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Description: God’s abundant Gifts to Us
God’s Abundant Gifts to Us
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It’s really important to sing that hymn and get a glimpse of what it’s saying because you can sing
it and think, oh yeah that’s very nice. It seems to me what it means is a little bit, I know this
may confuse you in some ways, but it’s a little bit like the joke we tell about Humphrey. The
comedian joked about his effervescent optimism. He said, “Hubert Humphrey, when he jumps out of
bed in the morning he shouts, ‘Woody.’” It’s really that that hymn is talking about, it’s just we
think, oh Horatius Bonner [1808-1889] is a great saintly man and he couldn’t possibly mean that, but
that’s really what he means.
He says, “Fill every little thing that I do with praise.” It’s not you going into a store and
saying, “Praise the Lord.” It’s really you going into the store exultant and joyful. That’s what
it is. I know we all smile and laugh at what we often refer to as kind of the Baptist — joy, joy,
joy, and be happy, be happy. But really that’s what it’s about and probably what we should do is be
very real with ourselves now.
I think if you saw me tomorrow morning going into my first store you probably wouldn’t say that I
was like that. It is important for us to see now, are we like that? And am I happy with this
situation? Am I happy with the world and with my life? Am I really sure that God is in his heaven
and all is right with the world? So this is just important for us to be realistic so that we won’t
get used to seeing him like that and really not knowing what it’s about.
You remember we talked last Sunday about the way most of us thought about our futures. We really
did think, well I’m good at this. I like spelling or I seem to be good at writing. Or our mother
would say, “You were a good drawer, and we’d think maybe art, maybe I could be a designer. Or your
dad says, “You know, you’re great with your hands,” and you think well maybe I could be a joiner or
maybe I could be an engineer. And most of us I think decided or attempted to decide our futures on
What am I good at and as well as that we would think what do I like? What do I really enjoy doing?
And often our teachers and our parents would say that, they felt it was one of the good things to
say. What do you really enjoy doing? Particularly if they saw we didn’t know what we wanted to do
they would in desperation say, “What do you really like to do?” Therefore we got the idea it’s
either what we’re good at or what we enjoy doing, that’s what we should do with our lives. Of
course what we saw last Sunday was that God’s view is utterly and absolutely different.
He made us as part of his Son and his Son was sent here to earth to bring the world into submission
to his Father’s will. We’re part of it and that’s what he wants to do through us. In all kinds of
different ways and I took the extreme of the street sweeper because we often think of that dear soul
as one of the kind of lowest or most boring or dirtiest jobs. But really it’s true of every job,
that that’s what Jesus wants to do through that street sweeper. I used to think cleaning, we call
them lavatories in England, and I used to think, “Ugh, I’d hate to have to do that.” But Jesus
wants to do that through the men and women that he has called to that task, and so it is with us.
Jesus has certain thing that he wants to do through us, and that’s why we’re here and that’s what
counts. It’s what Wesley said in the Covenant service, “Some things we can do that please
ourselves, and please God. Other things he calls us to do that we cannot do without displeasing
ourselves. And some things are easy and some are hard, and some things bring praise and some things
bring repute, dispute and contempt.” The important thing is what Jesus wants to do through you in
your present life. It actually is carried a bit further than that in this next verse.
Now maybe you’d look at it, it’s Ephesians 4:8 and it’s the verse where Paul quotes this Psalm that
we read as the Old Testament lesson. Ephesians 4:8 and you see verse 7 was the one we studied last
Sunday, “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” In a sense,
this next verse comments on the measure of Christ’s gift. You might have wondered if it’s the
grace given according to the extent of the gift that Christ has given us, or according to the
particular gift that Christ has given us. Then in verse 8 he says, “Therefore it is said, ‘When he
ascended on high,’” and that came you remember from Psalm 68. “’When he ascended on high,’” it
originally applied to the arc of the covenant which was of course the expression of God’s presence
in the Old Testament, and then was taken by the Jews to mean the Messiah and here is applied to
“Therefore it is said, ‘When he,’” Jesus, “’ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave
gifts to men.’” And the Greek actually runs when he ascended on high he led captivity captive, and
he actually gave gifts to men but it also means originally he received gifts for men. So he
ascended on high and he led a host of captives or he led captivity captive. One of the captives
that he led was there in Colossians 2:15. It’s a verse that we all know, but it just states very
clearly part of the captivity that he led. Captive is there in Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the
principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.”
So one thing that Christ achieved when he went back to be with his Father, he disarmed the
principalities and powers and made a public example of them triumphing over them in him, and so it
gives the whole picture that God actually permitted not only us to do what we wanted to do, but
actually gave the same freedom to the whole spirit world that lies behind this present world, and he
gave it the freedom to do what it wanted and it was only after Jesus ascended to his Father that all
those powers were brought under his control.
And so, when you and I sense the harshness of the present society, that comes from the elemental
spirits of the universe. It comes from the spirits of all human beings on the earth who want their
own way and insist on their own rights. That releases spirits that are antagonistic to God and
antagonistic to Christ. And what this verse is saying is, “That Jesus has disarmed those powers,”
and so they exists only in appearance and we actually will find that when we come up against that
hardness and harshness in a person that is in the service station that takes our card and whips it
through the machine and then speaks to us. When they speak with the hardness and the harshness that
spirit behind that has already been destroyed by Christ, and that’s why when we respond with what
the Bible says ‘a self word turns away wrath.’
When we respond with a soft and kindly gentle love, that’s why that attitude often crumbles or is
neutralized. Whereas when we respond in like manner it intensifies, it compounds the deception that
the person using it is under. And so wherever we go day by day we’re coming up against spirits that
have been disarmed, that have been brought under control of Jesus. So when we respond in accordance
with that reality we find that that crumbles away, and almost immediately they respond in like
manner, but even if they don’t the spirit that you have released to them continues in their heart
and affects them when they deal with the next person.
So it’s quite interesting that wherever we go the spirits that we come up against have already been
disarmed by Christ. He has led captivity captive in that way or you could say, and we would often
say that when we think of some of the people, like ourselves who have emigrated from other countries
to England. We would often think, it would occur to us at times, now they’re responding that way
just because they’ve seen other people or heard other people respond that way. They’re speaking
that way just because they think that’s the way you speak in Britain, and we are aware of that at
times. Yet the tragedy is we often think we’ll control it by speaking back in the same manner or by
treating them in the same way.
And presumably it’s exactly the same when you deal with the store owners, because all of us know
what it’s like. I mean an American can be unpleasant if you’re trying to sell him something but a
British or a European can be incredibly unpleasant. Often we think there’s only one way to deal
with that and that’s to treat them exactly the same way, or to show them that we’re aware of what
their attitude is and we disagree with it completely.
Of course all it does is stir up the same spirit in ourselves. It actually makes the thing more
difficult because you add a lie to a lie, you add a deception to a deception, and it just makes the
situation worse. But because Christ has destroyed the real spirit that is behind that and that has
deceived the person into using that tone of voice to you when all you’re trying to do is really sell
some jewelry to them or if possible help them to do good business, if you respond in the light of
truth, knowing the Lord Jesus, you have already disarmed the spirit behind this. You have already
destroyed it. I don’t need to waste my time and spend my energy trying to kill a ghost, so you
respond in love and in kindness and with a generous heart, because apart from anything else you know
your sale of jewelry or your success in your ministry does not depend on the way they treat you. It
depends only on the one who is looking after you, and has made all things right.
So that’s part of what this verse means — that when Jesus ascended to heaven to the right hand of
God, he disarmed the power of those spirits to in any way prevent God’s will occurring in your life.
Or, in anyone else’s life if they are willing to accept that and willing to acquiesce in what he
has done. Then, of course, the second part of the verse is the part that we’re really talking
about today, when he ascended on how he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men.
Or the Greek actually reads, “And he received gifts for men.” In other words, Christ, when he was
born, he was begotten of God in eternity. Also at that same second had you created within him and
he has born all the things that you have done, he has carried all the attitudes, all the wrong
actions, all the wrong words that you have ever done. He has born them inside his self and yet kept
you inside himself so that you would not lose life.
Then he ascended to the right hand of God, having lived that life in eternity and lived it here on
earth, he ascended to the right hand of God and he took you with him. The Greek says, “He received
gifts for men.” He was given by his Father gifts for you. That’s the meaning of according to the
measure of Christ’s gift. He was given by his Father the gifts that you believe it or not, need to
do what he wants you to do, or what he wants to do through you on this earth.
I know it sounds utterly ridiculous that at such an important earth shaking universe transforming
moment in Christ’s own life that he should be given by his Father gifts for you so that you could
fulfill what he sent you to do here. That’s what it is. I saw I think a little further that those
gifts are not only what you need here in this present life, but there the gifts that all of us will
need for the things that he has planned to do through us in the universe after this life is over.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of that, but often I think we think well we need to practice the
guitar because will be playing the harps. And that’s often about as far as we go in our idea of
what heaven is. Not only Coca Cola and ice cream all day but harp playing, and boats, and trains,
and planes, and motorcycles, but we really have not been very great. You know at the beginning to
think of what heaven and what life after this earth is going to be like.
But you probably can catch from the facts that we can understand at all from the scientists that the
universe is fast. We talk about traveling at 6 knots in the sailboat. So we all increase it to
170, 180 miles an hour maybe with the latest triumph motorcycle, and then we up it, you know, to 550
when we’re flying in the plane, and we up it maybe another 500 miles an hour when we think of the
Concord plane. But then we begin to talk of the stars that we see, and someone tells us, “You see
that star, it doesn’t exist anymore. What you’re seeing is the light from it that has been
traveling at so many miles per hour, so many light years towards you, and all your seeing is the
light the star itself died what thousands of years ago.
Then you begin to realize the universe is vast, it’s beyond anything that we can imagine. Obviously
the Father has a whole universe that he has created, and he is in some way going to use you. Well
we never think what could I do? Three miles an hour is about as fast as I can walk, I can run maybe
a little faster, or cycle a bit faster. I’m not going to, that’s, those are what some of the gifts
There are gifts that Christ has received from his Father that he needs in you, and will use through
you, and so it’s vital that we lift our eyes up from our silly little things even our little PDA’s
or your good at knitting, or your good at playing, or I’m good at writing, or somebody else is good
at speaking. It’s important to lift our eyes up and see there is a whole universe that Christ is
going to bring under the control of his Father to reflect his Father’s glory and his Father’s mind.
He is going to do it through us, through you, and that your place here in this world is in some way
preparing you for that.
I agree with you — our minds are going to be infinite compared with what they are now. Our
abilities are going to be enhanced; we’re going to be free from many of the limitations we feel in
our own personalities. That’s true. But don’t you think there’ll be some degree of continuity?
There we’ll be, we ourselves will continue to exist and probably there will be the same kind of
order in God’s development for us between this world and the next as there has been in our lives so
far. Because as we look at our life and we look even at the way we have moved from place to place
we can see it’s unusual. It’s not what we would have expected, but we can see how it all fits
So it is most likely that that will be the same situation with our present lives, and that the
things that we are doing are not just what we chose to do or what we’re good at, but they are what
Jesus himself intended to do from the beginning of the world, and they are things that will be
expanded and developed and used by him after this world is over, and that we will need gifts that
are way beyond using at this present time. But that those gifts also have been made available in
Jesus to us.
So I think one of the things, it helps a little, is this — don’t you often feel at times, I am made
not to go out like a light? I think most of us feel that. We’re not something here in this present
life of ours and in the life of other people. Don’t you feel we cannot simply cease to exist?
There are beauties, there are wonderful experiences, there are things that are like God himself that
we have experienced and seen, that we feel will continue beyond this life. But it seems also many
of us have felt, I can do more than this, I can do more than I’m doing, I can be more, I’m made to
be something more than I’ve seen of myself so far in this present life.
And often we find we have aspirations that seem to be beyond what we’re capable of. It does seem
that it speaks to that verse, in the Bible, “God has placed eternity in man’s heart. Yet, so that he
is not able to find it,” [ Ecclesiastes 3:11 ] and that each of us have something of that infinity
of eternity within us, that God has provided for in the gifts he has given to Jesus for us.
In other words, there’s really one sensible thing to do in this present life and that’s to keep our
eyes on the Lord Jesus, and to see that he is within us, this is his life, and he has received gifts
to do the things that God wants to do in this life of his in each one of us. There are things that
in turn will be expanded and will be fulfilled in the life that is beyond.
So in a real sense it’s pretty small and petty to think I’m littler than someone else, who is
reasonable of English. I am little Joe who is reasonably good at practical things or, I am little
Joanne who can play the organ. We’re way beyond that, we’re far bigger and far more expensive than
that. We are part of the Savior Jesus who has received from his Father gifts for us so that we will
be able to fulfill his plans.