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Description: Swimming Into Cleanness
Swimming into Cleanness
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
God had a son and he made you part of his Son. You are personally known by God, and you have the
eternal life of his Son. You have unique qualities that he has planned to express through you in
earth and heaven. That’s the good news. And really you could end a sermon there, I could just say
go and live in that faith and that truth. Just go and have the time of your life, and that’s really
If you want to know how Satan steals that good news from you, he does it by getting you to add
conditions to the good news. That’s it. He does it by getting you to add conditions to the good
news. It’s a deception and a lie, but he persuades you to add conditions to something that is
simple good news. Something that has been called the gospel from even before Jesus himself was born
You can’t add conditions to good news. You can add conditions to a promise, but you can’t add
conditions to good news, and this is good news. So just look at it in Ephesians 1:4, and see again
that it isn’t a promise, it’s news, it’s a statement of a fact. Ephesians 1:4, “Even as he chose us
in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” That’s
good news. God chose you in Jesus, before the foundation of the world. That’s a fact. And the
reason we don’t whoop it up is because for years we’ve been deceived by Satan into adding conditions
to that good news.
You know the newspaper sellers in London, “The trains will not run today,” that’s news. It doesn’t
say underneath, “If you didn’t eat your cornflakes.” It just says, “The trains will not run today,”
and you know, “The trains will not run, I’ll have to find some other way to get into London.” Or,
the good news, “The trains will run today,” and you know you can walk down to the station and you
can get on the train. That’s what news is.
The good news is that God had a Son and he made you part of his Son. He knows you personally. He
knows your name, and you have his Son’s eternal life. You also have unique qualities that no one
else has, that he has planned to express through you on earth and in heaven. That’s the good news.
That’s it. And what we do is add conditions to it.
We say, (and I know this is startling to you) “If we have faith.” And then Satan gets hold of you,
and he pulls you over the coals on whether you have faith or not. And the fact is, the trains will
run or won’t run whether you have faith or not, whether you have your conflicts or not. God has had
a Son whether you have faith or not. God has made you in his Son whether you have faith or not. God
knows you personally whether you have faith or not, and God has planned to express certain unique
qualities of his own Son through you on earth and in heaven whether you have faith or not. That is
good news. That is the gospel, it is not conditional, and it stands there whatever you say.
We so often deal with each other conditionally, “If you love me, I’ll love you. If you give me
this, I’ll give you that. If you forgive me, I’ll forgive you.” We deal with each other
conditionally, but God deals with us unconditionally.
It would be the same as me saying to Trish’s mother, “I will give the daughter that you are going to
have 25,000 pounds.” That’s news that the birth of the daughter really doesn’t have much effect
over, the news is there. The daughter doesn’t do anything for that, she just is born, and it’s
God did that with us even before the foundation of the world, even when we were dead through our
trespasses. God made us part of his Son, and even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Before we could fulfill any conditions of faith, or belief, or obedience, God did this in Jesus. He
has done this for us, even before we were born. It is there in several places, even before we were
conscience. Ephesians 2:5, “Even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together
with Christ.” And the emphasis there is in the parenthesis, “By grace you have been saved.” It’s
by sheer generosity, not by anything that you have done. It’s not by whether you have faith or not.
You remember Romans 5:8, you used to quote it often as one of the four verses that you’d use to
present the gospel to someone who was not saved. Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that
while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” From before the beginning, God knew that you and I
would not be able to bear the death that he would have to impose upon us to protect his own nature,
and to destroy ours. He knew that. He knew we wouldn’t be able to bear that death, so he made his
own Son to be sin, who knew no sin. So in his Son we died, even before we could say, “Yes, we’ll
accept that,” or, “No, we won’t accept it.” The news is that God has done this.
If you say to me, “Don’t you think he’s put himself out on a limb?” Yes, that’s right. It’s a limb
that you and I wouldn’t think of putting ourselves on. We wouldn’t dream of it. But you’re right,
he has done that. He has made us in his Son, he has destroyed what we chose to be in his Son, he has
remade us in his Son, he has given us a place at his right hand in his Son, and then he has set us
loose to do our worst. That’s right. That is what God has done. He has made us in his Son, and he
has raised us in his Son irrespective of what our attitude to him is.
But Satan of course, tries to persuade us to add conditions to that and say, “God has done that if
of course, if you believe. God has done that of course, if you obey. God has done that if you live
the way he wants you to live.” But that’s a lie and a deception. God has done this whatever we are
like. He has already done this, and therefore it is natural for us to live a certain kind of life.
But Satan tried to deceive us into thinking, “No, no, we are not in his Son. We are not in Christ
until we do this or we do that. And until then we are children of wrath, and we just need to live
like children of wrath.” All the time God has made us part of his Son, and it is natural for us to
live like his Son. It is natural to live the way his Son lives because we are part of his Son.
And that’s why we are so baffled about faith. How can a person be healed by faith? Well, they’re
healed even before they have faith. It is not the faith that heals them; it is what God has done in
Christ in them. That is what has healed them.
It would explain why at times there are healings almost apart from faith. There are remarkable
changes that take place. Some of it we call the cancer receding, or going into remission, but other
healings take place that are just out of the blue and you can’t explain them. And it happens of
course, because God has done this for all of us. And all that life is around about us just like the
air. We say, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” God says, “Breathe the air that is all around.”
You say, “You’re right the air is all around me all the time. I thought there was no air there.”
“Yes, there’s air all around you. Christ is all around you, all the time.” His own power and his
own life surround you, and flows through you, because you are in him, and it’s natural to be like
him. That’s why we’re good.
We’re good because God has put us in his Son and because there’s none good but God, there is none
good but his Son. We’re good because God has put us in his Son. We don’t get into his Son because
we’re good. We have been made in Jesus and adopted as God’s children, and because of that we are
like him. It’s not because we are like him we then are born and adopted as his children. That’s the
lie that Satan tried in the Garden of Eden, “Surely, when you eat of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil.” The reply that
Eve should have given was, “Like him? I am like him, how can I be other than like him? I am in
him, I am part of him, and I am part of Jesus. What else can I do but be like him?” That was the
answer she should give, but of course she was deceived by Satan’s suggestion. “Yes, maybe I’ll get
like God if I do this.” There isn’t a condition. It’s God that has made us in his Son, has
crucified us in him and raised him up in him. Now, all we do is live like that.
It’s quite interesting the numbers of places in the Bible where it’s made plain that God has done
the work and then as result of that we are sanctified and saved. You might like to look at some of
them. 1 Peter 1:2, “Chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit.” All those
things were done first. Chosen is past tense, destined by God the Father, and sanctified by the
Spirit are all in past tense, “For obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”
The implication is that you’re first chosen and destined by God the Father, then sanctified by the
Spirit and as a result of that you’re able to obey Jesus Christ, and you’re sprinkled with his
blood. So often we turn it round and we say, “Well if we obey Jesus Christ, then we’ll be chosen by
God.” And we get into the “works” circle.
2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by
the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit
and belief in the truth.” So he sanctified you by the Spirit. The only ones who can believe in
these truths are the spiritual men, those who have been touched by God’s spirit. They can believe in
So in a sense unless God does something there’s no way in which we can rise into him, unless he
chooses us from the beginning to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit. And of course it’s
not only us, but all men, because Christ died for all, therefore all have died.
And then you come to today’s verse, Ephesians 1:4, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation
of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” The phrase, “Even as he chose us in
him before the foundation of the world”, is virtually a principle clause. A purpose clause if
followed by a result clause, “That we should be holy and blameless before him.” That purpose or
result clause follows the principle clause. The principle is the gospel, “He chose us in him before
the foundation of the world. He made us in Jesus before the foundation of the world. God crucified
us in Jesus, raised us up in Jesus, and brought us into his sanctuary at his right hand in Jesus,
for the purpose that we should be holy and blameless before him.
But, what is very plain is that our holiness and our blamelessness stem from our state, from our
place and our condition. Our holiness and our blamelessness stem from our position in Jesus. And
you can see why we get into such a vicious circle and such a frustrated system of thinking. We see
that we ought to be holy; we ought to be blameless if we’re in Jesus and so we must try to be. And
subtly, at that moment we step aside from Christ.
If we’re going to be in Jesus we must be holy, and blameless. So we say, “Let me be holy and
blameless so that I can be in Jesus.” And we turn the gospel upside down. The right position is,
“Lord Jesus, I am in you. I am part of you. Oh, let me live in you, let me enjoy you. Let me live
in this wonderful place that I am in with you at our Father’s right hand.” Then as a result of that
we will be holy and blameless.” That’s it.
The word in the verse is “hagios”. Hagiography you remember, is the study of the saints. “Hagios”
means holy. It’s especially inner godliness. It’s something deeper than just morality. It’s like
God’s own nature. It really is God’s own nature, and that’s why we get into such frustration when
we try to be holy. We’re in Christ, here you are and you say, “To be in Christ I must be holy, and
blameless.” And so we step outside of Christ. This little creature steps outside of Christ and
tries to walk in holiness and blamelessness so that he will get into Christ – that’s ridiculous. He
steps out of reality into unreality and in the unreality he tries to be like what he is naturally in
reality. And of course, all he has to do is abide in or just stay where he is, stay where God has
But Satan’s desire is to get you to doubt that God has put you in Jesus. Satan’s desire is to get
you to think that you’re a little thing independent on your own, and you have to somehow get into
Christ. God is saying, “I have put you in Christ. I’m the only one who can put you in Christ. You
cannot change your divine nature because I myself have put you in my Son from before the foundation
of the world. I have done all things that are necessary. Now please, just live in that.” And then
the Holy Spirit alone can bring about that holiness.
I think one of the reasons we are able to bluff ourselves on this is because we reduce this to an
outward thing. It’s not, it’s an inward thing. It’s every thought, and that’s where we go astray.
That’s where we satisfy ourselves with a human imitation of holiness. That’s where we think somehow
we’re managing it and pulling it off, but we’re not at all. We’re just living at a much lower level
than Christ himself is.
The Bible says, “Bring every thought into the captivity of Christ Jesus,” but far from that, we
allow thoughts that are not Christ’s to dwell for a second in us and we get used to that. “Why did
she do that?” That’s spat out right away, because nothing can dwell there like that so it’s pushed
away immediately. It’s just a temptation that is resisted.
Here it is dwelt upon for a couple seconds. It’s Monday and we give ourselves just two seconds of
depression. But here of course, in Christ, there is no depression because Jesus is on the wings of
clouds in the Father’s presence. He is filled with the wonderful things that the Father is doing, or
is about to do, and so depression is unknown. It may be a thought of depression for a moment, or a
thought of worry for a moment but it’s rejected immediately. But down here it’s dwelled upon,
allowed, and permitted to spread. We know so little of inner holiness, where every attitude is
filled with light.
And actually we know it ourselves, because we know we have troubles with that. Those wonderful
phrases in Philippians, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things
are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.” We
think, “Yes, that’s heaven.” And that is the life that is there in this great true man, Jesus.
Down here, this little guy says, “Well I must, I ought to be thinking whatsoever things are true.
Yes, I should, and I ought,” – and so we miss all the glory, the wonder and the beauty of cleanness.
I don’t want to bore you with all my repetitive phrases, but you remember the Second World War poet,
had that foolish, idealistic attitude to the First World War that, “It was at last bringing an end
to all the selfishness and all the nothingness that was filling the world along with the lack of
excitement.” And he likened the people to the soldiers who went to war in the First World War. This
was the disastrous irony of it; he likened it to “swimmers into cleanness leaping.” Of course, it
was leaping into death, darkness and despair.
But, that’s what this is, “swimmers into cleanness leaping.” God has put us in cleanness and we
leap – well, we don’t even have to leap into cleanness because we’re in cleanness. God has put us
in cleanness. Our answer is to be, “We are in cleanness here. We are in a pure atmosphere of a
pure man. We are part of Christ. I have no time Satan for that. I have no time world for that. I
am in Jesus. I am clean in him,” and so that that fills our whole being.
That’s why when they discuss about the fullness of the Holy Spirit; they talk about the fragrance of
Christ. That’s what begins to fill our lives, an inner fragrance. It’s like the lady who broke open
the alabaster box of ointment and anointed the Lord’s feet. The room became filled with the
fragrance of the ointment. That’s our heart, our spirit, our emotions, and our whole beings become
filled with the fragrance of Jesus’ presence.
And then, this house becomes like a place choking with orchids. The beauty and the smell of roses
are overwhelming. That’s really what it’s like. That’s what holiness is. And that’s the holiness
that comes because we’ve been placed in the midst of holiness and we dwell in that holiness.
The other word is the word “amomos”. It’s like that in Greek: ‘amomos’ and it’s actually the word
‘blameless’. Then the last two words in Ephesians 1:4 I can put into the Greek word, ‘katenopion’.
It’s quite interesting as it means, ‘before him’. It’s blameless before God.
It ties up a little with the verse, “The spiritual man is judged by no one, because he is governed
by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the only one who knows what he has impressed the spiritual
man to do and therefore is the only one who can judge whether he has done it or not. So in a real
sense, we are blameless before God. Other people may not think we’re blameless. But the importance
of this holiness that results from our being in Jesus is that it is related to God’s judgment of us,
his approval of us, and the things that he has told us to do.
This actually can be more demanding in one way and less demanding in another. I may point the
finger at Joe, (I shouldn’t because I’m pointing at myself), but one may point the finger at Joe for
something that you judge that he should do, but you don’t know what he has been told to do by God,
or not told by God to do. On the other hand, he may have to do things that we wouldn’t require at
all. We might think, “Oh you’re being silly. You’re being too careful. You’re being too
discriminating. You’re being too scrupulous.” But that is the life that we have in Jesus. It is a
life where our holiness comes from Christ himself into us through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy
Spirit is the one that we listen to, not man, and not man’s laws.
In other words the only way to be holy and blameless is to walk. And you remember it actually
occurs that way in the Bible, “Walk after the Spirit.” That’s what is normal and natural for men
and women who have been made in Christ Jesus. It’s just a natural way to walk. Let us pray.