the experience of God’s love in our hearts

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

I live in the default experience of feeling down. Some people, especially Christians, will fault me for that, or at least wonder, though many not. It’s not how you feel, but it’s about faith, and in a sense, what we do with our feelings. I wonder if it isn’t related to head injuries I’ve had. But it’s been a struggle for years.

There are ways I can get around it, or maybe past it for a time. But the best way by far seems to be when the Holy Spirit just takes over. All the negative feelings are gone, awash in the love of God through the Holy Spirit.

Note in the passage above that this love is in a process which in itself is not easy, and surely fraught with negative emotions. The peace with God spoken of here is not the peace of God experienced, but rather our standing before God through God’s justifying grace and our faith in Jesus. Suffering is part of it, and then the perseverance that follows it. And character, and then hope.

I wish I could live in that feeling and sense of well being and love all the time. It does make life so much easier. I have to remember Paul’s thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan no less, which tormented him. But how God was in that for Paul’s good, and our blessing (2 Corinthians 12).

But that love of God is made known to us by the Spirit. Something we look forward to living in forever together with all of God’s children in and through Jesus.

Advertisements

feel the emotion

John 10 (and note John 9 preceding it) is an interesting example of a point made in one of John R. W. Stott’s excellent books, Christ the Controversialist. Jesus was up against it time and time again, against his Jewish opponents. Yet you can see throughout that Jesus is still humbly trying to make his appeal to them. But his words were loaded for them. Jesus noted his works which he attributed to the Father, pointing to the claim that he was in the Father and the Father in him.

John 8 is not children’s bedtime reading so to speak. Jesus is not the meek and mild fictional Jesus which is understood in society at large, and it seems even in many of our churches. Jesus doesn’t mince words, and the words said would never be put in Jesus’s mouth in popular portrayals of him. Like “you are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father, you want to do.”

But back to John 10. In our habit of marking down doctrine or precious promise passages, neither of which we should dismiss, we can easily miss context. What can help us is reading Scripture in real life, and realizing what we’re reading is couched in real life. Jesus’s opponents were emotional, but so was Jesus himself. Jesus’s following words were surely mixed with pathos in the form of grief in lament, along with perhaps something of a defensiveness, even as we was trying to defend the truth that he was from God.

I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

John 10:25-30

 John’s entire gospel was written to underscore the truth of who Jesus is.

But watch for the real life emotion in passages. What can help us is the emotion we live with. And we need the Spirit and what the church has given us, as well. As we continue on in Scripture and in this life in and through Jesus.

the danger of relying on feelings

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:24

The Hebrew word translated “heart” here refers to both thinking and feelings, to the entire inner person. We’re told here to guard it above all else. This seems to me to suggest a discipline that refuses to let up. I notice two extremes in my life which I would like to avoid. One is when all seems well and from that I can go off on this or that, getting carried away in ways which aren’t well enough controlled. The other extreme is probably more what I’ve been accustomed to: being dead or overcome with negative feelings, then choosing to ignore them and rely on rational thought with the danger of running roughshod over anything and everything. The self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit can help us navigate and find good throughout all the fluctuations of our inner life.

To much of the world, “if it feels good, do it.” You do whatever comes naturally, whatever that is. That really doesn’t work well unfortunately, because we’re amiss or at least easily led astray even by what in itself is alright and good. This passage suggests that we’re to discipline ourselves in watching over our thoughts and emotions. What we do comes from what we are inside. God’s Spirit helps us both in our thoughts and feelings. It’s not at all like they’re unimportant. And we’re involved in the process. We aren’t just carried around as automatons, but we are completely involved in this walk of life. And part of that is to guard ourselves inwardly so that outwardly we might live lives pleasing to God for the good of others. In and through Jesus.

the peace Jesus gives

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

Jesus was speaking to his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, and just before the agony he endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. And it was wonderful to hear surely, even with the shock that had likely settled in with the disciples. Or maybe more like falling on rather deaf ears, since their hearts were a thousand miles from peace. I know all about that; I’ve been there, done that most all of my life.

It is wonderful that we have so many words preserved from our Lord’s Upper Room Discourse, as it’s called, from John’s gospel, along with his washing of the disciples’ feet, not to mention his “high priestly” prayer in closing (John 13-17).

There is nothing like having the Lord’s peace. It doesn’t mean that we have peace not to face reality. It does mean that in the midst of it all, Jesus gives us no less than his very own peace. Note that Jesus gives it. And because of that, we’re to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid.

Of course emotions come and go. The peace the Lord gives certainly does have to do with our emotions, but it’s more than that. It’s the general sense of well being, and a settled disposition from faith, which means that even when we don’t feel it, it’s there. Nevertheless, it is good when we do feel peace, akin to the peace of God going beyond all of our understanding and guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Jesus knew that his disciples would begin to fully appreciate his words only after Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit would come. Jesus even talked some about that during this discourse (John 14:15-31; 15:26-16:15).

The bottom would drop out shortly after this, for the disciples. They would all fall away to some extent, as Jesus told them, because of their own weakness. In their hearts they were ready to lay their lives down for the Lord, but they were not spiritually fit to the place where they could do so. That would take the emboldening power of Pentecost, the filling of the Holy Spirit and grace of God on them, Jesus’s presence in that. And with that, the peace Jesus gives. In and through him.

 

not taking back our trust in God

Chuck Swindoll shared the wise insight that we should never take back the light God gave us. That is not easy, since we’re so experience oriented. That is true of myself as well, even though I tend to want to remain on the rational side against experience, or more precisely against what I’m feeling. That can be good up to a point since our emotions can run all over the place. But certainly never at the expense of taking back what God gave us. When we’re tempted to doubt God, we need to stand firm in our faith.

Along the way, God will continue to guide us as we trust in him. By the Spirit, through the word, through others, and through circumstances. We can and should count on that. But let’s not make the mistake of no longer accepting what God once gave us. In the dark, let’s trust God all the more. In and through Jesus.

one of my go-to books and passages to help me when I feel either on edge, or overwhelmed

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12

Life can seem overwhelming to me much of the time. People around me may not know it from simply watching or interacting with me, but if they get to know me well at all, they’ll realize that I feel pressure about this and that. Challenges are of course a part of life. Some people don’t seem to struggle any with ill feelings, but I’m not one of them.

2 Corinthians starts out with Paul acknowledging despair for good reasons, even to the point of giving up on life entirely. But with the helpful twist that he felt the sentence of death in himself, so that he might no longer trust in himself, but in God, who raises the dead, and who would deliver them from any deadly peril which faced them. The letter ends with the same theme, highlighting Paul’s own weakness, and then that of our Lord’s in his crucifixion.

I find it most helpful again and again and again, world without end, to accept the difficulties, and hard places. To simply accept them, period. Not radical in understanding, but radical in meaning, indeed. But for the same reason spelled out by Paul in the passage above (click the link to read it all): to help us be more completely dependent on God. I would like to add from other places in scripture, also more interdependent on each other, for that is the way God would have it. Even in 2 Corinthians, Paul is working with others, so that it’s a team. We do well to share our struggles, or what we might call over-burdens with each other for needed empathy, possible counsel, and prayer. At the same time learning to carry our own load better, while casting on the Lord the things which weigh us down. Above all, as 2 Corinthians makes clear, and especially this passage, we need to learn to accept and even come to delight in our weaknesses, in order that we might experience the Lord’s help and strengthening.

Something I can easily forget, but which I need to remember more.

what moves us?

Emotions are a part of life, along with reason, so that there’s a time for a number of activities which need to be done, or at least which we humans do, many legitimate, and some possibly not (Ecclesiastes 3). I am moved by a good number of factors, but one of the most basic and I might add, essential ones, is simply to make a living for my family which involves meeting the responsibilities of my work. And then there’s necessary items I need (or ought) to do around the house. As well other basic things we all regularly do for good reason.

But what underlies all of life at the core of our being? What do we essentially live for, and if need be, above all else, would die for?

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

We know what moved the Apostle Paul who said elsewhere that for him to live was Christ (Philippians 1). What motivates us above and beyond everything else, and actually impacts what we do on lesser levels to some extent, if nothing else except that we are a different person in doing those things, is Jesus and the gospel, and the life and will of God found in him.

Sometimes I’m distracted and detoured by lesser things, which may give rise in me to something lesser, essentially in what can become something of an idol in the heart, something which displaces God and God’s will for us in Jesus. But God in his love convicts and brings me back to my senses in and through Jesus, so that I want to continue on and grow in what matters above all else. And not only puts everything else in place, but helps us glorify God in whatever we’re about.

At times we’ll be moved by lesser things, sometimes for good reason. But those are not where we’re to be anchored and live. We live for God’s will for us in Jesus, for the gospel. Our hearts and lives compelled by nothing less than the love of God in Jesus our Lord.