What is the Meaning of Life
Have You Ever Repented?
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 196 Have You Ever Repented? by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the general topic under which we’re discussing particularly the problem that many of us face today. And that is the problem of not being able to find ourselves. I don’t know if you have felt that yourself, but I think many of us have become robots today. We read “1984”. We’re glad that it’s passed, but we have a sneaking suspicion that it really did come true. Because many of us seem to have become robots that do what the invisible authorities want us to do, without even knowing it.
And we suspect that we have become the victims of “double-think”. We think we’re really doing what we want to do, but actually we’re just doing what our bosses want us to do, or what our parents want us to do, or what our friends want us to do, or what our children want us to do.(cid:9)And of course, we have been explaining that as being the basis of much of our life from day to day. We like to think that we’re our own people. We like to think that we’re individualists. We like to think we’re independent. We like to feel we’re really doing what our free will wants us to do.
But often we know fine well that we go to work every day because we need the money. Not because we want to, but because we need the money. And indeed, that’s the reason why many of us put up with the colleagues we have. We put up with them because we need the job and we need the work. And we smile at the boss, not because we like him or because we approve of him, but because that will keep us our job and that will enable the money to keep rolling in. And that will enable us to buy food and clothes and to stay alive. And of course, we justify it on the basis of our need for security, but the fact remains that we are not ourselves.
We are, in fact, what somebody else wants us to be.(cid:9)And many of us say, of course, “Well, that’s what life is, you know. That’s what it is. It’s pleasing whoever needs to be pleased so that you stay alive. Go along to get along. That’s what it’s all about.” And yet, deep down inside, we wonder if it could be better than that. And we often look back with nostalgia to the days when we were five or six or seven or eight years old, and we had a freshness about us, and we had a little sense that we could do something in life.
And long ago that has faded away and been lost in the treadmill of compulsions that we experience from our jobs, our bosses, our companies, even the very circumstances around us. Because many of us feel, “Well, if I could only have a little happiness. That’s what I need — just a little happiness.” So, we try to make happy things happen to us. And we find again that we become the victim or plaything of those circumstances. We discover that if it’s a bright sunny day, we’re full of smiles. If it’s a bad, old, dark, rainy, gloomy, drizzly day, we’re full of sadness and depression. If the stock market is up, we’re just elated. If the stock market is down, we’re depressed, and sad, and anxious.
And so we discover again that even there, in relationship to circumstances, we aren’t our own people. We have become the plaything of the circumstances that occur in our lives. And we wonder at times, “Is there any possibility of ever finding ourselves again? Ever the possibility of finding anything real inside?” And at times we determine, “We will! We will! I will be myself! I will be myself! I will say what I think, whatever effect it has on my future, or whatever effect it has on my prospects. I will say and do what I think.”
But, of course, as the years go by, we find it more and more difficult to discover what we do think, or to find out if there’s anybody there to think anything. And we eventually realize that no, there isn’t. And the reason why we keep on on the old treadmill is, we don’t really think there’s anything inside, anyway.(cid:9)And that’s what this man Jesus of Nazareth said. He said, “You’re dead. You’re dead! Even though you look alive,
you’re actually dead. You’ve died long ago. The you that is real has died years ago. And you’re no longer alive.”
And that’s why you feel such emptiness inside. That’s why you feel you don’t know yourself or you can’t find yourself. There’s something you can’t get a grip on. You can’t find any longer the freshness that used to be there; it’s because you’ve died. He said, you have an “outside”, a body. Inside that you have a soul: mind, emotions and will. And those are both programmed, to a certain extent, by heredity and environment. You get the body that is more or less like your dad’s or your mum’s.
You have a mind and emotions that are more or less like theirs. Even your will is often like theirs, but deep down inside there’s a spirit and that’s the real “you”. That’s the “you” that’s eternal. That’s the “you” that is essentially you — different from everybody else. It’s the spirit of Churchill that made Churchill Churchill. It’s the spirit of you that makes you “you”. That’s what has died. And of course, He then explained that there’s only One that can make that alive. You can’t make it alive yourself. It’s died and it’s beyond recall. But he said His Father, the Maker of the universe, is really the only One that is finally interested in you being you. He is, you know.
All the rest of us tend to want to use you, or make you what we want you to be. We want to make you in our image. But He is the only One, actually, that made you in His image. And His image is that of a self-existent, free-willed agent. And He made you to be that. And He alone is able to make you all over again. And that’s what His Son Jesus said. His Father is able to make you all over again inside. He’s able to bring alive inside you that fine, delicate spirit that used to be you. He is able to do it, because He made it in the first place.
But Jesus said, the only way that that that will happen is, first of all, if you believe that this is the situation. And that’s the first thing you have to do. If you say to me, “Well, yes, I agree with that. I believe that that is the explanation of why I am as I am.” Then the first step is, believe what this man Jesus said was the situation.(cid:9)Start believing it. I mean, don’t believe it because I say it. Go back to that old book. Stop being put off by the fact that it’s called the Bible.
“Ta Biblia” is the Greek word — it means “the books”. That’s all it is. Don’t think of it as something that your grandmother read, or something that somebody else hands the Queen when she is given the crown. Realize that it’s history. It’s “the books”. It’s “the books” that tell about this man. First of all, believe what is in those books. First of all, believe it. Examine it intellectually! Don’t just believe it because I said it. Examine it intellectually. Get a book like F. F. Bruce’s “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” or the little one that I’ve written, “Is the Bible History or Myth?”. And read it and think through it.
And then come on the basis of the intellectual evidence to the point where you believe it. But, first of all, you have to start believing something. That’s the beginning of finding yourself again. Start believing something! Establish a philosophy of life that is based on the reality that this man who is the Son of the Maker of the universe explained to us. First believe.
The second step is … change your mind. That’s what the Greek word “metanoia” means. That’s what this man Jesus said you needed to do. “Metanoia” – meta — turn; noia — your mind. Change your mind.
Change your whole mind about the way you’re living your life. Change your mind about depending on people for your security, about depending on people for your good opinion of yourself, or your self-esteem, about depending on circumstances for your happiness, and see that the only One who can really affect your security or your happiness, or your self-esteem, is the One who made all these things.(cid:9)Stop depending on secondary
causes. Stop depending on the people that He has made for their opinion. That doesn’t matter. They’ll die probably before you will.
His opinion is what counts. Change your mind about that. And metanoia means, of course, not only “change your mind”, but change the way you’re living. Stop depending on the world of people and circumstances, and things, for your security, your significance and your happiness. And start depending on the Maker of the universe, which is very reasonable, isn’t it? Because He’s the only One who can possibly hold this sphere in space and roll it through space at hundreds of miles an hour without any visible means of support. Finally, we’re dependent on Him anyway.
So what Jesus says is, “Face reality. Believe it, and start living in accordance with it. And then the Maker of the universe will begin to bring you alive again inside.” Let’s talk some more about this tomorrow.