August 12, 2020
I have them. You have them. In fact, every human on earth has them. We are born with them. Most of the time, we are consciously aware of them. However, they can be buried within our subconscious. Scriptures tell us the Father has them, Jesus has them, and the Holy Spirit has them. Some are positive, but others are negative. They can take control of us, but God gave them as a gift that we should manage and experience in every aspect of our lives. Ok, that’s enough teasing you. So, what is ‘them’? They are our emotions. God created us in His image, which includes His emotions. This begs the question, “So what are emotions?” Someone said we know what they are until we are asked to define them. You will not find a consensus on a single definition. Here is a basic synopsis of several: emotions are a positive or negative sensation produced by a chemical released in the brain in response to internal and external events and can manifest consciously or stay in one’s subconscious.
All humans have multiple emotions. Christian counselors note eight common positive emotions mature believers should have: love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, trust, gratitude, and awe. However, faith does not eliminate negative emotions as sadness, anger, loneliness, jealousy, self-criticism, fear, or rejection. The problem arises when we allow them to control us instead of us controlling them. We find both positive and negative emotions in the Bible. Yet, emotions are an ignored reality in much of the Evangelical Church. Churches may forbid any display of emotions. On the other hand, some churches allow emotions to control every aspect of a service. Neither approach is Biblical.
In order to gain a biblical perspective, we must first accept the fact that emotions are a natural part of our makeup. As believers, we need to recognize the role they play in our daily lives, keeping in mind that emotions are tied to both our new nature in Christ and our old fleshy nature. If we don’t manage them in correlation with the Bible and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, emotions can become the criterion by which we direct our spiritual life. A. W. Tozer wrote, “The heart of man [center of emotions] is like a musical instrument and may be played upon by the Holy Spirit, by an evil spirit or by the spirit of man himself. Religious emotions are very much the same, no matter who the player may be. Many enjoyable feelings [emotions] may be aroused within the soul by low or even idolatrous worship.”
Today our chaotic world challenges us with multiply situations that produce negative emotions. Yet, not all negative emotions are sinful in themselves. Anger is a good example. It is part of the image of God in us. God gets angry. And God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps 7:22 NKJV). At Horeb you provoked Him and He was angry enough with you to destroy you (Deut. 9:8 NIV). However, He always tempers His anger with His love. But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth (Psa 86:15 NIV). Paul addresses human anger. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Eph 4:26 NIV). New Living Translation provides a clearer picture, And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry (NLT). James adds, But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (Jas 1:19).
We will experience negative emotions. The pandemic can lead to fear and worry consuming believers and controlling their every thought and action. But by the fruit of the Spirit, self-control, we can manage our emotions and not allow them to control us.
Satan takes advantage of negative emotions as sadness, loneliness, grief, annoyance, confusion, etc. America is angry; the devil and evil spirits are using this as a tool to create a mass state of confusion. Paul saw this take place in Ephesus. When the city heard the idol-makers were losing business because of the Gospel they were filled with rage . . . and the city filled with the confusion and they rushed with one accord into the theater . . . some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together (Acts 19:28-32). The people were totally under the control of their emotions. Sound familiar? Sarah Sumner in Relevant magazine wrote, “citizens are clamoring in pain and hurling accusations and jeering at their opponents and holding grudges and threatening one another.”
Sustaining Word for the Week: If our emotions as Tozer suggest are a musical instrument, we must constantly ask ourselves, who’s playing ‘them’—the Holy Spirit, an evil spirit, or our sinful nature.
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