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Description: Are We ‘Self Centered or Christ Centered?’
Are We Self-Centered or Christ-Centered?
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.