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Description: Is the basis of our peace with God our performance?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It’s good on these Sunday evenings to be ready to share what the Holy Spirit leaves us to share and
so that’s what I’d like to do this evening and then go back to Genesis next Sunday evening. As we
were praying I thought, I wonder are there some people here that felt the same way as I did when I
would hear prayers like that? I would feel, well, I know I am supposed to feel about Jesus like they
do but I don’t. I mean I do love Him and I believe He is Savior but I don’t feel that sense of
praise that some of them seem to feel in the prayer time.
For a long time I used to think well, it’s just their nature, it’s different from my nature. They
are a little emotional, a little effusive or they are given to hyperbole and to use language
differently from the way I use it. But gradually it came home to me that in fact they didn’t feel
more gratitude to Jesus that I felt and they did actually feel a lot of the same things that they
said. I wonder if you’re sitting here tonight and thinking, “Well, really that’s right, I don’t feel
what they seem to feel”, and loved ones I think there can be three great reasons why that’s so.
One, can be that though you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and you believe He died for the world
and indeed that He died for you, yet you yourself are still involved in a little bit of righteous
works. That is, you’re still involved in trying to prove that the good things in your life are a
little more in number than the bad things in your life. Even though you say Jesus is your savior and
you have given your life to Him and perhaps even received Him into your heart and your life, you
have subtly changed the ground of your justification, either in past years or in this year and
you’ve moved it away from faith in Jesus and moved it back onto justification by works. You tend to
have your life dulled by the feelings that you haven’t done well enough today, you didn’t pray as
much today as you prayed yesterday or you didn’t read the bible as much as you should have done or
you are not witnessing as much as you feel you should witness or you’re not really doing all for God
that you feel you should do. Or you get into a subtle situation where you start justifying yourself
to yourself, and you start explaining to yourself, “Well, it’s reasonable that I have not been able
to do the things that I am supposed to do because after all, look at the pressure upon me, time
wise. Look at the pressure upon me with other personalities that are dependent upon me.”
Then you get into the practice of justifying yourself to your friends and to everybody else and you
try to rationalize things and prove that there’s no other thing that you could have done, given
these circumstances. And so, it’s very easy to get yourself into the same kind of situation as any
wound gets into in your body. You know, you cut your hand and then God has arranged that hard skin
will form around it. It’s a kind of a protective method and in that physical injury; it’s a prelude
to healing. But so often in our spiritual lives, it isn’t a prelude to healing; it’s a kind of
callus that grows around many areas in our lives. We feel, “Well we aren’t doing exactly what we
should, but we’re trying”, and we feel we’re not doing too badly.
So the basis of our peace with God is our performance. It is our performance and so we lack this joy
that seems to spring up in other’s hearts about Jesus because we’re not actually any longer
depending only on Jesus for our salvation and our acceptance with God. We’re beginning to depend on
some little works of goodness. Maybe we call them Christian works, but we’re beginning to depend on
our effort or how well we’re living the Christian life.
Of course, the fallacy of that is that we’re missing completely what is the worst thing about sin.
The worst thing about sin is that all of us have sinned and the wages of sin is death. It’s death.
The wages of sin is not hard work trying to get rid of sin. It’s not better prayers. It’s not going
to more meetings or services. It’s not even being a better person. It’s just death, that’s it. God
knows what the heart of sin is and He knows it can’t be tamed and trained and healed by a lot of
trying. He knows there’s only one thing can be done with it; it has to be killed and destroyed.
You won’t really realize that if you won’t face the fact that sin is in your life. And you’ll never
face the fact that sin is in your life unless you think there’s some possibility that something has
been done about it. So until you really believe that Jesus has died for you, you can’t even begin to
be honest about your sins. Yet if you’re not honest about your sins, you will not see that you are a
miserable hell-deserving, death-deserving sinner. Yes, that’s you. Your case is hopeless.
Whosoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for Him it is sin. Have you ever known what
to do and you haven’t done it? That’s sin. That means you’ve sinned. That means you’re going to
hell. That means you’ll die eternally, you’ll die and live in loneliness without God in utter
darkness involved in your own burning lust and selfishness forever. Now that’s your condemnation and
there’s no way out of that.
You can’t go to God and say, “Lord, instead of hell forever, instead of outer darkness and
loneliness forever, Lord I am going to try harder,” God just says, “I can’t do anything my loved
one, it’s death alone will get rid of that sin, that’s the only thing will deal with it and there is
only one who can help you.” Loved ones, only when you come to that, are you in the position to have
perfect peace. Only when you see that Jesus’ death alone can lift from you the shadow of your own
failings and your own guilt and your own falling short, only when you see that, will you grab for
Jesus with all your heart knowing that He who knew no sin was made to be sin for you, so that you
might become the righteousness of God.
It’s only when you see that that you’ll grab Him and see that there is nothing else to depend on but
Jesus. The reason many of us have such delight, apparently stupid delight at times in Jesus and such
gladness about Him and such gratitude to Him is there’s nobody else to go to. There’s nobody else.
We’ve tried ourselves and we’re a wash out. We have tried a thousand times to overcome the sense of
falling short but now we have at last said, “We deserve that Lord, as far as You’re concerned and as
far as our state goes, we deserve hell and death. There’s nothing, no amount of goodness we can put
into the scales that will lift that from us and then comes the message from God, “He who knew no
sin, was made to be sin for you and I destroyed you in Him, so I don’t want to destroy you again. I
want never to destroy you, from now on, I will not even deal with you according to your iniquities
or reward you according to your sins. I will deal with you as My own son in whom you died”.
Loved ones, that’s why many of us feel such a relief because we realize that whether we succeed in
doing what we think we should or whether we only half succeed, or whether we hit it one day or miss
it the next day, we have been placed in Jesus by our Father in heaven and in Him we went to hell and
were raised from the dead and made to sit at God’s right hand.
So, we have a great delight in Jesus because He is the only one who can do anything about those
sins. So, we ourselves have given up trying to play this righteous works game and we’ve come to the
point where Jesus is our only hope. So even when we have a terrible day, we go all the more
gratefully to Jesus and we confess to Him our sins and we say, “Lord, we want never to have anything
to do with those again. Lord Jesus, thank You that Your blood cleanses me from all sin. Thank You
that my Father looks and He sees Your death and my death with You and He is satisfied with that.
Thank You Lord that for that reason, the God of wrath is not coming down looking for me. He has
found me in Your death. He has found me once and destroyed me once in You. There is no reason under
the sun or under the heavens why he would be so unjust to plead double jeopardy and to come
at me a second time for something that he has already destroyed utterly in You once and for all.”
Loved ones, that’s why many of us tonight have great gratitude to Jesus. It is what the hymn says,
“He only could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.” There was no other good enough to pay the
price of sin, He only could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in, no one else could go to hell
for us, no one else but God’s own Son and that’s why many of us here tonight have a great gratitude
to Him because we’re no longer afraid of God and we’re no longer trying to prove ourselves to God or
prove ourselves to ourselves, or prove ourselves to others. Loved ones that’s a message to even
those of you who may think you’re all right and are slipping into a little bit of righteous works.
So that’s why many of us have a great delight in Jesus. I remember the first time I saw that He had
died for me, I grabbed Him you know, just grabbed Him, “Lord thank You”, I almost felt I was
grabbing His legs, and holding on like mad. That is salvation and that is freedom from fear and
freedom from fear of death and hell. So that’s it loved ones. It’s something that brings a great
delight in your hearts. Just to know that you’re saved, just to know that you’re forgiven, just to
know that you don’t have to fear God, just to know that you can give up that endless train of trying
to prove that you’re a Christian by what you’re doing.
Tonight if you feel something that inside you, confess it as sin and say, “Lord, all my
righteousness is as filthy rags, I am sorry Lord. That wasn’t a bad little thing that I did
yesterday, it wasn’t a bad little thing that I did today except that it’s a spear in your side. So
Lord, I confess my own feeling that I am not doing too badly tonight. I confess that I am doing
badly, I am rotten through and through, I am a sinner that is condemned to hell except that You put
me into Your Son and You destroyed me there and You’ve raised me up with Him and You’ve forgiven me
and Lord I thank You”.
Loved ones, those of us, who don’t argue about whether we’re sinners or not, are the ones who are in
the position that we can be saved because Jesus came to save sinners. It’s the sinners that He can
save. The ones you can’t save are the sinners that are trying to prove themselves that they are not
such bad sinners but those who are willing to admit it and to forsake it, and to turn to Jesus,
there comes peace.
There is another reason why you might not have that joy in Jesus and you may be one of those people
who came to that truth years ago but you’re still trying to do something by yourself. This time
you’re not trying to save yourself by offering God a number of good acts to weigh against the number
of bad acts, you stop that but you’re now trying to overcome the last few bad acts that you still
have in your life.
You’re now still trying to do a clean up job. You’re beginning to go around your life and find that
there are a few things that are still there that actually have not been cleansed by His blood, and
cleansed out of your life. You feel forgiveness for them day after day but it’s beginning to get to
you now because some of them you are doing again and again and again. Some of them seem to be
besetting sins and you’re trying to overcome them by yourself.
With so many of us it’s the old lust thing or it’s the unclean thoughts. With so many of us it’s
just resentment against people, just a critical attitude to other people. With many of us, it’s just
a general feeling of pride that looks about inside us every time we do anything good. We want to
show it off to other people and we want others to see it. Every time anybody else does something
good, we want nobody to see it, and we envy those people and are jealous of them. So we started to
try to clean up these few areas that we think Satan has hold off in our lives. Except that we’ve now
being trying to clean them up for 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 years or 9 years or 10 years or 11
years or 12 years or 13 years or 14 years. Frankly it’s very much done because we’re reading some of
the verses and scriptures in our bible study, I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.“
“Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin. In Christ we are more than conquerors through Him
that loved us,” and we know we aren’t because we have these things in our lives that we are not free
from. So we are continuing to try to struggle. Now there are a number of us here tonight who have
seen that all the struggling in the world will never bring freedom or deliverance and you’ll never
be able to free yourself from yourself even if you are a Buddhist, dedicated to Buddhism, you’ll
never be able to free yourself from yourself.
It doesn’t matter how hard you try and kick and push and how often you try to tame yourself, you
cannot overcome self and there are a number of us here tonight who have seen that Jesus only can
overcome self. You can never do it. It doesn’t matter how many other things you try, you’ll never be
free from that terrible soul destroying, morale destroying feeling of failure and defeat in your
life unless you find the way in which Jesus delivered you from that.
That’s why a number of us here have great gratitude to Jesus. That’s why a number of us here have
great delight and praise in Him. He is our only answer in regard to this moral impotence that all of
us felt. This feeling that ‘The good that I would, I cannot do, and the evil I hate is the very
thing I do.’ Many of us were in that position for years and years until the Bible brought it home to
us again. The reason God brought you such a sense of forgiveness and pardon was because He had
destroyed you once in His Son. He has destroyed you in His Son, that’s why He doesn’t come after you
again to destroy you a second time. That’s why there is no way in which you have to fear God because
He destroyed you in His Son, He destroyed you yourself, He destroyed in His Son– yourself that is
proud, yourself that gets resentful, yourself that gets critical. He destroyed you in His Son, and
that’s a fact.
Now that can be true in your life if you will go to the dear person who first brought life to you
when you saw Jesus as your savior and that person is the Holy Spirit. Again, you can see our spot.
We came to the point, where we saw it was a hopeless situation. Those who seek the Holy Spirit are
those who have no other answers. Those who seek their death with Christ are those who have no other
answer, they are not holier people, they are people who realize how dirty and rotten they are, in
desperation, they come to the end of their own striving that seems to be like sinking sands, have
you ever felt that?
Have you ever felt you’re worse now than you were three years ago? Ever felt you’re worse than you
were five years ago? You’re most subtle about your sin than you were ten years ago, you’re just
better at covering it up but it’s all getting more and more subtle and you’re getting twisted up
more and more in it. Those of us who came to that point, began to turn to the spirit of Jesus within
us and we began to say, “Holy spirit, I know that I was destroyed with Jesus, but Holy spirit there
is a lot of that self here still in me. Holy Spirit will You show me how to come into this miracle
that I shared with Jesus?”
Loved ones if you do that in desperation and in hunger and thirst looking to no other, looking to no
other, while you look to somebody else, while you look to a book or while you look to the power of
positive thinking, or while you look to a little bit of psychology, or while you look to yourself,
because that’s what happens to many of us, we say, “I can beat this, I am not that useless, I can
control this anger, I can control this critical spirit” it’s only when you look to no one else but
the Holy Spirit and you come crawling to Him again as you did crawl to Jesus and you say, “Holy
Spirit, I am at my tether’s end. I feel at times I am going insane. I live such a hypocritical life,
outwardly the Christian, but inwardly a devil. Holy Spirit, will You bring me into whatever happened
to me in Jesus? Holy Spirit I don’t know it. I read those verses. I was crucified with Christ. Well
I know I was in my head but in my heart I don’t know it. Holy Spirit will You reveal this to me?
Will You bring it home to me? Will You make it real in me?”
A number of us here tonight, rejoice in Jesus because there came a day when as George Muller says,
“I, George Muller died to sin and died to self” there came a day when many of us here tonight,
reached the point where the Holy Spirit said, “Are you willing to receive into your life what was
done to you in Jesus? Are you willing to be made nothing as He was? Are you willing to die? Are you
willing to regard your life as finished with His?
And there came a day when we said, “yes” and the Holy Spirit came in and filled us with Himself and
enabled us to live a victorious life and the Holy Spirit of course when He does this, is absolutely
head over heels in love with Jesus. So when He has full sway in your life, you’re just full of love
for Jesus. In fact it becomes a ridiculous thing. That’s why some of us babble in tongues. It gets
out of hand and you can’t express the love in any other way, it just bubbles out of you and that’s
what happens when the Holy Spirit has full way in your life.
It just bubbles over and you then really appear ridiculous to other people who don’t have same
gratitude to Jesus. It’s right you do. It sounds a stupid thing to a person who is just ordinary and
normal and not stupid and mad like those crazy disciples filled with the Holy Spirit. But that loved
ones, is why many of us here tonight have just a deep, tear-filled delight in Jesus.
I couldn’t express it to you enough and I want to. It’s overwhelming, it becomes overwhelming
because you feel such a gratitude to Him, such a oneness with Him, actually you feel more than that,
you feel the Holy Spirit inside is making love to Jesus through you, and it’s fun, you enjoy doing
It frees you from yourself. It frees you from your pride and your self-consciousness and it gets you
going after Jesus in a glorious way, in a free way. So it is a different kind of life, another step
up from where you were before you knew Jesus as your savior, being filled with the spirit or dying
with Christ, it seems to make you free. I suppose because this deals with the guilt you had, this
deals with the power of sin in your life.
There’s some of you might not realize that there’s even another reason why many of us feel a great
delight and gratitude to Jesus tonight. Because after we were filled with the Holy Spirit, we saw
that there was something else in this, besides the badness of self. There was the goodness of self.
That is, some of us had some human traits that were often regarded by others as good traits and
often regarded even by our parents and our teachers as good traits.
Some of us have a good mind, some of us had very sensitive emotions, some of us were very artistic,
some of us were very good at analyzing a situation exactly and precisely, some of us were very good
at explaining things with a gift of talk and conversation. We had many human traits that were really
good at one time in our lives except that they are natural. They are of the realm of human nature
and of course they can never transmit any of the life of Jesus and that’s exactly what they don’t
do. They continue to transmit us– maybe not us proud, maybe not us selfish, but us. And so what
people meet is our personality, our unrestrained personality.
Many of us were kind of surly people and that’s what people meet, they meet our surliness. Many of
us are very animal like in our exhilaration and that’s what people meet the comedian but they don’t
touch Jesus. They touch the comedian that may be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit but they
don’t touch Jesus. They don’t touch Jesus, they touch the intellectual. They don’t touch Jesus, they
touch the slovenly, lazy individual who always has trouble wakening up in the morning. They touch a
person who is sleepy eyed. They touched the person with not sinful things in their life, but with
human traits that distract people from Christ. Of course, the big thing is there are moments when
Jesus and His spirit within, wants to express Himself in a certain way to other people and at that
moment, your human personality clamps down on Him.
There are times when the Holy Spirit wants to express joy to another person but you’re in a kind of
a quiet mood, a restrained mood, a reserved mood and the Holy Spirit can’t do it. At other times,
you’re in a buoyant mood and the Holy Spirit is bringing you in together with somebody who needs
quietness and healing peace but you can’t give it. At other times, somebody in work, does something
that’s wrong, it’s just plain wrong, there’s no question. It’s just wrong, it’s dumb, it’s stupid,
it’s going to cost the company money, it’s going to get you into trouble, everything’s wrong with
it. What they needed in human terms is just a good metaphorical thump on the face. They just need to
be told where they’re going wrong and what they’ve cost the company. They have a troubled look and
are torn to pieces and at that moment the Holy Spirit of Jesus knows their situation and knows that
that isn’t what they need at that particular moment. Sometimes that is right for them, but this
moment, they just need love and the thing to be overlooked.
But your human nature is so strong that it just blasts in and so many of us have found that that
kind of human trait is still in us and we try to change it, we do, we try to change it, and we try
to substitute for the excess of harshness, we try to substitute a gentleness. It comes off the same
way as humanly produced, it becomes an excessive gentleness but even if it were a right gentleness
it hasn’t Jesus’ spirit or we find we’re too buoyant at times so we decide we’ll hold ourselves
down, just cool it a little and so we’ll be quiet and kind of not quite sad but sort of subdued and
it comes over that way. It comes over as something that we have produced ourselves. It doesn’t
transmit the beauty of Jesus own spirit, because it’s not Jesus’ own spirit, it’s a bit of our good
human nature, being put to the surface of Jesus and it doesn’t transmit the spiritual life.
Many of us have come to that place in our lives or we have seen that after being baptized with the
Holy Spirit or after being filled with the Holy Spirit, it’s vital then to begin to walk daily in
Jesus death to bear His cross daily, to experience a daily death with Jesus, to come to Jesus and
say, “Lord, I have these traits and they have shot forth from me again and destroyed a person. I
shot out in that meeting in that discussion far too harshly, far too cruelly. I overstepped
completely where You wanted me to be. Lord Jesus, I fall before You now Lord and I want You to work
Your death into the human traits of my personality. You did it into the sin in my personality, now I
want You to work into the human traits in my personality and reveal more of them Holy Spirit. Be the
sword of the spirit that divides between the soul and the spirit and show me when I am acting in my
soul, in the strength of my mind and emotions, and when I am acting in my spirit. Bring it home to
me and continue to lead me forward in a progressively increasing spiritual life.
That’s why many of us tonight feel a present dependence on Jesus and on His dear death because we
know that unless His death is at work in us day-by-day and evening-by-evening, His life will not be
manifested to other people. So we come to the point where we are like drug addicts. We have to have
more of Him and we have to have deeper experiences of His dear death and therefore of course, deeper
experiences of His Resurrection and Ascension. Every time you die with Him, you rise with Him and so
the more often you can die, the more often you rise, the more often you rise the more often you are
exulted with Him and ascended in a position of power. And so, many of us have great devotion to
Jesus this evening because we look forward moment by moment to those things.
In fact, for us there are ceasing to be any bad things that happen. It’s interesting, but there are
ceasing to be any bad things in our life. Momentarily you might think, “Oh, I have a flat tire on
Interstate 494, it’s pouring with rain, and I’m right in the middle of the freeway”, then you look
up and say, “Lord I know this is for Your life to come through me and to achieve something. I know
Lord you want to bring to death something in me that wants to manage the thing myself.” So
increasingly there ceases to be any bad things.
Every bad thing we know is just a signal from God that there’s something deeper of His Son that is
waiting to spill out into our lives and to rise up in Him. So actually, we’re at the place where we
can die of cancer (and everybody would be so sorry for us) and we would be very happy and contented
people. They would all be saying, “Oh well, you should die well”. But we say, “We did die well.
We’re in Jesus, whole and well and here we haven’t died of cancer. He has decided that He wants us.
We could live on with this cancer forever if it’s His will”.
So you get to the point where no bad things can happen. That’s why you can see that brings a great
gratitude for Jesus because He is the Midas touch. Everything He touches, He turns to gold. He
changes everything in our lives. He has changed and is changing everything. So loved ones, you can
see you begin to feel that He’s quite a person and that He is the be all and end all of our lives.
The reason is that we’ve turned away from every other idol. That’s it, we’ve turned away from every
other idol that we thought could help us and we’ve seen that He alone can help us, and that’s true.
He made all things.
“All things that were made, were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made”.
So even the idols you’re turning to, were made by Him. Why don’t you go to the manufacturer tonight
instead of to what He has produced? Go to Jesus Himself and you will feel the same way. Let’s pray.
Dear Lord, we thank You that You are the real answer to all our needs and Lord Jesus, even if we
don’t understand how this comes about, You are the answer Lord and You will respond to the most
human and simple action that any human being can do. You will respond to us putting our arms round
you hugging us to Yourself ourselves and saying, “Lord Jesus, we need You badly”.
Dear Lord, thank You. Thank You that You will do that, that You will answer such a heart cry. Lord
we would turn away from all our other idols and come to You only. Lord Jesus I ask You to come into
our hearts and our lives and work Your glorious death in us. Lord, we turn away from all other
idols, all other vain hopes and we say You alone are our hope. We come to You now. Will You save us
and deliver us tonight? We ask this for Your glory.
And now the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be
with each one of us now and evermore.