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Faith, not Feelings?

Guest Post by Brian Borgman

Recently I was preaching at a men’s retreat and one of the pastors, a guy with a great sense of humor, presented me with a clever, life-sized mockup of my book Feelings and Faith. The obvious difference? His was entitled Tickling and Truth, Cultivating Giddy Emotions in a Men’s Retreat Setting. I laughed hysterically. I get the joke. Feelings are not taken too seriously. After all, they are “just” feelings.

I frequently see and hear statements that go something like this, “Faith, not feelings, is what matters to God.” I understand where that comes from. Our feelings have led us astray so many times. They frequently are the arena for some pretty ugly sins. So the natural thing for us to do is to quarantine the emotions. If we can dismiss or minimize them, then we think we have made progress.

However, I would suggest that the Bible does not allow us to think about the emotions this way. First, a reality check: virtually everything we do is emotional. Matthew Elliott does not overstate the case when he says, “Everything we do, say, and think, is, in some sense, emotional. We enjoy it, we dislike it, or we just don’t care. We describe our experiences and ourselves by describing how we feel. Life without emotions would be in black and white” (Faithful Feelings, 13). We really cannot escape it. Second, God created us with emotions. I would argue that they are a part of the image of God in us. We can no more rid ourselves of our emotions than we can rid ourselves of thinking or choosing. Third, Jesus had emotions. He is not only God, He is perfect humanity and emotions were a part of that humanity. Just read the gospels for proof.

Now clearly our fallen natures include our emotions. This no doubt causes problems. But instead of putting the emotions in the penalty box, we need to learn what the Scriptures teach us about our emotions. We need to see that just as God desires us to grow in the areas of our will and mind, so he also wants us to grow in the realm of our emotions. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed it up well:

I regard it as a great part of my calling in the ministry to emphasize the priority of the mind and the intellect in connection with the faith; but though I maintain that, I am equally ready to assert that the feelings, the emotions, the sensibilities obviously are of very vital importance. We have been made in such a way that they play a dominant part of our make-up. Indeed, I suppose that one of the greatest problems in our life in this world, not only for Christians, but for all people, is the right handling of our feelings and emotions (Spiritual Depression, 109).

God’s Word gives us hope that we can learn to control our emotions through the Holy Spirit, put a strangle hold on toxic emotions and cultivate godly emotions. God created us as whole persons and the whole person, including the emotions, must grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We certainly live by faith, but the emotions are not irrelevant. What matters to God is both our faith and feelings.

Brian Borgman is the founding pastor of Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada. He earned the DMin from Westminster Seminary California and is the author of My Heart for Thy Cause and Feelings and Faith. He and his wife have three children and live in northwestern Nevada. Read a sample chapter.

July 25, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life & Doctrine,Life Issues,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 9:58 am | (2) Comments »

2 Comments »

  1. When God created the universe, He created man in His image. Because of His image within us, we were given the ability to feel emotion. Before the fall, we had the ability to wholly worship God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Then, sin robbed this gift (our gift), and infested it to serve images of man and living creatures. But God, by His Son Jesus Christ, redeemed us (and our emotions) so that we can once again worship the living God with greater capacity than ever before, because now, we are His beloved children.
    Knowing that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, for the Glory of God, we still live in a fallen world with residual sin that remains within. “One step forward and ten steps back” is how I lived my life. Sometimes the battle within got so fierce within my soul, I gave up and turned on the television to numb the screams of my conscience. Then, I recalled all those ‘warning’ verses in the book of Hebrews that scared me the death because it was about me; so many people died in unbelief, and I saw myself. After hearing sermons about these verses, I realized that they were yellow warning signs, not red ‘do not enter’ signs. The author of Hebrews wanted us to not give up the faith, but endure and press on to finish well.
    As a believer, I have felt the joys of Mt. Zion and fell into the pit of utter despair and darkness. There are times that I have wept for the lost people in my life for days, and times where I did not shed one drop because of indifference. But all in all, God works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). I wouldn’t trade all those dark periods for anything. In it, God has shown me that He is the God of all things, even my emotions.

    Comment by Kaz — July 26, 2011 @ 12:19 am

  2. FAITH is FEELING and ACTING as If the Thing you want, has Happened.

    It is a feeling of assurance, contentment, hopefulness,confidence and a sense of peace, in God’s Word.

    Feelings are there to tell you if you are coming from a place of FEAR(worry, anger, dread, depression) or Faith (assurance, confidence, fulfillment)

    What we feel the most powerfully or passionately about becomes our reality.

    Comment by val — November 11, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

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