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When the sincere believer approaches God’s Word, it is essential that he or she recognizes that the Word of God is totally different from everything else they have ever read. For all other writings, regardless of what they claim to be, are the words of men. They issue from the hearts of men, express the thoughts of men, and reflect the ways of men. Not so the Word of God.
Isaiah 55:8, 9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Man has only his five senses by which to evaluate the world and his experience in it. His words reflect this limitation. God is spirit. His words go above, see beyond, and often contradict the perspective of the senses. His words express a higher reality, issuing from the vantage point of the spiritual realm.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
This being the case, when we read God’s Word, we will often find that God gives little attention to matters which man considers essential, and puts great emphasis on matters which man minimizes or ignores completely.
Such is the case with feelings. Feelings are in the realm of the five senses. There is nothing inherently wrong with feelings. Our capacity for emotion lends a depth and a “spice” to life that God fully intended when He made man.
But feelings were never intended to be, in any sense, a basis for decisions or a gauge of truth!
Yet in the world around us, we constantly are exposed to other voices, lauding feelings as not only a guide, but the guide to one’s life. We are told that, ultimately, only feelings are trustworthy. This presents an obstacle to the one who desires to walk with God, for, in truth, only God is trustworthy, and feelings can be tremendously misleading when consulted as a measure of His ways.
In fact, with such emphasis on feelings in the communications of man, the careful student of God’s Word might be surprised to see that God does not even mention feelings when it comes to the most significant decision of all.
Romans 10:9, 10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
No mention here of “feeling saved.” No mention of emotion of any sort. Believing regarding the completed work of Jesus Christ, culminating in the resurrection, and acknowledging him as my lord results in salvation. Any accompanying emotion, or lack of it, is incidental.
This illustrates a monumental difference between the ways of God and the ways of man, a difference we must keep in mind as we study the Scriptures. Otherwise, we risk reading man’s perspective into God’s Word, and thus missing the message which God is conveying.
Let’s consider another example — guilt. Man is obsessed with guilt. He ponders the source of it (and usually concludes that guilt originates in the “outmoded” belief in God). He spends vast amounts of money trying to free himself of it. He may even succeed. But any such success is deceptive. Because man thinks of guilt as a feeling, but God tells us the truth — guilt is a legal reality.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
The reality is this: all men are born guilty before God. Even if I manage to numb my conscience or harden my heart to the point of no longer feeling guilty, this does not change the reality of my guilt. Is a peaceful thief any less a thief, or a happy murderer any less a murderer? A change in feelings does not touch guilt; a legal solution is required.
God provided that solution in Christ.
II Corinthians 5:21
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus Christ took our guilt upon himself. This included all of man’s sin, all of man’s rebellion, all of man’s enmity against God and, because of these things, the penalty which we so richly deserved: death.
In light of all that Jesus Christ endured for us, to imply that he took away my “bad feelings” is ludicrous to the point of blasphemy. No, he took my guilt, which was a legal and terminal reality.
Romans 6:6, 7
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.
For the natural man, this is sobering news indeed, for no matter how successful he has become at feeling good about himself, his guilt remains, and can only be eradicated by believing on the cleansing sacrifice of a loving savior.
For the Christian, even for the Christian who has been entangled in an examination of feelings, this is great news! For if Jesus Christ made me free from guilt, I am free! Feelings of guilt do not change God’s righteous judgment. Even if I, rightly and properly, experience godly sorrow for moments of disobedience, Christ remains my complete and eternal righteousness.
I John 3:19, 20
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
For if our heart condemn us [literally, if our heart has some knowledge against us], God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
No matter what we may think we know about our own unworthiness, God’s knowledge is greater. He knows that we are now righteous, eternally righteous, before Him, feelings notwithstanding.
I John 3:21
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
The natural man pretends at confidence, but, whether depressed or exuberant, he remains under a sentence of death.
Sadly, few Christians exhibit such confidence, even though it is rightfully theirs, because they are still viewing God’s ways through the eyes of man, mistakenly and sinfully valuing their feelings over His pronounced judgment.
But those of us who know and revere God’s Word can daily enjoy and experience this confidence, knowing that whatever our momentary feelings, we stand before Him, clean.