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Description: God Yearns and Hopes for Us
God Yearns and Hopes for Us
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It’s probably a foretaste of some light God has given me. Matthew 25:31-45, “When the Son of man
comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before
him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd
separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at
the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit
the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me
food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you
clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous
will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see
thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you
did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at
his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his
angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a
stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did
not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a
stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And
they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The wise thing is to follow intelligently the sequence here even though now we should go into
another hymn. I’m surprised I didn’t mention this verse when we were talking about the possibility
of God having arrangements for us after this life is over to go further into experiences to make us
like Jesus. Maybe there are still questions like that but certainly this chapter is definite and
clear that God will make a distinction between those that love him and those who don’t love him. He
states it very clearly here, whether we like it or not, that some will go away into eternal
punishment. You do have to look at that and see that it is there.
If you’ll forgive me from plunging right into the sermon, I would say the reason for saying anything
here is I brought up to us all Lamentations 3:22, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his
mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.” You remember
I said to you it seems to state very clearly that God’s love NEVER ceases; his steadfast love NEVER
ceases. I took it further in a way; I said he keeps on loving us forever and it never ceases. So
his purpose is that we all should be conformed to his Son’s image and that we should live with him
forever and enjoy his love forever. It seems to me if his steadfast love never ceases, then surely
that means somehow God will have some way of bringing us all into an oneness with Jesus.
Of course I made the point, as far as I could see God used this present life to show us in what way
we are not like Christ and in what way we are not letting him live in us and it might be he would
give us future lives like that. I began to think of something that touches all of us. For me it is
my brother who did not appear to know Jesus and did not respect him in that way. Of course you all
have relatives in the same way. As I said that I also shared that what we were involved in is
expounding Colossians 1:5. “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” That’s what we were
expounding last week. What we are doing now is looking at part B of that verse. “Of this you have
heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.” I thought “the word of the truth, the gospel”
— that’s the heart of everything; that’s the knowledge of anything we have of God. That is what we
have to expound this week. It is very important that I am expounding the word of the truth and not
maybe wishful thinking of my own.
That’s why I am back on this verse in Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”
I was saying it is very plain — NEVER ceases. I think you assumed with me that if his love never
ceases, he can always bring about what he wants to do. I think we all left the meeting last Sunday
with a general understanding that that could be so. I’d like to pay tribute to all of you for your
trust and love of me and your praying for me. Not by any means but by letting Jesus show us all.
I would like to say for the benefit of those dear guys who might be alive if I’m not here, it is
very good for us to have our faith in God’s creation of his Body and trust he has a set up here that
will be self corrective through the Holy Spirit — IF we will continue to trust each other and
respect each other — which is what you all did with me last Sunday. Thank you for that, because it
allows God to work in me and you. That’s where I think we left it last Sunday.
Afterwards, Peg and I shared a little. She actually expressed something that I felt too. She said
you know that would be great because in some way there is a bleakness in Christians about death.
That is exactly right. Often we know heaven is there and because we are thinking of our unsaved
friends and relatives or why. Often there is a bleakness, not a happiness. I agree with you.
Then I thought to myself even if these loved ones are not in heaven yet we know we are going to
heaven, so there ought to be a brightness about that. I did notice part of what I shared last Sunday
was the interest and excitement about the European probe and suddenly realized the size of the
universe. It came home to me as I thought of that how God must have a lot of things for us to do.
There must be a whole new life out there. So it is important for us to hold on to that truth,
whatever we talk about today with our unsaved brothers and sisters. There’s no doubt that God has
prepared for us a wonderful life or series of lives in a huge universe. But I think that’s where we
left it last week, that that is the situation.
Was I happy? I’m never very happy when my wife has unhappiness about a thing like my emotionalism.
As I am myself, not very happy about it. I’m not very happy that my feeling was very strong and
emotional in regard to the love that never ceases. I’m not saying there wasn’t any wisdom or insight
in it. But it is enough to make me watch it with the emotions. There is only one place we find truth
and that is with his dear Word. You have to stick with the word and that is what God has used
through the years to keep me. I happened to pick this off my shelf and it is Wesley’s “Christian
Perfection”. I have written in it ‘in memory of a work done 3 October 1964.’ There in a room in
north Minneapolis the Holy Spirit dealt with me.
Since 1964, I have been expounding this book [the Bible]. That’s always been my concern: I have to
stay with this book; I have to confirm everything with this Bible. It was especially important when
you went out on a limb in Campus Church and Fish Enterprises and all that stuff. It was very
important as nobody else was doing it. A few churches had a version of it. So it was very important
to know where we were going. It was like a pilot leading the crew with a map. It was clear that
Luther [Martin Luther] was right — you are tied to the Word of God. That’s your final 95 theses. So
that’s why I thought it was important to consider the teaching God has given us here. I began to
think the thing through again.
So I got Peg’s bleakness mentioned earlier and the probe to give me a taste of God’s vast universe.
Then I thought it was important to leave God’s work to God’s work. It’s important to see that. I
needed to see if all the evidence was in Scripture mentioned last Sunday, still even then I have to
leave God’s work to God’s work. Leave God’s responsibility to God. A little light came when I saw:
have we the ability to consider where our relatives and friends are going to spend eternity? Have we
that right? God seems to have said it isn’t our right; it isn’t our concern. That’s what gave me a
little pause in it. I thought I feel the same lightness about it as you do. It isn’t so bleak now
Then I thought, is that because I will see them again. So I am kind of happy. Yeah, that’s great.
But that isn’t quite right I thought. There is a mixture with all the attachment I had with Mom and
Dad, all my relatives and friends. I am tying all my happiness at seeing them again into this
business of what happens after death. It seems not right. In some way it is mixing up the
consolation that God has given us with the future, where he alone is our consolation. That gave me
some pause about it. Was I mixing truth about the future with something of the past that I had
enjoyed? Was I someway mingling both and spoiling the purity of it? I was a little unhappy about
that. With all those thoughts, I then went to this dear Bible.
Of course God is so good — he knows how stupid we are. I went down to the library and found the
theology section which deals with last days. This is only a hint. It isn’t the answer. I looked at
“The intermediate state by some guy from years and years ago. The Intermediate State between Death
and Judgement Being a Sequel to After Death”. I looked through the chapter headings and came to ‘A
second probation inconsistent with Scripture’ heading. God knows how stupid I am and it couldn’t
have been more plainly stated. Of course it is an old book and who knows what theology or background
the guy who wrote it is coming from. It still caused me to pause. I thought thank you, Lord, for
that little tap on the back. I haven’t read the chapter through but primarily he is dealing with
people who have never heard the Gospel, or even babies who die in birth. He’s saying nothing happens
and I would differ from him there. He was dealing with that particular issue, not the one we have
been talking about.
Our issue is with our relatives who have probably heard the Gospel and been responsible with this
light. But this caused me to pause – “a second probation inconsistent with Scripture”. So I went to
the dear Word. I think one would be in favor of looking at my whole theory that everybody will come.
I’ll take you to the verses that I saw. Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should
bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
That verse implies that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father. What I wasn’t really happy with was it can mean what it says: everyone
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, even if he isn’t Lord of my life, he is Lord. Obviously
Jesus was God’s Son. I thought, now it can mean that. It can mean that everyone will see that
Jesus is the Son of God. I don’t want to be light about it but “you blew it!” Of course, it is more
than blowing it; it is serious. Can it mean that? You can think about it yourselves. I think it
can mean that and I don’t think it is quite fair to swing it the other direction and say everyone is
going to admit. So you might say that is still open and maybe it is. I was trying to find some
words that very definitely state a person who in this life did not acknowledge Jesus or did not
allow him to work in his life that they would be given another opportunity. You may ask, is it
still possible? I couldn’t say to you, no, it isn’t. But this verse did not necessarily prove that.
That’s just one verse.
Turn to 2 Peter 3:8-9, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some
count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all
should reach repentance.” It’s very favorable but in fairness the words are “the Lord is not slow
about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should
perish, but that all should reach repentance.” In fairness, it is saying that God doesn’t want
anybody to perish. He wants everybody to reach repentance. But I don’t know if that is the same as
God wishes that and therefore he brings it about. Because he says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often
would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chickens but you would not.” Which implies one word
from us can frustrate God’s wishes.
Now if you say to me, can it be interpreted the other way? Maybe you can. What I am trying to do is
make sure I don’t mislead you or set you off on a path that may be wrong. So I think you would be
the same as me. If you are responsible for other people’s lives, you don’t want to run them close
to death. You want to keep them well away from death. I feel in my present situation I have to point
that out to you. Undoubtedly that verse points to the other verse — the steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases. [Lamentations 3:22] God is never glad when anyone misses the way he has set for them.
Indeed he yearns for them — he yearns for the creature his hands have made.
That was the great thrust that came to me from the steadfast love verse. God loves us; he wants us
to become like himself so he must keep on and keep wanting that for us until it comes about.
But, of course, God is the one who gave us free will. He is the one who gave us the right to say
“no” to him. What we are engaged in saying is once we have said no — you have to admit that all of
us have lots of opportunities in this life and our relatives too — it does seem that God does take
no for an answer. There you have to think that through yourself. As somebody who is responsible as
a watchman of Israel, I can’t afford to run you close. I can’t afford to say, oh well, maybe that
is so. I think each of us has to find out and come to a place of peace for ourselves. That’s the
There is one more.
Romans 11:32, “For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.”
What he is talking about is the Jewish nation and its relationship with the Gentiles. The whole
doctrine that the whole Jewish nation has been saved, then the rest of the Gentiles will come in.
That’s what he means when he says God consigning all men to disobedience — all the world is in
rebellion against him. With the exception that he has chosen Israel. All are committed to
disobedience; he chooses Israel and then brings Israel in and after that brings in all the Gentiles.
That’s what he is referring to there. That he may have mercy upon all. I think you can interpret
the “all” as the Gentiles, not just the Jews. He commits Jews and Gentiles to disobedience so that
he may eventually bring all; that is, the Jews and the Gentiles who accept him. It is not saying
all the Gentiles will come in. It’s just saying that the Gentiles will be given the Gospel as well
as the Jews. You do need to think through those.
But the verses are there. Those are the three verses that I saw. There are a few in the Old
Testament that talk about all the nations. Those are talking more about everybody seeing what the
Jews have seen — God is real — not necessarily accepting him. If you ask me what do you think now,
I think we need to stand firmly where we have been all through our lives in regard to this issue.
But I think we have to obey God where he says no one knows the time and God himself does not judge;
he commits all judgement to the Son. The verse states clearly that God has limited this to his Son
and nobody else is in a position to discuss it or talk about it, or to try to determine what will be
done on the Judgement Day.
That’s why I read Matthew 25 because it is pretty clear there what Jesus is doing. I think the
import of Scripture is — this might be annoying — it’s not your business. In fairness to Peg, it
was good for me to see, is my delight and joy as I think of the next life primarily connected to the
wonder of the size of God’s universe and how much he has for us to do? Or, is it primarily relief
that I can leave my brother; he is OK. However unpleasant it is, I have to be straight with myself
about that. I have to be clear, where is my peace and satisfaction coming from? Is it what God has
arranged for my life and others who love him or is it in the fact that those I loved and still love
in a sense will have another opportunity? Are you asking me if I’m closing the door? You know I
can’t close the door. It is you that has to see the way through for yourself. Because each of us
will give account to Jesus on the last day. Each of us will have to settle things with God the
If you say to me what do you think, I’m not sure. I think the safest thing is the way we always
thought it. That’s the safest. I certainly agree with all that we said last Sunday — that our
Father loves far, far more than we do. Maybe that is the right place. They are in our Father’s hands
and can I trust our Father with my brother or parent. Can I trust him? Is He where all my trust is
or, is part of my trust in my own judgement about things?
You might say and have seen some people use the Bible in a fleshly way. You can use the words in the
Bible in a fleshly way. We have a friend who we think does this. She says we know where we are
going. It seems to us not the attitude that Jesus had for Mary Magdalene that even though she was so
wrong and different from him, you felt he was close to her. So you can use Scripture in a fleshly
way and that you are responsible for. OK, I’ll keep quiet now.
Irene: It seems to me there is encouragement for praying for them while they are alive and not that
they will make a decision for the Lord which is so shallow but that the Holy Spirit, who is always
working with them, and responds to your prayers and is always trying to bring them to see it is me
or nothing and we do not say anything. Whereas a lot of Christian work seems to be if I just talk to
my sister about the right way or show her the right thing, or send her the right sermon, then she
will make a decision. Whereas trusting on the Holy Spirit’s work in them and allowing him to show
you how to walk by faith and be available if they need you for whatever. Faith is believing that
‘his mercies endure forever.’
Marty: It seems, Pastor, that we can be in obedience for whatever that person might need whether it
is sending a sermon, or just pray. Then God is the judge and we cannot know and we can have the
expectation that they are in heaven because they have made a last minute conversion which we aren’t
aware of until we see them in heaven. Or God who is the judge was so faithful in giving them every
chance, his mercy did go on and he respected their free will and they still decided not to. So we
can go into heaven knowing God is a faithful Father and he did everything supernaturally possible to
bring them in. Perhaps the joy of being with him will take away the sorrow of not seeing them again
because his sorrow is so much greater than ours. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. It is a mystery
why the sorrow is overrun by the great joy. We know it will be a place of joy.
Pastor: You did well to finish the sermon because I wanted to say what you said a moment ago. Karl
Barth has a saying that goes somewhat like this – “who knows whether they have turned at the edge of
the abyss?” That was the thing that came to me — finally only two people know: Jesus and them
themselves. We cannot determine they have refused just by what they have said in this life.
Irene: There was an old, old movie with James Cagney where he played a dreadful, murderous gangster
who has even killed his own mother. [Angels with Dirty Faces by Michael Curtiz] In it he somewhat
befriended this priest — I think this took place in Brooklyn — who always went to talk with him in
jail and pray for him. At the final shoot out, where he is collapsing and where he says ‘Mother of
God’ it must have been a wise director who flashed to the priest’s face at the same time and then it
went blank. One never knew whether he had made it but it made a definite impression on your mind.
Right up to the edge of death, he could make a decision.
Pastor: You do feel a little uneasy in your mind when you start thinking where the person is
because you feel you can’t touch this. You don’t know and it’s not your right anyway. It’s a private
thing between them and God. You do feel, I’m on holy ground here and I probably shouldn’t be on it.
Irene: Even people who have come up to you after sermons and said, “That was great. I really saw
when you said such and such.” I’m listening to them and I’m thinking, I didn’t hear that. Even you
have said afterwards that you didn’t think you said that. It’s revelation from the Holy Spirit to
them for their conscience, their problems and questions they have had.
Pastor: It certainly feels, that’s such a bad word to use, but you have used it for our spirits as
well. We sense there is something more right in leaving it in God’s hands, then a simple cutting of
it up into satisfactory bits.
Peg: It’s like a screen on the edge of the Tree of Knowledge. Death, we are uncomfortable about it.
We have to come to a place finally where we say it. It’s so funny how things stick out at you, but
one thing when I went to Bill’s funeral last week. The fellow who spoke said, “He never got
hooked.” If something came up to him, he would say that’s not my business. That phrase has come
back to me over and over again. There are so many things where it is not our business. There’s a
reason why God has hidden things from us. There are probably thousands of reasons why. It could be
our downfall and trip us up and take us away from grace. I don’t know.
Pastor: That’s right – what you are saying came true. There can be a false reassurance here that
makes us walk less free and less joyful, and certainly less dependent on him than you otherwise
would be. There can be a false comfort we recreate for ourselves that actually substitutes for the
real comfort that comes from God himself.
Peg: I do think the verses in Lamentations are very real and reassuring. They aren’t dependant on
our judgement but are dependent on his love.
Pastor: You feel that when in the Old Testament in Psalm 136 where it is repeated over and over,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” It mentions all the things they go through and all the times
they have rebelled against him. His steadfast love endures forever.
Colleen: Two thoughts: one was in that verse in Lamentations. I was thinking about my brother’s
son, Alex. He grew up in a Christian home but he rejected his family for a horrible world. I was
talking to Tom and you can’t compare but I believe Tom will love him and so Alex dies to him. It’s
a pain and sorrow for him but it gave me a little light on there is a God who loves us
unconditionally right to the end. God respects our free will. If we don’t respond to his love, it is
of our choosing.
Secondly as I finished Matthew 13, the whole chapter deals in parables. It coincides with what you
shared in Matthew 25. The kingdom of heaven will be populated by the weak. Then the parables which
mention the good seed and the bad seed side by side, the good fish and the bad fish. The second to
the last parable caught me. The kingdom of heaven is like a net which you throw into the sea to
catch fish of every kind. I was reading a book which was very helpful by an author who spent a long
time translating and studying the parables. The ones who throw the nets are fishers of men. Our role
is to throw that net but we can’t tell what fish are going to enter that net. He goes on to say in
the end it is the angels who get the right to separate the good from the bad. Finally the judgement
of Jesus will come. Our place is to keep putting the net out and catching those we can because we
know that churches, even Campus Church, have a real mixture of Christians and non Christians. But
there was the possibility of hope and life from the Holy Spirit. It’s been helpful for me to keep
casting that net in whatever way that might be. As Marty shared however God leads us to pray,
speak, send to people we come in contact with.
Pastor: It gets back to what you said: trusting his steadfast love. Does he love them more than we
do? You get in a very dangerous position if you say to yourself he doesn’t. Obviously they are in
safer hands, his hands, than they are in our hands. In a sense, it is a way of self-deification to
think otherwise. We know best. Probably that’s what God gets at us in a discussion such as we have
had or thoughts we have had along these lines. He is gently saying to us, now wait a minute, that’s
my job; that’s not your job.
Colleen: Another author helped me in some of the things we were talking about. He said the process
of prayer goes like this: The Father wills something, we as his children through the Holy Spirit
puts it on our hearts, then the Holy Spirit rises up in prayer in us. We pray it back up to the
throne of God through Jesus from whence the thought came from. You mentioned it several weeks ago
that the Father wants to work but he isn’t going to without us. Therefore, he puts on our hearts
different people to pray for, joining the Holy Spirit and Jesus, for the things God wants for them.
That allows God to be released to work in that person’s life.
Pastor: You can see that it is part of the free will plan. He has committed himself to doing
nothing by fiat. He has to have somebody on the earth who is praying and that someone is Jesus
himself praying through us. Christ has to get one of us to express that prayer otherwise it gets God
using us as robots.
Colleen: That made me realize how powerful we could be even in this horrible national crisis. He
puts things on our hearts – every one of us – and we have a great power now to protect our world
through our prayers.
Pastor: That’s why it is important for us to be empty of ourselves and filled with him so that it
is his life within us. Well, what I thought is it is something to be thankful for that God has
given us each other and put us in this relationship so that he can work among us like this. It is a
great privilege we have. It’s beyond words because we all know churches that will allow the preacher
to preach what they let him preach in a way. The person who speaks God’s word can only speak what
the hearers will listen to. So it is very much a twofold ministry that God has called us into. I’m
saying that too for the benefit of the dear hearts who will do what I am doing if I ever go, which I
have no intention of doing. It will encourage them to see that God will be faithful to us all
whoever is here. He’ll be faithful to us and it will work miraculously. What did you say the
Scottish think? Robbie Burns says in one of his poems, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go
often awry.” So maybe my plan of outliving you all will not work.
Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you for your great kindness to us and your provision for us. We thank you
you’d know a thing before it is done; you know a word before it is on my lips. We thank you for your
goodness. We thank you we can rest in your arms that are underneath us and that assures us we are
safe and secure. We thank you for your guidance in this dear Word of yours. We thank you for it and
we thank you for the humility you graciously give us through your Son, Jesus, our Savior, so that we
would bow down to you and to what you have said in your word.
Now we pray, Lord, for the dear hearts we know on this earth. We pray that you will move in their
lives and give them revelation and light so that they may respond to your steadfast love that never
ends — that never ceases. Lord, we thank you.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
one of us now and evermore. Amen.