Description: We either live in fear or trust. Many of us govern our lives by the desires of our bodies and minds vs. a belief that we have a purpose in life.
Fear or Trust?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There are two very different worlds that we human beings can live in. Have you ever thought of that?
And really we look as if we’re the same kind of being. And yet what we have been finding over the
past few weeks is that we really do belong to two different worlds; that we’re divided. And it is
very important that we see what we have in common. Otherwise, we couldn’t be of any use to each
other. But it’s equally important to see that we’re of two different worlds and maybe the person
beside you could live in an entirely different world to you, and maybe the person behind you is a
very, very different kind of being to you. This is what I mean: some of us are utterly preoccupied
with our physical and mental needs, that’s the world we live in. It’s just good to be honest about
it. So it’s important if this describes you to be real about it. Don’t say, “Oh well, he’s
describing the bad ones now, let me wait for the good ones.” No, let’s be real about it so that God
can give us some honesty or truth. Maybe some of us who think we belong to the good guys, aren’t
really with the good guys. And so it is very important to break the old patterns of our thinking,
And some of us are utterly preoccupied with, will we get a new stereo, or will we get a new car, or
the new coat that we’re going to get, or we’re all taken up with whether we should buy a new
lipstick or not, or we’re preoccupied with whether we’re fat or whether we’re thin, whether we look
good or whether we don’t look good. And really, that’s what governs our life. Those are the
reasons we work too — and loved ones, be real. Many of us are like that. So don’t sit there and
say, “Oh, no, no. I know you’re preparing us for something here. No, that’s not me, that’s not
me.” Be real, some of us regard those as the reasons for working. Indeed, if we hadn’t those
reasons, we would be glad enough not to work. We really just work because we have to work to get
money to get these things and if we hadn’t these things to think of we’d kind of be pretty bored and
we’d wonder what to do with our lives. The hours would just seem to drag on. And so there are many
of us who belong to that world. Really, we are not much better, truly, than sophisticated little
animals, really we aren’t. We’re just sophisticated little animals.
We’re all taken up with whether we’ll have a dry bed the rest of our lives, where our next meal is
going to come from and that tends to be our preoccupation. And that’s the kind of people that are
described in a verse that we’ve looked at before, it’s Ephesians 2:3. And some of us belong to this
world and it’s better for us to just face it, and be honest about it. “Among these we all once
lived in the passions of our flesh,” and the passions doesn’t need to be filled with lust and
tremendous emotion fervor, passions in the Greek can mean just the desires of the flesh. “Following
the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
And many of us belong to that world.
Our lives are governed by the desires of our bodies and minds and we keep trying to find
distinctions between ourselves and our little dogs, but really we’re not very different. Dry bed,
shelter, food, and can we play after work and that tends to be it. And we kind of try to make it a
little more sophisticated and decorate it a little with a little interest and philosophy, but that
is basically what governs our lives.
Now there are others of us here this morning who govern our lives not by the appetites of our body
or by the desires of our minds and emotions but, we govern our lives by a spirit that is inside us.
We really do believe there is a divine employment service. We believe that. We believe there is a
divine labor exchange and we believe that the Creator of the universe put us here to do a particular
job and to express a vital part of himself that he couldn’t express through anybody else in the
universe. And we have begun to know his mind and we have begun to understand how he thinks through
this invisible spirit that we received by simply asking him for this spirit and, this spirit has
begun to let us sense what the Creator of the world is after.
It doesn’t bother us that this spirit is invisible because we know all the most precious things in
the world like love and atoms are invisible. So we realize that the things that govern the whole
world are invisible things — so that the fact that this Holy Spirit is invisible does not trouble
us. But we have begun to find that he guides and directs what we do day-by-day and that is what
governs us and we’re governed by that. So, we’re really interested in what this Creator wants to do
in certain situations that come up in our lives and we’re interested in any and every movement we
see that tends to be bringing about his order for his world. And we spend our lives interested in
how we can forward that whole drive towards order that he is trying to bring about.
Material needs are a marginal thing with us. We know that he is going to give us what we need as
long as we do the job he wants us to do and so we spend most of our time preoccupied with him,
really interested in what he is trying to do, really interested in what he wants us to do. So a
recession comes along and yeah we suffer like everybody else, but we do believe that if we take care
of what he has given us to take care of he will take care of our needs and so we live in that kind
of a world that is really governed by this spirit of God. And you remember we came across that in
the verse we studied last Sunday in Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons
of God.” So there are some of us here this morning who are that kind of being. We are sons and
daughters of God and we believe we belong to that world. We spend most of our time thinking of our
loving Father and getting to know him and getting to understand him. Now loved ones, that’s the
situation and I think most of you would agree that more or less all of us here belong to either one
world or the other.
Now how do you know which you belong to? Do you just keep hoping and then find out when you die
which one you belong to, or is there any way by which you can know for sure what kind of being you
are? Because loved ones, some of us here are just going to die out at the end of this life. Or,
we’re going to go into the kind of “No Exit” self-torture that Sartre talks about in that play. But
we’re either going to go into that kind of self-torturing experience forever or we’re going to go on
and live with this Being who started the whole thing that we have around us. And so it is important
to know which way you’re heading if only so you can do something about it.
How do you know the difference? Well, loved ones, Romans 8:16 really makes it very clear. It is
possible to know whether you are a son or daughter of God or not, “It is the Spirit himself bearing
witness with our spirit that we’re children of God.” That’s how you know. It’s important that he’s
given us that clear direction because a lot of us are anxious to persuade ourselves that we are
children of God. We think if we have some holy aspirations or come to church now and again, or
even come to church regularly, that we probably are children of God. We think when we have an odd
generous loving feeling toward somebody else, “Ah, we must be a child of God.” We think when we
believe that Jesus died for the whole world therefore we must be children of God. We’ll even
believe that if we think at times that he might have died for us, we must be children of God. We’re
always anxious loved ones, we human beings are incorrigibly proud, presumptuous things. And we’re
always anxious to persuade ourselves that we are better than we really are and that is why it is so
important to face the ground of Christian assurance here very plainly so that you won’t persuade
You know how persuaded we are that we’re a Christian nation and how ridiculous the very concept is.
You know how easily we want to look at the good side of ourselves. So would you look with me just
at these signs — clear signs — that give you an assurance that you’re a child of God. Do you see
in the verse? There are two spirits mentioned dear ones. One has a capital “S”, you see that, it
is the Spirit. It’s “Hanuman” in Greek. “Ha” is the article in Greek and when you get the article,
it is always translated in English by a capital “S” you see. Whereas the next word “spirit” did not
have an article and it’s translated as small “s”. So you see there are two spirits mentioned and it
is the witness of both these spirits that assure us that we are children of God, that enable us to
know that if we die this moment we go straight to be with the Creator of the universe and live in a
more beautiful world than this. And that first spirit is God’s Spirit, capital S — and the second
spirit is the human spirit.
So you see we have human spirits, otherwise we couldn’t receive God’s spirit into us at all. God’s
spirit can’t come into your mind because it is not intellectual life. It can’t come into your
emotions because it is not emotional life. It can’t come into your body because it is not physical
life. It has to come into a part of you that is spiritual itself and you have a human spirit. When
dear ones contact evil spirits they are using their spirit to contact evil spirits. Or when you
begin to play along with ESP, you’re getting into that level where the psyche is being raised to the
nth degree where it is just about to be involved with mediums and with the spiritual world, the evil
spiritual world. So all of us have spirits and it’s that human spirit that provides part of the
witness and the Spirit of God provides the rest of the witness that you’re a child of God.
Now what is the witness of God’s spirit? Well, it is really very easy to understand it. If you
keep in mind that the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is the third person of the Trinity, so the
spirit of God is a person. He’s a person. So you can have the relationship with him that you can
have with an ordinary person and you can have the awareness and the consciousness of what he knows
about you that an ordinary person can have. Do you know Leighton Carlson? Some of us say, “Nah, no,
never heard of him.” And, some people in the New Testament you remember said, “No, I never even
heard that there was a Holy Spirit.” And so, some of us would take that attitude to that name
Leighton Carlson, or I could mention and you could mention a dozen other names and you would all
say, “No, no, I don’t know him at all.”
Now it is possible to have that consciousness of your relationship or your lack of relationship with
Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a whole lot of mumbo jumbo, it’s just, “Do I know the Holy
Spirit? Do I know Jesus?” Now you either know him or don’t know him. Now some of you may answer,
“Well, no I don’t know Leighton Carlson, but I’ve heard about him. I’ve heard about him through
other people. But I don’t really know him myself.” So, some of you this morning may say, “Well,
I’ve heard you talking about Jesus and about the Holy Spirit and so I know a lot about them. Yeah,
I kind of know about them but I really don’t know them myself.”
And then, some of you can go a little further and say, “Well, yeah I know Leighton Carlson, but he
doesn’t know me.” And I’d put it to you loved ones — wouldn’t you know that he doesn’t know you,
isn’t that true? It means you don’t sit there and say, “Well, I know Leighton Carlson but I don’t
know whether he knows me or not.” You know that. You sit there and you’re all taking the attitude,
yeah, I know him or I don’t know him but the one thing you do know is whether he knows you or not.
So you either sit there and say, “Well, I know him but he doesn’t know me.” Or, you sit there and
say, “I know him and I know that he knows me.”
That is just a personal relationship that we have with each other. You know that dear ones, because
a lot of you know me and I see your dear faces and I know you to see you but I really don’t know you
personally. And, if someone came to me and mentioned your name and said, “Do you know so and so?”
I would have to say, “Well, no I don’t know them.” And they would say, “Well, they know you.” But,
do you see that a deep relationship means you know the other person and you know that they know you.
So some of you will say, “Yeah I know Leighton Carlson and I know that he knows me.” Now you can
know that, loved ones.
It’s the same with the dear Holy Spirit and with Jesus. If I ask you, “Do you know Jesus and do you
know the Holy Spirit, and do you know that they know you?” You have a deep sense inside of whether
that’s so or not. Yes, you do. Now that’s part of the witness of God’s spirit — when you can say,
“Yes, I know Jesus, and I know the Holy Spirit and I know that this Jesus knows me.” Now loved ones
you can say that or you can fail to say that but that’s part of the witness of God’s spirit. The
Holy Spirit witnesses inside you whether he is satisfied with you and whether he knows you and
whether his son, the Lord Jesus knows you or not. The Holy Spirit’s task is to give you that sense
inside. So do you see that, loved ones? It’s no use, you kind of sitting there and saying, “Oh
well, I mean I kind of know Jesus. I mean, I kind of do. Yeah, I know him.” But do you know that
he knows you? That’s it.
You can kind of say, “Oh well, intellectually I conclude that he’s the son of God and he knows all
things so he must know me.” Yes, but you know that’s not my question. I am asking you, do you know
personally in your own heart that Jesus knows you, that he’s met you, that he’s encountered you,
that he understands you, that he’s talked with you, that you and he have discussed things together
in prayer or walking along the road. Now that’s part of the witness of God’s spirit. That’s part
of how the Holy Spirit lets you know if Jesus is really satisfied with you.
Now, you can say, “In what way satisfied?” Well you know the way any personal relationship goes.
It goes like that, doesn’t it, I mean, whether it is husband and wife here this morning, or whether
it’s roommates, or whether it’s old school friends, or whether it’s business colleagues, that’s the
way it goes. You know one person gets a wee bit ahead of the other, maybe about Christianity, or
maybe about opera, or about politics, and they’re a little apart from each other and then the other
one kind of catches up and they’re at one. And then the other, gets a little further in insight on
some other subject and then the other one kind of catches up. And I suppose a divorce comes,
doesn’t it, when they don’t wait for each other, when they don’t love each other another enough to
let the other person catch up. But that’s the way any relationship goes, whether it’s marital or
whether it’s business. The one person is moving at different speeds but they keep catching up. You
certainly know when you are together on something, don’t you? If you’re a husband and wife here,
you certainly know when you are together, yeah, you can almost list them, “Yeah I’m together with
him on that, I’m not together on that.” And, it’s the same with roommates, “Yeah, we can get along
well together on this area but, don’t take us on to that area.” And, “Don’t touch Vietnam, but
we’re okay on Latin America.” And so we can kind of list the things and we know when in our
relationship we’re one with each other and that’s the way it works.
Now, you certainly know when you are not at one, don’t you? Have you ever had the experience of
meeting an old school friend with whom were very, very, close when you were at school and you so
look forward to getting together again. And you start off with some superficial things, “Oh you
remember so, and so”. And you remember and it looks great and it feels as if you’re just taking up
where you left off and you just sense that, “Oh, we’re back where we were.” And then you begin to
talk about some other things, and you begin to find that their life has gone a way out in that
direction and your life is way out there in the other direction. There comes a time when the
conversation kind of stops and you don’t have anything more to say. So you certainly know when you
are not together with a person.
Loved ones, that’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can witness to you when he has moved into a new
piece of light that you have not moved into yourself and you’ll sense a feeling of being apart from
him. You’ll lose the sense of his witness in your life. So the Holy Spirit, you see, is always
moving one step ahead and then waiting for you to catch up. Now, if you don’t catch up with what
he’s showing you, then you’ll miss that sense of oneness with the Holy Spirit, you’ll miss the
witness of God’s spirit. So, he initially you remember, shows us that we’re living for ourselves;
that that’s all we care about. We just live for ourselves. We live for our own satisfaction, for
our own fame, for our own comfort. And he shows us that it is that drive to live for self that God
destroyed when he destroyed us in Jesus on the cross.
And he introduces us to the whole principle of dying to ourselves and dying to living for ourselves.
Now the Holy Spirit at that point, with most of us, is a little bit ahead. He’s just a little bit
ahead of us. Now, if you don’t move up with him into that light, you will not have his witness that
you are a child of God. And then, you remember, he moves on another step and he begins to show you
how this applies to different areas of your life. And he shows you that your clothes are not your
own to do, or to buy, or to repair as you want. Your career is not your own. That you’re not here
to live to eat, but to eat to live; that your eating habits are not in your own control. That your
relationships with other people are not your own to govern as you want and he gets a little ahead of
you. Now loved ones, if you don’t move up with him into that area, you lack the witness of God’s
spirit that you’re a child of God.
In other words, the witness of God’s spirit depends on you keeping an up-to-date relationship with
him and moving into the new light that he’s showing you. Really it comes to this, that the witness
of God’s spirit depends on your up to the moment submission to him. That’s why some of you have
doubts at times. Some of you wonder, “Am I a Christian or am I not a Christian?” Well, it’s
because at that point the Holy Spirit is probably showing you something new and you are holding back
on it and God is so good, you know, he’s built us so like himself that we know inside ourselves
there’s something not right. There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark, there’s something
not right inside. And we know it, and we know that yeah, we’re pulling, we’re pulling, yeah we’re
dragging our heels and we know he is showing us new light, but we’re dragging back and yet we’re
keeping on saying, “Yeah, praise the lord, hallelujah. I’m a child of God.” And yet it hangs heavy
on our heart.
Now loved ones, the only way to experience the witness of God’s spirit that you are his child is to
keep that up-to-date relationship with the new light you’re walking into. But that’s part of the
witness of God’s spirit. God’s spirit gives you a sense of whether he knows you or not, whether
Jesus knows you or not, and whether they’re both satisfied and pleased with you or not. You can
know that inside. Of course, that’s the kind of assurance that can carry you through hideous
situations. That’s why, you remember, Jesus said, “If you do the will of my father, you’ll know that
what I say is true.” See, if you do the will of my father, you’ll know that what I say is true. If
you do the will of my father you’ll know, you’ll sense that this is right. But if you don’t do the
will of my father you’ll begin to doubt even the things that you were sure of before. So the
witness of God’s spirit moves like that.
Now what’s the witness of our own spirit, dear ones? Because that’s what really the second part of
the verse is talking about. It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we’re
children of God. Because there are deceptive spirits that will try to imitate the witness of God’s
spirit and that’s why God’s word joins the witness of his own Spirit with the witness of our own
spirits. Now what is the witness of our own spirit? Well, the witness of our own spirit is a more
empirical kind of thing; it’s not such an inner thing. The witness of our own spirit comes because
our own spirit is touched by Jesus’ spirit and our own spirit becomes like Jesus. So the witness of
our own spirit is simply seeing what comes out of our own spirit. It’s simply looking at the kind
of attitude that comes out of our own spirit. So there are certain marks, and you can find one of
them in Psalm 51:17. And this is part of the miracle that God’s spirit works in a human spirit that
is willing to submit to God and believe that he can give you an uncreated life inside you. “The
sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not
So if your spirit is touched by Jesus’ spirit, you will have a contrite, penitent heart towards God.
That’s one of the ways you can tell you are a child of God. If you come to a situation where God
shows you something and you say, “No, I don‘t want to do that and you’ve no right to ask me and I am
not going to do it.” Then that’s not the sign of a child of God. The sign of a person who is God’s
child is that his spirit or her spirit is penitent, and soft, and yielding. It is not a stubborn,
rebellious spirit that says, “No, I don’t want to take that. I don’t need to take it from anybody.”
The spirit of a child of God is penitent, and soft, and yielding. That’s one of the marks.
Another one, dear ones, is Ephesians 2:1, “And you he made alive, when you were dead through the
trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” And you he made alive. Your own spirit just senses
an aliveness, it comes into a service like this and it enjoys the singing, enjoys everybody else
being so friendly, and all that kind of thing and it looks forward to the lunch, but really it
enjoys most of all the sense of God’s presence and the sense of aliveness that there is. And you
have a sense of aliveness yourself when you get down to prayer. You have a sense of a whole
spiritual world that is going on behind this physical façade. And part of the witness of a child of
God’s spirit is that sense of aliveness inside and so you have it whether you are on your own or
whether you’re with other people.
Then the third mark is 1 John 5:1-2. “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of
God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children
of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”
Your own spirit that used to be so independent and so brash, that used to rub up like sandpaper
against everybody else, your own spirit that had great difficulty even loving your mom and dad, your
own spirit begins to experience a great love coming out from inside it. And you begin to sense that
the other people in this auditorium are your brothers and sisters and you begin to find a love going
out for them that you cannot explain yourself. And you are conscious that there has been a change
in the direction of your whole life because there was once a time when you didn’t feel like this
towards other people at all. One of the marks of a child of God is that you have this love that is
deeper than human empathy.
I was once a liberal theologian and I used to think, “Oh yeah, human empathy, that’s it, human
empathy.” Well, loved ones there’s lots of human empathy around, there’s lot of philanthropy
around, but this love is a love that really personally respects and wants the best for the people
that you meet. And it is a love that is patient and kind, that is not jealous or boastful, that is
not arrogant or rude, that is not irritable or resentful, that does not insist on its own way, that
is not eager to believe the worst but is eager to believe the best. It’s a love that keeps on going
and that’s one of the marks of the witness of your own spirit, that you experience that kind of love
for other people.
And the forth mark is the way it expresses itself. It expresses itself in obedience to God’s
commandments. That’s why old John says, “You’ll know how to tell whether you love people or not by
whether you love God or not. And the way you’ll know whether you love God or not is if you keep his
commandments.” And you’ll find another thing that he mentions in the next verse, in verse three,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” And then — that’s the big thing you
know, for every kid that respects his father, — “and his commandments are not burdensome.” And a
person who is child of God has that clear sense inside their spirit, “Your commandments are not
burdensome, Lord. They’re a delight. They’re things that I want to do and even if some of them I’m
having trouble with at this time, I want to do them. I want to obey you.” And, there is a joy
inside that makes you rejoice to obey.
Now loved ones that’s some of the way that you can tell which world you belong to. Because God’s
spirit inside witnesses that Jesus and he know you personally and then that joins together with your
own spirit, your own spirit that you simply observe by looking at the way you affect other people.
You don’t need to look in a lot, you don’t need to sit there and say, “Oh I’m going to look in and
introspect.” No, because you’ll probably persuade yourself that you’re a saint, but just look, just
look at what effect you have on other people. Look at how other people respond to you. Just from
time-to-time as you’re speaking to someone think, “Do I really love that person?” And if there’s
that kind of Jesus’ love coming from you then that’s part of the sign that you are a child of God.
So the beauty of this is, you can know. You don’t need to sit here Sunday after Sunday wondering,
“Well, am I or am I not?” Probably if you’re not sure, you’re not.
Some of you may say, “Well, does everybody have this assurance?” Well I can see how a brother or
sister who’s maybe having a bit of trouble over the old eating thing or having a bit of trouble
over some new light that God’s spirit was showing them, I can see that maybe temporarily you’ll be
having trouble with assurance. But loved ones, the mark — the general mark and tenor of our lives
— should be an absolute assurance that we are related to the Creator of the universe, that he is
our loving Father and that we’re a son or daughter that he knows and that he has a place marked out
for when this life is over. And that’s God’s will for us. So I pray that all of you will approach
him yourself and it seems to me the important thing is that personal relationship, isn’t it? Do
you know Him? But do you know that He knows you? You can’t afford to be a name dropper; I suppose
that’s it. You can’t afford to be a name dropper in a serious thing like this. You can’t afford to
say, “Oh yeah, I know him” if you really are not sure whether he knows you or not.
Let us pray. Dear Father, I would pray for each of my brothers and sisters and pray for myself that
you would give us a great honesty. And Father you would enable us to be real about all these things.
Our Father we have all so despised the hypocrites, we have so hated those who used to go to our
churches and pretend. Father we have so sensed that you want to bring a new generation of real
people into existence. Father we want to be some of those real people. Father I pray for a brother
or sister here who may see that he or she just does belong to that other world. I pray Holy Spirit
that you would show them how to stop living in that other world, how to stop living for themselves,
getting frustrated with themselves and fed up with life and how to turn to you and really believe
that you are what you say you are: our loving father who cares for us and who has put all our
selfishness into Jesus and destroyed it on the cross and who is now willing to give us of yourself
and your own life. Father I pray that some of us will be able to receive that life today by faith
and to start banking on it throughout this week and the coming years for Jesus’ sake. Amen.