Putting Our Feelings In Their Proper Place Pt. 4

8 Dec

In the previous posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), C.J Mahaney has been helping us identify and expose the idolatry in all of us that prizes subjective feelings and emotions and experiences over the objective truth that is found in the Word of God.  But beginning today, and for the posts to come, we’re going to see how he suggests we practically apply this truth to our relationship with God.

Now, before I post the excerpt, let me clarify that I (along with C.J. Mahaney) am not downplaying the importance of emotions and feelings and experience in our relationship with God.  Far from it.  Far from it – because that, in itself, would also be God-belittling.  God does not desire that we have a cold and dead relationship with Him.  All C.J. Mahaney is advocating is that those emotions and feelings and experiences be grounded in a strong foundation based on the truth found in the Word of God.

Our First Response

Who are these “humble” persons (see Part 3to whom God promises to extend grace?

The humble are those whose first response to objective truth from God’s Word is not to ask, “How do I feel?” but to say, “I’m not going to let my faith be determined and directed by the subjective and the experiential.  Instead I confess openly before God that I will believe the objective truth of His Word, regardless of how I feel.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once issues this warning: “Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch upon your feelings.  Above all, avoid the terrible error of making them central.”  Anyone making this mistake, he adds, is “doomed to be unhappy,” because of the failure to follow “the order that God himself has ordained.”

And what is that order?  Lloyd-Jones reminds us that “what we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus… and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow.”  When we focus first on truth, lo and behold, feelings follow!  And they’ll be reliable feelings, because they’re anchored in truth.

That’s the divine order.

Lloyd-Jones then proceeds to this profound application: “I must never ask myself in the first instance: What do I feel about this?  The first question is, “Do I believe it?”

He’s exactly right.  It doesn’t mean we never evaluate how we feel; that’s just not where we’re to start when we encounter truth.  The starting place is choosing to believe the truth regardless of how we feel.  Otherwise, we end up actually short-changing ourselves emotionally and experientially, since deep and profound feelings are the inevitable effect of Scripture rightly understood and believed.

As you read and meditate and think seriously about what’s in your Bible, and believe and accept it, then ultimately you will indeed experience it, and you’ll feel the effect of it. There’s heart-transforming truth in the Scriptures, but you won’t encounter it by first trying to feel it.

Knowing and wholeheartedly believing the truth will always bring you, in time, to a trustworthy experience of the truth.  But if you trust your feelings first and foremost, if you invest your feelings with final authority – they’ll deposit you on the emotional roller coaster which so often characterizes our lives.

Amen.  More to come soon.


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