Description: Are we trying to copy the winsome gracious life of Jesus, or are we daily waiting for him to live out a special version of his life in us?
Real Faith in Christ
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I used to think, if I were God and I had Jesus, I would not bus him in every generation but fly him
in every generation. And so he would live there the first century and then I’d wait till most
people had died and then fly him in again. And that way he would be seen every, I suppose 30 years,
or maybe every 20 years; it depends on what you call a generation. And I really thought that would
be the best way to do it. And I couldn’t think of a better way.
And it’s taken me just a long time to realize that God has a better way, because in fact, Jesus did
die at 33 or 35. And it is a very short life because it was only a matter of three to three and a
half years public ministry. And it’s a very short life to make an impact on a world that — well we
don’t know how long it’s been here, but certainly there are about four thousand years of human
history that we know clearly about, from the time of Abraham. And it seems it’s very short just
three and a half to four years. And you wonder now, how, how could God be satisfied with that? And
we feel it’s a shame that Jesus died at 33 or 35.
And then of course you gradually realize that that was the whole plan. That it was a vital part of
God’s plan that Jesus would only be here three and a half to four years of public ministry, and that
he would die. And I’d just point you to the verse where he expresses that in John 16:7.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away,
the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” And I don’t need to
explain to you what the simple words state, that Jesus is saying, “I have to go, because if I don’t
go, the Counselor will not come to you.” And then he goes on in his prayer to God in the next
chapter. John 17:11, “And now,” he’s speaking to God, “I am no more in the world, but they are in
the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me,
that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Then in Verse 23 you see how he continues, “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly
one, so that the world may known that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved
me.” And there you get God’s plan which is better than my idea of bring Jesus to earth in a
spaceship or something every 20 years, where it would be so obviously a miraculous thing, that
people would be just overwhelmed by the sheer power of the miracle. Instead God’s plan is the first
three words there of Verse 23, “I in them.”
And this next piece needs so much what Myron prayed for, enlightenment for our hearts. That’s why
you’re alive. And that’s why I am alive. So that Jesus — and I hesitate to even say the words
because we go to sleep with them we’ve heard them so often — but that Jesus would live in you, that
Jesus would continue his life in you. That’s why you’re alive. And I mean our mums and dads have
brought us up so much with the idea that, “No we’re alive to fulfill ourselves.” Or even we listen
to these words and we’ll say, “Oh yes, you mean we’re alive to imitate Jesus. That’s what you mean.
I mean, I know Christ is kind of in us. And I know that’s the way you put it. It’s kind of a nice
metaphorical expression. But what you really mean is we’ve got to be like Jesus. And the more
we’re like Jesus the more he, as it were, lives on the earth.”
No, no. I mean that’s what has got the whole of Christendom into this salvation by works. And
that’s what has got all of us into the situation which Amy was in, where she said you, “I thought I
had to be like Jesus myself. I’ve been trying to be like Jesus.” And so how many of us have tried
to think like Jesus? And we say, “Today I must think like Jesus.” “Today I must behave like
Jesus.” And that’s not God’s plan. God’s plan is that Christ –Jesus himself, would actually live
the rest of his life — that he failed to live in Galilee — he would live the rest of his life
Now I know you really do believe me when I say you’re unique, and there’s nobody like you. You
believe me, because you trust me, but mainly, I think, because you say, “Yeah, that’s right. There
is nobody like me.” And you’re past the stage where you’re just saying, “I’m just wonderful,
wonderful, wonderful.” But you certainly know that there’s nobody like you. There is nobody like
you on the earth. There’s never been anyone like you, and there never will be anybody like you. So
that bit you grasp.
But I really do ask you to go the next step and see that there’s nobody like you, and there will be
nobody like you, and there has been nobody like you because God planned his Son to live a part of
his life through you, that he will not live through anybody else.
In other words, there’s a very unique relationship that you have to Jesus and Jesus has to you, that
exists nowhere else in the whole universe. And the whole purpose of you being alive here is, that
Jesus would live that remarkable rest of his life in you. And I think where Satan gets in is, you
hear that, and think I’m saying, “Oh yeah, yeah I know you kind of put me picturesquely. And what
you mean is, I’m going to be a bit like Jesus in a way that nobody else in this room is a bit like
Jesus.” No, see, no! But that Jesus would live in you, that Jesus himself would live part of his
life in you, that he has never lived before. That’s why he made you. That’s why he calls you his
‘body’. He calls you his body, because you’re like a part of his Galilean body that has not been
So it’s Jesus, actually ‘in’ you. That was his plan: that the “Word would” not only “become flesh”
1,900 years ago, not that the “Word would become flesh” because you’re all trying to be like Jesus,
but the “Word,” Jesus, the ‘Logos of God’, would be made flesh in you: that he would actually live
in you. That’s it. And it’s amazing! But that’s it: that Jesus would actually live in you.
In other words — I mean, it’s amazing how many things we’ve stumbled on in our human endeavors. We
call each other by our Christian name. It’s so funny that you have a Christian name. And of course
we know from China and India I suppose they give them Christian names. But here in the West our
Christian name is our first name. But actually the way God would put it is, your ‘Christ name’ is
Trish, or your Christ name is Marty. It really means Christ is going to live again here in this
earth and he’ll be known as Marty, or Christ is going to live again on this earth and he’ll be known
But see, it’s nothing less than that. It’s Christ living in you, see. So it’s Christ alive in you.
And I think what you have to fight continually is the dilution of that, and the discounting of that
that Satan tries to bring about, you see, because we keep on saying, “Yes, I know what you mean. I
know what you mean. It’s as if Joanne was kind of Jesus.” No, no it isn’t, see. Jesus is very
definite about it, “I in them and they in me. I will actually be in you.”
Indeed of course, you know, Paul put it very strongly. He says, “I am crucified with Christ; and
the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God. And it’s not I that live but it’s Christ
that lives within me.” And so God’s whole plan is that we would ‘abandon ship’ here; that we would
abandon our lives; we would abandon this dwelling; and we would receive a “dwelling not made with
hands, eternal in the heavenlies.” And in that Jesus would live.
And so the great tragedy is, that Jesus is in you, and you are treating yourself as the main dweller
and inhabitant, trying to be like Jesus. I told you before of the little incident at the back of
our Methodist Church in Belfast, where of course we spent our time, as you know, reacting against
the Catholics. And the Catholics spent their time reacting against us. So of course we didn’t
think of it as the ‘host’. I mean, “There’s nothing miraculous about that bread; it’s just ordinary
bread!” And they of course elevated it, and when the bell rang it became the ‘body of Christ’.
Well we were glad we didn’t do that. But when our custodian, one day, decided to throw the bread —
the remainder of the communion bread — out the back door for the birds as several families were
coming around from Sunday school, he was almost fired, because we thought, “No, you can’t do that
So we knew, “It isn’t the host. It isn’t Christ.” But we thought it was dreadful and dreadful
disrespect to throw the bread, the rest of the bread we hadn’t eaten at communion, out. And if you
had asked them, “Why do you think that? Do you think that’s the body of Jesus?” They would say,
“No, no, we’re not Catholic.” But we had a sense there was something holy about the bread.
Now, what we didn’t like was him treating that as an ‘it’! And we felt it was something of God.
Now that’s what we do in our lives. We treat our bodies, and our minds, and our lives here as if
we’re just us trying to be like Jesus. And we are Jesus! It is Jesus that is within us.
That’s why people talk about self respect and dressing properly. We’re dressing Jesus; we’re
dressing Christ. That’s why Luther used the incredible term, that there would be many ‘little
Christs’. And the tragedy is that we’ve taken that as a metaphor, too. And we’ve said, “Oh yes,
it’s a nice way he has of putting it, or a vivid way of putting it, that there’ll be many people who
will be like Jesus.” No! The clear indication of scripture is that Christ is in us, that “it is not
us that live, but Christ that lives within us.”
Now, that changes, of course, the whole way you live. You come to the depression and anxiety time.
So the depression comes down upon you, and the anxiety comes down upon you. You don’t need me to
invent them. You could tell me better stories than I could. But I could invent some quickly.
“I’ll never get married!” “I’m this age, and I haven’t done that.” “My future doesn’t look very
bright.” “Oh, I have no money!” “Oh, I couldn’t get the Page Maker done yesterday.” I mean, a
thousand things! Satan just ‘rings the changes’ on whatever it is. And we get depressed, and
anxious, and worried. And what do you do?
At that moment you can try to be like Jesus. And normally the way we all do it is, we turn to the
right scripture. And you can turn to it. You know it, Philippians 4. In that situation the
depression and the anxiety comes down like a black coat upon you. And you don’t, “Zippity do da,
zippity yay.” You don’t sing a little song, and whistle in the dark. But you do the equivalent of
it. It’s just, it’s more scriptural the way we do it. Philippians 4:4-6: That’s what we do
presumably. You turn to this verse or a verse like it. And as the depression settles on you, you
realize, “I can’t lay in bed all day in depression.” And we remember, “Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety
about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.” And then we look and we say, “That’s right. Now at this moment the
peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. All I
have to do is rejoice. I have to rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. Now, I
rejoice. Lord, I will rejoice in you. That’s what I should do. I should rejoice.” And we preach
a sermon to ourselves.
God’s way is, let Jesus have his way in you. Let Jesus do what he wants to do at that moment.
“Lord Jesus, what do you want to do as this black depression settles on me? This is your life it’s
not mine. I was crucified with you; I’ve been put in heaven. This is your life, what do you want
to do Lord? Lord Jesus, what do you want to do? Lord, I want you to think your thoughts. You do,
Lord Jesus.” And let Jesus rise up; let the living word rise up. And as you let him rise up he will
rejoice in you.
But there’s a difference. One is you try to rejoice because the Bible tells you so; or you try to
rejoice because you know it’s good psychology; or you try to rejoice because it would be being like
Jesus. And the other way is, you look to Jesus; and you have ‘faith’ in him to do what he wants to
do in you.
Now it’s the same in conversation where the conversation is going back and forward pretty innocently
in a room, but you’re not being listened to very much. Or you’re not very much the center of the
conversation. And so there’s something inside you wants to answer a little sharply to somebody, or
wants to push yourself forward in a conversation. And yet you know the Bible says, “Let your
forbearance be known to all men, the Lord is at hand.” And you think, “Yes, that’s right. The Lord
is right at my hand here I can forbear here. They’re not listening to me; they’re not noticing me,
they’re treating me as if I don’t exist; but I can forbear here.” You can do that, or you can
exercise faith in Jesus; and you can say, “Lord Jesus, this is your life. This is your life Lord.
Be yourself in me. Whatever you want to do, be yourself now. If you want to be like a ‘lamb before
the shearers is dumb, so you open not your mouth.’ If you want to be quiet, Savior, this is your
life; you do it.”
In other words you can try to be like Jesus or you can exercise faith in him. Now the amazing thing
is there’s a great difference between trying to be like Jesus and exercising faith in him. Not only
is one just a matter of sheer will power and the other isn’t a matter of sheer will power, but one
is a mental operation and the other is an action. That’s probably the biggest difference between
trying to be like Jesus by your own effort and by your own will power and being like Jesus by
exercising faith in him. One is a mental effort, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice.” The other
is an action, “I rejoice. I let Jesus rejoice that moment.” I must be quiet and I must be prepared
to be unimportant in this conversation.” The other is, “I just shine with gladness of what Jesus
wants to do at this moment.”
In other words, the way to allow Jesus to live in you is to act! Act! There’s an amazing old
phrase that is used by some of the men like Law [William Law 1686 – 1761 English clergyman and
theologian] and some of the old mystics. And they talk about acting the thing out. Act it out!
Act out what you know is true! And ‘acting out’ is letting Jesus actually live in you.
Another situation we get into is the temptation — one where either you’re walking down a London
street and all the young ladies are dressed in a provocative way, or you’re walking down a London
street and some guy goes past you on a beautiful motorbike. And you think, “Boy it would be nice to
have that,” or a thousand other things. But thoughts and temptations assail you in all kinds of
ways. And you’re bombarded with all kinds of temptations to think this or that. And of course
obviously we all know the verse to go to. It’s Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is
true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these
things.” And we go to that. We say, “That’s right ‘whatsoever things are true and lovely and of
good report, think of these things.’ Now, alright now, whatever is around me I’m going to think of
true and lovely things. Now let me think of true and lovely things now La Pieta [Sculpture of Mary
cradling the body of Jesus by Michelangelo], taking Jesus down from the cross, that beautiful
sculpture in the Vatican. I’ll think of that; or I’ll think of the praying hands; or I’ll think of
a picture of Jesus on the cross; or I’ll think of something beautiful. I’ll think of a beautiful
sunny day. I’ll think of lovely things, or I’ll think of pure things.” And that is all trying to
be like Jesus. It’s all trying to do it by your own effort.
Or, you can say, “Lord Jesus, this is you walking down Ashford Street. This is your body; I’ve
gone; I’ve been crucified with you; I’ve been buried with you; I’m with God at the right hand. This
is your body, Lord Jesus, what do you want to do?” And there will come up from within you a ‘spirit
dynamic’ of Jesus.
See, Jesus actually lives in you! That’s the amazing thing! This isn’t just a joke. It isn’t just
a nice metaphorical way of putting it. It’s the opposite of that verse in scripture you may know,
“Make no provision for the flesh.” Well, you can make provision for the flesh. I certainly can if
I stacked away – well I don’t do it because I’d die – well, I wouldn’t die but at least I’d shorten
my life — but I could stack away the Prestat chocolates in the refrigerator. And you’re really
And all of you, I know a little more about you ladies now on diet, because I know you either want to
die or you don’t want to die. You actually play at it or you do it. So you can make provision for
the chocolates. You can make provision for the flesh. You can make provision for living unlike
Jesus. But you can make provision for Jesus. See, that’s the amazing thing, you can make provision
It’s quite a touching – at least it touches me when I think of it but who knows. Marcellus was the
guy in the story of “The Robe” — this is the story as it is in the book, the novel. The movie cut
it short. But in the novel — I’ll tell it quickly because I’m sure I’ve used it before. Marcellus
was the fellow that took the robe, you remember, from the cross — won it in the dice game or
something. And so the story goes on. And he goes around, you remember, traveling to try to find
out what these Christians were about. And he visits the homes and visits the places where Jesus
visited; and talks to the people that Jesus knew about; talks to his disciples; the woman that knew
him; all that kind of thing. And at the end of course it comes round, and round, and round. And
eventually he either I think – he certainly eventually becomes a Christian.
But near the end of the book he is talking to one of the – I thought it was Cleopas, I thought it
was one of the men that weren’t disciples, but were on the road to Emmaus.
But he was talking to somebody like that. And he says, “Here’s a thing that baffles me, when I
visit these homes where Jesus has been, there are times when we’re in the middle of conversation,
and just some simple thing like a window latch clicks, or a door clicks and everybody turns around.
Now why do they do that?” And he said, “The man answered him, ‘Because we’re expecting Jesus any
minute.’” Which I don’t know why it touches me but, “We’re expecting Jesus any minute. So he
appeared — he has appeared and he has disappeared so often to us. He appeared in the upper room,
then appeared at the seaside. So we’ve seen him repeatedly. So we’re always waiting for him. Any
minute we know he’ll appear.” That’s the way to live.
That transforms a home. That transforms a home, brings a tenderness into relationships, brings a
thoughtfulness into life, brings a reality into life together. Of course, it prepares the way for
revival. You can see it does, because revival is just an absolute certainty that Christ is here.
Healing? When does healing take place? Healing takes place because of the fullness of Jesus’
presence. I was going to say there’s nothing miraculous in healing. Actually there’s nothing
miraculous in healing when Jesus is there. So healing is not something that you ‘lift up into’,
“I’m going to grab healing.” Healing is a natural byproduct of a group of people in whom Jesus is
allowed to live every moment.
Now, the tragedy of harsh words to another person, is not the sin. I don’t know that God is so
caught up with sin as we are. I don’t think that he’s caught up with the action. But it’s the
indifference to him. You remember, Studdert Kennedy [Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, MC, 1883 –
1929, was an Anglican priest and poet.] has in the collection of poems called “Unutterable Beauty”,
has one you remember, where he says and it’s called:
“When Jesus Came to Birmingham”
“When Jesus Came to Birmingham,
They simply passed him by,
They did not hurt a hair of him,
But only let him die.”
And then I can’t remember the rest of it but the last verse runs something like,
“It rained the winter rain
That drenched him through and through,
And Jesus crouched against the wall
And called for Calvary, and cried for Calvary.”
So when we do that we’re ignoring Christ. I remember the way guys do with the cigarette. [Pastor
steps and twists his foot back and forth as if putting out a cigarette.] That’s it. You’re
scrunching Jesus into the earth again; you’re scrunching him into the hole in the ground that is his
tomb, when you do not let him live and express himself in you every moment. And of course, that’s
what transforms our business: you can see it. That’s when people come into the fruit shop [Fish
Enterprises operated a fruit store in London], there’s something in the air; there’s a magic of
Christ’s presence in the air that they touch. And that’s what the ministry of Jesus’ life is about.
And the secret is Christ in me, the hope of glory. Christ.
And of course it makes your own life very exciting. There’s nothing exciting about opening the door
unless the hand is Christ’s. Then it’s exciting! And there’s nothing exciting walking along by
some flowers unless it’s the Lord of life walking uniquely by those flowers in you. And then it’s
exciting! It’s Christ! And that’s the key to the whole thing: it’s Jesus in you. That’s what
sanctification is: But that’s why you’re alive! You’re alive here to carry Christ and to let Jesus
be himself in you.
I’ll tell you what I like most about it. It means that your life is not just a following out of all
that is in these books. [Pastor is speaking in a library.] Or it’s not just a following advice that
maybe I have given you; or it’s not just trying to be like all kinds of other people. It’s a unique
original creation of a work of art! And that’s wonderful: that you actually are going to experience
Jesus living in you a ‘work of art’ that has never been lived before and will never be lived again.
That’s wonderful. That makes life so exciting. That means you have an afternoon to live! Jesus
has an afternoon to live in you that he has never lived before and he will never live again. That’s
wonderful, and that’s what faith in Christ is. And that’s what “Christ in you, the hope of glory”
is. Let us pray.