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Question: When you wake up in the morning, open your eyes, brush your teeth and look

at yourself in the mirror: “What do you say to the person in the mirror?”

“Hello, Gorgeous!”
“Good morning, Handsome!”
“I don’t like you. I hate you”.

Do you say “Life is great, everything is turning out well”? Or do you say, “Life sucks, I
want to die”?

No matter how you answer that question, go a step further and ask, “What makes you say
that? What makes you think life is going well or not? What is it that gives you a sense of
security in life? What is it that gives you a sense of significance as a person?”

“Oh, I’ve got a boyfriend now and he loves me”.
“My pay check is coming in end of this month so all my bills will get paid”.
“I’m a top student and scored straight A’s in exams”.

You see, how you answer these questions may show what’s really most important to you.
It may reveal the controlling principle in your life. No matter what you say or think you
believe, these are the things that you place your trust in to give your life security and
significance. They are functionally and practically your gods.

Of course, when someone breaks up a relationship or failed an exam, there will be
sadness or sorrow. But we can be comforted by other things like family members, a
shopping spree etc. This is different from despair, which is inconsolable. For some
people, losing these things will absolutely crush them. They lose all purpose in life. Some
may even kill themselves in despair for breakups or scoring a ‘B’ instead of an ‘A’. Their
idols have failed them.

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I have a friend who has an abusive boyfriend. Even though he beats her up, she just can’t
give up that relationship. Not because he’s handsome or anything, but because she craves
for love and acceptance. Even getting beaten is ‘better’ than no love at all.

Remember the Gollum character in Lord of The Rings? My precioussss… What is it
about the ring that everybody wants it? Well, people start off wanting it to do some good
and noble things like Boromir who wanted the ring’s power to defend his homeland.
That’s a noble purpose but the ring amplifies that desire so much so that he desires it
more than everything else and doesn’t care how he gets it or who gets hurt along the way.
When that happens, it becomes an idol that controls, corrupts and destroys them.

For example, if you base your life on scoring straight A’s or being accepted by the in-
crowd, you will either despair if you don’t get it or you will become proud and compare
yourselves with those who don’t if you do get it. Either way, you lose.

The thing about temptations is that it’s so tempting. If it’s not desirable, then it’s not a
temptation. It’s always based on some legitimate needs or good gifts from God. And
Satan’s trick is to ask us to pursue that good thing by using God. Like the way he tempted
Jesus to turn stones to bread for food. It’s asking Jesus to use God to get something he
wants. Of course, food can be taken with thanksgiving as a good gift of God. But when
God becomes a means to an end i.e. food, that good gift becomes an idol.

The theme for Riptreat camp this year is “BU – Be Yourself”. And the question of our
identity (“Who am I? Why on earth am I here for?”) is one of the most profound and
biggest questions we can ask in our lives. Not to know the answer may lead us to live a
wasted life. We end up trying to be someone else when it’s already taken. Do you know
who you really are?

We may think, at first, that this is no big deal. Of course I know who I am. I don’t need
someone else to tell me who I am, right? Even in the popular bookstores, you can find
loads of self-help books, popular songs and Hollywood movies that tell you to have a

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positive self image, have a higher self esteem, be true to yourself, be confident in yourself
and so on. There’s this Avril Lavigne song about being “real”, and it goes something like
this,

“I like you the way you are
When we're drivin' in your car
And you're talkin' to me one on one
But you become

Somebody else
'Round everyone else
You’re watchin' your back
Like you can't relax
You’re tryin' to be cool
You look like a fool to me
Tell me

Why did you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you're acting like you are somebody else
Gets me frustrated…”

Or Mariah Carey’s classic “Hero” song (I love this one and it says)
“There's a hero, If you look inside your heart, You don't have to be afraid Of what you
are. There's an answer If you reach into your soul And the sorrow that you know Will
melt away“

So what’s new? The trick is to look inside yourself, find out what you want to be and just
actualize yourself. Then you’d finally see the truth that a hero lies in you. Sounds simple
right?

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But what happens when you look inside and find things you are not proud of, stuffs that
you don’t like and prefer to hide? What if you find in your heart a desire to do good but at
the same time, you also find that you don’t want to do it. You hope to do kind, loving,
good things but you cannot follow through on what you wanna do. Instead you find
another desire to do exactly what you know should not be done. So which is the real me?
Maybe it’s not so easy as popular MTV culture says it is.

If we are really honest with ourselves, we don’t always like the stuffs we find hidden in
our hearts. What if we find selfishness, greed, pride, lust and guilt in the deepest core of
our being? How to be myself or actualise myself like that? Which self should I be? I want
to be good but there’s a dark side inside of me. I want to be bad but there’s a conscience
in me that tells me it’s wrong. It’s like having a split personality.

Have you heard the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Once upon a time, a brilliant
scientist named Dr Jekyll came to realize that his dark side, the bad desires he has are
waging a war with the good side of his heart. So he comes up with a potion that can
separate his good nature from his evil nature. When he drinks the potion during the day,
he will be his good self and free to do what is good. But when he takes the potion at
night, his bad side comes out and he becomes 10 times more selfish and evil than he
normally is. He only thinks of what he can get for himself no matter who gets hurt for
getting in his way. This evil side of himself is called Mr Hyde, (so it’s Dr Jekyll the good
guy and Mr Hyde the bad guy). He’s called Mr. Hyde because he is hideous and because
he is hidden in the darkness.

The moral of the story is that even in the best, most moral and kindest of us all hide
something hideous in the depths of our hearts. So let’s be real. If we’re going to have the
strength to get real and stop pretending for people around us and live as who God created
us to be, we’re going to have to face some uncomfortable truth. There’s a hero and a
villain living inside us. There is a strong tendency in you and I to seek our own interests
above all others, to be self-seeking… How to be myself like that? The problem with
popular culture way of ‘being yourself’ is that it does not take seriously the dark side

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found in all of us. It tells you to love yourself, accept yourself and be yourself but it
doesn’t tackle the conflict that’s going on in yourself. Which is the real me?

The Bible gives us a more realistic picture of who we really are. Human beings, each of
us here, are created by a loving and personal God in His own likeness, in His own image.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made for relationship with God and with each other. So
there is an infinite worth, value and dignity in you as a human being. It does not depend
on how many A’s you score in exam, what brand of T-shirt you wear, who you hang out
with, whether you are popular and look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie etc. No way. You
are infinitely priceless just as you are because you are created in God’s likeness. You
bear his image as His work of art.

When we look at ourselves, the talents, abilities, gifts, the very amazing fact of us being
alive, breathing and able to love and think and tell right from wrong, it’s a walking
miracle that demands a Creator. Imagine jogging along the beach one day, you came
across a watch ticking away on the sands. You could not say it just came about by
accident or pure chance. The complexity of its different parts working together in such a
way that even if one part is broken, the whole thing fails. That would make you say there
must be a Designer. Guess what? The computer inside your head is a million times more
complex than a watch. So if a watch needs a watchmaker, the universe needs a universe
maker and that could only be God.

On the other hand, the Bible also tells us that we have turned away and decided to run our
lives apart from God and become self centered. We made ourselves the center of the
universe. We try to find happiness, self fulfilment and meaning in life in chasing after
idols that do not satisfy. But there is no happiness apart from God. There is no fulfilment
and meaning apart from God. If the world came about by accident, then we are nothing
but the result of random accident. As a result of our rebellion and idols, there is sorrow,
death and broken relationship with God and with each other. In other words, we have
fallen into sin and we cannot save ourselves. That’s why, if we are really honest and if we
dare to face the dark side in our hearts, we would find guilt, fear, insecurity, a yearning

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for meaning and love in the core of our being that cannot be satisfied by any human
relationship. Unless we realize that we are sick, we will not look for a doctor. Unless we
realize how weak, needy and helpless we really are, we will not turn to God and find our
true identity in Christ.

Just as hunger drives us to look for food so also our unhappiness drive us to look up and
seek the source of true happiness. Our unrighteousness leads to seek the source of all
righteousness. Through our own failings, we come to realize that the healing comes from
God alone. In short, what we see in ourselves – our worth as well as our sins – are clues
that point us to God. He alone can bring wholeness, fulfillment to our hunger.

So far so good… we are created with infinite worth and dignity and yet we are corrupted
by sin in the core of our being. What’s the solution then? Do we swing from one extreme
to another extreme like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? So how do we resolve this tension inside
us?

OK I know what you are going to tell me, David, I need to obey God, pray more, spend
more time reading the Bible, go to church, obey my parents, join the Boy Scouts or Girl
Guides, serve in Ripples, be a nice Christian boy or sweet Christian girl, and then I’d be
victorious over the evil inside and be truly myself, right?

Actually that’s not it. These are good stuffs but it takes something more radical than that.
Remember Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Do you know the rest of the story?

When Dr Jekyll realizes that he is this living contradiction of good and evil, he decided to
do all he can to get rid of selfishness and pride from his heart. He devoted himself to
charity and good works, to drown his selfish nature with acts of kindness, and pay for the
wrongs he had done before. And it worked! He became the most moral and kind person,
and stopped taking the potion at night to become Mr Hyde.

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Then one day Dr Jekyll thinks of all the good that he has achieved, and how much better
a person he was compared to others. He says, “I can say with total honesty that my
decision to do good has produced great results. You know how much hard work I spent to
help suffering people… But as I smiled, comparing myself with others, comparing my
acts of goodness with their lazy, cruel neglect to do good… at that very moment, a
horrible feeling came over me and I looked down… I was once again Mr Hyde”. At that
moment, just when he achieved his standard of being good, Jekyll transformed into Hyde
again, this time without drinking any potion at all. Unable to control his transformations
any longer, Jekyll committed suicide.

The moral of the story is covering up our selfishness and pride with lots of good works
and kindness won’t make us less self centered. They only feed into our pride and self
righteousness. Jekyll becomes Hyde, not because he is bad, but precisely because he is
good.

You see – Without the gospel, your self-image is based upon living up to some
standards--whether yours or someone else's expectations imposed on you. You must be
popular. You must wear certain clothes, listen to certain music, hang out with certain
people, score certain results during exam, etc. If you live up to those standards, you will
be confident but not humble. You will compare and look down on those who don’t meet
those standards. “Huh – I dun hang out with weirdos and unpopular nerds. I’m cool.”
Without the gospel, you do good stuffs but motivated by self interest (in order to get to
heaven or to feel good about yourself, to better your self esteem). The ultimate motive is
still ‘yourself”. That’s one form of evil. Another way of becoming Mr or Ms Hyde…

On the other hand, if you don't live up to those standards, you will despair, envy those
who do or may even rebel, “Who cares about your standards? I’d be bad. I won’t play
along. I’d break all the rules. I live to please myself.” You want to be free, to be
independent but end up being in bondage to sin. Pursuit of success, money, power,
wealth, sex becomes an idol that controls you. You are no longer yourself. You are not
free. That’s another form of evil also. You are still controlled by Mr or Ms Hyde inside.

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Whether you define your worth as living up to some standards or rejecting all standards,
you are still not solving the problem of sin inside. If we measure our self-worth by our
achievements and abilities, we will either burn out (“I must be the best otherwise I’m a
failure”) or give up (“What’s the point? I’d never be good enuff”). Unless you see this,
you’d be driven or scared, too timid or too aggressive. We’d be driven by expectations of
others, of MTV culture and miss out living the abundant life God has in store for us.

Guess what? Only in the gospel can you be both bold/confident and utterly humble and
sensitive as well. In the gospel, you are both perfectly holy and a sinner at the same time!
How can that be? What does it mean to find my identity and purpose in Christ??

Well, the good news is Christ “loves us more than we ever dare imagine even though
we are more sinful than we’d ever know”! While we are yet sinners, totally lost and
dead in sin, God came in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross to forgive our
sins and give us the right to become children of God. OK I know the gospel is the way to
get to heaven but – “How does that change the way I measure how valuable I am? How
can it make me both humble and bold to be who I really am?” Here is how it works:

The gospel will make you humble because in the gospel, you can see clearly that
"you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe". You may think, “I’m
just a teenager, how sinful can I be? Maybe ponteng sekolah sometimes, or smoke behind
the canteen. But I’m not a murderer or something”. We see how terrible, how serious,
how awful our sins are because it took God Himself to come and die for us… If God
sacrificed a cow or chicken or donkey to atone for our sins, then maybe it’s not so bad
after all. How much is a chicken worth? Not much. I can pay for it out of my own pocket.
So the debt I owe is not a big deal. All I need is some good moral advice and just keep
trying harder to be a good guy.

But the payment of my sins requires the sacrifice of God Himself on the cross. What does
that tell me about how sinful I really am? I can never pay it all. The cost/bill is so

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infinitely expensive that only God can pay for it. I don’t realize how seriously sinful I am
until I look at the cross. And when you see that, when you look at the cross and see
there’s absolutely nothing you can do to fix your sin problem, that you need God himself
to rescue you, if you really believe that with all your heart, you can never be proud. You
can never compare yourself with others and be arrogant… All of us are sinners and fall
short of the glory of God. You will be humble because there’s absolutely nothing to boast
about… It’s all because of God’s unconditional love, grace and mercy.

The gospel will make you bold and confident because in the gospel, "you are more
accepted and more loved than you ever dared dream of."

How much are you worth? Or what is the value of your favorite toy? Well, it depends on
how much one is willing to pay for it. Do you remember that Citibank Advertisement?
Some things are priceless but for others, there’s Citibank.

In the gospel, "I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope." Because on the
cross, God Himself bought me at an infinite price – with His own life! With His precious
blood. God paid for you at an infinite cost, He’s willing to give up heaven to come to
earth, and give up His life on the cross. There’s nothing we will hold back. So how much
are you worth? Priceless… In God’s eyes, you can’t put a price tag on how precious you
are. Because of the gospel, you are accepted and loved unconditionally.

Imagine if your Daddy hugs you and tells you, “Ah Chai/Ah Loi, you are my
son/daughter. I love you because you are my child. Not because of your performance in
exams. No matter how you perform in exams, you are still my child and I love you.
Therefore I want you to do the best you can in the exams.” How would that make you
feel? Relieved of a lot of stress? Would you turn around and say, “Thanks Dad, I’d take
this as a license to fail all my exams this year”? No, it releases you from fear and the
crushing need to earn his love through performance. But it gives you a new motivation to
perform i.e. because you are loved and want to please your father. You’d want to do even
better. And that’s exactly how God the Father accepts and loves us.

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And if you will just think about it, believe it with all your heart, and let it shape your life,
the gospel will make you bold for life. You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re not out to get
self esteem from achieving any standards, impressing your friends or trying to be popular
or cool or bad. You can handle rejection because you are accepted and loved more than
you ever dare hope to be. You are no longer controlled by the need to be cool or bad or
beautiful or whatever in order to be approved or accepted or loved.

Remember how Satan’s three temptations to Jesus began with the words, “If you are the
Son of God…”? Since you are God’s Son, prove it… turn the stones to bread and fill
your hunger. Throw yourself from the temple and impress the crowd. Bow down to me
and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus is secure in His identity. Just
before the temptation in the desert, Jesus was baptized, filled with the Spirit and a voice
from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love. In Him I am well pleased”. He is secure
in the Father’s love. He has nothing to prove.

You don’t be good so that God loves you. God already loves you unconditionally, you
are His child, therefore you now want to please and obey him. Not because you have to,
but because you want to now.

If you are trying to earn your salvation or self worth, you do "the right thing" in order to
get into heaven or in order to better your self-esteem. In other words, the ultimate motive
is still self interest. It’s still for your self. But people who know they are totally accepted
already do "the right thing" out of sheer delight in righteousness for its own sake. Only in
the gospel do you obey God for God's sake, and not for what God will give you. Only in
the gospel do you love people for their sake (not yours), do good for its own sake (not
yours), and obey God for his sake (not yours). Only the gospel makes "doing the right
thing" a joy and delight, not a burden or a means to an end.

When you wake up in the morning, open your eyes, brush your teeth and look at yourself
in the mirror, you can say: “Even though things may not turn out the way I wanted it to

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be but life is great… because God is still on His throne. I am His child. He loves and
accepts me with an everlasting love.”

Let me close with these questions: Is it just a high standard you want to achieve in order
for others to approve of you, or in order to get God to bless you? Is your self-worth tied
to the things you own, buy or achieve? Or is it rooted in the love of Christ?

The good news is Christ loves us more than we ever dare imagine even though we
are more sinful than we’d ever know! While we are still sinners, unable to help
ourselves, God came and died for our sins out of His great love. So there’s nothing we
can boast about. There’s nothing we need to prove. We are precious in His sight. Our
identity is secure in His love so we can live humbly and boldly. It frees us to be honest
with ourselves, to confess the darkness inside because God loves us while we are yet
sinners. And it frees us to do good, to be who God called us to be not because of self
interest, but out of love. We can love because he first loved us.

Is this the first time you heard of this good news (this gospel) of God’s unconditional
love? Will you open your heart to Jesus Christ and let Him be your Savior and Lord?
Will you let Him be your Source of meaning, worth and identity?

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