Friday, May 18, 2007

Feelings, nothing more than feelings.

We describe so many things as “feelings” when they have nothing to do with how we feel. Take, for instance, love, joy and peace. Love (the Greek word in the Bible is “agape”) describes unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Many people just wait and wait to “feel” that “loving feeling” when it is their duty to love unconditionally. You don’t “fall” in (agape) love, you do it. You don’t wait until you feel it, you do it whether you feel it or not. Joy is not just a “feeling” either. You can have joy in the good times and in the bad. It is not a feeling you have but an attitude you keep. As someone once said, “Joy is not in things it is in us.” If joy was just a feeling that we experienced we could never be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10). True joy is the only kind of happiness that you give without having. Peace is also something we mistakenly think of as a feeling. Biblical peace is not a peaceful “feeling”, it is a peaceful standing. Apart from the grace of God we are at war with God. As Romans 5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Jesus is our peace in the sense that He reconciles us to the Father. Biblical peace is not like the hippy kind of peace that you just feel inside. It is an external declaration not an internal emotion.

Another mistake many make is feeling “spiritual” when they are actually acting carnal. Many people think that being spiritual is nothing more than just a good, subjective, “spiritual” feeling. We would rather FEEL spiritual than BE spiritual. We must realize that Jesus came “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4) Walking in the spirit, according to Paul, has nothing to do with feeling spiritual and everything to do with the righteous requirement of the law being fulfilled in us. Walking in the spirit (being spiritual) is not freedom from the law but obedience to it. Feeling spiritual does not mean being free from self-control. Many have a false view that being “in the spirit” means being free from control. The Spirit is blamed for many “out-of-control” experiences. The fruit of the spirit IS “self-control” (Gal 5:23).

We must do the right thing in spite of how we feel. Many say, “I don’t FEEL like it’s the right thing to do” instead of saying “I do the right thing in spite of how I feel.” In our humanistic and sensual society, feelings have become the basis for morality. When asked to make a moral judgment we say things like, “I feel like __________” or “here’s how I feel…” “But why should I have to do _________ when I don’t feel like it?” That is the most popular response to excuse oneself from fulfilling obligations to others. Feelings have been elevated, somehow, to positions of absolute truth and power. But we must do the right thing in spite of how we feel. We cannot expect to only do right when we feel right. For instance, we must resist temptation. That means we must resist a feeling. Temptations wouldn’t be tempting if they didn’t feel good. All worldly pleasures feel pleasurable at least temporarily. Following a so-called “good”, yet forbidden, feeling won’t feel good forever. That is why Moses, by faith, chose to be “mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Heb 11:25)

Many times the expectation of “hurt feelings” prevents us from either speaking the truth, in love, or hearing the truth. How many times do we not say what needs to be said because we don’t want to FEEL embarrassed or we don’t want to hurt someone’s FEELINGS? The problem with many churches today is that the leaders care more about making everyone feel welcome than they do about making them hear the truth. Sometimes truth hurts, but in the long run it will set you free. Arguments and fights are usually caused by following your feelings instead of your conscience. As James says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1) If we spent more time fighting off our feelings we would spend less time fighting each other. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good but it always IS good. Don’t wait for the right feeling before you obey. Many times feelings come after obedience. If a husband doesn’t feel loving towards his wife all he has to do is love her anyways and then the feelings will follow. The more loving you are the more love you will feel. In spite of how you feel, do the right thing.

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