Description: Are you clear about why you were made? Or as we prefer to say, why you are alive?
Jesus in Me or Self in Me?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Please look at Colossians 1. We’ve read it before, and it really is a great chapter. Colossians
1:15, Paul is talking about Jesus and he says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born
of all creation.” It’s maybe good to note that that isn’t just a phrase, a nice phrase, that Adam
wasn’t the first-born. We always think, “Oh, Adam was the first-born.” But this says that Jesus
was the first-born.
I tried to talk about this the last time we were together but it just has hit me so strongly that
Jesus was the first man. He was the first man. He was the first human being. And that was right
from the beginning. God once he begot his son, he then conceived of the whole plan of making a
human race. And Jesus was the first human being. He really, in a way, at that time, said to his
Son, “Are you willing to become one of these people that I am going to make?” And Jesus said,
“Yes.” And so Jesus is the first-born of all creation and we all were made in him.
I think we miss it so often partly because we’re such wretched, miserable creatures, and we’re so
terrible in all our ways, that it’s hard to believe that we were made in Jesus, and made out of
Jesus. And I think that’s part of our trouble. We see so often ‘coming to Jesus’ as not ‘coming
home’, but getting somewhere for the first time. No, no, we’ve always been there. That’s why even
in Thailand we find with the workers that hear about Jesus, it’s as if they knew about this. Now,
they didn’t actually know of Jesus, but it’s as if there’s something away back in every heart that
kind of knows, “This is home. This is where I should be.”
So it’s quite important to see what Paul is saying here, that he’s not just using nice language,
he’s saying, “Jesus was the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or
authorities — all things were created through him and for him.” And it helps — I think it helps
all of us, because some of us here think, “Oh yeah, if you had my mum and dad, if you had my
background, or if you had my home you’d know why I am like I am.” But really that is unimportant.
We were not born of our mums. Outwardly, physically, we were, but we were made in Jesus. We were
made in Jesus! And you remember, it says, “We were made out of Jesus. We were made of his blood
and flesh.” Because you remember, the piece in John that says, “All things that are were originally
life in him.” And so all of us were originally cells in Jesus’ own being and his own body.
And so it’s very important for us to grasp that, otherwise I get into, “Oh my mum was a strong
willed Belfast woman.” We all have our stories; we all have our stories as to why we have
shortcomings. But really it’s immaterial. We were made out of Jesus. It ties up a little bit,
with what the “Basic Youth Conflicts” man used to say, “It’s not right to look at yourself and say,
‘Oh, if you had my ears, my ears are terrible.’ Or to look at some other part and say, ‘Oh, that’s
terrible. Oh, I hate being me.’” And he would say, “That’s downright rebellion against God. God
had determined that you would be like you are, and it’s the perfect way for you to be.”
And so it’s very important that we look at ourselves and see, not only that God willed us to be this
way, but that we were made out of Jesus. And Jesus is proud of us and he’s proud of us. And it’s
very important, I think, for us to see that from his angle. “He is before all things, and in him
all things hold together.” All things cohere. And I’m not very good at it because I stopped taking
physics when I was 15, but I do know that that [indicates the podium] is not solid, that it’s lots
of little atoms, and neutrons, protons, all running around each other. And the whole thing is
actually in movement. And whatever ‘e=mc2’ means, it certainly means that, that the whole thing is
energy; and it’s all made up of atoms; and it’s all rolling together; and there’s something holding
that whole thing together in that shape, and holding this together in this shape. And that’s what
this means, all things hold together in Jesus. He holds everything together.
So we joke a little about the pressure of the air, but that is exactly right. If it were any less
here, we’d explode. And if it were any greater, we’d implode. And so the pressure on the earth’s
surface is just exactly right for us. So in a real sense, it is Jesus that holds all that exactly
as it is. So, I don’t know if you’ve thought of it, but the very thought of him holding together
the Roman solider that thrust the spear into his side, just bewilders you, until you realize that
that’s what we’ve been doing for the great part of our lives, in all our subtle little ways.
And so all things hold together in Jesus. “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the
beginning, the first-born from the dead that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all
the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” And of course the heart of
that is, we were in Jesus; we’ve always been in Jesus. The only way we can escape from Jesus, is by
finally rejecting him in this life. But up to now we’ve always been in Jesus, and when he died and
was raised we died and were raised.
“And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in
his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before
him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of
the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I,
Paul, became a minister.”
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in
Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
So we have to be quite careful as to how much we claim there. But there’s no doubt that Jesus
absorbed the wrath of his Father in burning out the evil in the whole human race. And so in a real
sense he bore our sins. He bore the burning out of those sins.
Jesus continues to do that. Wherever he is alive, wherever he is alive in a human being, he
continues to bear and absorb that punishment. So in a way, we’re always called to bear injustice.
We’re always called to bear things and not require revenge, or not require the other person to admit
that they’ve wronged us. That is part of Jesus’ life. That’s the way he lived, “Like a sheep
before her shearers so he opened not his mouth.” So we do not cry out when somebody treats us
unfairly. That is what Jesus does now in us. He still continues to live the life that he always
And what I’d like to talk about today is those moments when we miss it. And it’s in those moments
that we’re no longer allowing Jesus to live his life of forbearance. So, that’s what Paul means, “I
complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body.” So that’s what Jesus
will do in us. But if you’re like me, we’re so — “Justice, we must – we ought to have justice!
And people ought to treat us fairly. And if they don’t treat us fairly we should certainly let them
know about it.” And we certainly let our ‘saintliness’ be seen: That whole attitude that we have
that is not the Savior himself.
“Of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make
the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to
his saints.” Different interpreters give different meanings to that. And one well known
interpretation is, “The mystery was that the salvation would come to Gentiles as well as the Jews.”
But here the mystery is very clearly stated, “The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now
made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the
riches of the glory of this mystery, which is…,” So he made it known among the Gentiles but, “This
mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And that’s what I pray God will show us today.
[Interval between scripture lesson and the sermon]
Well, what I was thinking of was not just the moments maybe when we lose our temper, and the moments
when we find ourselves being critical of somebody else, and we label that sin. So not only things
as obvious as that, but those moments when we just live the kind of life that our father’s son or
our mother’s daughter would live. That is, just those things that we do that are not a blessing.
I notice how — and you can find yours — but I’m just anxious to get out in light. But I know the
old Irish humor can be kind of a sharp tongue. We like to call it humor but really a little – we
would say a joke with a jag in it. But, there’s a little bit of a dig in things. And you can say,
“Oh, that’s just your Irish way.” Well, I mean, you cannot imagine Jesus doing it. We cannot, we
cannot imagine him — I mean, the Anglo-Irish Jonathan Swift, the “Gulliver’s Travels” writer, was
a satirist. And of course in the 18th century the English satirists were experts at trying to laugh
people out of their follies. That’s what we said, ‘they laughed people out of their follies.’ They
made people laugh and see the foolishness of the things they were doing wrong. And so one can plea
that, that’s what you’re using your humor for. But too often of course, it goes over the edge into
something that is just a little hard, you, and can often leave a trail of broken and bleeding
bodies, that are kind of trying to pick themselves up and laugh maybe even because it’s me that said
But what comes home to you – to me is, that ‘that is not Jesus’. And I’m happy for anybody who
wants to say, “Oh well, it’s not sin. It’s really inexpedience.” Well, whatever we call it, it’s
not what Jesus would do.
But I’m not the only one here. It seems to me we all have things like that. Ada has her sleep
habit that she’s trying to get hold of. And — well, I won’t go around the circle. I did on
Saturday, because I know we know everybody so well that is there. But it seems to me we have
moments there, where we just take our life into our own hands. And maybe there are whole areas of
our lives like that, where we just feel, “Well, that’s us.” Yeah, I often talk to Marty about some
of his little traits and eccentricities. But I think we all have these little things, that just are
not the Savior. And they are not Jesus.
And then what I’d ask you just to look at again is, “Are you clear about why you were made?” You
were not made to glorify God. You can’t glorify God. You were not made to serve Jesus. You can’t
serve Jesus. You were not made to be ‘leave the world a better place than you found it’. You
cannot leave it a better place than you found it. You were not made to do God’s work. You were
made for one purpose, so that ‘Jesus could be incarnated in you’. And that’s so obvious. You
remember he says it, “I in them Lord, and thou in me.” He says to his Father, “I in them Father,
and thou in me.” You and I were made so that Jesus could live again.
We used to watch American movies, we called them ‘pictures’. And we loved those places where, “the
Lone Ranger rides again!” And it’s really that. “The man from Nazareth lives again!” That has
always been his plan. The plan was never to keep coming back here in a 747 [Boeing 747 jet plane],
go around all the world, appear for every generation. His plan was always this, that he would live
in millions of human beings in a different way in each one of them. And I still think that’s where
you listen to me, and you hear me saying these words. But I think we still miss it, or we still
say, “Oh yes, yes, I know Pastor. I know what you mean. Jesus is in all of us. Yes, yes. Well I
see that. And of course he wants to live in all of us. And he wants to show himself in all of us.
Yes, yes, and I’m just one of the crowd.”
‘You’re not one of the crowd!’ That’s why you’re different from everybody in this room. That’s why
you’re different from every other human being on the earth. There is a particular beauty and glory
that Jesus has to show of himself, in this universe, that he can only show through you.
And I still think there’s a tendency for all of us to listen to that and say, “Yeah, yeah. Well
that’s a nice thought. It kind of makes me feel important. And it’s a nice thought. I must hang
on to it.” It’s true! It’s a fact! Jesus is infinite! He has an infinite number of facets of his
own character that can only be shown forth in all his glory, if he has all kinds of people! And you
are a unique side of Jesus. And why you’re here is for Jesus to live in you.
But you can see how we’ve kind of ‘drawn the teeth out of the dog.’ We’ve kind of ‘drawn the teeth
out of the lion’ so it can no longer even eat, let alone be dangerous. We’ve concentrated on
drawing the heart out of the real truth of the gospel. And of course, we have the idea, “Oh no!
Jesus died for me so that I would give my life to him. And then of course his principles will come
into me, and his ideas will come into my life. And of course he’ll give a little of his Spirit to
me, too. But it would be probably me. I would do it with his help.
And so you know that’s what we ask, “Lord, help me to do this. Lord, help me to do that.” We do
that. And I know part of it is just our words, and I don’t want us to get into linguistic
difficulties, where we have to pray properly. But I do think that it expresses some of what is in
our hearts: that it’s primarily me doing it with Jesus’ help.
And of course it isn’t that at all! “Without me you can do nothing.” “You can do nothing without
me.” “If you ‘abide in me’ and ‘my words abide in you’, then you will bear fruit and that will
glorify my Father in heaven.” “But it’s only me in you that will do it. It’s not you with a little
bit of me helping.” And that’s why it’s so important for us to see that when we hold onto this idea
that we are our own, and hold onto our own little traits, and our own little ways, we are really
meaning, “Get out! Get out! I have my own life to live! I’m willing to serve you; I’m willing to
help; I’m willing to do things, but I am ‘me’. This is ‘my’ life. I have certain characteristics;
I have a certain personality, and I have the right to hold onto it.”
And of course, it just — it’s just so bad to think we… It’s almost as if he comes with his towel
and his basin to wash your feet, and you pull your feet away. He just steps back. And the Lord who
made us, the Lord of the whole universe is shunned off, and draws back. And of course we go on with
our Irish humor, or our eccentricities or our ways. But we are ourselves! We really — and if you
really think of it truly and honestly, we really bury him! We really bury him at that moment. And
we ourselves stand up from his grave and we think, “Here we are.” But we kick him back in.
And I just can see it’s vital for us to see how serious that is. And then I saw, Marty, another
side of it, just in prayer yesterday morning in Raleigh [North Carolina]. I think we have a
ridiculous, magical, idea about how God is going to do things through us or with us. We kind of
pray, “Lord, really bless our sales, and really speak to this person, and really…” And we have an
idea that it’s kind of all going to be done ‘up there somewhere’. “And that’s the way Wigglesworth
[Smith Wigglesworth, 1859 – 1947, British evangelist] worked. I mean, he kind of prayed and magical
things happened out there!” [Pastor, facetiously quotes our attitude.] But it’s very interesting, if
you read a book like C. S. Lewis on miracles, he’ll point out that a miracle is from “miror” in
Latin. “Miror” in Latin is, “I wonder”, or “I marvel at things.” “Admirable” would be from the same
[Latin] root. But miracle is something that you wonder at and you marvel at. But he points out
that at a certain level of life, it’s normal. In other words it was normal for Jesus; wherever he
came, people were healed. That was normal. It was not wonderful for him; it was just normal. It
was wonderful to the next ‘life down’. So you can keep going down: a dog must think it’s marvelous
that you can play Chopin [Frédéric Chopin, 1810-1849, Polish composer and virtuoso pianist], because
of course it can’t play the piano at all. (Little Yorkshire Terriers can but others not. We have a
Yorkshire Terrier. [Explains the joke.])
But a miracle is something that is normal at a certain level of life. But we have this strange idea
that, someone will pray, and ‘out of the sky’ will come miracles. Of course it is not so. What will
happen is that Jesus will find it possible to live in us continuously. He’ll find it possible to
live in us continuously. If each one of us honestly and completely obey, and allow him to abide in
us, and not just to visit us from time-to-time, but allow him to abide in us, and allow him to
speak, every second, to us, and allow him to think or to think his thoughts with him every second,
there will come a time when people just get release just naturally and normally. But it comes from
his growth in us, from his filling out in us. It doesn’t come from us living at this miserable low
level where we’re in and out of him; in and out of him; in and out of him. And despite all our
shortcomings he somehow is going to work miracles on that level. No! It’s going to come forth from
him in us.
First we ourselves, will live in him and he will live in us continuously. And then, out of that
pure life of his, there will come works in the hearts of loved ones, works in the hearts of the
customers, works in the hearts of the radio listeners. It will come about from that. It is just
not his way to allow us to reject the whole purpose for which he came, that is, to be incarnate in
us, and despite that to perform all kinds of miracles in our path. It is not his way! His way is
first, “Let me abide in you. Let me live the life I planned to live in you.” And if we do that so
we become the site where he will work the wonders in people’s bodies; he will work wonders in
But it ties back down to the very practical business of how you and I are allowing him to live. And
are we allowing him to live the live he planned? Or is this very much our own plan? I don’t know
if Sheila has thought about this, but when I look back at us as Northern Irish people — and well I
just say, “If we’re American we ought to be hard on Americans. If we’re Irish we ought to be hard…”
It’s good if you’re just straight with yourself and not think everyone else is wrong and you’re
right. But I noticed, looking back on my life in Northern Ireland, often we – at least we Belfast
people — but we Belfast people had a grim grip on life. A grim grip on life! We wouldn’t let go.
And I frankly think we Northern Irish people are like that, with this kind of grim grip. And we
cannot hold life tight. And you can’t let it go. And you can’t let it go too far in that
direction, otherwise it will get out of my control, or it will get out of my known way! And it is
so easy to have that attitude toward our own lives. Really, to look at a guy like Wigglesworth and
say, “Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it be great for people to be healed through my prayers?
Wouldn’t it be great to see miracles taking place?” But actually, we won’t let the thing go. We
won’t let Jesus take it. We won’t let him take it and run with it. We hold tight.
So, what I can see, at least in my life is, I need to see – I need to see very plainly and honestly
where I want to remain what I was born, and where I’m not letting Jesus be his own wonderful new
self. And of course, you can see the other side of it, life becomes a real voyage of discovery once
you take this attitude. It is, “Lord Jesus, what are you becoming? What do you want to become
tomorrow in me? What do you want to become today?” And so it’s kind of an exciting thing. It
really is the beginning of being delivered from ourselves. It’s the beginning of losing our own
lives and finding them.
Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, we can only say to you, “Will you lead us into this new land? Will
you lead us out of any hardness that there may be deep down in our hearts? Will you lead us out of
any possessiveness that we have?” Lord Jesus, we would be honored if you would live fully in us.
And we see it as a small thing to lose what is not worth holding onto, our own fallen selves. We
see Lord, that we are the luckiest people in the world to have the chance of the King of Kings
living a unique life in us.
Lord Jesus, we ask you to begin this very day, this very hour. Lord, we want to get to know you.
We want you, Lord Jesus, to be free to live in us.