Emotions Can Silence God’s Word
[In a previous post I offered a passionate plea for us to restore our devotion to God’s word. In subsequent articles I’ve tried understand why our affection for God’s word grows cold. I believe it has something to do with the problem of arrogance (“I want people to know me!”), or the problem of inferiority (“I want people to like me.”), or the powerful pull of possessions and the pleasures they provide. In this post I observe that when our emotions reign on the throne of our hearts God’s word will become a homeless beggar in our Kingdom.]
Emotions are wonderful things. They are the music that chases away the dullness of life. Perhaps this is why our culture is so controlled by emotions. Many of us stagger through our day in search of the next emotional high like an addict in search of his next fix. How we feel has become the most important consideration of our culture. “Listen to your heart. Follow your feelings” is the anthem to which many dance.
This obsession with feelings also affects the way we approach our faith in God. In every generation there are people who exalt emotional, religious experience over a careful understanding of Scripture. For them it is more important to feel a thing, than to know a thing; to be moved emotionally than informed mentally. In fact, many believe that an emotional experience is the evidence, if not the very essence, of having a genuine faith.
This preference for emotion is often seen in our worship. Having a powerful worship experience becomes the goal of a church’s assembly. We organize our assemblies to accentuate the emotional elements and politely relegate the exposition of Scripture to the extremity. As one man put it, “I go for worship, but I don’t always stay for preaching.” Songs that produce emotion are preferred over those which exercise the mind (consider the purpose of song worship: Col. 3:16-17). The elements of worship are then evaluated on the basis of how they make us feel.
The terrible irony is, by doing this we think we have a more genuine connection with God, when in reality we are simply bowing more deeply to our own desires. Yet, what emphasis would our worship have if it was driven by the examples and commands we find in the New Testament? What expressions of faith do we find emphasized? This produces a very different set of priorities, and yet, there was a vibrant vitality in the early church. [Before you get too defensive read the “Addition Resources” section below.]
Others come to the assembly of the church out of a deep desire for meaningful relationships, and, yes, God has created the church to function with the intimacy of a body. Yet, this fellowship is not rooted in our emotional desires, but in our common faith (Eph. 4:4-6; 2 Peter 1:1). The relationships God calls us to in the church are not always emotionally exciting. It’s the young and old, the singles and the married, and the charming and the grumpy serving one another in love out of devotion to Christ and not our feelings.
There are two Biblical truths that will help keep the emotions and mind in proper balance.
The Mind Should Control Our Emotions
Contrary to popular culture the Bible places a priority on the mind over the emotions, because when the emotions are pulling the cart we will go off track. This is the mistake some Jews made in the first century. Paul said, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:1–2). They were blind to the truth because emotions were driving the cart!
Our emotions are easily twisted by sin and corrupted by worldliness if they are not first submitted to the word of God. Take for example the young lady who left the Lord’s people to worship with a man-made church and she says, “It just feels right.” You lovingly reason with her from the Bible that they don’t teach the gospel message of salvation; they worship in ways God has not taught; they do things God has not authorized. Yet, God’s word falls on deaf ears because emotions are driving the cart.
Or, you have a married man who says he’s fallen in love with another woman, and he says, “I can’t help myself. I love her! I must leave my wife, abandon my children, and marry this other woman.” What do you tell that man? You say, “God calls that adultery. You are not a helpless victim of your emotions. Put that woman out of your mind and do right.”
Our mind, informed by God’s truth, is to be the censor of our emotions. Our emotions will always lead us to ruin unless they are submitted to and controlled by the mind which is set on God’s word.
Here is the exciting thing, the mind not only controls the emotions it also stimulates them!
Let me give you an example. One Sunday morning two disciples, completely unaware of Jesus’ resurrection, walked the seven mile road to Emmaus. Jesus joined them on their walk and explained to them from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer before entering into His glory, and he began at Moses and all the Prophets and explained to them how the Scriptures talked about Him (Luke 24:13-27).
Later when the two disciples reflected on that Bible study they said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Their hearts burned! They were emotionally moved. But what kindled the burning of their hearts? It was Jesus teaching the Scripture.
Noting sets the heart on fire like fresh understandings of truth. It is when the mind is enlightened that the heart begins to burn.
Truthfully, I believe we need more emotion to our faith. Many of us have become spiritual tadpoles. A tadpole is the aquatic larva of a frog. It’s a creature with a huge head and nothing much else. Likewise, our heads bulge with Biblical knowledge and we have little place for our emotions. We exist in the frigid waters of accuracy without carrying the torch of love. But, as we learn to express our emotions let’s remember they only work properly when they are submitted to a deep love for God’s truth. Then they really shine, not to our pleasure, but to God’s glory!
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
A Song: We Will Glorify
(The church in Plano, TX worshiping the Lord!)
A Sermon: The Emotional Life Of Jesus
The Emotional Life Of Jesus
Jesus is the model, not only for the truths which fill our minds, but for the passions that ignite our hearts.
Additional Thoughts About Emotions
Two great hopes for the exercise of our God given emotions!
May There Be An “Oh-ness” To Your Worship!
Jesus cleared the money changers out the temple grounds with whip and threat, because they were turning God’s house of prayer into a den for thieves. When the disciples saw this emotional outburst they said, “Zeal for God’s house of worship has eaten Him up” (John 2:17, edited). The disciples could see that Jesus had a passion for people being able to worship God honestly, truthfully, from the heart.
Passionate worship is missing from the lives of too many believers! Some of us are so caught up in the world that spiritual truths find no joyful resonance within us. Others are so careful to identify truth they fail to consider what it means. I believe there ought to be an “oh-ness” to our worship! Go read the Psalms, and you’ll find in excess of over 400 times the passionate groan of “Oh!” “Oh, fear the Lord; Oh love the Lord; Oh magnify the Lord. Oh worship the Lord.” Worship poured out of the totality of his being, mind, body, spirit, to such a degree it could only be intensified by the passionate groan of “Oh.”
Is there an “oh-ness” to your worship, or do you politely keep it on the surface and carefully reserve your emotions for movies and games? If there is not an “oh-ness” to our worship we are missing one of the unique joys of knowing God.
May There Be A “Must-ness” To Your Life!
When you consider the sufferings of Jesus around the cross, you want to cry out, “Why?” It wasn’t because He was guilty (He was sinless). It wasn’t because He was powerless (He had twelve legions of angels at His command). It was because He had a passion that was more important than His own comfort! He had an intense passion to obey His Father.
You hear it in the garden when He prayed, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42). When you see the tears and sweat in the Garden and the blood on the cross, don’t just think about the pain, see His passion. Jesus was so passionate about obeying His Father He willingly sacrificed everything else to do it!
Oh, that we would capture such a passion for obeying our Heavenly Father. Where we gladly leave behind our pleasures, our comforts, our will, and seek first God’s rule over our lives; to live solely for His glory.
This emotion is captured by a single word that appears often in the gospels, “must.” Jesus said, “I must preach the gospel; I must do the works of Him who sent Me; I must suffer; I must go; I must bring…” The Father’s will became what He must do! There was a must-ness to Jesus’ life. Unfortunately, there is a mustiness to many of our spiritual lives. We need to develop the passion to make God’s will our must! Not our maybe! Not our sometime! Not our someday! But our must!