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Victorious Life

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Lesson 69 of 127
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Are We ‘Self Centered or Christ Centered?’




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Are We Self-Centered or Christ-Centered?

Philippians 1:22

Sermon transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

I think we all probably have thought about this, especially with the Muslim hostility, you think, “How can we speak truth without offending them? How can you speak truth without offending Muslims and making them think you don’t respect their traditions?” It seems so obvious to us that we miss it, of course it is, but Jesus is really the Son of our Maker. Mohammed was a wonderful prophet for many in the East. He tried to share with them much of what he learned in his own study of the Old Testament. That’s why they have the respect that they have for people like Abraham and Isaac. But he claimed never to be more than he said, “a prophet of Allah”. And Jesus is actually God’s only Son. He is actually the SON of the Maker of our world. Moreover, HE is the one in whom we were all created. We were made inside Him.

Of course, that is all startling to Muslims. They have no idea of Jesus being the actual SON of God. They really don’t believe that God can come to earth like that. Certainly, they have no notion that we were all made inside Jesus. They would never believe for a moment that they were made inside Mohammed. It seems to me that that’s one way you can certainly escape this competition between Jesus and Mohammed. You can afford to make it very clear that you are not doing anything but giving respect to Mohammed and to his traditions and way of life. Of course, we are not saying we agree with everything that he said or did not say about war but certainly you can express respect. I think often what they feel is there is no respect for their traditions and there is, in fact, contempt for their whole way of life, because so much of their life is based on traditions that Mohammed passed on to them. So it seems to me very important to avoid creating a dichotomy or a competition that does not in fact exist.

We’re not talking about two prophets. Now it is true that they will often think of Jesus as a prophet. Certainly you’re adding to it when you explain who Jesus really is. We have no responsibility to make them believe it. But it seems to me that we have a responsibility to share it. Then it seems to me it brings home to us ourselves, the whole reality of our situation, that it means something different to us when we think of the afterlife, because many in Islam and certainly most in the Hindu religion will believe that in some way, after we die, we ALL become part of the great Spirit of the universe. That’s why really I often think of him with affection — even though obviously he does a job on us on the web — but I remember Kush and I used to joke about the Hindus who tried to express the essence of the Spirit of the universe by one sound, “OOOM”. And we become of part of that one great Spirit of the universe when we die and go to heaven.

I do think that often we miss it ourselves, the heart of the difference between OUR expectation of heaven and the expectation of heaven of the person from the Islam religion or from Hinduism. They DO believe that in some way, we will continue to exist as part of the great Spirit of the universe. But they themselves won’t know it individually. They will melt in the great Spirit of the universe. They will often use the illustration of melting in the great ocean, the great Pacific ocean, so that you become part of that great ocean and you no longer have any existence of your own.

It seems to me, it’s a great privilege that God has given us in the reality of the truth. He has made if very plain to us that we will retain our self-consciousness. That you will know that Lazarus is Lazarus. You will know that David is David. You will know that Elijah is Elijah. And

that he has given us the gift of self-consciousness so that we will not disappear into Christ. We will be members of Christ. We will be part of Christ himself. We will be limbs of his and we will be aware of our own existence, and will be conscious that we are individuals within him. We will have that sense.

In heaven we will be able to recognize our dads, our moms, our brothers and our sisters, our friends, others that are in him, and they will know us. That is very different from the belief that other religions have, that we will continue a life but we will somehow lose our sense of our own individuality. It will be a great privilege that God has given us, that we will know that.

You know what we’ve done to it. We’ve taken that self-consciousness — which probably is one of the things that distinguishes us from the animals — and we have become utterly pre-occupied with our own self existence. You have to think about it because we tend to say these things to one another and not realize that it is true. But, we have taken that self-consciousness and we live utterly and absolutely in that. We have not accepted that self-consciousness as a reflection of reality. We have played down that whole side of it. We have taken the self-consciousness and played up the side, “We are ourselves, individuals. We are here in our own right.” We have become utterly pre-occupied with our individuality and existence apart from Christ. In that sense, we have sunk into unreality and into deception.

Of course, it’s evident. I just ask you, think of it if he was here. “Do you think you’ll enjoy this play this afternoon?” “Do you think we’ll get good seats?” Immediately, our little minds go to, “Now, I wonder if I’m going to enjoy this.” “Lord, how are you? Are you going to enjoy it?”

The utter thought – it’s stupid if not spooky. But it is interesting how are self-consciousness, which is such a wonderful gift from God, a wonderful opportunity to be able to say with Paul, “To me to live is Christ! That’s what it is because that is where I am. I am part of him.” But to us it’s so often, “Me, me, me, me, me, me.” It’s so often, “What am I feeling? What am I thinking?”

We’ve turned our self-consciousness into self-centeredness so that we do look at the whole world as a great hinterland that sends its supplies to US. We think of it that way. We expect it to send in its recognition and its acknowledgement of our value and our importance. We expect for it to send in its food and its shelter and clothing to us so that we get what we need. We expect it to send in its happy little experiences so that we get happiness. But we do tend to be centered in ourselves and to look at everything from our own point of view, look at everything from, “How am I feeling? What am I going to do in this situation. How am I going to manage this? How am going to get myself into that spot?” It’s almost total preoccupation with ourselves.

Of course, it’s missing everything. I was saying to Irene [wife] as it came to me a couple of days ago, “That when you lose your life for HIS sake, you’re really at last able to enjoy it!” Yes, when you get outside yourself you are at last able to look at yourself and see what you are enjoying. You are at last able to enjoy life when you lose it for his sake, when you cease to think of it as your self. In a funny way, as you think about it, you can’t enjoy yourself when you are in the middle of yourself because you can’t see yourself. You are so utterly taken up with yourself that you can’t enjoy anything that self is passing through.

Have you ever that sometimes you enjoy what other people are enjoying better than what you are enjoying yourself? In fact, you think of yourself in that position and it doesn’t seem so wonderful when you are in it.

We used to love to go out to the Minnesota airport as it was connected to the rest of the world which we felt utterly cut-off from, moving from London to Minneapolis – however wonderful Minneapolis was – it was a shadow of London. And so, we used to go to the airport to watch the planes take off. And gradually then, as we began to fly ourselves, “You know, it’s more fun watching than it is being in the plane!” Of course, we continue to feel that as you look up and see it arcing in the sky – and you know what it feels like inside as it’s not so comfy.

So, it’s the same. We are so much in the middle of our selves, that we can’t enjoy ourselves. I think that’s our trouble. Reality is a self-consciousness that is conscious, “I’m part of Jesus. I am part of him.” I thought of that earlier today. I didn’t think of the actual illustration, but I thought of the issue. I was going to say it to you, my illustration was better expression than the truth. The truth is, we should be looking around to Jesus in everything and saying, “What do you want to do? What do you want to say?” But it’s not that. Let me say it over, “Are you enjoying this play, Lord?” [I got this from the Saviour this morning. His spirit seemed to say to me, if we begin to live that way then you become] water carriers for Jesus. We are water carriers. We are people who do things for him. Let us pray.