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Lose Yourself, Find Yourself (Mirror, Mirror #6) Notes

Lose Yourself, Find Yourself (Mirror, Mirror #6)
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • June 7, 2015 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Executive Pastor

For this series, Mirror, Mirror, The Art of Being Yourself, we are using Simon, who later becomes Peter, as our guide as he and others have powerful encounters with the living God who reveals to them and to us that we aren’t who we think we are.

We picked Simon as the central figure in this series because he’s one of the only fully formed characters in the Gospels apart from Jesus himself. Simon has a lot to teach us about the art of being yourself.

You Got to Lose Yourself
As we continue in on our journey with Simon, I’m struck by something that Detroit’s street theologian, Eminem wrote:

Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?

This is the picture of Simon that I have as he discards and abandons both his firm grasp on the past and his insecurity about the future. I’ve been making discoveries about myself, and what I’m holding onto during this series and this theme of “fear and security” is ringing true, and it’s becoming a little uncomfortable.

Simon takes his one shot, his one opportunity to seize everything he wanted. He lets go and takes a leap of faith because of the spark of joy that came alive in his heart. Jesus was inviting Simon (and us) to let go, no matter how valuable the things we are holding onto are because they may be holding us back from discovering and experiencing true joy.

It’s a bit paradoxical that it is in losing ourselves that we are truly able to find ourselves.

Jesus says in Luke 9:23-25:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

There’s a billboard on US23 south at the I94 interchange that says, “It’s better to be yourself.” But do we really know who we are? Do we have a clear image of how God might have us be different and how others will then treat us?

Jesus seems to think that this is serious business since he uses a grotesque means of torture, the cross, to symbolize the change involved and the possible effects of the journey. It starts with our death, our surrender of our false self. A new self rises from this death, our true self.

Jesus, predicting his own death on that same cross, says in John 12:23-26:

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:23-26)

“Those who love their life will lose it,” there it is again. In order to discover our “true self,” we must be willing to die to our “false self.”

As I mentioned last week, this concept of the false/true self is delicate, so please bear with me as I attempt to unfold and explain it again.

As I see it, the false self is actually who we are right now and who we think we need to be in order to survive, be successful, and be happy, to thrive, if you will. It consists of the habits and rituals we’ve developed since our childhood, what Thomas Keating calls, “our personal emotional program.”
These are things we do to get the things we need and want out of life. Things like safety and security at home, school or work, or in our personal relationships. It’s the relational activities and the things we do to win the approval of our friends, family, parents, teachers, and authority figures. It’s our manipulation of and negotiation with those around us that benefits us. It’s the stuff that we do to protect our “vulnerable self.” It’s motivated out of our fear and insecurity.

The Empire collaborates with our false self, speaking the language that the false self understands. The goal of the Empire is to keep us dependent on ourselves, not God. The Empire feeds on our fear and insecurity, trying to get us to trust it for our safety, security, and happiness.

We know we are operating in our false selves when we live believing that we don’t need God, that we’re doing just fine on our own. We are our false selves when we desire to create an image of ourself based on how we want others to see and think of us. When this image fails, we consciously, or subconsciously, give in to emotions like anger, fear, lust, pride, greed, envy, and apathy, this is our false self. These are the emotions we have been wrestling with since the start of our rebellion against God. Left unchecked, these emotions rob us of the good life, they prevent new seeds from springing forth. They prevent the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) from taking root in us, transforming us.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26)

Lest we assume I’m making too much about this dying on the cross stuff, Jesus says, “whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be.” Friends, this is where the rubber meets the road of discipleship–he’s talking about the cross here, “where I am, my servant also will be.” It’s an invitation to follow him into death, clinging to the promise of a new life, a resurrected life.

Through Death into Life
The Empire has a counterfeit message, a false promise of peace and prosperity. But this is the propaganda machine of the Empire at work labeling destruction as “peace.” Telling us that our striving, with the accompanying greed, deception, lust, anger, and apathy, everything that makes up our false selves, is our ticket to “living the dream.”

And there’s power behind it; in scripture, the role of the enemy, the Satan, is tied closely to the Empire. The theme of empires emerged from the rebellion: the Babylonian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Egyptian Empire, the Macedonian Empire, and finally the Roman Empire. We find Empires rich and powerful with a core belief in their manifest destiny to rule and reshape God’s good creation according to their own image and agenda. And while we don’t have an agreed name for our contemporary empires, its effects are felt powerfully on a daily basis by all of us.
Friends, this agenda is in direction opposition to what God wants to do in us and through us as he ends our rebellion and welcomes us home again forever ending our exile.

What the Empire claims for itself, God promises to Jesus.

But fear and insecurity threaten our willingness to follow Jesus into life through death into a new reality, a new world order.

Maybe this is why he says:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

Jesus wants us to reclaim our divine selves as image-bearers of the good and beautiful God. The Empire resists this. If we discover who we are in God, we will abandon the Empire. If we discover that our best list is a life of dependence on God, the Empire loses its hold over us. If we surrender all we have at the throne of God, we won’t strive to consume.

If we abandon worry and anxiety and trade them in for trust and true peace, we will render the Empire powerless. Jesus calls the Empire out — he calls it a liar. Jesus demonstrates what true love is by laying down his life for his friends.

To Discover Who You Are
And Jesus resists the Empire by allowing it do what it will to him, forever cementing what trust looks like. He also makes a clear declaration to us: the Satan using the powers of this world can’t put to death what God calls to life. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself, let me back up for a moment. Before we find Jesus on the cross defeating the powers of sin, death, and evil, we find him as the illegitimate son of an unwed teenage mother. In a culture where “whose your daddy” is a big question, Jesus’ paternity was in question.

“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. Matthew 13:55-57

Along with Jesus, we meet this fisherman from Galilee, Simon. As a Galilean, when he opened his mouth, people immediately knew where he was from and probably made assumptions about him and his ability and skill. To those around Simon, his voice would have sounded thick, harsh. And we all know about the assumptions we make about people and the way they sound to us.

In the grand scheme of things, these are two “nobodies” who discover each other, and through God’s transformation of each of them, they suddenly become somebodies.

Let’s listen in on this encounter between the two of them:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:13-20

There’s power in a name. Here we have a carpenter’s son and a fisherman, and one has declared the other one as God’s promised Messiah. He in turn has been identified as the rock on which this promised Messiah will build his church.

We aren’t who we think we are
I like to say often, “You aren’t who you think you are.” This is my way of signaling that sometimes it takes someone else to see something in us and call that out of us. In this interaction between Jesus and Simon, who becomes Peter, we see that unfold. There’s a part of me that wishes we could all have this type of interaction with God–an intimate encounter where he changes our name, where he calls us out into our new identity, which is found in him.

This theme of changing someone’s name is central to the unfolding story of grace and redemption that we observe in scripture. Over and over, God renews someone’s identity by changing their name. No longer are you... You are now...

He did that with Abram (high father), who became Abraham (father of a multitude). He did that Jacob (sup-planter), who became Israel (having power with God). He did with Simon (the reed), who became Peter (the rock).

At the center of our death to the false self is a shift in our posture. We have to end our participation in the rebellion against God. We have to repent and turn our back on the Empire.

And we have to follow Jesus to the cross where we die to our false self and come alive with him into a new reality, a new world order. We have to break our allegiance with the powers: sin, death, and evil, and enter the kingdom to discover our new life, our new identity. Friends, this is a fundamental shift in our living, thinking, and being, and it costs us everything. But it’s worth it, remember the words of Jesus

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

Practical Tip
Think about the encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus, their boldness in naming something in each other. Can we be the type of community that searches intently for the treasure in each other? Can we look at each other and discover the good that God is doing in our lives, can we call it out, and celebrate it?

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