Many of us are troubled by our double lives – outwardly we seem to be Dr. Jekyll, the considerate healer, but inwardly we seem to be Mr. Hyde, the callous murderer. We smile outwardly but inwardly we are full of resentment and bitterness. The Bible makes it clear that our inward heart is not clean even though we are born of God and have an outward life that seems Christian. This can be changed — not by you — (you’ve tried often enough) — but by a work done in your heart by the Holy Spirit.
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The Final Proof – Easter - NEWBIRTH
The Final Proof – Easter Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Probably the worst thing almost in the world is the uncertainty. When you think back to times when you wondered if you had the job or hadn’t, you remember often you felt, “Oh, I would even rather know that I hadn’t the job and at least I’d know where I was,” as the weeks past and you still weren’t sure whether you had got it or not. And if you think back to other situations, I think you’ll agree you’ve often found that boy the uncertainty is worse than almost it seems than bad news. I think mums and dads who have dear ones who are missing in Vietnam, I think they must often feel, “I’d really rather know that he was dead, or I’d rather know that he was in prison, or I’d rather know something for certain rather than be uncertain like this.” And it is uncertainty is paralyzing isn’t it when you’re not sure of things? It almost makes it impossible for you to do anything. And brothers and sisters, that’s why Easter Sunday is so good for me personally because it is certain and sure. It has brought a certainty into my life that I just could not get from anywhere else. You know, it runs right through the whole thing. Runs through that lesson, you remember, that lesson that we read, that John 20. I was in difficulties with a lot of the stuff that I read in university in Ireland. Oh, we did a lot of Latin, and Greek, and ancient history and I remember reading old Cesar’s Gallic Wars, you know in Latin and this is the old school book, it brings back horrible memories to me, but here it is. But even Cesar’s Gallic Wars I used to think, “Ah, everybody thinks of Cesar as a reliable man, a real historical figure, a real historian, undoubtedly this stuff is true (cid:9)that I’m reading.” And then I discovered that Cesar had written about 58 BC and the first manuscript we had of his work was 900 years later and I suddenly realized what my Latin teachers were presenting to me as absolutely reliable history was actually 900 years older than when it was originally written. And I realized of course, anybody could have gotten a hold of Cesar’s original manuscript and over a period of 900 years could have changed it. And it seemed loved ones that it didn’t matter what book we suffered old Livy to and Livy you know is oh just an outstanding historian, Roman historian and he wrote about the same time really, as the other historians of imperial Rome. And then I discovered that Livy’s manuscript depended on a mere 20 manuscripts that had been discovered and that there were only 20 manuscripts of Livy’s history and many of them were only bits and pieces of manuscripts. And it isn’t long brothers and sisters after you do some classical histories until you begin to realize how tentative and how uncertain is the manuscript evidence upon which they’re based. Plato’s Republic was written about 400 BC and the first manuscript we have of it is 900 years after Jesus was born. And it’s so with all of the historians of those times. The earliest manuscript is about 1300 years after the original history. That’s what troubled me about Mohammad, you look to the Koran and you said, “Ah, this is what Mohammad actually wrote.” No, you find that the oldest manuscript is a great deal later than when Mohammad wrote the Koran and many people, many, many people have added to it since until you can’t tell what Mohammad originally wrote. The Hindu scriptures are worse, and so I wondered, you know, where is there certainty even as far as what has happened in the past? And do you know that behind John 20, there are five manuscripts, 10, 20, 30, 40, 100, 200, 400, 500? Even at 500 it would completely overwhelm any evidence we have for classical authors. There are 4,000 Greek manuscripts backing up John 20. That was so good for me to know because I had been taught to evaluate historical evidence and I was always skeptical of it because of the lack of reinforcing manuscripts behind it. But John 20 dear ones, depends on 4,000 different Greek manuscripts. The earliest one for Plato was 1,300 years after he wrote the Republic. The earliest one for John was 125 AD. There’s a scrap of the gospel of John dated 125 AD in a manuscript in Manchester England. Just a matter of 30 or 40 years after John wrote the gospel. So Easter Sunday has brought a lot of certainty to me about the person of Jesus as a historical figure. It used to be I wondered “Well, maybe Mohammad, well maybe Zoroaster, well maybe Buddha, and maybe Jesus.” Now brothers and sisters, purely on intellectual evidence of history none of them in my opinion hold a candle to the historicity of the figure of Jesus. If you question the existence of Jesus as he really was, you question the existence of every man that ever lived because the evidence for him is so much better. And so Easter Sunday has meant certainty for me about Jesus. It used to be in the old days when I read about him only in the New Testament I thought, “Oh well, maybe so. Maybe he really lived and maybe it was just a bunch of people who were interested in forwarding the cause that made up the Bible.” And then you know, I discovered that really a man like Pliny whom I read in college in Ireland had actually a letter that he wrote about the Christians and he was actually asking the emperor how to deal with them because they met together to eat bread and drink wine. I discovered that another fella Tacitus who was really one of the most reliable historians of imperial Roman. He wrote this about Jesus, “Actually the author of that name Christians was Christ who in the name of Tiberius suffered punishment under his procurator Pontius Pilate. It was just good, you know, to begin to realize that this man Jesus was sure historical, as sure and historical as any figure that ever lived. And that was really good. Another reason why Easter Sunday brings such certainty for me is that I did try to get peace, a sense of oneness with the world around me, and with people through other methods other than Jesus. I tried, probably like some of you have tried, the whole business of cosmic consciousness. Wordsworth explains it in one of his poems. You remember he says, “And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts. A sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused whose dwelling is the light of setting suns and the blue sky, and in the mind of man.” And he talks about that sense of oneness that the spiritualist says you can get with nature and with the world around you. And I tried that for a while. One of the killers is it’s so periodic, it’s so uncertain. One moment you think you’ve got it but it seems almost to depend on separation from the people around you rather than closeness to the people around you. It never seemed to bring continual peace. The people would write about cosmic consciousness but it never seemed to be a constant thing in the midst of trouble and difficulty. It never seemed to be something that was independent of your emotions, it seemed to always be a very tentative thing that you grasped at times when you were by a certain lake, or when you were reading a certain poem. It was uncertain. It was something that came and went. Jesus has just been so sure, you know. He’s just been able to bring a peace because he was alive. And he was alive all the time whether you felt he was alive or not. It was an actual fact that he had destroyed death and that he was alive. It was a continual kind of peace. I tried the old business that a lot of us tried to get rid of guilt, try to work your way out of it, try to be good, try to be as good as your parents want you to be, or as good as all your friends want you to be, or as good as your peers expect you to be. You tried to eliminate the guilt and you know what happens, you’re moral up to a point and then you fail and you just bring more guilt upon yourself. Far from working away the guilt that you’ve already had, you bring more guilt upon yourself because you failed to live up to your standards. The business of eternity, I often wondered, “How could you be sure there was anything after this life? How could you really be sure?” And fiddled around with that reincarnation business but when will you ever stop being recycled? You’ll come back okay, the next time as a cow. If you’re a good cow maybe you’ll come back as a bird next time, but when do you stop? Ah, terrible uncertainty you know. Reincarnation sounds so good but it’s like an impersonal sea of loneliness that you out on, isn’t it? It just seems to have so little certainty in it and so little personablness in it. And that’s why Easter Sunday has been so good for me because it’s been so good to see that here was a man who went through death and came back to tell us what it was like on the other side. Mohammad didn’t do that, Zoroaster didn’t do that, none of them even claimed to have gone through death and come back. They died and that was it. You could find their body, you could identify it, you could say, “This is Mohammad’s body.” This man Jesus disappeared off the earth, they could never find his body. He went through death and he came back and over a period of 40 days he appeared on 13 different occasions and explained, “Listen, it is as I said it was. You can trust me.” It’s so good to have Jesus, who had gone through death and could assure us what was on the other side. It was so good to have a man who wouldn’t be like Mohammad, who would say, “Now, if you obey all these laws perhaps the Creator of the world will be gracious to you.” It was so good to have a man who was saying, “Look, you deserve to die for all those things. You were put in me and my Father crucified you in me and destroyed you in me, and so he has nothing against you. Now I’m going to go through death to show you that and I’m going to come back to tell you how he feels about you.” Oh, it was so good to have a man that had actually done that, that died and came back and said, “Now, it happened as I said, didn’t it?” I don’t know I probably did what you did, at least in high school or college days. I tried to destroy the thing. I tried to destroy the whole fact of the resurrection because I couldn’t believe that you could get this kind of certainty about life, and eternity, and peace, and freedom from guilt and so I attacked the thing as probably most of you have done, and attacked those two main facts, you know, the resurrection depends on the two main facts: the empty tomb; and the appearances. And I ran through the usual arguments against the empty tomb. You know it, even when we’re faced with this history we’re incredible people, aren’t we, even though we have better history for this event than for any other in the world, we’ll be utterly unhistorical and we’ll say, “Well, perhaps it could have happened some other way.” Which is an utterly unhistorical and unscientific attitude to take but we try to do it and I did it. “Well, maybe the Romans stole the body. Maybe they stole the body.” And then I thought, “Well, they were stupid if they stole the body and didn’t then produce it and say, ‘Look, here he is. Your supernatural Savior, here he is. He’s really dead.’” And then I thought, “Well, maybe the disciples were conmen, maybe they were just pulling a trick on the whole of the universe so they could become leaders of a great new religion. Maybe they stole the body.” And then I thought, you know, of those followers, and those disciples walking into lion arenas with their children by their hands and doing it not because they taught what Jesus taught but because they taught that Jesus was alive. Can you imagine even one of them walking into a lion arena to be destroyed with his children and his wife knowing all the time in this own mind that they had actually stolen the body and had hidden it? It’s impossible, you just wouldn’t do it. It’s an ethical impossibility, to die for something that you really know is alive. People have died for things that they thought were true but they really did think they were true. Hitler ran himself into that trouble because he thought those things were true. There are men who died for what they think to be true but no man or woman will die for what they know to be untrue. They’ll eventually be pushed to tell the truth when it comes to death. And I tried the other things, he swooned. Jesus swooned, the idea that he was just fainting from the wounds and he wasn’t really dead, and that he got up after he was put in the tomb. And it’s just impossible when you begin to examine what would have had to happen. First of all, the Roman soldiers who were experts at ensuring physical death, they didn’t even bother to break his legs they were so sure he was dead. They simply put a spear through his side and out of it came water and blood. And they decided, “We won’t even break his legs, that man is certainly dead.” Then they put him in the tomb, and put the heavy stone across it, and bound him with those grave clothes, and with the spices. And then he would be bleeding presumably, all of that time and then he would have to spend the night, or two nights in the tomb, and he would have to get up the next day, take off the grave clothes, and have the strength in his body to push back the stone, and then brothers and sisters, to travel miles, miles over Palestine to appear on 13 different occasions to different people at different times. Oh, you know, without a 707, Jesus couldn’t have made some of those distances. I began to see that the arguments I was using as a college skeptic were actually harder to believe than the resurrection itself. I began to get myself involved in such tangled illogicalities that I began to see, look it would be easier – history is easier to accept than the things you’re inventing. And that’s what many of us come up with. We did a lot of psychology in seminary and so I tried to apply the old laws of hallucinations to the appearances. “Well, maybe he didn’t really appear. Maybe these people just thought he appeared. Maybe they just imagined it.” And then began to apply the laws of hallucinations. There are certain laws, you know, that govern hallucinations. One of them is you have to be of a very imaginative and nervous kind of personality. And I looked at big Peter and thought, “Well, not exactly,” or old cynical Paul, you know, “Not exactly imaginative nervous individuals,” or the rest of the fishermen. And another law is it has to be a subjective experience. A hallucination must be something that just you experience you see like a mum whose son was killed in the war and she would want to see him, and so she would see him herself. And of course I saw that Jesus appeared to all the disciples in the upper room that he appeared to the women in the garden, that he appeared to two disciples in the garden, then he appeared to about 500 people at one time. It wasn’t a subjective experience at all. Another law of hallucination is you must want to see the person. The mother must want to see the son coming back. It’s a result of wishful thinking. And you read about the disciples and you remember, there were two of them walking along the road that goes to Emmaus and Jesus came alongside them, asked them why they were looking so sad, and they didn’t say, “Oh, we are expecting Jesus to come back. We want him to come back.” They said, “Oh, we thought that this man from Nazareth was the one who would redeem Israel. We thought he would arise from the dead but he hasn’t.” And the whole attitude of the disciples was one of fear and disappointment. They bombarded themselves in the upper room because they felt that they had believed a lie and that the thing was not true. They were past hoping for Jesus to come back. Another law of hallucinations is that the person – the hallucination will take place in a certain place and will continue over a great period of time. And of course, Jesus’ appearances took place in different places, different houses, on the seashore at one time and it took place over 40 days and then ceased. And bit-by-bit I was kind of driven to see it didn’t matter how you argued on this, the historical evidence was so strong for the resurrection and the illogical explanations of it were so ridiculous that the only thing really was to accept that this was the most certain fact in the whole of the universe. And oh brothers and sisters, it’s so good to know that in the midst of all kinds of doubt and uncertainties in our world and in our society, this thing is solid. This is solid empirical evidence. And really loved ones, that’s it. This Jesus did rise from the dead and on historical evidence or on philosophical evidence you cannot reject that. And really loved ones, to be honest with you, what we’re all faced with in this theater is either acting on our belief or refusing to act on our belief. That’s it, you know. It’s just extremely hard for a brother and sister here in this theater to disprove Jesus’ resurrection. It really is loved ones. It’s a hard one to disprove and so what most of us are faced with is we’re either living as if this man is alive or we’re living as if he isn’t alive. That’s really it, you know. And honestly, most historians, even the dear fellas like Aldous Huxley who refused to be Christian, most historians or philosophers will say, “The evidence is overwhelming, this man did rise from the dead.” And they’ll say the only reason they’re living as if he didn’t rise from the dead is they want to live that way. Now brothers and sisters, that’s really with us you see, because you can have all the certainty in the world externally but the only time certainty comes into your own life is when you align your life with reality. So really I’d ask you, do you live as if this man Jesus really is the Son of the person who made you, who made your hands, and made your arms? And do you live as if this Jesus is right beside you not only when the bank account is low but also when you’re about to criticize someone. Not only when the car payment is due and you can’t make it but also when you feel you want to be angry with your wife or with your children. In other words, do you live according to the fact that this Jesus is beside you ever moment of the day? Really loved ones, that’s only living according to reality because the fact of Jesus’ presence here in this theater this morning is as reliable as the scientific proof we have for air and for the safety off breathing it. It really is. And just as you breathe this air in because you know it’s safe, really I’m saying to you would you not live according to the other reality that this Jesus is right beside you. That those words are really true, “Lo, I am with you always,” and that he is right there. Would you think a wee bit about it in regard to our own lives, those moments at home when you just get utterly irritable with each other? Well this Jesus is right there seeing that. The other time when you get all worried and anxious about the future, and about what kind of job you’re going to get, this Jesus is right there. That’s a fact. If he destroyed death ones he can go and come whenever he pleases and that means he’s with you all the time and with me and that’s a great certainty, you know. And that’s why Easter is so good for me because it brings a certain certainty about God and the creation of the world and about what’s going to happen to me and that’s really good. So we don’t need all the lilies really, all we need is that person and he’s the one that makes Easter, makes every Sunday and Easter Sunday. You may say, “Well, I mean I agree with you. Logically I can’t oppose you but it isn’t real in my life.” Then I only know one way brothers and sisters, you start living that way. Don’t make a whole song about it, don’t think you have to make all kinds of church membership decisions, just start living that way. Live remembering that Jesus is right beside you and that he’s the son of the person who made you and that he’s alive with you in every situation. Just begin living that way and you’ll be able to check at lunch time. Especially, if someone drops the ketchup on your new dress, you’ll be able to tell at that point. But that’s it, it’s a realistic thing loved ones, it’s not a philosophical religious thing, it’s a real thing. You either live this way or you don’t and that shows whether you believe it or whether you don’t really. Let us pray. Dear Father, thank you for such a sure fact that stands philosophical and historical examination. Thank you Father, for absolute certainty about yourself through this person Jesus. Thank you Jesus that you are alive today. Thank you that you see each one of us at this moment. Thank you that you know us. Thank you that you do never leave us. Whatever the circumstances we’re in you never do leave us. You’re right there all the time. Thank you that you can take us through death and bring us out alive. Thank you Lord Jesus, for being real, for being alive. Amen.
Victory of The Resurrection – Easter - NEWBIRTH
Victory of the Resurrection – Easter Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill About fifteen years ago a father lay dying in a Welsh mining town and his son, who was a Welsh poet, wrote and spoke these words to him, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the night. And you my father, there on the sad height, cursed, bless me now with your fearest tears I pray, do not go gentle into that goodnight. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” And old Dylan Thomas is not the only one among us human beings who have felt like that about death, because we really do feel that though we’re very resourceful about almost every other difficulty we face, this experience we seem unable to do anything about. So even though we may not be in Thomas’ psychological condition, yet most of us feel a rage rising up inside us when we think of death. And it seems, you know, we can make hydroelectric power from the rivers, it seems we can turn the land into almost any shape we want, it seems we can go to any planet almost that we want, but this thing death, we can do nothing with it but kind of adjust and adapt to it. And really, the cosmetology that our morticians practice is just an expression of us and our frustration about death. We try to make people look as if they’re still alive and that’s about the best we can do and so we use the lipstick, and we use the powder, and the coloring to try to make our loved ones look as if they are alive because all we seem able to do with death, is to adjust to it or to adapt it in some way so that it doesn’t seem to be really there. Those of you who have been at funerals know fine well that’s what we do. We’ll talk about anything but the death. We’ll talk about football, talk about the twins, talk about the weather, and talk about what the person did years ago but the death we will not talk about. We kind of walk around that subject. Mohammad was one of the greatest and most influential prophets that the world has seen. He described Allah so effectively that thousands of people followed him and were prepared even to treat Mohammad as God. He gave millions of people in Asia strength to live by, and a sense of national identity, and purpose in their lives. And yet when it came to the crucial moment, he too had to humble himself before death and he ended his life as all the rest of us human beings will do. There are other people like him. The world is filled with people like the Guru Maharishi who have claimed to free us from the bondages and limitations of this earthy life. And it doesn’t matter which one you take Buddha, or Zoroaster, or Confucius, it doesn’t matter which one you examine, when it comes to the matter of death they all are like us ourselves. They may appear to be superhuman during their life time but when it comes to death they die like everybody else. And so death is something that really we haven’t been able to do anything with and that’s why most religions and most psychological techniques are so unsatisfying and so inadequate because when you think of it isn’t it true that everything that spoils our life and frustrates it is really something that is just a stage on the way to death? Isn’t that right? I mean, when you think of the things that spoil our lives they’re all factors that come from the certainty that we have that we’re going to end our life sometime. You know, sickness is just a step on the way to death. Weariness is really a step on the way to death. Grey hairs are a step on the way to death. The male menopause is a step on the way to death. A man wouldn’t be concerned about 40, or 45, or 50 except that he feels that that’s just maybe 20, 30, or at the most 40 years from when he’ll end his life. Ladies would not be concerned about coming to a time when they cease to bear children if they didn’t feel that really that’s a foretaste of their life ending. And that’s why so many religious techniques and so many psychological techniques are so unsatisfying, because they cannot deal with this one problem from which all other problems stem. And loved ones, that’s really the reason why all psychology and all other religions are basically like cosmetology, they really are. They’re just the attempt of the morticians among us to kind of ameliorate the more offensive sides of the death experience. Now dear ones, it’s because death has seemed so absolutely unchangeable to so many of us that we need such good evidence when a man comes along who claims to destroy death because this we can see is the thing we need, but nobody has ever been able to do it before. So when one person comes along and claims to have victory over this death, we need to examine carefully and painstakingly the evidence for this event. That’s why the resurrection has been subjected to more skeptical and critical examination from literary critics, from theologians, from psychologists, from medical people, from lawyers. It has received more examination than any other event in our history because so much hangs on it and because death has seemed so unchangeable. And therefore, in a sense, all the things that spoil our lives have seemed unchangeable because all of them are just a stage on the way to death. This is also the reason why Jesus’ own followers ignored his statements that he would rise on the third day. They listened to him and thought, “Yeah, that’s very good we’d really like it,” but they accepted the statements with a pinch of salt and thought, “Yeah, well if it ever happens that he dies there’ll be no coming back.” That’s why they locked themselves in the upper room after his crucifixion. Because, they didn’t really believe that this man could destroy the unchangeable enemy that had frustrated people for centuries. This is why, you remember, old Mary Magdalene went to the cemetery to do only one thing, to anoint the body of Jesus. She didn’t expect him to be anywhere but lying in that tomb. That’s why she took the stuff with her, so that she could anoint the body of Jesus. She had no expectation that he would rise from the dead. That’s why also, brothers and sisters, no religious leader ever chooses that as the fact on which to build his message. They just don’t. If you wanted to start a new religion, the one fact you don’t chose is resurrection from the dead, because that hoax is too easy to disprove. You don’t want to get yourself into that thing. You can maybe walk on nails, or you can swallow fire, or that kind of thing because you can do that by illusion. But you don’t build your religion on the fact that you have destroyed death, because that hoax is too easy to expose. So it’s simple, on a hoax like that you would simply go to the city where the hoax was supposed to have taken place and you’d simply ask those people what had happened. And of course, anybody who starts a hoax like that always makes sure that you ask the people in some remote area far away from the place where it was supposed to have taken place. But the amazing thing is, that though the converts to a hoax like that ought to take place in some place remote from where the event had occurred, the first 3,000 converts to Christianity, took place in the very city where the resurrection had occurred. And so if the hoax was untrue, really all you had to do was listen to Peter’s sermon in the morning and go the tomb at lunchtime and check it out. And it was just not the way anybody that was presenting a hoax would do it. Normally, a hoax like that is believed first of all by people who live miles, and miles away from where it occurred. But in the case of this hoax, the first converts occurred in the very city where it took place. If you wanted to expose a hoax like that all you had to do was point out that despite all the protests the followers of this man Jesus still venerated his tomb. They still made pilgrimages to his tomb. But in fact, for the Jews, and for the Christians, and for the Romans, there’s never any mention of the tomb of Jesus after we read about it in the New Testament. It does not appear in history. Nobody ever talks about Jesus’ tomb. Everybody talks about other people’s tombs but nobody ever talks about Jesus’ tomb. They just did not venerate that tomb. They seemed to be absolutely certain that he was not there. Another reason why no one would build a religion on the fact of resurrection is that to disprove the hoax all you had to do was go to the cemetery and parade the body through the streets and everybody would see that the thing wasn’t true. But in fact, the Romans never did it and the Jews never did it and yet they knew that this was the one act that would undoubtedly rid them of this harassment from these Christians and yet they never did it. A hoax like that usually gains credence years after the event. In other words, it builds much like Mohammad’s life. Mohammad’s life is filled with legend, it just built up over years, and years, and years and centuries later they began to talk about the things that Mohammad supposedly did in his life time. Now that’s normally the situation with any hoax like this. You would expect that the legend would grow gradually over centuries and centuries. But within weeks they were talking about this resurrection from the dead in the very city where it occurred. Within 15 years this event was known throughout the first century world. Within 40 years it had taken over the place of Judaism in the religion of the people of that area. Within 100 years it had become one of the main events that contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. In other words, if this was a hoax, or a legend, it doesn’t follow any of the rules or laws that govern legends. That’s why dear ones, if you’d like to look at what Paul said when he was being examined once, that’s why he said this in Acts 26:25-26. Festus, an official, was examining Paul about these things and he accused him of course, of being mad. He said, “Your great learning is turning you mad.” In Acts 26:25, “But Paul said, ‘I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.” And loved ones, this thing wasn’t done in a corner. Pliny wrote letters to the Roman Emperor about this event. Tertullian wrote about this event, Josephus who was a Jew who didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah recorded this event in his antiquities. Porphyry and Celsus who opposed Christianity wrote about this in official Roman documents. This thing wasn’t done in a corner and so it’s difficult to believe it was a hoax. The amazing thing is that throughout the history of the Christian church none of its critics have ever seriously questioned the whole basis of the Christian church which is the resurrection. It’s incredible, really. The attacks on the resurrection have come within, from the liberal theologians, but no critic outside the church has ever seriously criticized or attacked the creditability of the resurrection because the historical evidence for it, not only in the 4,000 manuscripts that reinforce the New Testament, but also in the Roman and Greek manuscripts that refer to this resurrection are so strong that it is almost impossible to break it. And so you remember, Morrison in Britain who started out as a lawyer to prove beyond all doubt that the resurrection had not taken place, ended up writing the book Who Moved the Stone and became a Christian in the process of his examination. And just became utterly convinced from a legal standpoint that you could not break the fact of the resurrection, the evidence was so strong. Dear ones, it is so certain that you know even the wildest hypothesis that are based only on our own imagination do not stand in the face of the historical facts of the resurrection appearances and the empty tomb. You know, the way we used to sit at home when we were kids at school and think, “Now, how could it have happened? How could it have happened? Yeah, yeah, maybe the Roman’s stole the body. Maybe they stole the body.” And we used to sit there, we have no historical evidence for this stuff but we just thought, “Maybe fairies fly, maybe elephants fly, maybe the Roman’s stole the body.” And it’s just impossible and we’ve answered it before you know, because if they stole the body all they had to do was present the body and show that this man has not risen from the dead. The Jews and the disciples couldn’t have stolen the body because no man will commit himself and his family to something that he knows to be a lie. Jesus couldn’t have swooned from his wounds and then lain in the tomb for several days and nights and then had the strength to unbind the clothes that were bound around his body, and move back the stone while he bled from his wounds and then appear at superhuman speed in 12 different places over a period of 40 days and convince everybody that he was more alive than ever before after swooning from his wounds. It’s impossible. And the disciples and the woman couldn’t have gone to the wrong tomb because there was only one tomb, it was a private cemetery and anyway all the Romans had to do was go to the right tomb and present the body. And the resurrection appearances couldn’t be hallucinations because they don’t fit into any of the psychological laws that govern hallucinations. Hallucinations have to be subjective. Jesus appeared to about 500 people at one time. Hallucinations have to occur just over a week or a short time and then cease. Jesus’ kept going for a long time. Hallucinations have to be wished and desired by the people who see them. It has to be someone whose son has died in Vietnam and who is wanting to see him walk through the door. The disciples and the woman who followed Jesus had given up all hope that he would ever come through the door. Hallucinations just don’t explain the resurrection appearances. They don’t explain an incredulous man like old Thomas saying, “I will not believe until I have put my hands in the holes in his side, and the holes in his hands. I will not believe.” And then he was able to do that and believed. Ghosts don’t explain the person who came and ate fish by the seashore with the disciples. Loved ones, it’s just impossible to do anything but accept that Jesus really did shatter death and he destroyed it and therefore he has destroyed everything that leads up to death. And you must agree with that. If Jesus destroyed death he must be alive now, mustn’t he? And if he destroyed death he obviously destroyed cancer because it’s a lesser thing than death and leads to death. And he obviously destroyed sicknesses, didn’t he? So Jesus at this moment as he is alive has absolute power to destroy all those sicknesses and feelings of loneliness that are foreboding of what death itself is. He obviously has destroyed that. So Jesus has destroyed loneliness, and insecurity, and darkness. So wouldn’t you agree, that as far as Jesus is concerned, none of those things that normally spoil our lives have any power at all against his living life that can destroy even death and darkness, isn’t that true? So Jesus at this moment is not touched by pain, or weariness, or sickness and those things have no power over him. So he is not hindered from obeying God’s will by any headache because I think we all agree apparently he seems dead. Isn’t that right, we can’t see him at this moment? And yet you know he’s alive here in this place. So apparently death still exists but it has no power to prevent him fulfilling the dream that God had for his life. Now loved ones, that’s Jesus, those things cannot spoil his life. But do you see that that involves you and me? I’ll show you how it does. Would you look at Romans 6:4-5, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united within him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” And you may say, “Well, yeah but it is the future tense isn’t it? If we have been, that’s past enough but the future is we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Well we know that. We know that sometime we’re going to be freed from these bondages and limitations that spoil our lives. And loved ones, would you look at Ephesians 2:4-7. “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.” Now do you see the past tense, “Made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised,” and that’s the past tense, the aorist in Greek, “And raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So I’ll show you one way of getting the first page of the sermon, not the last page, but getting the first page of the sermon over to that mic. I put it in that book and then I throw the book over to the microphone. And where the book goes the page goes. But we have been placed in Jesus by God. Isn’t that what we believe? That we have been placed by God in Jesus. And so if he is raised this morning and has power to prevent death stopping or frustrating God’s dream for his life, then aren’t we in the same situation? If cancer has no ability to prevent him fulfilling God’s plan for his life then aren’t we in Jesus where he is? If we’re in him aren’t we there too? If you say to me, “Oh but brother, the cancer, there’s a lot of cancer and there are a lot of Christians who have cancer.” Yeah, but loved ones the life of Jesus in us prevents the cancer frustrating God’s dream for our lives. That’s what it means, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” If God has a plan for your life and you are in Jesus there is nothing leading up to death that can prevent that plan. So okay, you have migraine headaches, and the migraine headaches may continue to appear to be there as really as it appears at this moment that Jesus is not here. But if you are in him, then the life that is in him will prevent that headache spoiling your life, or spoiling God’s plan for your life. In other words, if Jesus is raised today, you and I have been raised. And the power that he has we have at this moment. And loved ones, it applies to loneliness, the loneliness that grips us at times, that loneliness that is a foretaste of darkness of death. That loneliness is under the control of Jesus’ resurrection life and if you are in him then you have power over that loneliness. Loved ones, the message today isn’t that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The message is that all of us who are in him have similarly been raised from the dead, and we’ve been freed from all the bondages that death symbolizes for us, the bondages of sickness, and weariness, and tiredness. And it isn’t the power of positive thinking, it’s simply the faith in the historical fact that has been demonstrated clearly by countless reliable witnesses. It’s faith in that fact that releases the power of the Holy Spirit to actualize resurrection in you. So the alarm goes off, and you’re about to get up but the back, it’s killing you and you can’t move, and you wish you hadn’t done all that carpentry yesterday. Or the sister, the alarm goes off and you just don’t feel you can do it, you just don’t. The body will not respond. Loved ones, you can either look at the body as if it’s dead or you can look at it as placed in Jesus, buried with him, that old body is not yours it’s worn, and wearied, and the only good thing you can do with it is commit it a tomb with Jesus, and it’s finished with, and Lord Jesus the Father raised you from the dead and I too have been raised with you. And I thank you Lord Jesus that I cannot do it by the strength of my own body which is worn out, but I can receive the strength of your resurrection body and I can get up out of this bed and go. And loved ones, it is incredible. But if you take that stand it is not the power of the positive thinking that raises you but that faith opens the way for God’s Holy Spirit to come down and give you the health of our risen Jesus. And it really works, honestly it does. I’ve a back to prove it. Like many of you, I did the same thing lifted something that I shouldn’t have lifted and God is able to change it. But do you see that’s what Easter is about. Easter isn’t just about Jesus raised from the dead and, “Oh, that’s great let us cheer Jesus because he was raised from the dead.” You are in Jesus, and you have been raised from the dead, and he expects every day to be Easter in your own life. And he expects you every time you come up against any adverse circumstance, every time you come up against any problem in a human relationship, to be glad that it’s there and to release the resurrection power of his life into it and to triumph over it. Loved ones, for those of us who live on the right side of the resurrection there are no problems, there are no difficulties, there are only opportunities for the resurrection life of Jesus to be released and to solve difficulties and problems, and to set forth the power of his resurrection. So I really do hope you do grip that because I really hate to think of so many of us being so happy on Easter Sunday for all kinds of corny reasons, but being so happy and then living so many Sundays overcome by the very things that Jesus destroyed. So loved ones, would you begin to live tomorrow, Monday is a good morning to try it, how about Easter Monday? Let’s start living on the right side of the resurrection.
How to Recognize a Christian - NEWBIRTH
How to Recognize a Christian Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill I’d like to break, brothers and sisters, this morning from the normal study in Romans and we would get back to it next Sunday. And so I’d just like to share something that Jesus told me I should share this morning. You know that we’ve been talking about what a real Christian is and that a real Christian is not one who simply believes that God is the Creator of the world and that Jesus died for our sins because you remember, that in James it says that even the demons believe and shudder. So obviously, a Christian is not just a believer and that’s where we go astray when we lay the emphasis so much on intellectual belief in Jesus alone because there are many people who stand up in church Sunday after Sunday and repeat the apostles’ creed and they really believe it. They really believe it with all of their heart, with all of their mind and emotions. And some of them can become very emotional about their beliefs but they’re not Christians because all they do is believe and even the demons believe and shudder. And being a Christian is not just believing. It is not just holding the right intellectual tenants about Jesus and about God. And being a Christian is not just being a moral person. It seems clear to us that there are many moral people who are not Christian. There are very good people who live very unselfish lives and they aren’t Christian at all nor would they even dream of saying that they were interested in Christianity. So being a Christian is not just being a moral person. And we know clearly, I think without any difficulty, that being a Christian is not simply going to church, or being baptized, or being a member of a church. But being a Christian is receiving. It is receiving the Spirit of Jesus inside you. And you remember, Jesus really states that through his servant in John there if you look at it for a moment. John 1:12 is a verse that many of us know by heart. It reads like this, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” To all who received him and becoming a Christian is receiving the Spirit of Jesus inside you. It’s a miraculous work that God does in your spirit at a level deeper than your mind, and emotions, and will. It’s a work that God does inside you and makes you alive inside so that there was a time when maybe you didn’t appreciate old Bach and then you came into an understanding of Bach and you could sit at concerts and enjoy him completely. So it is, God brings a piece of you alive that had never been alive before and you see things that you never saw before, and you come into a spiritual world that we’re all trying to hit at when we attempt to raise psychic experience to the nth degree through heroine, or when we try to experience some transcendence over this present pedestrian world in which we live. But it’s that spiritual world that God miraculously brings you into life in through his Holy Spirit and that’s what it is to be a Christian. And it’s easy, you know, God does that when you’re willing to do what the man who owned the inn in Bethlehem was not willing to do. Jesus can only come in if you make room, if you say there’s no room he doesn’t come in. And that’s why very few people really are Christians. There are many Christian believers. There are many who hold a Christian consensus worldview but there are relatively few Christians who actually are prepared to get out of their lives what prevents Jesus coming in. And there are many of us that have a great deal of intellectual pride and we’re not willing to die to that pride to let Jesus come in so actually, we never experience Jesus. We experience an intellectual kind of concept of Jesus but we never experience Jesus. Many of us are holding so much onto our jobs and our futures that we will not get that out of our room and Jesus will not come into our room to be a prisoner so we’re actually saying to him, “There is no room at the inn.” It’s just that we’re more subtle being western sophisticates, we’re nicer about it. We say, “Oh yeah, come in, come in.” But he knows that we’re only letting him into the porch and so he doesn’t come in at all and we just hold him in that position and we keep calling ourselves Christians. Now how do you tell a real Christian from a pseudo Christian, or a Christian receiver from a Christian believer? How do you tell one who has been born of the Spirit from one who simply goes to church and agrees with Christianity because he lives in America? Well, 1 John 3:9, you remember, makes it very clear. It’s a miserable verse but it does make it clear. 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” And I demythologized that verse out when I was at seminary. I went to liberal seminary and so I have no trouble demythologizing that bit out. I hadn’t very good intellectual reason for it but had good moral reason so I demythologized it anyway. And then I found that it was getting hard going because the fella had repeated it again in verse 6, “No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” So I demythologized that verse out and said it was sort of exceptional exaggeration in the fact of Gnosticism. The boy kept repeating it. In verse 7 he hit it again, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.” And I argued, “Well now, it’s alright to commit an odd sin,” and then he came right in in verse 8, “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” And slowly it dawned on me that it might be true that one who is born of God does not commit sin and I decided it would be better to agree with him and try to find out what he meant than to try demythologizing the whole of John. And then it gets hard work because you have to go onto the rest of the Bible because Jesus keeps telling those silly little stories about the man who builds his house in sand and the man who builds his house on rocks and says, the people who build their house on sand are people who hear his word and do not do it. And so it is true brothers and sisters, that when the Spirit of Jesus comes into us and we’re born of him, then he remains himself inside us. He does not change and he does not begin to crucify his Father just because he’s inside us. He still obeys his Father. In fact, he does not sin and we do not sin. Not that we don’t make any mistakes. Of course, we make mistakes. Not, we conform absolutely to some ideal form of perfection. No, but we do not sin in the sense that James 4:17 says, “Sin is anybody who knows what is right and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” In that sense, we do not sin. We walk in perfect obedience, we don’ walk in sinless perfection. We often make mistakes, we often will find our emotions unbalanced and the old temper will go, we didn’t really mean to but it will go. But when we know what is right to do we’ll always be able to do it and that’s what a Christian is. A Christian is just one who is in control of himself through the Spirit of Jesus. And he may make many mistakes, he may often fall and slip but when he knows what is right to do for him, it is a sin if he doesn’t do that. And so a Christian is one who is in control, you see and who can obey God. That’s what it means a Christian doesn’t sin. A Christian obeys God. He offers God conscious obedience. There may be many things that he does wrong that he doesn’t know about but that isn’t sin. Sin is whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. Sin is known conscious disobedience of God and a Christian is one who doesn’t involve himself in that. Now, that’s where most of us come into our problems you see, because most of us, after we’ve received the Spirit of Jesus into us, find we have troubles in two areas of our lives. Now here’s one of the areas if you’d like to look at a verse in Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor.” And we miss an assignment, and we have to face the professor, and we know that we’ve to put away falsehood and we’ve to speak the truth. And after a mighty struggle, we speak the truth. Or, we miss an appointment with a friend and we really don’t like them to think that we just forgot the appointment and so there’s a real struggle inside, but we do speak the truth. But there’s a struggle. There seems to be something inside us that doesn’t want to speak the truth in spite of the fact that the Spirit of Jesus inside us does want to speak the truth. And so even though often we walk in outward obedience, yet often inside we have a spirit that is vying against that desire to obey God and that we can’t deal with. And often it brings real strain into our lives. I mean, we may be walking in obedience to God, but boy we are walking with a heavy weight on our backs. There seems to be a spirit striving inside us against the Spirit of Jesus that came into us when we were born of God. So many of us have that problem, we walk in obedience but we have inside another force that is trying to pull us out of God’s way. We have another problem. If you look at it, it is in Hebrews 12:1. Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” And you remember the King James Version is the besetting sins, or a besetting sin. And many of us have this trouble in our Christian lives. We can obey on number one area, two area, three area, four area, and five area but sixth area there is a besetting sin that we just cannot overcome. And so we have trouble at times obeying. But we manage to obey, yet there is a strain inside us. But on this besetting sin we cannot obey. And we find every time we come up to this particular sin we just cannot do it. And we fought it and fought it and we’ve confessed and repented a thousand times until we’re tired of it. And we have no doubt in our minds that God will forgive us until 70 times seven as long as our heart is penitent and soft enough to repent, God will forgive us obviously. But the tragedy is we have begun to see inside ourselves a tendency to rationalize the sin so that our hearts are becoming harder about it and we find now that we don’t feel such a desire to repent of it. We’ve almost come to a place where we say, “Ah, no this is part of my particular human shortcoming. I’m an artistic, poetic type of person this is just kind the way my chemistry works.” And we begin gradually to rationalize and justify this besetting sin. Now brothers and sisters, that’s where the danger is because it’s there in Hebrews if you look at it. Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” Now, it is not impossible for God to forgive us but do you see what the Bibles said, “It is impossible to restore again to repentance.” And many of us have found in our own lives a growing tendency to rationalize and justify these besetting sins. Now that’s the danger point dear ones. See, that’s where it becomes dangerous. The danger actually is not in falling and picking yourself up every day, and confessing the sin to God and really repenting of it. God will forgive you as often as you can do that in honesty. But the danger is when you stop picking yourself up and you stop repenting and you say, “No, no, it used to be a sin for me but now it’s just part of my personality. I just have to walk with this on my back throughout my life. I’m just a critical kind of person, I’m just a lustful kind of person, I’m just a person that has a mind that wanders and it can’t be clean. That’s my type of person. I’m just that. God I know accepts me as I am.” Now loved ones, do you see that is an impenitent attitude and that is the attitude that cannot be renewed again to repentance. And so really the first thing this morning if you’re in that position is to get away from it. Say the thing is a sin. Stop arguing with God. Step back from it and say, “No, I am not like this because my pet dog rebuffed me when I was a child.” Or, “I am not like this because my mother was very domineering and she just made me paranoid and I just have to criticize everybody else to avoid my paranoia.” No, don’t excuse it you see, get away from the rationalization. Say, “Okay, it is a sin I grant you that. Now, what’s the answer?” Brothers and sisters do you see that what God forgives you when you first come to him is your sins? He forgives you the things that you’ve done against him, the words that you’ve spoken against him, the thoughts that you’ve thought against him. But do you see that those sins in the plural come from an attitude inside and there is a clear distinction in Romans between the word sins for which Jesus shed is blood, in fact, Jesus died so that God could remain just and forgive us for our sins. But those sins come from another word that you find in Romans that has no s on the end and it’s the word sin. And sin is the attitude or the disease that produces the symptoms. Now the problem with those of us who are walking in the way that I’ve described is that we allowed God to deal with our sins but we never allowed him to touch the sin inside us. And inside us, even though the Spirit of Jesus is there, there is still an attitude of s-i-n. There is still an attitude of I and I still feel I am god of my own life and I have a right to my own way, and I ought to insist on my own rights, and people ought not to walk over me. It’s that attitude that produces the defeat and the strain in our Christian lives and God dealt with that attitude you see. Some of us like to say, “Oh yeah, you mean that’s the old nature fighting against the new nature.” No loved ones, if you say, “He has a lovely nature.” He either has a lovely nature or he hasn’t. If you say he’s of a generous nature, he’s a generation nature or he’s a miserly nature but it’s one or the other, you can’t have two natures inside you. The Bible never talks about us as if there are two natures inside us. The Bible only says, “This is what the nature of Satan does and this is what the nature of God does.” And do you see our problem is we’ve never really allowed God to deal with that old nature? We’ve never really allowed him to deal with that in a way that is once for all. Now, God dealt with it in Jesus. See, when Jesus died, God took that attitude of yours and put it into Jesus and destroyed it. That’s it. It’s a miracle, but that’s what God did. If you say: “Well, pastor if it’s gone, if it’s dead, if God crucified it in Jesus why do I have such trouble with it here in my own life?” Well, I ask you about your sins. Did you have trouble with your sins? Didn’t you have trouble with the guilt of your sins until you let go of them? In spite of the fact that you knew it was a historical fact that Jesus has born your sins on Calvary, yet you had no release from them or from their guilt until you let go of them yourself from your own life. Now, do you see it’s the same with this old self? God destroyed it on Calvary but you can have no freedom from it unless you’re willing to let it go yourself and that’s the way into victory brothers and that’s the way into victory brothers and sisters. Not to just struggle with this old attitude inside, not to keep striving against it but to admit, “Look, this has been crucified with Christ. This old self of mine has been crucified with Christ.” This Connie has been crucified with Christ. This John has been crucified with Christ. This Ernest has been crucified with Christ. This Dan has been crucified with Christ. We were destroyed with Jesus in Calvary. That means our futures were destroyed, our own rights were destroyed, our possessions are no longer our own possessions. We’ve been destroyed with Christ on Calvary. And then a willingness to let the Holy Spirit run our lives once we’ve stopped running them ourselves. And that’s the way into victory. It’s just accepting that your old self, that old attitude inside that strains and strives against God was crucified with Jesus. Don’t argue about it you see. If you look at Romans 6:6, it says it plainly so you shouldn’t try any masochism, or any monasticism. A lot of people try to drive it out of them, you know, as if it’s a kind of demon. If you beat your body hard enough you’ll drive him out. It’s not that you see. Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him.” So that’s a fact. The old attitude inside that causes you so much trouble was destroyed by God. Now, you should begin to thank God for that. You should begin to say, “Father, I thank you that this old self that produces this anger in my life was crucified by you on Calvary. I thank you that it died there with Jesus.” And then look to the Holy Spirit and say, “Holy Spirit, will you show me any way in which I am not willing to let it go out of my life.” And the Holy Spirit will probably come down to you and say, “Well now, anger. You get angry because things are getting out of your control. Now, would you be willing to let things get so out of control as much as the Holy Spirit wants them to be out of control and would you allow him to call it when he wants to?” And you’d have to face that you see. If you’re a father or mother with children, or if you’re a brother or sister with a roommate that really gets under your skin, slams the door every time she goes out, just doesn’t know how to close it quietly then the Holy Spirit will say to you, “Will you be willing to have that door slammed for a thousand years until the Holy Spirit wants to stop it being slammed?” In other words, the Holy Spirit will start to apply to you what would be the consequences of your death with Christ, you see. And usually that means if you’re dead you wouldn’t control your own life, isn’t that right? You wouldn’t control your own future. You wouldn’t be able to stop people when they were hurting you. You wouldn’t be able to get people to do just what you wanted when you wanted them to do it. Those would be some of the consequences. You’d have to hand that all over to the Holy Spirit because you’d be dead to Christ and there’d be nobody else to run your life, your physical, mental, emotional life. And the Holy Spirit will take you through those things. I don’t know what it is for you but it’ll be something that is the heart of yourself. It will be some part of your life that you will not let go out of your grip and you’re saying to God, “I’ll follow you as long as.” And the Holy Spirit takes that as long as and he says, “Now, would you be willing to die to self there in that as long as?” And there’ll come a time in your life, there certainly came a time in my life, when I got to the ground of my heart and the Holy Spirit showed me that the trouble was not anger, or impatience, or jealousy, or lust, or envy, the trouble was me, Ernest O’Neill. Just me myself. I was sin. I was rebellion against God. I was such a miserable, rotten, wretch there was nothing for God to do but destroy me and start all over again. And then he took me to the ground of my heart and showed me what my besetting sin was and asked me, “Would you be willing?” Yeah, he asked me, “Would you be willing to be a failure for me?” And you know, when you’re a pastor you sort of want to be successful and you want to do things and he said, “Would you be willing to be a failure for me?” Would you be willing to be nothing for me? And there came a day in my parsonage in North Minneapolis where I said, “Yes, I would be willing.” And there was just an absolute confidence that I had come to the ground of my heart and that I was really willing to be crucified with Christ. And then Jesus poured the Holy Spirit into me in fullness. And from that day I walked in incredible victory with none of the old strain or the old defeat that I’d suffered for 10 or 12 years of my Christian life. And brothers and sisters, that’s the way into victory. God does not want you to walk with these besetting sins on your heart. He does not want you to walk in strained obedience. He wants you to enter into this death with Christ. And that’s the truth of it, you know. It’ll be as real as real death, it really will because you die to everything that is dear to you, you know. You die to controlling your own future, you die to having your own way at home, you die to having your own way in your room, you die to having your own way as far as your money is concerned, and you die to having your own way as far as your relationships with others are concerned. And so it is a real death and it’s more real I suppose than physical death and yet when you’re willing to come into that and let what has taken place already in Jesus take place in you today, then Jesus fills you completely with the Holy Spirit. And then it seems that the real Christian life really begins and it just takes off and it’s an effortless life of victory and it is really good. You know you should pray about it because this is certainly at the heart of my life. This is the thing that changed my life and it’s the thing that gets you really into that stratosphere of God’s love. So often we’re in the atmosphere and we’re feeling the pull of the earth, and it’s pulling us down, pulling us down and the old friction is going like mad and then you get into the stratosphere and it’s just effortless quiet flying through the air. And that’s where the Father wants us. But it only comes through that death. Now there are lots of ways to find out because you’ll be thinking about them. You’ll be thinking about it increasingly these weeks and months. I’ve written a wee thing called “Free to live through death to self”. There might be some of those on the bookshelves, but there are other men who have written about it far, far better. Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray is good on it and The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee is good. And really – you actually don’t need to read anymore, all you need is Romans 6 and Romans 8:13, or Galatians 5:24-25 and then ask the Holy Spirit to begin to make that real in your life. And oh I pray, I know that God wanted me to speak it for someone today so there’s someone here today that needs that otherwise I would have preached what I had slogged out last night to prepare. But there’s someone obviously who needs it so you should move on it now. You shouldn’t hold back. That controlled surrender brings strain in the eyes and eventually just nervous exhaustion in the body and eventually falling out of any pretense at Christianity at all. There’s only one way to go with Jesus and that’s the whole way. And this is really a good way to go and really the only way to fly, really, if you want to. So I pray that God will show it to you. Let us pray. Dear Father, we thank you for the completeness of your plans for us. We thank you that you have not simply dealt with the superficial symptoms of the rebellion against you but you have dealt with the inside attitude that no other religion can deal with. That attitude that says, “The good that I would I cannot do and the evil that I want to avoid, that’s the very thing that I do.” Father, we thank you that you dealt with all this in Jesus on Calvary and that we are in our present trouble because we’re living a lie. We’re living as if we had never died with Christ. We’re living as if this life is our own and we have to guard it and protect it. Father, we thank you that that isn’t the case. That this life ended with Jesus on Calvary and now the Holy Spirit is the one who controls these minds, and bodies, and emotions and he will do it for your glory and we will be able to just enjoy the ride. Father, we thank you for that. Trust you Father for whatever brother and sister needs to hear this this morning that you will deal directly with them and that you will bring them right into this. I know Holy Spirit that you are a good counselor and they need no other counselor but you. You will show them where the ground of their heart is and where their own self is. I trust you to do it so that we will be a glorious body without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing and that when the world sees us they will see you. We ask this in your name, Amen.
Salvation is Trust - NEWBIRTH
Salvation is Trust Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Many of us believe there is a God somewhere but we ourselves have not been able to find him or to maintain a consistent sense of his reality and his presence in our own life. What we’ve been saying over the past few weeks is that the way to make contact with that God is really to stop trying just to please him or to please everybody else and instead to start trusting him, just trusting him as your Father. I think a lot of us feel, “Well, what do you trust him for? Do you trust him for everything? Do you trust him for your shoes being tied? Do you trust him for your money? Do you trust him for your jobs? Do you trust him to get the assignment done tomorrow?” Then some of us say, “Well, I just can’t trust him, I can’t. I’ve heard what you’ve said but I just cannot trust him. I’ve tried trusting him.” Now brothers and sisters the answer to both of those questions is in beginning to trust the things he has said plainly about you and me. I’m with you, I don’t think you can suddenly just throw yourself back in one of those famous ‘trust falls’ and say, “I trust you Lord. I trust you,” because you don’t know what you’re trusting him for and you try and you can’t do it. Now the only way to begin to know what to trust him for is to begin to trust what he says about you yourself. Start there. Start at something concrete. A lot of us, I think, go off into mysticism and all kinds of guru practices, and all kinds of meditation trying to get in touch with the Supreme Being and we don’t need to go through all that complicated deal. You remember, old Blaise Pascal, 17th century scientist philosopher, he said, “God is a hidden God.” And he referred to Isaiah 45:15, it was in his Ponce, you remember, he said this, his thoughts. Isaiah 45:15, “Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” And old Pascal said, “Look, God is a hidden God and you can only discover him if he wills to reveal himself to you.” And brothers and sisters he will reveal himself to every one of us who will trust this morning what he says about us. That’s it. You can’t, you see, climb up to him by mystical meditation. You can only fulfill the conditions which enables him to reveal himself to you. That’s all you can do. But you can express your initial trust in him by at least doing that, by believing what he says about you. Now, you know, it’s very simple. I just want to deal with four of the things he says about us just this morning and it’s very, very simple. And the first one is one we just keep on rebelling against and you know it, we’ve talked about it before, it’s Romans 3:23. Romans 3:23, and it just is the truth that God has – that Satan has managed to complicate this verse in thousands of ways to all of us so that there’s a lot of us here that just rebel against the whole idea, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And that’s the first thing that God says about you. And, I mean, we rebel against it. We rebel against it either because we think it’s too fanatical or fundamentalist, or it’s too evangelical. Or we say, “You’re dead right, everybody has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Oh, especially those winos who are outside the theater when we come into it. They certainly have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You’re right, the whole world has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and I am glad that I am not one of those.” And brothers and sisters, do you see in this old stupid intellectual sophistication that we have, we think whenever you say ‘sin’ you’re talking about becoming an alcoholic, or you’re talking about been a pimp, or being a prostitute, or murdering somebody. But we don’ see that really what God is saying is, “Look, you have done this. You have sinned, very nicely in a very sophisticated manner, but you have sinned.” And you and I have fallen short of his glory. And brothers and sisters, you may think, “Oh, brother, that’s basic everybody knows that.” Dear ones, that’s why half of us have trouble with our relationship with God, because we won’t believe that; we won’t accept it. We won’t accept that when we get irritable with the roommate we’ve sinned. We won’t. We say, “No, you see Pastor, my mother was an irritable kind of person. Kept getting irritable with us children, and I’ve just inherited from her but it’s not sin. It’s a psychological trait that I’ll work out with more basket work, just exercising more patience.” Or, you know the other deal, “Brother, I feel if I express it more it will eventually go. I express the irritability and somehow it will vaporize and go away.” Dear ones, do you see that is our problem, many of us are in the difficulty, we can’t find God because we won’t believe that first thing that he said: that we’ve sinned and we’ve fallen short of his glory, that you were made to be like Jesus. That I was made to be like Jesus. You were made never to lose your temper. You were made to be kind, and loving to lepers who didn’t have anything for you, whom you didn’t need. You were made to be loving to them. You were made to have a clean and absolutely pure mind like Jesus. You were made to walk in this world as princes and princesses of God, giving delight and glory to him every time he looked at you, getting the same delight and more delight from you than he gets when he looks at a flower, or a field, or a lake. Now that was God’s plan for you. And every time you fall short of that plan at all, you’ve sinned. And that’s what sin is. Sin is ‘not doing what God wants you to do,’ you see. So every time you do something that you know is wrong that is sin. And what God says is, “Look, you’ve sinned; you’ve fallen far short of my glory.” You see we keep looking along the line and saying, “Oh brother you couldn’t mean that nice girl along the row, or that nice fellow along the row, that they’ve sinned. They may be a little immoral but surely they haven’t sinned.” Brothers and sisters do you see that sin is not a question of morality. Sin is a question of an attitude to God. You may be the best person – you know, my people thought I was just a wonderful son. Everybody in the church just thought I was one of those wonderful little church mice that were just goodie goodie. Yeah! But I was a rotten, miserable type inside as far as God was concerned. And you see it didn’t show outwardly. A lot of it doesn’t show outwardly. A lot of us have inherited reasonable dispositions. We’ve inherited our father’s humor, or we’ve inherited our mother’s gentleness, and it doesn’t show too much. But do you see that sin is an attitude to God. It is not doing things that God wants you to do. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Well in fact, we are more preoccupied with our academic future or our material success than we are with God. That’s our god and that’s what we think of day after day. We don’t find ourselves riding along in the automobile thinking of God, we find ourselves thinking of the exams, thinking about our future, worrying about what’s going to happen to our money. We spend most of our time on other gods. That’s what sin is. Sin is an act, or a word, or a thought that is disobedient to God. Sin is also an inward thing because I mean, why do you tell a lie? Why do you tell a lie? Because you think you have every right to tell a lie. You think you have the right to manipulate people in the way that you want. That’s why you’re critical of people; that’s why you gossip about your friends; you think you have every right to tear them down if need be in order to build yourself up. Now do you see that comes from an inward attitude which thinks that you are God? Which takes it for granted that you can do whatever you want in the universe; it doesn’t matter; you have every right to do it. That’s what sin is. It’s an attitude to God that says, “Look, this is my life I’m going to run it the way I want to run it. Now you can help me a bit and I’ll consult you when I’m in difficulty but I do the main running. You can help me, you can sit in the passenger seat and you can tell me from time-to-time when I get lost, but you’re not getting into this driver’s seat.” Now that’s what sin is. And it’s an inward attitude. Now brothers and sisters, perhaps this will help you: If you say to me, “Brother I am not sure whether I am in that category or not.” Dear ones, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to you this morning. You know if some of those things are true of you. The Holy Spirit can witness in your heart if that’s true of you today. If you’ve that attitude to any part of your life, then you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And God says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s it. Romans 6:23 says that, “The wages of sin is death.” Now loved ones, it’s not death if you’re just a prostitute that have worn out your body by continual intercourse. It’s not that, you see. A lot of us keep thinking, “Oh, we know what you mean brother. You mean if you murder somebody and go to the electric chair the wages of sin is death.” No, loved ones. If you sin ordinary little sins, the wages of that sin is death, because God has determined that to preserve his universe as he wants it, he will exterminate, destroy, drive from his presence every one who will not trust him. Now the reason for that is obvious, you know it. You get a drunk coming in among us at this moment. Let’s imagine a drunk full of Irish whiskey coming down that aisle singing away. Now you know it cuts the atmosphere like a knife, doesn’t it? It’s just impossible for us to continue to have any fellowship together if he comes in. Now do you see that that’s the situation with the Father? It’s not that he wants to send any of us to hell, or he wants to keep any of us out of his presence, but do you see that one positive plan excludes its opposite. You can’t have a heaven unless you keep out of it all the people who don’t want a heaven, and who don’t want to be like God. [Someone in the audience asks something] Well brother, it seems to me that that’s what you come to when Jesus talks about it. But do you see that until we’ve come to Jesus, until we’ve dealt with Jesus and I’ll try to deal with that in a moment or two, there’s no forgiveness. Do you see that we’re all under that condemnation unless God has provided a way out? I think he has, but I think that many of us feel, “Oh, these things are not true.” I think in other words brother, there is a great deal of what some brothers prayed about, a ‘sugarcoated gospel’ in these days, where you see we tend to say, “Oh well, God isn’t going to really drive any of us away. He’ll take anybody that comes.” Well brother he won’t. It seems to me in order to preserve his heaven, the wages of sin will always be death. And it seems to me those are the only wages. It seems to me there are no other wages. I think brothers and sisters we have a feeling, “Well maybe we can substitute some other wages. Maybe we can substitute good works and God will be satisfied with the good work. Or, maybe we can substitute a bit of mystical meditation and he’ll be satisfied with mystical meditation. Or, maybe we can please him by going to church and that will sort of make up for these sins.” Brothers and sisters do you see that God says, “The wages of sin is death.” And you have to take those wages if nobody else will take them for you. And that’s our situation, you see. That’s our position. That’s why all the angst is in the world, you know. That’s why old Jaspers [Karl Theodor Jaspers, 1883 – 1969, German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher] in Switzerland says, “All you can do is seek for the final experience.” And some poor soul says, “What about suicide?” And he says, “That may not be the final experience.” That’s why we’re all foolishly, and philosophically, and psychologically trying to deal with this sense of guilt and this sense of angst, because we really are under condemnation of God. The wages of sin really ‘are’ death because all of us ‘are’ in that position. Now brothers and sisters you either pay those wages yourself or somebody pays them for you. You either receive those wages yourself or somebody receives them for you. And do you see that this Sunday morning if you have trouble with your connection with God, it’s a sign that that old death is beginning to work and operate in you. Do you see that? Death makes itself manifest even when you’re 30. I can count grey hairs. With some older people you can count wrinkles. You can see death beginning to work in a person long before they’re dead. Now, do you see it’s the same with spiritual death? You can begin to sense an absence from God even before you die at 70 or 80 years of age. Now, if you’re having trouble with hearing God’s voice, if you’re having trouble with sensing God’s favor, do you see it’s not that God isn’t there or that God isn’t showing us favor, it’s that this death is working in you. Why? Because you won’t be ‘honest’ about the things that you’ve done in your life that are wrong, and that you’ve sinned against God. And then what does God say? Well, God says this and he asks you to trust this, its Romans 5:8. We should look at it, especially in the light of the brother’s question. Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died ‘for’ us.” Now loved ones, do you see that you have to die that death, or somebody has to die it for you. I shared with you before the old experience I had. I wasn’t long in Minneapolis and was just preparing to take the old driver’s test, and came up to one of those signs that said, “Do not turn right between seven and nine PM.” And I turned right between seven and nine PM and one of those gallant officers came up beside me and said, “Do you know what you did wrong?” I said, “No, I don’t know.” He said, “You turned right.” And I said, “Well, I had to turn right.” And he said, “Yeah, but it’s between seven and nine o’clock.” So I said, “Well, I’m sorry officer, I really am. I’m just about a month in the country and I’m just getting used to driving on the right hand side of the road and really I’ll be different next time.” And he said, “Yeah, well I hope you will be because it’ll save you $10. Now could you give me your name?” And I said, “But officer, I’m studying the test. I’m studying the driver’s test and I’m going to take it next week and really, I mean I’ll have no trouble with this next week.” He said, ‘That’s good it’ll save you $10.” Now do you see that I had to pay the $10 or somebody had to go up to that window and pay it for me? Now it’s the same with the Father. You either have to pay with your own death for what you’ve done wrong with God or somebody has to pay it for you. And do you see what God asks you to trust? God asked you to believe that his Son Jesus has died that death for you, and therefore God has nothing against you. But brothers and sisters do you see God has something against you while you are unwilling to trust him? See, if you won’t trust God then the wages of sin is death, that penalty stands. And that’s why brother, I come back at you, there’s no use this ‘easy believism,’ you know, “Oh well, God loves everybody.” He does love everybody. And he’s anxious to ‘forgive’ everybody, but he can only forgive the people who trust him and believe what he said about them. In other words loved ones, you can have no sense of the reality of God if you keep on saying, “Oh well, my sins aren’t so bad I’m just going to try praying hard, try a few mystical meditations, and I’ll sense his presence.” No loved ones, the only way to come into forgiveness of God is to face honestly the things that you’ve done wrong in your life and to deal with them, and to see that only then is God’s sacrifice in Jesus able to be made real in your life. And how is it made real? Well, God asks you to trust this other thing, you remember, its John 1:12, “To as many as received Jesus, to them he gives the right to become the children of God.” In other words dear ones, it’s only if you receive Jesus that you have a right to be God’s children. Otherwise you are his enemies. You are his condemned enemies. And only if you’re willing to receive the Spirit of Jesus into yourself is God justified at all in forgiving you and in receiving you as his own. Now that’s what it means. Now you may say, “Oh well brother, how do you receive Jesus?” God made it plain. He said, “If you confess your sins I’m faithful and just to forgive you your sins.” But do you see that’s the first step? Loved ones, do you see that those of us who have become Christians and are having trouble with a sense of God’s presence, those of us who are trying to be Christians and don’t know how to do it, that’s where we’re failing. We’re not confessing our sins. Do you know the Greek word for confess doesn’t mean a whole lot of speaking it with your voice, it’s not that. God is not concerned with speaking the thing out. But the Greek word means, “I put up my hand and I agree with God that what he says is a sin is a sin.” Now loved ones, that’s where we on the campuses go astray. For years I brainwashed myself that these things were not sins. I kept thinking sin was some terrible immoral action. It isn’t. It’s being irritable with your roommate. It’s being unclean in your imagination. It’s being covetous of something you see in Dayton’s [department store] and thinking about it again, and again, and again. It’s putting yourself before God. That’s what sin is. And confession is agreeing with God that that is wrong. And that’s the first step. Brothers and sisters, if you would say to me, “Brother, you talk to a lot of us, where do you think most of us have trouble?” Dear ones, that’s it. Honestly that’s it. It almost always gets back to that deal that there’s something in your life or my life that we will not agree with God is wrong. We hang onto the smoking, we hang onto the masturbation, we hang on to the petting, we hang onto the covetousness, we hang onto the selfish ambition, we hang onto the pride in our grades, something we hang onto in our own lives, and we will not admit that that is sin. So, we’re always putting ourselves on Satan’s side against God’s side. And therefore we never come into a place where we can know God. The first step is confession. The second step is repentance. Repenting! And brothers and sisters do you see there’s so much silly talk about repentance. We’re all making it out that repentance is a big emotional deal, where you come up to the altar and you cry your eyes out for a solid hour and that’s your repentance. Loved ones, repentance is sorrow to Jesus for sending him to the cross, and stopping doing the act. You know, I’ve done this with you, you know it so it’s no mystery. Tim gives me this picture, says to me, “That’s a picture of my mother and I want you to be careful of it.” And I say, “Boy, it’s a lovely picture, it really is I’ll put it into my pocket – ah, I’ve torn it. Oh, I’m sorry. Oh Tim I’m sorry I’ve torn this picture. I really am sorry Tim. I want you to know I’m really repenting.” Well loved ones, you only repent when you stop doing it. Don’t you see it? I mean, there’s no point putting on a whole theatrical show for God if you don’t stop doing the thing you haven’t repented. And repenting you see, is stop doing the thing. Okay, so you’re thrusting a sword into Jesus’ side every time you swear, every time you think a dirty thought, every time you’re unclean in your actions you’re thrusting a sword into Jesus’ side. How do you stop doing that? You pull the sword out. Jesus and the Father are very honest, straight people. They know that if you’re continuing to kill them then you aren’t repenting. And do you see that’s what it’s like. It is like that in the heart of God. I know that Jesus has died once and for all, but do you see that he portrayed on Calvary the agony in the Father’s heart every time we sin. And repentance is you just stop sinning. And the last thing God asks you to do is to receive his Son. He says, “To as many as received him to them gave he the right to become the children of God.” And the only way to come into any real place where you begin to trust God is to receive the Spirit of Jesus into your own life. And that just means that you make room for the Spirit of Jesus. It means that you say to him, “Lord Jesus, you can run my life the way you ran your own, even if it ends up in Calvary or ends up in some remote area of China destroyed, lonely, with nobody and with nobody knowing that that’s happened to me. Even if that means I’m poverty stricken. Even if it means I don’t become a PhD. Even if it means I don’t become famous. Lord Jesus, my future is yours even if it means I don’t have lovely house with two car garage, I don’t have children, even if it means I don’t get married. Lord Jesus, I want to receive you now and give you my life.” Now brothers and sisters God deals with you as honestly as you deal with him. And if you will honestly confess your sins, agree with him about the things that are wrong in your life, and if you’ll honestly turn from those things as far as you’re able — he will give you the grace for what you’re not able. And if you will honestly give your life to his Son and receive his Son by faith into your spirit, then you’ll begin to come into a place where you find yourself trusting God day after day. And there comes a sense of rightness in your own heart. And that inner turmoil goes. And you just know you’re right with the Maker of the world. But brothers and sisters that is it. And really you need to do it. You know, you need to do it honestly. The mystical meditation won’t help, honestly it won’t. I was on that kick and many of us have been. And the drugs certainly don’t help, and going to church doesn’t help. It has to be you and your Creator dealing honestly about the things for which Jesus died. And if you’re honest about that, God will be honest with you. There’s a dear one — and she won’t mind me saying — there’s a dear one at the back, and her husband Al was very enthusiastic, about the body here over the years and he died just this last week. And it’s a great sense, he was 51, great joy to know he’s alive –and Jim is here, his son — and great joy to know we have no doubt that he’s alive at this moment, absolutely no doubt he’s alive. And they presumably, because Jesus allows the spirit to stay for a little while with the dear ones, presumably they have some real sense of his aliveness as I had with my father. Now do you see that’s what happens as a result of this? There is not only an imminent sense of God but there is a transcendent certainty about where the person is after this life is over. Now that’s really what it means to come into a right relationship with God. And that’s what it means to begin trusting God. So you see, don’t start off with, “Oh well, I’m going to trust him for my bank account, I’m going to trust him for my exams.” Start off trusting him with those things that he said about you. Get right with those. Get right with him over those and then you’ll find that he’ll guide you what to trust him for and he’ll guide you when to work. He’ll guide you when to pray and he’ll guide you when to act. He’ll guide you when to think and he’ll guide you when to listen to him. But first you must establish that relationship with him. Now, I don’t know how you all think about that and what you know of it and what you don’t. But if you’re anxious at all to make any move towards it I’ll stay behind, I’m going to try to talk to Puerto Rico people first, but I’ll stay behind and if you want to stay behind I’ll pray with you if you want, and if you want to stay behind and pray in the theater nobody bothers you, or if you just want to talk you should do it. But don’t go on endlessly coming to church hoping that sometime by osmosis you’ll come into a sense of God’s reality. No, trusting God is a down to earth business. I trust him by confessing, by repenting, and by receiving Jesus. That’s it. Trust is a down to earth thing. Then you can dig into and move into trusting him for your salary, and your finances, and your business, and your future. So will you think about it and decide where you are and stop – dear ones stop fiddling around, stop second guessing God. Just believe him, do what he says and let him do the rest. It is his responsibility to make Jesus real in you; it’s not your responsibility. It’s your responsibility to fulfill the conditions and show that you trust him. Let us pray.
His Belief Was Counted as Righteousness - NEWBIRTH
His Belief was Counted as Righteousness Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Dear ones, would you turn and look at Romans 4:23. You see it reads like this, “But the words, ‘It was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone,” and then the rest of the sentence at the beginning of 24, “But for ours also.” And do you see that the words, “It was reckoned to him,” are in quotes, so that obviously means that they were used before somewhere and that Paul is actually quoting what was said elsewhere. Now you’ll find the original moment when those words were used if you turn to Genesis 15:6. There the words were spoken for the first time and that’s why they are in quotes back there in Romans. Genesis 15:6, “And he believed the Lord,” that was a man called Abraham, “And he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Now that’s the original time that those words were used. “He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Now why did he do that? Well, Abraham had no children and God gave him a promise in Genesis 15:5, “And he,” God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to them, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” And so it was because Abraham believed what God said that God regarded him as right with himself. And that was back in the year 2000 BC. Now do you see that it was spoken at that time in the year 2000 BC and yet it was spoken also in the year 57 AD? Romans 3:28 is another occasion when another man said the same thing is true. Really, 2,050 years later, Romans 3:28, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” So the whole world, even the religious world says, “You make yourself right with the deity behind the universe by being good or by entering into a special kind of knowledge that this deity will give you.” But for 2,050 years at least the God whom Jesus regarded as his Father has kept on saying, “If you believe me, I’ll look upon that as righteousness. If you just trust me I’ll regard that as righteousness; I’ll make you right with myself.” Now do you see that that’s one of the greatest strengths of Christianity: that we’re not listening to Jesus over a period of three years of ministry? But that the things that he has said, this God who is his father has been saying for thousands of years to thousands of different people down through the centuries, and that this God has remained consistent right down through the years. He has kept on saying, however much we men and woman have tried to change the basis of our ‘getting right with him’ to morality, or to some kind of special Gnostic knowledge, yet this God has kept on saying, “No, I tell you if you believe what I say, and I’m saying that my Son has died for the things you’ve done against me, then as far as I’m concerned you’re right with me.” Now, do you see that for thousands of years, brothers and sisters, God has been saying the same thing? This is one of the reasons why so many of us trust the revelation of the Creator that has come through Jesus, because it’s a revelation that has remained consistent over thousands, and thousands of years. Now, do you see that in the last 30 years of our century there will spring up all kinds of antichrists? There will come all kinds of gurus, and all kinds of mystic prophets who will try to tell you that their particular vision of the Creator of the universe is the right one. And do you see that you have to weigh one man’s personal insight against the historical events of thousands of years in order to say that this man is right and this Jesus is wrong? It’s like me saying to you, “I had a vision last night, a dream, and I really believe that God will treat you as being his child and as being right with him if you’ll only believe what he says. If you’ll believe what he says, he’ll make you right with himself.” Now do you see that your immediate response should be, “How do I know that you’re right? How do I know that your vision is right? How do I know your dream is right? How do I know that you’re not having illusions? How do I know that your personal experience is trust worthy?” And the answer is really, you don’t. Any man who comes to you and says, “No, I supersede Christ. I am the new prophet. I am Christ returned. I am the one who will bring the world to peace and to complete joy and love.” You can tell one thing that that is one of the antichrists that Jesus said would come and would try to disillusion us all and would try to deceive us all. But actually, all they’d ask us to do was believe in their personal experience. Brothers and sisters it’s so different when you bring thousands of years of historical events where this Creator has dealt consistently over centuries and centuries with different people, you’re dealing with a completely different situation. And that’s really what you deal with you see, in the Bible. If you look at Genesis 15:5, you get the dealing that God did with Abraham and 2,000 years later he’s still dealing the same way with a man like Paul. Genesis 15:5, “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Now any one could say he was having a dream, it didn’t really happen. But then you look at Genesis 21:2-3. Genesis 21:2-3, “And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.” And then look at the completion of Abraham’s life in Genesis 25:7-9. Genesis 25:7, “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, a hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” And it’s very difficult to say that Abraham really was having a hallucination when he thought that God made that promise to him, because the historical events back up the promise. And then you need to add to that thousands of years and thousands of other people’s experiences that reinforce the same revelation that God is like this. That he treats any of us as right with himself if we really believe him, if we just put our trust in him. If we believe that what he says is true, if we believe that Jesus really died for us, then God regards that as right and righteousness. And really that’s one of the biggest reasons why so many of us believe that the God revealed by Jesus is the real God. Now the amazing thing is brothers and sisters that you don’t only have to depend on historical events to back it up. The Bible is not only invaluable to us because it tells us of actual historical events that prove that what God said he would do he actually did. But the Bible is invaluable to us because it actually tells us what God himself is thinking. Now that’s right, if you look at Genesis 15:5, you’ll see that. Genesis 15:5, “And he,” that is God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Who? Well, God. So we read not only what God said to Abraham, but what God was actually thinking. And the Bible is invaluable to us not only because it’s a history book of what God did but it’s also a record of what God himself was thinking at different moments in history. Now how did he know it? Well, God told it to Abraham. God said that to Abraham, “Look, I regard your belief in me as righteousness.” Then Abraham told it to his children, then they told it to their children, and then they told it to Moses. And Moses decided, “I’ll try this out. I’ll act on it myself. I’ll try to prove that this is true.” And so he tried it in his own life and you see it in Exodus 3:10. Exodus 3:10, and God spoke you see, to Moses, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” Now that was an incredible and really an impossible task if you think of the situation. Moses, a shepherd on the backside of some mountain looking after sheep and the Egyptians, the most powerful race in the world and God says, “Come, I’m going to use you to bring my people out of Egypt.” And then look at Exodus 12:51, “And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.” If I give you some personal visions that I’ve had all you have to do is get me into St. Peters [Reference to the insane asylum in St. Peter, Minnesota, USA], or give me some basket work and you only have to knock down one person to disprove my view of God. But you do see brothers and sisters, to contradict the revelation of our Creator that we have received through Jesus, you have to rewrite thousands of years of history. And not only of Israelite history but the Egyptian history makes no sense if the Exodus did not take place. Moreover, the elements in the Jewish religion that originated in that time make no sense. We have lots of effects without any cause if this is not true. Now this is why the revelation that we get of the Creator through Jesus is so hard to contradict, because it does not depend on one man’s vision but the experiences of hundreds and thousands of men over hundreds and thousands of years. And so it goes on, you know, right through the Bible. And in the Bible you have not only an event you see, but you have really God’s thought about the event. Down through the years many religious authorities have taken historical events like the Second World War and have tried to make some religious significance out of them. They’ve tried to tell us what the god was really thinking who allowed those things to come to past. And all that has resulted from that kind of personal interpretation of events is a bundle of contradictory gods such as we have in Hinduism, or a group of contradictory deities such as we have among the Romans and Greeks. But we have nothing like a consistent God who is the same century after century. Now this is why God has not only recorded the events in the Bible but he has recorded his own thoughts about them. He tells us what he is actually thinking at the time. The theologians say that the revelation is not only factual but propositional and tells us not only the events but it tells us the significance of the events. Now, why has all of this taken place? Well you get the answer in Romans 4:23. Romans 4:23, God had gone to this kind of trouble for one purpose and it’s in 4:23, “But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.” And that’s the purpose of history. God enabled a man like Abraham to experience that for your sake. He enabled a man like Paul to experience it for your sake and mine. See, a lot of us I think, are under this deception that the way to get right with the Creator of the world is to be as good as we can. And so you know, we wear ourselves out. We wear ourselves out trying to please all our families, all our relatives, all the authorities in our lives, our professors, our teachers, all of our peer group, and especially all people connected with churches. And so we’ve come into the deception that Christianity is really just being moral. Now, do you see that God had a man who thought like that at one time and then he discovered that that wasn’t true? That he could be made right with God just by believing that God’s Son Jesus had made things right between himself and his Father. And this man’s experience was recorded for your sake and mine. Now you’ll find somebody like yourself who was concerned with grades if you look at Philippians 3. And old Paul really was one of those conscientious people such as so many of us are. In Philippians 3:4 he describes his own attitude to things, “Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for the confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee.” You see A’s right across the board, “As to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless.” And then he says, “But whatever gain I had,” because none of these things made me sense that I was right with God, “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And Paul believed what we have said, that if he trusted what God said about Jesus he would be right with God. Is there any proof that he was right with God? Yeah, if you look at his experience in Acts 28 you’ll see it there. There’s incredible proof that he was not just involved in some kind of deception in Acts 28:1, “After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness…” and this was Luke writing this, you remember, he was traveling with Paul, “For they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.” And Jesus said that that kind of thing would happen. He said, “Listen, you’ll be made right with my Father if you believe in me and you’ll even walk on scorpions and they will not touch you.” And that was written for your sake and mine. I don’t know if you’re still lying under that business of trying to prove that you’re as good as anybody else or if you’re still trying to make yourself right with God by being moral and being successful. But do you see that here’s a historical experience that shows that God will treat you as right with himself if you’ll just believe in his son Jesus. Some of us, you know, are in the position where we think, “Yeah, well that’s okay, but I really think I’m almost too low for God to have anything to do with me. All these people in this theater must be at least a little better than me and in some way surely you have to prove yourself worthy of Jesus dying for you? Surely you have to improve your life a little bit for God to make you right with himself?” And I think many of us think this way. We listen Sunday after Sunday to this kind of talk but really in our own hearts we think, “Yeah, but I have to improve a little better and a little better and someday I’ll be able to believe in Jesus and God will be able to make me right with himself.” But brothers and sisters, God can do it this very morning, you see, because he did it with someone like you, someone at least as bad as you, and probably worse. Now, would you look at that lady, her story really is in John 8:3-11? And you remember the RSV Bible tries to indicate where some manuscripts do not contain some of the text and so that’s why they put this into the small print at the bottom of the page there. John 8:3, it just indicates really that the manuscript that they were following didn’t have it in it but that the other big ones Spatacanous and Alexandrinus had, “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 to test him that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and 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.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” This was a woman you see, that presumably was even caught in bed I suppose, caught in the actual act of adultery really. “Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’” And then he did say the important part about repentance you see, “Go, and do not sin again.” But loved ones that was written for our sakes, because Jesus will have the same attitude to you this morning as he had to that woman. And do you see there’s none of us here this morning that are too low that God is not willing to deal with us in his son Jesus? There is no one here this morning that God will not show the same forgiveness to as he showed that lady. And so it is right through the Bible. In the Bible we have a series of historical events that show beyond all doubt the kind of God that we’re dealing with and that he is the Father of Jesus Christ. And the reason for all that historical detail is so that we will in no way, in these last days, be led away by those who have personal visions of their own, but that we will know what God is like and most of all that we will be prepared to deal with him ourselves. So dear ones if you ever feel, “Oh no, I’m too low, or I demand too much scientific detail for God ever to deal with me.” All you have to do is look at that woman or look at the man Thomas who said, “Unless I put my finger into the holes in his hands I will not believe.” And then you can be sure that if God showed himself and came through in some way to a man as demanding and skeptical as Thomas, then he’ll come through to you, too. He can deal with you and he can deal with me also. And so it is with every difficulty we feel and many of us feel, “Oh no, I’ve listened to this Sunday after Sunday and I’ve tried to get through to God. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried and I cannot, and I cannot get through. There must be some reason for it.” There is. There was a young man who came to Jesus and said, “Listen, I’ve done everything. I’ve obeyed all the laws. I’m absolutely obedient and yet somehow I can’t find God real to me.” And then Jesus picked the one thing that he had never looked at himself and said, “Listen, you’re very rich. Would you give away all that you have? And then God will be real to you.” And so it is with us who claim we’ve tried everything, we’ve done everything, we’ve obeyed every law we can, yet when you go to Jesus and say, “Lord, will ‘you’ show me why God cannot be real to me?” Jesus will be faithful to you as he was with that man. And he’ll pick out the one thing that is preventing God showing himself to you. And really the reason for all these things is for us. It was reckoned to him it was written not for his sake but for ours this morning, because this God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he’ll deal with you in just the same way. And he’ll be as faithful to you this moment as he has been with these people. And that’s why he recorded all this for us. So when you begin the question could God possibly come through to you, will you have a look at what he did in the past and ask yourself, “Well, is he the same today? If he is then he’ll deal with me.” And he will really. He will.
How to be Saved - NEWBIRTH
How to Be Saved Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill I think we, as a group, are beginning slowly to be dear friends. I think we’re beginning to have some concern about each other and some love for each other — at least, I hope that you feel that way and I certainly feel it about all of you. One of the things that concerns me is if any of you ever die this week, I want you to be in the right place with God. I think probably we feel that more and more about each other — that’s what real love is. So I’m going to try to break from the study this morning because I do want to be sure that you’re ready. I’d just like to explain as simply as possible the gospel so that if there’s anybody here that has never made a decision for Jesus that they’ll be able to make it at the end of this service. God tells us all that there’s no distinction between any of us here in this room because every one of us have sinned and we fall short of the glory of God. That’s what he says. There’s no distinction for all of you, that’s you and me — we’ve all sinned and we even now, fall short of the glory of God. That is all of us are less than what he meant us to be and every one of us have sinned here. It doesn’t mean we have all committed crimes — we haven’t. It doesn’t mean we’re all involved in vices — maybe we’re not. Sin is something different from crimes or vices. It’s not that God looks down with his telescope and makes an empirical observation, “He sinned. She sinned. He sinned.” No, no — he says that because he knows it’s true in himself. He states that as absolute truth, that all of us here have sinned. Now, what does sin mean? Well, James 4:17 says, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it for him it is sin.” So that’s maybe the simplest definition of sin loved ones. Any of us who know what is right to do and fail to do it, for us that is sin. You can see then sin is something you know you shouldn’t do and you do it. God listed some of those things so that we would understand it in the plainest terms. He said, “Look, if you really trust me and you love me then you won’t have any other gods before me. If you do have any other gods before me then you’re sinning. Look, if you trust me and you love me, you won’t covet. You won’t spend nights thinking, ‘I wish I had that thing,’ or, ‘Why can’t I have it?’ You won’t covet. If you do covet, that is sin. You won’t commit adultery.” Then Jesus said, “Now committing adultery is not just doing an outward act of adultery but anybody who looks on a woman to lust after her in his heart he has already committed adultery.” So committing adultery either inside or outside, that’s a sin. God said, “If you trust me for all that you need then you won’t steal. You won’t steal things from people. You won’t steal little things from your employer. You won’t steal big things. You won’t steal other people’s reputation by bearing false witness against them. You won’t do these things if you trust me and if you do those things, you’re stealing. You won’t kill.” And you remember, Jesus said, “Well it was said of old time, ‘Thou shall not kill,’ but I say unto you if you’re angry with your brother, you’re guilty of the judgment. So killing a person or wishing they were dead, that’s a sin, or wishing ill against them, or hoping that something bad will fall upon them — that’s sin. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. If you swear, that’s sin.” It’s not just a silly little thing that our Sunday school teacher tells us we shouldn’t do. It’s not just a little bit of bad manners that our mums and dads told us to stop. It’s not just a swinging thing to do or a sophisticated thing. In God’s eyes it’s a sin. If you say, “My God”, or “Christ,” that’s a sin. That’s mocking him. That’s pretending that he is not God in the universe. That is just a thing like that, that’s sin. So loved ones, when you do any of those things you’re sinning. If you disobey God in any way that you know you’re disobeying him, that’s a sin. In fact, you remember, God outlined it in greater detail. He said, actually there are inward things that other people don’t see at all and they are sin. Envy is a sin. Jealous is a sin. Pride is a sin. Selfishness is a sin. That’s why God, seems to me, is on pretty firm ground when he says all of us here, in this room at least, have sinned at some time in our life and we probably, at present, in some way fall short of God’s glory. Loved ones, the incredible thing is that we sin because we actually can’t help it. We sin, in a way, because we can’t help it — that is, we sin because we are sinners. We’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners. An apple tree bears apples because it’s an apple tree. It isn’t an apple tree because you’ve observed it bears apples. It’s the STATE that comes first. God says, “Yes, you’ve sinned in that you’ve disobeyed me outwardly in act, and thought and word — but also, you have the attitude of a sinner inside in your heart.” Actually, if you think of it, it is true isn’t it? It’s the reason we bear false witness against our neighbor, which after all if you think of it, is a very simple little thing that probably most of us have done. We say about somebody, “Oh yeah, you know, he’s like that.” And you say, “Oh well, it’s the truth.” But so often we’re exaggerating it a bit because we want them to think a certain way about another person — so we bear false witness against them, or we criticize them behind their back, which actually, all of us have been brought up to know is wrong. We know it’s wrong but we say something about somebody behind their back when they aren’t there to defend themselves. Now, why do we do that? Well you know why we do it. We do it because we think if we can bring them down a little we can raise ourselves up a little. We do it often to establish a confidence with the other person, “Oh you know, I feel a way about that creature as you do.” It makes you feel together on it. Really, you don’t tear anybody down for the sheer joy of tearing them down. You’re usually tearing them down to show how clever, or insightful or how righteous you yourself are. Of course, you’re doing that because you want other people to think well of you. You want them to respect you and to look up to you. Now why do you do that? Because you don’t really think anybody else looks up to you or thinks a lot of you — especially, the One that matters. You have a feeling, “Yeah well, my God doesn’t think much of me. He doesn’t think a lot of me and boy, I’m determined that somebody will think a lot of me.” Why do we steal? I mean, very few of us here steal — we just steal time, or we steal an eraser, or a pen, or something stupid or we steal money. We fiddle it so that the money comes into our pocket or we get out of paying something that we should really pay. Nobody knows very much — but WE know. Why do we do it? Because we have a desperate feeling that we have to gather in the nuts somehow. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to look after ourselves. We have to watch out for ourselves. We do that because we don’t really believe there’s a dear God who watches out for us. We don’t really believe that stuff that Jesus said, “Look at the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they root and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Will he not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith?” We don’t really believe that. We feel, “No, no — he probably won’t.” That’s why we steal or why we manipulate things. Now do you see loved ones, that the outward acts of sin are unimportant? It’s the inward ATTITUDE of sin that is the killer. That’s why we sin. We sin outwardly. We disobey God outwardly in act, and thought and words because inside we really are running a kind of a little world of our own. We are really gods ourselves. You remember, that’s what the serpent said to Eve at the beginning, “Surely, when you eat of this tree you’ll be like God.” That’s our real problem, loved ones. It’s not so much the outward sins. They’re just an outflow of this inward attitude we have that we are really a god on our own and we want to do things our own way. We have to take care of ourselves because he sure isn’t going to. That’s what this dear book says. It says that sin is lawlessness. It’s not just doing things that are wrong. It’s not just saying things that are wrong. It’s a lawless attitude inside us — we don’t care. We’ll kick over the traces. We’ll have our own way. We’ll manipulate our own way somehow. We’ll appear to be pleasing him — but we’ll get our own way. All the time we feel we’re laughing behind our hand at God and everybody else because we feel we’re responsible for our own selves. We feel he won’t take of us and we better look after ourselves. It doesn’t matter who we trample over to do it. So we have a whole attitude in our heart of sin. That’s it. “Sin” is “S”, and the big “I” in the middle, “N”. It is, I, I myself, I am my god, I have the right to things the way I want them. Isn’t that why we get impatient with each other? It is. It’s stupid getting impatient with each other. There’s no sense in it — but you know why we do it? We do it because we feel we want things to go at our pace and we know the way they should go, and, “Why can’t they do it our way?” It’s because we have this feeling that the whole world revolves around us. Brothers and sisters, do you see we’re all like that? I mean, there’s no shame in admitting it. We’re all like that. We’re like that in our attitude to each other. We have an attitude of sin, of ME first: “I want my way. I want to defend my rights. I want to assert myself over everybody else.” Loved ones, that has turned us into monsters, into absolute perversions of the beautiful relaxed free unselfish princes and princesses that God made us at the very beginning — really. I don’t know if you’ve looked in the mirror at times and seen old wrinkles or seen worry, or seen anxiety in you, but do you realize we’ve fallen far short of those liberated men and woman that God made at the beginning who rested in him in absolute trust, and confidence, and peace and wouldn’t hurt a thing because they had everything they needed in him? What God says of course, is that we have created something dangerous that he didn’t create. We have created inside ourselves a hostile nature that not only hates him but that really, in a subtle way, hates everybody else and sees everybody else as competing with us. So we have created inside ourselves a kind of “parasite nature” that lives off everybody else and wants to use everybody else for our benefit, He says that is built into us. We have not created that. We’ve passed it down from generation to generation until you and I have what he calls “sinful natures”. We have attitudes and natures and personalities that have become utterly perverted and that we cannot any longer control. Actually, you must admit isn’t it what we feel? I mean, when Paul said those words in Romans 7, that’s what we feel. He said, “I don’t understand my own actions anymore. I don’t do the good that I want, I do the very thing that I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, then it shows that I know that the law is good and I want to obey it but I find another law at work in my personality that makes me obey the law of evil.” And isn’t that what we find? All of us here want to do what is right — but we find that we have developed some other personality that doesn’t want to do what is right, and in fact, works on the basis of self and of opposing everybody else and trampling over everybody else. That’s what God says, “You loved ones have created billions, and billions now of little evil personalities that are more dangerous to my universe than any nuclear bomb could be because if you are allowed to go free with that forever, you’ll fill the world with your own garbage and you’ll fill the world with your own hate. You’ll make us all bow down and obey you.” Loved ones, I know you feel as I did, “Oh no, no, no! That’s not what I’m like.” But honestly loved ones, it’s only lack of opportunity that has prevented you making us all your slaves. We’re all the same. It’s only harmless looking because we don’t have the opportunity, or the conventions of society to hold us back or the rest won’t let us. But really, we have something inside us that is so evil that God said, “Look, there’s only one thing that I can do with that.” And he put it this way, “The wages of sin is death. In other words, I’ve built a self-destruct mechanism into your personalities that when you begin to develop them like this, they will be destroyed. I had to do it. To protect my own universe, I had to do it.” And actually, of course, that’s what you and I fear. I mean death itself is not a fearful thing. Even those who have died in great pain say death itself is not a fearful thing — but it’s what Hamlet said, you remember, “It’s the fear of that unknown country beyond the grave.” It’s that fear that troubles us. You know, all of us have that fear in us. That’s the testimony, that we are under sentence of death because we often wonder, “Now, what is beyond the grave?” And of course, many of us also have a sense of a condemnation of death in our consciences. When you do sin isn’t it true you come into a kind of darkness? You come into a kind of depression? That’s the human witness that God has condemned everyone to death who has ever sinned. I think all of us have that awareness –you realize, “Yeah, when I do something wrong I feel something dark inside me. I feel somebody does not approve of me.” That’s proof that we are under condemnation of death and that the wages of sin is death, that God has so created us all that he will destroy automatically all of us that have lived for ourselves and have developed a personality that would dictate to the world. That’s our present situation, loved ones. Do you see that’s why it’s kind of stupid stuff where we kind of say, “Oh well, yes I’m not good so I’ll try to be better and please God.” That isn’t the issue. That isn’t the issue at all. The issue with God is you have now become such a dangerous, selfish and self-centered personality that there’s nothing to do but destroy you for the sake of the rest of the universe. Being good, trying to be good is simply a selfish personality bluffing the rest of us That’s why he says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s the only answer. Loved ones, that’s it you know. If we go on the way we are, we’ll come to the end of this life, and then that evil nature will be destroyed completely, and we will be cast into a nothingness kind of atmosphere where we’ll go on existing — but existing in our own emptiness and our own frustration. The gospel is of course, that God took your evil nature and he put it in his Son and he destroyed it there. That’s why he says, “God commands his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s why John Donne, the English poet says, “Christ became the sewer for the world’s sin” because the rottenest part of you, the most selfish part, the dirtiest part, the most proud part, the most cruel part Jesus took into himself and allowed his Father to destroy it and burn it out into nothingness with his wrath. And that’s why Jesus died. And God says, “Therefore repent and believe the gospel.” Repent and believe that. That’s what he asks us to do. “Repent” means that you turn from your sin — not only your outward sins so that if you’re fornicating or you’re committing adultery, you stop it. That’s what “repent” means. It means you stop doing that — but not only that, but your inward attitude of building yourself up as the great important person among all the rest of us, putting yourself first all the time, you repent of that — you turn from that and you put God first in your life. That’s what “repent” means — you believe the gospel, you believe that your old miserable sinful personality, with all its unmanageability and it’s incorrigibility, was crucified with Christ in time and space on Calvary. But that’s really, only the outward show — in eternity from before the foundation of the world, God destroyed what you and I have created by our sin. He says this morning to us, “Repent and believe the gospel.” That’s what a Christian is. A Christian is someone who believes that and then acts in accordance with their belief. You believe that Christ’s death was brought about by your sin, and that he cried out, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me,” when YOU should have cried that out. You believe that he cried that out for every sin that you ever committed, for every cruel word that you ever spoke to anybody — you should have cried that out when you met God at the end of his life — but he cried it out for you. If you really believe that, you can see that you won’t want to have anything to do with that stuff again. I mean, this Savior has gone to hell for those things, so if you really believe that, you’ll turn from those things. That’s what repentance means. And that’s loved ones, why it’s so stupid for us to say, “Oh, I believe it. I believe it. But I just can’t stop doing these things.” You know how I’ve suggested to you that it is as if your sin put Jesus on the cross, as if every unclean thought that you have ever had was a nail in his hands? Do you see when you say, “I believe that,” and you think another unclean thought, it’s another nail into his hands? You speak another cruel word to somebody, it’s another nail in his hands. The whole cross shudders. The whole body of the Savior falls apart as you pin him with the sins that you continue to commit in your life. You see why to become a child of God or a Christian, you believe the gospel — but because you believe it, you STOP crucifying the Savior. You repent. You turn from not only those things, you stop doing them, but you also change your attitude inside and you put God first in your life instead of yourself first. When you do that of course, a miraculous thing happens — God gives you a gift. He gives you the gift of his Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit comes into your life and gives you the strength and grace to live like that. To live above sin. As you struggle even with inward sin, later on as the months pass, the Holy Spirit leads you into absolute deliverance even from that by showing you exactly what Christ did on the cross for you. But at this stage loved ones, I would ask you, do you believe that? Now, you all have sat here for many weeks, and days and months. I have explained and justified and you have read books. So I ask you, do you believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, and died, and actually experienced the hell of separation from his own God and his own Father because he had your sin, your whole attitude of sin, your whole personality inside himself, and that he who knew no sin was made to be sin for you? Now, do you believe that? Now do you see that if you DO see, you don’t have any alternative. I mean, if you believe that if you’re not a monster you must stop doing those things in your life. You must because, you’re wise enough to know that eternity is one great eternal moment and that Christ is still enduring the agony and the pain each time you put a nail into his hands. So, if you believe it then you must change today. I put it to you loved ones, if you don’t change you are more cruel than Hitler ever was — aren’t you? I mean, you are more ruthless than the worse person we can think of — this fella that we think killed all of the little guys in Atlanta. He killed little guys, but you’re killing again the purist man that ever lived — but also the man that gave his life for you. That’s why, loved ones, I urge you this morning, repent and believe the gospel. Turn from the things that are wrong in your life, begin to turn even from the attitude that is wrong where you’re treating yourself as if you’re just the great important person in the whole place and turn to God — and put him first in your life. If you do that, this very morning God will give you the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit. He will give you grace so that tomorrow morning, when you get up to pray, the Spirit will be there and will give you a sense of God’s presence. When you open your Bible on the gospel of John, the Spirit will make the words live for you. That’s what happens when a person becomes a child of God, when a person becomes a Christian, or is “born of God”. You know, if you say to me again, “What do I have to do?” You can do it right now where you’re sitting. I would encourage you to make a stand somewhere. Don’t say, “Well, I will,” or, “I’ll think about it.” There’s a power of evil that works in you at this moment that says, “I will think of it in a more convenient season,” and you’ll never get back to it. No, make a stand. Many of you have been coming for years here and you’ve been moving, as you know, nearer and nearer — but loved ones, you’ll move nearer and nearer forever unless you QUIT your sin and you receive Christ’s Spirit into your life and you commit yourself to listening to that Spirit. That’s it! That’s why they talk about it as being “born”. There can be nine months there [in the womb] but there’s a moment when the little child comes out, and he’s born into a new world and sees sights that he could never see in his mother’s womb. So are you if you have not been born of God. You have been dwelling here in what is a very dark world compared with the brightness of the world that surrounds God’s own presence. So loved ones, it does take a definite stand and a definite act of faith. I would encourage you to do it, especially if you’ve never done it. In the Methodist church, they did encourage us. I made a decision when I was 13, and then it became real when I was 17. So, a lot of us in the Methodist church went through confirmation like you Lutherans, and we went through the form. In fact, some of you who are Baptist say, “Oh I was immersed and yet, I didn’t know what it was about.” So loved ones, again, we’re all kind of in the same boat. We’ve all gone through all kinds of hoops — ecclesiastical and otherwise — and really, what we need to do this morning is we need to say, “Have I ever made a decision for Jesus whatever you call it? Have I ever committed my life to him? Have I ever repented and believed the gospel? Have I ever taken a stand and said, ‘I’m no longer a spectator. I’m no longer observing. I’m no longer watching. I no longer go to campus, but I am a child of God this morning. Lord God, I want to align myself with those who lifted your Son off the cross — and I want to take myself out of the crowd who put him on that cross.” That’s it, loved ones. So really, it’s up to you. As a man, all you could do for me is what I’m trying to do for you. All we can do for each other is explain it — but YOU have to act for yourself. What if you don’t act? The killer is that it’s a “beautiful” situation we have: you can keep on coming Sunday after Sunday, and who knows the difference — except that some week, you won’t be here. Some week you won’t be here anymore. Maybe somebody will notice you’re not here. Wouldn’t it be tragic if you were to be in hell and nobody knows, least of all you, that you should have done something about it? So loved ones, will you think seriously where you stand? I would urge you, especially those who have listened to this old voice for so long, be clear where you stand. Be clear where you stand with God. Have you ever repented and believed the gospel and begun to read your Bible, and to pray each day, and to get to know your maker? Have you? Have you ever quit your sin? I would encourage you because I love you and think we’re beginning to take care and concern for each other. I’d encourage you to do something now, today — I would. You can do it as you sit there. We’re all different, do you realize that? I thought it would be good to do it in an open way if some of us need that — mind you, it’s the cerebral ones often that need it. I used to think, “Oh well, I’ll just change my way of thinking.” Often it’s those of us who pride ourselves on our ability to think, we’re the ones who need to walk up and say we’ve done it. Of course, the Bible does say, “You ought to confess before men.” In your “heart belief”, you believe in your heart but you confess with your mouth onto salvation. Confessing with your mouth is not just speaking it out to the people that you work with tomorrow, but it’s proclaiming before others. It’s witnessing, “Yes, I have chosen Christ and I will give my life to him as he has given his life for me.” So some of us need to do that. Some of us can do it sitting in our seat, or we can do it while we’re standing — it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all which way you do it, but do it in a way that’s necessary for you. So, if you need to come up here during the last hymn, then do that. If God says to you, “It’s time you stopped sitting on the fence. It’s time you testified to some other human being, ‘Look I’m moving. I’m changing my spot. I’m no longer going to sit in this maybe/maybe not situation’” — then you should come up. If you have been a child of God before, and you’ve lost it all, or you’ve just backslid, then you should make a stand. I would encourage you to do it — either to come up during the last hymn or to do it quietly in your own place and then to make a change tomorrow in your life, to begin to read the Bible, to begin to pray and to testify to somebody tomorrow that you yourself became a Christian yesterday, or you became a child of God. I’d avoid “born again” because everybody is “born again” — but something definite that makes something real to you and means what you mean it to mean. So loved ones, we’ll stand and sing this great hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. If you feel you should make a stand then loved ones, just come up. You can kneel here and we’ll pray at the end. “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. My riches gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” [Singing time on video is 36:08 – 39:07] Let us pray. Dear Lord, we thank you for your death for us and we know we owe everything to you Lord Jesus, this life and the next. And so Lord, we would in our own hearts, with the loved ones who are kneeling here, we would give our hearts and our lives to you. Thank you, Lord, that everything has depended on you all along and depends on you this day. Lord, we would give our lives to you and trust you now to put your Holy Spirit into our hearts and into the hearts of those who kneel here that you will live your life again through us from this day forward. 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.
What is The New Birth? - NEWBIRTH
What is the New Birth? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill I think there are many people that say, “Oh, I’m born again,” when what they’ve done is they’ve started to believe that there is a God, or they’ve started to believe that there may be a real Jesus Christ, or they’ve started to believe that maybe it is possible to have your sins forgiven, or it’s maybe possible to change your way of life. They say, “Ah, that’s the way I think. I’m born again.” Now loved ones, Jesus once said, you remember, in that chapter that we read — he referred to being born again. In John 1, John said in interpretation of those words, “Who are born not of blood, or of the will of man, or the will of flesh, but of God.” Many of us are just being born of the flesh when we refer to the new birth as a change in the way we think about things. Now others of us think we’re born again because we’re born once. That is we say, “Now wait a minute. This is a Christian country. America is a Christian country. Look, ‘In God We Trust’ on the coins and my parents were Christians. Really, our home was a good Christian home — no murders, no fornication. We were a good Christian ethical bunch. I was born into that group and I approve all the things you Christians approve. I approve of them. I think they’re good. I’m for all the things you’re for. I believe that Christianity has done more for the world than any other religion. I am for Christianity and I’ve always been Christian. I’ve never been anything else but Christian. I’ve always thought this way. I’ve always approved the things that Christians approve of. I always oppose abortion. I vote for the right politician and I read the right books. I’ve always been Christian. I don’t know what you mean by being “born again”. I think I was born again the first time I was born. I’m just a unique phenomenon in the world that happens always to have been Christian.” Do you not think that there are many of us that have really nice personalities? Isn’t that true? I mean, there are many of us that have really pleasant personalities. We just had good dads or moms, and we’ve just inherited a lot of their kindliness and their goodness. And we tend to identify being born again with having a pleasant personality and on the whole, a loving attitude to other people and we feel, “I’ve always been like that.” Now loved ones, that’s being born of blood and it’s not what being born again is. Some of us say, “Born again? I’ve always been Lutheran.” Or, “I’ve always been Baptist. In fact, not only have I always been Baptist, but I’ve been baptized. Right, the whole deal, water over the top and everything.” “I’ve been Baptist,” or, “I’ve been Lutheran,” or, “I’ve been Methodist. I’ve always gone to church. I’ve always belonged to the right group and the right religious Lion’s Club. That’s me. If there’s a groupie, I’m a groupie. I’m in the right bunch. And isn’t that being ‘born again’, being with the crowd that are going to get into heaven? Well, I’m with them.” “I’ve always been a Lutheran. “I’ve always been a good Baptist.” “I’ve always been a good Methodist. I’m born again.” Loved ones, the tragedy with so many brothers and sisters who say that “I’m born again because I’ve changed my intellectual approach to life,” or “I’m born again because I’ve always thought this way — I was born in a good Christian family,” or “I’m born in a Christian country,” or “I’m born again because I belong to the right church or the right group,” is that they share the same desperate psychological disease that fills the lives of so many who don’t believe in God at all. That is, they don’t think they’re worth anything. They have a great problem with self-esteem. They have a great problem with self-worth. They have a great problem feeling that they’re worth anything. They have a terrible inferiority complex and they feel, “Ah, I’m nothing and I’m going nowhere.” Now loved ones, a person who is really born again does not have that problem. But I think many of us who think we’re born again but aren’t really, have the same problem as all the other people in this world. Almost everybody else in this world has a real problem with self-esteem, with self-worth, with feeling that they’re of any value to anybody. It’s not hard to find out why they think that. Most of the world really thinks that there is no God or, if there ever was a God, he’s forgotten about us years ago. So you’re left with that neurotic conclusion that we must be on our own here — and then after you determine that, you begin to think, “What am I doing?” You begin to realize, “I’m sitting on a sphere.” And then you say, “Well, well the sphere must have a good solid foundation,” and then the word comes back from the old satellite pictures. “No, it has no foundation. There’s nothing underneath. This sphere is in space whirling around.” And you begin to think, “Well, well, at least it’s staying in one spot!” And they tell you, “No, no! It’s whirling hundreds of thousands of miles an hour spinning like that and then it’s whirling around planets missing them every time, century after century — you hope.” And you begin to think, “Wait a minute! I don’t even do this kind of thing in my car. I drive it. I steer it. I control it. I’m not sitting on something that’s whirling around madly.” And you begin to realize, “This is a pretty tentative situation I’m in.” And it’s not long loved ones, before you begin to have a little trouble with angst. No wonder they talk about angst in our days, that terrible anxiety that comes upon you when you wonder, “Where am I and what am I doing? What is this world about? What am I about?” It’s easy to understand why loved ones would feel that and I think most of the world feels that. That’s why we begin to realize, “Wait a minute! I’m on a spaceship here in space and I don’t know where it’s going!” And then somebody says to us, “Yeah, yeah, but you better eat while you’re here,” and so you decide, “Yeah, I better eat. I better keep alive to see if I can find out where I’m going.” So, we all begin to give ourselves to trying to get enough to eat, and enough to cloth us and enough to keep us safe so that we can survive a little longer. But it all has a dreadful sick and drunken feeling to it. It’s like being on a bus that is hurling along a highway and at 100 miles an hour — and there’s a concrete wall and you know you’re going to hit it! You know at the end of 70 years, or 80 years, or if you run a lot, 85 or 90 years, you’re going to hit that brick wall and yet, here’s somebody coming along saying, “Chocolate? Cigarettes? Would you like a biscuit?” And you are there, stuffing the old cookies in and drinking the Coke, and all the while you realize, “This thing is going to hit sooner or later” — that is not a happy situation to be in. Yet loved ones, that is the position with most of us who don’t really believe there’s a God. We realize, “This is a terrifying situation I’m in.” Of course, all the world keeps telling us is, “Yeah, but there’s nothing to do but keep yourself alive as long as you can any way.” So we all do that. We run to keep ourselves alive as long as possible. We eat food to do the same. Then gradually, we begin to give ourselves up to that absolutely nonsensical occupation of the person giving out the chocolate, cigarettes and cookies. We begin to get into the same act. We begin to find ourselves breaking our backs to get more food, and to get more cookies and to get more clothing. We find that we devote most of our lives to that — all of us, eight hours a day at least — many of us, much more than eight hours a day simply to keep ourselves alive. Underneath, from time-to-time, in those moments near midnight, you think, “But why am I keeping myself alive?” John Barryman — the poet who taught here at the University of Minnesota and had thrown himself off of the bridge down at the river there — is only one of the many guys who have thought like this, who eventually come to the conclusion, “There is no sense in this! This is hopeless!” Many of us of course, play the game a little longer. We say, “Yeah, yeah, well there must be some reason for it.” We think, “Well, I am different. There’s something different about me. None of the rest seem to notice it, but I am different. Maybe if I somehow get them to notice that I’m different, maybe that will give me a sense of stability.” So we begin to buy nicer clothes and we begin to try to get bigger jobs, and better executive positions, and better houses, and nicer cars so that maybe they’ll notice we are different, we are better, we’re unique and that we’re significant. There’s something inside us that says, “You ARE different — but still, there are four billion of us in this world and none of the rest seem to think we’re different.” So we get onto this rat race of trying to get better houses, better jobs, better grades. It starts right from the beginning. It seems to start right from our mom — she gives us cookies when we eat our greens. (We say “greens” in Ireland.) You eat your greens, you eat your vegetables. And your mom says, “I’ll give you a cookie if you eat your vegetables.” So we eat the vegetables and we get a cookie. And then when we go to school everybody seems to praise us if we get a letter for football, and so we see, “Ah, if I get a letter everybody praises me!” And then we get to business and we see, “Ah, if I sell more than everybody else I’ll get a key to the executive washroom. That’ll be the height of significance.” And so we go on, and more and more, we’re becoming like little dogs, begging up, “Give me attention! Give me attention! I’ll do anything! I’ll get a better degree. I’ll sell more products. I’ll do anything to get attention.” Of course, gradually as it goes on, we feel more and more lost because we sense, “This is unreal. I don’t know what this whole thing is about, and I don’t know why I’m doing all these things and yet, I feel more and more I’m like a little puppet on a string. The strings are attached to my boss at times and I want to please him. At times, the strings are attached to the commercials that I see on television and I want to be what they want me to be. The commercials and the educational posters separate us up into introverts and extroverts, overachievers and underachievers. They tend to make us more and more feel like little puppets on a string — almost like little robots. We’re doing what they want us to do.” We sense these things until we come to that place that Wordsworth described in his poem. He said, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begins to close Upon the growing Boy. At length the Man perceives it die away, and fade into the light of common day.” Somehow the fun of living, and the fun of life, and the fun of being ourselves is all around us when we’re children. More and more of us begin to feel that. We begin to lose the sense that there’s any “me” inside at all. It’s all intensified by the way our modern technology is going because this dumb computer keeps sending our credit cards back to us and won’t listen to us. And here we are dumbly trying to talk to a computer and we feel, “Am I not something better than a machine? I’m talking to a computer — how mad can you get?” Then we begin to find that the moods, even those we thought were very personal to us, can be influenced by taking certain pills: uppers when you’re depressed and downers when you’re too uptight. When people like Skinner tells us we’re just machines, we begin to wonder, “Yeah, are we? I seem to be just the product of my heredity plus my environment, and I seem to have no ability to do anything myself or decide anything myself. I wonder is there any “me” inside at all?” Sometimes it comes to that place, doesn’t it? You perform THIS way for the coach. You perform THIS way for your husband or your wife. You perform THIS way for your religious friends. From time-to-time you wonder, “I wonder what I’m REALLY like? I wonder why I’m here? I wonder am I really different? I feel I am — but it’s almost as if I’ve lost myself now. I feel as if there’s no me inside here at all. I could be put along with all the other executives. I could be put along with all the other ‘B students’, or all the other ‘A- students’. I could be put along with any of the four billion others in this world and I don’t seem very different from any of them.” That loved ones, is the terrible hopelessness that hits so many in our world — and certainly hit me at one time — and I don’t know if it’s ever hit you. Often you come to the place where you think, “I must try to find myself again. I must try to find out who I am. I must try to find out what I’m really like. I must try to be myself.” Then you try to be yourself and that’s worse because what you’ve become is a kind of principle-pleasing, people-pleasing, little self-indulgent animal. If you try to be yourself now, it’s horrible — nobody wants anything to do with you. All you’re doing is trying to use the things that you see around us and the people you see around yourself to make yourself feel satisfied. It’s very easy to come to the place where you say, “Well, that’s no good. I can’t be myself. Well, maybe I can be what they expect me to do in that sensitivity group. Maybe I can be what they all expect me to be.” Loved ones, I think many of us in our world are at the place where we haven’t a clue who we are and we don’t really know what we’re like. We are like that movie that was produced years and years ago, “Georgy Girl” — that there’s somebody beautiful inside — if it could only get out. I think many of us are like that. I think many of you are like that. I think there is something beautiful in there but nobody else seems to be interested enough in us to help us find it. The fact is nobody IS because they’re all in the same trouble themselves. The truth is loved ones, you ARE different. You are different. There is nobody like you — there isn’t. There’s nobody like you in the whole world. There is nobody like you in the whole universe. Our Creator made you different from all the rest of us. Even if you’re an identical twin, you know that you’re different from him or her. Do you realize there’s nobody in China like you — there’s nobody in Africa like you? But then do you realize there never has been anybody like you? There hasn’t! There never has been anybody like you in the whole of the world’s history. Do you realize there never will be anybody like you? Nobody will ever be born who is exactly like you. You are different. The Creator who made us made us all different from each other, You are different from everybody else and he knows that. He knows that this would happen to you. He knew. He knew that we would forget him and start depending on the world and everybody else for our own needs. He knew that we’d become what we have become, the very opposite of what he wanted us to be. Instead of being individuals that are different, people that are free and fresh and spontaneous, we’ve become stereotyped reproductions of everybody else — and he knew that. He knew that there would come a time when we would bury ourselves over a whole lot of automatic responses and reflections just like Pavlov’s dogs until no longer was it possible for us to find ourselves at all. He knew that. In a great miracle that I don’t even attempt this morning to explain philosophically — though the heart of it is in Einstein’s theory of relativity and the whole fact that there is no such thing as time — but in a mighty miracle in his Son Jesus in eternity, he foresaw the way you would develop. He foresaw the things that would develop in your life. He foresaw the automatic responses and reflections that now bury you under themselves. He saw the resentments, and the greed, and the anger that would develop in you that you couldn’t control. He put you into his Son Jesus and he destroyed you there in an eternity death that was shown in our era in 29 AD. He recreated you and made you new. He set loose his own Spirit. His Spirit is really himself and his Spirit is able to make you alive. That’s why Jesus would often say, “There is a real you inside. There is a real you underneath. There’s a real spirit that is you — but at the moment, you’re dead in your trespasses and sins. At the moment, you’re dead in all the things you’re doing to try to make the world work without God. You’re dead. You’re asleep. The real you is asleep inside and I alone, by my Spirit, can show you who you really are and can make you alive inside.” Loved ones, that’s the truth. There is a real person inside you. There is a unique you. Jesus often called it your “spirit”, but it’s really the real you and it’s the real me. He wants that to come alive because he has put you here to do something that none of the rest of us can do — now that’s true. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freshman at the Minnesota University. It doesn’t matter whether you’re old and you’ve retired. Your Creator put you here to do something that none of the rest of us can do. He can show you through his own Spirit coming into your life who you are and what he wants you to do. That’s it. He can change you from the inside out. That’s what it means to be born again. You can see why it’s appropriate because it is like a new person being born — really that’s what it is. It’s the old person who was originally made finding themselves again. If you say, “Well, yeah I mean, a lot of that applies to me. What do I do?” First, believe it. Believe that that’s true. Believe that your Creator has made you unique and different from the rest of us. Believe that deep down you are different, and you’re here to do something that none of the rest of us can do and that your Creator is able to tell you that. Then secondly, believe that he did change you completely in his Son Jesus– he did. You don’t understand all the details of that now, but you can believe that by faith, that he changed you in his Son Jesus. He destroyed the old self that you were and made you completely new. Then, ask his Spirit to come in and show you. That’s it. That’s the faith part of it, and I agree, that’s pretty dumb if there is no Spirit — but there IS loved ones. God has set his Spirit loose in this world and his Spirit is the power inside you that has often made you feel you should try to find your way to God. It’s the part of you that has often stirred in your conscience and made you feel you ought to do certain things. It’s the part of you that has made you feel, “I am different — I am! I am! People can tell me what they like, but I am different. I know I’m different — not just my name, but I am unique. I feel I’m unique. I’m not the best. I’m not the greatest but I am different. Somebody up there knows that I’m here. Somebody up there will receive me at the end of this life.” It’s the Spirit inside you that has made you feel that. So what you need to do is turn to that dear Spirit, it’s the Spirit of Jesus, and say, “Lord Jesus, would you help me to find who I am inside? Will you come in and begin to show me what my Maker wants me to do for my 70 or 80 years here on earth?” Loved ones, it doesn’t matter how clumsily you do it or how crudely you do it, God will answer you and his Spirit will begin to deal with you in ways that will be different from all the rest of us here. He will begin to deal with you and begin to show you why he put you here on earth. I pray especially for anybody who feels some of the things that I’ve described — that you’ll do that today. Let us pray. Dear God, we do thank you for your goodness in making us and confess that we do feel lost at times in this world. At times we get exacerbated because we seem to be nothing but little people-pleasers. So often, we seem to be living a half-life. So often, we are trying to do what everybody expects us to do, and what we’ve been taught to do and not really doing what we believe we are deep down. So dear God, we do believe that you put us here and that you know that we’re here, and you actually even know our names and that you’ve put us here to do something for you that is different. Everything that you have made has a purpose in it. We believe that you have put us here for a purpose. So dear God, we ask you now, will you send your Spirit into our minds, and into our emotions and into our own spirits? Will you make us alive inside so that we can begin to talk to you and to have some conversation with you? Dear God, we do believe that you did something in Jesus that we can’t understand and that you knew all this would happen, and that not only our computers can project into the future, but YOU can with your great infinite mind. You foresaw that we’d become like this, and that you have changed us in Jesus and that we can have that change made real in us through your Spirit. So we ask you, dear Spirit of God, will you come and show us what games we have to stop playing in our lives, and what people we have to stop pleasing and show us how to turn to God and start living our life to please him? Lord, we ask this so that you will be satisfied and glad that you’ve made us and so that our lives may begin to go in some direction that it’s worthwhile. We ask this in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.
How Do You Know You’re Born again? - NEWBIRTH
How Do You Know You’re Born Again? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Imagine that you had some deadly disease and the doctor came to you and told you that if you took these pink pills it would cure you — but they were the only cure for the disease. You went home and you took the pills and yet, the disease continued to get worse. You came back to the doctor and said, “I took those pills and yet, it doesn’t seem to be taking with me. It’s having no effect. I’m just getting weaker and weaker!” Then he said to you, “Now, are you sure you took those pills? Are you sure you took them? They were pink, you remember, did you take those? I mean, you didn’t have any red pills in the medicine cabinet, too — and maybe you took them by mistake?” You know what you would hope. You would hope, “Well, maybe I DID take the wrong ones.” You would hope that when you went home, you’d found you HAD taken the wrong pills — because that gave you some reason to believe the pink pills would work with you the way they worked with others. I think most of us are in that situation, “I’d far rather discover that I hadn’t taken the right antidote than that I’d taken this antidote and it hadn’t worked for me.” That’s why I thought it would be good to talk about this “new birth” thing — because I think there are a lot of us very “thinking people” who hear about the new birth, and hear about how it changes everything, and how it makes sense out of life, and how it makes life satisfying, and how it makes life successful. A lot of us think we’ve tried it and it doesn’t seem to have taken with us. Loved ones, all I’m anxious is that you really have tried it. That you will really have tried the new birth and not some of the counterfeits that you get today. You remember last Sunday morning, we talked about how many people think they’re born again when they’ve adopted a new set of values, a kind of “Christian set of values”, or they’ve changed their way of thinking, or they’ve adopted a new set of ethical standards in their life. They say, “I’ve been born again.” All they mean is, “My mind has come into some enlightenment. I’m seeing some things clearer than I did before.” That’s what they mean. A new birth is not just that. The tragedy is that many of us have come into that after we’ve been struggling with alcoholism, or with immorality in our own life or with some drug addiction. So often, that change in our way of thinking is connected with a real freedom of some kind that we’ve come into in our own lives. Often we put the two together and say, “Ah, I must have been born again because I’m thinking differently. I’m thinking now the way all those Christians think, and I have come free of this drug addiction and so I’m born again.” Well, not necessarily. Many of us can have changed our way of thinking and adopted a new set of values and even come into new friends. Many of us have joined some church and we feel, “Ah, I’ve been born again because I’ve changed all my friends. I’ve changed my whole social circle.” In fact, all that’s taken place is we’ve become groupies, religious groupies — but really, a new birth has not taken place inside us. You remember I suggested last day that one of the ways you can determine if you’re born again or not is, do you suffer the same dreadful plague that everybody suffers in our day — or do you not? That dreadful plague is this terrible sense of lack of self-worth that so many people in our society have, a dreadful feeling that they’re not worth anything, a dreadful lack of self-esteem, a dreadful lack of any value to their own lives. It seems that almost everybody you talk to, at least in western civilization, is suffering that agony inside in their own hearts. Loved ones, you can’t be born again and feel that. That’s a contradiction. The new birth, whatever it is, takes care of all that. If you’re sitting here this morning saying, “Boy, well that’s what I feel. I feel, ah, what am I? I’m nothing. I’m nothing. I have no sense of value. I have no sense of self-esteem. I have no sense of self-worth. That’s me. I feel I mean nothing to anybody. And in fact, my life is kind of empty and pointless. I’m going here to the university. I chose a subject because you have to choose a subject. I chose a major because you have to choose a major. Everybody says you do these things. That’s why I’m doing them. But really, I don’t know where my life is going. This recession has just delivered me for the moment because now I can concentrate on making money — at least I have to make money to keep alive. But really, in my own heart, I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I just bounce from one position to another and that’s the way my life has been going for years. It seems every time I bounce from one occupation to another, from one job to another, I felt less and less value to myself or to anybody else.” Now loved ones, if you feel like that — and thousands of us do in these days — see that you haven’t been born again: “Whoopee, you’ve taken the red pill — so there’s hope! There’s a chance that you can take the pink pill.” There’s a chance that you can be delivered from that because, you remember what we’ve shared, that when you feel like that, you feel that way because you feel you’re “a nothing”. You feel you’re unimportant, You feel that way because you’ve been preoccupied with pleasing everybody else from the moment you decided to please your mom, the moment you decided to please your dad by going into a certain job, the moment you began to try to please the peers in your high school by getting a letter on the football team right through to the time you began to please your wife, or please your husband by cooking the right food. You’ve been pleasing, pleasing, pleasing people, people, people. You’ve been concentrating on doing what this old society of ours tells you you should do. You’ve been trying to treat it as if it were god and therefore have never paid any attention to God, himself. What we said last Sunday was, the new birth is you, saying, “Stop! I’m going to stop this game I’m playing. What does it matter whether I please all the bosses? What does it matter whether I please all the parents? What does it matter whether I please all the parents, or all the peers? If I’m here and there’s no reason to my life, what’s the point of it all?” And then you turn around to God, the Creator, and see that he has made you absolutely unique! He has put you here to do something in his world that only you can do. And you say, “God, I noticed I am different. I AM different and I’ve often thought I was different. Even as I sit and crouch like this, I keep thinking, ‘But I am different. I think differently from them. I know they may be better than me, they may be cleverer than me, they may be richer than me, they may look better than I do but I know I’m different from them. I know I’m different than everybody else in this room.’” It’s amazing you can say that. It’s amazing. There isn’t one of us here, there isn’t one little person, not one of us little souls, but can say that this morning. It’s a miracle. You can say, “That guy can be up there and he can look okay, and the guy sitting beside me can look okay, and the girl down the row, but I am different from them. I’m different from everybody in this room.” And the new birth is turning around to your Maker and saying, “God, you have made me different, I can just assume you made me different and knew you made me different. You have put me here different from everybody else to do something that none of the rest can. So dear God, will you start telling me what I’m supposed to be doing here? Tell me why I’m here. Tell me what you want me to do with my life because I am tired and worn out trying to please everybody else and get a sense of value from everybody else’s approval. God I need you to tell me why you’ve put me here.” Loved ones, what we’ve said was, your Creator DID make you different from all the rest of us here. He made you different for one purpose and that purpose you’ve to fulfill — none of the rest of us can. If you don’t do it, that bit will be forever missing in this universe. Your God is able to let you know — he can get through to you. Now you say, “I don’t know how he’ll get through to me. Will he speak out loud? Will he speak through an amplifying system? Will he speak through some other person?” Loved one, he’ll speak deep down in your conscience. It’s just you’re so used to ignoring that, that you can’t imagine he’ll speak. He has a person called his Spirit, it’s the real him. He is able to speak to you deep, deep down to the part of you that has died — because, there is a part of you that has died. There’s a little bit of you, yourself, that died years ago and has been buried under layers and layers of trying to please other people. God’s own Spirit is able to speak to that part of you and begin to make you alive again inside. That’s it. I’ve quoted this poem before [Yonder See the Morning] written by an English poet, A.E. Housman, who taught Greek in Oxford at Cambridge. I think it’s so good because it says what many of us feel: (cid:160) “Yonder see the morning blink: (cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160) The sun is up, and up must I, To wash and dress and eat and drink And look at things and talk and think (cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160) And work, and God knows why. (cid:160) Oh often have I washed and dressed (cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160)(cid:160) And what’s to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest: Ten thousand times I’ve done my best And all’s to do again.” (cid:160) If you’ve ever felt like that, loved ones, there’s a dear God who has made you, who is able to tell you why he put you here. He’s able to bring that part of you that has died alive again inside. That’s what the new birth is. It’s you coming alive inside. It’s the real you that’s buried underneath all the people-pleasing, and the principle-practicing, and the regulation and rule-obeying-self that has been created. It’s YOU deep down inside coming alive. Now how do you know? How do you know you have come alive? How can you know that you are born again? It’s interesting, there’s a piece in this Bible that says it. A man called Paul was writing to people who lived in Rome and he said this [Romans 8:16], “The Spirit himself” — that is the Spirit of God, God’s own eye, God himself, his own little self, the very heart of God, the Spirit himself — “will bear witness with your spirit” — with your little eye, the little self that is in deep down inside you, the real you. The Spirit himself, the Spirit of God, will bear witness with your spirit that you’re a child of God. That’s how you’ll know. That’s how you’ll know. In other words, if you ask God to put his Spirit into you this morning and to make you start living again inside and being fresh again, and beginning to see things new again, and beginning to come alive inside, and be you and not what everybody else wants you to be, but be you, yourself, as you really are, you’ll have a sense of another person being inside you. That’s what it means, the Spirit himself will bear witness with you. You’ll have a sense of another Spirit being inside you. You’ll sense you’re not living by your own judgment any longer. You’ll sense it’s not just YOU talking to yourself. It’s not just you and yourself inside alone in your own head. You’ll sense there’s another person inside you who is giving you directions and you’ll begin to sense that there is another person, the Spirit of God inside, who is beginning to lead you. That’s what this Bible says. It says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God.” You then begin to sense you’re not just doing things by what you think is right or what you think is best. You’ll begin to get up in the morning and sense another little impression inside you that is saying, “Now, why not do this today?” And it’s interesting, as you respond to that and do what this Spirit inside you tells you, you’ll begin to hear him more and more loudly in your own mind — sometimes through your thoughts, sometimes through your own spirit, sometimes through your conscience, sometimes even through something that you read — but you’ll begin to be delivered from that prison of introspection in which you’ve been encased in so many years. The Spirit himself will bear witness with you. You’ll find you’re no longer being dominated by rules and regulations. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that. Sometimes I think we’re the dumbest people alive. I don’t know that I’m for abortion any more than anybody else is, and I don’t know that I’m for any of the other things any more than the rest of you are, but do you not feel sometimes we’re all doing the same thing because we’re all supposed to do the same thing? I mean, the things themselves are good but we are not alive inside. We’re just a bundle of little principle-practicing, rule-obeying, regulation-observing animals. When the Spirit of God comes inside you, suddenly you break into glorious individualism. You begin to sense that you’re doing things because your God actually wants you to do them. The Spirit himself bears witness with you. He gives you a sense that you’re doing these things because God wants you to do them. It’s not because some preacher has told us to do them. It’s not because we’ve read some book and we think it’s good for us to do them. It’s not because we’ve read some self-help book and we think it’ll be good for our psychological makeup or emotional experience, or good for our marriage, or good for our church or good for our job. We’ll do it because we feel GOD wants us to do it — it’s a glorious feeling. He might not want anybody else in the world to do it — but he wants us to do it. Suddenly you’ll begin to sense that there is Someone inside you who is giving you individual directions. That’s part of what the witness of God’s Spirit is, loved ones. Another part of the witness of God’s Spirit is that he bears what the Bible calls “fruit”. There’s a verse in Galatians (5:22) which reads like this, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” You’ll begin to see that there’s something like a stream of fresh water coming up from inside you. I don’t know how many of you have felt, “There’s a stream of poison coming up from inside me.” I don’t know how many of you have felt, “There’s a huge monstrous self-inside me that I can’t keep down or control?” But loved ones, when you’re born of God there’s a new Spirit of love that begins to come up from inside you. You begin to get up in the morning and feel joy. You begin to find yourself in difficult situations at work, or in the class which are chaos and conflicting and yet, a peace rises up from inside you. It’s no longer, “Let me get to the first counselor,” or, “Let me get to my friend,” or, “Let me get to a tranquilizer. Let me get something that will steady me and steady my nerves” — but instead, you find there’s a peace that begins to well up from inside that God’s own Spirit is creating inside you. That’s another mark of a person who is born of God. There’s a verse in Romans 5:5 that says that, “We experience the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” A person who is born again, who is changed by God’s Spirit coming into them, begins to sense an incomprehensible love for other people coming out from inside their hearts — really. It’s not that love that just loves because you’re hoping they’ll love you back. It’s not that love that loves just because you’re supposed to love, but it’s a love that is patient and kind, that is gentle, that is not arrogant or rude. It’s a love that is not irritable or resentful, or a love that does not insist on its own way. You begin to sense a love coming from inside your heart that actually wants to put the other people first because you’ll have a clear sense yourself that your Father is looking after you, and you can afford to live for other people and not for yourself. So the Spirit that comes inside you makes you aware that there’s another person inside you. Have you ever tried being yourself? Have you? It’s the most disgusting disappointing experiment that you ever carry out. You know how you get — you feel, “Yeah, you’re right. You’re right, I’m just a little animal doing what everybody else tells me. You’re right, I’m trying to please my parents here. I’m trying to please my peers here. I’m trying to please the professor here and trying to please my friends here. You’re right. I ought to be myself. I’m just going to be myself and let it all hang out.” And the great ugly creature starts hanging out. It’s terrible! Nobody can stand you. Eventually, you can’t stand yourself and you call the whole experiment off. Now the truth is, that’s NOT your real self. That’s the miserable selfish monstrosity that has become you since you were born. But the new self that is born again is a completely new being. And loved ones, you find your own spirit bears witness, your own spirit begins to give you a sense that your God really does know you. That’s it. You begin to sense, “He knows me.” You hear me saying it — and I think you love me — and so you believe me, but that’s different from you sensing inside, “My God DOES know me.” You walk under those stars at night and you look up, and you have a sense inside your own breast that says, “God knows me. My Creator knows who I am. He knows me.” You begin to feel you KNOW. You can tell the world, “He knows me. My Maker knows me.” That’s part of it. You begin to sense that your Maker does know you. He knows Ronald Regan. He knows Leonid Brezhnev — but amazing of all things, he knows YOU and he knows your name. You begin to sense you know what to do with your life and he’s beginning to tell you what to do. Your own spirit bears witness that you are an individual here on earth with a special thing to do that none of the rest have to do. Do you know loved ones, that it doesn’t matter if you spend your whole life washing floors? Do you know that everyone of us here who has come into any kind of satisfaction in our own lives would say the same thing. We’d say, “Actually, it doesn’t matter what you do? It doesn’t much matter what you do?” Most jobs get down to doing the job, finally — however interesting the job might be — it finally gets down to you have to do the job day after day and be faithful. The truth is it doesn’t matter too much what you do. The fact is, God may want you to wash floors — but if he wants you to wash floors, that will fulfill you completely and absolutely, and that’s the only thing that matters, and it will prepare you for the job he has for you when the universe becomes ours. So, there’s a sense in your own spirit, your own spirit bears witness, “Yeah, I don’t care what my parents think of me. I don’t care what my peers think of me. I don’t care how I look like to other people. I don’t care how important the job seems to be that I have, my God has given me this. He knows that I know, and I know that he knows that I’m doing this because he put me here to do it.” Boy, loved ones, no money pays you for that. Nothing makes up for that feeling that you’re doing what your Maker put you here to do and he’s the only one whose opinion really counts. You get a greater sense of that. The spirit too bears witness to Jesus and you’re place in Jesus. You know, a lot of us have real trouble. We say, “Oh, I know what you say. I know what you say but I can’t feel I’m forgiven. I can’t feel God’s forgiveness. Yeah, I know he’s forgiven me and I know Jesus died for me. I know all that — but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it.” Well, when you’re born of God you have no trouble with that. The Spirit bears witness to the fact that you were crucified with Christ, that your old miserable self was destroyed with him, and that you’ve been made new, and that God has made him to be sin who knew no sin so that you could be freed from yourself, and that he is no longer counting your trespasses against you, and does not reward you according to your iniquities but he has forgiven you, and you are his own child, and he is your Father, and he has forgiven all your sins. Loved ones, the Spirit bears witness to that. A person who is born of God has no trouble trying to feel that they’re forgiven of God. They KNOW they’re forgiven. They know that their God loves them and has forgiven them and regards them as his own dear child. Maybe one of the clearest indications that you’re born of God is one that’s put it like this in John, “Hereby know we that we are the children of God by the spirit of obedience that he has given us.” That’s it. You find that, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin”. (1 John 3:9) That is, when you allow God’s Spirit to come into you, you find that the laws and the commandments don’t describe what you “ought to do”, they describe “you”. You find that anyone who has allowed his old self to be destroyed with Jesus and has allowed God’s Spirit to come into him, he doesn’t have any other gods except God. He doesn’t commit adultery. He doesn’t steal. He doesn’t bear false witness. He doesn’t take the name of the Lord his God in vain. He doesn’t have trouble with resentment, and anger, and envy and jealousy. He finds that it’s more natural to do what his Father wants him to do. The reason is that the Spirit of his Father’s Son has come into him and he finds he wants to please him. He’s like a little boy who has a dear Father that he loves with all his heart. It’s not hard to please that Father. He WANTS to please him. You think back to teachers that you respected. Think back to teachers or coaches that you looked up to. Did you have to beat yourself to bits to obey them? You know you didn’t! You know you almost lived day-after-day to do something that would please them. You wanted to impress them. You wanted them to think that you were good and that you were doing what they wanted you to do. It’s the same when God’s own Spirit comes into you — you find that it’s natural not to sin. Now I know that’s bad talk in our day. Our society tells us continually, “Oh, everybody, every good red-blooded American gets angry once a week — you must! Every good red-blooded American beats his wife at least once a month. Everybody who is real, and healthy and normal expresses their anger and is human — good human beings.” Really, the Bible says, “good carnal beings” –because so often our psychology studies fallen man and describes what fallen man is like. Fallen man is pretty retched. But real psychology studies the one Man who lived as we were all meant to live, the man called Jesus. He’s the man that lived a truly human life. When we’re most like him we’re most human. That’s why this dear Bible says, “Look, if you’re born of God, you don’t commit sin. Anybody born of God doesn’t commit sin. He can’t sin because God’s nature abides in him.” Of course, it doesn’t really mean he can’t sin. You CAN if you want to, but he finds that he’s acting against his nature if he does. You know the way before you’re born of God, it’s easy to lose your temper. I mean, you don’t have to concentrate too much. You don’t have to do a couple of courses at the university on “Temper-Losing” in order to, “I must try today to lose my temper. Let me concentrate.” It’s natural to lose your temper, it seems. It’s just natural to get angry. It’s natural to get irritable. It’s natural to get resentful and critical of other people. Well, do you see when God’s nature comes into you when you’re born of God, it’s natural to do what Jesus does. It’s natural to be like him. So whosoever is born of God does not commit sin — commit sin in a sense of making a mistake? Oh no, you make mistakes. You’ll make all kinds of errors because you can’t be saved from that. Your mind is still a human mind and you’ll make all kinds of mistakes and errors. You’ll at times do things even that you didn’t know were wrong. You’ll do them and suddenly, you’ll find out it’s wrong, and you’ll feel, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” But what it means is, whosoever is born of God does not commit sin. “Sin” in the sense in which it’s described in James 2, “Anybody who knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” That’s it –not a high philosophical definition of sin about avoiding the things that you don’t know. You can’t do that. You can’t be as perfect as God himself — but sin in the sense of avoiding the things that you know are wrong. You know those are the things that drive us crazy, aren’t they? I mean, you’re not concerned with all the little fine mistakes you make over things that you don’t know anything about. That doesn’t bring guilt to you. What brings guilt is those wretched things in our lives that we know are wrong, and we try to overcome and we cannot stop them. That’s what drives you crazy. Now anybody born of God doesn’t commit sin in that he finds it natural to avoid those things. If you say to me, “Oh, does that mean if I have ever sinned that I’m not born of God?” The Bible says if we do sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. So obviously, if you trip, you immediately go to God and you say, “Lord, I’m sorry I didn’t mean that.” And he says, “Son, I know you didn’t mean it. I know you didn’t mean it.” There’s that immediate sense. Whereas, have you not felt at times that there might not be that sense — that you go to God and you say, “Lord, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it.” And he’d say, “Really? Did you not?” And we wouldn’t be too sure. Now, when you’re born of God, when God puts his Spirit inside you, you find it’s natural to obey. It’s natural to obey where it used to be natural to disobey. That’s one of the clearest signs that you’re a child of God, loved ones. I’d push you on it yourself — those of you who have children and those of you who would like to have children. Isn’t it true we would really like our children to be like that? I mean, we’d really like to think that we didn’t have to persuade them to obey us. We’d really like to think that they loved us so much that they wanted to be like us. That’s what it is when you’re born of God’s Spirit. You begin to find it’s natural to obey him and natural to avoid sin. Then loved ones, could I just say this, the biggest reason for brothers and sisters in the university not believing in Christianity is not what you think. Many of us think, “Oh well yes, it’s because of evolution, you see,” or, “It’s because of intellectual difficulties that they’re having,” or, “It’s because they really don’t believe in the historical veracity of the Bible.” It isn’t. It’s because thousands, and thousands of people say they’re born of God but they don’t live like God. That’s right. That’s right. I’ve been on the campus now for 15 years and I know that’s it. I guarantee – I assure you, that’s it. Students of all ages are skeptical of Christianity, not primarily because of intellectual difficulties, but because those who say they’re born of God don’t live like people who are born of God. Now if you sense this morning that some of these things speak to you, don’t cover up the symptoms. Don’t! Don’t argue about them, don’t rationalize, don’t battle with them. That’s like having cancer and trying to pretend you haven’t cancer. That’s why I started, loved ones, with the illustration about the pink and red pills. Why not go to the medicine cabinet and get the pink pills? Why not go before God this morning and say, “God, I thought I was born again and I thought I was your child. But from that description given this morning, I’m not! So God, I ask you now, will you show me what things I have to leave off in my life so that you can put the Spirit of your Son inside me and make me new? Lord, I want to be myself as you intended me to be. I want to come alive inside. I want to be real and alive with you. Will you show me what I have to put aside so that your Spirit can come in and make me new?” And loved ones, God will do it with you as he did it with me. He’ll be faithful. He will come into you and you’ll sense a new spirit inside you, and you’ll be a changed person this day. That can be for you if you are really serious about beginning to be a real, alive person and no longer just a robot. Let us pray. Dear God, we would ask you to show us if there is any unreality in our lives that prevents you making us what you wanted us to be in the first place. Dear God, if you see any sins in our lives that we have simply been rationalizing, or pretending weren’t there, will you convict us now of those sins so that we can deal with those habits that we’ve got used to, that make us so course that your Spirit cannot dwell within us. Lord, we’ve felt great emptiness at times in our lives and a terrible boredom at times with life itself, and we see that part of it is because we’re managing the whole thing on our own and we really are boring without you. So Lord God, will you reveal to us if there are any sins that we need to put away and stop doing so that you can bring your Spirit into our lives and make us alive inside. Dear God, if we have done that honestly, and have resolved never to touch those things again, will you now send the Spirit of your Son into us, and will you make us alive inside, Holy Spirit, so that we are able to know God as our own dear Father and to love him, and to love our friends, and our colleagues the way you dear Father, love us. We ask this for your own satisfaction Father and for the sake of our own salvation. 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 ever more. Amen.
Can You Ever be Free of Sin? - NEWBIRTH
Can You Ever Be Free of Sin? Romans 7:15 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill James Boswell wrote an almost word-by-word biography of Samuel Johnson. Boswell kept his own diary as well and he writes this in it, “For Sunday, November 28, 1762, I went to St. James’ Church and heard service and a good sermon on by what means shall a young man learn to order his ways in which the advantages of early piety were well displayed. What a curious inconsistent thing is the mind of man. In the midst of divine service I was laying plans for having a woman and yet I had the most sincere feelings of religion.” That’s written in 1762 and it’s now about 220 years later, but I wonder how many of us would say, “Well I’m embarrassed to hear that but I’m more embarrassed because I myself have done the same thing. At moments in my life when I’ve wanted above all to do good I’ve found something rising inside me that seems a monstrosity. It seems filled with all the evil that I thought I left behind years ago and yet it does seem to be me.” This was so real that Robert Louis Stevenson, another novelist, put it into a book called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” He wrote to a friend called Low in America and said, “Well, I’m afraid it could be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Low or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Stevenson just as easily.” Dr. Jekyll was the generous, philanthropic, religious doctor who was always helping the down and out and helping the prostitutes but he took a drug that sprang loose from him a mad beast of a man called Hyde who actually used and murdered prostitutes. So Jekyll at times would find the desire to take the drug and change into Hyde almost overwhelming. But he kept on saying, “The thing is; I feel that Hyde is me also. I feel it’s not just Jekyll, I feel I am Hyde also.” Then Dostoyevsky had Mitya in “The Brothers Karamazov” say, “God and the Devil are fighting inside each of us. The battlefield is the heart of man.” He wrote “In every man a demon lies hidden: the demon of rage, the demon of lustful hate and the screams of the tortured victim. The demon of lawlessness let off the chain; the demon of diseases that follow on vice.” I don’t know if there’s one man or woman here this morning who, though they may not paint the enemy within in as vivid terms, knows that enemy. I don’t know if there’s one of us here who has not found that at the very moment when we wanted to do what was right, we found that there was a lion within us that rose up and seemed to tear off after the most savage things. I don’t know if there’s one of us here who haven’t found at the most holy moments of our lives, maybe when we were about to pronounce the wedding vows or when we were about to say something to our own mother, have found rising up within us a savage creature that we find impossible to control at different times. Joseph Conrad wrote his novel “The Heart of Darkness” and he said, “This seems like the journey into a dense jungle where I find a man that is barely human. But it’s actually the journey into my own heart, into a heart of darkness that I dare only look at from time-to-time but whose influence I feel all the time in my life, virtually every day.” Most of us say, “Well, yes I have found that; I’ve found a desire to criticize people and rip them apart at the very moment when I was praising them and trying to be nice to them. I’ve found a desire to say ugly and cruel things to a person when I’ve been trying to be the kindest I could possibly be to them. I’ve gone home at times determined to be good and to be kind and I’ve ended up making the evening a hell for my friends. I find there’s a Pandora’s Box of evils inside me that wants to lash out of lust, and hate, and criticism, and selfishness that I know isn’t me. It isn’t me. I can’t say it’s me, because I myself am desirous to be civilized and religious.” And yet loved ones, it does seem to be you, doesn’t it? We human beings get round it in a “religious way.” We say, “Well, it’s not me you see, it’s my sinful nature, that’s what it is.” Even those of us who are children of God say, “We can have our sins forgiven but we never get rid of our sinful nature, it’s there forever, you can’t overcome it. It’s there all the time and forever. No religion, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, no religion can touch it. That’s the struggle you see, that’s the strife, that’s the conflict, that’s the battle of faith that you have to fight for the rest of your life. That’s your sinful nature. It’s not really me and that’s, to tell you the truth, how I live with it. I know it may sound to you like schizophrenia but that’s how I live with it. It’s my sinful nature it’s not me. If I once admitted it was me I’d go bonkers completely. It’s not me, it’s my sinful nature. I myself am a good Christian, or a good Buddhist, or a good Mohammadin, or a good Confucius. But that sinful nature, everybody knows, can never be overcome in this present life.” And most of us who say that go to this book [the Bible] for our justification. We do and these verses we’ll look at are the basis on which Stevenson wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was writing to a friend, explaining what the book was about, and he said, “It’s that business of the war in our members, that’s what it’s all about.” So it is from this book [the Bible] loved ones, that most of us believe that. Romans 7:15, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” See, we say we want the right thing, “It’s not me — I want the right thing.” “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.” So, it’s not really my fault, I myself want to be good and I want to be Godly, I want to be generous, I want to be kind, and I want to be pure. Then verse 17, “So then it is no longer I that do it,” see, it’s not me, “but sin which dwells within me.” And this is the argument we get into, we say, “It’s some other power – sin — and I can’t control it. I don’t know what to do with it but it’s not I that am doing it, you see, it is, ‘Sin which dwells within me.’” Verse 18: “For I know that nothing good dwells within me” And we say, “I know inside I seem to have a mass of hatred and evil but you see it is my flesh; “that is, in my flesh.” It’s my sinful nature, its sin; it’s not me because you see in verse 18, “I can will what is right.” So my will is actually pure in this matter, I will what is right it’s just I cannot do it. To rephrase verse 17 again, “For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.” And that’s the explanation we give. We say, “That’s right. That’s exactly my spot. I respect all that you say. I respect the 10 commandments, even though I don’t believe in God. I want to be good. I want to live by the golden rule. I want to do the best that the best philosophers and the ethical teachers in this world tell me to do but I tell you, there’s something in me; my flesh, sin, sinful nature, that won’t let me do it. So there you are you see. I’m just in the hands of something that is greater than me and I can’t do anything about it and there it is.” And here’s Paul saying, “That’s right. That’s the situation I was in.” We can go on and read verse 21 and say, “Boy those are the very words that I would use.” The words that Paul uses are, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” That’s right. It seems at the very times that I want to do good evil is right there, verse 22, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” So you see, there’s a law in my members; a law, not in the sense of a law about the speed limit, but a law in the sense of the law of gravity; it describes the way something happens. In the law of gravity you don’t have to say, “Bible, fall,” if you let go of it, it falls; it finds it easy to fall. So it’s the same, “I find a law in my members.” I don’t have to tell them to do evil they just do evil; it just comes naturally to them. So often we go to Paul’s words and we say at the end of verse 24 with him, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And most of us say, “That’s it, there it is; there in the Bible is Paul’s outline of the Christian life. He is one of the saints, one of the great teachers in our world, and that’s his conclusion, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ That’s the same spot I’m in.” But that’s not the last verse of that chapter. The chapter doesn’t end there with “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Look at verse 25; it doesn’t end at verse 24 with the cry of despair, it ends at verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” In other words he says, “Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God, through Jesus Christ our Lord will deliver you and deliver me. But then, if you’re awake this morning and not just believing me because I say it, you’ll say, “Yeah, but wait a minute the chapter doesn’t end there either. Look, after that exclamation mark, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.’ So there it is. So really what he [Paul] means by that, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” is actually that we can never do anything else than serve the law of God with our minds, and with our flesh serve the law of sin. We can never be freed from it. We’ll always be in that position that we’ll have to believe with our minds that God’s law is good but with our bodies and our flesh we’ll serve the law of sin. But ‘Thanks be to God’ because despite that, Jesus’ blood will continually cover our sins and God therefore will look upon us as people who have not sinned. So we can sin like mad because we can’t help it, but nevertheless God will keep on saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but because you believe in my Son Jesus I ignore that.” And that’s, I think, what most people today will say. Really loved ones, so that you may be sure about it; the greater part of Christendom will say that and that’s why the world looks at Christendom and says, “You happy creatures with your bumper stickers, ‘Christians are not perfect only forgiven.’ You happy souls, yeah that’s your out, but we’re the people who have to live with you and you can be pretty miserable you Christians who say, ‘Oh you’re forgiven and you’re going to get into heaven because Jesus’ blood covers you and you can’t overcome this sinful nature.’ But we’re the guys that have to put up with your sinful nature and with all your high flown talk and your hypocritical ways. Loved ones the world doesn’t like what it sees of religious people, and a lot of those religious people call themselves Christians unfairly, but they call themselves Christians. So the world doesn’t like what it sees in most people who call themselves Christians because it sees a crowd of people who kind of think, “Oh you [Charles] Manson,” or, “You [Leonid}] Brezhnev you’re doing wrong and at the end of this life you will go to hell and you’ll burn forever in fire and brimstone. I am not unlike you; I hate the way you hate. I have critical desires inside, but I believe in Jesus, so I’m going to go to heaven even though I’m no different from you.” Loved ones, its tricky stuff; it’s a tricky pill to swallow. You may sit there today and you may determine, “Brother, you’re wrong in attacking that because that’s the pill I’m swallowing.” Well loved ones, all I’ll say to you is, it’s not too logical and it doesn’t make too much sense to the world, and frankly, I don’t think it makes too much sense to this dear book [Bible] actually. You see, there are several problems with this way of thinking if this is what this chapter is saying, that we can do no better than always serve the law of sin with our flesh, then I would point out that if you go on in the next chapter, Paul is then saying that all Christians will die eternally. That’s right. If he’s saying, “With my mind I serve the law of God but with my flesh I serve the law of sin and that’s a normal Christian life.” Then look what he says about such people in Romans 8:13. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” So do you see what he’s saying? He says in Romans 7 that all we can do is live by the flesh and then he says in Romans 8:13 that if you live by the flesh you’ll die. So it’s madness! Paul is saying the best that the Christian life offers in Romans 7 is that you are overcome continually by the sinful nature and you live in the flesh, and then he says in Romans 8 that all people who live like that will die. There’s no sense to it loved ones and you should really write the guy off as an idiot with a low IQ who can’t even remember what he wrote in the previous chapter. Except — that you can’t buy that, can you? Because he was taught in the Pharisaical schools and he was a shrewd and highly intelligent man, and a man that all the world looks to as one of those who has seen deepest into life’s problems. But you have other difficulties too loved ones; if you look at Romans 7:23 you see a picture of defeat there, “But I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” This is a picture of captivity. He’s saying, “I see what is right to do but I’m captive to this law that works in my members.” Go to the previous chapter, and he’s talking about freedom and liberty, and he contradicts himself completely. In Romans 7 he’s saying, “Here I am under sin; I can’t get free of it.” Now look at the previous chapter, Romans 6:15, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” In other words, in Roman 6 he says, “We’re free from sin,” and in Romans 7 says, “We’re back under sin, we’re captives of sin” now it does not make sense loved ones. A lot of people refer to this sinful nature, or sin, or the flesh, as the “old self” and Paul, at the beginning of Romans 6, talks about the end of that old self which is really our old perverted personality. Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” So in Romans 6 he says, “There’s a miracle that took place in Jesus on Calvary that freed you so that you didn’t have to be bound to sin, and you didn’t have to be enslaved to that sinful nature.” And then in Romans 7 he says, “But nevertheless, the best you can ever hope for is to be enslaved to that sinful nature for the rest of your life.” Now, how do you explain it? If the man himself is not schizophrenic, or if he can’t remember what he wrote in the previous chapter – how do you explain that in Romans 6 he says you can be freed from the sinful nature — that Jekyll and Hyde inside you — and yet in Romans 7 he says you can’t be freed from it? Well loved ones, if Romans is an autobiographical account of Paul’s own experience, particularly if it’s a chronological account the thing doesn’t make sense; then if the guy’s writing it like some of those 18th century novelists with flash backs; he goes forward here, “I’m free” and then he goes back and “I’m not free” there. It makes no sense. But the fact is that the book of Romans has never been thought of as an autobiographical account of one man’s experience. It’s never been thought of as a chronological account of Paul’s own personal experience. It’s always been thought of as the outstanding theological treatise that describes how God redeems man. It’s always been thought of as the most carefully expounded outline of God’s dealings with man that we have ever had. And in fact, that’s what it is. It’s not an autobiographical account of Paul’s experience. It’s not a chronological account of a man’s experience with Jesus and with sin; it’s a theological outline of what God saves us from and the clue to it is in the first verse of Romans 6. We’ll compare it with the first verse of Romans 7. Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” In Romans 6 he deals with that lion inside us, that sinful nature, that old self, that evil flesh that always wants its own way, that wants to overwhelm anybody else to get its own way, that self that produces hatred, and anger, and resentment, and dirt. That has been crucified with Christ, and we are freed from it the moment we believe that. We can live free from this desire inside us to do evil. Then we say, “Oh good. I’m freed from that so now I can go and obey the law.” He says in Romans 7:1, “Do you not known, brethren – for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during his life?” He says, “No, stop, you don’t go to the law. When you let your old self, your motivational center, your real being die with Jesus, God sends his Spirit into you and then you obey that Spirit, you don’t obey the law. You don’t get back into that business of trying to obey regulations. You have a voice from within you that from that moment on guides you in things you don’t even think are right or wrong, that’s how subtle it is. So he says, “In Romans 6 you’re freed from the desire and the power that makes you do evil and in Romans 7 you’re freed from the law that was once the only way that the world had to help you to do good; because now there is a higher way.” And you see what he says in Romans 7:6, “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” So he says there’s a new Spirit actually inside you, and that Spirit has displaced your old self and that Spirit will give you directions. If you obey that Spirit immediately, he will take you on. He will at times tell you to do things that are even finer than you ever thought of. He’ll tell you at times not to laugh too loud — the law doesn’t tell you about laughing. He’ll tell you at times to go over and speak to this person and say something to them — the law doesn’t tell you to do that. This Spirit inside you will keep you free, keep you living above self because part of the problem was not the evil things that you did but also the good things you did. You thought you were doing these things, so you were delivered not only from the evil that you did but you’re delivered from even the good that you did. Then Paul turns around to his friends who were brought up the same way as he, and that’s who chapter 7 is addressed to; it’s addressed to his friends, his fellow Jews, because he says that in Romans 7:1, “Do you not know, brethren – for I am speaking to those who know the law.” Romans 7 is for the benefit of those Jews who would be apt to say, “Good, we’re freed from the old self that made us do evil and made us get angry, now we can obey the law.” He says, “Listen, that’s not it; you’re freed from that too because there’s something better than the law within you. God has put his law in your inward parts.” So he is saying, “No, I’m speaking to you who know the law. We’re discharged from the law too.” And then he’s thinking of the Jews asking, “Do you mean the law is bad?” And then he has a great parenthesis in his discussion. He’s about to go on from that and he’s about to say, “No, you don’t look at the law, you go on into the Spirit,” and in Romans 8 he starts to talk about this Spirit that is within them, that guides them to what to do. He’s imagining their comment, “Well then, before you go on to the Spirit, was the law bad?” So he says, “No, wait, I’ll deal with that. Before I get on to telling you about this glorious Spirit inside you that changes you completely, I’ll tell you. I’ll put I’ll put parenthesis’ around this and explain.” So the parenthesis begins in Romans 7:7 loved ones. Romans 7:7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin?” No fellow Jews, “By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” So the law was good, it exposed sin within me, “But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.” So the law exposed sin. “I was once alive,” in my ignorance, “apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died;” It showed me the cancerous disease inside me, “the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me.” So no, fellow Jews, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” And he then goes on to state the truth, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.” And he begins to state this general situation in terms of a present tense; “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.” That was me as a Jew. “So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” That was the problem before Romans 6. It was I, I, I. “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want.” And so he rams it home, “The problem was that in the old days when we were Jews, we couldn’t do anything with this great burgeoning blossoming self-inside us, this massive ego that wanted its own way.” Then he sums it all up and says in verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then,” and the first Greek word in this sentence is “autos” that’s “of myself” “So then, I of myself,” left to myself, un-crucified, with Jesus doing nothing for me in regard to the old sinful nature, “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” And then the parenthesis ends and he goes on to what he was continuing to say in Romans 7:6 so in Romans 8:1 he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” In other words loved ones, Paul says to us, “You can be freed from your sinful nature.” And that might help those of you who are laboring under it. Do you see what he says? He says the same as you; you’re willing the right thing, aren’t you? Those of you who are children of God have already set your wills towards God and you’ve said, “I will what is right but I cannot do it.” Our problem is not the will, and maybe it’s good to see that. I think a lot of you here this morning say, “Oh, it’s my will Pastor, it’s my will.” It’s not. Look at Romans 7:23, “But I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” That’s the problem. Chapter 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” That’s the problem. You will what is right but the equipment that you have prevents you doing it and that’s what the problem is. The problem is that you have a personality, an old self, a sinful nature, that has been trying to get from people the love that it was meant to get from God. So you go to the office on Monday morning and you say, “I am not going to care what they think about me. I am going to do what is right even if they think I’m square, even if they think I’m stupid. I’m going to do what is right.” But for years your little eyes have been looking out for the boss’ approval. For years your little ears have been listening for somebody to praise you so that you can build up your self-esteem and your whole personality is built on receiving in from other people the love that you need to get from God alone. So you want to do it, but the moment comes when they crack the dirty joke and you know you need to say “Well, I don’t think that’s very funny.” Or, you need to say, “Well, that certainly makes dirt of life, doesn’t it?” But the little eyes and ears are so used to it that you laugh, or smirk, and walk away and so you say, “I was able to will what is right but I wasn’t able to do it” because your personality has been perverted and bent so strongly towards receiving that love from others instead of from God that you cannot overcome it. Now loved ones that was crucified with Christ; God destroyed that old personality of yours in Jesus. That’s what happened on Calvary. That old self of yours was crucified with Christ and the moment you believe that and stop pleading and whining, “Oh you see, I have my father’s personality,” or, “I have my mother’s personality,” or, “I’ve got this from my environment,” or, “Oh all we poor human beings we’re all naturally critical,” or, “We’re all naturally sarcastic,” or, “We’re all naturally dirty and lustful.” The sooner you stop saying that lie and say, “Wait a minute, this book says that our old self was crucified with Christ. That means it was crucified and its power to prevent me doing what is right has gone. I believe that and I will do what is right from this day on and I will obey you Holy Spirit.” Loved ones, the moment you do that, that moment you’ll enter into liberty and deliverance. You will. It’s only possible because Jesus has done it, but it has been done. And the power over you is not your will because you can will what is right. Before you’re a child of God you don’t even will what is right, but you can will what is right (once you are a child of God). The power over you is not your will, but it is the lie that that personality of yours will not work the right way. And the moment you believe the truth that that old self was crucified with Christ and that right up to this very moment all that you have been over the past years of your life has been destroyed by God, the moment you believe that and you believe you’re starting with a clean slate this morning, and that you can listen to the Holy Spirit within you and can do what he tells you, that moment that Spirit will begin to take you into a new life. That’s true. It happened to me and it’s true. Let us pray. Dear Father, thank you for showing so plainly in your dear book here that it is a lie, this belief that we cannot do what is right. That it is a lie, this belief that the sinful nature is too strong for us. That it is a lie that men and women must live their lives continually in conflict with themselves, continually unable to live above sin. Dear God, we see the world looks at us and says, “Why don’t you live like you preach?” Lord, it’s as if your world even, who often claims not to know you, testifies to the truth of what happened in Jesus on Calvary. So Father, thank you that all that I have been over these past years, with all the ruts in my personality that have developed, with all the constraints that have worked themselves out into my will, and my mind, and my emotions; all that was crucified in Christ and that is finished with and I am no longer alive; I have died and my life is hid with Christ in God. It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives within me. Lord, thank you that I can believe that truth this morning and I can walk from this day forward as Jesus walked. I can listen to the same Spirit as he listened to and you dear Holy Spirit, will direct me into stronger and stronger paths that are more and more like Jesus himself. Thank you Lord. 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 ever more.
Transcending Self - NEWBIRTH
Transcending Self Romans 7:15 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill I doubt if there was one of us last week who didn’t identify with what we were talking about; “I do not understand my own actions because I don’t do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.” And probably there isn’t one of us here that cannot say, “Yeah, that’s where I either am or have been” and we’ve found that the great enemy of mankind is not knowing what is right. All of us know what’s right, although we may differ on what we think is right, but we all have ideas on what is right. But the great enemy of mankind is not that; the great enemy of mankind is this inability to do what is right. There probably isn’t one of us here this morning that has not struggled with that either with some big thing like marijuana or heroine, or some obvious thing like alcohol, or fornication, or adultery, or some subtle and shrewd thing like depression, and worry, and anxiety. We know it’s not right to worry and be anxious and fret but we do. We do; we waken up in the morning with knots in our stomach about what’s going to happen that day. We know it’s wrong but we can’t control it. So it isn’t only sexual things like masturbation, or adultery, or fornication but it’s very ordinary things that a lot of us, who look like very respectable moral people, have trouble with. Even if it’s just little hatreds, or little resentments against other people or little critical attitudes that destroy good friendships that you have. Many of us know that experience, “I can will what is right. I can will it and I want to do it. I not only desire to do it, I try with all my will to do it. I can will what is right but I cannot do it.” I think many of us have been in the same position that I was in, I really thought I was becoming insane with the whole thing. I felt like I was becoming a schizophrenic. I could think all kinds of good things about God, I could make all kinds of high and moral resolutions, but in my own mind, where nobody else can see, I would have the most monstrous, evil, unclean thoughts rising from the depths of my being that I could not control and I didn’t know what to do with them. Many of us would say, “That’s it; everybody faces that. Romans 7 is what we’re all facing, that’s where life is. That’s why Paul said, ‘Wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” That’s why there’s the cry of defeat not only in Buddhism and Islam, not only in spiritualism and TM but there’s the cry of defeat here in Christianity. There’s no way out of that. The only way out is to get your God to forgive it as often as you commit it. But there’s no way to stop doing it.” And last Sunday we pointed out that Chapter 7 doesn’t end there. Chapter 7 answers that cry of despondence, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” By the statement, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And then the summarizing statement, “Left to myself,” that is on my own without Jesus Christ, without this miracle in my life, “I will serve the law of God with my mind but with my flesh I’ll serve the law of sin.” Then Paul goes on in Romans 8 to say, “Now I want to get on with what I was telling you about in Romans 6 because Romans 7 is a parenthesis where I explain to the Jews that that’s the best that we could under the law. That’s all we could do; we could know what was right but we weren’t able to do it. Now it wasn’t because the law was bad, the law did many things for me but it brought me to this point of despair at the end of Romans 7. Now Romans 6 is what is true. The fact is there was a miracle done on Calvary that enables us to live above self.” Because isn’t that what you and I have identified it as being: self? When you want to jump into bed with somebody that isn’t your wife, it’s self that wants it. Self wants it own way. When somebody criticizes you and you rise up in indignation, it’s self that’s rising up, isn’t it? Have you worked out yet when you get depressed? It’s always the same time; thinking about yourself, thinking about how you’re going to survive financially, thinking about how you’re going to succeed in your career, thinking about what other people are thinking of you, thinking about whether you’re enjoying yourself or not. And the moment you’re able to burst out of that cage of self you are able to burst out of depression and anxiety and worry. That’s really what all the great religious leaders have identified as being man’s problem: self. And of course they’ve taken all kinds of ways to find an answer to it. Buddha said, “What makes life unpleasant is suffering and what causes suffering is pain, and what registers and feels pain is the self so if you can negate the self, if you can eliminate the self, you can eliminate pain, and you can eliminate suffering, and eliminate unhappiness.” You remember it was Buddha that originated the whole system of meditation whereby we always think of him sitting under the tree in that famous yoga position of meditation and he simply annihilates or attempts to annihilate self. The problem is of course that when you annihilate self and its feelings and its consciousness, it seems that you annihilate everything that makes us human. Buddhists are remarkable for their lack of compassion and empathy with other people, and that runs through all the systems of transcendental meditation that attempt to get rid of self by annihilating it. You try to eliminate self itself and you find that you’re ceasing to be a human being because you’re annihilating the personality. That’s why we’re always so unhappy with the person who is a crusader for some cause. That’s why so many parents are put off by their over enthusiastic offspring when they first discover the truth at university; because they seem to bring the truth home as a crusade, as a principle, as a set of techniques and the older person realizes you lose your humanity when you get preoccupied with an it. You only find your humanity while you’re preoccupied with an I- thou relationship, not an I-it relationship. Many of us have tried all kinds of eastern religions and even the occult and spiritualism to eliminate the problem of self, but all we succeed in doing is annihilating self and pretending it isn’t there and we find that we become less than human. Indeed many of us find that that kind of self-managed annihilation of self is often the most egotistical experience of all. Its popular today to suggest another solution “let it all hang out. Don’t fight it. That’s you. You are really an ugly, angry, selfish, lustful monster; let it all hang out express it and you’ll get rid of it. Be angry. If you feel angry be angry. If you lose your temper, lose your temper. Do whatever you do. Be what you are.” The tragedy is, nobody else wants to live with you, nobody else wants to have anything to do with you and sooner or later even those of us who have passed through that kind of thing have had, sooner or later, to modify that solution because actually it just tears everybody apart if you’re angry when you want to be angry. It tears the whole place apart. There’s no way in which you can have relationships if you act what you are because you’re rotten, you’re miserable, you’re wretched, you’re the most antisocial monster, and you’re not a beautiful wonderful person that has come straight from heaven. You are a miserable monster that has been molded so often not by only your family and your hereditary, but your environment and by your own wishes and your own will. And so many of us who have tried that self-expression stuff know that it’s alright for the psychiatrist couch and it’s all right for an odd little experiment at school, but it doesn’t make a marriage stick together and it doesn’t make businesses stick together because they require some degree of restraining of the selfish impulse. There is of course another popular answer and that is religion’s answer; hold the self-down, do your best; will yourself to build up that which is good in you and to hold down that which is bad. That’s what the guy said who played Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire. Because the actor is somebody who has no respect for God or religion they asked him how he played the part. He said, “Well, I read the Bible a lot, and then I suppressed all the bad parts of my nature, and I expressed and encouraged the good parts.” Too many of us have sympathy with that because we realize that is exactly what we do and think that’s the way to be a Christian. So there is an approach that is based on will power that attempts to repress the selfish things and encourage the good things. Except that you never seem to get rid of self that way, it always seems to be rising up. Loved ones, the problem is not self. The problem is not your personality. We don’t need to annihilate our personalities. We don’t need to destroy the self, that’s the very real part of you. But the problem is that it’s working the wrong way. Our personalities are working the wrong way round; a perversion has crept into us human beings down through the centuries that has been bred into each generation as it passed and that personality, perverted though it is, has become the norm for us. That’s why we find ourselves in the same position as Paul, “I can will what is right but I can’t do it because there seems another law at work in my members.” In other words he says, “I know its right and I can will what is right and I want to do it with all my heart but it seems I have some monkey in here that is operating the other way. I want to do it one way and this monster inside me wants to do it the other.” In other words, “I can will what is right but the equipment is bad.” And despite all the attempts of the Buddhist’s, the TM’ers, and the positive thinkers, all those are attempts to try and control, reroute, rerun and reprogram that equipment. Loved ones the fact is human beings can’t reprogram it. That’s why all those solutions are only partial. There’s only one way to reprogram something that has gone badly off and that’s to send it back to the manufacturer and have him do it, and that’s what happened. I’d like to share with you very quickly what this dear book says about the solution. There’s a verse in here that outlines our personality, our psychology. It runs like this, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you holy and may he make your spirit and your soul and your body blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus.” That’s what this book outlines as a working basis for understanding our personality. Now, any of you who have studied psychology know you can’t open up a person in an operation and pop out the soul, “Ah, there’s your soul.” You can’t whip in there, pop out your spirit and say, “There’s your spirit.” And it is three levels on which our personality works. Spirit is the inner most part of us, the real me, I, as I really am deep down; I myself, the thing that makes me unique and different from all of you. That’s spirit that’s the inner most part. Then it wears like a coat my soul, and then it wears like a coat my body. And then it so happens that if you go through this book and look up all the times that the word spirit occurs, you find that it means the ability to commune with a higher being than yourself and the ability to know from that higher being, by intuition, what he wants you to do in this present life. And that ties up with what I suggested: that each one of us here is unique — not just to make a very diverse world, but because you can do something for your Maker that none of the rest of us here in this room can do. And it’s through intuition that he can tell you what that is. It’s through intuition that Einstein sensed, “I’m not supposed to be sitting on this stool of this patent office year after year after year. I’ve to be doing something else.” It’s that that got into a John Milton caused him to say, “I’ve to do something else.” It’s that that gets into somebody ordinary like you or me and begins to indicate to us what the Maker put you here to do, and then your conscience judges you and constrains your will on the basis of that. That’s your spirit. The word “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche” which becomes our word psyche and “psuche logos” is the knowledge of the soul which is psychology. That refers to the mental part of us; our will, our mind that is able to reason and to judge things, our emotions that are able to feel emotions. Then the body has its own kind of trinity. So the way God intended that to work loved ones is he intended to let you know, “I want you to paint certain kinds of paintings.” Or “I put you here to write certain things.” Or “I’ve put you here to do a certain job in engineering or in plumbing.” Or “I put you here to bring a certain order into the trees of this land.” Or “I’ve put you here to do certain things with finances that only you can do.” Or “I’ve put you here to type in such a way that you bring order into a certain business.” In other words, he puts something into your mind that he wants you to do and then he wants to work that out through your whole personality so that you live from within so you’d operate from within. You’d do things because you knew the Maker wanted you to do them. Now if you say to me, “Oh, I’d think the Maker was sitting on my shoulder,” no at times you wouldn’t be very conscious. Einstein wasn’t very conscious that the Maker was putting thoughts into his mind, but when anybody asked him to explain where he got his ideas he said, “All ideas come from God.” He was in no doubt that the intuition that you have, your best thoughts, come from beyond and our Maker wanted us to operate like, that so that we would not operate according to the Gallop Polls, we would not buy Alberto VO5 because “they” told us to do it, we would buy Tylenol or not buy Tylenol because “they” told us to do it. We would live our own lives from within, being our own people and beginning to make the world as infinitely diverse and exciting as the Maker intended it to be. You can see in that way our will would obey our conscious and our mind would understand what our will wanted done and would express it in thoughts. Our emotions would express the joy of our relationship with our Maker and then that would begin to fill the world with order so that probably we’d have discovered the oil field that Standard Oil proclaimed they’ve now discovered off the coast of California, a giant oil field, we’d have discovered that without all the seagulls that have died in the messes that we had on the Santa Barbara coast. And we would not have gotten into this wild OPEC recession that we have been involved in these past years, but we would operate as the Maker wanted us to operate. Well the fact was, we decided, “Forget it; we’re going to do it our own way. We’re going to deal with this world the way we want. We’re not going to be dependent on this Manager that has made the world. We’re going to do what we want.” And we began to operate the other way; we began to look to the world for the love that our Maker was ready to give us and when the Maker gives you love; you have a great sense of security. You suddenly believe, “Boy, the Maker of the world is looking after me, why do I need to worry about where the next meal is coming from because he’ll take care of it. He’s put me here so he has a job for me to do. He’ll take care and provide for me.” So you have a great sense of security and a great sense of significance because you know that although, “All the other people may be brighter than me, they may be more intelligent, they may be richer, they may be healthier, they may be older, they may be younger, but they’re not me. They’re not me. Father, I thank you that you put me here. I’m unique in the world and I have something to do that only I can do.” It’ll give you a great sense of meaning, a great sense of value and a great sense of worth. A great sense that you were important to the one person with whom it matters. And you’d have a great sense of happiness because you simply enjoyed walking through his world with him. Loved ones, when we turned against him and decided to live our own way we had to get all those things from somewhere, so we started to try to get it from each other and we started to try and get security from the world. That’s why we end up spending so much of our time trying to earn a bit of money to get more food, to get more shelter, to get more clothing. And that’s why we spend so much time in this hunt for significance; we’re always looking for somebody to approve of us. Wouldn’t you agree that so often the good grade is not so vital because it means we have a great knowledge of our subject, but the grade puts us higher in everybody’s estimation and seems to make us feel important. How many things do we buy because other people will like them or because it’s supposed to be the in thing to have one of these, because we desperately have to try to get this significance from somebody else? It’s the same with the happiness thing; we so often hate bad circumstances because it means unhappiness and we are so often preoccupied with trying to make circumstances good because it makes us happy. So really, we’ve become slaves. Rather than depending on our Maker, we try to take all of our security, significance and happiness from the world and in the process we’ve perverted our own functions. Our will no longer obeys our conscience; our will sometimes just obeys our minds or emotions and sometimes there’s hardly any will there at all. The mind no longer understands; it spends its time manipulating, “How do I manipulate these stocks to make myself secure? How do I manipulate this car into a bigger car or a better car to make me more secure?” The emotions are preoccupied with getting joy. It’s not so much, unfortunately, in marriage about what joy can I give the other person, but how much joy can I get from the other person. Do you see what we’re talking about when we talk about the perversion of the self? That’s what’s wrong. That’s why I can will what is right because even though we’ve almost died, and that’s what happens; the spirit dies completely when you stop dealing with God, so even though we’ve almost died, yet the conscience is still in some sense alive and it still wriggles inside and says, “Yeah, but you ought to do this.” And sometimes the will says, “Yeah, I want to do it. I want to do it” but it’s impossible because the whole personality operates the other way. So you have built in ruts that are absolutely invincible, and those are the ruts that we try to deal with when we deal with TM, or we deal with the power of positive thinking, or we deal with those techniques for controlling your personality or controlling your temperament. It’s a foolish enterprise because it’s you with your perverted self and your perverted personality trying to cure your perverted self and your perverted personality. The whole meaning of Jesus dying on the cross is that God knew that that would happen and that in eternity, which is above time and above space, and in some sense is taking place even at this very moment as it took place 2,000 years ago, our old self was crucified with Christ. That’s what the death of Jesus means; that God actually destroyed that perverted personality of yours. He destroyed that old self of yours and that’s finally the only way to be liberated from it; to believe that and then to begin to submit again to this Holy Spirit so that once more you begin to come alive from inside. That’s it loved ones; you reckon yourself to be dead, indeed unto sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus and you yield your members to the Holy Spirit, it’s the only way. I would speak especially to those of you who are in agony as to how to get free from self and in agony as to how to transcend self, there is only one way and that is through what God has done to your old self in Jesus on the cross. And the only way for that to be real in you is to believe it first, and to be willing to believe it. You have to be willing no longer to get security from things, no longer to get significance from what other people think of you, but to be satisfied with one person only, and that’s the One who made you. So loved ones, will you start today? Will you look to the only one who’s opinion of you matters? And he will guide you into all the truth. Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen.
Are We Born again? - NEWBIRTH
Are We Born Again? 1 John 3:9 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill What is it to be born of God? That’s really what I’d like to try and talk about, what it means to be born of God? And I won’t ask you to look up references for this first part because we’ve already talked about it before. You remember, how we’ve said that the very first step that we can see in scripture is that verse in Colossians 1:15 where Jesus was the first born of all creation and he is the very image of God, and he was born first of all, the only begotten Son and that that was the first step. And then that the second step was this one in Ephesians 2:10, that God created us in Christ Jesus for good works, which He had prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And then that God himself, gave us free will in Jesus and explained to the Savior that, “I have to give these men and women free will. If they are going to be part of you and therefore part of me, I have to give them free will, we ourselves have free will.” And there is a verse that later on you can look up afterwards its 30:19-20, “Behold I have set before you life and death, chose life that you may live.” And God at that point set before us life and death and said, “Now, I have put you in my Son and you can chose that or you can chose death.” And then you remember he foresaw what some men and women would do, if not all in deed. And the lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world. God said to his Son, “Now you and I have to bear the consequences of what we have done. If they chose not to receive us, if they chose not to be in you, if they chose not to be part of us, my Son we have to bear that. Now I ask you if you will bear that.” And that’s you remember, where the verse in Isaiah it is, it pleased the Lord – it was God’s will to bruise Jesus. That is, it was his will to ask the Savior to bear that pain for us and that that is, I think, at 53:12. And all that happened there. The lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world right there and everything was prepared and then God created Genesis 1:1. God created the earth and gave us free will. And from that point on of course, we chose one way we rebelled against the whole idea of being in Christ. We rebelled against the whole idea of depending on God. We rebelled against the whole idea of being part of another person and we resolved simply to go our own way and that is the way that the world has been going since it was created. And during all that time you remember, we talked about Romans 8:28, all that time all things have been working together to conform us to the image of Jesus. Everything that happens to us works to say to us, “Look, this is what happened. This is what happened. Turn, turn, turn.” Now, there is a great danger I think, for you all and for me to look at that and say, “That seems reasonable. Not only reasonable but that seems scriptural so I believe that. So then, what I must do now is to live in Christ. I’ve been created in Christ and I’ve to live in Christ and Christ has to live in me.” And it’s very easy for us to think that therefore, all we need is a mental adjustment to that and to start trying to live in Jesus. And there are all kinds of people that try to do that and they end up just in a mystical meditation and mental assent that brings them into the same position as the Jewish people who were under the Law. That is, they end up trying they end up trying to be like Christ even though they themselves are actually out of Christ. They try to be like Christ. Really what Satan said to Eve, “You shall be as God.” And they want to go this way but be like God, and so there are many Christians, many church people are the same as Jews who live under the old dispensation. They live in a constant futile frustrated life of sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven. And yet they continue on this downward path all the time. It’s important therefore to see that it’s not enough to believe because that’s the problem. The great parts of Christendom think all you have to do is believe this. After all, whosoever believes is not condemned it says so you just have to believe. And so people try to believe that and what they really do is they believe and they try. They just believe and try. And that’s why most of Christendom has ended up in utter frustration, they try to live as people who have been born of the Spirit but they can’t and so they just keep on, “I believe that, I believe that. I must try to make it real in my life so I have to try. I just have to try harder.” And so Christendom lives off books, and books, and books that are designed to teach us how to try better, how to try harder. First step, it seems to me to some degree of reality in your life, is to see that there are people who believe and do not love God at all. Look at James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” Even the demons believe and shudder. It’s vital that we see that even the devil believes. This is reality so even the devil believes this so it is possible to believe this and still to be a devil. It is not enough just to say you believe and you want to try. Jesus told us plainly what is needed Mark 1:15. Mark 1:15, “And saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.’” So Jesus was saying, “Everything has been done. The feast is spread. My Father has created you in me, he has crucified you in me, and everything is ready.” Now, not just belief but repent and repent is in Greek “metanoia” and in English transliteration it is “metanoia” and some of you who know something about noose and pneumatic in English know that that is your mind and meta is to change. And first of all it means you yourself have to change your mind, you have to change your way of thinking about your own life and you have to decide whether you’re willing to do that. You have to decide, “Am I willing to change my mind about my birth that I have not actually been born first and foremost of my parents? That I have been born first and foremost in Jesus and that he is my Father and that I owe my life to him and I don’t owe my life primarily to my mother but I owe my life to him.” It means changing your mind about your own parentage. It means changing your mind about the way you think life should go for you. It means changing your mind about your feeling that you have a right to live your life the way you please or you have a right to do with your life what you please. It means changing your mind about who actually is in you. It means changing your mind about the idea that this is your life, that this is you in this body and that you can do with this body what you want. It means believing at last reality that this is Christ’s life and that this is not your life, and that Christ alone has the right to do what he wants with this life and not you. It means loved ones, at least that but it does mean changing your mind about those things and if you still have a mind that thinks, “Oh well, my mother, you know, is not really just my sister she’s really my mother I owe everything to her and my father is not just my elder brother he’s really my father and I owe everything to him.” Then you haven’t changed your mind because in fact, reality is that you and I were made in Jesus and we are part of him, and we owe everything to him and he is in fact, our ever lasting Father. And the other is true, that this is a lie and deception that God has allowed to take place so that we would be free to work out all that he has done here. You can see that he did all that in eternity and then he provided time for us to work that out in our free wills. And so what is being worked out here is what God has done there and it’s vital for us to change our mind about who is in this life. If you still think, “This is my life. I’m my own person. I have the right to act on my own. I have the right to think my own thoughts. I ought not to do bad things, but I have the right to do what I think is right.” If you have that feeling that you’re still on your own, that this is still your own life, that this is not anybody else’s life but yours, in other words, if you still think that this life has only you to answer to and you don’t think that Jesus, that this is his life, that this is absolutely his life that everybody else calls you by your first name but you know better, you know that Jesus is the name of this person here. If you don’t change your mind about that then you aren’t repenting. The second part of repentance is not by any means just the mental change of mind but it is a volitional change. Volition is will. It means that you stop doing those things. That you stop thinking that way about your parentage, you stop thinking that way about whose life this is, and you stop doing the things that spring from that attitude of mind. You actively exercise your will to stop that. Now that’s what Jesus means when he says, “Repent.” And when you repent then a mighty change takes place and all of eternity flows in to you here this little spec in time and all of eternity comes in and the Holy Spirit works the miracle of making eternity real in you and bringing you eternal life. But above all, making all this real in you and then you are born of the Spirit. Now that loved ones, is a mighty change and God works that change and he works it in response to an honest repentance. A repentance that means a change in the way you think about your life and that means a change in your will. It means you stop doing the things that really you have developed all through your life on the basis of the fact that this is your life and not anyone else’s, on the basis that you owe only what you do owe to your parents and to nobody else. But when you change that will – in other words, when you actually not simply believe it but when you say, “Lord God, thank you I am willing for that. I am willing to be destroyed in Christ and to be born from the Spirit and to come into you Lord Jesus, and for you to come into me and live your life over again in me.” Then a mighty change takes place and the Holy Spirit enables you to be born from above. The new birth is the only thing that will enable us to live this life. Now, all I’d like to say very plain is that is a change from darkness into light. That is being translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. That is a different kind of life and that life has certain clear qualities and clear symptoms that you cannot mistake. I’ll show you one of them 1 John 3:9. 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God,” no one who experiences that new birth, “commits sin.” Why? “For God’s nature,” you can see that, “God’s nature abides in him.” Christ lives in him, “And he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.” It’s just very clear. It’s just very clear and very plain a person, who is born of God, and you see how it explains it, a person who is born of God does not sin. He cannot sin because now it is not him that is alive, it is Christ that is alive and he is translated utterly into a whole new way of life. Sin is no problem to him. It isn’t a problem not to sin because his whole heart is that of Jesus and he finds himself wanting to go the way Jesus wants so there’s an absolute change in him. And so he doesn’t sin not because he says, “I must not sin, I must not sin otherwise I’m not born of God so I have to not sin so that I can prove it.” No, no, it’s not backwards like that at all. That’s like a person who is dead saying, “I’ll have to breathe, I’ll have to breathe to prove I’m alive and not dead.” When you’re dead, you can’t breathe. That’s it. In order to breathe you have to come alive. So it’s foolishness to say, “Oh well, I’ll have to try not to sin.” It’s like saying, “I have to try to breathe. I have to try to see. I have to try to hear.” No, those are all symptoms that you have if you’re alive. So when a person is born of God they don’t sin. Why, because God’s nature abides in them. I want just to be very clear what sin is James 4:17. James 4:17, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” That’s it, nothing complicated. If you know what is right to do and you don’t do it that’s sin. You don’t need to get into all kinds of theological niceties, it’s just plain and straight, if you know what is right to do and you don’t do it then that is sin because – of course, you can see why it’s sin. If you know all of this and you don’t do it well, then you’re just rejecting what the mighty God the Creator has done in eternity and what he had in mind when he made you so you’re turning against all that is power and all that is live and all that is good in the universe. So you’re deliberately turning against it so that is saying plainly to God, “You have given me free will to reject you, I reject you.” That’s what it is. Whoever knows what is right to do and doesn’t do it that’s sin. That’s saying, “I do not want what you want. Whatever that means, I don’t want what you want.” Now, I just want us to see these things so that we do not become a bunch of hypocrites and so that we do not become a group that plays games with each other and thinks that we can play games with God. I don’t want us to do that because we’re lost if we do that. I’m lost and you’re lost if we play that kind of game so I want you to be very straight about it and not try to build a theological defense for yourself that enables you to continue to remain dead in your sins. When – because, you see what I’m saying, when this all awaits you. As long as you’re alive in this world, this awaits you. That’s why the Bible says, “Jesus came not to condemn the world but save it.” Right up until you die this is all yours. So this morning, if you feel, oh well I am not in that position, then I’m saying, “Here it is, the table is spread, the eternity is waiting, it is all alive for you.” God is saying today, “Come now and enter in. Come now and change your mind. Come now and change your will.” So that’s why I want you to see these things. Not to make you sad and not to steal your assurance from you but so that you will do whatever is needed for all this to flow in upon you because you see, that is what it is, it is a flowing in. That’s why Jesus says, “It’s a being born from above.” It’s a wonderful supernatural life that comes from him that is above yourself, it lifts you into a new realm, a realm that you can’t lift yourself into. All eternity flows into time. Eternal life comes into a little temporal being like us. That’s what it means. Now, what I’d like you to do is to be clear. Alright, what are some sins? Galatians 5 and this is where I think it’s very easy for us to play games. Galatians 5:19, flesh is “sarx” in Greek and it means the life that is independent of God. “Now the works of the flesh,” now the works of a life that is independent of God, “Are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” Now what God is saying there is, “All of these are works of the flesh. Any one of them is a work of the flesh.” You might be free from fornication for various reasons, you might be free of impurity for various reasons, you might be free of idolatry because of the society you live in, but if you have enmity towards anyone, or strife, or jealousy, or anger, or selfishness, or dissention, then you have a work of the flesh that is sin. Now if you’re angry with anybody else in this family at any time, or if you lose your temper with somebody else, if you express angry words to another person in this room, of course, if you express angry words to anybody outside this room it’s the same, but if you do that that is sin. That is sin and Christ does not sin and if Christ is in you he does not sin. So it’s very important that you and I are real about it otherwise, we become just a clever bunch of sophisticates who go and preach to the people in Thailand, and the people in China, and we ourselves live like devils. And then you see, we have a way of saying to ourselves, “Oh well, we’re trying. We’re trying.” No, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, a dead person with all the trying in the world can’t become a live person so a person who is born of the flesh cannot become a person born of the Spirit by trying. They can only do it by a total repentance and a total change of mind about who owns their life, a total change of mind about whose life this is. And only then, if they are willing to stop these things and to stop these sins, because that’s what repentance is, it’s not only changing your mind about who owns your life and changing your mind about who lives in your life, but it’s a volitional act stopping the sins that you have become conscious of in your life. And of course, before you do that you have to confess them and confess you remember, is agreeing with God about what is sin. Now, while you continue to count anger as just a refined type of failure in your personality, you are not agreeing with God. God says, “Anger is sin.” He says – you’ve heard how it was said of old time, “Whoever kills is guilty of the judgment. I say to you whoever is angry with your brother is guilty of the judgment.” Jesus said that anger is like killing just the same as unclean thoughts are like committing adultery. And what you need to see is he says that to us to help us, to save us, not to beat us down but to bring home to our hearts that if that is in our life Christ is not in our life. And it’s vital for us to allow Christ to be in our lives. What of course is really the truth is, is the dear Savior is in your life but he’s being crucified daily by your refusal to believe that he is in your life and your refusal to let him live, and your determination to behave the same way as the very soldiers that killed him behaved. So of course, it is a wretched agony that is taking place inside you. Christ himself is being crucified daily and moment-by-moment by your own attitude and you yourself are living in the midst of death and deadness. So loved ones, it’s vital to be honest about that. It’s vital for Marty, it’s vital for me to be honest about that, for Martha, for Sheila, it’s vital for each of us to be very honest. You cannot be angry with each other, you cannot have strife and dissention, you cannot argue with each other, you cannot have those things in your heart and Christ be living in you. You cannot. It is a contradiction. God’s nature abides in one who is born of God and he cannot sin because God’s nature abides in him. What we need to do is be very honest and real about our sins and then see that this very moment God is willing. This very moment but that will only continue as long as you have that attitude of mind, “You are my parent Lord Jesus. I was made in you. This is your life. You are to live this life as you please and I exercise my will along with yours to reject all sin. Everything that I know is wrong I will turn from.” Now wherever there is not a soft and yielding heart like that, then Christ does not dwell and you need to be born of God. So it’s very important that we are born of God, and it’s very important that we live in the light of what God has done in Jesus and that we live the life of one who was born of God. If you don’t live that life you are not born of God. So loved ones, I do ask you please not to lower the standard of heaven because you’re just lying to yourself. The standard of heaven and the standard of Jesus is a life above sin, above known sin and if we’re not living that life then there is the answer and God is willing every moment until we die, and then comes the judgment. He’s willing every moment to bring all this in upon us through the Holy Spirit, more than willing if we are willing to accept in our hearts and our wills what he has done in eternity. Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we see you standing before us with all of eternity in your hands and you’re holding that out to us. And we see Lord that you cannot give it to people who do not believe. We see you can only fill us with yourself if we believe that we were made in you and owe everything to you, and you are our everlasting Father. And if we believe that this is your life it is not ours, it is yours to live you alone have the right to make decisions in it. You have the right to do with it what you want. But we do see Lord, that if we believe those things then we will exercise our will in the light of reality and we see that we will turn this very day from every known sin in our life and we will stop doing it. We will stop being angry with another person, we will stop being jealous of another person, we will stop being proud, we will stop being critical because your heart is in us. And we see Lord that your heart is here. That all the yearnings we’ve had for being good has come from you. It has been you crying out within us to be allowed to live and we have repeated rolled the stone back over the grave to keep you dead so that we could live. Lord Jesus, we see that you give us the choice this very day to roll that stone away from the mouth of the grave and to come to you on our knees and apologize with all our hearts for having buried you and to help you free from the grave clothes and to allow you to live free, and whole, and complete, and royal in this life. Amen.
Characteristics of The New Birth - NEWBIRTH
Characteristics of the New Birth Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill What is it to be born of God? That’s really what I would like to try to talk about, what it means to be born of God. And I won’t ask you to look up references for this first part because we’ve already talked about it before. You remember, how we said that the very first step that we can see in scripture is that verse in Colossians 1:15 where Jesus was the first-born of all creation and he is the very image of God and he was born first of all, the only begotten son and that that was the first step. And then that the second step was this one in Ephesians 2:10, that God created us in Christ Jesus for good works which he had prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And then that God himself gave us free will in Jesus and explained to the Savior that I have to give these men and women free will if they are going to be part of you and therefore part of me. I have to give them free will, we ourselves have free will. And there is a verse that later on you can look up afterwards it’s 30:19-20, “Behold I have set before you life and death, choose life that you may live.” And God at that point set before us life and death and said, “Now, I have put you in my son and you can choose that or you can choose death.” Then you remember, he foresaw what some men and women would do if not all indeed. And the lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world. God said to his Son, “Now you and I have to bear the consequences of what we have done. If they choose not to receive us, if they choose not to be in you, if they choose not to be part of us, my Son we have to bear that. Now I ask you, if you will bear that?” And that’s you remember, where the verse Isaiah it is, “It pleased the Lord, it was God’s will to bruise Jesus” that is it was his will to ask the Savior to bear that pain for us and that that is I think Isaiah 53:12. And all that happened there. The lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world right there and everything was prepared and then God created Genesis 1:1, God created the earth and gave us free will. And from that point on of course, we chose one way. We rebelled against the whole idea of being in Christ. We rebelled against the whole idea of depending on God. We rebelled against the whole idea of being part of another person and we resolved simply to go our own way and that is the way that the world has been going since it was created. And during all that time you remember, we talked about Romans 8:28, all that time all things have been working together to conform us to the image of Jesus. Everything that happens to us works to say to us, “Look, this is what happened, this is what happened. Turn, turn, turn.” Now, there is a great danger I think for you all and for me to look at that and say, “That seems reasonable. Not only reasonable but that seems scriptural so I believe that. So then what I must do now is to live in Christ. I’ve been created in Christ and I’ve to live in Christ and Christ has to live in me.” And it’s very easy for us to think that therefore all we need is a mental adjustment to that and to start trying to live in Jesus. And there are all kinds of people that try to do that and they end up just in a mystical meditation and mental assent that brings them into the same position as the Jewish people who were under the law. That is, they end up trying; they end up trying to be like Christ even though they themselves are actually out of Christ. They try to be like Christ. Really what Satan said to Eve, “You shall be as God.” And they want to go this way but be like God. And so there are many Christians, many church people are the same of Jews who live under the old dispensation, they live in a constant futile frustrated life of sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven and yet they continue on this downward path all the time. It’s important therefore to see that it’s not enough to believe because that’s the problem the great parts of Christendom think all you have to do is believe this. After all whosoever believes is not condemned it says, so you just have to believe. And so people try to believe that and what they really do is they believe and they try. They just believe and try and that’s why most of Christendom has ended up in utter frustration. They try to live as people who have been born of the spirit but they can’t and so they just keep on, “I believe that, I believe that. I must try to make it real in my life so I have to try; I just have to try harder.” And so Christendom lives off of books, and books, and books that are designed to teach us how to try better, how to try harder. First step it seems to me, to some degree of reality in your life, is to see that there are people who believe and do not love God at all. Look at James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” Even the demons believe and shudder. It’s vital that we see that even the devil believes. This is reality so even the devil believes this. So it is possible to believe this and still to be a devil. It is not enough just to say you believe and you want to try. Jesus told us plainly what is needed Mark 1:15, “And saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.’” So Jesus was saying, “Everything has been done, the feast has spread, my Father has created you in me, he has crucified you in me, everything is ready, now, not just believe but repent.” And repent is in Greek “metanoia” and in English translation it’s “metanoia” and some of you who know something about pneus and pneumatic in English know that that is your mind and meta is to change. And first of all it means you yourself have to change your mind, you have to change your way of thinking about your own life and you have to decide whether you’re willing to do that. You have to decide, “Am I willing to change my mind about my birth that I have not actually been born first and foremost of my parents, that I have been born first and foremost in Jesus and that he is my Father and that I owe my life to him and I don’t owe my life primarily to my mother but I owe my life to him. It means changing your mind about your own parentage. It means changing your mind about the way you think life should go for you. It means changing your mind about your feeling that you have a right to live your life the way you please or you have a right to do with your life what you please. It means changing your mind about who actually is in you. It means changing your mind about the idea that this is your life, that this is you in this body and that you can do with this body what you want. It means believing at last reality that this is Christ’s life and that this is not your life, and that Christ alone has the right to do what he wants with this life and not you. It means loved ones at least that but it does mean changing your mind about those things. And if you still have a mind that thinks, “Oh well, my mother is not really just my sister she’s really my mother I owe everything to her and my father is not just my elder brother he’s really my father and I owe everything to him.” Then you haven’t changed your mind because in fact, reality is that you and I were made in Jesus and we are part of him and we owe everything to him and he is, in fact, our Everlasting Father. And the other is true, that this is a lie and a deception that God has allowed to take place so that we would be free to work out all that he has done here. You can see that he did all that in eternity and then he provided time for us to work that out in our free wills. And so what is being worked out here is what God has done there and it’s vital for us to change our mind about who is in this life. If you still think, “This is my life. I’m my own person. I have the right to act on my own; I have the right to think my own thoughts. I ought not to do bad things, but I have the right to do what I think is right.” If you have that feeling that you’re still on your own, that this is still your own life, that this is not anybody else’s life but yours, in other words, if you still think that this life has only you to answer to and you don’t think that Jesus, that this is his life, that this is absolutely his life. That everybody else calls you by your first name but you know better, you know that Jesus is the name of this person here. If you don’t change your mind about that, then you aren’t repenting. The second part of repentance is not by any means just the mental change of mind but it is a volitional change. Volition is will. It means that you stop doing those things. That you stop thinking that way about your parentage, you stop thinking that way about whose life this is, and you stop doing the things that spring from that attitude of mind. You actively exercise your will to stop that. Now, that’s what Jesus means when he says, “Repent.” And when you repent, then a mighty change takes place and all of eternity flows in to you here this little speck in time and all of eternity comes in and the Holy Spirit works the miracle of making eternity real in you and bringing you eternal life. But above all, making all this real in you and then you are born of the spirit. Now that loved ones, is a mighty change and God works that change and he works it in response to an honest repentance. A repentance that means a change in the way you think about your life and that means a change in your will. It means you stop doing the things that really you have developed all through your life on the basis of the fact that this is your life and not anyone else’s. On the basis that you owe only what you do owe to your parents and to nobody else. But when you change that will, in other words, when you actually not simply believe it but when you say, “Lord God, thank you I am willing for that. I am willing to be destroyed in Christ and to be born from the Spirit and to come into you Lord Jesus, and for you to come into me and live your life over again in me.” Then, a mighty change takes place and the Holy Spirit enables you to be born from above. The new birth is the only thing that will enable us to live this life. Now, all I’d like to say very plainly is, that is a change from darkness into light. That is being translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. That is a different kind of life and that life has certain clear qualities and clear symptoms that you cannot mistake. I’ll show you one of them, 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God,” no one who experiences that new birth, “Commits sin.” Why? “For God’s nature,” you can see that, “God’s nature abides in him,” Christ lives in him. “And he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.” It’s just very clear. It’s just very clear and very plain, a person who is born of God, and you see how it explains it, a person who is born of God does not sin. He cannot sin because now it is not him that is alive it is Christ that is alive and he is translated utterly into a whole new way of life. I mean, sin he doesn’t – sin is no problem to him. It isn’t a problem not to sin because his whole heart is that of Jesus and he finds himself wanting to go the way Jesus wants. So, there’s an absolute change in him and so he doesn’t sin not because he says, “I must not sin. I must not sin, otherwise I’m not born of God so I have to not sin so that I can prove…” No, no, it’s not backwards like that at all. That’s like a person who is dead saying, “I’ll have to breathe, I’ll have to breathe to prove I’m alive and not dead.” Well you’re dead, you can’t breathe that’s it. In order to breathe you have to come alive. So it’s foolishness to say, “Oh well, I’ll have to try not to sin.” It’s like saying, “I have to try to breathe. I have to try to see. I have to try to hear.” No, those are all symptoms that you have if you’re alive. So, when a person who is born of God, they don’t sin. Why? Because God’s nature abides in them. I want us to be very clear what sin is. James 4:17, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” That’s it nothing complicated. If you know what is right to do it and you don’t do it that’s sin. You don’t need to get into all kinds of theological niceties, it’s just plain and straight if you know what is right to do and you don’t do it then that is sin. Because? Of course, you can see why it’s sin, if you know all of this and you don’t do it well, then you’re just rejecting what the mighty God the Creator has done in eternity and what he had in mind when he made you. So, you’re turning against all that is power, and all that is live, and all that is good in the universe. So you’re deliberately turning against it so that is saying plainly to God, “You have given me free will to reject you. I reject you.” That’s what it is. Whoever knows what is right to do and doesn’t do it, that’s sin. That’s saying, “I do not want what you want. Whatever that means, I don’t want what you want.” Now, I just want us to see these things so that we do not become a bunch of hypocrites and so that we do not become a group that plays games with each other and thinks that we can play games with God. I don’t want us to do that because we are lost if we do that. I’m lost and you’re lost if we play that kind of game so I want you to be very straight about it and not try to build a theological defense for yourself that enables you to continue to remain dead in your sins. When, because you see what I’m saying, when this all awaits you, as long as you are alive in this world this awaits you. That’s why the Bible says, “Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it.” Right up until you die this is all yours so this morning, if you feel, “Oh well, I am not in that position.” Then I’m saying, “Here it is the table is spread, the eternity is waiting, it is all alive for you.” God is saying today, “Come now and enter in. Come now and change your mind. Come now and change your will.” So that’s why I want you to see these things. Not to make you sad and not to steal your assurance from you but so that you will do whatever is needed for all this to flow in upon you because you see, that’s what it is it is a flowing in. That’s why Jesus says, “It’s being born from above.” It’s a wonderful supernatural life that comes from him that is above yourself, it lifts you into a new realm, a realm that you can’t lift yourself into it. All eternity flows into time, eternal life comes into a little temporal being like us. That’s what it means. Now, what I’d like you to do is to be clear, alright what are some sins? Galatians 5 and this is where I think it’s very easy for us to play games. Galatians 5:19, flesh is “sarx” in Greek and it means the life that is independent of God. “Now the works of the flesh,” the works of a life that is independent of God, “Are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” Now, what God is saying there is all of these are works of the flesh. Any one of them is a work of the flesh. You might be free from fornication for various reasons, you might be free of impurity for various reasons, you might be free of idolatry because of the society you live in, but if you have enmity towards anyone, or strife, or jealousy, or anger, or selfishness, or dissension, then you have a work of the flesh. That is sin. Now, if you’re angry with anybody else in this family at any time, or if you lose your temper with somebody else, if you express angry words to another person in this room, of course if you express angry words to anybody outside this room it’s the same, but if you do that, that is sin. That is sin and Christ does not sin. And if Christ is in you he does not sin. So it’s very important that you and I are real about it, otherwise we become just a clever bunch of sophisticates who go and preach to the people in Thailand and the people in China and we ourselves live like devils. And then you see, we have a way of saying to ourselves, “Oh well, we’re trying, we’re trying.” No, it doesn’t matter how hard you try a dead person with all the trying in the world can’t become an alive person. So, a person who is born of the flesh cannot become a person born of the spirit by trying. They can only do it by a total repentance, a total change of mind about who owns their life, a total change of mind about whose life this is. And only then if they are willing to stop these things and to stop these sins, because that’s what repentance is, it is not only changing your mind about who owns your life, and changing your mind about who lives in your life, but it’s a volitional act stopping the sins that you have become conscious of in your life. And of course, before you do that you have to confess them and confess you remember, is agreeing with God about what is sin. Now, while you continue to count anger as just a refined type of failure in your personality, you are not agreeing with God. God says, “Anger is sin.” He says – you’ve heard how it was said of old time whoever kills is guilty of the judgment. I say to you whoever is angry with your brother is guilty of the judgment. Jesus said that anger is like killing just the same as unclean thoughts are like committing adultery. And what you need to see is that he says that to us to help us, to save us, not to beat us down but to bring home to our hearts that if that is in our life, Christ is not in our life. And it’s vital for us to allow Christ to be in our lives. What of course is really the truth is the dear Savior is in your life but he’s being crucified daily by your refusal to believe that he is in your life, and your refusal to let him live, and your determination to behave the same way as the very soldiers that killed him behaved. So of course, it is a wretched agony that is taking place inside you. Christ himself is being crucified daily and moment-by-moment by your own attitude and you yourself are living in the midst of death and deadness. So loved ones, it is vital to be honest about that. It’s vital for Marty to be, it’s vital for me to be honest about that. For Martha, for Sheila, it’s vital for each of us to be very honest. You cannot be angry with each other, you cannot have strife and dissention, you cannot argue with each other, you cannot have those things in your heart and Christ be living in you. You cannot, it is a contradiction. God’s nature abides in one who is born of God and he cannot sin because God’s nature abides in him. What we need to do is be very honest and real about our sins and then see that this very moment God is willing, this very moment. But that will only continue as long as you have that attitude of mind. You are my parent Lord Jesus, I was made in you. This is your life, you are to live this life as you please and I exercise my will along with yours to reject all sin. Everything that I know is wrong I will turn from. Now wherever there is not a soft and yielding heart like that then Christ does not dwell and you need to be born of God. So it’s very important that we are born of God and it’s very important that we live in the light of what God has done in Jesus and that we live the life of one who is born of God. If you don’t live that life you are not born of God. So loved ones, I do ask you please not to lower the standard of heaven because you’re just lying to yourself. The standard of heaven and the standard of Jesus is a life above sin, above known sin. And if we’re not living that life then there is the answer and God is willing every moment, until we die and then comes the judgment. He’s willing every moment to bring all this in upon us through the Holy Spirit, more than willing, if we are willing to accept in our hearts and our wills what he has done in eternity. Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we see you standing before us with all of eternity in your hands and you’re holding it out to us. And we see Lord that you cannot give it to people who do not believe. We see you can only fill us with yourself if we believe that we were made in you and owe everything to you and you are our Everlasting Father and if we believe that this is your life, it is not ours. It is yours to live. You alone have the right to make decisions in it. You have the right to do with it what you want. But we do see Lord, that if we believe those things then we will exercise our will in the light of reality. We see that we will turn this very day from every known sin in our life and we will stop doing it. We will stop being angry with another person. We will stop being jealous of another person. We will stop being proud. We will stop being critical because your heart is in this. And we see Lord that your heart is here. That all the yearnings we’ve had for being good has come from you. It has been you crying out within us to be allowed to live and we have repeatedly rolled the stone back over the grave to keep you dead so that we could live. Lord Jesus, we see that you give us the choice this very day, to roll that stone away from the mouth of the grave and to come to you on our knees and apologize with all our hearts for having buried you and to help you free from the grave clothes and to allow you to live free and whole and complete and royal in this life.
What does it Mean to be Born Again? - NEWBIRTH
How to Be Born Again John Chapter 3 Sermon Transcript by Ernest O’Neill I sense this morning that I should share on “How to Be Born Again”. I’d like to explain, simply and plainly, how to be born again. I thought that was important to do, because the phrase is so popular today. There are so many ideas going around about the new birth, yet the new birth has always been the same down through the centuries. There are not many ways to be born again — there is only one way. Now, I’d ask you if you’d be good enough to forget the things you know about it so we could just coolly, calmly, and quietly deal with this magnificent truth that God has given us. Why do we need to be born again? Answer: Because there’s a tragic flaw in our personalities. There’s a radical flaw in our personalities. There’s a crookedness in us that we all feel, and we feel it should be straight. There’s a disintegration that we are all aware of, and we feel there should be integration instead. That’s why we need to be born again. The answer is almost the same as anything that comes from a factory and either at the factory or in transit; it was in some way damaged. Then it has to be sent back to the factory and made again. That’s why we need to be born again. What is the radical flaw? You’ll recognize it, immediately when I give you this illustration. You’re going home one night about five o’clock, to your roommate or to your partner or to your family. You decide, it’s springtime and I feel happy, so I want to make them happy tonight. You buy flowers, or you buy ice cream and you go home looking forward to making them happy. You get home and there’s nobody there. So, you make a cup of coffee, put the flowers in the vase, or put the ice cream in the freezer, and you drink the coffee, but there’s still nobody home. Then, you turn the television on, you watch for a while, and then your tummy rumbles, so you have another cup of coffee. Then you get out the potato chips and you have some while you sit there for about another half hour. Then, an unbelievable thing happens right alongside that beautiful, kindly, generous desire you have to make them happy. There springs up another attitude that is utterly different. It’s an attitude that begins to say, “Where on earth are they?!” and it just grows and grows. The two desires are going along inside and it’s unbelievable to you. You can’t imagine how, an evening that was to be so perfect, could turn out to be so lonely and tummy rumbling. At last, they arrive home at 9:30P.M. and tell you that they forgot to mention they were going shopping that evening. Well, they don’t meet an ordinary human being. By this time, you are a raving lunatic and you lay on them every error they ever committed over the past centuries. You tell them off for spoiling your evening and as you stalk up to bed, a corner of your eye catches the sight of the flowers, or the ice cream that you were going to use to give them such a happy evening, and your heart just sinks. That’s what I mean, loved ones, about a radical flaw in our personalities. All of us human beings are aware that there is one side of us that seems to want to be unselfish, good, kind and outgoing. Now, alongside that there is another side of us that wants to be cruel and selfish — to take in for itself. It’s as if we’re schizophrenic. It’s as if there isn’t one personality inside us, but there seem to be two. There seems to be a Dr. Jekyll who is kind, loving and unselfish, and there seems at the same time to be a Mr. Hyde who is cruel, selfish and hates. Our world is filled with books and techniques of all kinds, for some way to lessen or modify this conflict, so at least we can get on with our lives in some sane fashion. These books continually work on the principle that we should try to lessen the evil side in us as much as possible. We should lessen the evil side of our temperaments by habits of mind control, by ways of thinking about people and ourselves that will somehow diminish the evil to the point where it virtually disappears. But “virtually” is the key word. Because what all of us have found is that that’s all these techniques and books ever manage to do. They seem to diminish the evil side of our temperaments to the point where it almost disappears. But somehow we find that what we’re really doing is trying to encourage the good side of us to be stronger and stronger so that it can control the bad side of us. Now we’ve discovered that the good side only wants to do that so far, up to a certain point. Then we find that the good side that we’re trying to encourage seems to break away in all directions itself. It seems to be shot through with evil too, and there comes a time when even it doesn’t want to control the bad side. And so we find that the two are so inextricably mixed that at times we can’t tell when the good is uppermost and when the evil is uppermost, or when one is winning and the other is losing. We’ve got to the point where we see you just can’t tell. For a while it seems the good is working and then that good seems to break away in all kinds of directions shattered. It seems the only thing to do is to destroy the whole thing and start all over again. And that’s why we need to be born again. There’s a radical flaw that runs right through the center of each of our personalities that it is utterly debilitating and destructive to anything we want to be. And that’s always what we’re saying: “The good side is fighting against the bad side so that I can’t do what I want to do.” Now, how did that come about? Where did those good urges come from? Well, loved ones, those good urges come from the remains of the influence of the Spirit of your Creator, inside you, and there is that influence in us. Even the worst person here in this room, has part of the influence of the Spirit of our Creator inside them, which at times that produces good urges — good, outgoing, unselfish desires to help other people, even if it means having to forget ourselves. Those urges come from the remains of the influence of God’s Spirit in your life. You can see that God Himself is clearly that kind of person. He is generous to the nth degree. God is extravagant in his generosity. Think of these spring mornings, one bird, two birds? No, a whole Hallelujah Chorus! One bird is whistling, the other’s chirping, and all kinds of singing is going on. Look at water: there’s a lake here, a lake there but all two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered with it — covered with water. There’s plenty of salt in it so that we can deluge the French coast with oil and the mighty sea will keep lapping it until after three years it’s washed it all away. Underneath the ocean there are colors that none of us will ever see, and yet, that’s our God. He is generous, and extravagant and outgoing all the time. The urges you feel to be like that, come from the remains of his Spirit inside you. Now, God Himself is absolute love. He made you completely unique, and sent you here to earth to do work for Him, in bringing his world into the center of his will. And he gave you a love and a life of his own that you can express in a unique way that nobody else can. He intended you to come and do a definite job for him, and then because you would work so closely to Him, you’d sense his approval upon your life, and you’d just be content. You’d go to bed each night, really content with your situation. Of course, because you’d fit in to his economic scheme for the World you’d have all the money, and all the clothing that you’d need. So, you’d live your life in a real sense of contentment and peace, because you were doing what your Maker sent you to do. Now, the security, happiness, and the sense of significance that comes from that original plan of God for your life — some of that still remains in you from time to time, and sends up an odd, unselfish act or kind word. That was God’s plan that you would have so much security, happiness, and significance that you could spend your whole life pouring that out to other people. And so the remains of that are still in you, and at times you can get up on a spring morning, and you can feel “all is well with the world.” There are odd moments in your life when you could sense, “yes, things are right, and life is great.” At those moments you’re able to send out some kindliness, or some unselfish thoughts for somebody else. But of course, what happened was that our forefathers rebelled against this whole plan that the Creator had for us to pour forth his love and his life. They resolved that they would live their own life, and be their own god. And however intimate was the Father-child relationship that God had planned, they said, “No, we don’t want that, we want to be our own gods. We want to set our own directions for our own lives. We want to pick our own jobs. We want to make our own happiness, and we want to establish our own security.” And so our forefathers, years ago, rebelled against that whole plan of God. Of course, immediately they cut themselves off from God, and from the sense of love that he gave them. They had to find it somewhere else. And so, they began to look in other places. That’s when they began to insist on their own rights, their own ways, determine their own goals and get their own way whatever happened to anybody else. And that, loved ones, is what is called sin. Sin is not individual acts and words. Sin is that whole attitude to God that says: “No, I want to be god. I want to run my own life. I want to determine what I’m going to do. I want to get my own way. I want to decide how much I’m going to suffer or how much I’m not going to suffer.” That sin was bred into our race down through the centuries, and that’s what you find rising up within you at times — that’s it. It’s something that’s bigger than you yourself — that’s why you can’t control it. You notice that if you lose your temper when you know you should keep your temper, if you are irritable when you know you should be patient, if you’re cruel to your dear one when you know you should be loving, you notice that it’s something that seems to take hold of you. It seems to rise up inside you and you can’t control it. Now that’s because it’s sin. It’s a power that our forefathers developed and bred into generation after generation. It’s an attitude to God, and an attitude of self-righteousness in ourselves that is bred into us and passed into us from generation to generation. Now, as well as that urge inside you that sends up those desires to hurt people and to walk over the top of people, there’s another problem. God made our personalities to work one way – from the inside out that way! You’ve only to look at his Son Jesus, to see how it should be. Jesus did not have a thought for the wounds in his hands, or a thought for the wound in the side, not a thought for his own discomfort. He was always going out to other people, always loving, and always giving out. And that’s what God is like Himself. God planned for our personalities to operate that way — going out. Having the love that we received from Him, we would give it out to others. Having the security that we had from Him, knowing that he will supply every need of ours, we could then give freely to others. Having the sense of significance and identity that comes from doing what he wants us to do here on earth, we could then give other people a sense of worth and value instead of taking it from them. Of course we cut ourselves off from the source of that love and so inside, we have nothing to give out; in fact, we have a vacuum inside us. So, we began to take in from the only source we could get. We began to try to beat out the other three and a half billion people here on this earth, to get enough food, shelter and clothing for us ourselves. We found, of course, we never had enough. We found we always wanted more. We started to beat out hundreds of other people to try to beat them into a sense of respect for us, so that they would give us some sense of significance. Instead of giving out to others we began to drain from others. Worst of all, we took some of our most intimate relationships, where we should have been giving freely the love that God was giving us, and we began to use our wives and our friends for our own enjoyment. Then, if we had any time left we tried to give them a little — but usually we hadn’t. And so our whole personality turned in. The personality that was to go out like that, started to work in this way, so that the personality itself became twisted. So we not only had an urge within us of sin — to have our own way and to establish our own rights — but we also had a personality now that became twisted and perverted. It was as if the Spirit of God is somehow still in all of us in some sense. Your little conscience at times is trying to send out something good. So the Spirit of God tries to send out weakly some kindliness and some generosity to other people. But, it’s as if the pure fresh water is there but it can’t get out of the reservoir because the pipeline is now running up hill. The personality is working in this way, and the Spirit is trying to get out. The personality has for years got used to taking in. For years, the personality has been taking in from other people. The Spirit of God wants to go out to somebody this morning from you and compliment them. The Spirit of God wants to say something nice to somebody through you this morning. But you’ve been so used to trying to persuade yourself in other people’s eyes that you alone are worth complimenting that you’re always searching for compliments, looking for praise, and always looking for men’s approval. So, it’s as if the fresh clear water wants to get out of the reservoir, but the pipe line is running down hill now, and the water can’t get up. Instead all the drain water from the surrounding hills filters down this pipe line. So, inside you, you find a tremendous conflict. Some little weak desires go out to be kind and loving, but coming in is this personality that is utterly reversed and perverted. Now, loved ones, that’s the mess that we’re in. You can see that every human technique will do nothing but modify that or mellow it out a little. You can see there is a perversion that has taken place in these personalities that you can never fix. No surgery by a physical, medical surgeon will ever do the job. You, yourself can never change that personality — it always wants to come in like that. The only one who can change it is the one who originally made it. That personality has to be utterly destroyed and a new outgoing one that was God’s original plan has to be created. Otherwise, there’s no point in God giving his Spirit of life to us. That dear Spirit will continue to be imprisoned within us and it’ll never get out to others Now that’s why a new birth is needed. And that’s what God did in Jesus. He took your perverted, reversed personality, and he took all that evil desire to make yourself God, to have your own way, and to establish your own rights in the world at anybody else’s expense. He put that into his Son, Jesus, and he destroyed it there. That’s the part of the gospel that applies to the new birth. Now, loved ones, it might be good if you just look at it, it’s 2 Corinthians 5:21. It’s the piece that we read as the New Testament lesson. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God took the sin inside you, (the independence of Him and the urge to be your own god), and he put it into Jesus and destroyed it there. You see in verse 17 that that means it’s possible to create you anew. He did the same with your reverse perverted personality. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Why? Because “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now, some people think that you can come without the old passing away. There is a light teaching of the new birth today that is popular. It says, “Just believe the Lord — believe in the Lord.” It’s that kind of theory that says, “Sit back and let it happen”, and it just does not work. It does not work. God knows that if the old creation is not destroyed, the new one will be absolutely suffocated. The problem is not God’s unwillingness to give us the Holy Spirit. We already have in some sense the remains of God’s influence of the Holy Spirit within us when we sensed in our conscience that we should do certain things that are right. The problem is not on God’s part. The problem is on ours. Unless we are willing for Him to destroy the old creation completely in his Son, he cannot do anything to recreate us, and to make us born again. It used to be in the old days, when liberalism ruled in theology, that people said, “Imitate Jesus”. It’s impossible of course because the old self won’t let you imitate Him. But now, there’s a great deal of theorizing; “Just receive Jesus and that’s all you need.” No, you’ll crucify the dear Savior again inside you if that’s all you do. You’ll crucify Him afresh inside you –unless — you are willing for this in-turned personality, for this deification of self to be destroyed in Him. Now, how do you do it? You can’t do it — only the Holy Spirit can. Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will take of the things that our mine, and he will share them with you.” The Greek word for “share” means he’ll make them real to you. He’ll make them real in your life. Only the Holy Spirit can actualize in you the complete reversing of your personality that took place in Jesus’ death. You can’t do it at all. So, do you see, you’re utterly at the mercy of the Holy Spirit. He’s the one that we’ve to deal with in order to be born of God. We’ve to deal with the Holy Spirit. Now, the Holy Spirit is already dealing with you this morning and in past days. He has already pointed out some things in your life that evidence that you are working with an in-turned personality, that evidence that you are still deifying self. The Holy Spirit has put his finger on some attitudes in you, some critical attitudes, that are obviously treating everybody else as minions and you as the great god who judges them. The Holy Spirit has put his finger on some actions of yours that are dishonest, some stealing that you’ve done, some dishonest words that you used to other people to make them think better of you than they ought to think. The Holy Spirit has already put his finger on different things in your life that show you clearly that you are not crucified with Christ, and you’re not willing to stop soaking life in from other people. You’re not willing to begin to live on God alone. The Holy Spirit has already pointed those things out to you, loved ones. The first step in coming to a new birth is agreeing with the Holy Spirit about those things. Stop pretending that they’re just personality shortcomings. Stop pretending that they’re something that you’ll gradually grow out of. When the Holy Spirit points out sin in your life, you need to agree with Him. That’s what “confesses” means. Confess means that you agree with God. That’s what God has said, “If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just to forgive you your sins.” Now, one of the reasons I wanted to share this morning was that I think some of you are superficial about sin. You’re a little light hearted about sin. I was glad when several couples came to me and said, “Look, we’ve been living together, and we know that that is wrong. We are both in Jesus and we want to be married.” Do you see that ought not to exist in the heart of a loved one who is born again? So, I say to you, if you’re fornicating, or you’re being promiscuous, forget the new birth! Stop saying you’re born of God. You’re not born of God if you’re still disagreeing with the Holy Spirit on the basic, most plain commandments of the Father. So, you have to start agreeing with Him. It is the same with those of us who think we’re so religious and continue to be critical of other people and gossip about them. If the Holy Spirit has said, “Agree”, do you agree that that (i.e. gossiping) is not Christ? Do you agree that, that is still you living off the world and off other people? Loved ones you have to agree! If you are going to move into a new birth, or if you’re going to continue to be born again, you must continue to agree with the dear Holy Spirit, who is a sensitive gentleman. He says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door (but you’ll have to open the door) I will come in and will sup with him and he with me. If he doesn’t open the door, I won’t knock it down.” The Holy Spirit is unable to actualize the victory of Jesus’ death in your personality unless you respond to Him instantly. I think a lot of you are in trouble, because you’re still arguing with the Holy Spirit. I know it in my own life. I find it less easy to sense the closeness of Jesus or the complete new transformation and creation that he’s wrought in my life if at any time I step back a little from what the Holy Spirit is saying. The first step is confession. The second step is: Stop doing it! Stop doing it!! That’s what repentance is. Jesus said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” You must repent. It’s not, be sorry, use up three boxes of Kleenex and say you’ll try harder next time. No! That isn’t repentance. You stop doing the thing, you stop sinning, and you stop it. We’re such weak-kneed little creatures because we accept all the brain washing that anybody gives us. Of course, we all cry out, “Oh I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” But, yes you can, you can, you can! Why? Because God has put you into Jesus, destroyed all in you that wouldn’t obey Him, and then recreated you anew. It’s all been done. The thing has been done. All you have to do is act in light of the fact that you’re a new creation. You just do it. Every time Satan says, “But you failed a thousand times before. For years you’ve been doing this thing.” You say, “Yes, but I am a new creation. The old has passed away, and all things have become new. My old self — you are right about that, Satan– but that has been crucified with Christ. And I am now operating on the basis of the miracle that God has wrought in Jesus.” Then you stop sinning. Loved ones, anybody here who is still sinning wants to sin. That’s right. You can play the noble sinner stuff which I played for years and say, “Oh no, I really want to stop sinning.” No. God has arranged the miracle in Jesus. He has destroyed all in you that used to sin. All you have to do is agree with that and stop sinning — and it’s essential to do it. I don’t know how you all are behaving in your marriages but, if any of you even dream of swearing at each other or touching each other physically in a way that would be hurtful or in a way that would be unkind; you have no experience of the new birth! You are pretending, because one that is born of God’s Spirit, is gentle as Jesus is, as kind as Jesus is, and as pure as Jesus is. That’s what it is – that what’s the new birth is. The new birth isn’t the old struggle that Plato and Socrates had to endure. The new birth isn’t the struggle that you had to endure where you tried to beat down the evil in order to do good at least sixty percent of the time. The new birth is a mighty change that God works in your heart through faith in Christ, whereby he plants in you the desires of Jesus and the love of Jesus. He does that if you’re willing. Loved ones, the heart of the new birth is your willingness. The heart of the new birth is not even believing. It’s not even this; “Oh, receive Jesus!” You do have to receive Jesus, but that’s not the difficulty of the new birth. There’s no problem in receiving Jesus, if you’re willing to let Jesus be Lord of your life. If you’re not willing for Him to be Lord of your life, what you receive is an evil spirit that imitates Jesus. And that’s why you have such an unsatisfactory Christian experience. Jesus comes in when you’re willing to repent; that is, you stop doing the things you know are sin. If, you say to me, “What if I do it again tomorrow?” then you stop doing it again tomorrow. What if you do it again the next day? Then, you stop doing it the next day. I’m not talking about never sinning. I’m just saying, you set your mind ruthlessly and relentlessly against sin. You determine that you will fight sin in your life at every corner. You declare war, unconditional war, on sin in your life. And you stop it every time you become aware of it. You confess it to Jesus, and you move on in obedience. You keep doing that, until he brings you into a full understanding of what he has done for you on the cross. Loved ones, unless you do that you’re playing with the thing. Confess! Repent! Consecrate! “I beseech you, therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice unto God; which is your spiritual and reasonable service.” You give yourself to God. You say, “Lord I’m willing to be the kind of child that Jesus was. I’m willing to live as he lived, for you alone. I give myself to you. I separate myself from all other lesser purposes that I had in mind about bank accounts, homes, futures and successes. I give myself to you. Do what you want with my life.” Loved ones, if you honestly confess, and repent, and honestly with all your heart consecrate, God gives the Holy Spirit of his Son to you. He sends the Spirit of his Son into your heart, and a beautiful new person is born inside. By miraculous, supernatural power, you begin to find sweet water coming out from inside. You begin to find love rising instead of hate. You begin to find a kindly spirit coming out from inside you. Once again you have to almost say “There are two people inside me.” Except now you say, “It must be Jesus inside me because I cannot account for these feelings any other way.” Loved ones that’s the new birth and it is for you, but only if you’ll have done with sin. I’d be glad just to stand here hour after hour, and you could ask me, “Is this sin? Is that sin?” Do you see that you cannot be born of God and shout at your wife? You cannot be born of God and steal pens from your employer. You cannot be born of God and deceive on the income tax returns. You cannot be born of God and have fights at home and domestic battles. You can’t! Why? Because Jesus never did those things. He does not do those things now, and if he is in you he is not doing those things. If you say to me, “Oh well, does that mean that I can never sin?” No, but every time you do sin you realize it’s an alien thing. So, at this moment as you sit there, your heart rises and you say, “Brother, I at times fall but I know those are wrong, and I am fighting them with all my being. I am determined by God’s grace to live clear and clean of these things.” You’re either doing that or you’re sitting there and saying, “Ah well, I’ve to do my best and try to improve. I’ve to try to be better than I am, but I don’t see how. I don’t see how I can avoid being selfish with my wife or cruel to my children or cynical about the people at school. I don’t see it.” You’re right you see, it’s your heart, it’s the heart. It’s not even the outside performance – (though surely, it will show on the outside performance), but it’s the heart. Does your heart stand against sin at every turn in your life? Or, does it compromise with it? The new birth brings you into cleanness. I pray you’ll know that God brings you to it. Let us pray. Father, thank you that it’s so clear. Thank you that you talked about it as life and death. Thank you that you talked about it as light and darkness. Thank you that you talked about it as day and night. Thank you Lord that you made it plain. There is absolute contrast between those of us who are born of the flesh, and who are still insisting on our own way, wanting our own rights, and using other people to get the love and security that we need. There’s a complete difference between that and your children who want only your way, only your rights upheld, only to do your will in sharing your love and security with others. Lord, thank you, that there can be no mistaking what is a valid new birth and what is a counterfeit. No Lord, we want to come into the reality ourselves. So Holy Spirit, will you show each one of us where we’re disagreeing with you, where we’re still pretending that we hate sin, where we’re still calling something our infirmity or our weakness when it is really downright sin. Show us when we’re regarding something as justifiable because of the particular kinds of artistic or scientific personalities that we have. Holy Spirit, show us where we’re not calling sin, sin in our lives. We see that the first big step towards you is to agree with you. It’s to stop bickering, stop questioning and rationalizing and agree with you. We are to agree with you against ourselves. Then Holy Spirit we see that we have been put on the cross and that we are new people. There is no reason why we can’t obey our God if we’re willing to stay on that cross with Jesus. We can simply stop sinning. We commit ourselves to doing that. Dear Father, you have put up with so much from us. Lord, we do not any longer want to stab your Son to death in our lives. We want to give ourselves to you to be what you want us to be, and to live the kind of life that you want. So now, Lord will you feel free to pour your Spirit through us, and we’ll let Him out every time he wants, for your glory. 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