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Description: Is your heart clean? Is it more natural to criticize than to love? Are you free from people's opinions, free from anger when things don't go your way?
The Holy Spirit Brings A Clean Heart
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
If you ask a little child who has been at Sunday school what the purpose of life is, every little
child will answer, “Well, the purpose of life is to live according to God’s will.” That appeals to
common sense. It is just common sense that the creator of the world, who made it and made us, knows
how best we will be fulfilled. So it appeals to common sense to say that we should live our lives
according to God’s will. It appeals also to the truth revealed in this book, the Bible, which
contains the clearest expression of our creator that we have in our earth. This book from the very
first chapter to the very last chapter urges us to obey God. That’s right. From the very first
chapter to the very last chapter you will find that we are urged to obey God, to live according to
His will. Indeed, that is the mark and the great privilege of any of us who are born again — any of
us who claim to have a real relationship that is personal with our God through the experience of the
Our great privilege is that described in 1 John 3:9, “Whosoever — anybody –born of God does not
commit sin.” Of course sin is explained and defined clearly in James 4:17 where it says, “Anybody
who knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” So outward sin is conscious
disobedience to God’s will. The great mark and privilege for those of us who are born of God is that
we do not commit sin. The emphasis here from the Greek word is ‘do’. We do not do any act or speak
any word that is disobedient to God’s will and that we know is disobedient to Him. Many of us who
are born of God have experienced that. When we first met Jesus we saw that certain things we did
were wrong. We stopped swearing, we stopped having adulterous thoughts and we stopped being
sarcastic. We stopped boasting, we stopped drinking, we stopped gambling, and we stopped certain
outward actions that we knew displeased God. Many of us who have been born of God have come to that
We have been freed from outward sin. However, great numbers of us have been troubled, not so much by
outward sin, which we managed to keep away from for the first few months or years of our
relationship with God. Most of us are troubled by the subject we talked about last Sunday. We are
troubled about inward sin, about stuff that nobody sees, and indeed, few people know about but
ourselves. That, loved ones, is what I would like us to talk about together this morning, because
inward sin is what causes many of us heartache and defeat. Many of us, in other words, are really
not unlike good Jews. Many of us are not very unlike good humanists. We outwardly conform to what we
know is true. That is not surprising, because even the Greek and Roman philosophers did that. They
expected in themselves outward conformity to known precepts. So many of us who are born of God are
in that position. Outwardly we conform our lives to the things that people expect and that the Bible
describes of children of God. In that way we are like all good Jews and all good humanists and all
pagan philosophers and all noble pagans.
Many of us are like them in another way, that we do that at the expense of an unbelievable inner
conflict. We do what is right outwardly but we do it only because we manage to keep down incredibly
monstrous and savage urges inside us that want to break out and that are constantly contradicting
what we are doing outwardly. In other words, many of us have been in the position where a friend has
got a good job or been promoted instead of us or has come into a lot of money. We have stuck out our
hand and said, “Congratulations,” and inside in our hearts is rising envy and jealousy of their good
fortune. Indeed, a creeping sort of suspicion is rising that really we ought to have experienced
that because we deserve it as much as they do!
Many of us in job situations have been in the position where in the midst of some duty that we have
been doing, we have suddenly had adulterous and unclean thoughts that are so utterly removed from
the outward expression of what we are doing that we cannot believe that it is coming from us. Of
course, it utterly spoils the particular interaction with the person or the colleague that we are
working with at that moment. Or in the midst of some philanthropic action or some religious service
where we are wholly taken up apparently with helping somebody else or with loving God, we suddenly
find within us a desire for self glory and prominence and praise that almost bursts out of us. We
see that we are actually vying for attention from people with the very Godhead himself.
So that is the realm where many of us have our troubles. It is really the realm of the motive life.
It isn’t normally the realm of the outward actions or the outward words. It is the area of motives,
the area of responses and reactions. It is those responses that come up from within us when our
conscious guard is down. Of course, what troubles many of us is the sneaking suspicion that if this
stuff seems to come up so naturally from within us and seems to come so freely and spontaneously as
a reaction to what people do to us, which is the real us? Is the real us the calm, civilized,
self-controlled exterior that everybody sees, or is the real us this savage lion inside that seems
to want to paw and beat everybody down in order that it should be prominent and pre-eminent? That’s
what troubles us, I think. Isn’t it?
The Mr. Hyde used to break out just a little and spoil the Dr. Jekyll civilized exterior. But it
seems the longer we have gone on with God, or the longer we have gone on coming to religious
services, the more that Mr. Hyde seems to be breaking out and the stronger he seems to be becoming.
That is what concerns us. We are troubled because we see resentment coming up inside us more than it
seemed to when we were younger. We see jealousy occupying more of our internal thinking than it used
to. We see irritability spoiling our relationship with more people because that’s what is happening.
The inward sin isn’t staying in now. It is beginning to break out at times and we can’t keep it
down. At the beginning it was a kind of schizophrenia. We thought, there is part of me that just
wants to do this and there is part of me that just wants to do that. But now it seems to be sheer
hypocrisy. More and more the people that we live with see our irritability and they see our
impatience, however much we try to hold it down. More and more the people at work are realizing the
kind of people we are deep down as we lose our temper, or as we get angry over something. More and
more we can only witness far from home and far from work where nobody really knows us.
Loved ones, there are thousands of us who live that kind of defeated, carnal life. Many of us have
come to that place where we just use the words of that old hymn, “Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I saw the Lord? Where is that soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His word?” You begin to
wonder, “Is this all there is?” Of course we have taken various methods of trying to live with it.
Some of us try to justify it. There are great numbers of silly people; just silly ostriches that try
to justify sinning Christianity. All of the dear, happy, sensible, non-Christians outside don’t
dream of justifying sinning Christianity. They have no doubt in their minds that Christians are
supposed to be people like Jesus. But there are huge numbers of us inside Christendom who try to
justify sin in Christianity. We say, “Remember Jesus? He really lost His temper there in the temple.
That is what I do, I just lose my temper a few times.” We try to compare His unselfish, controlled
expression of God’s wrath against hypocrisy in the temple, with our selfish, uncontrolled bursts of
temper which we let out when somebody is not opposing God but opposing us.
So thousands of us try to justify sinning Christianity. We say, “That is what it’s about. Whoever is
born of God doesn’t commit sin? Well, the Greek probably means something else.” So we try to justify
ourselves sinning and being disobedient. There are others of us who try to rationalize our sins. We
say, “Oh, all artistic types are fairly highly strung and I am artistic. I lose my temper at any
moment. There is the possibility of great evil, and the possibility of great good. So it is just my
temperament.” So we try to rationalize this stuff and make it, not traits of the self-life, but
traits of our “artistic temperament.”
Loved ones, is this all that is possible? Is this what God has called us to, to try to force our
rebellious heart to obey precepts that do not come naturally to it, to try to constantly get a
rebellious heart by sheer willpower to obey certain things that it is utterly opposed to? Loved
ones, the whole Bible says that is not true. Right from the days of Jeremiah God said, “Look, I am
going to make a new covenant with you. It’s not like the covenant I made with your fathers. I am
going to make a new covenant with you, and I am going to write my laws, not on tablets of stone. I
am going to write my laws on your heart so you will have no need for anyone to tell you to do this
or do that, but you will all do it naturally from within.” In other words, God said, “I will do a
work in you that will make it more natural for you to obey than to sin.” I think that is what
concerns many of us. We feel it has become more natural to lose our temper than to keep it. It has
become more natural to criticize than to love. It has become more natural to be sarcastic than to
praise. What God promised us back in the time of Jeremiah was that He would write His laws on our
inward hearts. In other words, our hearts would want to do what was right.
It is not natural to be angry. It is carnal to be angry. It is natural to be kind. It is not natural
to hate. It is carnal to hate. It’s natural to love. It’s not natural to be selfish. It is carnal to
be selfish, it is natural to be unselfish. That’s right, loved ones, it really is. What God has done
for us in Jesus makes it natural for us to obey Him. That is what Ezekiel said. Ezekiel said, “God
is going to take away your heart of stone and He is going to give you a new heart, a soft heart and
He is going to put a new spirit within you. He is going to take away from you this evil spirit.”
That is the whole purpose of the New Covenant, loved ones.
I don’t know if you have ever wondered what is the difference between the Old Testament and the New
Testament, or the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It is not just Jesus. It
is that the old covenant could simply offer forgiveness; the new covenant offers a deliverance from
sin. That is what Jesus did on Calvary. That is what happened. That is what Romans 6:6 means, “Our
old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be destroyed and we might no longer
be enslaved to sin.” It is a change inside in our hearts. That is what Peter said in Acts 15:9, “God
made no distinction between the Gentiles and us, but He gave them the Holy Spirit and He cleansed
their hearts by faith.”
Loved ones, it is possible to have your heart cleansed. It is, honestly. Indeed it is not only
possible but it is the whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth and it is the whole purpose of the
coming of the Holy Spirit. That is why they call Him a “Holy” Spirit. It’s not to make Him spooky or
make us afraid of Him. It’s to make us realize this is a dear, “Holy” Spirit. He makes you, not holy
in the sense of different and far out, but holy in the sense of like Jesus — kind, loving, pure,
understanding, gentle, tender. The Holy Spirit has come to this earth to make us like that. Now He
can do that in you. He can do that in you. There are thousands of us that will testify to the fact
that years after we were born of God, we became aware of a need for a deeper work in our hearts, and
we began to seek it.
I would like simply to tell you how to do it, and then it is really up to you what you do. The first
step is to acknowledge the Holy Spirit in your life. That is the first thing. The reason for that,
loved ones, is that you, with all your introspection, and me, with all my self-examination, cannot
get to the heart of our evil being. We can’t. You have tried it and you go as deep as doesn’t matter
and so do I. In the process we all get depressed and discouraged. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is a
Counselor. He knows you. In other words, why you are surprised at the anger that pops up inside you,
why you are surprised about the irritability and the bad temper is, you don’t know yourself. You
don’t. You don’t know yourself. At least in this span of life you should at least get to know
yourself. The only way you will get to know yourself is if you have this dear counselor beginning to
reveal yourself to you. Honestly, you need Him because you don’t want to look at certain things. You
don’t. You are in the grip of a selfish heart, and you don’t want to look at certain things inside
yourself. You don’t. Some of us have even tried counseling and tried the analyst’s office but there
are certain things we don’t want to see. Only the Holy Spirit can take you to the depth of your
Loved ones, if you are not prepared to see that depth, God can never save you from it. Do you see
that? He cannot save you by default. He will not put you on an operating table and put you to sleep
and do the operation without you knowing. He won’t. You have to know what you are, and the first
step is to acknowledge the Holy Spirit as your counselor. I am not going to argue about whether you
pray to Him or not. I talk to Him, but I think He is the Spirit of Jesus. I think He is a dear
person of the trinity. I don’t exalt the Holy Spirit. He always glorifies Jesus. That is what Jesus
said, “The Holy Spirit will not bear witness to Himself, and He will always bear witness to me.” So
you are safe in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
So the first thing is, believe that the Holy Spirit is a person in your life. Ask Him, “Holy Spirit,
will you begin to counsel me about this? Will you begin to take me down to the depths of my inner
self so that I, at last, know myself?” Loved ones, it will take a long time, because do you know
what you have done? (We have all done the same thing.) We have come to a time when we knew we should
do something and we didn’t do it. We quietly disobeyed God, that piece of ice bedded down in our
hearts. That resistance to God’s will hardened inside our hearts.
A few weeks later it came to another little thing, a dirty joke told in the office. We snigger so
that we will be thought of like the rest. We know we disobeyed Him and sidestepped the issue. That
beds down in our hearts and another piece of ice hardens. Now loved ones, you have layers and layers
of that past resistances to God’s will that have built up a hard, hard heart. It is from that mess
that all this stuff comes. So it takes a while. You will often think you have gotten to the bottom
of your heart when the Holy Spirit will show you the next day, no, there is something more.
So the first step is, acknowledge the Holy Spirit as your counselor. The second step is, see how
sinful that old self of yours is. Here is the way the Bible talks about it. The Bible says in Romans
8:7, “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God. It is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed
can it be.” Now, loved ones, you need to see that.
I don’t know if you know this, but in many countries when loved ones find out they have a sickness,
they don’t go back to the hospital because they are afraid. They are afraid especially if it is an
incurable sickness. They just pretend it is not there. Now do you see, you and I haven’t that
excuse. We have been crucified with Christ. Our forgiveness is assured because of God’s attitude to
us. We don’t need to hide this evil self, we don’t need to defend it and think that unless we prove
that we haven’t this inside us we won’t get into Heaven. We will get into Heaven because of what God
has done for us in Jesus and what God has done to us in Jesus. The antidote for this disease is
present in Jesus’ death. So look at self and see the sinfulness of self.
Here is the mistake we make. We see a little bit of impatience — the person doesn’t get into the
car fast enough, so we say, “Hurry up. Get in.” We bluff ourselves and say, “Just a little bit of
impatience, I must pray about that sometime.” Or we say, “Well, they deserve that.” But we say just
a little impatience and we don’t realize that it is just like an iceberg. Do you know what you see
of an iceberg? You see a tenth of the iceberg above the water. Then if you go down underneath you
find the iceberg goes out like that. That is what it is with your impatience. That is what it is
with your irritability or with your bad temper.
You and I need to see that that old self wants to be God and that is why it gets impatient. “I know
exactly the number of seconds it should take to close that car door. I know exactly the number of
minutes it should take you to get ready for us to go out shopping. I know it. I have it built in my
heart deep down. I am God! I know the way these things should happen.” But we think, “Oh no, it is
just a little impatience.” It is not, loved ones. Underneath that little iceberg tip, there is a
self that wants to be God, and it is determined to have its own way, and determined to stand up for
its own rights and it is that carnal heart that spews up those raging tempers. You must admit you
are amazed at times how strong they are. We are amazed. We almost think it is an evil spirit or
something in me. It can’t be me. But loved ones, it is you.
The second step is to see the sinfulness of that old self and to see that there is no possibility of
improving it or taming it or training it or autosuggesting to it that it ought to be a better self.
There is only one thing to do, and that’s the remedy that God wrought on Calvary. He destroyed that
self. But you need to see how sinful that self is. I know we are all fighting this healthy-minded
stuff. I know that. I know we are all having whispers given to us, “Oh, you are really good. You are
You are really bad but you can be good. God has done a work in Jesus that will make you good, but
first of all you have to see how bad you are. Don’t be afraid of that, don’t pretend, and don’t
think that it is something you can get rid of by a little autosuggestion. It isn’t, loved ones. See
the sinfulness of self. See that it is enmity with God, that it is not subject to God’s law and
indeed it cannot be, whatever you do with it. That is the second step.
The third step is to see that our old self was crucified with Christ, to see that you actually have
been crucified with Jesus. That all that internal personality that depends on people and gets
irritable with them when they don’t give you what you want; all that internal self that depends on
things for its security and therefore gets worried when the things aren’t there; all that internal
self that depends on other people’s opinions and other people’s fellowship and friendship for its
enjoyment and gets mad when it doesn’t get the enjoyment it wants: that has been crucified with
Christ. That is a fact. Don’t get caught in this business, “Oh, but that is not my experience.”
Don’t look at the experience of this case — look at the fact. There is a time to look at your inner
self, but then there is a time to look at the fact that your old self was crucified with Christ and
to hold onto that fact. That has happened whatever you feel like or whatever you have experienced.
The Bible says we are crucified with Christ. If Christ died for all, then all died. Colossians says,
“You are dead with Christ.” We have been crucified with Jesus, and there is a resurrected you that
is new and clean and pure and perfect. See that.
The fourth and last step is consecration. Are you willing for whatever the Holy Spirit asks you to
do in your life? If the Holy Spirit asked you to be crucified with Jesus are you willing for that?
If the Holy Spirit asked you to have the only friends in your life jeer at you and jibe at you or
turn away in disappointment, as happened with Jesus, are you ready for that? If the Holy Spirit
asked you to have only one friend, and that one friend was God only, with no other friends that you
could depend on, would you be willing for that? If the Holy Spirit asked you to be a failure in your
life or career, as Jesus appeared to be a failure to everybody, would you be willing to do that?
(Forget about arguing whether He would or not. Obviously He is kind and He wants the best for you.)
Would you be willing to do whatever the Holy Spirit asks you to do in this life?
Now loved ones, when at last you come to the ground of your heart and you say, “I would,” you will
have no trouble with believing for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Faith will spring up in your
heart to receive the Holy Spirit in to cleanse your heart by faith and to fill you with the fruit of
the Spirit — with love and joy and peace. But that can only happen in a person who is willing to be
Jesus. That’s it. The Holy Spirit will only come in and cleanse your heart if you are willing to
face the things that Jesus faced. You can see how it works out. You can see so many instances. You
get irritable because you want that thing finished to give to the boss. What if you were willing for
the boss to think you a useless fool? You can see how the Holy Spirit then could bear in you
patience with the loved one that had to give you the paper. But the Holy Spirit cannot do that. He
cannot express the beauty and the love of Jesus through you unless you are willing to face the same
consequences as He Himself faced. That is the secret, loved ones. Are you willing to consecrate
yourself fully to Jesus for His glory only and to die with Him to all that people and things can
give you? When that moment comes, you will know it.
Many of you have said, “How will I know? How will I know I have come to the place where He can
cleanse my heart? How will I know when I have come to the place where I can be baptized with the
Holy Spirit?” The Holy Spirit will witness it. You will know. A dozen times I thought I was there
but the Holy Spirit is good. The next day there was something in my life that showed me very plainly
I was not there. The Holy Spirit will witness when you’ve come to the ground of your heart, when
you’ve totted up all that you’re worth and you’ve given it to God for whatever He wants.
Loved ones, the Holy Spirit then will cleanse your heart and your heart will become a delight to
you. It will be a garden of spices and of fragrant smells. It will be a place of beauty and of love.
It will be a heart that you are glad to look at, and it will take away all fear of responding the
wrong way to somebody or reacting the wrong way. Suddenly you’ll be a child of God because you feel
like a child of God. You will smile outwardly because you are smiling inwardly. You’ll love because
you are loving right from the inside right out the whole way. That is God’s plan. That is the way we
were meant to live. That is the way we were meant to live and that is what the Holy Spirit can do
for you. I should say to the loved ones on television that He can do that for you, too. Let’s pray.
Dear Father, I would pray that You would help my brothers and sisters who want to come to the grace
of a clean heart, whatever the cost. I pray, Father, that you will enable them to begin this
pilgrimage this very day with you, dear Holy Spirit, as their guide. Lead them through to the place
where they are prepared to side with You against self, where they see step-by-step the things that
they are to be willing for in their life if You are going to give them this great grace. Holy
Spirit, I trust you to make saints among us in these days, men and women who will be consistent the
whole way through. If we cut each other open at any place, we will see exactly the same beauty and
the same love the whole way through.
Father, we know that is what heaven will be like, and we know that is what you want for us here on
earth and for our loved ones. We give ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, for this definite work of grace
for Jesus’ 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.