What is the Meaning of Life
Deliverance from Selfishness
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 129 Deliverance From Selfishness by Ernest O’Neill
We’re talking on this program about one of the greatest problems and one of the most obvious phenomena of our everyday, personal life: that of our dual nature. Our dual nature is the fact that there is a good part of us and a bad part of us. There is a part of us that is loving and honest and kind and generous and approves of all those things, and there is a part of us that is evil and selfish and unkind and resentful and bad-tempered.
There is a further phenomenon that you have to recognize. That is that when we find it easier to be unkind than to be kind, to be mean rather than to be generous, to be impatient rather than to be patient, to be lustful rather than to be pure, to be bad rather than good — we find that there is connected with the bad always a sadness, a despair. A sense of guilt, we call it.
When we are good or honest or loving or kind or generous or joyful or happy or peaceful or understanding, we find a sense of approval. We feel good. Now most of us have tried to get rid of these feelings of guilt or of approval by explaining them as “Victorian” and the result of religious backgrounds or old-fashioned ideas or views, yet the fact is they persist!
It doesn’t matter how new our morality seems to become, it doesn’t matter how amoral our media seems to be. It doesn’t matter how many surprises we have in the lives of those that we have respected through the years, we still find (you must admit, you feel the same!), it doesn’t matter how much you brainwash yourself with the old “Victorian” myth, you still feel bad when you’re angry. You do. You still feel bad when you jump into bed and fornicate with somebody. You still feel good when you’re kind to somebody.You still feel good when you’re generous to somebody.
Now why is this so? Why the dual nature and why the connection with guilt or with approval that we feel with the respective natures that we express? What we have been saying to one another over these weeks is that the two natures are a result of two views of life. The one nature comes from believing that there is no Creator, that this whole thing around us is just the result of time plus chance.
In consequence, we are dependent wholly on ourselves for our own security. We’d better make sure we get it, whatever it costs anybody else. The only way we can be sure of enough food, shelter, and clothing is to grab it, and grab it fast. So at times, we feel the reactions and the responses that that kind of situation warrants. We feel covetousness. We feel jealousy when we see somebody with more than we have.
We feel envy when we want something that somebody else has got. We feel fear when we think we’re running out of our resources. On the other hand, if you believe that there is a Creator, that He is a dear Father who loves you, who knows your name, who has counted your hairs on your head, and who knows why you’re here and has put you here to perform a certain job for Him, and that He will take care of you as long as you take care of what He has given you to do, then there comes a whole other set of reactions and responses that are connected up with generous feelings towards other people, a concern for other people because you know the Creator is going to take care of you, so you can be free to take care of other people.
Then we said that the fact is that our race has been taking one attitude or the other attitude for generations. That’s why you find the evil nature so virulent inside you. It’s why you find it so impossible to
control, because even though you understand this intellectually, you know that you still are not able to overcome that evil nature. Still, your temper is as bad as ever — just a little more subtle, a little more repressed, but it’s still as strong as ever. Still your lust is as strong as ever.
Maybe you have a victory over your impatience, but your irritability is as strong as ever. It seems impossible to kill this lion within you. The reason is, it’s as old as the hills. It’s as old as the human race itself. It has been bred into us down through the generations. It’s known as the old self, or the evil nature. In fact, there’s no way to get rid of it by power of positive thinking, or by psychological techniques, because it is something that has become part of you.
You are anger. You are lust. You are envy. It’s not just that you have lustful thoughts, or you have envious thoughts, or something quite apart from you. You know what destroys you is the feeling that this is you. This is the real you. There is no way to get rid of it by human means. The only way to get rid of it is the way you get rid of a vacuum cleaner or an automobile that has developed down through the years a fundamental flaw. That is to send it back to the manufacturer and have it destroyed and remade completely.
That is, of course, what this thing called the Gospel is. The fact is that the Creator of the universe saw that you would use your free will to live as if He didn’t exist, and that as a result of that, you would develop all kinds of fears and phobias that would result in attitudes of anger, and worry, and anxiety, and irritability, and resentment, and striking back at other people.
He saw that before the foundation of the world, because He was able to conceive what would happen to you and what you would do. Even without making you do it. Just as our greatest computers are able to foresee what we’re likely to do, He was able to foresee that. As He did that, in the same eternal moment as He conceived of you and created you, He destroyed you in His Son Jesus, before the foundation of the world, and He remade you completely.
That’s why you can experience two natures in this present life. Now you may say to me, “Well, it sounds as if I may have to suffer both until the end of this life!” No! One has already been destroyed. The “old self” that’s stated in that verse that we quoted from that book we call the Bible. It’s in Romans chapter six and verse six. “We know that our old self was crucified with Christ.” That old self of yours was destroyed by the Creator in His Son Jesus.
That’s why such despair and sadness and guilt is attached to it, because you know it’s a dying life. In fact, it’s a dead life. In fact, it’s a crucified life. In fact, it’s a life that in timeless eternity and infinity no longer exists. If you say, “Why does it exist here?” The Creator has allowed it to exist so that you would see what would happen to you if you chose to live as if He didn’t exist.
But it actually doesn’t exist in timeless eternity. It has been destroyed. The Creator has already eliminated it. That’s why whenever you take part in that thing that has already been destroyed, you have such a sense of sadness, despair, condemnation — because you are registering in your human conscience the act that has taken place in eternal infinity in the Son of the Creator of the universe.
So it’s a little like that example that we used some weeks ago of the bomb that exploded in Hiroshima. You remember that if you walked into the streets immediately after the dreadful detonation, you would have seen certain people appearing to stand there in the street. Except, when you went up to them and put your finger on the body it collapsed in ashes because it was like a burned out cinder. The fire of the bomb was so intense that they were burnt in a second and the cinder was left whole and complete, looking like a human being. But it actually did not exist.
That’s what your old, selfish, evil nature is like. It has actually already been destroyed in eternity. But it has been allowed to continue to manifest itself in this present life so that you would see what life would be like if you lived as if there was no Creator. But the only life that really does exist, the only nature that really continues to exist, is the new one that has been recreated in Jesus. That is what you experience when you have moments of real delight in being generous, of real happiness in loving somebody else.
That’s why falling in love is possible. It’s the Creator of the world giving you the experience of selfless love that is the only nature that now exists for you. You can see that all you have to do to continue to live in that nature is to believe that that is the only nature that now exists, that your old nature has been destroyed in Christ, and that the only nature that exists for you is that new, selfless nature.
It’s not your faith or your belief that creates that. It’s your faith that recognized that. But the moment you recognize it and begin to live in the light of it, that moment all the strong passions and desires of the old nature cease to have any reality in your life. Let’s talk a little more tomorrow about what is involved in that kind of faith.