Tuesday January 29 2019

PULSE 29/1/19

God gives us the wonderful gift of emotions to colour life. He is a feeling God, and those made in His image are not robots. But while feelings are wonderful servants, they are terrible gods. When they flow — ungoverned by God’s Spirit and God’s Reality — they make us threats both to others and to ourselves.

We live in an emoji world where self-expression and “being the true you” hold highest priority — no one can tell us how to feel. We quickly, even reflexively, lend our smiley, sad, crying, surprised, or mad faces via text or comment. In all, the assumption stands: you are your emotions — for better or worse. To repress them is to repress yourself. But such has not always been the case.

As C.S. Lewis articulates in The Abolition of Man, men such as Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine have reasoned that our emotional responses, rather than being fixed dispositions, could (and must) be trained. “The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.”

Does God expect us to train our feelings? It appears that he does. He commands them. God commands obedience “from the heart” (Romans 6:17) — the vessel we often judge as ungovernable. He, unlike the mother, tells us what to fear and what not to fear (Luke 12:4–5); what we must and must not delight in (Philippians 4:4); what we must abhor (Romans 12:9); that we must never be anxious (Philippians 4:6); and how we can and cannot be angry (Ephesians 4:26).

When we only deal with our actions, we are left with moralism, not Christianity. Outward conformity in behaviour alone is meaningless when inside we are full of emotional uncleanness (Matthew 23:27). God searches hearts (Romans 8:27). This is great news: we are not left to be enslaved to our emotions.

How does He teach us to love, hate, and feel in line with godliness? He gives us at least four helps.

  1. HIS SON – the good news for all who struggle with inordinate passions towards wrong is the person and work of Jesus Christ, the perfect-feeler, who lived the emotional life we couldn’t and suffered the emotion-crushing wrath on our behalf, all in order to make us new down to the core of our emotions.
  2. HIS SPIRITFurthermore, to train us, He gives himself (Romans 8:9). God has given us his own emotion-giving-and-governing Spirit to produce affectional fruit pleasing to God.
  3. HIS PEOPLE – God does not surround us with self-help books, daytime talk shows, or yoga classmates to balance our emotional states. He surrounds us with his people. Sanctification, never forget, is a community project. Build each other up, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
  4. HIS WORD – Finally, God reveals capital “R” Reality through his word to be believed by faith (Hebrews 11:1). The peace of Christ rules in our hearts when His word dwells richly in us (Colossians 3:15–16). 

In a world given to untethered emotions and cold apathy, a world impassioned by trivial things and unfeeling about eternity, we have a stunning opportunity: to let our reasonableness be known. We can live for God’s glory in God’s world as citizens of the next, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, living, laughing, and crying in such a way as to reflect the highest Reality: God is. He is at hand, and He keeps those in perfect peace whose minds are stayed not on their feelings, but on Him (Isaiah 26:3).

~ Excerpts from an article by Greg Morse.