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To Thine Own Self Be True - 5/7/2017

To Thine Own Self Be True

Intro

Here are some other sayings that aren’t in the Bible: Charity begins at home;

This too shall pass; Good things come to those who wait; All men are created equal (Declaration of Independence);

 Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust;

 “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” No, that’s from Shakespeare’s King Lear.

There are hundreds of sayings people think are in the Bible.

Time wounds all heels;

 He who laughs last thinks slowest;

 The shortest distance between two points is under construction;

Love is grand; divorce is fifty grand; A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

Well today we are looking at “To Thine Own Self be True.”

This saying comes from Hamlet in which Polonius is giving some advice to his 18 yr old son Laertes before he leaves for Paris. He has just told Laertes, ‘neither a lender or a borrower be.’Then he says ““This above all; to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

This phrase is the motto of our country. Take care of number 1. Know yourself, love yourself, be true to yourself. Self is the standard of truth in our country. We each get to decide it for ourselves it seems.

But Jesus says in Mark 8:34

Jesus isn’t talking about denying food, or pleasure, He’s talking about denying yourself the desire to climb on the throne of your life.

Let’s look at some implications of “To thine own self be true.”

Trends that Threaten our Culture

In Rip Van Winkle, Rip is a hen-pecked husband who wanders off into the catskill mountains. He takes a strange drink from some strange little people and lays down to take a nap.

When we wakes up his beard is long and his rifle is rusty- his dog is nowhere to be found. Soon he finds out that he’s been asleep for 20 yrs and 2 days. When he went to sleep America was a British Colony and when he woke up it was a young nation. When he wonders back into town he finds George Washington’s face on a tavern sign instead of King George.

Probably a lot us feel like Rip Van Winkle today when we look at our country. We’ve moved from the modern age to the postmodern age and some would say even a post-post modern age.

The core value of post modern thought is that tolerance is more important than truth. Tolerance used to mean “respecting the beliefs and practices of others without agreeing with them.” Now it means that I must not only allow those beliefs and practices but I must accept them.

There’s no truth, truth differs from person to person.

Barna has done a lot of research on this and he has found that 72% of Americans believe that “There is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, and both could be right.” 71% believe that “There are no absolute standards to apply to everybody in all situations.”

64% believe that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists pray to the same God, they just use different names.

Professor Alan Bloom wrote a book called “The closing of the American Mind” in it he writes “Almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. They have been taught that the danger of ‘absolutes’ is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness- and openness has become the ‘great insight’ of our times.” (pg 25)

To Thine own Self be True has become the life verse for millions of young people. We clearly see it in at least 3 different areas:

(1) Civic Individualism- Instead of what be willing to sacrifice for the good of the many, most people now embrace a powerful individualism. Instead of asking ‘is this right or wrong?’ we ask “Is this right for ME or not?”

We see this all the time with nativity scenes being sued to be taken down. With the move to take ‘under God’ out of the pledge. There is this sense that if it offends me, and it’s ok with a million other people, I need to sue the pants off of somebody until I get it taken down.

You know what the Bible calls this? Selfishness and pride.

(2) Moral Relativism- This is also the predominant view of our culture. We  say, hey, if it’s wrong to me, but right to you, then go ahead and do it. After all, to thine own self be true.

Often times  a youth pastor will hear the following when discussing premarital sex “If you feel it’s ok, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Didn’t Jesus say that what meters most is what’s in your heart?”

Well Jesus did agree with Jeremiah who wrote about the heart “It is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked, who can know it?” (17:9)

Our moral compass in our country is totally shot. In this area our conscience is seared, we see it on talk shows all day long. We don’t even think about it when we see someone being paraded on TV for kissing their best friend’s sister’s boyfriends pet.

In the book “The Christian Mind” author, Harry Blarmes writes ““Ours is an age in which ‘conclusions’ are arrived at by distributing questionnaires to a cross-section of the population or by holding a microphone before the lips of casually selected passers-by in the street...In the sphere of religious and moral thinking we are rapidly heading for a state of intellectual anarchy in which the difference between truth and falsehood will no longer be recognized. Indeed, it would seem possible that the words true and false will eventually (and logically) be replaced by the words likable and dislikable.” (The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think, p. 107).

Next time someone tells you that there are no moral absolutes ask them ‘are you certain about that?’

(3) Spiritual Pluralism

The post modern mind  says “all belief systems are valid and are equally true.” Religion is like a cafeteria line, you go down and take a little from Christianity, a little from Islam, a little Buddhism, and a bite of Hinduism. Or you can just create your own plate.

New Age guru, Shirley MacLain, in her book Out on a Limb asks here spiritual guide ‘david’ if he believes in reincarnation. He says “It’s true if you believe it and that goes for anything.”

Listen, that is not what Jesus said. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.” You can twist Jesus’ words any way you want to try to justify them, but true Christianity is exclusive my friend.

A few years ago Dear Abby wrote some remarks about religious differences. A reader wrote her back disagreeing with her approach. She wrote “Your answer to the woman who complained that her relatives were always arguing with her about religion was ridiculous. You advised her to simply declare the subject off limits. Are you suggesting that people talk about only trivial, meaningless subjects so as to avoid a potential controversy?...It is arrogant totell people there are subjectsthey may not mention in your presence. You could have suggested she learn enough about her relatives’ cult to show them the errors contained in its teaching.” Now, I tend to agree with the author of that letter. I think we should always be able to discuss our differences. But Dear Abby didn’t agree. Her reply was: “In my view, the height of arrogance is to attempt to show people the ‘errors’ in the religion of their choice.” (September 19, 1989)

John F Kennedy said it well when he said “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

People who disagree with certainly ought not to be persecuted, but we ought to be able to lovingly dialogue with people to show them what we believe to be the truth.

The Required Response to Our Culture

These trends are undeniably dangerous.

GK Chesterton wrote “Tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions.” So what are we to do?

Psalm 11:3 “When the foundations are being destroyed what can the righteous do?”

So what can we do? First, wake up and realize that there is a problem.

(1) We must speak the truth. We have to answer the question is there any objective truth? Because the Bible clearly says that there is.

Francis Shaeffer said “If there is no absolute moral standard, then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong. By absolute we mean that which always applies, that which provides a final or ultimate standard. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judgment between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are left with merely conflicting opinions.”

John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus doesn’t say I’m one of the ways, or one of the truths, or a part of life. No in the original language He is making an unmistakable one of a kind claim.

Jesus said the only way to the Father is through me.

Sometimes people try to dismiss Jesus by saying that He was simply a good teacher.

CS Lewis said “: If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, “Are you the son of Brahma?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the veil of illusion.” If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you the son of Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you the son of Allah?” he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, “Are you Heaven?” I think he would have probably replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.” The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. (“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics

Dorothy Sayers wrote “in the world its called tolerance, but in hell it is called despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

And in all things we must remember that we are called to speak the truth in love.

(2) Choose to obey God rather than man

In Acts, Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Israeli Supreme Court. They were ordered not to speak about Jesus anymore. They could believe it, but they weren’t to tell others to believe it.

They responded in Acts 4:19 “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Friends, as we race towards the end of history it will get tougher and tougher to obey God rather than man.

But do not despair! People are searching for God, they have a need for truth. People are more interested in relationships than beliefs and that’s what we have to tell them about. WE can tell them about a God who wants a relationship with them.

Conclusion

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is listening as some as some villagers debate a business transaction. The issue at stake is whether an animal is a horse or a mule. One villager asks Tevye to support his side of the argument, so Tevye says, “You’re right!” At which, the other villager emphatically stresses his opposing argument to Tevye. Tevye shrugs his shoulders and says, “You’re right.” A third villager confronts Tevye and says, “But Tevye, they both cannot be right.” Tevye thought for another moment and said, “You’re right, also!” That’s the spirit of this age. I’m right, you’re right, we’re all right, alright?

It’s a new world. “To thine own self be true?” Is that truth? What you your “self” thinks? That’s a pretty scary standard of truth! Should we say, “To thine own God be true?” No, we should hear the words of Jesus when He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” (John 8:31-32)