What is the Meaning of Life
Ethical Teachings of Jesus
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 182 Ethical Teachings of Jesus by Ernest O’Neill
We’re talking on this broadcast each day about the subject of what is the meaning of life. We’ve been trying to catch up with where we are in the discussion today. This is broadcast 182 and so you can see we’ve been involved in this discussion for about 9 months so far this year. The way we have proceeded is that we’ve tried to find out where the earth came from and how it came into existence.
We’ve concluded from the order and design that is in it that there must be an intellectual being behind it. We’ve said “being” because we’ve reckoned the Creator of the earth must be at least as personal as we are in order to make us persons. Then we tried to find out if He had ever communicated with us in any way. So we examined the claims that various people like Buddha and Zoroaster and the Hindu scholars and Confucius have made, what they are telling us about their understanding of the mind of the Creator in regard to us and the purpose of our lives.
We discovered that they were all in the same boat. They were all limited to this earth. They all died and were buried on this earth. None of them proved in any believable way that he had actually pierced beyond the farthest star and in some way been in touch with the origin of the universe. That’s when we began to examine the life of a remarkable man who lived in the first century of our era, who did, in fact, break through death.
He’s the only one who gives us intelligent, reasonable evidence for believing that he did in fact come back after he had been killed, and live on earth here for more than a month. That is the man, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. You remember how we examined the history books that tell of his life so that we could be sure that he was actually a historical figure, and so that we could be sure that He actually did rise from the dead.
Of course, as we examined the more than 4,000 Greek manuscripts that stand behind the history of the first century that we find in that old book the Bible — in the New Testament piece of it particularly, we began to realize that we’re dealing with history that is far more reliable than that of Julius Caesar or the Greek or Latin historians. We are dealing with history here that is incredible in its provision of documentary evidence and in the psychological and ethical impossibilities of deception or untruth.
If you want to go back into those discussions, please write and ask for those cassettes. I did also try to write a little booklet. It’s just a small thing called “Is the Bible History or Myth?”, that you might also like to write for. But there are lots of other books that I’m sure do it much better than that. But you might want to look at it and review some of the arguments. We came to the conclusion that the history of that first century is utterly reliable and that, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth did live and did die and did actually overcome death.
We examined his life, you remember, to find out if he was some kind of lunatic that was claiming to be God. Or if, in fact, he lived a life of balance that makes us respect him. And if, in fact, he was the foremost ethical teacher in the whole of mankind’s history. We concluded that he was. He was really the Son of the Maker of the world. So we have started to study His explanation of the meaning of our lives, of why we’re alive.
You remember, we have reached the point in that discussion where we see that the Creator has made us on three different levels of life. Each of us has three kinds of life. We have physical life (which is our body) and we
can see and hear and touch through the five senses of our physical life. We can perceive the world around us. Then within that we have a soul. That’s what the old book the Bible calls it: soul. But the Greek word gives you a clue to our contemporary explanation of it. The Greek word is “psuche” and it becomes through those sound changes of our language the word “psyche” or psychological.
So the soul that is referred to by men like Jesus and by other people in the Bible is really a reference to the psychological part of our beings, that is your mind and your emotions. That is inside our bodies. So, it wears our body almost like an overcoat. Our soul is the part of us that is conscious not so much of the world — that’s the body’s responsibility — but it’s conscious of itself.
In other words, you can use your mind to look in upon your own thoughts and think, “What am I thinking?” or “How am I feeling?” So the mind and the emotions and the will are actually the psychological part of our being and that’s the self-conscious part of us — the part of us that distinguishes us from the animals. We have the only brain cells that are able to think about themselves.
Then within that, Jesus and his predecessors said that there is a spirit. That is, there is a part of us that is the “essential me”. That’s how we’ve defined spirit. It’s you as you really are. It’s the very essence of you.
When we talk about the spirit of Churchill or we talk about the spirit of George VI, we talk about the very essence of the man — the very heart of the man, the kind of person he really was. We’ve also pointed out that it’s the part of us that’s able to contact the Creator of the universe. It’s through our spirits we are able to relate to the Maker of the universe. That is, in fact, one of the great reasons for us having spirits. We’ve come to that point where we see that we’re made up of spirit, soul and body.
Then, you remember, we began to talk about how we were meant to operate. We said that the way the Creator meant us to operate was that our spirits would be related to Him and would receive from Him the directions for our life. We would express that through our souls. Our souls would then transmit that to our bodies — and then of course through actions and words and attitudes we would fill the world with that kind of life, whatever was God’s will for it to be.
You remember in order to make that clearer we took (well, you can do it various ways)…you can actually draw one circle and that can represent the body. Then you can draw another circle inside that and that can represent the soul. Then you can draw another circle inside that and that can represent the spirit. The way, in fact, we were meant to operate is by the Creator (and you could draw, I suppose, an “x” outside the concentric circles and label that “the Creator”).
Then you could put an arrow in from that “x” into the center of the innermost circle. The Creator intended to give us His life into our own spirits. Then you can draw an arrow out from the center of the innermost circle, out to the circumference of the outermost circle. That was the way we were meant to operate. From the life that the Creator gave to us, we were meant to live from the inside out all the time.
We would fill the world instead of empty it. We would fill it with the kinds of things the Creator wanted done. We would dig the gold He wanted dug; we would mine the coal He wanted mined; we would bridge the rivers that He wanted bridged. We would develop the trees and the plants that He wanted developed. We would presumably develop the planets that He wanted developed, but we would work from the inside out.
What we have said is that we men and women determined, “No way. We’re not going to be dependent on the Creator of the universe. We’re going to operate on our own behalf and we are going to operate from the outside in.” If
you like to see how that would work, just draw an arrow from the outermost circle into the innermost center of the inner circle. That’s the way we men and women have been operating since the creation.
We’ve been trying to get from outside, the life that we were meant to get from the Creator of the universe. Of course, it has resulted in a tremendous perversion of our personalities. Let’s talk a little more about that tomorrow.