WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
by 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 recently.
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."
DOES YOUR CONSCIENCE BOTHER YOU?
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.
WHAT IS SIN?
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 6:23.
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 ideas.
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.
LIVING INDEPENDENT OF GOD
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 food.
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.
JESUS HIMSELF DIED FOR YOU
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 conscience cries out, "I am in something that has already been condemned to death on Calvary."
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. Thank him that he has died for you and then ask God to begin to guide your life and begin to give you his peace. I'd encourage you to do it. 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.