Service Times ---> Sundays 10:45am; 6:00pm // Wednesdays 7:00pm

Photo by Tengyart

Welcome back to week 44. We hope the past week has been a blessed one for you. Last week we briefly examined the important topic of total restructuring. The sinner must be willing, through the empowering Holy Spirit and instruction from the Word, to radically amputate his or her sin and make a 180-degree life change. They must put off sin and put on righteousness. 

This week we will briefly consider a biblical view of emotions using references from both the Old and New Testaments. Are our emotions simply what they are or can we change them? Moreover, is there a biblical way to change them? The answer to these questions will be totally counter-cultural and may even challenge your thinking, but those are good things!

The world, and especially our American culture, is feelings oriented. The sentiment at large is that if something feels good, then do it. If it doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it.[1] Unfortunately, not much thought has gone into that worldview. Its logical end is chaos. How we feel is not the standard or foundation upon which we should base our actions, thoughts, or words. The fact that we have an emotion does not necessarily mean said emotion is valid. The worldview that our emotions reign as potentate is foolish at best and deadly at worst.

There are, no doubt, a multitude of child molestation cases where the perpetrator felt like committing the act. The same could be said for rape cases, adultery, homosexuality, robberies, murders, sinful responses to these heinous acts, etc. Those people all felt like doing wrong against another. 

If we follow this argument to its logical conclusion then all the perpetrators, and their victims, should be fine in however they act, or react, because they were just doing what felt good at the moment. Is this the way things should be? What does Scripture have to teach us about this worldview, this kind of worldly philosophy? 

Scripture is clear. It bears none of that sin laden philosophy. The world tells us to do what makes us feel good so that we will be happy. However, Scripture tells us not to use our emotions as our motivator. Instead, we are to use God’s Word, His glory, love for Him, and a proper fear of Him as our motivator. Jay Adams put it this way, “There are only these two ways of life: the feeling-motivated life of sin oriented toward self, and the commandment-oriented life of holiness oriented toward God.”[2]

Adam and Eve chose to live by their feelings, their passions, instead of God’s commands and look where that got us (cf. Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1-19). The world has the idea of emotions completely confused. Secular psychology likes to use the term “emotional problems.” However, there is one big problem with that terminology. There is no such thing as an “emotional problem.” 

The counselee’s emotions are working just fine. He or she does not have an emotional problem. He or she has a sin problem and his conscience is accusing his behavior (Rom. 2:15). The conscience can produce all kinds of unpleasant emotions due to undealt with sin.[3]

Scriptures tells us that our emotions, good or bad, flow out of the inner man. Our inner man, as Scripture teaches, and as we saw in blogs past, is also known as our heart, mind, or source. The inner man is our control center. It’s the real you (Prov. 4:23; 23:7; Luke 6:45). The inner man is the source out of which emotions and their manifestations flow (e.g., frowning, yelling, smiling, crying, etc.). At the same time, Scripture does not stop with teaching us from where our emotions come.

Scripture also teaches us how to correctly change our emotions. Yes, they can be changed. The believer need not be driven by them. Therefore, here is how we biblically (i.e., correctly) change our emotions.

According to God’s authoritative and inerrant Word we are to do what is right and wait for the happy feelings that will follow (Gen. 4:7; John 13:17; James 1:25). You will notice that none of the Scripture references given instruct us to just think happy thoughts. None of them teach us to find happy feelings in the bottom of a bottle or in some kind of mind / mood altering substance. The biblical way to change our feelings is not venting our anger. It is also not waiting to feel better about something before you do it (Ps. 119:106; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:1-17; Gal. 5:16-26; James 1:12).

In contrast to how the world tells us to change our feelings, the biblical method of changing one’s emotions is persevering obedience to God’s Word. You will remember that the Lord instructed Cain to do what was right, then his countenance (i.e., his mood) would be lifted (Gen. 4:7).  Jesus tells us, in John 13:17, that we will be blessed if we dowhat He tells us. James tells us in 1:25 that if we abide by, if we do, what God has commanded then we will be blessed in what we do. First comes obedience then comes blessing and when the blessing of our Lord comes our feelings will change. 

Through the effective Word and indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit, the believer can change his or her emotions. Thanks to the Lord we are not slaves to our emotions (Rom. 6:12-14). We are slaves to Him (Rom. 6:5-7, 16-23). Our emotions are not set in stone. They are not the authority. They are not the standard upon which we are to problem solve or decision make. Scripture is the standard. There is real hope for the believer who will submit their feelings to the wise, authoritative instruction in God’s Word (Rom. 15:4). When you practice submission to the Lord for His pleasure and glory your feelings will change.  

We hope our short time considering a biblical view of emotions was helpful. Lord willing, next week we will briefly examine some reasons for terminating a counseling / discipleship case. Must that idea always have a bad connotation or is there a good reason, too? Until then may our Lord bless you and keep you.

[1] This is known as the Pleasure / Pain Principle, coined by Sigmund Freud. 

[2] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 118.

[3] It can also produce pleasant emotions due to righteousness.

Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Total Restructuring Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Terminating Counseling