Description: Are there shadowy places in our Christian lives that really can't be called Christian? Did Jesus do more for us than we have yet seen?
Atonement Means Identification
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Genesis 6:5-7; “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he
had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man
whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the
air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” And then you remember, in Genesis 7:21-23 is the
historical event of the flood.
Genesis 7:21-23; “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming
creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man; everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was
the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man
and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth.”
Why did God react that way? I ask that because we ourselves are living in a society whose Supreme
Court has described that kind of action as a cruel and inhuman punishment. So that’s why I think
it’s a problem to many of us, why God reacted that way. When our own Supreme Court describes capital
punishment as an inhuman punishment, then why did God react that way?
You know that most of us, who have come through our educational system recently, have been
encouraged to think in that way. You must admit, most of us have the kind of predisposition to
believe that there is no evil so absolutely evil that the only thing you can do is destroy it. We
really have been encouraged not to think that way. Yet you must admit that in practical affairs that
concern our own lives, we do believe that there is some evil that is so bad that the only thing you
can do is destroy it.
For instance, we believe that certain clothing that are impregnated with any plague or contaminated
with any disease, all you can do with that clothing at times is to burn it and destroy it. We
obviously believe it with much of our radioactive material. That’s why we dump a lot of it in the
deepest depths of the ocean. It’s because we believe that there is certain material and certain
things that are so bad that you can’t do anything but destroy them.
It is interesting that certain governors and presidents, who are responsible for deterring society
from destroying itself, obviously think in the same kind of way. They think that there is certain
evil that is so bad that you have to destroy it before it destroys us. Yet you know that we have
been encouraged to think that there is no evil that is so absolutely exclusive of good that all you
can do is destroy it.
You know we have been encouraged to think that it’s kind of primitive and bourgeois to believe that
you have to destroy something — that you cannot actually redeem it. We have begun to think that
there is no black and white, that there are shades of gray and that there are no things just as bad
as that. Yet, we can see that if you carry this to its ultimate conclusion, eventually society
itself would not exist if we continue to think in these terms.
We have begun to see that there must be something that is worth preserving. There must be a moral
authority somewhere in the universe that you have to try to preserve if we’re not all to take part
in the destruction of one another. There was a really lovely, one of the most beautiful movies that
has taken off much faster than “Deep Throat”. It’s just one of the beautiful movies with Walter
Matthau and it was called “Kotch”. It was the story of an old grandfather. It’s just beautiful and
really was a great help to us.
Kotch at one point remembered some lines of Latin that he learned at school and it ran, “Quis
Custodiac custodiace”. It means, who will protect the protectors? And I think that’s it, dear ones.
Obviously a man like Nixon and Rockefeller, however much we may disagree with them on other issues,
obviously they have begun to see that if you don’t protect the law enforcers then eventually you
come to a place where anything goes. If you don’t make the destruction of policemen and prison
guards an absolute “no-no” that receives punishment, i.e. the capital death penalty, then eventually
you get into a society where nobody cares about anything.
So obviously, brothers and sisters, somewhere along the line you have to get the buck to stop being
passed. Somewhere along the line you have to settle and decide, “Look, there’s something that is so
bad that you have to stop it however you stop it.” And I think many of us are slowly beginning to
see that. Even the psychologists are beginning to see it too — that there are some things that are
so bad that you really have to act to stop them.
Now if you want to see the disease that you and I are in at the moment, you only had to watch
“Archie” [TV sit com] last night and you saw the disease, didn’t you? We will look after ourselves.
The girl was almost raped but we will look after her reputation. Okay, the fellow may go out and
rape others but we want to keep the dignity of our own family intact.
That’s how far this kind of disease is gone. We have lost the sense of absolutes and the feeling
that there’s anything worth putting your life on the line for. Now we’re being driven back in our
cities into apartment blocks where we have security systems on them and we just lock ourselves up in
our little caves. We’re getting back to the caveman mentality. You lock yourself up, keep your gun
on your bedside table and you don’t let anybody in to you.
Now loved ones, do you see that that comes when we believe that there is no evil so absolutely evil
that it has to be destroyed. Now obviously God did not think that way at all. You can see that on
the basis of that piece of history that we’ve just read, on the basis of the evidence of an alluvial
layer of rock throughout the world, i.e. geological evidence for a flood, and on the basis of the
attitude of Jesus to the Old Testament history. Obviously there came a time when God decided, “This
is so evil that all I can do is destroy it, if I am going to preserve anything at all.” That’s
really what we’re reading about when we read about that flood. God obviously believes there is some
evil that is confrontable only with destruction and that’s the only way you can deal with it.
Now what is that evil or what are those attitudes? Well, the attitudes that God felt were so bad
that they had to be destroyed were summed up by the writer of an article in the “Minneapolis Star”
newspaper last year. He did an article on a survey that he carried out on students at the
University of Minnesota who were graduating that year. He was trying to find out the motives that
were guiding them in their choice of jobs and he summarized the motives under three categories:
profit, power, and success. Those were the three things that were guiding the majority of students
who graduated from the university last year in their choice of jobs.
They were going for jobs to give them profit. Or they wanted a job that give them power and
influence. Or they wanted a job that gave them a feeling of success and enjoyment. Now those are the
three attitudes that the Creator of the world set out to destroy by that flood. Those are three
attitudes that deal with the three areas of our soul: the will, the mind and the emotions. Those
are the three attitudes that, if they’re allowed to wildcat throughout the universe, will eventually
destroy the universe and destroy all of us.
They are the attitudes mentioned in that verse that we’ve looked at often, you know if you refer
back to Genesis 3:6. And these are the attitudes really that the psychologists confirm, make the
wheels of industry and commerce turn. Most executives are governed and driven by these three desires
or these three needs. You find them there in Genesis 3:6.
Genesis 3:6; “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to
the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and
she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”
Now, it was because of those three motives or desires that we decided to set up our own standards of
good and evil and decide what was good and evil for ourselves.
Now you can see them there in verse 6. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food.” This is the
desire to have our own way, get what we want, whatever it costs anybody else. It’s the desire to get
things. “And that it was a delight to the eyes.” It’s the desire for enjoyment and happiness
whatever it costs anyone else. “And that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” It’s the
desire to use our minds to manipulate people and circumstances to our advantage.
Those are the three same motives — the need for profit, power and success. Now the reason those
drives are so powerful is that God did make us with a need for security. We really do have a need
for security. We don’t need all the food in the world but we do need security. We don’t need all the
clothing in the world but we do need security. He made us with the need for security. So that is
He made us with a need for happiness. So that is a thing that’s God’s gift. That’s why it’s such a
strong desire in each of us. He gave us a desire to use our minds to bring things into order. So
that is a God-given thing. Now brothers and sisters, that’s why those drives are so powerful in
themselves. But it was God’s intention to satisfy all those by giving us the supernatural life-power
of his Holy Spirit. He planned that we would have all those things satisfied by that. But we
determined to do it without his life-power and so we began to try to satisfy these things by our own
Many of us have dedicated our lives to achieving security for ourselves. We’ve given ourselves over
to getting all the food, clothing and shelter we can possibly need in this life. Many of us, by
excessive life insurance policies, are determined to try to insure it for not only our children but
our grandchildren as many generations after that as possible. As a result of the way three and a
half billion people in the world have given vent to that desire, there is an absolutely unjust and
unfair distribution of wealth and food. And it’s because we’re driven by that desire to achieve
security in the way that we want, to get what we want, when we want it.
We’re the same with the desire of happiness. We have such a desire to enjoy ourselves that we don’t
care who else we destroy. We don’t care who else has happiness destroyed, as long as we are happy.
We’ll do anything for an extra kick, an extra thrill or some sense of exhilaration. It doesn’t
matter who suffers or what person has their own emotions destroyed.
It’s the same with the mind. We’re so determined to use our mind to manipulate circumstances and
people to our advantage that we leave everybody else without a free will except us. Now do you see
that when you take billions of minds, emotions and wills that are bent on that kind of attitude,
you’ve got a problem on your hands?
If you’ve got three and a half billion minds trying to manipulate each other for individual
satisfaction and happiness, you’ve got chaos. And when God looked at three and half billion of us
using our personalities, our attitudes and our abilities in that way — he knew there was nothing to
do but destroy us absolutely.
So you remember what he did. He withdrew his Holy Spirit from us so that at least we would not be
able to live infinitely and eternally. He did that so we wouldn’t be able to destroy his world and
his universe continually. Then, he destroyed us by putting all those minds, emotions and wills, with
all those drives for security, happiness and manipulation of others, into his Son Jesus and he
destroyed them on Calvary.
We saw last Sunday that that’s why he, as a holy God, is able to offer us again an opportunity to
receive the Holy Spirit. It’s because his justice has been satisfied by destroying the evil that was
in all of us. We call that the atonement. We said that Jesus atoned for all our rebellion against
God by actually dying for us and allowing God to put all these tremendously strong drives into him
and destroy them there. That made us at one with God. It put us right with our Creator so that we
really felt a great sense of acceptance with him.
At last, he had done what he knew had to be done. He had destroyed the evil that we had produced in
the world and so he was free to accept us as his children. It brought a great sense of justification
to us when we began not only to believe that but to receive the Holy Spirit into us — this
life-power that he had originally given us. It has saved a lot of us from trying to get the
acceptance of our peers any longer.
Now here’s the problem that many of us face. Many of us here this morning really do know that God
has forgiven us. We have received the life of his Holy Spirit into us. We do believe that we’re
justified in God’s eyes. But, there are many of us here who have still incredible problems and
troubles with those selfish willful desires for security, happiness and manipulation of others.
We still have that problem even though we have received the Holy Spirit. There are many of us who
are Christians here this morning that still find those drives are alive within us. We’re still
driving to get security by other ways and means. We still have problems with greed and covetousness,
about clothes and food. Many of us still have trouble with gluttony and sexual desires.
Many of us still have trouble with a tremendous desire to enjoy ourselves emotionally whoever it
hurts. Many of us still have difficulties with the desire of the mind to manipulate us to the top of
the heap, whatever it costs anybody else, whoever we have to trample over to get the best job.
In other words, there are many of us who really have received the Holy Spirit into ourselves but we
still find we have problems with these strong drives of the selfish will. It’s outlined there in
Galatians 5:17. It describes quite well the situation that many of us find ourselves in, in our own
Galatians 5:17, “For the desires of the flesh”, (The flesh is not the sexual part of us, or even the
physical body. The desires of the flesh are the independent selfish will. If we leave out one of the
letters of the word flesh you get the word ‘self’. It’s really the desires of the flesh, or the
self.) “The desires of the selfish will are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are
against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.”
And there are many of us who have received the Holy Spirit, are justified in God’s eyes, and yet we
have problems in this area. These drives seem to be still alive and active inside us. That’s why
Paul says a few verses later there in Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by
the Spirit.” Paul says, “If you’re born of the Spirit, if you’ve received the Holy Spirit into you,
if you’re justified in God’s eyes, why not walk by that Spirit?”
But many of us find that we cannot. We say, “Yes, I do want to walk by the Spirit. I want to depend
on this supernatural life force of the Holy Spirit to give me all the joy I want. But I find
something inside me wanting to get more joy. I want to trust the Holy Spirit to give me the food,
clothing and money that I need but I find there’s another drive inside me that wants to get all that
I want and more if possible than God even wants for me.” And so many of us have found that those
kind of drives work against each other.
We want to depend on the Holy Spirit but we find ourselves falling back into these old drives for
profit, power and success that govern the ordinary person who has never received God’s Spirit. Now
why is this? It’s because you and I think of Jesus’ death and of our being destroyed in him as a
beautiful idea, that’s it.
When we read about God destroying all those drives for profit, power and success in Jesus, we think
of that as a neat little analogy. We say, “Yes, that’s a nice way to think about how a holy God had
to get satisfaction for his justice.” Mind you, we think God a bit silly for accepting one man’s
death for other people’s death. It seems unjust. Why punish one person for somebody else’s misdoing?
So deep down we think, “We better humor him. This is a strange kind of justice he has but we’ll
humor him. It’s a nice thought, a nice illustration. Yes, Lord, You’re right. You put us all into
Jesus, we believe that. You destroyed us all there (in Jesus) and now you’re prepared to forgive us
and to give us your Holy Spirit.”
Now brothers and sisters, the tragedy for those of you who have been to church over a great part of
your lives, is that most of us have heard that presented as a nice little illustration, a nice
little method God has of giving himself an excuse for forgiving us.
We don’t see that God really did destroy us in Jesus. God is one who lives in the world that
Einstein describes– where there is no past, there is no present and there is no future. There is
just one great present, eternity. There is just one great moment. We fail to see that that mighty
God, (who is in a part of the universe, who can see all things as happening now, that happened three
thousand, four thousand, five million years ago and that will happen fifty years hence) that great
God actually did take your drive for profit, power and success and did put them into his Son Jesus
and did actually destroy them objectively by the power of his Spirit. And that’s why he is willing
to forgive us.
Loved ones, God’s justice demands that those things be destroyed. He can’t just pretend. He is not a
silly God. He can’t just pretend and say, “Oh yes, I’ll pretend that I’ve destroyed them in Jesus.
Therefore now I’ll treat all these people as if they were really good even though they aren’t.”
No, the only reason God can treat us as good is that he has already destroyed all the evil that we
produced. And that’s what God tries to get over to us again and again in the Bible. But we keep
saying, “It’s a nice illustration. Now obviously, if you live in the world of time and space, that
couldn’t happen. He couldn’t destroy the selfish desire or the lustful desire that I have at this
Don’t you see that it’s silly to think in terms of time and space? Don’t you see that even you
yourself transcend time? If I ask you, can you remember a year ago? Can you remember ten years ago?
Can you remember fifteen years ago? You know that there is really very little degree of difference
in the vividness of your memory. You know that things ten years ago, if they were important things
or had emotional import to you, you can remember those as well as you can remember things last week.
Even in our own time-space lives, we can begin to see that time actually in a sense, does not exist.
You know how difficult it is for you to decide whether last week went slowly or fast? You know that
is purely relative. The clock says it goes at the same speed but you yourself know that it went
faster or slower according to the things that you were doing last year. In other words, even we
ourselves see that time and space do not exist.
Now in God’s mind and in God’s eternal world, he is able actually to destroy the drives that are
making mincemeat out of your lives at present. Now that’s what God said again and again through
Jesus’ apostles. Look at just one of the instances in 2 Corinthians 5:14.
2 Corinthians 5:14; “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died
for all.” Most of us kind of accept that and we say, “Yes, Jesus died for us. That’s what enabled
him to bring us the atonement to atone for our rebellion against God and to make us at one with
“Therefore, all have died.” That’s the second bit that we so rarely realize is true. When Jesus died
for us, he was able to do that because we were actually all put into him and destroyed with him.
That’s why God’s justice was satisfied.
There are spiritual powers that God released, just as we release certain x-rays into a thing like
cancer to destroy it. God released certain spiritual powers against the drives for profit, power and
success that destroy our present lives. He destroyed them in Jesus. That’s what Paul is saying in
this verse that we’re studying today. I explained it before I asked you to read it, because so many
of us read it and we just immediately under-interpret it the moment we read.
Romans 6:3, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized
into his death?” Brothers and sisters, this was the beginning of light for me in my own Christian
experience. This Romans 6 was the beginning of light for me, in a life that had been utterly
unsatisfying and defeated as a Christian. Gradually, I began to see that this was true.
Jesus atoned for my sins because he actually allowed me to die with him by faith. If I’d have had to
die physically or eternally, I’d have been wiped out immediately. But God was allowing me to die by
faith, to die as it were by proxy, in Jesus. The moment I was willing to enter into that and accept
it, that moment the Holy Spirit was able to destroy those drives for profit, power and success that
governed my whole life. But for years, brothers and sisters, I didn’t believe that we had anything
to do with Jesus’ death.
I knew that it was because of his death that God was willing to forgive us but I never saw that the
real reason for that was because we had actually taken part in his death. Instead of sending another
flood, God sent Jesus. He put us all into Jesus and destroyed us there. That can actually be made
real in our own individual, personal, subjective experiences today, the moment we’re willing to let
that happen in us.
So brothers and sisters, this is some of the deeper teaching that God is beginning to take us into
in Romans 6. It concerns the whole business of living like a Christian — not just being a Christian
but how to live like a Christian. I think what God wants us to begin to do over these next years, is
to begin to see in what way you and I are prepared to take Jesus’ death as a lovely analogy, or neat
illustration of a holy God demanding satisfaction for his justice — or whether we’re really
prepared to believe that God did actually destroy us in Jesus along with those drives for profit,
power and success. Over these next years, we’ll try to elaborate and draw out all the meaning of
It obviously doesn’t mean he destroyed our personalities. Obviously it doesn’t mean he destroyed our
bodies. But obviously, he destroyed the things that are troubling you and me. And what is the proof
that they needed to be destroyed? Your own failure to control your temper.
How many years have you been trying to control your temper? How many years have you been trying to
keep down lust? How many years have you tried to keep down that envy and jealousy in your heart?
Isn’t that indication that this is something so powerful and so evil that only a Creator of the
world can deal with it? You can’t suffocate those things. They really have to be destroyed. I thank
God that he has done it and that it can be made real in our lives by the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray.
Father, we would trust you to give us the light of Your Holy Spirit as we can begin to go into the
deep things that you want us to share. Father we remember that it was when Jesus started to talk
this way that a great many turned away from him and stopped following him. Father, we do not want to
be among that number.
Father, we want not only to be Christians in name (only hypocrites) but we want to be Christians in
life. We want your world to begin to see Jesus alive in us. Lord, we trust you to give us patience
as we go into these deep teachings and these deep truths. We trust you most of all to show us the
great need for them in our own lives this coming week. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.