
seen in us. Let our lives be part of that peon of praise that goes up through the universe.
So, it is part of our praise that we don’t just lift our hands up and say, “Praise God,” or,
“Hallelujah,” or even sing our hymns, but part of our praise is the joy and delight that we live
tomorrow morning on the road going out to our first store, and going out with a joy in our hearts
that we are in Jesus at God’s right hand, and that we are above every rule, and authority, and
dominion, and power. And then the first thing that goes wrong, the first person that cuts in front
of the car on the road, at that very moment there is in us a thanksgiving going up to God, “Lord,
thank you that you knew this would happen. Thank you Lord, that you have a way out of this for me
and you have the way plain before me despite what others may think or do.” And that is part of the
praise that goes up to God.
So you know, it can’t go up to him if it’s a kind of deliberate, “Oh, I must remember this.” It
really goes up to him only when it rises delightfully from our own hearts. So it is our privilege
to receive all that God has set forth here in Ephesians 3, and then to live in the reality of that
mystery. In the sheer simple reality that there is not one thing that will occur this coming week
in our lives that God has not foreseen, and has not borne in Jesus, and has not provided an antidote
for, and there is not one trial come upon us above what we are able to bear.
Of course, that applies if you would just dust around the inside of that cobwebbed mind that applies
to all the little dusty corners that you have there. It applies to all the little uncertain things
that you’re not sure of — all the little vague fears and apprehensions. Every little place where
there’s a tiny little anxiety hiding, bring that right out and acknowledge it and say, “Lord, that
too not only shall pass but has already passed and has already been borne by you in Christ.” And as
you do that the praise and the glory goes up to God and will continue to be ages of the ages.
Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you that it is a great joy to you when you see the immediate effects of the
deliverance that you have wrought for us from before the foundation of the world. Lord, we thank
you that that brings a joy to you, a fullness of satisfaction that no words can cause.
So, Father, we would live in the glorious reality that is included in the mystery of Christ whereby
you have foreseen every item of our lives and have answered them all. You have not only delivered us
but turned them right around and brought good out of them so that there lies before us a path of
beauty, and victory, and glory. Not simply a second best, but your very best for us, the perfect
way that you have planned for us to travel into your presence.
So Lord, we would lift up our hearts. We would lift them up and see the everlasting gates, and see
the king of Glory come in, and see that our lives had been transformed and changed and elevated in
him. Lord, we thank you.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us
now and forever. Amen.
The Mystery of Christ Living in Us - EPHESIANS
The Mystery of Christ Living in Us
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’d like to speak briefly today on the chapter we just finished. I think we’re just finishing, so
if you look at Ephesians at once you’ll see the verse that we drop to, it’s Ephesians 3:21, “To him
be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.” ‘Aionis aion’
are the Greek words ‘forever and ever’ and means for generations or for the ages of the ages. So
the verse is, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations.”
Really it means the glory that will come from God will come from the little miserable crowd here
because that’s what it is — that’s what the church is. It’s those who have heard, and believed,
and live in the reality that God has brought. Of course this Chapter 3 is probably the deepest
explanation of the agony that exists in our world. It is a profound panoramic view of the whole of
the life of the universe from eternity even into eternity and right through the middle here on
So it’s remarkable and the language is beyond any language that we have heard expressing the truth
of God and what he has done. I think you’re the same as I am. I certainly was influenced by the
Greek and Roman idea of the Supreme Being, and actually I think many theologians were because you
may not know it but there’s a phrase, patripassianism. It comes from ’pater’ [father] in Latin and
‘passus’ [having suffered] which is to suffer. It means the father suffering, and our theologians
will tell us, that’s a heresy. It kind of comes as a shock to us. But they talk about
‘patripassianism’ as a heresy, as a mistake, as something that can’t be. God cannot suffer because
he is above everything, and apart from everything, and separated from everything, and mighty and
untouched by other things. And so God can’t suffer.
I think that as part of the reason that I came up through the church with a firm belief that the
Supreme Being is high and lifted up way above the earth, way above man and woman’s experiences and
he dwells in absolute peace. And he dwells in absolute peace because he is untouched by any of the
chaos and any of the pain that are here on earth. And if you say to me, “But didn’t you learn Jesus
was touched with our infirmities?” Yes, but I thought Jesus was sent and he is touched by our
infirmities. He came to earth and was a human being for a while, and therefore he knows the kind of
thing we go through, and then he went back up to His Father, and there he lives as the divine Son of
Now untouched by our infirmities, but interceding for us, and I had the idea he interceded for us
because God didn’t understand it fully or didn’t have the same attitude to me as Jesus did. So the
idea, I think is strong in many of our lives that God certainly loves us, and he cares about us, and
he sent his Son to save us, but he himself has created us not as an experiment exactly, but as kind
of a something that he can take part in when he chooses to. But certainly we are not his only
concern, and we are not someone who affects greatly how he feels, though he has sympathy for us, and
he loves us, and he wants to help us.
But I certainly came up with the idea that that was the situation, that God did love me — that he
had made me — that he had sent his Son to save me, and that he was interested in my life, but that
he himself was untouched by it. Of course in this chapter that whole thing changes because Paul
makes it very clear to us that there is a mystery that was kept hidden during Old Testament days.
And you notice that Old Testament tends to give the picture of God that I’ve outlined. There are
times when it says God is merciful, but on the whole God is thought of as someone who is far above
it all. And Paul says, “There is a mystery that has been hidden all down through those years that
has now been made known to us and the mystery is, Christ in you and Christ in God, and so God in you
and you in God.” That is the whole truth that has come clear to you and me.
We’ve begun to realize God did not stand away at a distance and make these funny little creatures
and then put these funny little creatures on a sphere, throw it into space, watch from a distance
and from time-to-time come in and clean the thing up and then let it go again. God did not do that.
Our Father determined that he would have children like his only begotten Son Jesus. And to do
that, he in fact gave to his Son the ability to have children. Inside Jesus he created all of us,
and he did that because he wanted a relationship with us. He wanted us to be related to him, he
wanted us to be – it’s ironic to say it, flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, spirit of his Spirit.
So he created us in Jesus, close to his own heart, because he wanted us to be like himself, and
like his Son.
He wanted us to love because we wanted to love, not because we couldn’t do anything else, not
because we had to love, but because we wanted to love. Therefore he had to give us the ability to
hate if we wanted to hate. He knew that if he put us in that position we would be lost forever
because many of us would choose to hate. So, to prevent that he made us inside his own Son so that
whatever we did would be done inside his Son, and he would be able to keep us alive through his
Son’s breath and life, through his Son’s milk that he would continue to give us. In fact, that is
the present situation that he inside his Son understands and feels everything that we do, the good
and the bad. He feels it more intensely than we do, or than other people do, because we are part
of him, and so he does bear our sin daily.
The Father, of course, has as Barth says, “Put himself at risk for us.” He has said, “I will bear
the worst that you do. Whatever that is, I will bear it because I made you, and I made you in my
Son, and I made you capable, dreadful though the thought is, I made you capable of doing the things
that you’re doing. And I have to be honest and bear all those consequences. I have to, otherwise I
am just an unfeeling monster. I have to be responsible for what I want and for what I deserve.”
Of course, it’s a completely different situation.
It means that our Father feels everything that goes on in this world. The wonder of that is, of
course, that he holds onto us that we don’t have to win a place in his heart, that we don’t have to
somehow climb up and get onto his knee, that we don’t have to go through all kinds of worries and
anxieties in order to be accepted by him. We have never been rejected by him. We have rejected his
Son, we have rejected him, but he has not rejected us. He has held onto us still, and holds onto
us this very moment. And that’s why Paul says, “To him be glory in the church.” Because the only
way any honest recognition of what he is will take place is in those who believe that, and who live
a life in the light of that, and that is the church, the body of Jesus. So, really we talk about
going around the stores and God being able to use our lives to touch the hearts of the store owners,
but that is only true because we first bring glory to him. By walking around the stores in Jesus,
and always having the attitude that Jesus himself has, and letting him have that attitude through us
and it’s because of that that others might catch sight of him.
But first of all we bring glory to God, and if you could tie that right down to the usual things we
talk about, we’re all back at sample cases falling off the trolley on to the floor as you go down
steps. Or, some door closes at the wrong moment and you drop your handbag or you drop your file
folder, at that moment there can be glory to God because your heart rises in the knowledge, “Lord,
you have me not only in your heart but you have me in your center of your dear Son, and Lord Jesus
you have the life here.”
Lance Armstrong does not exercise Christian faith but every time one of us keeps on pedaling a bike,
or keeps on going in the afternoon when you’re tired and worn out, and you keep going by the memory
that Christ is in you at this moment saying, “Lord Jesus, these are your legs and these are your
feet, and you have the strength to do this.” Every time we give that, glory comes to God, and glory
continues to come to his heart, and that’s why Paul says, “To him be glory in the church and in
Jesus Christ,” because it’s in Jesus in each one of us that glory builds.
Now let’s just look briefly then at the chapter, I’ll really keep it moving, “For this reason,”
3:1-7, “I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard
of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me
by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the
mystery of Christ,” that all of us have been made in him, and all of us have been raised up with him
and made to sit at God’s right hand. “Which was not made known to the sons of men in other
generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is,
how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ
Jesus through the gospel.” Of course the truth there is so are all our customers because the
Gentiles are in the same spot as they are.
The Gentiles did not believe in the Old Testament, they did not believe in God Jehovah, and yet Paul
is saying, “But they were also made in Christ Jesus, and Christ died for all, therefore they also
died.” So that chapter is saying to us that our customers are there, that it is not them and us,
it is us together in Christ. “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s
grace which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the
saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to
make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that
through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and
powers in the heavenly places.” [Ephesians 3:7-10] And that mystery is what we’ve just talked
about. It’s my simple way of expressing it, but that’s the mystery, that we are made in Christ —
that we’re raised up with Christ and that we are part of God.
“This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus,” it’s already been
realized. We’ve already been raised up and made to sit with him. “In whom we have boldness and
confidence of access through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am
suffering for you, which is your glory.” Then this is what Paul prays for us in the light of that,
and of course it’s the prayer that we pray for our customers. “For this reason I bow my knees
before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the
riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner
man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in
love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and
depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the
fullness of God.” [Ephesians 3:14-19]
You can say to somebody, “You have been created in Christ, and Christ is in you.” It’s poppycock to
them. It’s stupid talk, it’s silliness, only the Holy Spirit can make it real to them. That’s
where we’ve talked about the inadequate words we use sometimes. I think Joe and I were talking the
other day about how inadequate, and shallow, and superficial words can be, that you speak to people
where you try to reveal to them truth. And it is true often we’re making a mockery in a way of the
truth and we’re trivializing it by trying to put into sharp and little phrases. Of course the only
way it will come home is if we pray for them, and it’s the prayers that will bring about the reality
in them, plus our living in the light and the joy of Jesus each moment.
So that’s what he’s saying, and in the very last bit, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through
faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses
knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work
within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the
church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.”
Let us pray.
God Reigns Over all Circumstances - EPHESIANS
God Reigns Over All Circumstances
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’re on a verse today that I think expresses what we’re about, really. It’s Ephesians 4:6 and it
just states it so clearly that even though I know we’ve done it at least once in Raleigh and maybe
once here, I think we should do it again today. It’s Ephesians 4:6, “one God and Father of us all,
who is above all and through all and in all.” One God and Father of us all, who is above all and
through all and in all. I say it speaks to what we do because we knew from the very beginning that
we were committing ourselves to operate outside the normal church. We spend most – in fact, we
probably spend all of our time with people who are not thought of as church people or as Christians.
Probably all of us spend all our days in that kind of atmosphere.
I think we are often dogged by the traditional lie that we were brought up in, “us” and “them”. I
think all of us fight it and none of us like it. We all try not to let it occur in our thinking
when we’re in that store and we’re talking to that person, especially if they happen to blast out a
word that we don’t like, we try to keep down the feeling that we are not “them”.
We joke about it often, “Different God, different mountain top” — you remember that line in
“Chariots of Fire”. We think, “Yes, with a different God, with a different mountain top. We are on
the mountain top and they’re down there.” It’s quite difficult isn’t it, because it just comes to
you again and again, partly because we feel that’s part of the reason of our existence, that we’re
here to get them up on the mountain top. We’re here to transmit Jesus to them and so, it is very
easy to fall into the old traditional Christian, or really it’s not Christian, it’s the old
traditional religious attitude that they are “out there” and we are “here”. We are here to do them
good. I think it comes out in all kinds of little ways that we ourselves don’t realize.
I think very quietly we judge much of what they do. Very quietly in our own hearts we’re thinking,
“Yes, well of course you don’t really understand it. You don’t see it right, so of course, that’s
why you think that way. We are a long way away from each other, but we’re certainly going to do
everything possible while I’m in this store, or while I’m in this motel, to make you feel that I’m
really just like you. We’re the same kind of people.” I don’t think there’s anything evil or bad
in our attitude. I don’t think we’re knowingly proud, or we’re knowingly self-righteous, but we
are. I think that was part of that comment that I heard someone say about that movie, “Paradise
Road”. Do you remember the missionary lady who actually helped formed the choir? A rather liberal
sophisticated lady from Hong Kong was in the choir and she said to the missionary lady, “Oh, we
never talked to missionaries and we didn’t have really much to do with them. I didn’t know what you
were like. I always thought you were strange people.” And the missionary lady said, “Yes, a bit
self-righteous.” And the other lady of course, being a good mannerly British lady I suppose said,
“Oh no, no, no.” The missionary lady said, “Well, I think we are.”
We don’t mean to be self-righteous, but I think that all of us face these things as we deal with the
outside world and indeed we think of it as the outside world. I think what our dear Father has been
patiently saying to us now for some time is what’s in this verse, “one God and Father of us all, who
is above all and through all and in all.”
He is our Father and he is their Father. I know exactly where you’re going to go, where I’ve gone
repeatedly, “Well, you can’t say that. I mean, heaven will be crowded. Well, well, alright it
won’t be crowded but there’s something not right here. I mean, there is a heaven and a hell. I
mean, there are saved and unsaved. Wait a minute, you can’t say he’s their Father. I mean, where
does that leave us? What are we doing here? Why are we trying to convert them?” Do you see that
we get ourselves into a whole concern with eternal destiny that is not what God has put under our
control. It’s not the charge that he has given us. He has not called us to decide whether they are
going to be in heaven or not. He has not called us to determine whether they are Christians or not.
He has not called us to say exactly how he is going to sort the whole thing out. But we get into
that very quickly.
We see a real contradiction between this verse and preaching, and witnessing, and evangelizing,
because we think, “No, if he’s already their Father well, we don’t need to do anything. Yippee!”
It begins to occur to you, does it not, that maybe we’re a bit twisted in our whole attitude to
evangelism and witnessing? Maybe we do think of it primarily as getting someone into something,
getting somebody into the fold, getting somebody saved from hell and going to heaven, rather than
blowing our minds with the wonderful kind and generous Father that gives us the sunshine, and puts
this blood around our arteries, and veins, and puts their blood around their arteries and veins, and
holds their body together every second, and holds our bodies together, and keeps on giving us these
things time, after time, after time, after days lived in forgetfulness of him. This is our Father,
and this is our God. This is the great person that has made us, and this is the dear person that we
are all to deal with. This is the dear one that is their Father, too, and that is giving them those
same things — and, as we’ve seen over these recent weeks and months, is bearing their sins day
after day — bore them all before he even made them. He foresaw everyone, even Ian Huntley who
killed the little girls in Soham. He saw them, saw him, saw him burying the bodies and gave him
life, and protected him and kept him safe. This is our Father and this is the dear Father of every
one that we visit in those stores week after week — and he is bearing that in them.
“Is it not just common sense, apart from being loving, to let them know that instead of giving them
the feeling that they’re not really in your class and they’re not really the way they should be, and
if they change this in their lives, or if they begin to read the Bible, or they begin to do this,
they might begin to be accepted by this dear Father that is holding them up at that very moment?”
Well, it’s bearing false witness apart from anything else.
It’s bearing false witness. It’s implying that he is a judge of some kind that will help them when,
at last, they get up to the right level. When we know he isn’t. He is the Father of all. The
Bible says, “Over all and through all and in all.” Of course, it repeats it: “if Christ died for
all then all died”. It’s no use trying to hold Ephesians 2:10 to just the Christians. “For you are
God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that you
should walk in them.” It’s no use trying to keep that just to Christians in the light of John 1:3,
“By him all things were made and without him was not anything made that was made.” He is the Father
of all. He is the dear Father of all. You see what we do? We allow Satan to get us into a place
where we’re misrepresenting God, where we’re witnessing not to the kind and the generous Father who,
at this very moment, is bearing their sins, and at this very moment is forbearing with them, and at
this very moment is giving them far more gifts than anyone else gives them. We’re misrepresenting
that God because we’re thinking, “Well, yes I know that’s right, but in some way, haven’t we to get
over to them that they’re not right?”
Well, Jesus made it very plain. He said, “And when he [the Holy Sprit] comes, he will convince the
world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8) And he himself said, “I have not
come to condemn. I have come to save.” (John 3:17)
These are saving days. It just is not my job. It’s just not our job. It’s not our job. Our dear
Father has foreseen it all. He has seen every life that would ever be lived. He has put it all
into his blessed Son Jesus and he has crucified the world there and crucified all of us. He has
made the whole thing right and now, he has given us a world here to show us what would have been if
he had not acted. So, we’re living in a world that is going its own way, but he himself has already
created a new one, a new heaven and a new earth. He has prepared this earth already and that IS the
real world that exists. What we are seeing is a blip, a blip in the whole stream of eternity in
these few seconds.
He has allowed us to be here during that blip with full confidence that he has fixed it and he’s
saying to us, “This is a fixed world. This is a world that I have already redeemed. It’s a world I
have already crucified and I’ve already resurrected. This person that you’re visiting here in their
store, I have already destroyed them and made them alive in my Son. Oh, if they could only know
that they would be changed here on earth. Let them see what I’ve done in you.”
Too often we’re so burdened with this great responsibility that we feel we have to make the thing
absolutely clear to them that we stifle the joy and delight that is natural to a group of men and
woman who have such a loving kind Father as we have. If you say to me, “Well, do you think that
they’d see anything?” You betcha. If they saw a carefree, joyful, happy, relaxed human being like
them facing the same things as them, they’ll begin to look up a little and think, “There’s something
different here”, because he is OUR Father and THEIR Father. They are our dear brothers and sisters.
I don’t know — Mick Jagger? I could probably do without Mick as my brother — but the fact is,
he’s my brother and my Father has the same love for him as he has for me. He’s done the same things
for him as he has for me. So, we are the different people. We are the people who love freely
without judging, because we are the children of the Father who has loved without judging. So, it’s
a great job we have.
Let us pray. Dear Lord, we do thank you that you have not given us a clever job of sophistry. You
have given us a delightful job of enjoying you and your love for us, enjoying your readiness to put
up with us and to make everything right, and then to watch us, year after year, as we continue to do
other things wrong. You, again and again, until 70 times seven, have shown your mercy and your
gracious love. We thank you, Lord. We thank you Father, that you’ve not even given us the heavy
job and the impossible job of making this world right.
We thank you that you have not even given us the job of making other people right, because you have
told us that you have already redeemed the world. You have already crucified it and raised it up
new. You have already fixed all the things that are wrong and made the crooked path straight. You
gave us the job of walking in the freedom and the assurance of that — so that even as we walk,
sometimes on paths that seem a bit crooked, sometimes on places that seem a bit rough — somehow we
find ourselves walking two feet above them in smooth waters. Somehow the waters of the lake don’t
seem to be torn by storm. We are able to walk on them and we thank you Father, that that is your
miracle, that we walk by faith in what you have already done and are not overwhelmed and worried by
what seems to be.
Lord, we thank you. We pray now for our customers, Father. We are sorry, Lord, if we have been
uppity with them or we’ve been critical of them. We’re sorry if we’ve been self-righteous. We see
Lord, that you are THEIR Father as you are OUR Father, and you are that in no distant way. You are
over them, and you’re through them, and you’re in them and so you’re closer to them than we are.
Lord, we thank you, and we would love them in you and love you in them as we go back to see them
this coming year. We thank you that you have given us one task and that is to express the joy and
delight of being children of such a kind and generous and loving Father. We thank you Lord, that by
that means you will lift them up and make them stand in the heaven’s tableland.
The Son of Man is Above All - EPHESIANS
The Son of Man is Above All
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn to Ephesians 4, and that’ll mean we can all start together. Ephesians 4:6 is the
verse that we’re studying today. Ephesians 4:6, “One God and Father of us all, who is above all and
through all and in all.” Somewhat of an epiphany started for me some years ago when I remembered
again, that first verse of the lesson that we read, “When the Son of man comes in his glory and all
his holy angels with him.” It’s the well-known prophecy of the judgment day when Jesus will
separate the nations one from another. In normal theology, we were all very clear that Jesus was
often referred to by different names. One of the names that was well-known was “Son of man”. Son
of man was the name that emphasized, in the view of the theologians down through the centuries, the
humanity of Jesus, that he was a human being. I was well aware of that when the New Testament used
the term, “The Son of man,” it was emphasizing the humanity of Jesus — except that this says, “When
the Son of man comes in his glory.”
In ordinary theological terms, that was a contradiction to me, and a contradiction to all of us who
were brought up in the study of theology, because it meant that Jesus, the human being, was coming
in his glory when he was supposedly elevated to the right hand of God and he only had his divinity.
Because for us, he was known as the Son of man in his human life on earth, but then when he was
elevated to the right hand of God, he was known as the Son of God and his divinity is what we always
thought of being uppermost. Suddenly, I was faced with this apparent contradiction and paradox that
Jesus was going to exercise his authority on the Day of Judgment as a human being, as the Son of
man. It was then that I began to find other references in theology that suggested that: the moment
when the lion’s den is talked about, or the fiery furnace is talked about. It was in Daniel and it
talks about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and then a fourth one “like unto the Son of man”. I
started to look back to the references in theology that suggested that the appearances of God in the
Old Testament were often the appearances of the Son of God, of Jesus himself, and that he existed in
Old Testament times and came to earth in Old Testament times as himself.
Then I found other references in theology that suggested that Jesus would be a human being forever.
It was just startling to me because I was very sure that I understood the gospel — and the gospel
was that God made us in his image, and then he sent Jesus down who lived here for a short time, 33,
35 years, and after that visit went up to be with his Father again — and that was it. He came to
human life to show us how we should live and to bear the things that we bore for a short time, and
then to go back to heaven. I never thought that he was a human being now and forever. Of course,
you know some of the verses that stated it very clearly. If you glance at Colossians 1:15, it
stands out most plainly, “He,” Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God.” That I knew — that he
was divine. He was the divine Son of God. But the next clause had never made sense to me — and
now it began to make sense, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.”
I started to try to think through it. I think that means that when God started creation, which might
have been when he made the planet, but probably was long before that because there were other things
in existence before that that were different from him himself, because creation means that God
created something outside himself. It’s different from emanation.
So many of the Middle Eastern religions believe there’s an emanation of the Spirit of God — he kind
of comes forth. So there’s no distinction between the object and it. That’s why [the theologian]
Francis Schaeffer said, Protestant and Catholic Christianity open the way for scientists to operate
because scientists at last grasp that the earth and the physical life was something separate from
themselves, and they could study it and analyze it, whereas under the Middle Eastern religions or
the Eastern religions, it was just an emanation of the Spirit of God and of course, could not be
separated from God himself.
I realized that God, at some point, created something outside himself — maybe that was stars or
constellations, maybe it was matter itself — but certainly at that point Jesus was the first-born
of all creation. I began to see that God had created outside himself, the person who was part of
himself, his own Son, and that person was humanity — and that was the human race that God created
in his own image. He made it part of himself by making it part of his own Son, Christ. Christ was
the first-born of all creation. The next verse [Colossians 1:16] is just as deep, “For in him all
things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
principalities or authorities—all things were created though him and for him. He is before all
things, and in him all things hold together.”
It was a whole new view of reality that I had never had before — that God made everything inside
his own dear Son so that it would share his Son’s life and share his Son’s eternity and actually and
share his own power. Everything was made inside Jesus. The verses made sense to me as I saw John
1, “in him all things were made. All things were made through him and by him and without him was
not anything made that was made.” You may remember me once pointing out that the Greek in those
first few verses of John means that actually everything that is was life in him. And that’s
actually the right translation of it, everything that was made was life in him, was life in Jesus.
In other words, everything came out of Jesus and everything is in him. And of course, it wasn’t
long before I came across the other verses where Jesus says, “I in you, and you in me.” [John 14:20]
And then the verse that probably was the first one that I shared with you, Ephesians 2:10, “For we
are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which he has prepared beforehand that
we should walk in them.” It dawned upon me that this is God’s workmanship created in Christ himself
for good works and that we were each made inside Jesus and were part of him. Colossians says, “we
hold together inside him”. Christ holds us together inside him. And then, it made sense of the
whole bearing of sin.
I was always very unsatisfied intellectually with all the theories of the atonement, but of course,
particularly the crude ones that said, “Oh yes, Christ paid his life by ransom to Satan, the devil,
so that we could get our lives back.” That seemed crazy, that God was at the mercy of the devil and
had to exchange Jesus — but that seemed to be the level on which many of the theories of the
atonement was built. They all seemed to me, “Why did he kill the wrong man? Why kill Jesus? Lord,
why kill your Son and then pretend it’s us?” I could not get my mind around that and yet, it’s the
accepted gospel. That’s the way it’s presented, the “substitutionary theory”. That’s the heart of
most of the theology that rules Christendom today, but I just could not see the justice of it or the
sense of it. Of course, this transformed it.
I saw clearly that our dear Father is a responsible person above everything else and that he does
not make a mass of little people and put them on a planet and let them murder each other and then
suddenly say, “You’re forgiven.” I saw that isn’t him. He doesn’t play games like that. What’s
forgiven if they all kill each other and you just sit up there and watch them? That runs through
the Old Testament. Again and again the Israelites rebelled against him — he forgave them. They
rebelled against him — he forgave them. “Though your sins be scarlet they shall be as white as
snow, though they be like crimson they shall be as wool.” [Isaiah 1:18] Yet it seemed to me, “What?
There’s nothing difficult in that.” Until I saw that everyone was in him, in Jesus. Everything
was done in Jesus. Our dear Father determined that he would pay the price of giving us free will
and that price was that we might be condemned to death — not just in Jesus on Calvary, that was
just the outward physical historical expression — but that we would beat him to death as long as we
In other words, that he would keep us alive in his Son, and he would hold us together from flying
apart, and he would keep the atoms together in our bodies even as we, inside him, created chaos, and
agony, and destruction, and he would hold onto that, and he would hold us inside himself even as we
tore each other apart and tore apart the things he had made and the people he had created, and the
people in whom he lived. So that when they got the rifle butts and slammed them into the wee girl’s
peak, they were his feet, they were his feet. He allowed nothing to happen that he himself did not
bear personally. He committed himself to bearing inside himself the worst that we would do to each
Indeed, he bore the heart of it. The little girl, Raina, bore some pain as they smashed the rifle
butts into her feet last week, but the unbearable pain was borne by him and is part of the reason
everyone testifies to the fact that there is an unremarkable insensitivity to the agony that you’re
going through. There is a sense in which you’re lifted out of it and you see it as happening to
someone else, and somehow, the pain is bearable. Then, it made sense to me, all this bearing of
sin. It lifted it out of all the imagery of the Old Testament which does its best with the goat
going into the wilderness with the sins upon it. But then, I saw it’s God himself bearing it all
inside himself and he is a responsible God.
When God determined that he would give some dear children all the privilege that he had and a free
will, he determined also that he would endure whatever they thought fit to lay upon him. That’s why
Barth says, “God put himself at risk.” That’s what makes sense of this verse, that “God is the
Father of all and he is over all, and in all, and through all.” Most evangelicals have to twist it
to make it mean the Christians, but of course, there’s no way to twist the English. It’s so plain.
“God is the Father of all. He is over all, and in all and through all.” You can’t do anything
with “in” in Greek but make it “en”; or “dia” in Greek but make it “through” or “epi” in Greek but
make it “over”. God is the Father over all, and in all, and through all. That puts him not only in
Reina as her feet are smashed by the rifle butts, but it puts him in the people who are doing the
smashing, and it puts him inside all the dear hearts that Joe prayed for and the little Palestinians
with their stones. That’s what makes them dear to us and that’s what takes it out of the realm of,
“Well, they won’t be in heaven,” or, “They won’t be in hell or wherever.” It makes it all so
You can hear the Savior saying, “Nobody knows. It isn’t even given to the Son of man to know when
that time comes. But, you have a responsibility now of living in the reality that is present around
you, and these are your brothers and sisters.” Okay, they don’t sing our hymns. They don’t pray
our prayers and they aspire to despise our Savior, but God is the Father of all and in all and
through all. He is, meanwhile, inside them and he is working in their hearts. You can see what a
dreadful travesty it is, for him to be in each one of them and us to be on the other side praying
for these poor heathen. He’s one in the heathen we’re praying for. You can see more clearly than
ever. There’s that verse — I can’t put my finger on it — but I know I spent a Sunday expounding it
back in Minneapolis one day. “These are days of life. These are not days of condemnation. These
are days of life in which we live.”
There will be a day when there will be a judgment and a condemnation but these are “days of life”.
These are days for looking at the present situation that our Savior is in each one of those dear
hearts and is trying to get out because his Father is the Father of us all, over all, and in all,
and through all. Let us pray.
The Abundant Gift of Christ’s Grace - EPHESIANS
The Abundant Gift of Christ’s Grace
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to Ephesians. Perhaps we can spend a short time on this next
verse. Ephesians 4:7, “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s
gift.” You remember when we talked a little about the covenant service and especially about the
words, “we are not our own”, that I mentioned to you what you all know is the normal way that we all
thought of our futures. Our mums and dads would praise us at something we did and we would think,
“Oh yes, I quite like doing that. Yes, maybe I’m good at carpentry,” or, “Maybe I’m good at
sewing,” or, “Maybe I’m good at mathematics.” And of course, our teachers then would make much of
us or make little of us according to how we were doing, and that would grow in us the feeling,
“Well, I’m really interested in this.” People would encourage us to think about that, “What are you
really interested in doing, Martha? What do you think you’re really good at?” And we would feel,
“Yes, that’s a very legitimate question to answer.” We would try and think.
Of course, some of us would not feel we were particularly good at anything and some of us didn’t
take too seriously the whole idea of our futures. We wandered along and we dropped into various
positions or various jobs, or met certain groups of people. Then others of us were very dedicated,
and very certain and very deliberate about what we would do. We were kind of achievers. We then
would choose something that we were either good at or we were interested in.
Some of you had mums and dads that were very concerned with what God wanted for your life. But I
think many of us would be, I think like me and Irene, that it was a question of what would we like
to do or what were we good at. Particularly in Ireland of course, it was what could you earn money
at, or what could give you some kind of security in life. But I think for all of us it tended to be
a preoccupation with what we wanted to do or what we were good at, or what would benefit us. Of
course, we can all smile a little here as we sit and think what we were all trained for. We think
of the nurses and the doctors, the construction people and the food experts. We all have ended up
in very different situations to the ones we thought we were heading for.
But I think what the whole experience brings home to us is the world is badly off-center as far as
finding out what we are to do with our lives. We’ve seen that as we’ve begun to realize that the
whole situation with the world was one Father’s commitment to a dear Son. That’s what it was, our
dear Father said to our Savior Jesus, “You, I want to go to this planet, and to subdue it, and to
bring it under my will. I am going to make within you millions of little people like you and
they’re going to be inside you. They’re not going to all do what you want them to do or what I want
them to do. I’m asking you to bear with them and keep them inside you. Otherwise, they have no
life. They only have the life that I’ve given you. I ask you now to go and in each of them to
bring this planet into submission to my will. In the doing of it, they will become like you. But,
you will have to bear all the agony that they may choose to create inside you.” Our Savior of
course said he would do that, “Be it unto me according to thy will.” That’s what has happened and
that’s why this book says that we are all members of his body.
We are all bits of Jesus. We were created inside him and we are inside him at this moment. He is
inside us. What he is doing is endeavoring to do in this world what his Father gave him to do —
using each of us to do different bits of it. That is the glorified and the dignified position that
every son and daughter of man has here on earth. I know it sounds strange to you, but the street
sweepers in Calcutta, those lowest of the low, has that from God. We’ve seen them in Thailand and
I’ve seen them in India. I can imagine how bad it gets with the brooms made of twigs. I used to
joke because we used the same system at one time, I hope we don’t use now, at the factory. I used to
say you create more dust and dirt than you’re actually brushing. Of course, they’re dear hearts and
are brushing those streets and breathing in all the dust and dirt that they brush.
Each one of those street sweepers has that from God. I know that you may say, “Oh boy, he hasn’t a
lot of love has he?” He has great love. He has great love because in this verse it says, “But
grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” and grace is given to each
of them. The enabling power of the Holy Spirit is given to them to bear what they have to bear, and
the grace is given to them according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Not according to what they
deserve, not according to how brilliant they are at their brushing, not according to their fame, or
the way society thinks of them, but grace is given them, enabling power is given them according to
the measure of Christ’s gift. According to the gift he has given to them. Their gift is what he
wants to do through them here on earth. He wants to brush the streets of Calcutta through them.
According to the measure of that gift, he gives the grace that is needed for that. So even the dear
lady whose child is dying in the Sudan at this moment with a swollen tummy, even that dear lady who
seems to have been given a dreadful gift, she receives grace from the Holy Spirit that enables her
to fulfill her task, enables Jesus to fulfill it in here without breaking her. Even the one that
is dying in Bombay of some disease, even that one who is dying, receives grace of the Holy Spirit to
bear up and to go through that death with peace and with stability.
So, how much more with us? God gives certain things for each of us to do that Christ himself
intends to bring about, and to us is given the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to do that,
whatever it is. That’s what determines what we do. To each of us is given grace according to the
measure of God’s gift to us to do what he wants to do. So, it has nothing to do with how well known
you are, it has nothing to do with how well your parents think you’ve done. It has nothing to do
with what your peers think of the way you’ve spent your life, and it has nothing to do with your own
particular strength and ability. When you see James Galway plowing through another incredibly long
symphony or concerto on his flute without apparently any music in front of him, and you think to
yourself, “How on earth can he memorize all of that?” Because, it is Christ in him who is playing
the music and it is Christ that is giving him the stamina and the concentration to do that. It is
from the Savior, even to those who don’t recognize him and acknowledge him. How much more of
course, with us?
How much more is the enabling power of the Holy Spirit given to us to do what Jesus intends to do
through us. I’ve said it to you before, I think that’s the exciting thing about us being together,
that each one of you is a person who is going to do something that Jesus wants done in this world
that only you can do — and I agree this is the remarkable part of it — that only you can do. Can
somebody else write articles like you? Sure, sure, they can write articles like you but they can’t
do exactly with that article what Jesus is going to do through you. Can anybody else sell the
jewelry? Sure, other people can sell the jewelry, but no one can sell the jewelry to the people you
are going to meet because you are you. You are made in that way by the Savior. You are being given
particular enabling power through the Holy Spirit to do that uniquely as you do it. Of course, you
know it isn’t difficult at all to believe that because it just knocks you right off your feet when
you do face the basic fact that there is nobody else in the whole universe like you.
I agree, I think it’s crazy. I think it’s ridiculous to say it except that you suddenly realize it
is true. There are many people that look almost our doubles but we know fine well that you only
have to go under the skin a little, you only have to almost talk to them a moment, and you realize
they’re not like you. There is no one in the whole universe like you — it’s incredible. So you
can imagine, if you add that to the things that you do that are slightly different from what all the
rest of us do, and then you consider your own uniqueness, and the uniqueness of your actions, and
your job, and your work, you do something, and Jesus is determined to do something through you that
he cannot do through anybody else. That, to me, is the excitement of being together as part of his
body that operates as one. That whatever we do, wherever we go, whatever our ministry or our
business will be like in these coming years, there is something in it that only you can do, or
rather that only Jesus can do through you. Then first of all, that takes off your shoulders the
great weight of, “Is my life counting for anything? Am I doing anything worthwhile? Was this the
right step I took?” It takes all of that away. It takes away all the competitiveness, “Am I doing
it as well as so-and-so? Am I doing it as well as this person? Am as I important to this place as
that person? Am I significant?” It does away with all that stuff because there is only one reason
you are here, that is that Jesus himself has something to do through you that he cannot do through
anybody else. Otherwise, he would not have made you. That is the uniqueness of your own life.
Then of course, if the grace that you need to do that is going to be given to you — and that’s what
the verse says, “Grace is given to each of us day-by-day” — then you need not be worried about
whether you’ll be able to do it or not. You need not be concerned about whether you have the
ability. It does not depend on your ability. It doesn’t depend on your effort. It depends on you
allowing the grace of his Holy Spirit to flow through you and fill you and enable you to enjoy
yourself. Please, if you have troubles with that, this Belfast man has more trouble than you have.
We were brought up to think, “Well, if you suffered it was good for you.” But in fact, that’s the
truth. We’re here to enjoy Jesus in us, to enjoy him and to let him flow through us with joy and
Really, if you think about it, we make our own troubles. We make our own heavy burden. We’re the
ones that test ourselves against this person or think, “Oh, is that person getting praise or am I
getting praise?” Or, “Am I achieving something better than they are?” We’re the ones that bring
all the burdens upon ourselves, it is not Jesus.
It is really true. I’ve seen it more since the first time I heard it as the script in that movie
[Chariots of Fire], “I feel the pleasure of God when I run.” That’s what Jesus wants us to do. He
wants us to feel the pleasure of God when we do what he has given us to do. He wants us to feel
that pleasure of God through us, feel his enjoyment of us doing what he has given us to do. And
then, you probably already received this great comfort, but it seems to me just a great comfort
this, “Rejoice in all things because this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” [1
In other words, what you’re doing now, that’s God’s will. He wouldn’t have let it happen if it
wasn’t God’s will. That’s his will, so enjoy where you are now. It may not be where you are
tomorrow, but it’s where you are now. What a great privilege it is to be able to look up and say,
“Thank you Father. I’m in exactly the place you want me to be. I’m doing exactly what you or Jesus
want to do in me.” That is what our situation is. Grace is given to each of us according to the
measure of Christ’s gift to us. His gift to you is what you’re doing now. It’s what I’m doing now,
that’s his gift to me. He has promised that we will always have the grace to do it. Let us pray.
God’s abundant Gifts to Us - EPHESIANS
God’s Abundant Gifts to Us
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It’s really important to sing that hymn and get a glimpse of what it’s saying because you can sing
it and think, oh yeah that’s very nice. It seems to me what it means is a little bit, I know this
may confuse you in some ways, but it’s a little bit like the joke we tell about Humphrey. The
comedian joked about his effervescent optimism. He said, “Hubert Humphrey, when he jumps out of
bed in the morning he shouts, ‘Woody.’” It’s really that that hymn is talking about, it’s just we
think, oh Horatius Bonner [1808-1889] is a great saintly man and he couldn’t possibly mean that, but
that’s really what he means.
He says, “Fill every little thing that I do with praise.” It’s not you going into a store and
saying, “Praise the Lord.” It’s really you going into the store exultant and joyful. That’s what
it is. I know we all smile and laugh at what we often refer to as kind of the Baptist — joy, joy,
joy, and be happy, be happy. But really that’s what it’s about and probably what we should do is be
very real with ourselves now.
I think if you saw me tomorrow morning going into my first store you probably wouldn’t say that I
was like that. It is important for us to see now, are we like that? And am I happy with this
situation? Am I happy with the world and with my life? Am I really sure that God is in his heaven
and all is right with the world? So this is just important for us to be realistic so that we won’t
get used to seeing him like that and really not knowing what it’s about.
You remember we talked last Sunday about the way most of us thought about our futures. We really
did think, well I’m good at this. I like spelling or I seem to be good at writing. Or our mother
would say, “You were a good drawer, and we’d think maybe art, maybe I could be a designer. Or your
dad says, “You know, you’re great with your hands,” and you think well maybe I could be a joiner or
maybe I could be an engineer. And most of us I think decided or attempted to decide our futures on
What am I good at and as well as that we would think what do I like? What do I really enjoy doing?
And often our teachers and our parents would say that, they felt it was one of the good things to
say. What do you really enjoy doing? Particularly if they saw we didn’t know what we wanted to do
they would in desperation say, “What do you really like to do?” Therefore we got the idea it’s
either what we’re good at or what we enjoy doing, that’s what we should do with our lives. Of
course what we saw last Sunday was that God’s view is utterly and absolutely different.
He made us as part of his Son and his Son was sent here to earth to bring the world into submission
to his Father’s will. We’re part of it and that’s what he wants to do through us. In all kinds of
different ways and I took the extreme of the street sweeper because we often think of that dear soul
as one of the kind of lowest or most boring or dirtiest jobs. But really it’s true of every job,
that that’s what Jesus wants to do through that street sweeper. I used to think cleaning, we call
them lavatories in England, and I used to think, “Ugh, I’d hate to have to do that.” But Jesus
wants to do that through the men and women that he has called to that task, and so it is with us.
Jesus has certain thing that he wants to do through us, and that’s why we’re here and that’s what
counts. It’s what Wesley said in the Covenant service, “Some things we can do that please
ourselves, and please God. Other things he calls us to do that we cannot do without displeasing
ourselves. And some things are easy and some are hard, and some things bring praise and some things
bring repute, dispute and contempt.” The important thing is what Jesus wants to do through you in
your present life. It actually is carried a bit further than that in this next verse.
Now maybe you’d look at it, it’s Ephesians 4:8 and it’s the verse where Paul quotes this Psalm that
we read as the Old Testament lesson. Ephesians 4:8 and you see verse 7 was the one we studied last
Sunday, “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” In a sense,
this next verse comments on the measure of Christ’s gift. You might have wondered if it’s the
grace given according to the extent of the gift that Christ has given us, or according to the
particular gift that Christ has given us. Then in verse 8 he says, “Therefore it is said, ‘When he
ascended on high,’” and that came you remember from Psalm 68. “’When he ascended on high,’” it
originally applied to the arc of the covenant which was of course the expression of God’s presence
in the Old Testament, and then was taken by the Jews to mean the Messiah and here is applied to
“Therefore it is said, ‘When he,’” Jesus, “’ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave
gifts to men.’” And the Greek actually runs when he ascended on high he led captivity captive, and
he actually gave gifts to men but it also means originally he received gifts for men. So he
ascended on high and he led a host of captives or he led captivity captive. One of the captives
that he led was there in Colossians 2:15. It’s a verse that we all know, but it just states very
clearly part of the captivity that he led. Captive is there in Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the
principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.”
So one thing that Christ achieved when he went back to be with his Father, he disarmed the
principalities and powers and made a public example of them triumphing over them in him, and so it
gives the whole picture that God actually permitted not only us to do what we wanted to do, but
actually gave the same freedom to the whole spirit world that lies behind this present world, and he
gave it the freedom to do what it wanted and it was only after Jesus ascended to his Father that all
those powers were brought under his control.
And so, when you and I sense the harshness of the present society, that comes from the elemental
spirits of the universe. It comes from the spirits of all human beings on the earth who want their
own way and insist on their own rights. That releases spirits that are antagonistic to God and
antagonistic to Christ. And what this verse is saying is, “That Jesus has disarmed those powers,”
and so they exists only in appearance and we actually will find that when we come up against that
hardness and harshness in a person that is in the service station that takes our card and whips it
through the machine and then speaks to us. When they speak with the hardness and the harshness that
spirit behind that has already been destroyed by Christ, and that’s why when we respond with what
the Bible says ‘a self word turns away wrath.’
When we respond with a soft and kindly gentle love, that’s why that attitude often crumbles or is
neutralized. Whereas when we respond in like manner it intensifies, it compounds the deception that
the person using it is under. And so wherever we go day by day we’re coming up against spirits that
have been disarmed, that have been brought under control of Jesus. So when we respond in accordance
with that reality we find that that crumbles away, and almost immediately they respond in like
manner, but even if they don’t the spirit that you have released to them continues in their heart
and affects them when they deal with the next person.
So it’s quite interesting that wherever we go the spirits that we come up against have already been
disarmed by Christ. He has led captivity captive in that way or you could say, and we would often
say that when we think of some of the people, like ourselves who have emigrated from other countries
to England. We would often think, it would occur to us at times, now they’re responding that way
just because they’ve seen other people or heard other people respond that way. They’re speaking
that way just because they think that’s the way you speak in Britain, and we are aware of that at
times. Yet the tragedy is we often think we’ll control it by speaking back in the same manner or by
treating them in the same way.
And presumably it’s exactly the same when you deal with the store owners, because all of us know
what it’s like. I mean an American can be unpleasant if you’re trying to sell him something but a
British or a European can be incredibly unpleasant. Often we think there’s only one way to deal
with that and that’s to treat them exactly the same way, or to show them that we’re aware of what
their attitude is and we disagree with it completely.
Of course all it does is stir up the same spirit in ourselves. It actually makes the thing more
difficult because you add a lie to a lie, you add a deception to a deception, and it just makes the
situation worse. But because Christ has destroyed the real spirit that is behind that and that has
deceived the person into using that tone of voice to you when all you’re trying to do is really sell
some jewelry to them or if possible help them to do good business, if you respond in the light of
truth, knowing the Lord Jesus, you have already disarmed the spirit behind this. You have already
destroyed it. I don’t need to waste my time and spend my energy trying to kill a ghost, so you
respond in love and in kindness and with a generous heart, because apart from anything else you know
your sale of jewelry or your success in your ministry does not depend on the way they treat you. It
depends only on the one who is looking after you, and has made all things right.
So that’s part of what this verse means — that when Jesus ascended to heaven to the right hand of
God, he disarmed the power of those spirits to in any way prevent God’s will occurring in your life.
Or, in anyone else’s life if they are willing to accept that and willing to acquiesce in what he
has done. Then, of course, the second part of the verse is the part that we’re really talking
about today, when he ascended on how he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men.
Or the Greek actually reads, “And he received gifts for men.” In other words, Christ, when he was
born, he was begotten of God in eternity. Also at that same second had you created within him and
he has born all the things that you have done, he has carried all the attitudes, all the wrong
actions, all the wrong words that you have ever done. He has born them inside his self and yet kept
you inside himself so that you would not lose life.
Then he ascended to the right hand of God, having lived that life in eternity and lived it here on
earth, he ascended to the right hand of God and he took you with him. The Greek says, “He received
gifts for men.” He was given by his Father gifts for you. That’s the meaning of according to the
measure of Christ’s gift. He was given by his Father the gifts that you believe it or not, need to
do what he wants you to do, or what he wants to do through you on this earth.
I know it sounds utterly ridiculous that at such an important earth shaking universe transforming
moment in Christ’s own life that he should be given by his Father gifts for you so that you could
fulfill what he sent you to do here. That’s what it is. I saw I think a little further that those
gifts are not only what you need here in this present life, but there the gifts that all of us will
need for the things that he has planned to do through us in the universe after this life is over.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of that, but often I think we think well we need to practice the
guitar because will be playing the harps. And that’s often about as far as we go in our idea of
what heaven is. Not only Coca Cola and ice cream all day but harp playing, and boats, and trains,
and planes, and motorcycles, but we really have not been very great. You know at the beginning to
think of what heaven and what life after this earth is going to be like.
But you probably can catch from the facts that we can understand at all from the scientists that the
universe is fast. We talk about traveling at 6 knots in the sailboat. So we all increase it to
170, 180 miles an hour maybe with the latest triumph motorcycle, and then we up it, you know, to 550
when we’re flying in the plane, and we up it maybe another 500 miles an hour when we think of the
Concord plane. But then we begin to talk of the stars that we see, and someone tells us, “You see
that star, it doesn’t exist anymore. What you’re seeing is the light from it that has been
traveling at so many miles per hour, so many light years towards you, and all your seeing is the
light the star itself died what thousands of years ago.
Then you begin to realize the universe is vast, it’s beyond anything that we can imagine. Obviously
the Father has a whole universe that he has created, and he is in some way going to use you. Well
we never think what could I do? Three miles an hour is about as fast as I can walk, I can run maybe
a little faster, or cycle a bit faster. I’m not going to, that’s, those are what some of the gifts
There are gifts that Christ has received from his Father that he needs in you, and will use through
you, and so it’s vital that we lift our eyes up from our silly little things even our little PDA’s
or your good at knitting, or your good at playing, or I’m good at writing, or somebody else is good
at speaking. It’s important to lift our eyes up and see there is a whole universe that Christ is
going to bring under the control of his Father to reflect his Father’s glory and his Father’s mind.
He is going to do it through us, through you, and that your place here in this world is in some way
preparing you for that.
I agree with you — our minds are going to be infinite compared with what they are now. Our
abilities are going to be enhanced; we’re going to be free from many of the limitations we feel in
our own personalities. That’s true. But don’t you think there’ll be some degree of continuity?
There we’ll be, we ourselves will continue to exist and probably there will be the same kind of
order in God’s development for us between this world and the next as there has been in our lives so
far. Because as we look at our life and we look even at the way we have moved from place to place
we can see it’s unusual. It’s not what we would have expected, but we can see how it all fits
So it is most likely that that will be the same situation with our present lives, and that the
things that we are doing are not just what we chose to do or what we’re good at, but they are what
Jesus himself intended to do from the beginning of the world, and they are things that will be
expanded and developed and used by him after this world is over, and that we will need gifts that
are way beyond using at this present time. But that those gifts also have been made available in
Jesus to us.
So I think one of the things, it helps a little, is this — don’t you often feel at times, I am made
not to go out like a light? I think most of us feel that. We’re not something here in this present
life of ours and in the life of other people. Don’t you feel we cannot simply cease to exist?
There are beauties, there are wonderful experiences, there are things that are like God himself that
we have experienced and seen, that we feel will continue beyond this life. But it seems also many
of us have felt, I can do more than this, I can do more than I’m doing, I can be more, I’m made to
be something more than I’ve seen of myself so far in this present life.
And often we find we have aspirations that seem to be beyond what we’re capable of. It does seem
that it speaks to that verse, in the Bible, “God has placed eternity in man’s heart. Yet, so that he
is not able to find it,” [ Ecclesiastes 3:11 ] and that each of us have something of that infinity
of eternity within us, that God has provided for in the gifts he has given to Jesus for us.
In other words, there’s really one sensible thing to do in this present life and that’s to keep our
eyes on the Lord Jesus, and to see that he is within us, this is his life, and he has received gifts
to do the things that God wants to do in this life of his in each one of us. There are things that
in turn will be expanded and will be fulfilled in the life that is beyond.
So in a real sense it’s pretty small and petty to think I’m littler than someone else, who is
reasonable of English. I am little Joe who is reasonably good at practical things or, I am little
Joanne who can play the organ. We’re way beyond that, we’re far bigger and far more expensive than
that. We are part of the Savior Jesus who has received from his Father gifts for us so that we will
be able to fulfill his plans.
Called to be Apostles - EPHESIANS
Called to be Apostles
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you turn to Ephesians loved ones? It’s Ephesians 4:11, and we’ll probably just get the first
clause done there. Ephesians 4:11, “And his gifts were that some should be apostles,” it says “tous
apostolous.” It’s he gave gifts, he gave the apostles, but the way it is written “tous” is the
article. It is it is more rightly translated: “he gives some to be apostles.” That’s the way it’s
translated in the King James Bible. He gave some to be apostles, but his gifts were as “Some should
be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” Of course the meaning is
that Jesus when he returned to heaven then continued to govern.
That when we’re children but we always ate our eggs, our boiled eggs with the apostle spoons, and
they were little spoons, with the apostles on them. They refer to 12 apostles. What Christ did
when he ascended was he called another apostle and, of course, Paul says, “I am the least of the
apostles that I persecute in the Church of Christ.” He regards himself as an apostle because the
two marks of the apostle were 1) that they had seen Christ alive, and 2) that they had people who
had received Christ through their preaching and their ministry.
So of course Paul called himself an apostle and really to all of us he’s really the primary apostle
even beyond Peter as far as doctrine and theology is concerned. So the apostles were the people
that Christ gave to us that we would have no doubt of who he was. We all know that the problem in
today’s world is they have no idea of who Jesus is, and they think he’s a preacher who is the Son of
God, but in no way do they know the things that the apostles said about him.
I mean John’s gospel opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. [John
1:1] Where was God? “All things were made through him.” That is the Word. “And without him was
not anything made that was made.” [John 1:2-3] John said, “Jesus was not just that figure that you
saw in Galilee. We were made by him and he existed there long before he appeared in Galilee. Of
course Paul said the same thing to the Colossians. That Jesus was the first born of all creation,
and in him all things were created and all things hold together in him. [Colossians 1: 15-17] And
so he made it very clear that we were all put together inside Christ and we hold together because we
are inside Christ.
Of course you all know, the ordinary person has no idea of it at all, and that’s what makes it so
ridiculous. It’s just so terrible now just because we know his name, Christ, as a swear word, but
you’re talking of the person in whom you were created. You were talking about the person who holds
When you take his name upon your lips, and of course, dear hearts have no idea of that at all. And
so the apostles, of course, made this clear. You can see how it has to as the year has gone by. So
that everybody thinks, and we ourselves know, thought Jesus is primarily God’s Son who came to
earth, then left it. He’s an example to us all of what we should be and we were created inside this
person. We are in him. Nobody knows that — no one has any idea that they are inside Christ —
they have no notion of what we mean when we say he bears our sins.
They went to the business of the lamb sacrifice that whole thing, and they have no idea that every
word they speak shatters Christ, every word they speak echoes through his being. He knows and feels
everything they do and think, but the apostles were given by Jesus to the world so that we would
know that. If they hadn’t taught it so plainly you wouldn’t actually know it for certain by Jesus’
You just know what you saw of his life and you know his death, and his resurrection, but you
wouldn’t really understand how God made us inside his own Son. We would have no idea of that, and
that’s why Christ gave the apostles, because there was work still to be done. He had to still make
it plain, who he was, and what actually happened. He gave therefore the apostles. That’s what has
happened with all of us.
And I think that’s why I asked us to assume ‘all things bright and beautiful, all the creatures
great and small, he made the tiny flower, he made them every one.’ [Hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander]
He made their tiny wings because it’s very important for us to see that each of us we’re given by
Christ in the same way as the apostles, and the prophets, and the teachers. It is important for
you to dwell upon that because it’s not only in the Catholic Church that there was a strong
distinction between the laity and the clergy, but that also has carried on through all apostles in
Then, of course, he gave even to people like ourselves, it kind of trickles down. You think well,
yeah, I’m really important because I’m a pastor and all that sort of thing, but you’re just a
member. And so we have this dreadful lie built into us that we weren’t given by Christ the same way
as Pope John Paul was. However, if you think about it that’s what it means. That Christ made every
flower and the wing of every dragonfly, and he certainly knew what he was about when he made each
one of us. We are what he has given to his own body here on earth, and each one of us is given just
as an apostle is given.
We have been given and it comes out in all kinds of verses. Let’s look at Jeremiah and that chapter
1, it really is quit startling. Of course however it’s a verse that we have studied similar truth
that we studied in the Psalms 139 I think it is. But Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb
I knew you,” see before I formed Jeremiah in the womb I knew you, “And before you were born I
consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
That’s the way Christ gave the prophet Jeremiah to his body here on earth, that’s the way Christ has
given you to his body here on earth. Before he formed you in the womb he knew you, and before you
were born he consecrated you. Now we know we have no difficulty with that, but we have an easier
time with it because we realize it. Yes, of course, obviously God doesn’t think sequentially as we
do that the souls speak in time. He thinks a millisecond and it’s all done, and he sees the whole
end from the beginning, all in one second. So obviously, yes of course he knew you before he then
proceeded to form in your mother’s womb.
But it’s good to remember that that God has given us to his body and he had in mind something
specific for each of us, and I think you know that this is not just the pastor trying to make you
feel you’re worth something. There’s no time for us to play games now in that kind of way. This
is stark plain truth, that God planned everything from the beginning and he knew what you would be
like, and he knew who your mum would be, and he gave you to his body with a certain task in mind
that Christ could perform through you and only you.
It’s really important for it to cross that. It’s really important for you to step out of this
attitude, such as, I mean that’s a nice thought what you’ve said, and I’m sure it would be true if I
had a great voice or, I’m sure it would be true if I wrote wonderful books. Loved ones that’s the
truth that each one of us here has been given by Christ to do something or let him do something
through us that nobody else can do.
You have attitudes and qualities that he cannot find in anybody else, and that’s why we’re here. Of
course it takes away all that dreadful searching that we do. Wondering, well what should I be doing
or am I doing enough, or am I doing what God wants me to do, or how can I do better than God wants
me to do. It’s important to see that this verse is saying, “That is already planned by Christ, not
only his dying, not only his doing miracles but he planned the follow up if you like, or the
outworking of that in the world he planned. What is happening now would happen, and you are part of
that, and he has planned next week.
What came home to me is the illustration I’ve used before, sometimes I tell it to myself because I
need it so badly. It’s the one about the man driving the horse and cart along the country, and then
he comes upon an old man with a great pile of firewood on his back and he says, “Would you like a
ride?” And the old man thanks him and gets onto the cart beside him and they start moving, and the
driver looks around and the old man is still sitting there with the firewood on his back. And the
driver says, “Why don’t you set the firewood down on the cart?”
And the old man says, “Oh no it’s good of you and your horse to carry me, I wouldn’t ask you to
carry my firewood as well.” How much of it has been done — it’s all been done. Christ has done it
all, it’s all done, it’s done. We really just have to sit on the cart, relax, and do the things
that he’s given us to do. But especially we guys like him to see how well we’re holding this
firewood on our back. How well we’re doing it, don’t we look good holding this firewood? Or I am
carrying it very efficiently, or how could I carry this firewood better than I’m doing? How could I
carry more firewood?
No doubt we’re all, not only the guys, the ladies too, we won’t rest, we won’t rest. We want to do,
and we want to do it as well as we can. Well, that’s alright but you only sit so — you can’t sit
better than you’re sitting. It seems that that’s what Christ is looking down at us saying, “Today,
I’ve put you where you are just to give thanks for that. Be glad that I’ve made you the way you
are, and that I’ve given you things to do that only you can do. There are little ones throughout
the world who will see parts of me because of things that you have done in your website and because
of things you’ve written in the newsletter, little things you’ve said in stores as you’ve visited.
There are people that will see some of my beauty and some of my glory, because I’m in you. Now just
enjoy this and relax and let me have the glory. My ‘horse’ will carry us along. I will carry you
along, all you have to do it sit there and put your firewood down. Commit your way onto the Lord
and he will act.”
I think that’s what God has given us. Christ gave some to be apostles, he gave you to be what you
are, and me to be what I am, and he wants us to enjoy it, and to rest, and to live in the peace of
that. I’ll bet you people will see you riding along on the cart and will see the peace in the rest.
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we see how active we are, how anxious to serve you well, how eager we are to do the thing
well even perhaps to have others see how well we do it, and we see Lord, it’s all foolishness. You
are so kind to us, you give us work to do so that we’ll have exercise and be healthy, and so that
we’ll be responsible before you, but we see Lord that you have done all the work. It is you that
carries us, not us that carry you, and you want us to relax and rest, and to accept that you have
put us here to do something that we are doing and you’re satisfied with that.
You will bring your glory about through that, and our only place is to be at rest and relax deep in
our hearts and our spirits so that all this strain drains away from our muscles and all the frowns
go from our faces and all the wrinkles from our foreheads, and they live in the second rest that has
been reserved for the people of God. Lord, we do thank you, we will pray for each other these days
and you through your Holy Spirit may bring us each one into that deep peace and rest.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy
Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.
Life in The Body of Christ - EPHESIANS
Life in the Body of Christ
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I saw this, “The Savior never hesitated, set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem.” Jerusalem,
that’s the next one. That’s what God wants me to do. We’re addicted to smooth happiness.
Everything, that’s the ideal life, when things are going smoothly. That’s the ideal life, when
things are going smoothly, not when trials come. Trials are a nuisance, they hold us back and
they’re to be avoided at all costs. They not only irritate us but they cause us immense worry and
anxiety, and a lot of work, and trials are not a good thing. Greet it as pure joy when you enter
into it. Don’t be stupid, that’s stupid. You can’t greet it as pure joy when you enter into
So I think that’s it. We’re addicted – we’ve become addicted to happiness and smooth life as the
norm. That’s why we get caught badly off balance because we’re part of a Savior that has walked
exactly the opposite way. He has regarded the hardships that come upon us in this world as part of
what makes his Father dear to him, and draw him up to his Father and into his Father’s arms.
But we think of this as a nuisance, these hardships and they’re proof that the world is not going
right and that our life is not going right. They’re a proof to Jesus that the world is out of his
Father’s arms, and that he is in his Father’s arms. The more he is out of the world the more he is
in his Father’s arms, and the less at home he is in the world the more at home he is with his
Father, and we are in him. So the wise thing is to regard trials as the normal thing.
It would be – really I’m not as saintly as I sound, Monday would be easy. Monday, oh yes Monday for
me, but Monday for all of us would be easy if – if we would look forward to it now with joy. Myron
used to joke to me, because I would say to him, “Expect trouble,” and of course he saw that as
contradicting whatsoever things are true and lovely, and of good report. Of course I meant that no,
that’s what – if you’re expecting trouble, if you’re ready to face trouble then it doesn’t throw you
off. You regard, “This is the norm, and in the midst of this trouble Christ is going to keep me up
and give me his strength.” It seems that that’s the way Jesus goes, the way Jesus himself walks.
So I do feel – I mean I feel for you, I think sales – because I’ve lived myself the kind of life
that I didn’t plan to live, and that life can be rocketing, and the life of business is a
shattering, rocketing life to my mind. You wouldn’t dream of choosing it. I’d sit in the library
and study Hebrew, so I agree with anybody here who thinks it, “Isn’t business life quite exciting?”
“Yeah I think so.” But if you look at it, and you look for it, and you say, “The Savior is made to
do this in me. He is made for this, and I in him am made for this, and this is going to be the kind
of Monday I delight in. It’s going to be a Monday with lots of things that kind of surprise me, and
a lot of which are beyond my own strength and ability, but this is going to be good.” That’s –
that’s what’s normal in him. I have only one more. I didn’t know I had this number.
I think it’s easy if you forget that your part of him, and that he is all around us. It’s easy with
even the good emphasis that we have on being together as a family, it is easy to become slaves to
human opinion, and human guidance, and advice, rather than slaves to him. And of course, our
society has lived on that, and our society has encouraged us, “Listen to your peers. Listen to you
elders, of course, and seek all the guidance you can from as many human beings as possible.” What
often we have done is become slaves to that as if that is our only guidance rather than going to him
first. Just think about it because we always say, “Pray before you do a thing.” “Find out what
God wants you to do,” and all of us therefore, do a bit of prayer, but just think about it.
I agree with anybody who says, “ Well wait a minute I could get really contorted about whether I buy
a blue dress or a red dress.” Well yeah, there are things that probably aren’t critical, but there
are other things that I think we end up rushing about, and doing rather casually, and we do click
off the phrase, “Oh yeah well, I have to pray about it first.” But we actually don’t seek his
advice, and wait upon him, and try to hear what he’s saying within, and what he’s saying through
others. Often we say, “Oh yes, we believe God guides through others. Yeah, yeah.” But the
emphasis is too often maybe on the others.
So I thought those were some things that are good to think about as we go on now together. It’s an
unequal privilege that we have. I mean, we were talking at the table, how sometimes people don’t
know who their parent is or where their parent has gone, and people marry and divorce, and
everything changes around them.
Of course we know that generally the society is in real trouble just because the society is a lonely
society now. The bars are filled with the singles who are on their own. So we know that that is
now the agony of this society that we live in, and is becoming as far as we can see the Chinese with
the little phones and everything, we can see that they’re beginning to move in the same direction.
So part of what Jesus has us here for is to be what he meant us to be and what he meant all of us to
be. To be together as part of him, sharing his own love and enjoying it in each other, and yet
walking preoccupied with him above everything else. So I thought that’s a great providence.
Let us pray.
Oh Lord Jesus, we thank you for the garden, and the home, and these three acres where we can spend
our time with you and realize increasingly your presence, and you surrounding us with your love and
your life. We thank you, for all the details of our dear family. We thank you, Lord, that it’s so
appropriate and favorable for our living in you and respecting you above everything else. So we
thank you, Lord, for these things that are beyond price.
Lord Jesus, we want you to see us living in you and you living in us the way your Father planned.
Dear Father, we want to be pleasing to you and we thank you for all that you’ve done for us.
Now we would pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship
of the Holy Spirit would be with each one of us now and ever more. Amen.
Expect Great Things From God - EPHESIANS
Expect Great Things from God
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
You eat a piece of bread like this and if I were a medic I could describe how it comes into the
body. It is broken up and I learned a little when they took out the gallbladder that the gallbladder
does something with it. The acids get going and they break it up and then really it seems to us a
miracle. It is turned then into all the things we need, our blood, and our tissue, and then
eventually our muscles. That’s what enables the brain to think.
So this piece of bread is the heart and the dynamo of my physical life and yours. But this piece of
bread is Christ and, of course, you can see all the foolishness of the arguments back and forth that
there have been in the religions over that statement. They all talk about, “Does this really become
the body of Christ when the priest rings the bell, or is it always the body of Christ, or is it just
attributes of bread with the real body of Christ?” Of course the truth is plain, that all things
were made by him and through him, and without him does not anything exist or made that was made, and
all things hold together in him. So of course, this itself, even just as bread, comes from Christ
It’s Christ that is that bread and it’s Christ that is in the bread as it comes into our bodies.
You and I have life only because Christ himself has come into us, and is in us, and that’s why he
put it so plainly. “I in you, and you in me.” [John 14:20] Then, ‘Look as if I’m the vine and
you’re the branches, and with the vine you can’t tell were the branch ends, and where the vine
begins. It’s the same — you can’t tell where you end and where I begin. I am in you.’
That’s the situation that Christ himself is in each of us. I saw again plainly, how warm he is and
how loving he is to us that we use these – this terminology so lightly, “Oh God loves you.” But I
saw again Christ loves you, personally, and he loves me personally. He has a love for us that –
all of us here, each one of us individually, he has a love for us at this moment, and he is always
working, always working to ease things for us. He is always shielding us, and inside us he is
always working to enable us to do the things that we do, and that he’s a very warm and friendly
person, you know.
He’s our dearest friend. He is your dearest friend and my dearest friend, and it is him inside us
that enables us to even live. So I saw again that he certainly is not the one that’s standing up
here saying, “You did that, and you did that.” He is the dear Savior who is inside us, who is
always hugging us to himself, and trying to get over to us his own affection for us and that that is
the heart of our whole lives.
It came home to me again – of course, I think you can have your examples but my job is to see
plainly my own example. It came home to me again, in my tendency certainly, so anxious that you’ll
do well. It’s the old story, “I want you to be happy and I want you to do well.” But it’s so
anxious that of course I can be quit snappy with my words either to Trish, or to Joe, or Martha, or
somebody. And I saw how – and even we can be with each other. We’re trying to help Trish to sell
better, or try to help Greg to do something better, or me to – and we can spend so much of our time
telling each other, I can anyway, so much of my time telling you what to do, and outlining it in
detail and technically – you know all my teacher methods of making the thing plain, and it came home
to me again, Christ is so different. Christ just keeps bearing the thing, and bearing it, and
bearing it, and bearing it, and loving us, and lifting us up, and making the thing possible.
He is the one that whenever you do get a sale, it is him that has done it; it wasn’t the brilliant
way you made the presentation. Please I’m not fighting what we’ve been working at the past number
of months, but it’s him that enables us to do it and I see – I saw how clearly it isn’t all the
explanations, it isn’t all the constant talking. We should go on with the rehearsals, and we should
work and make it as good as we can for his sake, but you do it for his sake. You don’t do it to get
the sale, because your best presentation won’t get a sale. It’s him that gets the sale. It’s him
that works in the persons mind and persuades them for some unknown reason to say that they could buy
this stuff from you and sell it to somebody else and how they ever conclude that, who knows? But he
is the one that makes that possible. It’s him that does it all, and it’s his strength. Therefore,
I am sorry, therefore I saw again how I should really be loving and gentle, and kind, and not hard,
and not critical and you will have your – whatever your application of that to you is, that it is
all Christ that enables us to do everything, it is him that enables us to do everything.
It is him in us that enables us even to live, and so everything is due to him. What I thought of
was this prayer I printed out the fancy version of it. Somebody has put it on St. Patrick’s based
prayer if you Google it. You’ll, of course, find it yourselves, but then I printed out the
individual ones, and I think there are enough there. But that’s why Patrick had this attitude —
this was life for him day-by-day, “Christ with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ in
me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ when I
lay down. Christ when I sit down. Christ when I arise. Christ in the heart of every man who
thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me. Christ in every eye that sees me.
Christ in every ear that hears me.” That is reality. That is what it is.
It’s Christ, Christ in us and Christ around us, and Christ enabling everything to be done that we
do. I thought too, sometimes we say quietly to ourselves, “Yes, yes, yes, now I must remember
that. Yes, now he’s here. Now what would Christ do? That’s what I’ve got to ask,” and somebody,
you remember has in America they have little badges, “What would Jesus do?” We can get into that,
and he sits inside and says, “I’m here. I’m here. What are you talking about? Why are you talking
about me as if I’m a third person? Why are you talking about me as if I’m somebody that lived years
ago, and what would I have done then? I’m here; I’m in you to do the thing now.” And it seems to
me there’s an immediacy that St. Patrick was driven into. That is reality, and that is God’s will
Then, you know, there’ll be a tendency for you to say from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it
seems to me, no it’s all Christ — it’s all Christ. This isn’t a commercial for pastors little
three extra columns. I added three at the end so that Joe would put in the accesses to the website.
It is so that we’d see if they had increased. And then the catalog request so that Peggy could fill
that in, and then the sales that would eventually result so that in fact, I have an email coming to
you suggesting also that we number our emails so that we find the emails that work best.
But what I want you to see is this is Christ. This is not something that you do – and by the way
I’m not doing this to get you to work on it, I’m assuming that you’re working on it, as I can see
you are. But this is not work — it’s not Christ, and then there’s work. It’s not like that. Its
work is Christ, this is something that Christ is doing through each of you, and this is something
that he will do and something that he will bless as he pleases.
So there’s no difference between Christ and work, they are one in the same, except that all of work
is Christ working in you and working through other people. And I thought that was good, what
Patrick says, “Christ when I sit down. Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me. Christ
in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.” That sales, that buyer that speaks to you rather
unkindly, Christ is in that mouth and he is speaking that to you as something that he wants you to
respond to as he responds to it. It’s a blessing. It’s a blessed little trial that he is sending
to you, not for the sake of the trial itself, but to give you the opportunity to respond in his
joyful heart, so that everything is Christ. So that everything we do is him, and then your life
becomes a love of affair. It becomes a love affair with Jesus.
That the world takes its own rightful place in an inferior position. It’s you and your dear Lord
living together and that’s the reality. That’s the reality. You don’t need to sit there and
think, “How can I make it real?” It is real; it is real, just live that way. Live that way. Stop
living this unreal life as if you are just a little human being. Stop living that unreal life, and
begin living as you really are. You are part of him, and he is part of you, and you are inside him,
and he is inside you, and he loves you, and he’s working all the time to bring you into complete
peace and rest in himself. The business is part of that, and it isn’t to be seen as something
separate, or as something alien. It is if it’s not what he has made it, it is alien, but if it is
what he has made it, it’s a glorious experience that just Patrick here as outlined. Don’t forget
this dear guy and some of the things that he wrote gave you a feeling of some of the things that he
faced in those days.
He says just before that, “I summoned today all these powers between me and those evils, against
every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false
prophets, against black laws of Pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches, and smiths, and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body
and soul. Christ to shield me today against poison, against burning, against drowning, against
winding, so that there may come to me abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ
behind me.” So it was in those days, those terrible cruel days that he lived in absolute peace,
because the same person was in him that is in us.
Let us pray.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us
and lead us into truth. Amen.
The Marks of a Prophet - EPHESIANS
The Marks of a Prophet
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to the lesson that we read, I think a few Sunday’s ago in 2
Samuel 7:18? If you just have it open there, I’ll show you what preceded that. 2 Samuel 7:12,
you’ll see in verse 18 there in the left hand column, 2 Samuel 7:18, you’ll see the stage in his
life that David had reached, “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I,
O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? And yet this was a small
thing in thy eyes, O Lord God; thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to
come, and hast shown me future generations, O Lord God!”
“And what more can David say to thee? For thou knowest thy servant, O Lord God! Because of thy
promise, and according to thy own heart, thou hast wrought all this greatness, to make thy servant
know it. Therefore thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee, and there is no God
besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. What other nation on earth is like
thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for
them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?”
And thou didst establish for thyself thy people Israel to be thy people for ever.’” So David was
really at the height of his powers. Then he saw Bathsheba on the roof bathing. He brought her to
his palace and I suppose really raped her in a way, but certainly had intercourse with her, and they
of course had a child and then on top of that if you look at 2 Samuel 11:15, he wrote a letter to
his general Joab about Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.
In the letter he wrote that Uriah should be put in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then
asked Joab to draw back from him that he may be struck down and die. So he killed the husband.
It’s unthinkable, and in a way David was a mixture. He was in a way the greatest king, the Jews
think of him as the greatest king they ever had. He was a great man and very much a tender man, and
a kindly man, but he was like every man with a fatal flaw in his character so that God had to again
lift up his Son in him and redeem him.
Of course that was the situation when Nathan came. Why Nathan? Well we’re studying Ephesians and
we got to 4:11. You remember it say’s, God gave to the church what it needed, and it gave some
apostles and some prophets. So we’re at prophet. What is a prophet? Well this is something of
what a prophet has to do what Nathan did in 2 Samuel 12:1, “And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He
came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other
poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe
lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it
used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter
“Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or
herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared
it for the man who had come to him. Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he
said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore
the lamb fourfold, because he did the thing, and because he had no pity.’”
“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you
king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master’s house,
and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this
were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do
what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his
wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites.”
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have
taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up
evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them
to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it
secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’
David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also
has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly
scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ Then Nathan went to his house.” I’ll
go right on into the sermon because it teaches it all so plainly there.
Obviously a prophet is someone who puts it very vividly, you can see that. I mean there were two
men, a rich man, and a poor man, dead simple. Puts it very vividly, brings it home to the heart of
David in a way that enables David to see it himself. David says, “Here’s what you do to that
person,” so David is led really by Nathan to revelation about what he himself had done. Then, of
course, Nathan does understand God and he explains to David what is going to happen.
You deserve to die but you won’t die, and then he goes on to explain, what will happen to your house
and of course the son would die, the son that was born from the intercourse that David and Bathsheba
had had. And then what will happen to David’s throne. So a prophet is certainly one who as we all
know speaks forth God’s word, but he’s also a person who speaks it forth in a vivid way. If you go
to the other prophets, you remember how they would at times do things physically to themselves to
make it plain to their hearers what was happening. A prophet obviously says it in a very vivid and
clear way so that people understand it and hear it clearly, and yet they also understand God’s mind.
There’s that verse, you might want to look at it, it’s in Psalms 103:7. We’ve mentioned it before
but it applies directly to a prophet. “He [God] made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the
people of Israel.” So God makes his acts known to the people but his ways he makes known to his
A prophets is one who understands the ways of God, and understands what God does in certain
situations. That’s why we’ve come to that rather character of a prophet where we say, “Oh a prophet
prophesizes. That means he tells you what’s going to happen in the future.” Well actually that’s
just a result of the prophet knowing how God works and knowing God’s ways. So he’ll say, “Of course
it’ll work that way,” and to him it’s no mystery because he understands God’s heart and God’s mind
and the depths of what God is after. He is able to explain to people how things are going to turn
In that way we know the ways of God — not only the works of God — we know them through God’s
prophets who understand God’s mind and God’s heart. That’s why our present situation was in such
chaos because the prophets don’t understand God’s ways and God’s heart. Nobody understands God’s
ways and God’s heart so no one can tell what’s going to happen, and no one can understand why the
present things are happening.
There is great need for men and women who will understand what God is about and it does away with
all that magical idea that a prophet is somebody who get’s something out of the blue. It just comes
to them and they speak it, and they don’t know why they speak it, they just speak it. A prophet is
one who lives with God and knows God’s ways and the way God works, and knows what God is after.
That’s the great need of today, for a prophet who will do that, or for prophets who will do it.
I would encourage you to see that that’s really what we are called to do in our websites and in our
newsletter articles. We are not just called to write little Christian lessons and little Christian
morals. We are not called even just to tell the truth about Christ himself, but we are called to,
well, Milton put it this way, “to justify the ways of God to man.” That’s why he wrote Paradise
Lost to justify the ways of God to man.
Really to explain the way God works and why he is working that way, and that’s what the Father has
in mind for us. Which is why I’ve mentioned to you before what I tried to put on the flag head of
the newsletters, isn’t that right? Have I got the right?
It’s on the mast head of the newsletter. I said, “There’s a federation of Christian businesses that
are at Christ’s disposal, their primary purpose is his filling the earth and subduing it.” This
transposes the power and purpose of work from man, Genesis 3:19, to God, Genesis 1:28. If you look
first at Genesis 3:19, you know what it says. Genesis 3:19, it’s the normal interpretation given to
work, that work, is a punishment for man’s sin. Genesis 3:19 reads, “In the sweat of your face you
shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to
dust you shall return.”
Really that’s the basis of a lot of what goes on in business. It’s through fear, fear of getting
hungry, fear of not having enough clothes for my back, fear of not having a shelter for me and my
children, fear governs a great deal of the business that is carried on in the world today. It
governs a great deal of people’s attitudes to work.
Of course the plan that God had for work is the one given in Genesis 1:28. You know it’s a totally
different emphasis. It’s God’s great commission command in regard to the earth. “And God blessed
them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that
moves upon the earth.” God called man to do it in joy, to fill the earth and to subdue it. Not to
empty it, and to end up serving it, which is what most people at work do, and so the two ways are
One is concerned with man’s power to do things, and the whole emphasis is on, can I do this job?
And how can I use this job in order to get what shelter, food and clothing I need? And the whole
emphasis here is Christ in me, Christ power in me.
Of course it brings an absolutely different attitude to business and to work. It seems plain that
God has given us our experience of work and business so that we could bring this home to people. In
a vivid way and we could explain to them why God has created work, and why he has created business,
and the difference in the two attitudes.
I know you think I’m very hard on a certain gentlemen in the computer business, but it does seem to
me that when you’re preoccupied with yourself, and with your own success, and with the success of
your business then you tend more and more to think in terms just of your business and your success,
even if it wipes out the competition. Often your responsibility becomes to wipe out every other
business and every other competitor.
So it results in very, very harsh competition which can make a business successful and can turn it
into a monopoly, but can be incredibly hard on other business’s and in fact can fail to fill and
subdue the earth. Often American business has benefited by the readiness of entrepreneurs to
encourage other entrepreneurs. It seems that when you do that you set lose all kinds of creative
energies that would otherwise be dampened. Often in these recent days of mergers, we’ve seen of
course all kinds of businesses go under because the competition was so harsh, and so it seemed to us
so unfair and unjust in its demands. You remember the approach often was if you use our product on
your computer then you cannot use this other person’s browser, you must use ours.
Especially when your operating system was the dominant one it gave you an iron hold on all the
competition, and often that kind of approach can make one person very successful but in the course
of it can impoverish hundreds of others. So there is a great difference between these two ways in
business. Often it will change the way you do your own business.
You’ll have a sense that there is a fair competition and there’s unfair competition, there is a way
that in which I can benefit people and then a way in which I can benefit only myself. There is also
an attitude to labor that is different because you will not want people to live in fear, you’ll want
to live in joy, and your whole attitude will encourage that kind of thing. So, we all know certain
American companies that are well known. Hewlett Packard was very well known for being in the days
Hewlett and Packard themselves, being a company that was concerned and that treated its employees
There is a great difference in the two ways as far as the employees are concerned. And I think that
what God has called us to do is to make this clear again, and again to the world. This is really in
a sense a very none religious task, everybody is concerned about work that’s one of the reasons we
went into business, because everybody goes into a grocery shop at some time, they don’t all go to
church all the time but they always go into a shop to buy groceries. Everybody goes into a restroom
at some time. That was our idea to be where people are. It’s the same in regard to this whole
sharing of the gospel.
Everybody works, everybody is experiencing the benefits or the hardships of these two ways of
working, yet very, very few people tie up these things at all. Of course this idea that work is a
punishment for sin lays the emphasis on sin and self. This work is part of what our maker put me
here to do and it is his way of bringing the world into his will through my work and through my
Of course the moment that person begins to be identified with some power or some person that is
greater than themselves, that moment they experience liberation, they experience a freedom and an
exaltation that in fact leads to actual joy so that often we have seen things like that. There’s a
fellow I think in Los Angeles that had built a massive car out of garbage and rubbish and it goes up
a tremendous height and he just does it for the joy of it. It’s well known. There are things
here and there like the two people, the two dear people that put all the gold or orange flags
throughout Central Park last year. It cost millions of dollars, these two artists who did it with
their own money, and it really did cost, I think, ten million dollars, some incredible amount of
money. They did it just for a week or two weeks, and they did it, and they talked about how the
light fell on the flag there were something like, I don’t know if, it seemed thousands of flags all
right throughout New York’s Central Park on huge concrete stanchions.
So that they had to have a factory, they actually had a factory in which they manufactured all this
stuff and then put it up just for two weeks and that was it. And everybody asked them of course,
why did you do it? Just for the joy of it, we do it for the joy of it. Well from down to time God
enables some people to do that, and immediately it’s done, of course, it fills the earth with a
sense of light heartedness, and a sense of uplift. There’s a huge difference between a business
that is run as God intended it and a business run by fallen man trying to make his own way in this
world and trying to sustain himself by his own ability.
So that, I believe, is part of what God has called us to do. We are called to be prophets, to be
people who can explain God’s ways to our brothers and sisters, and explain it in vivid ways. That’s
where it seems to me we need to see that God will inspire us. God will, through his Holy Spirit,
give us insight and give us understanding, and he will bring to our minds illustrations and
instances that will light the thing up to our readers and to our viewers.
It’s actually an endless possibility that we’re called to, because you’ll begin to think through
this, begin to understand it and they’ll come to you all kinds of ways in which you can explain it,
and which can make it clearer. And I would encourage us for instance where we can to find visual
images both for our websites and for our newsletter articles that will actually illustrate this kind
of thing. There are plenty in this room because we have seen so many pictures of the slaves at
looms, loom upon loom, upon loom, and still we know what’s happening in Asia these days without
So again, you can see where you’re driven by this desire to be successful at all costs. Then
actually you produce this fear and you produce this service. But if you’re determined to beat
everybody else in the prices that you pay by squeezing the vendors as tightly as you can, then you
actually produce slave markets, you produce slave factories where thousands of people lean over
sewing machines and work day after day, after day often in half light, and often in difficult
circumstances. But where this is the attitude then the joy it seems to me of God himself comes into
the life of the people and it becomes actually in a strange way and end in itself.
Which in a strange way is built deeply into God’s words where he says that you were created in
Christ Jesus, why? For the good works which God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in
them. [Ephesians 2:10] We’re often reluctant because of our fear of the Mary/Martha situation
where your careful and troubled all the time about your works or that you can’t be concerned about
God — where often we go over to the other side and say, “Yeah, there’s no place for work,” but work
has work, God has work very much in the center of his plan.
We were created in Christ Jesus, why? For good works that Christ would do through his own power,
for good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Of course as soon as
people begin to enter into that, then work becomes a joy and a delight. And I don’t need to tell
you what is the primary attitude here in Britain and possibly in lots of Europe. Strangely enough
beginning to be something of the attitude in America where the loss of loyalty to companies has
taken its toll, and where men have begun to realize the employers don’t care about me. Work has
become in America the same as it has been in Europe for some time, it has become something that you
didn’t want, something that you didn’t enjoy, something that you put up with, something that you
endured, something that you had to face every Monday morning.
I do think that the Father has brought us to the kingdom for such a time as this, and that there is
a great light and a great truth that he can bring through us. You don’t need me to say to you the
obvious, it starts at home, and it has to start with us. And I suppose where you often are
challenged is, what do I think of my work? Is this something that I have to do and I have to endure
for awhile until we get to the real work? Or does God really know I’m here, does he really know
what I’m doing every day? And he couldn’t possible want me to do this, could he? And you can see
the great need to understand the ways of God for yourself to see God does know I’m here — God does
know I’m doing this –this is his way. He has something here that he’s after and so what we
probably each should do is start right where we are ourselves, and enter into the joy of our Lord.
Let us pray.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the steadfast love of God and the fellowship of the dear Holy
Spirit be with us throughout this week. Amen.
The Marks of an Evangelist 2 - EPHESIANS
The Marks of an Evangelist
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Take a Bible please and look at Ephesians chapter 4:11. “And his gifts were that some should be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” And we have talked about
that meaning that God ensured that the right people were in his Son’s Body in the church. And he
gave some to be ‘evangelists’. And a couple weeks ago I mentioned to you that evangelist comes from
the two Greek words: “eu” which means “well” and “angelus” which means “a messenger”. So it is
really a “well messenger” or a “good messenger”, or we’ve normally translated it, “Glad tidings,”
the people who bring good news. That is really the terminology that we use. We are the people who
bring good news.
What always baffled me was that it seemed that my “good news” to the owner of a store was that,
“You’re a sinner!” And then once I’ve really convinced you of that, then I’ll lay on you the “good
news that Jesus died for your sins!” And I know that that is regarded as the normal gospel. I just
think that it isn’t immediately perceived by the store owner as great news [laughing]. And it does
seem that most people who call themselves Christians have managed to give the opposite impression to
the ordinary man in the street. That is we give the impression that we are not people who bring
good news. I mean we say we are and to that extent we seem kind of strange to them, because they
say, “You are always telling us we are sinners. You are always telling us that we are doing the
wrong thing. You are always looking upon us as not as good as you. You are always looking upon the
outsider.” And I’m afraid that that is the case that the religious people or the Christians have
given that impression to people.
And I think that is often the paradox that you feel when you go in to sell jewelry into a store [the
majority of the audience are jewelry sales reps]. And somehow or other you’ve got to get this thing
twisted round, so that it comes as good news to the store owner. And it is a bear. It’s very
difficult to do it without getting yourself into all kinds of logical contortions, and, as we’ve all
experienced, philosophical mumblings that don’t mean too much to most ordinary people. And we
usually end up rather dissatisfied with our performance and feeling generally that we haven’t been
an evangelist. I think that is what we feel. We feel we haven’t been an evangelist. We haven’t
done what we are supposed to do because we have a kind of strange idea of ‘what’ we are supposed to
do. And we feel we haven’t done that at all, and we feel we have just failed pretty miserably, and
all we can do is pray and hope that God shows them something that we can’t.
I just think it is a complete misinterpretation of the “good news.” And I think the good news is
what we have been talking about over these years. I know it bores you to tears and I’ve already
dealt with it partially when we dealt with this word a couple of Sundays ago. But the good news is
really, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that he has prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them.” That is the good news. What God has done to us and for
us, and where he has placed us, and who we really belong to, that’s the good news. Ordinary people
would rise to that if they glimpsed it at all. But, of course, nobody tells them that in a way that
they can take seriously. And so I think, first of all, our job is to live that way ourselves.
I do think we need to deal with any lack of joy in our hearts. And not, “Oh boy, I’d better whistle
up a bit of joy in here before I go into this store.” Not that game at all, but really dealing with
God, “Lord, I’m supposed to be filled with joy, because of the reality that you have made me inside
Jesus, and I’m with you two every moment of my life, and you’ve solved everything and you’ve planned
this whole wonderful journey for me through this world. Lord, what is wrong with me? Am I not
getting it somehow? Am I not grasping that? Am I not living in light of that? Or am I letting the
cares of this world to come in and overwhelm me? Lord, what is it? Am I so filled with myself? Am
I so preoccupied with my troubles, ‘poor me’, and the things that I have to do? Am I so unbelieving
that you have the whole thing figured out, that I can’t have joy?”
I think that is the first place. So that we really do get down to things with our Lord, and we sort
out, “Lord, I’ve read that the chief mark of the saints is joy. So here I am. I’m heading out
today in this car. I know I’m not bubbling. Now, Lord, what is it?”
And I do think that that is the first thing. Just, let’s sort that out with our Father and the Holy
Spirit. I agree with you. It is only the Holy Spirit that can bring “love, joy, and peace” that we
need. But there is some way that we don’t recognize him or we’re not allowing the Holy Spirit to
govern our feelings. So it is something that we have to sort out with God.
Obviously the first way we can be “good news people” is ourselves. It is very interesting. If you
reflect for a moment what the commercial traveler is about — I mean dear love him, he knows nothing
of that, but he does know he’d better be “up” when he goes into that store. “Good Morning, Mrs.
Steeles! Isn’t it a wonderful day?” Whether he feels wonderful or not, he performs. Of course, we
all know that when it is done in that spirit the last thing it is doing is bringing good news. It
is not bringing good news at all. It is bringing human well-being and human energy and soulish
“whistle in the dark,” that kind of approach. Of course the store owner knows fine well. They can
distinguish between somebody — you’ll hear them say, “That person is really happy. This person
comes into my store and they seem content; they just seem content. Well, I have a guy that comes in
and sells jewelry — I just feel better when he is there, because he really does see the bright side
of life and he seems happy in himself.” They know; they know.
That is why I say, “Our first responsibility is to live joyfully in the light of the life that God
has given us,” in other words to be an expression of the good news. After that I think there are a
thousand little things that we can say. If you once think about it; if you once think about
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which he has
prepared before hand that we should walk in.”
There are a thousand little things. “Wasn’t it terrible, that hurricane? [Reference to Hurricane
Katrina in New Orleans]”
“It was terrible.”
“And what those Americans over there did — I mean what they didn’t do for the poor blacks!”
“Yes, it really makes you glad that Somebody is in charge.”
You just say that! [Pastor laughs] You just say that!
And they say, “Well, he wasn’t in charge, was he? That Bush [America’s then president, George W.
Bush], he didn’t…”
“Yes, but it is good to know that there is Somebody else in charge, isn’t it?”
And it can be anything. It doesn’t need to be looked down upon by you to say, “The Man Upstairs.”
It doesn’t need to be looked down upon. Sure John Wayne talked about the “Man upstairs,” but it
does it. It does it.
Either that, or “It is good to know that there is a God.” And so it goes on. It just goes on in
hundreds of other things that could be said. “Yeah, it just makes me….” And you do it. You don’t
need to preach it. You just take advantage of the fact that you are a free human being who can say
things that you think. And it really is possible to say, “Yeah, it really makes me glad to know
that I’m not just my dad’s child.” “It makes me so glad to know that I’m not just my mother’s
daughter, that I really — there is Someone else.”
“Oh, you’re a bastard?”
“No [laughing], No, I’m not a bastard. No, I’m just glad to know — You remember that bit in the
Bible where it says, ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.’ It just makes me
There is a lot you can get away with that is just natural and normal, and isn’t all preachy, and it
isn’t all devout.
And then you get into the whole thing that everyone is conscious of: the uncertainty of life. All
that stuff they just bought, or they bought from the last sales person and it is sitting there, and
the whole uncertainty of the economy. ‘And what is going to happen to this European thing?’ ‘And
where is my life going?’ That is to say nothing of the little disasters that they all have. Where
somebody has a disaster in the family, or a mother dies or somebody gets sick. And it all opens up.
“It’s just — I have no…”
“It is comforting isn’t it, that there is at Someone who knows where all this whole thing is going.
“You know yourself, things happen in your life, and you know fine well, you didn’t bring them about”
Of course they all immediately know that. “You’re right! You’re right! I remember when I met ‘So
and So’; why that came about!”
It echoes! What does the lady [Eva Cassidy] say? “I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a
new creation!” They hear it. “It finds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing?”
They are in that same spot. There is an echo. They have an echo in their soul. “Yes, sometimes I
wonder. Things have happened in my life. I can’t explain. If I hadn’t been doing that, that
wouldn’t have come about.”
And sure there are plenty of people who say, “That’s luck!” But most people, even if they say that,
they don’t fully believe it. They think, “Luck couldn’t explain this and this and this.” So most
of them have that kind of at least that old, what we call wrongly, I think often, “Puritanical or
Calvinist” belief that, “It had to be.” Every time we meet Ken [friend of Pastor in London] in the
Lavantour, and we met him two different occasions — he hasn’t been in there for months. We haven’t
been in for 12 months, and we end up there at the same time. He would say, “You know, Ernest, it
had to be.” So everybody is that way. Everybody has the suspicion that, alright, they may talk
about their “Big Bangs”; they may talk about their chaos; they may talk about their chance; but
everybody [chuckling] thinks, “There are things here that you can’t explain other than that Somebody
intended it to be.”
So there are thousands of opportunities. You don’t need to quote Ephesians 2:10. You don’t even
need to talk about the Bible if you don’t want to. But it is, on the other hand, very natural in
some situations where you have come to know people, it is very natural to say what you think. But
that whole thing is the first little bit of “good news”. It is the first seed of “good news”. You
don’t need to water it like crazy, that same conversation to get it to grow. You just need to say
what is normal and natural to people who live in the midst of “good news.”
But that whole reality that we are actually created here for some purpose, and that it is actually a
purpose that somebody is very clear about, “You know Mrs. Jones, it looks as if you were meant to
run this shop. It looks as if you were meant…” There are some people, you find they match the shop
and the shop matches them, and you feel — you come into certain shops and you feel, “This person
was meant to be here.” She or he may say, “You know, I’ve felt that myself at times.” You know
what the place is coming down, and they are in desperate financial trouble. It is remarkable how
many of them have the feeling that they were made for this.
So there are endless opportunities. It does not need to be that contorted forensic explanation of
the atonement. It simply needs to be a plain, unembarrassed, simple, non-pushy statement of the
truth that “we are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we
should walk in them.” And somehow as that is built up in hearts there are other things that come.
Reality will out. That is it. Reality will burst out however much you try to keep it down, reality
will burst out. Other little things will happen that will confirm it in their minds. And
gradually, gradually… In other words people can get used to moving in a realm of faith. They can
get used to moving in the faith that God has given us in Reality. They don’t need to move in
unreality. They don’t need to continue to move in deception. In fact it is quite hard to maintain
that deception in God’s world, because God himself is always bringing along things that confirm what
he has shown us.
So I would encourage you to think seriously about the whole joy of being an evangelist, and the
tremendous opportunity you have to be an evangelist. Actually, this [meaning in a church service]
is the worst place — I mean it is a glorious place for us, for those of us who are inside Jesus in
their own consciousness, but for others, this is a silly place to start evangelizing. And the place
that you and I are in is far more powerful and has great opportunities.
So today as we enter his own presence let us allow him to take us over completely and to touch and
influence all our lives and the way we speak and the way we think so that we are absolute
presentations of truth and reality ourselves.
Let us pray.
Gifts For God’s Workers - EPHESIANS
Gifts for God’s Workers
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’re studying Ephesians chapter 4 and it’s verse 11 which we’ve been on for some weeks now, but
maybe you’d look at it again and just to get us all started on the same foot. Ephesians 4:11, and
it reads, “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some
pastors and teachers,” and the statement refers to the fact that God is supplying the people that
are needed by his Son here on earth. That’s it. Some will be given as evangelists and why I tie up
with us evangelists at all is that evangelists are people who speak to those who don’t know about
Jesus at all. People who have nothing to do with church and they bring them into truth and into
reality. We are very obviously in that category that’s why we’re in business and that’s why we
live the way we live and that’s why we have tried to avoid too much identification with organized
religion because we think many people are not interested in that and that’s not the place to find
The place to find people who don’t know about Jesus and about the truth of God is business. In a
very real way our whole life is given to the life of an evangelist. Except that all of us know the
well known understanding of an evangelist. The evangelist in all our minds is Finney or Billy
Graham, or some preacher who preaches to crowds large or small, and we normally think of private
evangelists like us as people who nail other people and button hole them, and say, “Are you saved?”
Then we explain to them using the bridge illustration or some other illustration how they are
sinners and how they can be saved by believing in Jesus and can go to heaven. We think of
evangelists normally as that.
That of course is not what we have been talking about at all in regard to this term. We’ve gone
back to the Greek, ‘eu’ is the first two letters that become ‘eve’ in English. Then “angelus” is the
Greek word that becomes angel in evangelists, and “uangelos” is good news or a messenger of glad
tidings. And that’s really what an Evangelist is. He’s someone who brings the good news to others.
We talked already about what people often say the good news is. The good news is you’re a sinner
and you’re going to hell but you can believe in Jesus and go to heaven. So you have to tell them
bad news first and then you work the good news on them. Except that that means very little to
people nowadays and they feel, oh your one of those, well their favorite word is you’re one of those
old hell fire preachers who tell me I’m going to hell and so you get into a dreadful kind of tangle
with people when you take that approach.
Of course what we think is true is that’s not the good news, the good news is first of all that all
of us are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus. That’s the first part of the good news that we
have that all of us who know Jesus and those who don’t know Jesus, all of us were made inside Jesus,
inside God’s Son. We would say that that isn’t only Christians because we would return to John 1
and say, “In him all things were created and without him was not anything made that was made.”
Then we would go to Colossians and we would say, “That he is the invisible, the image of the
invisible God, the first born of all creation. By him all things were created whether in heaven or
on earth, whether visible or invisible, thrones, dominions, principalities, and authorities, all
things were made through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold
together.” Everybody, every customer we meet in the store was made in Jesus and they hold together
because of Jesus continued love of them and the continued influence of his Holy Spirit. That is
the first part of the good news we have to tell them, and that is what God wants us to express to
them that we think of them as that.
You know you can get into logical, I would say illogical tangles in your own mind. You can say,
“Well wait a minute I don’t want to give them the wrong idea, I don’t want to give them the feeling
that their right and they’re really wrong and they’re sinners.” Well, they are sinners like
ourselves — people who have a tendency to want to live our own life in our own way — and I think
that’s the normal definition of sin. It’s first of all a tendency to want to live as if there is no
God. In that sense they’re sinners, but they were still made in Christ Jesus, they are still part
of Jesus. He still bears their sins moment by moment because everything they do they do inside him
and what we are called to do is to help them to understand that.
And it seems to me the first obvious step is we don’t treat them as outsiders, we don’t treat them
as rotten old sinners whom we have nothing to do. We treat them as people who are in a real sense
our brother. Just as when Bart talks about Christ our brother, he’s really talking about Christ
being the brother of all men and all women because in him all of them were made and their all dear
to him. So the first task we have as evangelists is to treat them that way as our dear friends, as
our brothers, as people whom we respect, and people whom we feel have been made in the same dear
person as we have. There are opportunities that God will bring us and there are words that he will
bring us to bring something of that home to people.
Above everything else I think our attitude brings it home to them. And if you say to me, “Well what
do you achieve by that?” Well something of the same thing as would have been achieved had they been
with Simon Peter, and the other disciples on the beach. When Jesus came and said “Children, have
you caught any fish?” something of that. They are able to sense something of the real presence of
Christ by the way we ourselves treat them and the attitude we have to them. They are able in some
sense to catch our faith. I think it is truer than I really saw before that faith is caught and not
taught. I would remind you of how many things we do in our own lives that we’ve caught because he
did it, our Dad or Mom did it so we do it.
I can still remember the most wonderful piece of soda bread, fried of course that I would ever have.
It was part of Dad’s baking and with tomato ketchup on it. So all of us know the influence of
parents, of the people that we love upon us, how we caught things from them, we caught their
attitude to things. We caught the way they do things probably 80% maybe of our ways and our
mannerisms come from somebody that we not only love but that we lived with and were within the
formidable days. You catch a lot just from the presence and the attitude of other people.
Even now we do it, we would say many of us, I notice it when Lucy laughs in a certain way, it’s the
same way Mary laughs or I don’t know which one of them started it first. You notice how you
influence each other just by being with each other. It’s the same kind of thing has happened for
instance according to the fictional story of “The Robe.” Marcellus was the officer in charge of
those who crucified Christ and somehow he got hold of the robe. I forget whether he won it in the
lottery [casting lots], or whether somebody gave it to him, or he picked it up. But the robe came
upon him and of course he immediately had a sense of something different happening inside him and he
was so impressed by it that he then went out traveling to find out more about these people who had
Eventually you may remember he came to one of their houses visiting, and they were just sitting
around eating and talking and suddenly a door clicked and everybody immediately looked round and he
said, “What’s wrong? Why are you looking so suddenly?” And they said, “Because Christ has come
several times and been among us and that could be him.”
It seemed that he suddenly was brought into the realm of faith, that suddenly he realized these
people know that Christ is here every moment and he suddenly became aware of that something and that
can come over even in the midst of a busy shop and store.
According to the reality of our own attitude and I would submit to you that our own attitude is not
one that’s full of talk saying, “You know Christ is with you every moment. You know you were made
in Jesus? Do you know that sometimes there’ll be opportunities to say, “Well you know we’re all
part of God?” And you can go on after that because, of course, there’ll be all misunderstandings.
Oh, you mean like the Buddhists, oh you mean like the Spiritualist, we’re all part of one Great
There’ll be opportunities to clarify the details, but the important thing is that there will become
moments when you can get over to them in words, but primarily what comes over to them is the sense
that in some way you think of them the same way as you think of yourself. In some way you kind of
respect them, same way you respect yourself and then anything that you express they’ll begin to
wonder, “Well, yeah, I kind of see that and I kind of think that way to.”
In a remarkable way they will ease towards reality and the more they ease toward reality the easier
it will be for the next little thing they hear from somebody else, or the next little thing that
they see on television, it’ll be easier for them to shift over a little more. I agree with any of
you who say, “Oh no, it can’t happen unconsciously by kind of osmosis if it were as easy as that it
would be nice.”
No, but it can take a good many steps in that direction and probably the truth is nobody really
knows they’re a sinner until they’ve seen Jesus, and it’s only when they see Christ and their
Father’s love that they realize how wretched they themselves are, and that’s our first task.
The only other thing I wanted to begin to deal with today is of course there are more things that
are real and that they are made in Christ though everything stems from that. But they were
crucified with Christ and not only they were crucified. In Galatians 6:14 is the time where Paul
mentions it so clearly, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”
I just remind you of the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that says, “For the love of Christ constrains
us; because we judge that if one died for all, then all died.” So the reality is that not only
were all of us created in Christ Jesus, but all of us were crucified in Christ Jesus. Of course
they have no idea of that at all. If they have they have no idea of the second part of that verse
that the world was crucified to me, and they have no idea of the result of that being what Jesus has
said, “I have overcome the world.”
They have no idea that Christ has foreseen everything that would happen to them in their life and he
has provided for it. He has destroyed the things that needed to be destroyed so he was able to come
and actually influence them in their jobs as they fished. He was able to say, “Throw the net on the
other side.” He had overcome the world, he had overcome the whole system that opposes his presence
and his will in this universe. He had destroyed that system and he had recreated a new system, a
new creation, that actually worked with his Father’s will for each person. That was the power that
enabled him to see that the fish were on the other side or if they weren’t there, to create them so
that as the net hit the water the fish were there and were caught, 153 of them. When they had been
fishing all night in that area and had not caught anything.
It is the same power which took place in Acts and chapter 12 if you would look at it. It’s the same
power that influenced Peter when he was put in prison. “About that time,” in verse 1 of Acts
chapter 12, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.
He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he
proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had
seized him, he put him in the prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him,
intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.”
“So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. The very
night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two
chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord
appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ’Get
up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ’Dress yourself and put
on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ’Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.’”
“And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but
thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to
the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and
passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and
said, ’Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from
all that the Jewish people were expecting.’”
Again Christ overcame the world, and overcame the change in the person. That’s the message. That
Christ has touched everything that needs to be changed. He has fixed everything that needs to be
fixed. Therefore you don’t need to be anxious. In fact the God of the whole universe says to us
and to our customers have no anxiety about anything. “ Have no anxiety about anything, but in
everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
They, of course they don’t believe it. The poor souls they watch the bank account going down, they
know that they’ve only had three customers that day in the shop, they know that that merchandise
they bought is not going as they thought it would. They have no idea, no idea that God has done
anything about that at all. They have no notion that God foresaw that moment, and they have no
notion that God has done something in his dear Son that is changing that situation even now. So
that his will will come about in their lives, and the only way they’ll get to know it is by you
explaining all this. Is that right?
No, no they won’t believe you, but if they see you living like that, if they see you living free, if
they see you and me living above those things, if they see you and me living in peace and rest and
contentment in the midst of situations that worry other people that make them anxious. At the
beginning they’ll say, “Well yeah, he’s a happy kind of guy, he’s one of those Americans. She’s one
of those Americans, they’re always bright.
At the start that’s what they’ll say, and then as the days and months go by and they see you still
at it they’ll begin to wonder, “Is there any real reason for being like that?” It’s Jesus saying
to all of us this day and to me too. Saying to all of us, “I have called you to be evangelists that
are people who live in the light of the good news. That I have made you all inside my Son and that
there is not one thing that will come upon you this day, or tomorrow, or the next day, but that I
have already foreseen it and I have already worked it according to the council of my will, and so
you are like innocent joyful little children that are playing in the safe protected back yard of a
loving Father who would lift and lay everything on your behalf, and that is our great privilege, and
my it is my great privilege.
Not a moment of worry, not a moment of care, not a moment of anxiety, not a moment of strain or
stress, that is what God has set up for us. Now that is what he exhorts us to do to be good
witnesses or to prove to ourselves or to somebody else that we’re Christians, but that is reality,
that’s reality for us, that’s what he has called us to.
Let us pray.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
of us throughout this week. Amen.