What is the Meaning of Life
How to be Free from Selfishness
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 125 How to be Free From Selfishness by Ernest O’Neill
You decide you want to stop smoking and you have every desire to stop smoking and you really believe there is nothing within you that does not want to stop smoking until you try to stop smoking. You know the struggle. You cannot believe the lack of discipline and almost self destructive urge that makes you want to have another cigarette, another pipe or another cigar, whatever it does to you. Whether it burns up your lungs or shortens you life or whether it leaves your wife and children destitute, you want to smoke.
It’s the same with alcohol. I don’t know how many of you have thrown out of the car window how many bottles of whisky, half empty and resolve to never buy another one. Yet, there is something in you that seems to act almost in direct opposition to what your best desires are. Most of us, even those of us who aren’t concerned with specific habits like smoking or drinking or drug addiction or whatever, most of us know so well that side of our natures that seems to oppose everything our good side wants.
What we’ve been talking about is the explanation of that. You remember, we tied it down to two attitudes to life. One attitude is that there is nobody behind this universe at all. It’s just the product of time plus chance, and there is no Creator anywhere near and we are on our own. Of course, that produces in itself tremendous neuroses. If we are only one in five billion, then we have to scramble for ourselves.
That brings great “angst” into anybody, when you realize it’s you against five billion for whatever food, clothing and shelter you need in order to survive. All the while you know that finally you won’t survive. You will die like everybody else, and be buried like a dog. That produces a tremendous fear inside and despair, but above all great greed, covetousness and selfish ambition and a desire to wipe everybody out of the way in order to get everything you need.
It’s the same with the whole preoccupation of your own value or self-worth, because you know you are unique. You know you are different from everybody else. You are. There’s nobody quite like you in the universe. There never has been and there never will be. But all the other five billion think the same. All of us are striving to be “numero uno”. We’re all trying to be number one.
We are all trying to make everybody else see how different we are from them. That means a great deal of envy, a great deal of striving, a great deal of struggling for praise and for acknowledgement and for recognition and a great deal of resentment for people who criticize or who put us down. So, all that attitude is based on the fact or on the idea that there is no Creator and that we are on our own. That creates the strong, selfish urges inside our nature that we are not able to control.
On the other hand, if you have the attitude that there is a Creator, who actually not only made you, but knows you intimately, and who has counted the hairs of your head, and knows your name, and knows why He put you here, has a job for you to do while you are here and is going to do as His son promised — add everything else on to you that you need — then, of course, that brings great trust and restfulness inside your own nature. It’s brings a great deal of a generous attitude, because you have time to look after everybody else because you know He’ll look after you.
That produces that good side of your nature. Now what we’ve been saying is understanding the two sides of your nature and being able to explain them both simply makes the situation worse, because it doesn’t change anything. All of us have found the impotence of knowledge. It is not enough to know the truth and then we
will see it. We won’t like the truth when we see it.
We have often had the truth explained to us and we still don’t like it and we rebel against it, because there is something in our nature that has been bred into us down through the generations. That’s the real reason for our problem. The difficulty you have controlling your temper is not just because it’s your temper but because it’s a temper that’s been bred into the race down through the centuries.
From the beginning of time some men and women have lived as if there was no God and have bred that into their children and bred the “angst” into their children, and into their children’s children until for centuries and centuries, we have had bred into us a selfish, insecure nature that is now resident inside you. What we’ve been saying is that there is no one that can change that, except one. You certainly can’t change it. What you are trying to do is change generations of people, because you are the result of generations of breeding.
The only thing to do with a fault that begins to occur inside a manufacturing process is to recall all the products that are flawed. The manufacturer has to bring them all back to the factory, has to destroy them all and remake them completely. That’s exactly what happened with us, before you were ever created, before you were ever made, when you were as they say “a twinkle in your father’s eye”, but more than that, when you were a twinkle in God’s own eye.
The moment He conceived of you…(He is an infinite being, brighter than Einstein, able to conceive more precisely than Einstein the unique, one moment, present, now nature of time and space), and the Creator in one second conceived of you. In the second second (if you can talk about His mind even working sequentially like that), in the second second He conceived that you would live independently of Him and would not trust Him.
In the third second, He conceived that that would breed in you a nature of selfishness and insecurity that would be such a strong tendency within you that you would not be able to resist it. In the third second, He conceived of the need to destroy you and to recreate you whole as He originally made you. That’s what the Creator did. He did that in His Son, Jesus. That explains that incredible verse I mentioned to you several weeks ago.
It occurs in that old book, the Bible, that really, you haven’t probably read for a long, long time. It’s in the last book of the Bible in a book called Revelation, (which you’ve probably heard of) It’s in chapter 13. If you have a Bible, you should probably look it up sometime. It’s in verse 8. Verse 8 reads, “Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slain.”
That’s the Revised Standard Version. It’s a certain translation. But actually it’s not true to the Greek. The Greek actually places the adverbial phrase of time in a different position in the sentence. The sentence should read the way it reads in the old-fashioned King James Version of the Bible. “Everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life of the lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.” In other words, the lamb, Jesus, was slain before the foundation of the world.
You were destroyed in Him before the foundation of the world, and you were made new in Him before the foundation of the world. If you say, “Impossible!” No, not impossible — because time is only an accommodation that God allows us to experience so that we could live in this material world. There is actually no such thing as time and you know it yourself.
If I asked you, could you remember what happened twenty years ago and could you remember what happened yesterday. You know some of the things that happened twenty years ago are as vivid to you as things that happened yesterday. Time really doesn’t exist. You know, again and again you say, “Oh, I can’t believe the
time is passed.” You can’t.
When things are going well on a holiday, time goes quickly. When things are going badly on a Monday morning, time goes slowly. Time is only a relative thing. There is no such thing as time. We are living in one great eternal present moment… one great NOW. That’s the way the Creator sees it. He is able to conceive of all this in a moment and make it all take place in a moment. Then He gives us time to live it out and express it outwardly. All of us have come into this world with actually only one nature that is real: the good, true, unselfish nature that we were given in our recreation in Jesus.
And that nature is the one that is real. The one that is unreal is the one that so many of us have been living in during this life. The Creator arranged it that way. He arranged it that way so that we would have a real choice, so that we would be able to exercise our free wills, not only exercising them in faith, but exercising them by almost sight, knowing the two consequences of the two choices.
It was like Him saying to us, “Now, look, if you live as if I don’t exist, if you simply ignore me and reject me and live as if you alone are the God of this world, then the kind of life that will result is the one that you are living now. Things like anger, and envy and jealousy and pride will overcome you constantly. On the other hand, if you live as if I really do exist, trusting me and depending on me, this is the nature that I have given you in my Son and this nature is yours the moment you believe it.”
That is the meaning of this death of Jesus. There’s a verse in this old book called the Bible that puts it very clearly. It’s found in a book called Romans, chapter 6, verse 6. It runs, “Our old self was crucified with Christ.” Our old self was destroyed with Jesus. Let’s talk about that a little more tomorrow.