What is the Meaning of Life
Body, Soul and Spirit 3
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 150 Body, Soul and Spirit 3 by Ernest O’Neill
We’re talking about the meaning of life on this broadcast at this time each day. We’ve reached the point in our discussion, which has been going on for about six or seven months now, where we have been sharing what this unique human being, who lived in the first century of our era, Jesus of Nazareth, said about reality. He explained to us that His Father was the Creator of the universe and that He is the Person who made you.
The reason He made you, Jesus explained to us, was so that you could be His friend, so that you could be His son, his daughter, so that you could actually have a close relationship with Him. That is why He made you. In other words, He made you for yourself, for your own value. He actually loves you. You’re the only one He has made exactly like you.
You probably know that. Even if you’re an identical twin, you’re the only one, because you are uniquely different from your identical twin even. The Creator made you because He wanted your love and your friendship, and a relationship with you. That’s the only thing that will not get boring over timeless eternity: a relationship of love. That’s the purpose the Creator had in making you. That’s why He made you like Himself.
We’ve been talking about how He made us in His image. That is, He gave you a spirit like His. The spirit is the very heart of you; it’s your very essence. It’s what makes you “tick”. It’s you when you are alone. What a man is when he is on his own, that he is and nothing more. It’s you when you’re on your own. That’s your spirit. He actually put into you His Spirit, the very essence of Himself and His own attitude.
Then, He put around that a body, a physical body. That, of course, returns to dust after just a surprisingly few years. Those two elements combine, the spirit and the body, to produce a soul. Jesus explained that we became living souls. That is, a soul in the sense of the Greek word “psuche” or psyche. The psychological part of us is what Jesus referred to as our soul. It includes our mind, and our emotions and our will.
Now, the point that Jesus made was that the body, through the eyes, ears, tongue, fingers and nose, that is the five senses, is conscious of the world. The body is conscious of the world we see and hear and touch and taste. The soul is conscious of itself. It is with the soul (with our mind and emotions) that we look into ourselves and are able to be critical of ourselves. It’s what sets us apart from the animals. We are able to examine ourselves.
If I ask you, “What are you feeling at this moment?” you can tell me what your feelings are at this moment. If I ask you what you’re thinking at this moment, you can tell me what you’re thinking at this moment. So, your soul, the psychological part of you, is the part of you that is conscious of yourself.
But, your spirit, which is deeper than your soul, deeper than your mind and emotions, is the part of you that is conscious of God. It’s the part that can trust Him, that can live as if God is really real. The spirit is the part that sets up an invisible, ephemeral relationship with Him by which you are able to tell what He is thinking and what He wants you to do.
Of course, the whole plan that He had for us was just that. He wanted us, through our spirits, to have a relationship with Him, and our spirits would then guide our souls and our souls would govern our bodies. Of course, you know that it has happened the other way around. The result is that our spirits are almost completely inactive. They are, in most of us, dormant or absolutely dead. But, there is a great difference,
you can see, between the spirit and the soul. It’s useful to begin to make that distinction yourself and to see where Jesus makes it, and where His followers make it in the Bible.
You remember, there is a verse in part of the Bible that is near the very end called Hebrews in Chapter 4 and verse 12. It reads like this, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit…” Now, it would help us out of a great deal of trouble in our attempts to find God and to become religious if we would see that the nihilism or the self-negation that Buddhism, or that transcendental meditation, or often spiritualism engages in is simply an exercise of the soul.
It is an attempt to annihilate the soul, as in the case of Buddhism. You remember that Buddha taught that pain comes from desires, so if you could eliminate all desire, you could negate the self to annihilate one’s own feelings. So that teaching is just as wrong. It suggests that if you annihilate the soul, you’ll be able to find God. No, God is not found through the soul.
And, of course, it’s just as wrong for us who simply enjoy the beautiful architecture of the church. It is good that architecture is beautiful, but it is foolish to try to find God in aesthetics. It is impossible, in any kind of harmony or balance of the soul, to find God. You can only find Him in the spirit and with your own spirit. That is what is so frustrating for so many of us who spent years at theological college or seminary, where we argue and discuss, argue and discuss, and write very learned books, always trying to find that perfect clarification of truth in the intellect that is so elusive. We think if we could only get that, we would know God.
Many of us, of course, in our experiments with prayer, get caught up in the whole preoccupation with our own feelings and with what our mind is thinking. You remember how C.S. Lewis, in one of his books [Surprised by Joy], said that for years, as a young man in boarding school, he attempted to pray realistically every night. But, it became a torture to him, because he kept on reflecting on himself, “Did I really mean that prayer?” Or, “Have I really realized that prayer the way I did last night?”
Suddenly, he realized that the moment he turned in upon himself, to examine his mind or examine his feelings, that moment he had ceased to worship God. He could not see worship going on inside of him, but could only see the mental track that his worship had left inside his soul. Now, many of us get caught in the same kind of introspection and the frustration of it, when we try to find God through our souls.
Of course, that is the whole error of so much of our emphasis on psychology today. We try to eke out the apparent shortcomings of our religion with a mixture of psychology and personable dealings with each other. It is impossible to find God through the psychological part of us. The only thing it can commune with is ourselves. So, all we will commune with through our souls is ourselves. That is why so much of our religion today is so selfish and so self-centered.
It’s the same with those of us who think that religion ought to be either very intellectual or very emotional. We attempt to have an emotional religion and think that that is more real than a coldly, intellectual one. Of course, neither form the essence of religion. They are only the outward symptoms of an experience of communion with God that we express for a moment through our psychological personalities. But, communion with God takes place in our spirits. That whole experience of spirit is something that many of us know little about.
It’s the same, of course, with our bodies, when we try to inject our bodies with heroin or we try to treat our bodies in certain ways that will enable us to get into a position of ecstasy, it is impossible. It’s not through the body that one finds God. Let’s talk a little more about the meaning of life tomorrow.