Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our Feelings and the Mind of Christ

One of the great obstacles to our spiritual maturity is our feelings!  We live in a day where feelings are often exalted as good indicators of decision-making.  Many believers have a very up and down Christian experience because they put so much trust in what they feel.

Our feelings change regularly, and our feelings can be affected by any number of things.

We feel like a friend rejected us because they did not contact us when we wanted them to, when in reality they have been wishing we would do the same.

We walk into a room and feel like everyone is negative toward us, where in reality they are all glad to see us.

We completely misread the comments or body language of a spouse and expect negativity when in fact he or she feels positively towards us.

We wake up after staying up too late and feel badly physically, emotionally, and psychologically, reading our negative feelings into the people around us.

We have negative feelings because someone else didn't meet our expectations, when in fact our expectations have been unrealistic.

I have found through the years that some people are especially prone to feeling like other people are routinely rejecting them - reading way too much into things than is reality.  For some it causes them to isolate themselves, building up high walls of protection, rarely allowing other people to get behind the wall.  Other people wallow in self-pity with a "woe is me, the world is against me" view of life.  Still others thrust themselves into perfectionism, trying to out-perform their feelings of inferiority.  Others have high-sensitivity trigger buttons that make them react negatively and forcefully when they sense feelings of rejection.

Charles Stanley has excellent notes about this subject - Victory over Rejection.

Interestingly, when you read the New Testament, you hear the apostles appealing not to our emotions as the barometer for spiritual growth, but instead to our minds.  We are challenged to renew our minds in order to walk in God's will (Romans 12:2).  Paul exhorts us to have the same mind of Christ in us (1 Cor. 2:16) - not the same feelings of Christ.  We are to set our minds on things above (Col. 3:2).  And Paul exhorted Christians that those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; those who have their minds  set on what the Spirit desires the mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so (Ro. 8:5-7).

The battle for the Christian life is in the mind.  We get off-track when we side-step into being buffeted by our feelings.  I have oft-learned that I have to have small, daily deaths to some feelings.  Jesus said that if I am to follow Him as a disciple, I first must deny self.  At times that means taking what I am feeling and saying, "NO!  I deny you.  I die to you.  I will not be controlled by what I feel.  Instead, I submit you to the lordship of Christ."

Feelings come and go.  They change with the wind.  It is wonderful when we feel good emotionally.  We all like to feel like a kite floating on the breeze.  But, as Christians, we should be able to keep going and functioning when the feelings go south and we have those normal, mundane days - or even the ones when we are in the dumps.

Bill Bright used to teach that if the Christian life is like a train, the engine is "truth," the car "faith," and the caboose "feelings."  Our faith must follow truth - or fact.  The train can run with our without the caboose of feelings.  You can see that illustration here on his 4 Spiritual Laws tract. 

The mature Christian is the one who consistently walks with God, exhibits godly fruit, and moves forward irregardless of the ever-changing feelings-barometer.

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