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Description: Why is religion so popular but changed lives so rare? Why are so many so unlike the one whose name they claim? Is there a truth they skipped?
Counting the Cost
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Could you take a Bible please and turn to John 6:66. It’s not the kind of verse we all delight in,
but it’s real. John 6:66, “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with
him.” I know particularly those of us who are getting started in life — but even those of us who
are getting towards the middle of it know that in America we really like to be successful. Our
society glories in success and we are all taught from when we’re children that the purpose of our
lives is to be successful and so we don’t go too much for anything that looks vaguely like failure.
That puts a tremendous burden of course on all of us because we all have to try to pretend that
we’re successful every time and every year and actually we aren’t. The very idea of success is
something that everybody differs on, so it’s virtually impossible either to satisfy your own ideas
of success but particularly it’s impossible to satisfy everybody else’s idea of success.
As I look around you, I really don’t think that any of you is an exception to this. The strange
thing is that we have set up a framework for our lives that is almost bound to be a disappointment.
It’s almost bound to be a feeling of anti-climax. I say that respectfully to each of you because I
am sure all of you have successes in different ways but we are so preoccupied with success. You know
what I mean. Okay, you’re successful career-wise but what about your marriage? It’s a mess. All
right, you’re successful in your marriage but what have you done with your career? You know it just
It’s impossible to prove to yourself satisfactorily that you have been successful on every front.
Yet our society glories in that and hates even talking about something that isn’t successful. So
apart from the fact that ideas of success are ridiculous, yet the whole commitment to success is
ridiculous and of course it isn’t reality. It just is not reality. It isn’t.
So, here is the dearest man in the whole universe. The highest and the best ethical teacher that the
world has ever seen, the Son of the maker of the universe and you read this verse, “After this, many
of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.” We just hate that kind of talk. You
know you do. There’s something inside you that says, “Don’t talk about that, don’t talk about that!”
We’ll sing ” Zippidee-doo-daah, zippidee-ay, my oh my oh what a wonderful day.” Let us talk about
happy things. Let’s talk about the days when the crowds were around Him and when He was successful.
Let’s not talk about this day. But this day is real. There came a day in Jesus’ life when many of
His disciples drew back and no longer went with Him.
In other words, everybody did not follow Him to the end. The interesting thing is that this occurred
quite early on in his ministry. We always think, “Oh well, you mean when He was coming towards the
end, when Peter and others forsook Him. That’s what you mean.” No, this occurred quite early on in
the ministry. Now, why did it happen? Well, it is dead easy to see. It happened because He started
to talk gloomily and they just knew that their right under the constitution was to happiness. They
couldn’t take gloominess when He began to talk gloomily in John 6:53.
John 6:53: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son
of man and drink his blood,'” — Drink his blood? Do you know what they charged the Christians with
in the first century? If you read some of the ancient documents of the Roman Empire during the first
century, you’ll find that they brought the Christians in not simply on charges of disloyalty to
Caesar, but on charges of being cannibals. “These people have special meetings in the catacombs, in
secret, where they drink human blood and they eat human flesh.” That’s what they said.
These people eat people, that’s why the Christians are savage criminals that ought to be
exterminated and it was on the basis of this that they said that. Verse 54, “He who eats my flesh
and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food
indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” After that, many of His disciples ceased to follow Him.
Because He started to say to them, “You’re actually going to have to eat my flesh and drink my
Now why did He say they had to do that? Well, it’s in verse 56. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my
blood abides in me, and I in him.” That’s it. Jesus began to say to them, “I know you love me. I
know you respect me. I know you believe my teachings but do you understand that you’re actually
going to have to come inside me and I am going to have to come inside you? That’s what’s going to
have to happen.”
“You’ll have to come inside me and I’ll have to come inside you. You will have to endure what I
endure. My blood and my flesh are going to be spilt and are going to be torn apart for you. You’re
going to have to come in and you’re going to have to experience that inside me.” And the disciples
said, “Forget it. We like the teaching, we like the miracles, we like the crowds, we like the
popularity, we like this idea of Heaven and happiness but we’re not going to have anything to do
with blood and flesh — blood being shed and flesh being torn apart? Death? No, we don’t want
anything to do with that!”
Now loved ones that’s where we are, do you understand that? That’s where we are not just in America,
but that’s where we are in Western Christianity. Do you know that? We’re exactly there.
Heaven? Yes, the pleasure part? Yes, go-go singing and music? Yes. Happiness? Yes. Death? No. No,
we’re not going to have anything to do with death. And we’re not going to have anything to do with
hardship. We’re not going to have anything to do with that. So just don’t present that. We don’t
like it. We’re not interested in it. We want heaven. We want our sins forgiven. We want to be happy.
This life has enough misery in it without you bringing more. We don’t want to talk of death. That’s
where we are.
It’s the same today and you’re great witnesses of it. We don’t want anything to do with hardship or
death, but that is the Gospel. That’s the Gospel. Because the truth is the Bible is really true. It
really means what it says and you see what it says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The wages of sin is death.
That’s the Gospel.
The only way you can destroy sin is through death. That’s the only way you can destroy sin. Jesus
died for us in that He took us into Himself and destroyed us on Calvary. That’s why He said, “You’re
going to have to drink my blood and eat my flesh because that’s the only answer My Father has for
you and your sin. You’re going to have to die with me. I am going to die and I am going to have you
inside me when I die and that is how you’re going to be freed from sin.” He explained that, you
remember if you just look back one chapter in Romans 6:7.
“For he who has died is freed from sin.”
Jesus said, “The only way you’re going to be freed from sin is through death. The wages of sin is
death. I died for you so that you could be freed from sin. And you have to drink my blood and eat my
flesh because you have to experience that death. That’s the only way you’re going to be free.” Why?
It’s because of Romans 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.” “I know that nothing good dwells within me.” That’s why. There’s nothing good in
you or me — nothing purely good. We do some nice things because your dad was nice in one way, your
mom was nice in another way, and you do some nice things. But in you yourself — in the heart of you
— there’s nothing truly good and so the only thing God can do with you and me is destroy us and
kill us and put us out of existence and make something absolutely new — a completely new creation.
That’s what Jesus began to explain to the disciples and they said, “No, we don’t want to hear.”
You can’t help feel sorry for him. (At the time of this sermon, a well-known evangelist was exposed
for gross sin and immorality). I think he’s a mad man. I think he is mad, whatever he got himself
into, whether it’s homosexuality or prostitution. It’s madness, but your heart goes out to the souls
and that’s why we have our present situations, do you see that?
We make the “Jimmys and the Tammys”. (Referring to Jim and Tammy Baker) We make them. What they are
we want. The psychiatrists say you always get the children you want and we don’t like that. We get
the heroes we want. We make them. I’m with you, it’s wrong, it’s terribly wrong. It’s terrible, and
it’s hypocritical. If you say the worst things, I’ll agree with him. It’s terrible, unthinkable and
ridiculous. It makes a fool of Christianity. It spoils young people’s view of what evangelists are.
It’s ridiculous but not as bad as all of us self-righteous people, with our sins forgiven as we say.
Jesus can’t even get us to hear His words “whoever is without sin.” He can’t even get us to hear His
words. We are so busy picking up the boulders and stones. Stones aren’t big enough. We need
boulders. We need to dash this fellow into the ground. We need to grind him into the dust. We need
to destroy him completely because we are all very holy people. It’s terrible isn’t it? You
understand what I am doing? I am not speaking on their behalf at all. I have no interest in that. I
am speaking on behalf of the Gospel. But the only answer going over the television waves at the
moment is, well we ought to forgive them because that’s what the Gospel is. We all feel uneasy about
it. We feel we should forgive them, but yet we feel, “Well wait a minute now, if we forgive him when
he does this, what about the next time? Where does it end?”
Where do you ever find rock under your feet? I mean do we have to forgive every great leader that
falls? Then if that happens do we not all become just an amoral bunch that are saying, “Oh do your
best and if you can’t do your best it doesn’t matter because we’ll forgive you anyways?” So, there
is an uneasiness in all our hearts. We feel it’s right. But loved ones I submit to you that what we
feel is right, is that we shouldn’t be judging. We shouldn’t be judging. It’s our little conscience
still urging, “You have no right to judge.” That’s what we feel is right.
We have no right to judge. But we feel in our own hearts, is there not a better Gospel than the one
that leaves Jimmy Baker in the position that he is in? Loved ones, there is, but it’s this Gospel
that we’re talking about this morning. Jesus died not just so that our sins would be forgiven, but
so that you and I could be carried to death with Him, could be destroyed and could be remade utterly
and completely. That’s the Gospel. And that’s the Gospel that many of the disciples were repelled
by. It’s the Gospel that still, we in our Western Christianity are repelled by — but that is the
The only way for you and me to be saved from the kinds of things that we are so self-righteously
judging in this one and that one and the other one — the only way we can be saved from that is to
experience a real death with Jesus on Calvary. The only way is for you to be utterly replaced by
Jesus, that’s it. That’s what the Gospel is. You and I are so bad that God had to destroy us utterly
in Jesus and had to remake Jesus in us. That’s the Gospel.
So the Gospel is not just “come and confess your sins and believe they’re forgiven.” The Gospel is,
“Lord God, I am rotten to the core. I do the very same things that I charge and accuse and criticize
in others. I am so rotten that all you can do is destroy me utterly and completely in Jesus and
remake Him so that He lives this life instead of me.” That’s it. Now, that’s what the disciples
didn’t like. But that is the Gospel.
You remember one of them misspoke. I’ll show you where it is. It’s in Galatians 2:20. He misspoke
and then corrected himself. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I
who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Where he misspoke is in Galatians 2:19.
“For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God.” And then he said, “No, it’s not
me that’s living to God. It’s not me that lives but it’s Christ that lives in me.” That’s the
Your only hope and my only hope is if Jesus takes over our lives and lives in our place. That’s the
only way we’ll be saved from sin. I am not talking about some mystical thing. You have to cease to
exist and Jesus has to live in your place so that the only thoughts you have are those of Jesus.
The only thoughts you have are what Jesus wants or what He wishes to do. That’s the real Gospel and
that’s why the disciples ceased to go with Him. All of us are willing to follow if we have the right
still to run our own lives and to refuse and reject what our leader says. We’re all willing to
follow with that qualification. But we’re not willing to give over our lives completely and cease to
exist and let Jesus alone live. That’s what it is, loved ones, and that’s what the Gospel is. That’s
the only thing that will save from sin. That’s the only thing worth preaching. It’s the only thing
worth living and dying for.
I remember at school, we were all taught, you stand up and you say what is right, whatever the cost.
My parents taught me that too. I’m sure that many of you were taught to do the same thing. But you
see the only way you can do that is if it’s no longer your life that you’re defending. Then you can
do it because it’s Jesus standing up inside you and doing it. It’s the only life worth living.
Now, if you don’t live that life, you’re going to be dwindling away your life in a realm of
relativity and uncertainty until you die. You know fine well you can’t be a child of God and
actively be homosexual. You can’t be a child of God and actively fornicate. You can’t be a child of
God and sin. You can’t. It just makes foolishness of the Bible and foolishness of everything. But do
you see those words are for you and me here; they’re not just for Jimmy and Tammy Baker and all the
rest. Those words are for you and me.
You and I can’t sin and be a child of God. We can’t sin and dwell in Heaven forever. The only way
you can be saved from sin is through death. The wages of sin is death and the only way that you can
die is by accepting what God has done to you in Jesus and allowing Jesus to take over your life
completely and utterly and absolutely. That’s it. To those of you who are young and those of us who
are older, it’s the same old Gospel. It’s everything. It costs you everything. It costs you
If you say to me, “And doesn’t it makes you miserable?” Oh yes terrible, just unbelievably
miserable. It’s just an unbearable life. It prevents you being able to bear anything at all. It’s
just terrible. I would not recommend it to anybody. (Pastor O’Neill is saying this without being
serious). I mean it’s glorious, glorious, glorious. It’s the only life to live. It’s the only life
that is proof against the hideous unreality and injustices and ridiculous things that happen in this
life. It’s the only way to live. Besides, I’ll tell you a secret. Sooner or later you’re going to
die anyway. You’re going to die anyway.
You can choose to do it now or eventually God will have to wipe you out simply in order to make
Heaven possible. But you can choose to hand it all over to Him today. I’d encourage you to do it as
God gives you grace this morning. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank You for Jesus and we thank You Lord Jesus for taking every part of us that is
rotten to the core and allowing Your Father to destroy it forever. Lord, we thank you for bearing
the pain. Now we come to you to hand over our lives completely and absolutely and utterly to you. We
have no right to live. We have earned the wages of sin and they are death, and we stand up now and
we take that death and we accept it and we end our lives this day. We bury in your tomb all our
hopes for the future and all our preferences and all our rights and we give this life now over to
you. We give you the right to do what you want with this life and to live it the way you please and
to speak when you wish and to think what you want. We will continuously and repeatedly bow to your
will every moment of each day and each night and allow Your Spirit to fill our lives and to achieve
what you want in this present world.
Now Lord Jesus, we thank you for the Gospel of life out of death and we thank you that we too can
commit ourselves to knowing nothing but Christ and him crucified – the hope of glory. Amen.