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Description: Do we live by a source of life within or is our life dominated by our needs and worry? Have we tried to turn it around and found it spring right back?
Life or Death Christianity
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I know I feel a special burden in these weeks to make things as clear as possible to you and to
myself because these are historic weeks for us. They are opportunities to say things to each other
maybe for the last time — so they are important. I am trying to make it as plain as I can and why I
am doing that is, I would like to see you in heaven. These years pass so fast and are so unimportant
that the really important years are the years that lie ahead after this life is over. So it’s vital
that you and I see each other at that time. Of course somebody like myself feels a great
responsibility to be able to stand at the gate and see you coming in and you see me coming in too,
that’s why we are together.
So that’s what I am trying to make clear loved ones these Sundays. What is it to live the way God
wanted us to live? What is it to be in Jesus? What is it to be a Christian? What is it to be right
with our maker? That’s what we are talking about and that’s why I asked Gentry to read that chapter
again because I think it does make the important points that we need to see. Maybe you’d look at
Romans 8:1. I had mentioned to you how it runs in the Greek and you’d see how plainly God’s word
describes those who are to live with Him forever, those who are right with God, and those who are
living the way they were meant to live.
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I think
there’s a great danger in our day of leaving it there and generalizing in all kinds of ways about
what it is to be in Christ Jesus. Some of us say, “It’s if you believe in Jesus.” Some of us say,
“It’s if you believe He rose from the dead.” Some of us say, “It’s if you believe He died for your
sins.” Some of us say, “It’s if you believe He has come into your heart.”
Well, actually the Greek runs differently from the way it does in English translation. In the Greek
Testament, the next clause is the one down in verse 4. It’s the adjectival clause at the end of
verse 4. The Greek translation runs, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus”, and then it runs immediately to what we have put at the end of verse 4, “Who walk not
according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”
In other words, being right with God is something to do with the way you and I live everyday, the
way we’re living day by day. It’s put there as living not according to the flesh but according to
the Spirit. You know several times I have shared that we have a tendency to misinterpret that
because we think flesh is sexy. Or, living according to the Spirit is being moral and going to
Loved ones, that may be part of what it is but that’s not the heart of the difference between living
according to the flesh and living according to the Spirit. In other words, there are many loved ones
who take an initial step with Jesus or make a decision to follow Him or say they believe that He
died for them but they don’t live according to the Spirit. They live according to the flesh. So they
aren’t really in Christ and they aren’t really right with God and they aren’t really being fitted
for heaven. Indeed if they got to heaven, in that situation, the heaven would be hell for them
because they’ve lived their whole life according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit.
So, what I’d like to share once more today is what it means to live according to the Spirit. In
Ireland certainly and probably in England, during the Second World War, we had no petrol at all —
we had no gas. All the gas went to the military needs. Those who had cars, including my father, had
the car sitting out there in the yard but of course had no gas to drive it. So all we did was keep
it clean and sit in it from time to time at the weekend. But we weren’t able to move it at all
because we had no petrol or no gasoline.
You will smile but at that time in Ireland, even though I hate to say it, we still had some horses
drawing carts. Some of our milkmen, some of our bakers still delivered with a horse and cart. Our
coal was delivered by horse and cart. So there were still many of the big drays we would call them
— the kind of horses Budweiser uses as an advertisement.
We had still a lot of those horses and you would not believe it as I thought of it this morning. I
thought, “No, it couldn’t have happened”, but it did. We had farmers and other men who lived in the
city, tradesmen who would use these horses with the carts. I know it sounds typically Irish, but
they would tie up the horse to the car and have the horse drawing the car along. Now, what on earth
they got out of it except a covered vehicle of some kind, I don’t know.
But they would do that. They would steer the car and they would drive with the reins through the
passenger window and the horse would draw the car along. Still as I thought of it this morning, I
thought, “No, it couldn’t have happened”, but it did. And of course, if you had looked at the car
moving along with maybe the horse shielded by a tree, it would look to you as if the car was moving
Indeed if you looked at the wheels of the car, it would still look as if it was moving as it was
supposed to. And if you had actually been able to get underneath and let it pass over, you would
have seen the axle turning the way it’s supposed to turn. Indeed if you had followed the
transmission, you’d have seen all the little gears moving. If you had followed to the crankshaft,
you’d have seen the crankshaft moving. Then if you’d come in up into where the pistons are, you’d
have seen the pistons moving.
So to all intents and purposes, if you had been a visitor from outer space, you might have said,
“This car is working the way it’s meant to work”. That is until you got to the cylinder. I don’t
know if all you ladies and gentlemen know it but the piston goes up and down normally because the
spark plugs spark, the gas comes in and it explodes and it forces the piston down. The piston then
drives the crankshaft and so on back to the wheels.
So if you’d looked at that car being drawn by the horse, you’d have said “Well, the pistons are
going up and down the way they’re supposed to. This is the way this car should work.” It would have
appeared that way to you right up until you examined the top of the cylinder – until you got to the
spark plug at the top of the cylinder. Then you’d have noticed there’s no spark. There’s no
electricity coming through. The carburetor is there, but there’s no gasoline coming through it and
there’s no gas being injected into the cylinder.
So the vital heart of the car — what makes an internal combustion engine work — the explosion that
occurs when the gas vapor meets the spark and the spark plug — that wasn’t present. In other words,
the very heart and life of the internal combustion engine actually was dead. But it’s interesting,
all the other parts of the car appeared to be moving. Actually what was happening was, it was being
driven backwards. The wheels were turning, they were turning the axle, they were turning the
crankshaft, and they were turning the transmission. They were making the pistons go up and down. It
was working back to front.
All the parts of the engine were moving because the wheels were being drawn along the road by the
horse. It wasn’t working the way it should. The way it should work is, the spark plug should spark,
the gas should come in, it should explode, it should push the piston down, the piston should turn
the crankshaft, the crankshaft should turn the wheels and the thing should go from what’s happening
In other words, when the guy tied the horse to the car, he was driving according to the flesh. The
car was moving according to the flesh, not according to the Spirit. The car was being moved by the
effort of the horse drawing the wheels along the road. It was not being driven the way it was meant
to by the combination of a spark from the spark plug and the gasoline coming in and exploding. It
was not going according to the Spirit.
Now, that’s a picture of what has happened to us men and women. Our lives are meant to be lived
according to the Spirit. That is, we’re meant to operate by God’s love and by our trust in God’s
love. We have switched the whole thing around and we have begun to operate by the world’s love. So,
to all intents and purposes we’re living the way we were meant to live. I mean our hands move, our
minds operate, our emotions feel, our wills are exercised in some sense and we seem to achieve
things in this life. We have children, we marry, we have wives, we have families, we seem to be
operating the way we were meant to operate except it’s all backwards. It’s all in reverse.
We were meant to depend on our Father’s love for our sense of safety, just for our sheer sense of
security. You know what I mean. Where’s your next meal coming from? Where are you going to get your
winter coat? Where are you going to get food for next week? Those basic needs. We were meant to lean
utterly and completely on our Father. Now loved ones, let’s get rid of the old objections, “You mean
we were meant to sit around all day, do no work and wait for God to give us manna from heaven?”
No, no. We were meant to do the jobs that God has given us, and the things that He has placed us
here to achieve. But in our inner heart of hearts, we were meant not to depend on IBM graciously
continuing our employment. In our heart of hearts, we were meant not to depend on the social
security system continuing to be somewhat effective. In our heart of hearts, we were meant to depend
not even on our own physical body and it’s continuing strength and ability to go to work and provide
for our wives and our children.
We were meant to depend in our heart of hearts not on those things but on our Father’s faithfulness.
Whether we had a job or whether we hadn’t a job. Whether we lost the job or whether we had tenure
that was guaranteed for the next 40 years. Whether the money continued to come in at the same level
or not, whether we got sick of an incurable disease or not, whether things in the national economy
continued to be at the present level or whether they ran into inflation. We in our heart of hearts,
would rest easy in our beds at night because we trusted our Father to supply all we needed of food,
shelter and clothing. That’s the way we were meant to operate.
We were meant to deeply trust Him. Now, if you pressed me and said, “Brother, do you mean that if I
lost my job, or if I had an injury at work and I wasn’t able to continue”, or you ladies, “If my
husband died or if he lost his job or if the whole economy just blew apart and the stock market fell
to pieces, do you mean that I am intended to go on without even a tremor, without even the slightest
fear in my heart?” Yes. That’s the way God intended us to live.
Now, do you see that that’s consistent with working. Let’s get rid of that silly, scholastic kind of
cavilling where we say, “Oh you mean we don’t need to work.” Yes, that isn’t a question at all.
There are other reasons for working. We were meant to work. We were meant to live much of the lives
that we’re living. But in the deepest part of our heart, in the deepest part where worry and anxiety
occurs, where fretting, where hesitation, where self-doubt and self-questioning occur, deep down in
the heart of our hearts, we were intended to have such solid trust in our Father that He would
provide all that we needed. There wouldn’t be even a tremor, not even a hesitation, not even a
little hesitation in getting to sleep at night, let alone losing sleep. That’s living by the Spirit.
That’s living according to the Spirit and that’s the way our loving Father means you to live. Now
you know fine well we’ve used the examples of when we were children. It would be fun if we could
turn the clock back and all of us could be five or six years of age. The interesting thing is we can
do it because you can turn your mind back at this moment and I can certainly turn mine back. You can
think of some of your pictures, photographs that your mom and dad took of you, but more than that,
you can remember some of the feelings you had when you were a little child and so can I. You and I
know fine well that those were glorious days.
Even if there were things that weren’t perfect about them, when we look back with our selective
memories they were glorious days from the point of view
of freedom from anxiety, and freedom from worry — at least about the basic things. Even if
traumatic things happened with our moms and dads later on, there were days in our early life when we
remembered all we did was play all day and then mom called us in for lunch. It was rare that we
said, “We’re starving, we’re starving, can we have lunch, can we have lunch?” She always seemed to
have it ready. We were called in, we ate lunch and then we had to eat our creams or whatever it was,
but it was nice.
We didn’t go to sleep at night thinking, “Oh, what am I going to wear in the morning? I haven’t a
thing to wear.” Or “Where am I going to get a coat to keep the snow out?” She provided all of that
and we didn’t think, “Oh will I get my pay packet three weeks from now?” No, she gave us the dime or
the quarter –whatever it was. Everything was provided and there was a deep peace inside.
Now, our poor moms and dads had the world to worry about. They had all kinds of things they had to
sort out. But we knew nothing about plumbing problems. We knew nothing about the electricity bills.
We knew nothing about whether the job was lost or not. Indeed, probably some of you remember some
dreadful things happening when there was great trauma in the home — dad lost a job or something.
But somehow mom and dad managed to maintain an even tenor in our lives.
That’s only a shadow of what the Father does for you and wants you to enjoy. If you’ll pause for a
moment, look back on your life, and see some of the hideous things through which you’ve passed and
some of the unexpected events in your financial life, you know fine well that somebody was looking
after you. You know in your heart of hearts that there are things you cannot explain about your life
and about the way it has run.
There are situations that were disastrous for you. And if they were dependent upon you and your
ability to deliver yourself, you would be in prison or you would be poverty-stricken today. There
are things through which you have passed and you cannot explain how you ever came through them or
how you’ve ended up where you are today. I’m not terribly fond of the expression “the man up there”
but you know fine well that there was somebody up there that was looking after you.
Now, living according to the Spirit is living in that trust. You probably don’t live that way
despite the fact that you have to admit many things have happened in your life that can only be
explained by some dear providential care that has continued to develop your life in some kind of
order. Yet despite that, you do not live in quiet relaxed trust of your loving Father. You know that
you still get worried.
If the bank account is overdrawn you get worried. If there seems to be a tremor in the company
policy, you get worried. If you’re not able to pay a certain bill or if you see inflation’s ugly
head appearing again or if something unexpected happens, you get worried. And your dear Father who
made you, looks down upon you with tears in His eyes, because His arms are still the arms that are
underneath you. His hands are still the hands that are keeping your breath breathing. His loving
energy is still what keeps your heart beating. His kindly sustaining power is what still keeps your
blood circulating. And whether you are trusting Him or not, He is the one who is doing all the work.
He’s the one that will yet again deliver you when you get into an impossible situation.
So, loved ones, living according to the Spirit, being in Christ Jesus is living in that kindly inner
trust. You see what we’re saying, that’s what faith is. I agree with you that faith certainly has
the meaning of believing certain things about God. But the heart of faith is trust. The heart of
faith is trust.
If you ever visit a house that you’re thinking of buying and you come to this point in the floor and
the realtor says to you, “Now walk carefully there because those boards have dry rot in them.”
Well, you walk carefully and if you could see any other way around, you’d walk around it. But you
walk over that with extreme uneasiness. You wonder if this floor will give out under you.
It’s the same with a frozen lake. You come to a place where it’s thin and suddenly you’re walking on
eggs, as we would say in Ireland. You’re as if you’re walking on eggshells because you feel you’ll
go through it at any moment. You know you’re tense, and you’re strained.
You know the different feeling when he says this floor is solid concrete. Well, you just walk across
it. You’re confident. There’s no worry that floor is going to give. There’s just a different
feeling. There’s no tension in you, your muscles aren’t tense, you’re not worried up here, and
you’re not emotionally afraid. It’s a total difference. That’s the difference between trusting the
Father and trusting yourself or trusting things in this world.
Loved ones, you remember we’ve said, it’s not a matter of not having stocks and shares. Have stocks
and shares, have bank accounts but where is your trust? If your trust is in things for your
security, if your trust is in the car that you have, or the house that you’ve at last got paid for,
or in your ability to provide food for yourself, in your social security, in your job, in your bank
account, in all the backup systems that you have devised — then finally you are in the depths of
despair because no one at the moment has a reliable cure for Aids. No one has a reliable cure for
cancer, no one has…and you can just go on — Lou Gehrig’s disease, sclerosis, you just go on
Finally, you have no security because you know there are half a dozen things out there that can get
you at any time. So there’s no peace, no real peace. There’s a bluff peace as long as, “I don’t get
hit with this disease, that disease, the other disease, as long as inflation doesn’t come, as long
as I don’t lose my job and as long as, as long as…” You make all the conditions and then say “I am
safe.” There is no safety. That’s living according to the flesh.
We were made by God our loving Father to live according to the Spirit — to trust Him completely for
our security and not to trust in things. Now getting back to the automobile drawn by the horse.
After you have lived for years and years according to the flesh, when you hear a presentation like
this morning you say to yourself, “That’s right. I can sense that’s the way we’re meant to live.
I’ve at times glimpsed that even from when I was a little child. Even since childhood I’ve had
moments like that. When everything has fallen apart, I find myself throwing everything into God’s
hands and for a few hours and sometimes a day, I’ve sensed that peace. That is the way I am meant to
live.” You sense that and you say to yourself, “I am going to live that way.”
You will find it’s impossible. You’ll find it’s impossible. In other words, if that car says, “I am
going to work the way I was meant to work,” it finds it’s impossible. For one reason, the whole
system needs to be reconditioned completely because it’s all rusted out inside and there’s no oil in
the box. But for another reason, there’s no power in the battery. There’s no power. There’s no power
to create the explosion and that’s what you find.
You find there are two problems. One, you haven’t got it inside you to trust the Father and the
other is, your whole personality has been operating the wrong way for a long time. The moment you
get an envelope in the mail with notification of your overdraft, your little eyes have been trained
for many years to see that and to send signals of alarm to your brain. Then it sends signals to your
mouth and the secretions dry up. The muscles tense up and the circulation of the blood is
constructed by the blood vessels. Your whole system is used to operating like that, the moment it
senses any fear. It doesn’t matter what you do, you cannot begin to live in deep trust in the Father
because your whole personality system is reversed.
Now, that’s the purpose of Jesus’ death on Calvary. Jesus’ death is not simply a matter of the
forgiveness of our sins. When Jesus died on Calvary, God took you and your whole fleshly personality
that has lived according to the flesh for years and years and years. The Bible has another word for
it. It calls it carnal. Your whole carnal personality, the whole carnal way you’ve had of living and
reacting all through the years, was put by God into Jesus His Son and destroyed on Calvary.
If you say to me, “That’s impossible, I mean I wasn’t alive then. I am alive now but that was 29
A.D.” Loved ones, 29 A.D. was when it was manifested in history, but this dear Book says, “The Lamb
was slain from before the foundation of the world.” Jesus was crucified in eternity in timelessness
where even Einstein has shown us there is no time. In a certain point in space, there is no such
thing as time. It’s one great eternal moment.
You were put by your Creator into Jesus. You were utterly destroyed and you were remade again the
way you were meant to be. The moment you are willing to believe that and willing to live the way He
intended you to live, that combination enables God to give you His Spirit and create that spark
inside you that creates explosion. You begin to operate the right way again, and that’s the Father’s
plan for us.
You know how I have shared it before. The Spirit works from God out through the soul and out through
the body. What has happened to us is, instead of operating like that we work from the body into the
soul trying to get some life in the Spirit and of course there’s no way you’ll get a spark out of
the spark plug that way, it’s dead.
What has to happen is the whole personality has to be changed, and transformed. Then God is able to
give you the Spirit of His own heart and His own love inside you and you’re able to know you can
trust Him from the inside. That’s why the Bible says in Romans 6:6, “Our old self was crucified with
The old way you used to operate was destroyed in Jesus and the moment you are willing to believe
that, that moment the miracle is made real in you and God gives you His Spirit, creates the spark of
life and explosion inside you that begins to enable you to operate the way you were meant to. What
is necessary for this to happen? There has to be a deep willingness on your part to die with Jesus
to things, that’s it.
It’s not surprising. Your own common sense rises to it. You know fine well when you look at Howard
Hughes dying in misery in that penthouse apartment that there is no security in things. So your
reason rises to it, but do you see there’s something inside you that is independent? There’s
something inside you that doesn’t want to have to depend on somebody else, least of all an invisible
God. There’s something inside you that still wants to have control of your own security even though
you know you can’t have control of your own security. That’s what you need to be willing to die to.
That’s the heart of the carnal self. That’s the heart of the selfish will. That’s the heart of your
godlessness. I sympathize with you because I know we all think, “No, no. Godlessness is those people
who are murdering others or those people who are swearing or are drinking or are on cocaine.”
Godlessness, loved ones is godlessness. It’s living a godless life. It’s living without God being
your God. It’s living your life with you as God.
God in Jesus destroyed that in you but until you are willing for that to be made real in you, you
cannot enter into the deliverance. So it is a deep thing. As I look at you men, we might not think
of ourselves as self-made men but we’ve been taught that we have to stand up for ourselves, we have
to make it. If we don’t bring it in, the women won’t bring it in, we have to do it. But you ladies,
you have your own version of that. We feel, “Look, if we give up our own control of things, we’ll be
Well, if you do give it up to anybody else, you’ll be lost. But if you give it up to the God and
Creator who made you, in whose hands you finally are at the end of this life, then all you are doing
is what is right and wise and true. So, this morning it’s a deep choice you have. It’s not just, do
you believe what I am saying — because it’s so self-evident isn’t it? It makes such sense that it’s
hard not to believe it. But that’s not the issue. The issue is are you willing to die to your right
to get the security that you need when you need it from the things in this world? Are you willing to
do what Jesus did? He said, “Father into thy hands, I commit my Spirit.”
“Father, I am going to trust You. If You want me poor, that’s okay. Yes, if You want me to die of
starvation, that’s okay. Lord I give You the right to ensure whatever security in food and clothing
and shelter that You see I need and I’ll trust You for it in-season and out-of-season and You alone.
And if You deem to let me die as Jesus did, then that’s okay. I’ll accept that.” That’s the choice,
loved ones. That’s really what you and I have to determine this very day. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we are so used to depending on the things that we possess for our security. We’ve been
so encouraged to believe that nobody will look after us if we don’t look after ourselves, that even
though all of this seems so sensible and so real and true, yet there is something inside us, (we can
hardly tell what it is) but there’s something inside us that rises up against it. Lord, You know
what that is. You know it’s that old selfish will of ours that wants to run our lives ourselves.
Father, we know that’s what You destroyed on Calvary in Jesus and that’s the awkward, intractable
part of us that we cannot control with all our discipline. Father, if You destroyed that in Jesus on
Calvary, we’re willing to do anything so that you can manifest that in us in our present life. Lord,
will You ask us whatever question You need to through the Holy Spirit to expose to us if there’s any
way in which we’re not willing to die with Jesus to things and the security that they bring us. And
above all, to die to that selfish will inside us that wants to operate alongside Your will. Lord if
this means dying to ourselves and the extinction of ourselves, then that’s what we want, Father.
We know You are not asking us to die to our personalities. We know that if we lose our lives for
Your sake, we save them and if we die to our personality we find a new personality that is better
than the one we had. It’s one that is being transformed day by day rather than being conformed to
the image of this world. So Lord, we bow before You this morning. Lord Jesus, we see the choice is,
are we willing to trust You in the dark on the Cross rather than things in the light of this world
standing up on our own two feet.
Lord, we bow before You now and we say that we want what You want. We want to live the way You meant
us to live Father. If this is what Jesus did for us on the Cross of Calvary, then that’s what we
want in our own lives. Lord Jesus, we would make our own covenant with You in these next few
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. Amen.