Rev Jim Splitt
Clifton United Presbyterian Church
August 29, 1999
Exodus 3:1-15 Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28
Ps. 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherís womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Keep this verse in mind as we explore this morningís scripture readings and the message God has for us. Remember our true self is blessed by a Divine intention.
Of all the characters in the Bible, Moses is one who has a great awakening about his true self. This morningís text gives us the account of the call of Moses which takes place in the very presence of God described as a burning bush. As a child Moses had no idea who he was. He didnít even have an upbringing that would help him to understand his Hebrew heritage. As we know, Moses was spared from the slaughter of other male children his age. His mother courageously set him adrift among the bull rushes along the Nile delta. Discovered by a daughter of the Pharaoh, Moses was raised among the Egyptian royalty. It was not until much later that Moses found out about his past and was reunited with his family, only to be banished and set off to die in the desert. But again Moses is miraculously saved and finds a home among the family of Jethro, where he is to meet his wife and discover another facet of his true self.
The important point from this text is that in order for Moses to discover his true self he must first discover the very nature of God! Our true self is revealed in the very nature of God. Once Moses discovers the true identity of God he is able to grasp the awesome nature of his own. Moses unlocks the mystery of God in one simple question. Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ĎThe God of your fathers has sent me to you,í and they ask me, ĎWhat is his name?í Then what shall I tell them?" It is hard to translate the answer into English. The Hebrew word Yahweh means I AM WHAT I AM. I heard this explained to me in a way that makes sense. God is the verb "to be." The verb "to be" has no beginning and it has no end. It simply is. "I am" is the name of God. The name of God identifies the eternal present, past, and future. The true nature of God is eternally present with us. For us to discover our true self, we discover a God who is, who will be, and who has been always with us, even from our earliest moments when we were being formed in the secret of our motherís womb.
Our true self is blessed by a Divine intention, and our true self is revealed in the very nature of God.
God calls Moses to action, to free the Hebrew people and set them free from bondage. It is through Godís call to Moses that he learns another important truth about his true self. Moses discovers that he canít follow Godís call on his own. Moses is bound in a partnership with God that is not to be broken. If Moses acts on his own and disavows this relationship to God, he will fail miserably in the divine purpose that he has been called to fulfill. Our true self is bound in a partnership with God that is not to be broken.
With this understanding we have a basic premise for understanding who we are and what we are to become. Our true self is bound by the creative act of God to be one with and in partnership with the God who is. The implication for this as individuals is of supreme importance. We find our true self, when we find God. We can use this same understanding to discover our purpose and mission as a church. Iím not going to discuss this in the detail it deserves, but you can develop this in your own discussions. We find our mission and purpose as a church when we discover the God in our midst. Another way of remembering this is in the expression of God as EMMANUEL: God with us.
Now we have three important principles that help us discover our true self. Our true self is blessed by a Divine intention, revealed in the very nature of God and is bound in a partnership with God that is not to be broken.
Moses has helped us get this far, now we can turn to the apostle Paul and learn another important principal that is addressed in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans. First I would like to share a poem I learned many years ago gets to the message of this text:
I sought my soul and sought my God and neither could I see,Then I sought my neighbor and then I found all three.
We are familiar with the Ten Commandments. In the 12th Chapter of Romans we have at least 20 commands on the basis of spiritual living. I often provide spiritual direction to people. I heard a story Thursday night at a Stewardship Conference Kathleen and I attended. The speaker related an article in the Wall Street Journal that told how wealthy individuals who have so much material possessions are suffering from serious depression and meaninglessness and are now seeking the church for spiritual direction. More and more people today are seeking spiritual depth in their lives. Without any spirituality life has no meaning. We call this activity spiritual formation. Our spiritual life is not lived in a vacuum. But it is relational. Moses found his calling in saving his people. God with him would accomplish this. Paul addresses how our behavior can reflect the incarnate love of God. The opening verse says: Love must be sincere. Our true self is manifested in sincere love for others. Spiritual formation helps us not only to understand our true self in relation to God but also in our relationship with others. Do you want a formula for success in everything you do? Then copy this section of Romans 12 and place strategically in a place you can refer to it daily. You will discover your true self when you exercise a sincere love for others. Each verse contains a mission statement for how we can make our love for others sincere. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. We discover our true self by loving others, sincerely loving others.
Finally, one last point. The title for this sermon comes from the Gospel text of Matthew from verse 26. The NEB translates this verse: "What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self?" Most translations do not use the expression true self. The NIV translates it this way: What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? The Greek word is psyche (yuchx). Our true nature, our true self is embodied in our soul.
Jesus is talking to Peter and the rest of the disciples, but he must first rebuke Peter. Jesus is explaining how he must suffer. Peter canít believe it. Not Jesus. Jesus, the Messiah is not going to suffer. Peter believing himself to be a loyal follower of Jesus wants Jesus to have a story book life with the ending Ö and he lived happily ever after. Jesus dispels all of those illusions and says if we want to live happily ever after we need to pick up our cross and follow him. We will discover our true self when we carry the cross of Jesus Christ in our life.
We live with so many illusions in our life. Somehow, we want to believe along with Peter that a Christianís life should be exempt from suffering. I woman who was suicidal called me in the middle of the night once to tell me she had reached the end of her rope and was going to take her life. I was able to get her to wait a few hours so we could talk first thing in the morning in my office. She was a bit put off that she had to wait. But she was there waiting for me when I arrived. She went on and on about how miserable her life was and how she had finally decided to end it. I replied, "I canít help you. I donít know how to help you die. I might be able to help you if you want to live" She began to cry. She wanted to live, she just didnít know how. But a part of her had to die. She had to let her fear die and discover her true self Ö her soul. She was not exempt from suffering, but she was blessed with a God who loved her and who would form an inseparable bond with her to take her next step which she was able to do.
The journey to discovering our true self is a discovery in the pathway to salvation. Remember these five points of that will guide you in your own personal discovery of your soul, your true self.
Your true self is blessed by a Divine intention, revealed in the very nature of God bound in a partnership with God that is not to be broken, manifested in a sincere love for others, and discovered when we take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ.