Are you a sensuous Christian?
In order to speak accurately about what is true or false, right or wrong, one needs objective standards by which to measure such things. Without absolute standards by which we can judge, cultures will quickly fall apart. For example we have things such as the rule of law which informs us that we are all equally subject to the law.
We have various types of measurements which help us in everything from baking to construction to travel. We have tuning forks which help us get all our musical instruments in sync. We have universal weights and the like. So much of our life involves measuring up to certain standards.
Life would be chaotic without such external standards of measurement and comparison. At a very simple level, we have agreed upon standards for motorists. A red light informs us to stop while a green light indicates that we may go. At a deeper level, we have laws against murder, so that the universal good of the sanctity of life might be maintained.
But increasingly in the West we are abandoning all notions of objective truth and objective morality. Sure, we still use measuring cups as we seek to bake a cake, and we still use maps or a GPS to tell us how many miles or kilometres we have remaining on our journey.
But when it comes to making choices about what is right and wrong, or even what is true or false, we are more and more using our own personal subjective opinions and tastes as our guide. Instead of relying on the truths of biology, we are telling children if they feel that they are a different sex, they should go for it.
Instead of respecting the property rights of others, we convince ourselves that we can just take stuff that belongs to them. We rationalise our behaviours, because it seems like the right thing to do. How many spouses will run off with another partner because it ‘felt so right’? As we continue to abandon standards of what is true and what is right, we end up doing whatever seems good at the time – no matter how bad such choices may actually be.
The value of universally acknowledged standards is still part of any civilised society. Consider just one example of this. When I first came to Australia, I learned about a major problem this nation had when it came to the size of different railroad tracks. Without uniformity in this, all sorts of trouble arose. As one piece on this says:
Rail gauges in Australia display significant variations, which has presented an extremely difficult problem for rail transport on the Australian continent for over 150 years. As of 2014, there are 11,801 kilometres (7,333 mi) of narrow-gauge railways, 17,381 kilometres (10,800 mi) of standard gauge railways and 3,221 kilometres (2,001 mi) of broad gauge railways. In the 19th century, each of the colonies of Australia adopted their own gauges. However, with Federation in 1901 and the removal of trade barriers, the short sightedness of three gauges became apparent. It would be 94 years before all mainland state capitals were joined by one standard gauge.
Imagine if today every time someone built some new tracks they simply ran with whatever size they felt like using. It would be every man for himself and the end of national train services. But that is where we are now at with so many moral and cultural choices.
It is every man for himself. People decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They tend to let their emotions solely guide them. And trouble always results. While we might expect non-Christians to operate this way, we sadly find plenty of Christians doing exactly the same thing.
I personally know of a number of people who once claimed to be good Christians who decided to ditch their spouse and take up with a new partner – all because it felt so good. Instead of committing themselves to what was right – in this case, to their God and to their wedding vows – they simply ran with what looked good and felt good to them.
Too many trusted their ‘heart’ on such things. ‘Oh, my heart would not lie to me.’ ‘I feel good about this.’ ‘My conscience is clear on this.’ Yeah right. Never mind that Scripture tells us quite clearly that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Never mind that our conscience can become seared, as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). Never mind that believers were never meant to run their lives solely on their fleeting feelings and erratic emotions. But that is just how far too many Christians today operate. The absolutes of Scripture are not their guide, but their own wants and desires – even their own lusts.
Just today I was reading of another person who should have known better. The rather sad story of Samson as found in the book of Judges tells us how he too went with what his eyes saw and what his lusts desired. Consider the episode found in Jud. 14 where he craves a Philistine woman to be his wife. Twice we read that he ran with what was ‘right in his eyes’ (verses 3 and 7).
Of course that also fits in with one of the big themes in this book. In Judges 17:6 and 21:25 we read these words: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We also find this in abbreviated form in 18:1 and 19:1. Like Samson, the folks simply went with what looked good, instead of what was right.
Let me share a bit of commentary on this theme. Barry Webb says the following:
Already in this opening scene of chapter 17 we are beginning to see the kind of situation that develops when there is no center to hold a society together and no generally accepted standard to which its members adhere. In that situation the only possible kind of religion is idolatry—religion that is self-made and self-serving and therefore essentially the worship of oneself. . . . Judges 17 is full of religious words, objects, activities, and persons, but none of it has been governed by respect for God’s Law or a desire to honor him as an end in itself. Rather this has all been about people using religion to serve their own interests…”
We see this happening all the time today. Christians of all people should understand that we are not to live our lives on the basis of what looks good, or on how we feel. It is the absolute and unchanging God that is our point of reference, and his inerrant Word that should guide us in all things.
As Proverbs 21:2 reminds us: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” And we find similar thoughts expressed in Isaiah 5:21: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”
Our way of doing things and seeing things always seems right – until we actually measure things by God and his righteous and unchanging standards. Then we quickly learn how far off we have been. But too many believers today live as if they and they alone are the arbiter of truth and error, of right and wrong.
They decide what is right and then they run with it – regardless if it actually lines up with the will of God as revealed in Scripture. This is a very dangerous place to be in. Indeed, it can be a very good indication that the person living like this is not in fact a Christian at all.
The real Christian does things God’s way. He says no to self and yes to God. He does not live his life based on the whim of the moment, or the lusts of the flesh, or on what happens to look good. His every action and choice is done in alignment with the objective standards of God.
Let me finish with some wise words by R. C. Sproul from his helpful book, Knowing Scripture. In this passage he speaks about “sensuous Christians” and how far they are from actual Christian discipleship:
Many of us have become sensuous Christians, living by our feelings rather than through our understanding of the Word of God. Sensuous Christians cannot be moved to service, prayer or study unless they “feel like it.” Their Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. When they experience spiritual euphoria, they are a whirlwind of godly activity; when they are depressed, they are a spiritual incompetent. They constantly seek new and fresh spiritual experiences, and use them to determine the Word of God. Their “inner feelings” become the ultimate test of truth.
Sensuous Christians don’t need to study the Word of God because they already know the will of God by their feelings. They don’t want to know God; they want to experience him. Sensuous Christians equate “childlike faith” with ignorance. They think that when the Bible calls us to childlike faith, it means a faith without content, a faith without understanding. They don’t know the Bible says, “In evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). They don’t realize that Paul tells us again and again, “My beloved brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (see, for example, Rom 11:25)
Sensuous Christians go their merry way until they encounter the pain of life that is not so merry – and they fold. They usually end up embracing a kind of “relational theology” (a curse on modern Christianity) where personal relationships and experience take precedence over the Word of God. If the Scripture calls us to action that may jeopardize a personal relationship, then the Scripture must be compromised. The highest law of sensuous Christians is that bad feelings must be avoided at all cost.