I hate to say it, but the church is full of Christians who live by their emotions. Of course much of the Western world is comprised of such folks, but the sad thing is to see the church inundated with them as well. This is not how the Christian life is meant to be lived.
Simply put, we are to live by faith, not by feelings. And faith is a trust in and reliance upon God and what he has revealed to us in his word. We are to make right choices based on careful thought and reflection on revealed truth. We are not to simply emote our way through the Christian life.
But I find this Christian emotionalism all the time – evidences of it are everywhere. Simply noticing what is found in the social media is quite instructive here. Instead of having Christians actually carefully reflect and assess matters, they more often than not simply emote about them.
Emotive knee-jerk reactions seem to characterise so much of what passes for Christian social commentary. Pick any hot potato issue of the day and far too many believers will not think carefully about them, but simply emote over them. Regardless of what Scripture might say, or the facts and evidence, they will simply respond by how they feel about it.
Another clear indication of how their whole life is based on feelings is this: some of these believers will be my good buddy one day, but then seem to hate me the next. They are just all over the place. Indeed, one minute they are my friend on social media sites, and the next minute they have unfriended me.
But it does not end there: after a few months they are asking me to be their friend again. So although puzzled, I will do so. And soon enough I find they have unfriended me again. On and on it goes. I expect such roller-coaster emotionalism from adolescents and unbelievers, but not from Christians who should be showing a bit of maturity and consistency.
Respectfully, as long as such folks are primarily ruled by their emotions, they will not be doing a whole lot of good for the Kingdom. God wants mature believers who run on faith, not immature followers who cannot go beyond how they happen to feel on a given day.
Now are human beings emotional beings? Yes they are. But they are also volitional and intellectual beings. And when it comes to the Christian life, willing and thinking always should lead the way, with feeling meant to follow the other two.
We do not discount or ignore emotions, but we keep them under control and in check. We are to live by the indwelling Holy Spirit and by the teachings of Scripture. We are not to be living by how we happen to feel at a particular moment.
We will never be a solid, mature believer if we just run on our feelings. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and by making wilful and deliberate choices to do that which is right. That is the normal Christian life of discipleship.
The many hundreds of imperatives or commands found in the New Testament have nothing to do with one’s feelings. They are commands to be obeyed – we choose to agree with God and do as he orders. They have nothing to do with how we feel about them.
Sure, we will all have times when we are down in the dumps and feeling quite lacklustre about our faith. But we are not to live there. We are not to dwell in that place. We must exercise our faith muscles and make godly decisions, regardless of the mood we are in.
And we actually do this every day of the week. If you have a job, you get up and go to work each morning, no matter how much you may feel like staying in bed. It is the right thing to do and you do it. A mother may not feel like doing another load of laundry, or making yet another meal, but she does it anyway.
I often do not feel like making trips here, there and everywhere to speak and to teach. I much prefer to just stay at home and read a book. But I know these are the right things to do, so I say adios to how I may feel, and I choose the right path.
Maybe I can snap a lot of believers out of their life of emoting by simply suggesting some clear and forceful verses that come into play here. We are often told in the Bible that we must not walk in the flesh but in the Spirit. For example, Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Can I suggest that those believers who are so stuck in walking by feelings are really just walking in the flesh? They are not being spiritual but fleshly. By allowing feelings the right to trump everything else, they prove that they are carnal, of the flesh, and not Spirit-controlled.
If you find yourself relating to what is being said here, the response is not to despair or want to give the Christian life all away. The right response is to simply repent, confess this sin to God, and ask him to change you. It can be done. But we must first recognise and admit that living by emotions is just not pleasing to God.
Perhaps if I may, I can even offer a quick personal illustration here. In the middle of writing this article, my wife asked if I wanted to join her for some shopping. Um, shopping is never high up on my wish list. I did not really feel like it at all. It was cold and wet outside, and I wanted to finish this piece!
But I went because I knew it was the right thing to do. Indeed, just last night as I was praying I realised that I need to do more stuff with my wife, even little and seemingly inconsequential things. I may not really like going shopping, etc., but it means a lot to her just to have the company and relationship.
So I thought it through for a moment, ignored my feelings, and made a choice. She was happy, and I was happy knowing that doing the right thing must take priority over how I feel about something. And that is probably how 99 per cent of all Christian decisions should be made.
We think and reflect on the options and make a choice based on what is the right thing to do. Feelings mean little here. Using the mind and the will for the glory of God is paramount. Feelings will tend to follow where the mind and will lead them.
And there is a place for feeling. But our emotions should not be running our thoughts and decisions. I realise that all this is really just basic Christianity 101. But I find many people still need to get these basics right. Let me finish with the words of some great saints on this:
“Faith has nothing to do with feelings or with impressions, with improbabilities or with outward experiences. If we desire to couple such things with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God, because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace.” George Mueller
“Sight is not faith, and hearing is not faith, neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith; and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings, if we would honour God by our faith.” Hannah Whitall Smith
“Obedience means marching right on whether we feel like it or not. Many times we go against our feelings. Faith is one thing, feeling is another.” D.L. Moody
“Faith is not an instinct. It certainly is not a feeling – feelings don’t help much when you’re in the lions’ den or hanging on a wooden Cross. Faith is not inferred from the happy way things work. It is an act of will, a choice, based on the unbreakable Word of a God who cannot lie, and who showed us what love and obedience and sacrifice mean, in the person of Jesus Christ.” Elisabeth Elliot
“It is Christ who is to be exalted, not our feelings. We will know Him by obedience, not by emotions. Our love will be shown by obedience, not by how good we feel about God at a given moment. And love means following the commands of God. ‘Do you love Me?’ Jesus asked Peter. ‘Feed My lambs.’ He was not asking, ‘How do you feel about Me?’ for love is not a feeling. He was asking for action.” Elisabeth Elliot
“Consecration is not the act of our feelings but of our will.” F.B. Meyer