*** double click video to view full screen***
Description: It is so easy to become a prisoner of the world or of this society in which we live. What prevents us doing what we know is right?
The Spirit and the Flesh
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We have been talking these past few Sundays about how easy it is to become a prisoner of the world
or of this society in which we live. The world is meant to be the place where we enjoy ourselves and
which we use to make life enjoyable. But it’s very easy to become a prisoner of that world. It’s
illustrated by that picture of the little monkey that gets its paw into the narrow mouth cookie jar.
It gets it in but then it opens its paw out to put round the cookies and when it tries to get the
paw out of the jar and it won’t come. It won’t come unless it lets go of the cookies — and it won’t
let go of the cookies. So, the monkey is caught and imprisoned there by its addiction or its desire
for cookies. And that’s really what we mean; that it’s very easy for us in this life to become
imprisoned by the things that we want to have, but we can’t have them unless we go(in a sense)into
And you remember, we mentioned how when we were little children, it was so easy to live a life of
trust and have a light spirit about life. Our moms and dads supplied all we needed. After we came to
be 11 or 13 we began to look around and see all these adults who were strained and worried and
anxious. They all said they believed in God, but they didn’t really believe he had any effect on
their lives. So they had come to the conclusion that the things they used to get from their moms and
dads, they now had to get for themselves; and we saw them doing that. We saw the striving and the
straining to try to get the food and the clothing and the homes that before, they and we had got
from our moms and dads. And lo and behold, it wasn’t long before we ourselves fell into the same
kind of staining and striving. We began to see how important money is, and how important jobs are to
get money. And it wasn’t long before, as that song says, “We sold our soul to the company store.”
You begin to see how important it is to have a job and how important it is to have a position and
how important it is to please those who give you those things so that you can actually survive. And
it’s amazing how soon we become prisoners of the jobs and the money and the debts and all the things
that we use — to provide us with the things that we used to get from our dads and moms.
And somehow, life begins to be a bit of a prison. I suppose it becomes more intense because one of
the things we find when we were very young is, we think we are important. We think we are pretty
unique. And actually the truth is, we are unique. But we think we are the only unique ones. The only
problem is, nobody else seems to realize that. And they all seem to think that they are unique too.
And we begin to realize that they’re all trying to get us to see how unique they are, and we are
trying to get them to see how unique we are. And it’s not long before that becomes a prison too. You
begin to see, they think you are unique if you do something different. So maybe if you have a
different coat or a different hat or if you have a different car or a different house then they will
think you are unique. And it’s surprising how quickly we begin to get into prison about those things
too. Its amazing how many debts we will go into, and how many difficulties and how many embarrassing
situations we’ll get into just to get things that will impress others with our uniqueness. And so,
that’s what we mean that many of us find after a number of years that life has become a kind of
prison for us. We are a prisoner of the things that we think we have to do to get the security or
the sense of self-esteem or self worth that we ought to have from everybody else.
And really loved ones, that is what so often steals from us the nostalgia that we used to feel when
we look back to our lives as children. We look back and we see how light-hearted we used to be and
how we used to live by just trust and simple dependence on our moms and dads. Now suddenly life has
become complicated. You begin to wonder even who you are. That’s why many of us say, “I am not
really sure who I am.” We become whatever is needed to get these things from society and in the
process we’ve often become monsters, we’ve often become people that we didn’t want to become at all.
We hardly can recognize ourselves any longer. We look inside and wonder, is there any me inside
there? I wonder what I used to be when I was a little guy or a little girl? I wonder what I would
have been like, had I developed like that? And we wonder where the self is, that we seem to have
lost completely; because we have become such a man pleasing, society pleasing kind of individual.
And of course what we said several Sundays ago you remember was, that’s why Jesus came.
Jesus came to give us back that spirit — to give us back that spirit of simple trust and joy and
delight that we used to have when we were little children. And that’s why Christianity is unique.
Buddhism doesn’t do it and Islam doesn’t do it and Judaism doesn’t do it and spiritualism doesn’t do
it and transcendental meditation doesn’t do it. Only Christianity restores to us that spirit of
simple trust and joy and delight that we used to have as children. And that you get, loved ones, in
one of the first promises that were ever made by Christians to people who had heard about Jesus for
the first time.
It’s Acts 2 and verse 38. Peter had preached the first Christian sermon and the people, who listened
to him, came up and said, “What shall we do?” And then in verse 38 — and Peter said to them,
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your
sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And that’s what changes you. That’s what
renews in you again that simple trust that you had as little children.
The truth is, the trust and confidence and the joy that you and I used to have with our moms and
dads, that was meant to develop into an attitude that we would have towards our real Father. That
attitude of trust in our dads and moms and confidence and freedom from care and freedom from worry
that we had in them was meant to develop into an attitude of faith and trust in our real Father, our
Creator. But instead of that happening, we followed the crowd and started to depend on this outside
world, on this society, on our jobs, and on our positions for these things. This was instead of
depending on the love, the care, the certainty and the reinforcement that our Father in Heaven
wanted to give us. And so, instead of receiving it from him, we began to receive it from the world.
We began to turn away more and more from him and turn away more and more toward the world of people
and things and events. And that’s where everything tightened up.
Now what Jesus promised is, that if we come to Him, He will restore that spirit to us because that’s
the spirit that He has always had to His Father. He always had a complete confidence that God his
Father would supply whatever He needed. Whenever He was in difficulties with people, whenever He was
in problems with disease or sickness, He just looked up to His Father and asked His Father to bring
the answer. And His Father did it. So much so, that even when He died, He said, “Into Thy hands I
commit my spirit.” He was in no doubt that He was going to continue alive because his Father had him
in his arms. Now that Spirit that Jesus had towards God our Creator, He is able to give to us, loved
ones. He is able to put that Spirit into our hearts so that we can begin to feel that again
ourselves. And that’s the promise that’s made.
You remember it’s mentioned again in Romans 8:15 and it’s expressed even more clearly as, the spirit
that children have towards their dear father. It’s Romans 8:15. “For you did not receive the spirit
of slavery to fall back into fear, — (a slavery to the things that we depend on here in this world
for our security and our confidence) but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry,
‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of
And it’s possible for that Spirit of Jesus to come into us and to begin to cry out to God our
Creator — “Father!” — so that you will actually feel He is your Father. You will feel it inside
and you will know that He has you in his arms. And you remember, we talked last Sunday about how you
know that; because the Spirit Himself that comes into you bears witness with your spirit that you
are a child of God. That is, that Spirit lets you know that God your Creator knows you personally.
And doesn’t have you just as a number or doesn’t have you just as a cipher in this world or as
another one of the millions of us that live here, but God your Creator lets you know that He knows
you personally by your own name.
And this Spirit will do that loved ones. You can’t imagine it, but you know He said He has counted
the hairs of my head but how can I believe that? It’s the Spirit that comes within you that lets you
know that from the inside, so that suddenly you begin to naturally and easily believe that God is
your dear Father. And then you remembered we said last Sunday that the Spirit bears witness with
your spirit. Because He actually changes your spirit, your inside spirit that is so bent on looking
after itself and looking out for itself suddenly begins to be the spirit of a child of God. And your
inside spirit wants to please God and wants to obey Him, and wants to trust Him. And so, you will
begin to know that you are a child of God because your own spirit begins to take a different
attitude towards God. No longer is He a far-off distant God, but He is now a close, dear, loving
Father. And that’s the way you begin to live almost all the time — almost all the time. And that’s
what most of us have found. It works almost all of the time.
But in a way, many of us who have made that commitment and asked Jesus to come into our lives and to
enable us to be born again and become His little children; most of us who have done that have had
the same experience, as so many of us have had with honeymoons. You know the way it goes — on a
honeymoon, there seems to be a special grace that God gives; so that you just think of each other
all the time, and you want to please the other person above everything else. And you don’t think of
yourself. That seems to last through the honeymoon. And then when the honeymoon is over, God seems
to withdraw that grace; strangely enough, not so that you will do what the cynics do. They say,
“Well it’s back to porridge. The honeymoon is over. Let’s get down to real life.” It’s not for that
reason. God withdraws that grace so that you will actually begin to express deliberately and
willfully in obedience to Him, the beautiful feelings of spontaneous love that He gave to you during
the honeymoon — that’s why He gave you the honeymoon. He gave it as a picture of what your marriage
is meant to be throughout your life together.
But many of us experience that same kind of honeymoon problem after we have turned from this world
as the source of our happiness and turned to Jesus. We begin to feel some of the feelings that we
used to feel before. On the whole we trust God, but there are moments when we find some of the old
feelings that we used to have rising up inside us. We don’t know what it is. We thought they were
all gone. But somehow along with the Spirit of Jesus within us, there is another attitude that
begins to express itself. And I don’t know if you remember the famous verse, but it’s Romans 7:15.
So many of us have begun to feel that attitude after we are born of God that it’s maybe good to look
at it plainly and say, “Yes, I have felt that, or I do feel that.” It’s Romans 7:15. “I do not
understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
We determine that we will go home and be the kindest, most saintly friend, or partner, our roommate
has ever had that evening. We determine we will go home and love them to death. And we enter the
door, and they point to a piece of paper on the table and say, “Look at that!” It’s a bill that we
should have paid a month before. Or they point to something on the table and say, “Look at that!”
And it’s an assignment that we forgot to do. And for the rest of the evening we are just at each
other’s throats arguing about why the thing wasn’t done and why we didn’t do it and what trouble we
have caused by not doing it. Now why? Why, when we want to be kind to them and loving and thoughtful
and we wanted it to be a good evening, why does it suddenly turn around over a thing like that?
Well, God has given us some kind of clue, loved ones; in the next few verses, they are in Roman 7,
if you look at them — and verse 18. “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my
flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.”
Nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh — and the Greek word for flesh is “sarx”.
Actually it isn’t just a physical body. It’s not just our physical body that prevents us from doing
what we want to do. “Sooma” is the word for physical body; you get that in “psychosomatic diseases”.
“Sooma” is the Greek word for just physical body but “sarx” is flesh in the sense of the whole
fleshly way our personality works. That’s what flesh is. It’s the whole way our personality works.
And that’s what prevents us being what the Spirit of Jesus wants us to be at each moment of our
Now how does our personality operate? If you think about it, it’s from the outside in. Our eyes see
the bill, the unpaid bills sitting on the table or see the assignment on the table that we should
have done; and they send feelings of panic and fear and concern and worry into our emotions, which
have been used for years to receiving all their stimulation from our eyes and our ears; and then our
emotions in turn, send thoughts of resentment and criticism and antagonism to our mind, which for
years have been used to being dominated by our feelings; and then our mind sends out reflex
responses to the vocal chords of harshness and criticism and hard words; while our will lies kind of
breathless on the ground doing nothing but watching in dismay. And that’s the way our personalities
have worked for years. They have worked from the outside in. Whatever we have heard though our ears
or seen through our eyes has dominated what our emotions have felt. And our emotions have dominated
what our minds have thought and our minds have not even referred to our wills, to see what thoughts
they could send to which parts of our body, they just automatically respond in reflex reactions. And
so the vicious circle of the personality is set in motion and it just begins to turn like that. The
more that comes in through your eyes and ears, the more it feeds what is in your emotions, the more
it dominates your thoughts and the more it utterly oppresses your will and you become like a little
animal that just responds to stimuli outside.
That’s, loved ones. what prevents us doing what we know is right. And that’s what spoils so many of
our lives – that flesh. That’s how the Bible puts it. Remember, its in Galatians 5:17. “For the
desires of the flesh 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.”
The Spirit of Jesus wants to continue to trust His Father for all that is needed and wants to look
to Him and believes that the Father is in charge whatever bills are lying on the table, whatever
assignments are undone. God is in charge and in control and He is governing the whole situation. And
the Spirit of Jesus, which is within you, wants to believe that. But the flesh has been used to
being governed by what appears on the outside to be true and it acts strongly against the desires of
the Spirit to prevent you from doing what you would do.
And the mistake that you and I often make is: we think that it’s just a matter of training. I have
to start training myself to look not at the outward things. I have to start training myself to look
at what I believe to be true — and so we try that. We try some of the books that teach you to renew
your mind or adjust your temperament and we try to train ourselves to do those things. And yet
somehow, it doesn’t work and we fall again and again and again. And the reason is, that what we have
inherited with this personality of ours is as old as creation. It’s as old as creation. And the way
your personality works is something that you have inherited from Eve and Adam. It’s as old as Adam.
It’s as old as the race itself and it’s been operating that way for generations. That’s why when you
try to act against it, it’s virtually impossible. You find yourself opposing something that will not
do what you want it to. In fact, that’s what the Bible says about it. It says “the mind of the flesh
is enmity against God; it is not subject to God’s will neither indeed can it be.” And that’s what we
find. We try to make it subject to God’s will, but it will not be. We struggle against it and many
of us say that it’s an eternal struggle that you can never win. That’s the battle of a Christian
life — you struggle against the flesh forever until you die, and you never get complete victory
And yet you remember that the Bible says, “In Christ, we are more than conquerors through Him that
loved us.” We are not just conquerors but more than conquerors. Indeed loved ones, there is an even
more serious verse, if you would look at it, in Romans chapter 8 and verse 12. “So then, brethren,
we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the
flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”
Notice in verse 13: “if you live according to the flesh you will die.” So, you know, those dear ones
who say to us, “Look, you can’t avoid living by the flesh.” They are committing us to death because
the Bible says, if you live according to the flesh you will die. But if through the Spirit you put
to death the deeds of the body, you will live. And so, the Bible implies to us that it’s vital to
come free of that power of the flesh. If you don’t, you will eventually die under its power because
it will eventually take back all that you gave to Jesus. Now, how on earth do you get out of that
bondage of the flesh? How do you get free from it?
Well, loved ones there is no way in which you and I who live at the most 70 or 80 years here on this
earth can overcome something that has taken generations to develop down through the human race. If
God has not done something about that old personality of ours, we certainly will have to live under
its power for the rest of our lives.
And yet, that’s what God did on Calvary. That’s what God did in Jesus. God knew after receiving His
Spirit you would eventually come up against this problem in your personality. You had a personality
that was operating the wrong way and that would not yield to the Spirit of Jesus within. He knew
that you would have to be made like Jesus himself. You would have to be given a personality like
Jesus’ personality that operates not from the outside but operates from the inside. It operates from
what you believe, so that your mind is governed by what you believe, and your will directs your
emotions and your thoughts, and they direct your actions so that you begin to move from the inside
out in every situation. You begin to have control over outward things instead of being dominated by
them. You begin to have control over this world instead of being imprisoned by it. God knew that
that would be needed. And loved ones that why there is that verse that so many of us know in Romans
6 and verse 6. I suppose those of us who have come into Romans 6:6 are never tired of looking at it
again, because it’s life.
Romans 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be
destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” We know that our old self was crucified with
him — and that’s what was destroyed in Jesus. So often you and I talk as if it was just our sins
that were destroyed in Jesus — the things that we’ve done, the words that we’ve spoken, and the
dishonest actions that we’ve performed. But the truth is, our old self — that old personality, the
flesh that operates the wrong way round, that operates from the outside in — that self was
destroyed in Jesus on Calvary by God. God took not only all our sins, but He took all of us, our
carnal natures, our attitudes that are so hanging and so dependent on our jobs and our positions and
our outward things, He took that and He put it into His son Jesus and He destroyed it forever. And
when He recreated Jesus, He recreated a new personality for you, a new personality that works free
How do you enter into that? It’s the same way you entered into receiving His Spirit to be born of
God; the same way you entered into the forgiveness of your sins — by faith. By believing that God
has done that to you in Jesus and by being willing for that to be made real in your life today.
The key is for me to ask you, “do you want really to live that way?” That’s the important thing. God
has done it for you, but do you want to live that way? And as many of us say “Oh, yes, I don’t want
to have fear and panic flowing through me every time I see a bill that I think throws the bank
balance off. I don’t want to have envy and resentment thrown into me every time I see somebody else
praised instead of me. No, I don’t want that.” I know you don’t want that and I know you would like
to be better than that. But the thing is, do you not want to depend on the world of people and
things anymore for the security and for the sense of importance that you have? Are you willing to
depend only on God for that? Now, if you say to me, “Brother, that’s not a big thing.” Loved ones it
is. Are you willing to have only the sense of importance that God is willing to give you whenever He
chooses? Are you willing to have the amount of security that God chooses to give you when He
pleases? Are you willing to have just the amount of happiness that God chooses to give you or sees
best to give you when He pleases? Are you willing to die to your rights to demanding as much
security and as much happiness and as much importance as you want when you want? Are you willing to
die to that? That’s what Jesus did. He died to any rights He had as the King and Lord of the
universe to be respected and worshipped by everybody. He died to His right to have an easy life or
an easy death. He died to His right to have happiness; He submitted all that into His Father’s hands
and said, “Lord, whatever you want me to have, that’s what I am content to have.”
Are you willing to come into that place? Not just do you want to be free from the bondage of the
flesh, but are you willing to enter into Jesus this morning and into His death on Calvary in such a
real way that only what comes from God will be from this day on, what governs your life and what
gives you peace and joy and happiness? If you are willing, you can this morning. During the last
hymn you can come up and take by faith what God has done to that old personality of yours in Jesus.
And the Holy Spirit of Jesus who is in you will sweetly fill your whole life instead of just the
parts that you are allowing him to fill at this moment. You will begin to move in a life that is
above that cry, “The good that I would I cannot do and the evil I hate is the very thing I do.” You
will begin to move above that. You will begin to live a victorious life where the Spirit of Jesus
within you is able spontaneously to be Himself throughout your whole personality. That’s because
your old personality has been replaced by the new one that was raised in Jesus. And loved ones
that’s the only way; it has to be faith. Faith believes that God has done this for you in Jesus, and
there is a willingness on your part to enter into it in whatever way God reveals it to you through
His Spirit. So it’s different for all of us.
Some of us here have great trouble with what people think of us and we are concerned about that. We
demand that people think the right things about us and that they think a lot of us. So, we are
enslaved to their opinions. And what God destroyed in Jesus in your personality was that little eye
that goes out and looks to see if somebody approves of you — that listens for somebody’s praise.
God destroyed that in Jesus on Calvary and He is asking you this morning, “Are you willing to enter
into the destruction of that today by faith?” If you are, it can free you from that slavery to men’s
Others of us are under the bondage of money and of dependence on our jobs and our positions for the
security that we need. And God took that, which is such a lie and deception because everything
finally comes from the Father. It doesn’t come from your boss, it doesn’t come from the payroll, it
comes from God, our Father. And God took that perversion in your personality and He put it into his
Son Jesus. He destroyed it there and wiped it out. He did something that no psychiatrist or
psychologist can ever do. You can have that manifested in you this very day through coming into that
place of full consecration in Jesus.
Loved ones, I would encourage your hearts if you have thought about these things in the past or you
have struggled with them and feel you are born of God but you don’t feel like you have victory in
your life. You don’t feel that you have a victory over the feelings of envy, jealousy, greed,
selfishness and all those attitudes that nobody else can see but you know they are there. If you
feel you are in that position and you see this morning that God has already brought the answer in
Jesus, and you want that answer, then I would just come to the altar during the last hymn and make
my commitment anew to God. I would consecrate all — every part of my being. I would deal especially
with those areas where you’ve had strain and trouble and where you see God is convicting you. I’d
deal with Jesus and say, “Lord Jesus, if you were willing to die to these things for me, I am
willing to die with you. I take my place now on the cross with you, and I die to everything but God.
He will be my father from this day forward as He has been yours for years. I will depend on Him only
and nothing else.” As you come to that place of full consecration, Jesus will fill you with his
Spirit, and He will sanctify your heart and your soul and He will bring you into a life of victory.
Loved ones, that’s the way many of us came in and it’s the way you can come in this very day. So
maybe we should just sing that hymn, “Have Thine Own Way Lord! Have Thine Own Way.” Let us stand as
we sing loved ones. Just come forward if God has spoken to your heart and make your consecration
complete to Jesus. Settle things once and for all.
“Dear father, we thank You for showing us the way our lives can be, and the way they are at this
moment in Jesus if we would but enter in by faith. And Lord, we thank you for the loved ones that
You have called up to Yourself here at this altar to lay their all on the altar. Father, we pray now
by your Holy Spirit that you will reveal to them and to us everything that we need to lay on the
altar if there is anything that we are holding onto — be it reputation or be it happiness or peace
of mind, whatever we desire. Lord, we would lay that on the altar now. We would say, Father, what
you give us, that we will be satisfied with and nothing more, just as Jesus was satisfied with all
that you gave Him. So Father, we would now enter into the joy of our Lord by entering into His dear
death on Calvary.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for dying for us, but we thank you for dying with us. We thank you for
allowing us to die with you to this world and to all that it can give us. Lord, we now hereby set
our wills along with your will. Whatever you have, that is what we will be content with. Whatever
you have not, that is what we will be content to be without. Lord Jesus, whatever you depend on in
your Father’s love we will depend on. Whatever of the world you refuse to depend on, we will no
longer depend upon it.
And now Lord Jesus we thank you that you took us into yourself on Calvary and you slew us there. You
remade our personalities the way that we are meant to be. Lord, as we make our full consecration
during the minutes of this service and after the benediction, will you fill us with your dear Holy
Spirit? Baptize us with him and anoint us with him so that we may depend utterly and absolutely on
the Holy Spirit alone for all that we need in this life. Lord, we thank you that you will go with
the rest of us as we go out this morning. Move in our hearts too and bring us into the same victory
as we come to the place of full consecration ourselves. 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 ever more. Amen.