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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Know Yourself
Text:LD 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-06-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Matthew 22:32-40

Lesson: Lord’s Day 2

 

KNOW YOURSELF

  1. Know God’s Requirement

  2. Know Your Reality

  3. Know Your Transformation

 

  1. Psalm 106: 1, 22, 23

  2. Psalm 119: 40, 47

  3. Hymn 79: 1, 2, 4

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 75: 1, 6

  6. Hymn 68: 1, 5, 8

 

Words to Listen For: quirks, candy, low, fish, stinking

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Know yourself?  Or know God? (beginning and end of the sermon)

  2. Why is the summary of the Law here in Lord’s Day 2 instead of the full law?

  3. What one word disarms us?

  4. Is hatred the opposite of love?

  5. How does each person of the Trinity work to transform us?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

According to legend, there were two words carved in stone at the entrance to Apollo’s temple: KNOW YOURSELF.

These two words dominated both Greek religion and Greek philosophy for hundreds of years.  Know Yourself.

This was seen as the highest goal.  The great mystery.  Know Yourself.

But should it be?  Should the great mystery really revolve around something so earthly and finite and self-centered as knowing ourselves?

Well…yes…and no.

As we heard in Lord's Day 1, we are not our own, but we belong to Jesus Christ…so surely KNOWING GOD is a deeper and richer goal.

After all…according to Scripture:

  • Knowing God is something to boast in, rather than riches (Jeremiah 9)

  • Knowing God is eternal life (John 17)

  • Paul gave up everything and counted it as worthless that he might know Christ (Philippians 3)

  • Peter explains that growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is the duty of Christians (2 Peter 3)

It seems like an open and shut case, doesn’t it?

Knowing ourselves is a very humanistic very selfish goal, coming from paganism and secular philosophy, and knowing God is what Scripture commands us to do.

Between human wisdom and godly wisdom, the choice is clear.  Right?

But it’s not as clear as all that.  Not quite so black and white.

It is still vital that we 

KNOW OURSELVES.  We do this by first of all, by

  1. Knowing God’s Requirement,

  2. Knowing Our Reality, and finally,

  3. Knowing Our Transformation

 

KNOW YOURSELF.  First of all, know God’s Requirement.

Even though this afternoon, it appears that we are going on a journey that focuses on ourselves instead of on God, I have no desire or ability to focus on anything but God.

A journey deep inside of ourselves that ignores our Creator is a foolhardy errand.

As John Calvin says in his Institutes, without knowledge of God, there is no knowledge of self.

And so, our journey starts, not by looking INWARDS, but by looking UPWARDS.

We cannot truly know ourselves by looking inside…we are too close to ourselves.  We have so many blind spots when it comes to ourselves.

  • Our strengths seem natural to us - of course I would be good at this, isn’t everyone?

  • Our weaknesses seem natural to us - of course I struggle with this, doesn’t everyone?

  • Our weird quirks seem perfectly normal to us - of course I do it like this…doesn’t everyone?

And so we have to go elsewhere.

And the best place to look is our Creator.

And this is where our Lord’s Day starts

     From where do you know your sins and misery?

     From the Law of God.

Now, the catechism could have asked the deeper and broader question, the question that we are asking this afternoon: From where do you know yourself and the answer would have been the same.

But the catechism is taking this piece by piece, and that’s okay.  The answer of who we are ties Lord’s Day 2 and 3 together…for the Law shows us how we were CREATED - good, and in God’s image.  We are created as those who LOVE.  But the tragedy is that we have fallen so far from that state of blessedness.  From love into hatred.

But more on that later.

     From where do you know your sins and misery?

         From the Law of God.

When we hear the Law of God, we think, first and foremost of the 10 commandments.  The 10 words of the covenant.

But that’s not what the catechism presents to us.  Instead, we receive the summary of Christ in Matthew 22.

You shall love the Lord your God

     with all your heart

     and with all your soul

     and with all your mind.

This is the great and first commandment.

And a second is like it:

     You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

On these two commandments depend

     all the Law and the Prophets.

And this might seem curious to us at first glance.

Why the summary instead of the full law?

Surely the full law fits better HERE, and the summary belongs in the later half of the catechism, about our walk of thankfulness.

When we hear the commandments, one after another, we are filled with knowledge over our sins, are we not?

Well…let’s do an experiment here, just now.  I’ll use myself as the test subject.

 

You shall have no other gods before me

Perfect!  I’m a Christian, not a Muslim or a Hindu!

 

You shall not make for yourself a carved image

Perfect!  I don't have any statues in my house to worship!

 

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain

Perfect!  I NEVER say “Yahweh” in a disrespectful or blasphemous way!

 

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

Perfect!  As a Pastor, this is a given!  I’m up here doing the Lord’s work!

 

Honour your Father and your Mother

Perfect!  I have a good relationship with Mom and Dad!

 

You shall not murder

Perfect!  Never murdered!  Not even once!

 

You shall not commit adultery

Perfect!  Not married, can’t possibly commit adultery.

 

You shall not steal

Perfect!  Not once!  I’ve never stolen a candy from the store, or  money from my mom’s purse!

 

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour

Perfect!  I've never committed perjury in court!

 

You shall not covet

Perfect!  I’m very well taken care of by the church with a good house and paycheck!

 

You see…with the 10 commandments, it’s easy to go through them in a surface level way and think that you’ve kept them all perfectly.  It’s so easy to fool yourself in this area.

But when it comes to LOVE…

We can make all the rationalizations we want with the law, we can talk and talk and talk ourselves out of responsibility with a complicated argument.

But we are disarmed by one word.  One word can stop us in our tracks.

What about LOVE.

And our arguments fall away.

Do you really LOVE God?  Really?  With your whole heart, soul, and mind?

Does your love for God dominate your emotions?

Does your love for God direct your thoughts?

Does your love for God dictate the dynamic of your actions?

Do you really LOVE your neighbour?  Really?  As you love yourself?

It is only when we love God MOST, that we can love others BEST.  So, if you say, “He may not love God, but he loves his neighbour perfectly”…that is just an outright lie.

But LOVE is what God requires of us.  This is how God CREATED US.

The Law is the mirror in which we look and see how far we have fallen short.

A mirror with an outline of what we should look like on it.  A mirror with a silhouette of the proper shape of our soul as Christians…and I’m sorry, but your soul and my soul don’t fit that outline.

We bulge here and there, and there are gaps.  Our souls are a different shape than they should be.

This is WHO YOU ARE.  This is WHO I AM.  Our souls…don’t fit.

So what do we look like instead?  What exactly is our shape?  What is our reality?  Our second point.

Question 5 lulls us into a false sense of security, but then the answer brings us back to reality.

Can you keep all this perfectly?

Well…of course not PERFECTLY.  But we’re not HORRIBLE, are we?  We can’t keep it perfectly, but we can keep it partially!  SOMETIMES I love God!  There are TIMES when I love my neighbour!

Can you keep all this perfectly?

Well, no…but I can keep SOME of it PARTIALLY!  I’m only human, what more can you expect?  What more can God expect?

But that’s not reality.  That’s not what our catechism says.

     Can you keep all this perfectly?

     No, I am inclined by nature to hate God and my neighbour.

Oh!  That’s…PRETTY FAR from what is required.  That’s pretty far from the soul-silhouette in the mirror.  It’s…the opposite.

We all know about opposites, don’t we?  Children, you do these kinds of exercises in school.

     The opposite of light…is DARK.

     The opposite of high…is LOW.

     The opposite of inside…is OUTSIDE.

The opposite of love…

Well…we WANT TO SAY “hate” but then we remember that very popular saying about the opposite of love.

The opposite of love isn’t HATRED, it’s INDIFFERENCE..

Let’s explore this together for a moment: The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference.

This comes from the idea that both love and hatred are passionate emotions, and they can often be mixed up together.

Think of a romantic movie where a young man and a young woman are constantly at odds, and then, suddenly, in the middle of a big fight, they stare deeply into each others eyes and go in for a kiss.  The hatred transformed, all of a sudden, into love.

And movies would have you believe that this happens all the time.  But it never really does.  If it ever does happen, then it was never really hatred in the first place, just a little bit of annoyance.

Because, with opposites, trust your instincts!  The opposite of love IS hatred…and it is nearly impossible to go from one to the other.

If love is really love, it is very hard to transform that love into hatred.  Even if you are betrayed and abandoned by someone you love…that love isn’t easy to forget about or change.  You always think… what if?

And if you hate someone, if you really hate someone…it doesn’t matter what he does for you, it doesn’t matter how much he tries to prove that he isn’t a bad person…it will always be seen through the lens of your hatred.

And this is the exactly predicament we find ourselves in here in Lord’s Day 2.

Our natural soul is the OPPOSITE.  The true opposite of the Law of God.

We are not just INDIFFERENT to our neighbour…take her or leave her…

We are not just INDIFFERENT to God…take Him or leave Him…

But we actively HATE both God and our neighbour.

We are born hating, and without some serious intervention, we will die hating.  We must face this difficult reality about ourselves.

 We naturally HATE GOD.  This is hard for us to accept about ourselves.  Because so many of us can remember, as children, our deep and abiding LOVE for God.

Singing Jesus Loves Me at the top of our lungs, playing with the neighbourhood kids and asking which church they go to…recognizing for the first time the beauty of heaven, and wishing and hoping that God would make you like Enoch or Elijah, and just take you up to heaven in an instant.  Death was scary, but HEAVEN was amazing.  If I could have one without the other…and quickly God!

But…if this was your life as a child…then you should be overwhelmed with thankfulness to your parents, your church, or your school.  Or probably a mixture of all three.

If this was your reality growing up…your homework for this week is to call up those who trained you in this way and thank them.  Wholeheartedly thank them for training you up in the way that you should go.

Because…none of this is NATURAL.

     It’s not NATURAL for children to love God.

     It’s not NATURAL for adults to love God.

Children and adults would much rather go their own way.  What child, what adult NATURALLY wants to be in church, especially with such beautiful weather outside?

Sitting still, listening to some guy talk?  When the outside is filled with sunshine and warmth, fields to run through, rivers to fish in?

And don’t get me started on loving your neighbour!

We find people that we LIKE…and we are friends with them, as long as they are useful to us.  But when they’re annoying, when they’re frustrating, then we have to think of ourselves, right?  When our friends are no longer USEFUL…then we are tempted to discard them.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life!

 

This sounds an awful lot like a TOOL rather than a FRIEND.

This sounds an awful lot like USING rather than LOVING.

 

And, if we’re honest with ourselves…we do the same with God.

When God is useful…when we feel His love and He makes things wonderful for us…then we LOVE GOD.

But when God nags at our conscience, when being a Christian means that we have to deny ourselves, when the Christian life is a sacrifice,

sacrificing money, sacrificing a job, sacrificing our reputation, sacrificing our desires or our pride…well then we’re tempted to discard God too.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life!

 

What an image appears in the mirror when we look closely.

What an image of who we truly are.  And…we asked for it.  We asked to know ourselves.  And maybe we regret that a bit.  Maybe we’d like to withdraw the question.  Because…this sermon is a far cry from what we heard last Sunday afternoon.  Of JUST HOW MUCH we are loved.  Of JUST HOW BRIGHT our future is with God.

But here’s the thing…all of that is still true.

This is one of the amazing things about our God.  He sees us…clearer than we can see ourselves…He sees us, warts and all, and He loves us.  And, out of love, He transforms us.  Our final point.

Now, technically speaking, our transformation does not belong to Lord’s Day 2.  Our transformation doesn’t come for quite some time yet.

But I can’t leave you in this state of despair.  I can’t leave you this afternoon with the conclusion: I HATE GOD AND MY NEIGHBOUR.

We are naturally hateful people, and it’s almost impossible to change from hatred into love.  Amen.  Go now in peace.

That’s only half the gospel, and it is my joy and my duty to preach the full gospel to you.  Every time.

And so, as we close this afternoon, let me come to you with a message of hope in despair.  Light in the darkness.

Two messages actually.

 

First of all…the love of God.  The love of God as a NOUN.  As a THING that He has for us.  A THING that He gives us.

God sees us…just as we are…with our soul warped and twisted…and He loves us.  We do not have to change AT ALL for God to love us.

There is nothing that we have to do, or even CAN DO to make God love us.

God sees us, even clearer than the mirror shows us ourselves, and He is filled with compassion.  He is filled with mercy and grace.  He is filled with LOVE.

This love is FOR US, but isn’t dependent ON US.

God sees you, warped and twisted, wounded, damaged, feeling like you’re BROKEN…but none of these things are enough to stop His love.

We are filthy and stinking with the mud of sin, but He opens His arms anyways, not caring about the mud, only caring about US.

When we look into that mirror, we see someone that nobody could love.

There’s even a saying about this: "he has a face that only a mother could love."

But let us apply this to ourselves.  We have a soul that only our Heavenly Father could love.

The truth is that we are more more sinful in ourselves than we’d ever dare believe, and yet at the VERY SAME TIME we are more loved than we’d ever dare hope.

This is God’s love for us as a NOUN.  As a THING that He gives us.

 

But God’s love is also a VERB.

Because, though we are accepted and loved and welcomed in, JUST AS WE ARE…no need to clean up the house for God to come in, no need to heal ourselves before He can take a look at us…

He loves us too much for us to stay the way we are.  He loves us too much to look at us, warped and twisted, suffering in pain, and say “this is fine.”  “It’s fine for them to stay like this.”

No!  Instead, He transforms us!

And this is the truth - it’s not a short journey from hatred to love.  Love and hate are OPPOSITES.  There’s not just a switch you flip and you transform.  It’s not an easy transition.

BUT GOD is here for all of it.  For the painful transformation from hatred to love.

He is there, first of all…as FATHER.

As the Father…the only one who could love a twisted soul like ours.  As Father, He is there, never leaving you or forsaking you.  Because, though we might love Him like a tool, He loves us really and truly.  He loves us fully, reminding us that we aren’t just TOOLS, that we don’t just receive love when we do our tasks perfectly…but He loves us as PEOPLE.  As people who are messy and wounded and do the wrong thing.  As people who lash out in hatred.  But He doesn’t give up on us.

And He is there…as SON.  He is there as SAVIOUR.

What does this mean?

This means that our hatred of God, something truly ugly and deserving of punishment…this was put on Him.  He stood there, arms outstretched and told the Judge: LOOK AT ME!  I AM THE SINNER!  I AM THE ONE WHO HATES YOU!  TAKE OUT YOUR RIGHTEOUS WRATH ON ME!

Of course our Saviour NEVER SINNED.  Of course our Saviour truly loved God with His whole heart, soul, and mind.  But He took our sin upon Himself and He BECAME SIN.  He became the very thing He hated in order to destroy it forever.

And He is there…as HOLY SPIRIT.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity who is so often forgotten, the person of the Trinity who is almost never prayed to…the Holy Spirit is the One who has been given to us to untwist our soul.  The One who gently but firmly, pleasantly but powerfully straightens us out.  He is the One who has been given to us to transform us from those who HATE into those who LOVE.

This is a miracle on par with raising the dead.

 

And now, at the end, we return to the beginning.  Because that question, that tension…hasn’t been addressed yet.

The issue of whether it is a more worthy pursuit to know ourselves, or to know God?

The truth of the matter is this:  When we know ourselves, when we truly see ourselves, twisted and wounded in that mirror, and then see God come alongside of us…when we know ourselves in THIS WAY…we know the gospel.

The first gospel you see, the first time you encounter the gospel…should be in your own self.

For the gospel, the power of God, the righteousness of God, the grace of God…it isn’t just something for OTHERS.  It isn’t just that God so loved THE WORLD as a group.  

It’s that He loves us individually.  Each one of us.  And the gospel is true, not just for THE CHURCH, the gospel is not just true for MY NEIGHBOUR, the gospel is true…FOR ME.

God so loved the World that He gave His only Son.  

Yes!  Absolutely!

But also…God so loved ME that He gave ME His only Son!

And so…when we see ourselves, when we really see ourselves…what we are seeing, truly, is the love and power of God at work.  Making that which was dead, alive.  Making that which was was bad, good, making that which was stubborn, obedient.  Making that which was hateful, loving.

This is who I am…

This is who He is.

 

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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