Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Out of our Control - Feelings

If you didn't catch the first part of this blog, go here.

Am I accountable for my feelings?

Yesterday we studied the responsibility we have for our thoughts - we saw that God demands we discipline our thoughts. Today we go into much more sensitive territory: Do we have enough control over our emotions that we are also responsible for them? Or are emotions the last sinful refuge of the saints, the last boundary of freedom before thoughts must tighten ranks? Most importantly, if we are expected to control our emotions, how can we possibly do such a thing?

Let us turn to the work of Solomon, the wisest man on Earth (2 Kings 4:31), and see what he has to say on the matter:
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

(Pro 16:32)

Alas! We are commanded to rule even over our very emotions and spirit! But there is something else peculiar here. We are not told that it is better to rule your self than be mighty and conquer a city. We are told that he who manages it is better. Why? Because it is very difficult. In fact, in a similar line of thought to controlling our thoughts, the mere human being must be entirely uncapable of controlling his emotions. That is why, since none of us have been saved our entire lives, we find it so difficult to believe that we can exercise dominion over our very feelings. Yet for the child of God, it is both possible and admirable.
For the remainder of this study, I turn to a lengthy passage from the book of Colossians which will illuminate things nicely. Please read this very carefully. Do not just skim it - this is all very important.
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

(Col 3:1-17)
The Bible says:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2Co 5:17)
Which is exactly what is being discussed here. When someone accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior, their old man is absolutely destroyed and replaced by a new, holy one, unable to sin. That holy self then must do battle with the still sinful nature of the body, until a new body is granted at Christ's return. We see a change in emotion as a part of this transformation. If there was any doubt in your mind that emotions could be used against us in judgment after the passage in proverbs, reall from our long one: "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience." Passion, evil desire and greed will all cause the wrath of God to come upon people. Further, Paul says that this amounts to idolatry!

But idolatry implies worship. Who are we worshipping when we follow our lusts and do not control our emotions? The Bible says the Devil himself becomes our idol.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

(Eph 2:1-2)
But the Bible's teaching on emotion is not one of negatives alone. We are not just given emotions to shun, but emotions to cling to. This is a long list: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiviness, love, peace and thankfulness. These are the things we are told to 'put on.' It is a choice that we make to be more like Christ, to put away the wicked ways of this world and to be transformed in his likeness. Each morning, we must resist our body's nature and say: 'I choose to love all mankind. I choose to be patient. I choose to be compassionate.'
Where then is the out for the loveless marriage? It is excluded. If we read further down, we would see God commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. The bible does not say 'It is nice if you love your wife,' but simply commands it. It is in our control and to commit the sin of a divorce (outside of the clear Biblical framework) really only comes after the sin of not choosing to love and the sin of choosing to follow our lusts and passions instead. We must discipline our feelings.
Then does the Christian have any refuge where he may do what he wants, free of the will of God? No. Jesus Christ gave all of Himself on the cross of Calvary - he demands all of you in return.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Rom 12:1-2)
When a sacrifice was given, the things valuable for the nourishment of the priests was kept and the rest was burned up. What is valuable for God's service stays and the rest is burned up. That is the cost of being entrusted with the responsibility of saving the world from an eternity in Hell. We are not so great and mighty that we may perform the work of defending men and women against the consequences of their own actions while saving ourselves. People are in danger and we are called to be the selfless hero, who casts of all the baggage of his lusts and runs.

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion.

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