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Description: God’s Life in Us in The World
God’s Life in Us in The World
1 Corinthians 4:1-18
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There are two purposes that exist here on earth. First, is that God himself may be seen. Secondly,
that the world is not like God. That, seems to me, are two clear messages that we need to get
through in all of our websites. First of all, “What is God like, himself?” and secondly, “This
world is not like God.” Don’t get tied up in the whole problem of suffering thing that the world
likes to distract itself with. This world is not like God. It’s not the way God wants it to be.
It’s here, in fact, to show us what God is NOT like. We are here to show people what God IS like.
Those are the two emphasis it seems to me in this piece that we’ll read from, 2 Corinthians 4, which
you’ve often read before. It talks just about those two things really, in a way: about US who are
like God and are here to express God to the WORLD that is not like God and is here for that purpose,
too – to express what God is not like.
Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 4:1-18
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced
disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by
the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of
God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case
the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light
of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. For what we preach is not
ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the
God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen
That is the part we need to get hold of ourselves – and, what should I say – not be irritated by it
or surprised by it. The “earthen vessel” is part of the world that we bear. We are attached by
that earthen vessel in some way. We need to see that God has a way to deal with that and it DOES
have to be dealt with. I think we need to see that and be open about it.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and
not to us.
We are afflicted in every way” — “OH! Surprise! The tire burst!” And we’re surprised. Instead,
God is saying, “These things you’ll meet every day! You’ll meet these things every day. That’s the
plan! These things are here to show everybody what I’m NOT like and to begin to work on you, to take
away the things in your life that have not my patience, or my long suffering, or my forbearance.”
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted,
but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always
being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal
flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
“Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too
believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus
and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to
more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed
every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are
unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
That’s why we’re here. I’ve emphasized to you before what I think we do kind of overlook. Whether
you like it or not, there’s no other version of Jesus like Marty. So, you can say, [chuckling]
“Thank goodness!” And he can say that himself! Our dear Lord had made each one of us to express
something of himself that nobody will express — so the theoretical therapists say and agree. They
agree. 99.8 percent of your DNA is the same as everybody else’s but there’s a vital .010 percent
that only you have – not only that YOU have, but nobody ever had, nobody else will ever have.
You’re not being truthful. You’re not being honest if you don’t accept that, if you don’t face the
fact honestly that that is true. You remember that story, that Jesus left the earth and went to
heaven. And Gabriel asked him, “What arrangement have you made for the proclamation of your
gospel?” He [Jesus] said, “Twelve men.” And Gabriel said, “What if they fail?” And Jesus said, “I
made no other arrangements.”
You may treat yourself any way you want, and treat yourself as casually as you want to. And, you
can treat yourself as your own and belonging to yourself and your life as your own, but it won’t
make any difference to reality. Jesus has made no other arrangements. You’re it! I’m sure I would
say the same about myself as you would say about yourself, “What a pathetic creature I am.” But,
there is only one like me. There is only one like you. There is only one expression of Jesus like
you and that is a precious treasure that you have, and it’s your responsibility to preserve and to
look after, and to allow other people to see. You have the doing of that – whether you let it be
seen in all his beauty – or whether you cover it up with (and I think of myself) your “great big
swelling self”. We’re so full of ourselves, so preoccupied with what we want, so preoccupied with
what WE think while he forbears quietly inside us and lets it all go on and continues to give us
strength to live the next day.
That’s that reality – that you and I are here to express Jesus in way that he has made no other
arrangements to express to anyone else. So, it IS important what you do – NOT so that your mom will
be pleased, or your dad will be proud of you, or the teachers will think how clever you are, or
because you will make a lot of money – but to express the part of Jesus that you are here to
express, to be truly what he is in you.
I agree with you, you have to find that out because there are a lot of people inside us that we
THINK are Jesus. There are a lot of imitations that we produce of him. He is often far freer than
we are and often more disciplined than we are, often more joyful than we are, often more
compassionate than we are – but that’s our task, to let Jesus be himself through us and mould us
into his own likeness.
That comes to the second thing. The world is here to show us what God is NOT like. That deals with
all the problem of suffering stuff. It SHOULD deal with our tendency, “Aw! Did you see what
happened in the world today?” Oh, surprise, surprise – another 3000 people killed, another 4000
people killed. There is a limit on how far we should cry over the world’s destruction of itself.
We should have compassion on the people who suffer. I don’t think we’re meant to be surprised at
what the world does to itself. That is what the world is here for. God allowed us men and women to
make this mess out of this world so that we would see what life without him is like – and it would
be clear before us. Therefore, we would be able to know what life WITH him was like because you
cannot know it until you’ve seen the opposite.
The purpose of the world being the way it is is actually to drive people towards God until they
can’t bear it any longer. They’re finally faced with either an anti-Christ which has no answer or a
Lord who is loving and wants the best for them all and rules in peace and in love. The world is
here for that purpose. Therefore, the world will be used that way with you, in that way, in your
I’m sure I’ve bewildered you at times with the, “I don’t’ care about sales” because we’ve heard a
lot of people say, “Ah, I don’t care about sales” – but they drive their workers to death to get the
sales. That’s why I don’t care about sales. I don’t think we’re here primarily to produce the
sales. We’re here primarily to be moulded by the experience that God allows us to come through, to
be moulded into his image.
You know we have the tendency to think the same about that as we think about the world. We think,
“Surprise, surprise! What a terrible world this is! It shouldn’t be like this!” And we have the
same attitude, “These things shouldn’t happen to me! I shouldn’t have the irritating things that
take up my time or stop me BEING the person I want to be.” But God has arranged our lives carefully
and filtered all the experiences we have through his loving fingers so that they come to us, only
the experiences that will deal with the things in us that are not like Christ.
The part of us that will not forebear: “I will NOT put up with this any longer! I CANNOT! “I
cannot”, as Amy used to say, “I cannot endure it! I cannot endure it!” I cannot put up with this
any more. I WILL not! I ought not to be asked to. I cannot overcome this attitude I have in
myself.” All those things are God’s messages to us. Every time I feel any strain or stress inside
me, I go to work – because some way, I’m not looking at things as God is. There is some way in
which I am not exercising faith. There’s some way in which I am standing up for myself as if I’m
treating myself as on my own, having to make my own way. I go to it and I search with the Holy
Spirit for what it is in me that is not trusting God and is not relaxing in him. What is it in me
that is standing on its own trying to live life on its own?
All these experiences are sent from him. I’d emphasize to every one of us, every strain and stress
that we feel – “We’re not to live in strain and stress” – You’re right! We’re not meant to live in
strain and stress. But what we need to see is if there is strain and stress there is something that
isn’t Jesus. Jesus was at peace the whole way through. “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit” [Luke
23:46] – with them putting a spear into his side, yelling names at him, making fun of him – he was
at peace and at ease. So he is in us. The only thing in us that isn’t in peace is US separate from
him – and that is just downright sin.
It’s precious the things that happen to us that seem unpleasant and inconvenient and hard. If you
say to me, “You mean sin is a good thing?” Well, in so far as it acts like a symptom of a disease.
Yes, it IS a good thing. It lets you know that there is something not right here. There is
something isn’t right. Old Stanley Jones used to say, “When God says, ‘You’re wrong’, then you say,
‘You’re right, Lord. I’m wrong.’” Never say, “You’re wrong, Lord. I’m right.” Always, “Lord,
you’re right. I’m wrong.” That is always the right thing. That’s always the right thing to say.
It seems to me, it’s a blessed path we have to walk. Every day we are in a world that is showing
what God is not like, and in that way, often giving us hints as how to be like him – but most
especially in our own personal lives, the things that happen to us, especially the things that are
inconvenient, especially the things that are not favourable, including the poor sales. I know
that’s a hard one, poor sales. All those things are loving messages from God to us. There’s a
place in my heart where this is overcome and is transformed.
I think that is our message when we go to the websites: This world is not like God. We ourselves,
and you — speaking to them as people– you are here to show something of God that nobody else can
show. I think that’s the right message. I think that shocks them! I think they don’t immediately
believe it. But, there is something hopeful in it. There’s something that surprises them in it.
“That’s why you’re here. There’s something of God in you that isn’t in anybody else.” Even if they
swear at you in the answer, that’s something that will stick. It’s true. There is something in
every human being that God has planned to show himself, something only that person can do. They are
unique because of that. It’s a great gospel and we have the whole world before us.
You should read the little email I sent today because it was a surprise to me. It’s a little email
today congratulating Trish for her work on YouTube. I was just looking up “fully formed” on Google.
Lo and behold I’m seeing the guy in Richmond preaching a sermon, not a great sermon, but there he
is! Google has him up! I look up “fully formed in you” and there he is preaching the sermon.
So it’s a wonderful weapon, well, servant for us if we can do the same thing. We can take those
pieces that you’ve done, the transcripts, particularly that you’ve done along with those video
clips, and can begin to make them available to the search machines. It’s a world-wide gospel
preaching system that dear Google has arranged for us. It seems to me that the message that we want
to get through in that is that, “This world is NOT like God. And you are here to express something
of God that nobody else can.” Let us pray.