READ | SERMON NOTES
The classical Chinese statement “人之初, 性本善”, meaning that human beings are born with a good nature, is rejected by Jer. 17:9 and Rom. 7:15. “The heart is deceitful above all things”, states Jer.17:9 and Rom. 7:15 laments that “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”. Both verses tell us that mankind is tainted by sin. Each of us has a “true self” who wants to know the truth and desires to understand and be understood. We are made for community with God. But we also have a “stage self” who manifests self-promotion, and is possessive and manipulative. This “stage self” promotes self-worth by masking ourselves with an image which we project to others. We build an armour to protect ourselves. Even from young, we learn to lie and pretend to be someone else. This “stage self” is a poor substitute for our “true self”. Indeed, our heart is desperately sick (vs. 9).
What are the problems with having a “stage self” which causes a divide with our “true self”?
- Our true selves are unable to impact our work. We can be misled away from God. We are so self-sufficient that we become independent of God. Jer. 17:5-8 depicts “true self” as a tree, rooted in God’s love and power, experiencing true peace in times of difficulty. On the other hand, the “stage self” is described as a shrub which is unable to withstand heat. Have I been like a tree, relying on God, or like a shrub, depending on my own ability or strength? Our “stage self” is anxious about how others view us. We “perform” to show a different self for others to see, often exhausting ourselves in the process.
- We live inconsistent lives. We continue to live unredeemed lives. Our relationship with God becomes shallow.
- We undermine ourselves and our relationships. Who are we, with respect to family, friends, co-workers, etc? “Can I trust you?” is a question others may ask of us or we ask of others. Do we have the confidence in the person to entrust our vulnerabilities and our needs to him or her? If we do not trust someone, we would not commit ourselves to be cared for, to work with, or to even listen to that person. The perceived inconsistency that others see between our true self and “stage self” undermines our relationships and capacity for good works.
So how do we bridge the divide between the real us and the fake persona?
- Invite God to show us our hearts and minds. Vs 10 tells us that God has the power to test our minds. Allow God to show us our shortcomings.
- Intentionally shed our “stage self”. Eph. 4:22-24 reminds us to put off our old self and to be renewed and put on our new self, created in the likeness of God.
Who do we trust and listen to? God or our “stage self”?
(Sermon notes by Angela Goh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1a. Read Jeremiah 17:5-8. How are the 2 men being contrasted?
1b. What kind of person would choose to be the person described in Jeremiah 17:5-6?
2. Is the description about the heart in Jeremiah 17:9 consistent with what you have observed around you? If so, please cite personal examples.
3. If you had to explain the ‘stage self’ to someone else using an example from your own life, what would it be?
4. Which aspect of your discipleship is God asking you to pay attention to today?