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Description: What can I do to overcome my anxious feelings? How can I stop being anxious? Why do I sometimes face a secret fear that robs me of my true happiness?
What Causes Anxiety?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
In the leisure section of the newspaper it tells about an incident in 1982, when a certain movie
script was submitted around all the leading directors of the big movie producing houses in
Hollywood. All of them rejected it and recommended that they get something that would grab people
more. The author of course of this article is Howard Koch and he reminds us that that movie script
was another script with the characters’ names changed and was the script of the film “Casablanca”.
And he points out that of course the most successful and popular movie of all time was rejected in
1982 by all the people who produce movies today.
He goes on in the article to wonder why movies are so different today from what they used to be.
And he actually talks about the movie moguls and he says, “Warner Brothers, Harry Kahn, Darrell
Hannah were no angels. They were autocrats whose methods in the highly competitive industry were
often ruthless and barely within the law. Yet they had something that is conspicuously absent in the
movie moguls of our own day, a paternal pride in the pictures they made.” And then he has one
sentence where he says; “Today’s films are no longer leavened with love.” He says that, in a strange
way, the old movies had some love in them.
But what he spends his time doing now is going around the universities of our nation with showings
of “Casablanca”. And of course, there are students who have seen it 20 or 40 times, you know how
popular it is now in the university circuit and he talks about one comment made by one student just
There is a clue in one student’s observation about “Casablanca”. “Films like “Casablanca” show you
things you really long for,” the student said, “There are all those graspable values floating around
in the film. It’s full of a lost heritage that we can’t live.” What did the student mean by
graspable values? I believe and this is now Koch, who wrote the movie “Casablanca” speaking, “I
believe he was referring to those that touched the heart and make us feel good about being part of
the human race. Those to me, are the missing values in most of today’s films which are a reflection
of our society as a whole”, and then this was the sentence that I thought was so real and true: “We
conjure up enemies because we are not at peace with ourselves and we live in subconscious fear of
the oblivion individual and all mass, which Samuel Beckett celebrates in his plays.” I thought it
was worth looking at because you and I know that the writers, whether they’re the screen writers or
the writers of plays or they’re writers of novels or poems in our day, they’re the people who are
feeling our pulse and can tell where we as a society are. And he says, “We conjure up enemies
because we are not at peace with ourselves and we live in subconscious fear of the oblivion,
individual and all mass which Samuel Beckett celebrates in his plays.”
I think it’s true you know. I think that many of us here this morning even have a way at the back of
our heart somewhere, a kind of fear, a fear of the oblivion, which we feel will face us at the end
of this life. And we do often, as he says, “conjure up enemies” because we are not at peace with
ourselves. I think many of us in our day are not at peace with ourselves and we do have a fear of an
oblivion. Loved ones, I just felt God prompting me very strongly this morning to make it plain just
once more very clearly, instead of preaching the sermon that I prepared, to make it clear very
plainly to each of us why we feel like that.
If there is some fear in us or if there’s some sense in which we’re not at peace with ourselves
today, right now, deep down where we live, then I want to point out to you once more, why that is.
This dear book is very clear, you know. It says the basic reason why many of us have a kind of knot
just about there. Or sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s there, but it’s a
knot in our stomachs or a tension or a strain inside or an apprehension or an angst it’s because we
are not settled with our God. We’re not settled with our Creator. We haven’t settled accounts with
Him and we are all in the situation that this book describes.
This Bible says that there isn’t one of us here who is good enough to be God’s friend. There isn’t
one of us who is good enough in our own lives to be at home with God. There isn’t one of us here
that God could actually receive to himself at the end of this life. There isn’t one of us who is
good enough for that because all of us here, every one of us have sinned and we’ve fallen far short
of His glory. We’ve fallen short of what he meant us to be and we’re aware of that, deep down you
and I are conscious of that.
After we’ve engaged in all the arguments about situation ethics, after we’ve justified jumping into
bed with this woman or into bed with that man, after we’ve justified trying the marijuana or trying
the heroin or trying the cocaine, after we justified our little bits of dishonesty, our little bits
of lies, our little bits of stealing, after we have tried to rationalize all those things away, you
can’t get away from what you are. You have inside you a gyrocompass that is absolutely reliable. It
keeps pointing one way and it keeps pointing back to the one that made you and it keeps telling you
through your conscience that that’s not right and even if you had never read this book, even if you
had never had anybody who told you stealing was wrong or dishonesty was wrong or extramarital sex is
wrong or dirty thoughts are wrong, there is inside you a conscience that makes you uneasy with what
you are and with what you’re doing.
Loved ones, that’s the heart of that sense of not being at peace with yourself inside. That’s what
causes that feeling of strain deep down. I mean we’re running around wildly talking to all kinds of
counselors. Oh, if I could settle my career, if I could settle my profession, or if I could settle
this relationship with my girl or this relationship with my guy, or this relationship with my
parents or this relationship with my grandmother or with my pet dog or with the sunshine or with my
vacation…. It’s madness.
That’s not the problem! All those things are bluff. They’re bluff. We’ve all had trouble with our
pet dogs, we’ve all had trouble with our parents, we’ve all been offended, we’ve all had complexes
but that’s not what causes the strain. What causes the strain is we’re not right with the Creator
who made us. And this thing inside, this conscience that is even more real than your heart that
keeps you alive, this conscience keeps making you aware of that. And makes you feel you’re not at
home, either in this world, nor will you be at home with the new world that will exist after this
one. And that you have sinned and you have fallen short of God’s glory. And there’s no way in which
he can be at home with you and actually your own experience confirms that because you haven’t spoken
to God for years and you haven’t heard him speak to you for years.
Every time you hear God being talked about and other people mentioning how he talks to them, you
know it’s kind of like another nail in your own casket. It convinces you of course, “I know I am not
right with God. Of course, I have no relationship with God. I’ve never heard him talk. I don’t know
what kind of thing he wants me to do.” So it all drives you into that.
Now that itself is not actually what brings the sense of angst. That is not what brings the sense of
angst. I’ll tell you what brings the sense of angst. It’s in Romans 6:23. Because of course, we’re
pretty selfish creatures and — big deal, we may not be right with God, but well, you can’t have
everything, and so we’re concerned about it but that would not bring the sense of fear or the sense
of angst or the sense of anxiety into us. What does bring us the sense of fear is this: Romans
Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death”. That’s what brings the fear into us. Because this dear
book says sin — in fact it might be good to look at what sin is– because a lot of us have strange
James 4:17. “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” So that’s
what sin is. You see it’s not a complex thing and it’s not, “Oh sin is just drinking or sin is just
being a prostitute”, that’s stupid. Sin is knowing what is right to do and failing to do it. I mean
if you know you shouldn’t tell a lie and you tell it, that’s sin. If God actually tells you to speak
to somebody and you don’t do it, that’s sin. Sin is independence of God, it’s doing your own will in
your own power, that’s what sin is and this Bible says, the wages of sin is death and the
conscience, our conscience mirrors that within us.
That’s why guys like Howard Hughes die in misery, or Dylan Thomas drinks himself to death, the poet,
the English poet, that’s why they die in misery. It’s not because they’re very aware of this book or
what it says. But there’s something inside their conscience that says, “You know your Creator
doesn’t only disapprove of what you do, but actually he is committed to destroying you and casting
you into outer darkness and oblivion at the end of this life.” And actually there’s something
inside us that says, “Well, it makes sense.” See that’s it. We actually accuse ourselves. Because
you know fine well if you bring a guy who is just filled with Irish whiskey into this place at this
moment, you know, one of those happy old drunk Irishmen, and you bring him in at this moment and he
sings some wild song, well he just cuts the atmosphere like a knife. And he just destroys the whole
relationship and interaction that we have among ourselves.
We know fine well that the creator can’t let into his heaven or his company or his fellowship,
people who actually are not the same as him, we know that. So, when we read that in the Bible, ‘The
wages of sin is death’, we know it’s right. Of course, God has to destroy all those of us who are
not like himself. All those of us who are filled with selfishness and are liars and who are
dishonest and who are unclean in our attitudes, our thoughts and our practices, he has to destroy
us. That’s what brings the angst to us.
That’s why basically so many of us are deep down unhappy because we know we’re not like what God
intended us to be and we know that he is a just God and it’s either his heaven or it’s us and it’s
not going to be his heaven. He is the Lord God creator. He is the final moral authority of the
universe. He is the backstop behind which there is no backstop. So it’s either us or him and we know
it’s not going to be him and that’s why we feel this angst and this fear. All I’d say loved ones, is
that is legitimate. That angst and that fear is legitimate and that’s why it keeps on keeping on
inside you and that’s why you can’t get rid of it because it recognizes reality and it is actually
the human registration of God’s condemnation of you.
Do you understand that it’s not just that God doesn’t like lies? You know that? It’s not just that
God is terribly offended by the sight of fornication; it’s not just that. It’s that God knows the
fornication comes because you live independent of him, you want your enjoyment, not what he wants
you to enjoy. You lie because you don’t trust him with the consequences of what will happen if you
don’t lie to get yourself out of that difficult situation. That’s what God sees as sin. It’s the
attitude, the distrust of him. You live in this world as if you’re on your own, that’s it.
You live in this world as if you’re on your own. See, you think, “Oh well, poor little me, I am on
my own, I am lonely”, but you see that’s a great offense to God, do you see that? See, if you were a
dad and you had your children in your home and you saw your children worrying themselves to death
about whether they’d get any food at night, you know how that would offend you. And cut your heart
open because you yourself, your whole heart was set on them. You’re ready to provide them with the
So, you see, you live in this world on your own thinking, “Oh poor me, I am here on my own, well, I
am going to do my best”, but it’s not just poor you, you are thrusting God’s gifts into his face.
And you’re offending him by your own independence of him and the father knows that if he ever
allowed you to come into his eternal presence, you would destroy any heaven of trust and love that
there was there. That’s why the angst.
Loved ones, if God had to destroy you, it wouldn’t be just your physical body. Do you see that? It
wouldn’t just be your physical body. He’d have to destroy every inch of you, every thousandth and
millionth of an inch of you, right the whole way through. He’d have to destroy your body. He’d have
to destroy your emotions. He’d have to destroy your mind. He’d have to destroy your will. Then he’d
have to go in and destroy your spirit and wipe you out and exterminate you completely, either that
or commit you into a place somewhere in the universe where you can go on being what you want to be
destroying yourself forever.
You remember Jean-Paul Sartre in his play “No Exit” gives a feeling of what that kind of place would
be. You remember it’s a room with an electric light in it. And I think one is a homosexual and one
is a lesbian you remember, and the other is just a liar and a thief. And it goes on and they start
talking to one another and of course, they’re acting in character all the time. And Sartre makes
them act exactly in character so that they are ending up nagging each other, irritating each other,
criticizing each other and they do that for 24 hours. Then 36 hours then 48 hours and then, one of
them realizes suddenly that the most horrifying thing about it is not just that they’re torturing
each other to death in this hell but that that electric light bulb will never go out, that it will
never go out.
Now, the Lord God either has to destroy us completely or commit us to that kind of place where we
are at least limited and held-in in our own ability to destroy each other with our selfish lusts.
Now, that’s the angst, that’s the fear that makes us so uneasy inside and if God had to destroy you,
he would have to destroy everything, every last bit of you. Now, that’s the miracle of it, I’ll show
you it. It’s Romans 5:8.
Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
That’s it. God has destroyed you in his son and instead of you bearing the unbearable pain, because
it would have literally killed us, we could not have borne that. If we had cried out, “My God, My
God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” we didn’t have the trust or the faith in God to climb up into his
arms. So at that moment, we would have been exterminated.
But God put you in his son Jesus and he destroyed you in his son and Jesus has died for you. Jesus
has died for you. So that all that you have become over these years actually in eternity is already
destroyed, and in a strange sense, that’s also what you feel when you feel a sense of condemnation.
Because while you remain in that old self and that old selfish creature that you are wanting your
own way, you’re in the midst of something that has been condemned to death and actually you know
that. And the conscious cries out, “I am in something that has already been condemned to death on
So even that is a witness to the salvation that has taken place in the eternal cross that exists in
the universe. But Jesus himself has died for you and so your God actually is not your enemy and is
not committed to your death and he actually is willing to receive you to himself this very morning.
If you are willing to stop the things that he has shown you are evidence of your independence and
your rebellion against him. And the moment you repent of those things this morning and turn from
them, there will come into you the deepest part of your being where you feel that unrest, there will
come a great peace. And a great witness of God’s Spirit that you and he are reconciled and you will
begin to live at peace with yourself because you are at peace with your God. Because he said, “You
are justified before him by your faith in Jesus” and actually in John 1:12, he said, “To as many as
received Jesus, to them gave he the right to become the children of God.”
So this morning if you will believe that and will turn from those things in your life that are
wrong, God will witness in your conscience, in the deepest place of your being where you are most at
unrest with yourself and least at peace with yourself, God will witness the spirit of his own love
and acceptance in your heart. And you’ll come into peace. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle, but it’s
a miracle because it is already done. Jesus has died for you and whatever you are like, he loved you
so much that even before you knew him, he died for you.
Your God is able to change you completely if you believe that this morning and if you turn from the
sins in your life that you know are wrong. And just one last thing, if you won’t turn from them,
you’ll have no witness, I tell you that. That’s why “repent” is such a big word. “Repent”, Jesus
said, “And believe the Gospel.” Repent does not mean crying, does not mean just saying you’re sorry,
does not mean remorse, does not mean self-pity, repent means you stop doing it. You stop doing it.
You commit yourself to stopping doing it now and you say, “Lord God, this is the thing that has
brought your condemnation upon me all these years, this is the thing that offends your heart. This
is the thing that caused you to have to let your son die for me. I am finished with it. If it means
that much to you, then I am finished with it.” It means stopping doing the sin now.
Now, could I clarify that? If you’re fornicating — fornicating is getting into bed with somebody,
having intercourse you’re not married, that’s fornication. So it’s lust, man with man, man with
woman, woman with woman, that’s lust, that’s sin. That’s independence of God. The thing that offends
God is not the dirtiness of the thing because it is no more dirty than nice church people talking
about each other, criticizing each other, but it’s independence of God. It’s refusing the joy that
he has given you and trying to get a counterfeit joy that displeases him. It’s misusing what he has
given you. You stop fornicating.
Adultery is just the married version of that. It’s a married man getting into bed with other man’s
wife, or it’s a married woman getting into bed with somebody else’s wife, or getting into bed with
somebody else and she is married. You stop the adultery. But you know, let’s go to the nicey-nice
sins. That’s the unclean thoughts. It’s the pornography that we look at from time to time. It’s the
unclean lusting that we have allowed ourselves to get on with because we think it’s legitimate to do
it and that’s the only justifiable way to get rid of these terrible desires we have.
It’s stopping those things, committing ourselves saying, “Lord God, I love you and I want peace with
you more than I want these play things”, so it’s stopping those sins loved ones. If you’ll stop
those and commit yourselves to stopping them this morning, God will witness that his Son has died
for you and he’ll witness peace with you in his heart and he will give you his spirit that will
enable you to live the way you’re committed to living. That’s what the Gospel is.
I would say to you if you have never confessed your sins and repented and given your life to God and
received Jesus as your savior, if you’ve never done it, then you should do it this morning. You
should just come to the altar during the singing of the last hymn and do it, but you should just
take that step and do what is needed to get to that place where, I mean I think he is right. “We
conjure up enemies because we are not at peace with ourselves and we live in subconscious fear of
oblivion.” End that this morning. End that this morning.
Faith is action. And the action that is right here is an honest confession and repentance of your
sins and a plain receiving of Jesus as your Savior. And that thanking him that he has died for you
and then asking your God to begin to guide your life, begins to give you his peace. I’d encourage
you to do it. The hymn is an old one and yet I think it’s good. I think it expresses it. So we’ll
sing it just through and loved ones we’ll just sing it once through so we won’t spend time you know
on a lengthy altar call. But I just encourage you to come up and if you come then you can remain
praying a little after the benediction. And otherwise then I’ll just pronounce the benediction. And
it’s #294. And if you have never given your life to God in this way, if you have never received
Jesus as your savior, if you have never dealt with this lack of peace in your heart, then I’d ask
you, well, I tell you it’s the sensible thing. It’s what you need to do.
It’s #294 ‘Just as I am without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me that you died for me
and that thou bids me come to thee O lamb of God, I come.”