Yes, No, and WOW!

Dr. Robert R. Ball

                   Y E S,
W O W !

Sermon presented May 23, 1971

Y E S,
N O,
W O W !

It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of
Christian brethren is a gift if grace, a gift
of the kingdom of God that any day may
be taken from us. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A sermon by                                                                                  May 23, 1971
Dr. Robert R. Ball + Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church + Houston, Texas

Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37

ABOUT the finest compliment an adult can receive from a young person is, “Wow,
man, you’re for real!” Actually, it’s about the finest compliment you could receive
from anyone. It is a rare and happy occasion when you run into someone who is a
real person.

A PROFESSOR at the University of Wisconsin says that’s what the current “youth
revolution” is all about; he says these young people are looking for an “authentic
adult conversation.” A top level TV executive says that our present generation of
young people are the first to have spent more of their childhood with television
than with their parents, and they are sick of electronic companionship. That’s why
that pack themselves into places like Woodstock. They want personal contact with
real life.

THOSE of us who are known as “The Establishment” may question the
authenticity of some of the new youth life styles, but we can hardly deny the deceit
of our own.

*We go around being nice and polite to a lot of people who, quite honestly, vex
us to the point of total distraction. We almost choke on our own deceit.

*There are other people about whom we care very deeply. We wish
desperately that they knew, but everything w say seems to give the
opposite impression.

*We tell our kids to be individuals, not to be carried along with the crowd;
then we go all to pieces when the crowd they refuse to go along with is
our own.

*We tell them not to be selfish, to think of others; then we spend 37%
of our national budget on warfare and, grudgingly, less than 2% on

*We tell them that God should have first priority in their lives; then
they see where we invest the greatest amount of our time and

Sometimes we even yell at them, “Listen! Show some respect!” Then they see
how little we listen to them, and how little respect we exhibit for persons and ideas
that disagree with us.

THE saddest part of all is that we are no happier with this life of deceit and
rationalization than the kids are. The difference is that far too often we simply
surrender to it while many of the young people are less willing to say,

“That’s just the way it is, and the way it will be.”

They think it can be changed. So does Jesus Christ.


LIVING authentically is what Jesus is talking about in this morning’s scripture. His

DECEITFUL living begins with the assumption that God is not around unless we
want him to be. If that were the case, we would not be, finally, responsible to
anything or anyone. Jesus says that is not so. Everything we say and everything
we do is said and done in the presence of God. We are responsible to him.

WE don’t like that. Having God around all the time gets in the way of a lot we want
to do. There’s something in us that would like for God to leave us alone. “Let me
live my own life and make my own rules and find my own happiness!” Dr. Ganse
Little, past moderator of the United Presbyterian Church says,

“Everyone in the world is running away from God; and the
only difference with church people is that, because they are
joined together, they can’t run away quite so fast. They get
in each other’s way.”

But God is inescapable. There just isn’t any real life other than the life he gives.
There’s no way to escape him – no matter how much we deny him, no matter
how smart or rich or how famous we become. There’s no deserted island and
no back-street hotel room where we can go to shake loose from him. Francis
Thompson spent most of his life running from God. at the end of the race he

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinth ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter,
From those strong feet that followed, followed after.”

TRYING to run away from God is trying to run away from life and reality, but we
still keep trying nonetheless. Then something happens. Suddenly we need him.

*Then we wail, “Where is God? Why doesn’t God ever do anything?
Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why can’t I feel the power of
his presence?”

*We spend the lion’s share of our time escaping God. Then we get
disgusted with him when we can’t reach out and make contactt with
him when we need him.

THOSE who live authentically know that God is present in every moment of life.
To put God “on call” for when we need him, is to create a whole life of deceit.


SOMETIMES a situation arises where we really want to be believed. We might
say something like, “I swear to God that I mean it!” What we really mean is,

“Normally, I would expect you to believe me. Most of what
I say is not all that honest, but now I am being authentic. I
really want to be believed, so I’m using the name of God
for reinforcement. Never mind that I usually disregard him

It’s sad but true. People hardly ever say what they really mean. Do we?

*”This is the most irresponsible generation of kids ever!” What they really
mean is, “I’m afraid that I can’t control them, and that really frightens me.”

*Or, “These kids are the best yet!” Which probably means, “I wish I had
had that much spunk and nerve back when I was a kid!”

*Sometimes the kids say, “I despise you!” Meaning, “I’m afraid that
you’ll never accept me as I am, never let me be my own real self.”

AFTER nearly 18 years of being married and 13 years of talking to people with
troubled marriages, I am completely satisfied that inauthentic communication
(not saying what we mean) is THE problem on which nearly every other marital
problem is built. We speak to each other in what I call “God Almighty statements”:
“You are a louse! You are cruel! You are ruining the kids! You are completely
unreasonable. You are a frigid wench!”

A “God Almighty statement” is one that seems to come down out of heaven, as if
God himself had spoken. That’s the way it is!” There’s no response that can be
made to it. When you have a “God Almighty statement” thrown at you, either you
duck or run, or you accept it or fight it with a “God Almighty statement” of your own.

TALK about deceit! Who is qualified to make a “God Almighty statement”? They
are made by people who have kicked God out of their world and are reigning all
alone. The only authentic statements we human beings can make are “I feel
statements,” -“You make me feel scared or neglected or unappreciated.”

THAT’S authentic. And to it another authentic “I feel statement” can be made in
response: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I feel scared too.” The lines of
communication are kept open, and where there is communication there is
authentic life – making real contact with God, with other people, and with our own
real selves.

“GOD Almighty statements” are really “I feel statements” in disguise. They are
made by frightened people who have no God in their lives and are trying to be in
charge of everything all by themselves. “God Almighty statements” can intimidate
and infuriate, but they never can communicate. They produce the phony existence
which we abhor.


JUST a couple of weeks ago, I asked a class at Westchester High School why
they lie, which they all admitted that they did. They all agreed that they lie because
they are afraid – afraid they won’t be liked, afraid they might lose a privilege,
afraid they might lose the respect of someone whose respect they need.

I TOLD them that it’s exactly the same with adults. We live in deceit because we
are afraid of all that we might lose if we were to allow ourselves to be known for
who we really are. That’s why Jesus Christ is our way out of deceit and into
authentic living. Jesus Christ says that who we are is worth being, and he says it
authentically. He says it with his life.

THE person who accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord, living consciously and
confidently in his presence, knows that nothing can ever separate him from the
love of God in Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have to be afraid any more. He knows
that nothing can destroy him.

WHEN you decide to trust Christ and his loving acceptance, to break out of the
ring of deceit that surrounds us, you make two enormous discoveries.

THE first discovery is how hard it is to do. Deceit has become a habitual way of
life with us. It’s almost like the whole world has made an unspoken contract not to
communicate authentically. If a husband begins telling his wife how he really feels
about his hopes, his fears, his needs – she is sure to be startled, probably
frightened, and possibly even indignant. You can expect the same thing socially
and at work. Authenticity is against the rules! It just isn’t done! Dr. James Dolby,
professor of psychology at Baylor University, writes:

“To tell another person of one’s failure, guilt, insecurities,
lust, and love may be as difficult a task as a person will
ever have in his entire lifetime. It has been said that some
people would rather die than be known.”

JESUS says it is like dying. “He who would lose his life for my sake will find it.”

THE person who embarks on authentic living in Christ makes another discovery
that is even more enormous. He finds freedom – a sense of liberation.

*You no longer have to hide or defend or rationalize. You no longer have to
maintain a wardrobe made up of a thousand masks, making sure that you
are wearing the right one.

*You can walk right out into the world as if it were perfectly O.K. and even
good for you to be there. You can do that because it really is.

THERE’s something terribly exciting about being knowing and being known. It’s
the authenticity the whole world is looking for. It happens when God is our
Defender and our Friend.

C o n c l u s i o n

THE late Erich Berne, one of America’s best known psychiatrists, once said that
the authentic person only needs three words in his vocabulary, “Yes, no and wow!”
Jesus was saying and living that truth out some 2,000 years ago.

TO say “yes” and “no” means that you can come on straight – not hedging or
dodging to defend yourself, or to try to build an acceptable public image.

*That’s not the same as those who say they’re going to be brutally frank and
proceed to devastate other people with their rudeness. They’re still captives
to building an image.

*It means respecting yourself and others enough that you are willing to be
known for who you are, and willing to know others for who they are.

*It means being courageous enough to say, “I’m afraid,” when you are
afraid, and “I don’t know,” when you don’t know, and “I’m lonely,” when
you are lonely, and “I love you,” when you love.

IT comes from the person who knows that he lives in God’s world and depends on
no other image to support him than the confidence that he has God’s loving

CAN you even imagine what it would be like to be known as people who speak
every word they speak in the presence of God, people whose word can be
trusted, authentic people who allow others to be authentic? In that authentic
communication lies our only hope for an authentic human society. Jesus Christ is
our hope.

JESUS said, “Say ‘yes’ when you mean yes. Say ‘no’ when you mean no. Let your
defensiveness fall away, and you will be open to a brand new kind of life.”

*Then we can experience with unguarded joy the beauty and wisdom of a
world that has been created for us by a God who loves and cares – personally.

*Then we can experience the fulfilling ecstasy of making authentic contacts
with other human beings – just one human being to another.

*Then we can experience the freedom and release of living our lives in a
world whose future is enclosed in the loving purpose of Jesus Christ.

WHEN the wonder of being authentically alive in the midst of all that gangs up on us,
when we experience the royal freedom of being the sons of God, then the only thing
left to say is,

“W O W !”