Or Building Up Your Spirit By The Word Of God
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O'Neill
Loved ones would you turn to that lesson that Gentry read, in Luke 1. It's something that Mary said and I hope that God could make it real to us in a few moments this morning. It's Luke 1:38 and it's after the angel announced to her that Jesus would be born inside her.
Luke 1:38, "And Mary said, Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; (and then these are the words) "let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. "Let it be to me according to your word." That's what I hope God will enlighten to us. We usually study the book of Romans on Sunday mornings but we interrupted that study during the past quarter to zero in on what is the heart of Christianity. The heart of Christianity is of course, faith in Jesus' death and resurrection. So, that's what we've been talking about.
Most of us have seen the need for that, first of all, in relationship to the guilt we feel, for the things we do wrong in this life. All of us I think know what sin is and all of us know that in some way we're not what God wanted us to be. It's the fear and guilt of that that often makes us feel separated from Him and makes us feel fearful even of death. We're not fools. We know fine well that God has again and again said, "If you live trusting yourselves and not Me, I am committed to destroy you. The wages of sin is death. I have to destroy you, otherwise you'd make my heaven hell if you ever got there."
So we know that deep down in our hearts. That's why we feel guilt and fear of death. That's the first way we understand what Jesus' death means for us. That's the first way in which we begin to express faith in His death because we realize that God is committed to destroying us. Then we read in this dear word that Christ died for all therefore all died. We suddenly realize that our Creator has destroyed us in Jesus and that any just person apart from being the Most High God, will not destroy a person twice. So we realize with relief that God is not going to destroy us again. He has destroyed us once in Jesus and He is satisfied with that.
We find that if we have faith in that, if we believe that, and then we act accordingly, we begin to approach Him in trust and confidence as our loving Father, who has forgiven us all our sins. We find that it is unto us according to our faith. So that's how most of us have first of all experienced faith in Jesus' death and resurrection. We've experienced it in relationship to our guilt and a sense of fear that we have because of our sins.
I'd encourage you, if you've never done that, if you've never really taken that step, I'd encourage you to take it. Unless you act in faith, it will not be unto you according to your faith. So don't sit there this morning and think, "Well, yes I believe that, I've always heard that Jesus died for my sins. I believe, yet I don't really feel the relief of it."
Well, it's because you're not acting on it. You're not beginning to approach God as your dear Father. You're still waiting for Him to do something to give you an assurance that He has forgiven you. Now don't wait loved ones. Take the step today and say, "God, I am going to stop regarding you as a terrifying tyrant. I am going to stop regarding you as somebody who wants to punish me or kill me for my sins. Lord, I am going to confess my sins to you now and repent of them. I am going to start treating you as my loving Father."
Loved ones, I'd encourage you to do that if you never have done that. If you're like me, you maybe see God as a great Creator who has made the world and made you, but you don't see Him as your dear Father and you do need to do that. It doesn't matter how loving you are to your son or your daughter, if they keep regarding you as a tyrant, they'll never know the blessing of your friendship and your love and it's the same with you and me. You'll never know the blessing of God's love and friendship for you unless you start regarding Him as a dear Father.
You know, what more can He do? He's given His Son, what more do you ask Him to do? He has given us hills full of daffodils and He has given us ten thousand lakes. He has given us lakes all over Minnesota and He has given us all the beauty that we have and how much more can we ask? We can't say, "Oh well, do something more, do something more and we'll believe you."
There comes a time when faith is us actually acting in that way towards Him. It's starting to show our trust and confidence in Him instead of fearfulness. If we act in faith like that, then it is unto us according to our faith. Now many of us have realized of course after we've known that our sins were forgiven, many of us have realized that we're into more difficulties than just that. Because we find that we cannot be what we should be. We cannot do the things we're supposed to do. In fact, we find we're a bit like Paul in Romans 7:15, you remember where he says, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very things I hate."
Many of us get into that even after we've been forgiven our sins. We find there are things we do in our life that we don't want to do, but we can't help it. And many of us have begun to see that faith in Jesus' death and resurrection affects even that. We've worn ourselves out trying. We've exercised our will power. We've read all the right books. We've tried to adjust our personalities and our temperaments but we still are losing our temper even when we don't want to lose it. We're still having lustful thoughts when we don't want to have them. We're still being proud and irritable when we don't want to be.
It's then that we begin to realize it the way God explained it. He said, "Look, you can't be what I want you to be, not with your personalities as they are now. Your mind and your emotions have become so used to trusting yourself, trusting other people and trusting the world of things and circumstances instead of Me that you can't be what I want you to be, unless I change that personality of yours."
It's then, that many of us have seen the truth of Roman 6:6, that when Jesus died, He didn't only bear our sins. Roman 6:6 says, "Our old self was crucified with Christ." It's then that we begin to realize that our old personality was destroyed with Jesus. It's dead and gone forever. If we will believe that and act accordingly to please the Holy Spirit only and not ourselves, then the Holy Spirit makes that real in us and it is unto us according to our faith. We find that we're delivered from these old traits of the old personality.
Many of us have entered into faith in Jesus' death and resurrection not only for the forgiveness of our sins but for power over sin. So, we often talk about faith in Jesus' death and resurrection as freeing us from the guilt and the power of sin. Of course, you and I have been sharing over the past few weeks something else that faith in Jesus' death and resurrection does for us. There are many of us who call ourselves Christians, who know freedom from the guilt and power of sin, who nevertheless live in anxiety, and in worry and in fear. Why? Because we see that as we have tried to control our own personalities and failed. We also try to control our circumstances and fail.
In other words, repeatedly, we come up against problems in the family or we come up against problems of sickness, problems in our personality, problems in our own financial life or our business life. We find that things are coming against us that we cannot control even though we do everything we can to get them under control. Yes, we are saved from the guilt and the power of sin, yet we still live under great anxiety and fear because of the circumstances in our life, which we cannot control. We do everything possible to control them, but we cannot.
What we have been sharing this past quarter is that too was dealt with by God in Jesus' death. Your overdraft at the bank, your financial difficulties, the sickness that is present in your family, the domestic situation that will not yield to resolution, that too was crucified with Christ. Loved ones, that comes in a remarkable verse in the Bible that states that the world was crucified with Christ. It runs like this, Paul says, "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) The world itself, this intractable world, full of greed and envy and selfishness, this intractable world that operates against us so often, it was crucified with Christ. It is possible for us to be delivered from that through faith in Jesus' death and resurrection.
One simple example of it is the story of Jericho. Joshua was going to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and he came against this city of Jericho, which was a gatepost city. Before he went anywhere into Canaan, that city had to be taken. It was then that God whispered to him quietly in his heart (even though he didn't know anything about Jesus' death) "Behold, I have given this city into your hand." Of course we know now what the Father meant.
He meant, "I foresaw you would come against this city thousands of years ago when the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world. I put the sins of everyone into that Lamb. I put everybody's intractable personality into that Lamb. I also put the walls of Jericho into that Lamb, and put your automobile into that Lamb and put your cancer into that Lamb and put your impossible financial circumstances into that Lamb. I crucified that world in My Son Jesus."
I don't know if God was able to explain all that to Joshua. Probably He had to explain it in other ways that Joshua would understand. But He explained to him, "I have given this city into your hand and I want you to do some things to show me that you have faith in me and then I will manifest that. I want you to walk around this city a few times." Often we're in the same situation. The finances are in misery, the domestic situation is impossible, the sickness is destroying our friend and the natural tendency of us is to pull in the doctors. The doctors are okay for what they're able to do but we pull in the doctors and they're our only hope. Or, we get down to it and try to manipulate the finances. Or, we get to the domestic situation and try to heal it with our own brilliance. We do this instead of looking up to God and saying, "This too, along with our sins and along with our old self was crucified with Christ. Now, Lord, will you show me what you want me to do so that that can be manifested?"
That's what Joshua did. He walked around the city seven times, blew the trumpet, all the people shouted, and the walls fell down because the protons and neutrons that made up those walls are just energy and the Father had put those into His Son Jesus and had rearranged them flat on the ground from before the foundation of the world. God manifested that through Joshua's faith.
So, we have been sharing loved ones, that it's possible for us to walk in victory in our circumstances. Now what works against us exercising our faith like that? Loved ones, I'd tell you, I am sure it's the same for you as for me. What works against us exercising our faith for practical adversity in our life is that we're continually sinking from faith into the power of positive thinking. That's it. We're continually sinking from faith into the power of positive thinking.
In other words, we come up against a domestic situation that blows up in our face. Or we come up against a mechanical or a financial situation that blows up in our face and immediately we're knocked back. Then we recover a little and we get ourselves together and we remember some of the sermons. We say, "Now wait a minute, God has done something about it." And just in our last moment of desperation we grab Romans 8:37. You should look at Romans 8:37. I'll hold on here while I am grabbing, don't take too long or I'll lose my grip.
Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." And it's as we're going down for the third time we say, "Yes, that's right. In all these things I am more than conqueror. Yes Lord, I am a conqueror. I know I am a conqueror." And we're swaying and holding on and really what we're doing is, we're grabbing onto a mental concept.
That's why I say the power of positive thinking. We're grabbing onto a mental concept: in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Meanwhile, we're rocking back and forward and the finances are going down, the domestic situation is getting more chaotic, the sickness is coming in upon us, and the career is becoming more bewildering but we're holding onto this mental concept that in all these things, we're more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
But, it's just holding onto the mental concept and there are some things wrong with that. One is, Satan might well answer us for a while. Because when you're holding onto a mental concept, you're beginning to exercise a psychic power and there is power in positive thinking. There is psychic power in positive thinking. You've only to look at what the people in India do or the guy who could bend forks with his thought. You've only to look at what thought can do in other areas to see there is a power, there is a psychic power in positive thinking and so that is one of the dangers of it. When you exercise just faith in a mental concept then actually you do run the risk of Satan answering you a bit and giving you part of an answer if only to entangle you in his own life.
So that's one of the difficulties of it. Another difficulty is that you're using scripture to strengthen your mind instead of strengthen your spirit because that's where the problem is. You're actually using scripture to strengthen your mind rather than to strengthen your spirit.
Another problem is you're grabbing at a piece of scripture and you're enforcing it in your own mind in desperation, whether God wants to make it real or not. You can't be bothered with finding out how He wants to manifest it. You're just convinced that the only thing that is right is that that loved one should be healed of cancer or the only thing that is right is that God should give you a gift of $2 million. But you grab at the thing and you're not concerned with how God wants to manifest this in your life, you're just grabbing at the mental concept.
So loved ones, positive thinking has real dangers. You end up telling God what to do. You end up building up your own mind instead of your spirit and you end up possibly putting yourself under the psychic powers that are under Satan's control. Now, how do you avoid that? By strengthening your own spirit. So that when you come into a sudden crisis situation instead of rocking back and forward and being knocked off by it and then trying to grab at the handrail, your spirit just rises up naturally and spontaneously. Your spirit is in such a place of confidence in your position at the right hand of God that you know immediately this thing is under control. God has put this into His Son Jesus and He has already destroyed this thing and now He is going to manifest it. So there rises up from you a real confidence and faith that is restful and peaceful and that comes from deep down in your own spirit.
Now how do you build up your spirit? You do so by this dear Word. I think I have quoted to you before from Coleridge. He was an old English poet, a very intelligent man who said; "This book finds me at a deeper depth of my being than any other book." He meant this book touches me somewhere deeper than my mind. It touches me somewhere deep down in my being that no other book touches me. That's what this book does.
This book is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. This book, well it says itself, it's living and active. This just looks like a book, but it's not just a book. This is a life, the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God lies in these words, loved ones. Again and again you and I have studied this book. Even as good Christians we've taken it apart but it's been taken apart intellectually. Even in our Bible studies, we take a chapter and we divide it up. This is why the RSV is so good because it divides it up in the paragraphs. Then we find what the subject of that paragraph is, and then we take the paragraph and we divide it into verses and all the time we're feeding the mind, feeding the intellect, understanding it better intellectually.
Do you know that Ezekiel was told to do something strange? You should look at it because it was a strange restaurant he went to. It's Ezekiel 2:8-3:3. "'But you son of man, hear what I say to you; be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth, and eat what I give you.' And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and, lo, a written scroll was in it; and He spread it before me; and it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words on lamentation and mourning and woe. And he said to me, 'Son of man, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and He gave me that scroll to eat. And He said to me, 'Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.' Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth the sweetest honey."
This book is to be eaten. We are to build up our inner spirits from this book. We're to take it as food for our spirits. We're not to take it as more food or information for our dear overwhelmed, overweighted minds. We've not to take it for more understanding of doctrines so that we can explain where we're right and everybody else is wrong. We're not even to take it just to explain how to get on in life. This book is a living word. It says it is. It's a living word alive and active. This word can feed us.
In other words, it's just as Mary said, "Be it unto me according to thy word." And Jesus was born inside. So it is with us. If we will start praying to God daily, (it may be as safer to do it every three hours at the beginning) because our little spirits are so weak and our big minds are so strong that to strengthen our little spirits, probably for the first few weeks, we need to do it every three hours. We need to start feeding on God's words.
Now how do you do it? You don't need these little cards, but they're a good help and you can make them yourself. They're just cards with verses of scriptures on them. You take a verse like "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." There's no reason why most of us can't do this every three hours during the day, it doesn't matter how busy we are, we all know there are moments, whether you're at a bench doing woodwork or whether you are at a computer, or whether you're at a desk, there are natural breaks and you can quietly do it, you can even do it with your eyes open so that you don't embarrass the guy beside you.
You look at that verse, "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Then, you actually turn over this little card and put yourself in that verse. "In all these things, I am more than conqueror through Him that loved me." You memorize that.
Up until then, it's much like positive thinking. Then either with your eyes open or your eyes closed, you say, "Lord, I am more than conqueror through Him that loved me. This is a statement of your word. I am. I don't need to pray that I will be. I don't need to try to be. You've said I am more than conqueror through Him that loved me. Your word says that. Lord, will you now put that word into my spirit? Will you make that part of me? Will you build that into me? I ask you to do that through faith." You mediate on that and ask God to make that word part of you. You ask Him to miraculously take what is just an intellectual truth and make it part of your spirit.
Loved ones, as you begin to do that, God begins to work a miracle inside your spirit and begins to build up your spirit and strengthen your spirit so that you begin to be what you are in Jesus. In Jesus, you are that. In Jesus all of us have been crucified and raised and made to sit at God's right hand. That's where we are but you know the difficulty you have. You say, "Well, brother, I believe that but I can't feel that. When things are on top of me, I can't feel that!" It's because your little spirit is such a teeny-weeny weak little thing that it can't live at all. Your mind and your emotions are filled with the world and filled with all the problems of the world and your spirit is so weak. You have to strengthen that spirit loved ones, you have to strengthen it the way you strengthen your body, by daily exercise and daily food. Many of us who have started this have had to do it every three hours or so, until gradually God would build up our spirits.
Of course these little cards are useless, but you can do it also with a Bible directly. Instead of reading chapters and chapters, verses and verses, and analyzing them intellectually, begin to take little pieces of His dear word and apply it to yourself and then ask the Holy Spirit to make that part of your spirit. He has to do it. You can't do it. That's why if you reduce it to the level of positive thinking, then you're back in the same thing as if you read Norman Vincent Peale's book (which is a good book as far as it goes), but God is able to do something deeper in you. God is able to strengthen your spirit from this dear word of His. I'd testify myself to the change that is wrought in your spirit when you begin to do it and of course you can do it with all kinds of verses.
You remember the verse- Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." Too often we say, "Yes, that's right, so I should tithe and then I'll be prospering all right. I must remember to do that." That's what we say. I must remember. I must make my mind do that. That is a good concept and I must follow it. But we don't change inside, we don't change in our giving, we don't become a giving spirit.
We've become a taking spirit that remembers that if it wants to get more it ought to give. And so we don't change inside. Instead we say: "I give and it is given to me, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give unto my bosom. For with the same measure I give it is given to me again. Lord, I thank you for that. I thank you; I am not praying that I should give. Lord, I give and it is given to me. I give and it is given to me. That's the kind of person I am in Jesus. I give and it is given to me. Lord, will You put that into my spirit and will You make me in reality what I know I am potentially in Christ through your Holy Spirit. Will you make that part of my spirit?"
Loved ones, as you begin to do that, hour after hour and day after day, gradually this book comes in here, and down there and you become a living epistle read and seen by all men. That's how it works. Sermons are good and the preachers are good but only this dear book received into you daily and almost hourly by faith will change you deep down. And then, when the tragedy occurs, when your mom dies or the finances blow apart, or the trouble comes in your home, your spirit just rises up strongly and you know that God has already overcome this. And then you can rest in that confidence to let Him show you what He wants to do in the situation. Then you can grasp that. Look for the beckoning circumstances, watch for God's timing and then act in faith as Joshua did. See the walls come down.
But it's all possible, because you've strengthened your spirit in the days of peace. Then you're able to meet the days of war. So could I encourage you? I am Irish, so I don't go for gimmicks but a little card (and you can make your own) you can write the verses out from the Bible and you can keep them in your pocket and nobody knows. You can be sitting in your car, or sitting in the plane or sitting at the desk and you can take it out. You can say, "Lord, will you put that into my spirit and make that part of me by faith, by your miraculous power?" Gradually, you will begin to find a life blossoming up within you.
John Larsen, he's one of our brothers who operates part of a manufacturing operation in Mexico. Mexico is pretty chaotic in these days even after the Peso has settled. He started to do this about two months ago. He came against the situation that all of us in business are up against. A couple of notes became due at the bank and he was saying to me on the phone, he started his usual approach. But he had been living like this and feeding his spirit and he just sensed it rising within him and said, "No, I am not going to do that, I am not going to start that kind of stuff. Lord, I know that you have control over this." If our spirit isn't strong at that moment we go down. We're just scared. John said, "Lord I know that you've control of this. I know that you've already answered these things, I trust you now to manifest that answer."
Even though the whole thing seemed in chaos, by the next week both notes were paid off. God had somehow brought it about that the thing was actually changed. Now loved ones that's it. God answers real faith that rises up from a strong spirit, not desperation positive thinking that is done because you don't really have faith. So I'll pray that you'll step out into it. There are a number of us that are going to step right into 1985 on this and we're going to trust God. We're believing God for a mighty work among us. I invite you to do it, to begin yourself and to begin to strengthen your spirit with His dear word.
And if you sit there and say, "Well, Pastor, I don't know, you're usually pretty sensible but I don't know about this stuff." Try it. Try it. It really is true loved ones. This is the purpose of this book. This is what makes it different from every other book. This is why they said when they crowned Elizabeth queen, "Take this, the most precious thing that this world affords", and they gave her this book because this is the most precious thing this world affords. This has the life of God in it. This can feed you and build you up in your spirit. Let it be to me according to your word.
Let us pray:
We thank You Father for Mary's precious words, "Be it unto me according to your word." Father that's what we would begin to pray daily and hourly, "Be it unto me according to your word." Thank You for Your dear word and thank You that the promises in it are not just to encourage us to think right, but that the promises in Your word are statements of what we are in Jesus. As we mediate upon those we ask you to put them into our spirits and make them part of us. Make us like your word. You will miraculously do that. We will begin to rise up in strength and see things through your eyes and begin to exercise faith for our circumstances and see our lives at last come into order. We know that's why you put us here to bring our lives into order so that we could then bring your world into order.
Lord, we give ourselves to you for this kind of new faith life in this coming year for Jesus' sake. Amen.
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