Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, December 03, 2007

Woe, Woe, Woe Feelings

Here's another contribution by my friend Hayden.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Eph. 4:14-16

by Hayden Norris

There was a song that I remember growing up by an old group called Gemini titled Feelings. The lyrics started out like this:

Feelings, nothing more than feelings,
trying to forget my feelings of love.
Teardrops rolling down on my face,
trying to forget my feelings of love.
Feelings, for all my life I'll feel it.

I wish I've never met you, girl; you'll never come again.

The reason that I bring up this song is that many of the people that we know live largely according to feelings. We as a culture are even encouraged to do this when people tell us to just “follow our hearts”. When it comes to decision making are we to let our feelings into the ‘driver’s seat’? CJ Mahaney put it this way,

“In our arrogance, we invest our feelings with final authority…Have you ever considered how thoroughly most of us live by our feelings today-how feelings-focused we are? In a typical day, how often do you make decisions and evaluate reality based primarily on your emotions at the moment?”[1]

Ask yourself, “How often do I live by my feelings?” Here is a common example of “living by feelings”:

You have a major decision that will be life altering to make (changing your job, church, or home, etc.) What do you do? You usually pray about it and wait for a “peace” to come over the decision that you make. This is investing your feelings with final authority.

You may protest and say, “Didn’t Jesus promise to give me peace?” Yes He did, but what does that type of peace look like? Peace is Christ as He sweats drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane saying, “Father if there is another way but the cross, let’s do it.” Peace is Christ being nailed to the cross saying, “Father forgive them” and “My God, my God why have You forsaken me?” That Garden of Gethsemane peace looks much different than the garden variety

“I have peace, peace, peace, peace down in my soul, where? Down in my soul.”.

Lots of people have peace about the decisions that they make and many of them are not Christians. The man who decides to leave his wife can say, “This is the right thing to do, I have peace about my decision.” The woman who is about to take her life in a suicide attempt can say, “This is the right thing to do, I have peace about my decision.” What are we to say to them? Are they wrong? Indeed they are, because Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “our hearts are desperately wicked: who can know it?” This means that you cannot fully trust your feelings of peace nor can you look at them as a sign of God’s blessing.

Now, I am not saying that having peace about a major decision invalidates your decision. What I am saying is that having peace about a decision should not be given ultimate authority in your decision making process. Do you want to make a decision that pleases God? Search the Scriptures and let it inform your emotions. That may produce peace or it may not. You may be called to make a difficult and turbulent decision, but you will be able to face it with the power of the real peace that Jesus promised you!

This is exactly what Ephesians 4:14-16 encourages you to do. Paul tells you that you must let Scripture rule over your emotions. Paul, being the great teacher that he is, gives you the terrible results of emotion-driven lives in verse 14 and the contrasting results of Scripture-driven lives in verses 15-16.

In verse 14 he begins by illustrating the tragedy of living by your emotions. He warns that you will be “tossed around” and “carried away by every wind of doctrine”. Unfortunately this is where many spend their time. Spiritual maturity ought to be the goal of every believer but too often ease in life and good feelings are. Don’t believe me? Walk into most popular Christian Bookstores and you will be greeted by a veritable cornucopia of books on how to “become a better you” or “have a great life now”. These are all aimed at your emotions, and do very little to help you grow in dealing with the many trials and difficulties in life. They actually contribute to your discontented heart. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones had it right when he said,

“Have you ever realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”[2]

Thankfully, Paul does not leave you hopeless and helpless. In verses 15 and 16 he gives you two benefits of letting the Scriptures rule over your emotions.

The first one is found in verse 15 and it is that you will grow up. This gets to the root of the problem at hand. When you live by your emotions you act like a baby that kicks and cries when he does not get his way. You basically end up throwing tantrums when you ‘feel’ you have been ‘wronged’ by God. Scripture warns of the danger of staying immature in your faith repeatedly (1 Peter 2:2; Heb. 5:13-6:1; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). You are to ‘grow in all aspects’ of your life more and more into the ‘image of Jesus Christ”. Much like a baby grows into his head, so are you to grow into your head, Jesus Christ.

The second benefit is a result of the first, and it is that your local church and the universal church will grow as you do. Have you ever thought of that before? If you are not growing more and more into the image of Jesus Christ you have become a ‘spiritual freeloader’ in your church, and your neglect is actually hurting the rest of the body of Christ (See 1 Cor. 12:1-31). Without individual growth among the members of the local body of believers, the whole body will not grow. Imagine if your legs grew and your feet stayed the same size as when you were an infant! How would you be able to walk? The same thing happens when a believer does not grow. The church cannot grow if its individual members do not. This kind of puts a new spin on why you should spend time in prayer and in the Word, doesn’t it?

When you live by feelings alone you are demonstrating that you are spiritually immature and that not only hurts you individually, but it is detrimental to the body collectively. I believe that this is one of the most serious problems in the modern day church. In order to grow, you must subject yourself to healthy doses of the Word, and Sunday mornings is not enough. It must be a daily endeavor. You are locked in a battle and the adversary never rests. This battle begins at the moment you wake up and is with you every place you go. Why? Because the battle is ultimately between you and your feelings. From the moment that you awake until the time you go to sleep you are at war with your feelings.

I don’t want you to get the impression that I am advocating some sort of emotionless existence like some android or robot. (Think Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.) NO WAY! Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated an amazing range of emotions (anger, joy, sadness, to name a few), but the Lord’s emotions were always perfect and submitted to the Father’s perfect will. That is the example that we must follow if we are to grow. Feelings should be the caboose on the train and not the engine! CJ Mahaney rightly points out,

“Emotions are a wonderful gift from God, and our relationship with God should bring strong godly affections to our lives. BUT our emotions shouldn’t be vested with final authority. This should be reserved for God’s Word alone.”[3]

May God help you to live by His Word and not solely on your feelings as you grow into the image of His Son Jesus Christ!

[1] CJ Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life (Multnomah, 2006).

[2] As quoted in CJ Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life (Multnomah, 2006).

[3] CJ Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life (Multnomah, 2006).

Hayden Norris is an associate pastor at Mt. Morris Community Church in Mt. Morris, Michigan. His email is, hayden@mmccchurch.org

Labels: ,


Blogger Ebeth said...

Excellent and exact.

1:43 PM, December 03, 2007  
Blogger Hayden said...

Thanks. This study really helped me when I preached it to our people. I noticed how many times I make decisions on my feelings alone.

1:14 PM, December 04, 2007  
Blogger Ken Abbott said...

Gemini? I've always associated the song with its writer and original performer, Morris Albert. It was the quintessential sappy 70's song, the one that defined what was so wrong about that decade's pop music.

11:31 AM, December 07, 2007  
Blogger Hayden said...

The only reason that I came up with Gemini is that I googled it. (You know google cannot be wrong :) I originally thought it was the Carpenters.

10:34 AM, December 08, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home