Individuality and Personality
Inscrutability and Introspection
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 26 October 2002
I was reading the sermon of a minister the other day, one whom I normally have a high respect for. He was reading from the second chapter of Genesis which describes how the Elohim (God) formed man out of the dust and then breathed life into him. He remarked that the text sounded 'old-fashioned, unscientific, and childish'. His was what one might call an emotional reaction. "Personally," he said, "I think .... " and then went on to describe his feelings about this passage.
Today I want us to ask ourselves just what we mean by "personality" and how it is that our personality has a tendency to colour the way we view the world, and the way we interpret events around us. Very often, when discussing the Gospel, I will get the remark: "That's just your personal opinion" or "personal interpretation". And if it is true that our personality distorts or misrepresents the truth, then we had better come and understand what personality is.
First let's define our terms. An 'individual' man is a man all by himself. He takes up so much space, requires so much air, so much food, and so on. 'Personality', however, is a much bigger word. The best way I can illustrate the difference is with this candle. A candle unlit demonstrates individuality. A candle lit demonstrates personality. And that immediately reminds us of something important Yah'shua (Jesus) said to us: "You are the light of the world" (Mt.5:14, NKJV). Individually, we don't take up much room - just look at where you're sitting now - but our influence is far beyond our calculation. When we use the term 'personality' we use the biggest mental conception we have. That is why we call Yahweh a 'Person', because the word 'person' has the biggest import we know. We do not call Yahweh an 'individual' - we call Him a 'Person'. He may be a great deal more than that, but at least He must be that. And I think it is necessary to remember this when the personality of God is denied by Buddhists, occultists, and others, and He is looked upon as only a 'tendency' - that is, an 'inclination', a 'predisposition', or a 'drift'. If Yahweh is only a 'tendency', then He is much less than we are. Our personality is always too big for us. Indeed, as we trace the Bible teaching on personality we will discover that we are much too complex to understand ourselves.
Let me give you another illustration of personality. An island may be easily explored, yet how amazed we are when we realise that it is the top of a mountain and that the greater part of it is hidden under the waves of the sea and goes sheer down to the deeper depths, far deeper than we can ever fathom. The little island represents our conscious personality. The part of ourselves of which we are conscious is a very tiny part - there is a great part underneath about which we know almost nothing. Consequently, there are upheavals from beneath that we cannot account for. We cannot grasp ourselves at all. We begin by thinking that we can, but eventually we have to come to the Bible standpoint that no one actually knows himself - it is only Yahweh, the Most High God, who really knows him. As King Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, understood:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" (Prov.14:12, NKJV).
Individuality, then, is a smaller term than personality. Personality means that peculiar, incalculable being that is meant when you speak of 'you' as distinct from everybody else. People say: "Oh, I can't understand myself!" and of course they can't. "Nobody else understands me!" they also cry, and of course they can't. There may be people who understand us better than anyone else - husband and wives usually do, and rightly so - but there is only one Being who understands us fully, and that is our Creator, Yahweh-Elohim.
Each personality is an ego, a word we use a lot in modern English, and is frequently misunderstood. Your 'self' is your 'ego', though psychoanalysists may well define it in a rather more specialised way. Ego can be both positive and negative. There is a healthy view of self and an unhealthy view of self. The unhealthy view - called 'egotism' - is a conceited insistence by a person of his own particular ways, manners, habits, and customs. It is an easily discernable characteristic, and is usually condemned straightaway by right thinking people. We are inclined to overlook egotism in young people and ignorant people, but even in them the righteous soul finds it detestable and vicious.
But there is a positive ego too, which is called 'egoism'. Egoism is that system of thinking which makes the human personality the centre. The Bible nowhere treats a human being as an abstraction. The Bible way of thinking brings us straight down to man as the centre. That which puts man right and keeps man right is the revelation we have in God's Book. Some of you may be surprised by what I am saying so I guess I had better qualify myself quickly!
If you read the teachings of Yah'shua (Jesus) and of Paul would will be immediately aware of the fact that they centre around 'I', and yet there is no 'egotism' about it - it is 'egoism'. Everything in the Bible is related to man, to his salvation, to his sanctification, to his keeping, and so on. Any system of thinking which has man for its centre and as its aim is rightly called Egoism. Contrast this with communism who centre is the State, and with Buddhism, occultism, and New Ageism, whose goal is the annihilation of the ego or self, and you are at once confronted with an anti-Biblical system.
What, then, is this 'personality' of man, and why is it so important? A man's personality is his inmost nature. It is distinct from his spirit and body and yet it embraces both. It is the innermost centre of man's spirit and body - the core of his soul. This Ego or Self is explained in three ways in the Bible:
(1) It is inscrutable, meaning we cannot understand it or search it out. The Bible quite clearly says a man is incapable of searching himself out satisfactorily. Isaiah says: "With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early" (Isa.26:9, NKJV). Quite clearly a distinction is made between inmost personality called 'I' and my 'spirit' and 'body', or 'soul'. And this distinction is manifested throughout the whole Bible. I can search my spirit to a certain extent; I can try to understand my body - therefore I can search my soul ... to a certain extent. But immediately man comes to examine himself he begins to find that he is inscrutable - he cannot examine himself thoroughly. He may make certain arbitrary distinctions and call himself 'spirit, 'body' or 'soul', but he instantly finds that that is not satisfactory.
Every now and then something from behold the threshold of consciousness emerges and upsets our teaching about ourselves. Yah'shua's (Jesus') dealings with His disciples made them conscious of things in themselves of which they had, up until then, been unconscious. For instance, in Matthew 16, we read that Yah'shua (Jesus) says to Peter: "Blessed art thou" (when he got a revelation on who He was) and shortly afterwards He said to him: "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Peter had not the slightest notion that God Almighty had lifted him up as a trumpet and blown a blast through him, which Yah'shua (Jesus) recognised as the voice of His Father; or that a little while afterwards Satan took him up and blew a blast through him, which Yah'shua (Jesus) recognised as the voice of Satan. Again, if Peter had been told that he would deny his Master with oaths and curses, he would have been unable to understand how anyone could think it possible. There are possibilities below the threshold of our lives which no one but Yahweh knows, unless He reveals His secret through His servants the prophets beforehand (Amos 3:7). Yah'shua (Jesus) brought His disciples through crises in order to reveal to them that they were much too big to understand for themselves - there were forces within them which would play havoc with every resolution they made. As King David said:
"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults" (Ps.19:12, NKJV).
This verse is simply a type of the revelation running through the entire Bible. We cannot understand ourselves, we do not know the beginnings of our dreams or of our motives; we do not know our secret errors because they currently lie below the region we can get at.
Now if that is not troubling enough in itself, consider the following: for not only are we inscrutable, but we are so built that we are obliged to examine ourselves, which makes us introspective.
(2) Introspection means the direct observation of the processes of our mind. Sometimes people become insane when they do this. If you cut a tree in half you can tell by the number of rings inside roughly how old it is. And people try to do this psychically, that is, they try to cut their consciousness in half and find out how it is made. We are so built that we must introspect. And if you want a detailed chapter on introspection, read Psalm 139 - it is a psalm of Intercessory Introspection. The words are a contradiction in terms but they exactly convey the meaning of the Psalm.
The tendency in me which makes me want to examine myself, and know the springs of my thoughts and motives takes the form of prayer, "O Yahweh, explore me." The Psalmist talks of the great Creator who knows the beginnings of the morning and the endings of the evening, who knows the fathomless deep and the tremendous mountains, but he does not end with vague abstractions: these things are all very well but they are useless for his purpose. He asks the great Creator to come and search him: "My God, there are beginnings of mornings and endings of evenings in me that I cannot understand. There are great mountain peaks that I cannot scale. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain unto to it. Explore me, search me out." Or again, he means: "Search out the beginnings of my dreams, get down below where I can go, winnow out my way until You understand the beginnings of my motives and my dreams, and let me know that You know me. And the only way I shall know that You know me is that You will save me from the way of grief, from the way of self-realisation, from the way of sorrow and twistedness, and lead me in the Everlasting Way."
The Greek philosophers used to say, "Know yourself", and Socrates' teaching is exactly along the lines of this Psalm, but from a different standpoint. Socrates' wisdom consisted in finding out that he knew nothing of himself, and that is why he was called by the Oracle the wisest man on earth. We have to be avowed agnostics about ourselves. We begin by thinking that we know all about ourselves, but after a quarter of an hour of the "plague of our own heart" our thinking is upset, and we understand the meaning of the Psalmist, "O Yahweh, search me!"
Mark you, Yahweh does not search us without our knowing. Solomon said:
"The spirit of a man is the lamp of Yahweh, Searching all the inner depths of his heart" (Prov.20:27, NKJV).
Yahweh makes it known that He is searching him. When we come to Yah'shua (Jesus), this line of scripture expresses His attitude toward the human soul:
"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin" (John 15:22, NIV).
If Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) had not come with His Light, and the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) had not come with Her Light, men would not have known anything about sin. It takes the apostle Paul to use the expression "sold under sin" (Rom.7:14), and to know the meaning of it Paul had been searched clean through by the penetration of the Ruach (Spirit).
We are inscrutable, but we are so built that we must introspect. Introspection without Yahweh leads to insanity. We do not know the springs of our thinking, we do not know by what we are influenced, we do not know all the scenery psychically that Yah'shua (Jesus) looked at. He continually saw things and beings we do not often see. He talked about 'Satan' and 'demons' and 'angels'. Most people don't see Satan or demons or angels, but Yah'shua (Jesus) unquestionably did, and His prophets, seers and revelators do, and they see their influence upon us. The man who criticises Yah'shua's (Jesus') statements about demon possession does not realise what he is doing. The people with no tendency to introspect are those described in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) as "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph.2:1), they can be quite happy, quite contented, quite moral, all they want can be easily within their grasp, everything can be all right with them but they are dead to that eternal world to which Yah'shua (Jesus) belongs, and it takes His Voice and His Spirit to awaken them.
(3) Finally, for today, we come to the term individual. Every man and woman is judged before God as an individual being. What he or she has done, he or she is alone responsible for. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us:
"The word of Yahweh came to me again, saying, "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'? "As I live," says Yahweh-Elohim, "you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die" (Ezek.18:1-4, NKJV).
This line of revelation runs through the whole of the Bible, and it shows the absurdity of the criticisms arising from the fictitious conception that we are punished for Adam's sin. The Bible says that men are punished for their own sins, that is, for the sins committed culpably. The Bible says that "sin entered into the world by one man" (Rom.5:12, KJV), but sin is not an act on my part at all. Sin is a disposition, and I am in no way responsible for having the disposition of sin. BUT I am responsible for not allowing Yahweh to deliver me from the disposition of sin once I see that that is what Yah'shua (Jesus) came to do. The wrong things I do shall be punished for and whipped for, no matter how I plead. For every wrong that I do, I shall be inexorably punished and have to suffer. The inexorable Law of Yahweh is laid down that I shall be held responsible for the wrong that I do, I shall smart from it and be punished for it, no matter who I am. The Atonement has made provision for what I am not responsible for, that is, the disposition of sin. John 3:19 sums it up:
"This is the judgement (the crisis, the critical moment), that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19, NASB).
What is light? Yah'shua (Jesus) says: "I am the light of the world" (Jn.8:12, NKJV) and He also said: "If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt.6:23, NKJV). You see, darkness is your own point-of-view.
When Yahweh comes and spiritually regenerates us, He works below the threshold of our consciousness. All we are conscious of is a sudden burst up into our conscious life, but as to when Yahweh begins to work, no one can tell. This emphasises the importance of intercessory prayer. A mother, a husband, or a wife, or a Christian worker, praying for another soul has a clear indication that God has answered their prayer. Outwardly the one prayed for may seem just the same - there is no difference in his conduct - but the prayer is answered. The work is unconscious as yet, but at any second it may burst forth into conscious life. We cannot calculate where Yahweh begins to work any more than we can say when it is going to become conscious. That is why we have to pray in reliance on the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) (Rom.8:26-27).
The path of peace for us is to hand ourselves over to Yahweh and ask Him to search us, not what we think we are, or what other people think we are, or what we persuade ourselves we are or would like to be, but: "Search me out, O Yahweh, explore me as I really am in Your sight".
Next week I shall be talking this subject further by examining some of the delusions we fall into. In the meantime may Yahweh our Father bless you and keep you, in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Click here to read Part 2
This page was created on 19 October 2002
Last updated on 19 October 2002
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