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Description: Personal Relationship with Jesus
Personal Relationship with Jesus
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
For the 50 years that I have been preaching, there have been little serendipity moments – ones where
God helps you because he foresees. It is interesting that it was 2 or 3 nights ago that I got very
clearly from God that life is to be letting Christ live in me moment by moment in a conscious way.
You can see I got into that yesterday. Then, low and behold, today’s verse is just a commentary of
it. It’s one of those things that God knew ten years ago when we started Ephesians — i.e. that we’d
end up on this verse at this time. It’s Ephesians 6:6.
Ephesians 6:6—“not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the
will of God from the heart.” And I hope you’ll see it in a moment or two. Both Irene and I would
have been put off a lot of Northern Irish religion. And probably what put us off was the brand of
fundamentalism that existed in Belfast. In some ways it wasn’t as bad as the extreme fundamentalism
in America. We were not preoccupied with abortion and all that kind of thing. It wasn’t that.
It seemed to us fundamentalism was learning how to get John 3:16 over to someone by rote. It was a
mental assent. John Wesley said, “Faith is not a train of ideas in the head, a mental assent. It is
a disposition of the heart.”
To us fundamentalism seemed more like a mental assent, a train of ideas in the head. If you believed
the right thing you would be saved. For us it was especially expressed in the fact that being a good
Christian meant “good living”. You don’t go to the movies, don’t dance, don’t drink, don’t smoke
etc. That was it in its crudest form, but that’s what often came over to you in a lot of Belfast
A lot of the fundamentalist preaching came over as that. But – there was some good things, some
really good things. And we know many older men and women who would be called fundamentalists and
thought of themselves as fundamentalists but they weren’t what I described. They and the young men
and women who listened to them had a phrase that also put us off but it was dead on!
Some of them would say, “Are you good living?” But some of them would say, “Have you a relationship
with the Lord Jesus Christ?” Now that would have probably put us off at one time because we would
have identified it with the other stuff but it was right on. Have you a personal relationship with
the Lord Jesus Christ? And that is right. That is the issue. It’s what I tried to share with you at
prayer yesterday and what I’ll share with you today.
Have you a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? And what came to me was that it says in
a plain, simple way that you are meant to have presently – day by day- a personal relationship with
Jesus. You are meant to have a friendship with Jesus. You and he are meant to walk like that – day
by day. And in some ways it brings it home to you a little more than some of our other phrases. Do
you have now, at this moment a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?
If you asked me, “Do you have a personal relationship with Myron at this moment?” I’d have to answer
no. I do have a friendship with him but I haven’t a personal relationship at this moment because
he’s not here. I can have a Skype or a phone relationship with him but not a personal relationship
in that we are at this moment interacting with each other.
But I think that’s the issue. That’s why each of us is here on earth. And that’s the purpose of
everybody’s life. It’s that they would have an interacting relationship with Christ moment by
moment, day by day, so that he himself is able to live the unique life that God planned for you and
me to have.
Of course it would change utterly the life of those ladies that sweep some of the large streets in
Asian cities. Or those wretched public toilets in Belfast – I used to think, “What would it be like
to be a cleaner in one of those?” I could hardly bear the thought but I couldn’t resist putting
myself in their shoes and wondering what it would be like to be in that wretched atmosphere with the
That’s why I refer to one of those people – what a difference it would make to a cleaner of one of
those toilets if he really knew that his maker had planned for his son to live inside him and do
that job. I think it would change your whole attitude and heart. It would change your whole idea of
your life. And I think that’s what God has planned for us. That’s why each of us is here. Each of us
is here to do something, or rather for Jesus to do something in us, that he is not going to do in
Now if you think thoroughly through the whole issue of God making us inside his son we see many of
us seeming to be the same and yet none of us are the same as the other. If you think through all
that you may come up with the question, “Why does he make so many of us all different? Is he just
bored so that he doesn’t make two the same?”
If you let your mind work logically you are bound to come up with the truth. It must be so that he
can show some facet of himself in each of us that he has not shown in anybody else. And he is going
to do something through each of us that he is not doing in anybody else. And that is why we are all
different. That’s the purpose of our lives.
It would transform the lives of millions of dear hearts. Just think of those people that Mother
Theresa served – the poorest of the poor in India. Think of each one of them. Every one of them is
different from everybody else in the whole universe. That’s because his son is destined to do
through them what he will not do through anybody else.
It gets rid of the whole celebrity problem. The reason we are all preoccupied with celebrities is
because we want to be noticed. We want someone to see that we are different and so it brings
complete contentment and rest from that. But the heart of it is that each of us would day by day let
Christ do in us what he has planned.
If you ask why life is dry or cold at times it’s obviously because we take our eyes off the ball. We
take our eyes off that reality and start comparing ourselves with other people and with what they
have achieved and done. You are bound to come up with disappointment because that’s not why you are
You are put here to do something that nobody else can do. You were put here for Christ to achieve in
you and be in you what he will not be in anybody else. If God has you here to do a special job, who
cares what all the others think of you in not doing their job?
And so it transforms the whole attitude. But the heart of it is that we would be living moment by
moment with Jesus. We would be letting him live in us every moment.
I’m probably the only creature here that has had such experience of depression or can so easily fall
into but I’ll bet you also can. Do you know why that is? It’s because for a moment we sink into the
lie of being on earth and thinking that this is all we’ve got. And the reality is that every moment
we spend on earth we have the son of the most high God inside of us. Every moment he is inside you,
taping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like to do this now.”
But we are buried down here in the midst of ourselves thinking of ourselves as being alone. And here
is the King of Kings right beside us trying to get us to look up. All you need is the thought of
reality. All you need is to think that for a moment, “Lord Jesus this is your life. What are we
going to do now?” All you need to do is look up at reality for a second and all that vast desolation
But it does mean living moment by moment with Him and treating him as really being in you in a way
that he is in nobody else. It’s not thinking, “Oh yes, I have to let Christ live through me. What
did Christ do? Well he healed the lepers, he was patient in times of difficulty, he was courageous
and yes, that’s what I have to do.” The moment we think that way we immediately sink back into
ourselves trying to imitate the one who is right inside us saying, “I’d like to speak to you. Excuse
me I’d like to speak to you.” It makes me think of Tevia in the movie Fiddler on the Roof who spoke
to God as a friend, “Lord would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a rich man?”
It results in Ephesians 6:6. It transforms all your relationship with each other here in this room
and with everybody that you meet. It enables you to be a servant as he says, “Slaves be obedient to
your earthly masters.” It enables you to be what you are supposed to be here on the earth but in a
different way. Not in the way of eye service. The Greek is opthalmus dulos or eye slavery. And
that’s what preoccupies us when we are trying to be a good salesperson, a good friend, a good
neighbor, a good brother or sister. We are eye slaves.
We think, “Does Marty agree with this? Is he with me at this moment? What is Peggy thinking? Is
Irene for this or against it?” The first thing it does is make you almost incapable of contributing
anything to the other person because you’re engaged in getting eye service and finding out what they
think about this. You are preoccupied by them and influenced by what their eyes are saying to you.
In a strange way you couldn’t hear Jesus if he shouted at you. You’re not listening to him at that
moment. And so you’re not actually giving out any richness of Jesus to the other person. It’s a bit
like C.S. Lewis’s comment on prayer. “The moment you think, ‘Do I feel the presence of God?’ that
moment you can no longer feel it because you are preoccupied with yourself and you’re not worshiping
You can’t do both things together. It’s a bit like the quantum problem. Part of the problem of
quantum physics is the question, “Do you change the circumstance by your very observation of it?”
And in a way that’s what we are doing with the eye service. We are ceasing to serve them or our Lord
in anyway. We are preoccupied with their eyes and what they are thinking.
That’s why he says, “If you’re listening and walking with Jesus moment by moment and receiving
second by second what he wants to do through you in this life then that is a rich content that you
are beginning to transmit and express even in the very atmosphere. And in that sense you are filling
the world with something of God’s will as opposed to the eye service where you are preoccupied with
seeing the effect your words or your service is having on this person. It’s a completely different
way of life.
Paul is saying, “Do what you’ve been given to do in the world but not in the way that the world does
– preoccupied with what the world thinks of what you are doing. But be preoccupied with the person
within you who has something for you to do that only you can do. Don’t servce in the way of eye
service and as men pleasers (or people preoccupied with pleasing men).”
That’s what happens so quickly. Indeed we would say to each other, “If people don’t like you we
can’t influence them. If the other person doesn’t like you they won’t listen to you so of course you
have to be pleasant to them.” Yes, but what we really want is their approval. It turns service into
mastery, bossing or lordship. You want to serve them but really you are preoccupied with pleasing
them. You want to please them and you want to increase and improve your own reputation because you
like people to like you. And so the concentration goes back on yourself in men pleasing. It is a
preoccupation with what they think of you. Are they pleased with you? Are these people that you call
your friends those who might help you when you need help? And so, the whole concentration that
starts off as service because a service to yourself.
There is a way of escape and that is to live with Jesus moment by moment and let him live in you.
It’s to be preoccupied with him living in you and doing what he wants to do through you.
I don’t know what you find with speaking in public – to a group of people. I remember my agony in
the early days when my wife and her parents came to hear me preach in some little church. I would
practice concentrating on what I had planned to say and not being preoccupied with what they were
thinking. In those early days the only way I could deal with it was to “cut them off”, just forget
that they were there. I would concentrate as though I was delivering the sermon to just my dad or my
dog. But the concentration had to be on what I was saying.
It was the problem of keeping the train of ideas in your head clear and yet actually speaking to
them as people and being interested in them. That’s the difficulty of communicating in some way to
an external world while the internal world is the most real one to you. It’s the one that guides
That’s the whole issue. The issue is are you able to do what Jesus is in you to do if you are
preoccupied with the other people, either pleasing them or seeing what they are thinking. That’s the
battle. The battle is to speak from a quiet heart that refuses to be influenced by the outside and
will continue to say what it thinks is right even if the others are all opposing you.
It’s the same situation in sales. The moment you become preoccupied with what their attitude is, you
are pretty much finished yourself. That’s because you can no longer gather your thoughts together in
a comprehensive and convincing way. So the heart of good salesmanship is having your own set of
truths that you want to share and being able to do that in an attractive way without being
distracted by their possibly negative response to you.
And that works. A man like Newt Gingrich is an expert at it because he is so full of what he is
saying and he can fight against the wave that is coming from outside. So that’s the difference in
service that takes place when Christ is a part of it. And our verse in Ephesians goes on, “but as
servants of Christ.” So even if you are slaves, be good slaves – but not as slaves to masters but as
servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
That’s why we are here. We’re here so that Christ can fill our hearts with his peace. “Let the peace
of Christ rule your hearts.” From that heart of peace we do what he wants to do through us so that
there is a continual stream from the innermost part of our hearts to the outward activity of our
hands or our tongues. And so we do the will of God from our from a pure heart. So that “Out of the
fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” There’s a continuous stream of the life of Christ that
comes from the deepest part of our beings.
It seems to me that’s the deepest effect of letting Christ live in us. The innermost part of your
being is that Christ is there. That’s certainly was what set me back on my heels when Bob Trozen
(and other authors that we have read) first talked about a clean heart. I just assumed you couldn’t
have a clean heart. You couldn’t have a mind that was just filled with pure thoughts. And then I saw
that you’ve got nothing if you don’t have that. If you haven’t that then you are in battle all day
long. You are battling fears within, worries, anxieties and I suppose pride, envy and jealousy. But
you particularly feel those anxieties and sense of apprehension in your heart.
The dear world of Christendom has condemned itself to dreadful failure and defeat because it thinks
that’s normal life. And you’re finished if you think that’s normal life (failure and defeat) because
you never win with it. It grows deeper and deeper inside you. You find more and more ways of keeping
the dreadful garbage inside and not letting anyone else see it until that becomes your whole life.
And so the heart of letting Christ live in you is that he lives in the deepest part of your being.
In other words there is no unclean thing that you touch. Your heart is something that can be
projected on a screen of an outdoor movie theater. Everyone could see and it and you wouldn’t be
ashamed because Christ alone is there.
So, it is a higher life that we talk about when we talk about real Christianity. It is Jesus himself
living in you a life that he has not lived in anyone else and will never live in anybody else. And
our great privilege is to let that happen within us. Let us pray.