Feelings Vs. Truth

Feelings Vs. Truth

Building your life upon God's unchanging Word

by Leslie Ludy | August 1, 2014

God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?  
Numbers 23:19

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
Edward Mote

Among the most popular messages of our society today is the proclamation, “Follow your heart!” The culture has conditioned us to place a very high value on our own desires and emotions. In fact, we are encouraged to base both our major life decisions and our daily lifestyle choices upon how we feel. “Don’t know what to do? Just listen to your heart! Do what feels right to you!” This advice permeates everything from love songs to children’s movies.

But God gives us completely different directions when it comes to our heart and emotions:  “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26a) and “The heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9a).

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As attractive as the “follow your heart” message may seem, adopting this mindset can be toxic to our spiritual lives. When we allow our emotions and whims to lead us, we become subservient to our feelings instead of to God’s Spirit and His Word. Following our heart cultivates an attitude of selfishness rather than one of surrender. We cannot become the bondservants of Christ if we are controlled by our feelings.  

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “The difficulty is to keep a tight reign on our emotions.  They may remain, but it is not they who are to rule the action. They have no authority. A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but of the will.”

When we let our feelings lead the way, we end up making a lot of unwise, ungodly, self-focused decisions—and making a mess of our lives.  We also become prone to “picking and choosing” our truth—receiving the things that make us feel good, and rejecting the things that don’t.

When we accept only the parts of God’s truth that appeal to us personally, and dismiss all the rest, we cannot receive the “whole counsel of God” (see Acts 20:27) and we end up with a distorted “truth” of our own making. (That is why so many of our churches today promote a soft, flimsy Gospel instead of a powerful, life-transforming one.)

There are two questions that my husband, Eric, asks Christians when he is training them in the foundations of faith and victory over sin. The first is, “Did God say it?” If the answer is yes, then the next question is, “Can God lie?” Answering those two questions correctly can cut through emotional fog and confusion like nothing else!

God’s truth is unchanging, and He cannot lie. (See Titus 1:2) Our emotions and personal experiences may not always line up with the commands and promises of the Bible. But does that make His Word any less true?  

When we try to edit truth to mesh with our own emotions or preferences, we are placing our own opinions and thoughts higher than God’s. It doesn’t really matter how we feel about what God says, and it also doesn’t really matter what our past experience states. If our feelings and experiences don’t match up with God’s Word—the fault lies with us, not Him. As it says in Romans 3:4, “let God be true, but every man be a liar.”

“But I prayed for such-and-such, and God didn’t come through for me!” is a common response, “and now I can’t trust Him or believe His promises.” Or, “The Bible talks about peace and joy, but all I’ve ever experienced is despair and heartache!”  

God cares deeply about each one of your painful past experiences and each one of your current struggles. We must always remember that receiving His truth—not running away from it—is what leads to clarity and victory. The answers and “reasons why” may not always be immediately clear. But if you learn to place His unchanging, eternal truth far above your own feelings and experiences, you will soon begin to experience freedom, faith, and heavenly perspective beyond what you ever thought possible.

Putting truth above feelings can be easier said than done in a culture that constantly pushes us to “follow our heart”. I’d like to share some practical ways that have helped me keep my emotions under the control of God’s Spirit and subservient to His timeless, unchanging Truth.

1.  Don’t Consult your Emotions

There is a growing trend in modern Christianity where people get together to dialogue and converse about spiritual truths. They discuss how they feel about specific Biblical concepts and whether they “personally agree with” those particular principles or if perhaps they need to be “refined”. They determine the validity of Scripture in light of their own experiences and emotions rather than simply taking God’s Word as absolute truth. Oh, what a disgrace to our God when we who bear His name start exalting our own feelings over His unchanging, infallible, eternal Word!

Even those of us who strongly believe in the inerrancy of Scripture have often been conditioned to consult “feelings first” when grappling with truth. When we are deciding whether or to believe God’s promises or obey His commands, we typically ask ourselves, “How do I feel about this?” rather than, “What does God say about this?”

When we Christians debate truth on the plane of emotion and experience, rather than standing on the solid rock of God’s Word, we end up with the muddled, mushy, confused, post-modern thinking so common in the church today. But when the timeless Word of God is our baseline for reasoning, we find clarity, purpose, and passion in knowing exactly what we believe and why.

Next time you are evaluating any Biblical principle, ask God for the grace to put your emotions aside and simply take Him at His Word with a simple, uncomplicated, childlike trust. Don’t immediately consult your feelings and see what your emotions have to say about it. And don’t look at your own past experience (or the experiences of others) to decide whether the principle is accurate or not. Rather, immediately consult God’s Word and see what He has to say about it. Then, build your beliefs and decisions upon His unchanging Truth—no matter how your feelings or experience might try to debate it.

Time and time again, I have seen my circumstances and emotions align with the truth of God’s Word as I simply choose to agree with what God said. But I have learned that I cannot wait for my feelings to agree with Scripture before taking it as fact. Rather, I must accept God’s truth as fact and command my feelings to agree with it.

If you can learn to stand upon the solid rock of God’s Word in every situation you face, you will not be vulnerable to the crafty distortion of truth so common today. When you are exposed to human ideas that do not agree with Scripture, you will be much quicker to recognize and renounce them in your soul. And when the enemy tries to bait you with confusion, doubt, or despair, you will have a means to finding the clarity and Heavenly perspective you need.

If you are being blown here and there by every wind of teaching and overwhelmed by your own doubt and confusion, God is ready to plant your feet firmly upon the solid, immovable Rock—which is Jesus Christ Himself. He is willing to replace your confusion for glorious clarity—if you are willing to take Him at His Word.

2.  Exchange an “Open-Mind” for a “Canon-Mind”

There is a lot of talk these days about being “open-minded.” Having an “open mind” means being willing to entertain other people’s beliefs and ideas, and even to adopt them as your own if they “feel right” to you. Not being open-minded immediately puts you in the category of being old-fashioned, stiff, and stodgy, not to mention unloving and judgmental. Why would any of us want to take on that kind of label?

But in order to have our feet planted firmly upon the solid rock of Christ, we must acknowledge that any human thought, idea, belief, or philosophy that does not agree with the timeless truth of God’s Word is erroneous and worthless.

So does that mean we are to be “close-minded”—never willing to hear another person’s ideas, always having to “be right”, and staunchly holding our position in a prideful, arrogant way? No. We must exchange an “open mind”, not for a “closed mind”, but for a Canon-mind.  (Canon simply means the sixty-six books of Scripture.)

Having a Canon mind means that you implicitly trust God’s definition of reality, you are exclusively devoted to God’s opinions and commands, and you are closed to all other thoughts, ideas or philosophies that would lead you to take on another reality other than His. The Canon mind is built upon the conviction that God’s Word is the perfect revelation of fact. It cannot lie, and it is 100% Truth. When you have a Canon mind, you know that God intends His Word to be comprehended, understood, and lived out by His saints. When you have a Canon-mind, you are not staunch and arrogant in your own convictions. Rather, you are simply not open to any thought or definition of reality that is not 100% concurrent with the revelation of God’s Word.

How do you develop a Canon-mind? It begins with the decision to take God’s Word as fact. If God said it, and He cannot lie, then there is nothing more to argue. Once you have settled it in your heart that Scripture is Truth and that the Bible is reality, the next step is to know and love the Word of God.  Too many of us are susceptible to error simply because we are ignorant of what the Bible actually says.  Set aside some purposeful time each day to study and meditate upon God’s Word. Learn how to explore Scripture and delve deep into God’s meaning behind every verse. Use tools such as inductive Bible study courses and Bible websites such as www.blueletterbible.org which can help you learn to use concordances and study the Greek and Hebrew roots of each word in the Bible. Download an audio version of the Bible (we personally like The Word of Promise) and listen to it around the house, in your car, and even while you are falling asleep at night. Spend time around other believers who reverence and love the Word of God. Talk about what you are learning in Scripture and listen to what they are learning.  Ask God’s Spirit to make His timeless Word truly come alive to you.

As you begin to make God’s Word the foundation of your life, practice applying specific truths, commands, and promises to situations you face each day. Memorize some key verses to help you immediately combat lies with Truth. For instance, if you struggle with the temptation to hold on to offenses, memorize verses such as “love is not easily angered” (1 Corinthians 13:5) or “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32.  (Yes, it is the enabling power of God that will actually equip you to live out these commands, but you can’t live out God’s Truth if you don’t first know what it is!) No matter what your circumstances or struggles, there is always an answer that can be found in the Word of God. If you cannot find one immediately, begin to search for it as if you were searching for hidden treasure, and ask God to guide you as you look to His truth for answers.

For a beautiful and inspiring vision of the way we are to interact with God’s Word, take some time to read through Psalm 119. As you fall in love with Scripture and cultivate a Canon-mind, you will soon find yourself standing upon a Rock that cannot be moved.

3.  Put Art in its Place

The arts are an enormous part of our modern culture, and Christianity has adopted the trend, seeking to experience and express God through music, poetry, allegory, art, and specific environments (like artsy coffee shops or inspiring cathedrals). While God can certainly be expressed and experienced through all of these mediums, all too many Christians have begun to place a higher value on art than on Truth. Post-modernists love to use artistry to define their Christianity, stating that movies, art, poetry and atmosphere speak to their souls about God far more than the Bible does. The erosion of truth is being justified under the banner of “artistic license” and “self-expression.” 

Just think about how perfectly that describes the blogs, songs, quotes, and philosophical ideas being created by many of today’s “artistic Christian women”. Women often think of artistic expression as a safe medium for them to “let out all their pent-up feelings” and “express their true selves.” Christian women who feel this way don’t evaluate their artistic expressions in light of God’s Truth, but in light of their own emotions and ideas. They may conduct themselves as conservative Christians at church or Bible study, but on their blog, or in their music, or in their art, they let their guard down under the banner of “artistic freedom.”

But diminishing Truth under the banner of artistic expression is a counterfeit form of freedom.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36).  

And David the Psalmist declared, “I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts” (Psalm 119:45, emphasis added).

True freedom comes from agreeing with God’s Truth, not disregarding it. So if you are involved in any form of art—whether it be music, writing, poetry, photography, painting or anything else, make sure it lines up with God’s Word, 100%. That doesn’t mean that every word you write or photo you take has to specifically be about Him—but it should always reflect Him; His nature, His love, His holiness, and His truth.  

And by the way, just because it is popular to demonstrate “angst” through the arts, especially music, does not mean that you should jump on the bandwagon. The actual dictionary definition of “angst” is this:  “A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one, about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” So we must face the question—how can expressing “angst” possibly be in harmony with God’s commands to “Rejoice always”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6)?

Henry Ward Beecher said, “If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere.” By the same token, if a woman cannot be a Christian in her artistic expressions, she cannot be a Christian anywhere.

This principle must also apply to the artistic mediums we choose to listen to, read, and participate in. Just because a musician calls himself a “Christian artist” doesn’t mean his music truly expresses God’s nature and His Truth. And just because someone has a “Christian blog” doesn’t mean it is going to point you to Jesus Christ. Be on guard against imbibing artistic messages that diminish “the whole counsel of God” and exalt cultural notions over Biblical fact.

While there is nothing wrong with using the arts to express the nature of God, there is something wrong with looking to the arts as our primary source of finding Him. Be watchful of adopting art-over-Truth mindsets, such as “The Bible doesn’t speak to me, but movies do” or “I can’t feel close to God unless I’m in an inspiring environment like an artsy coffee shop”. If you do not believe you can experience God except through artistic mediums, then you are not truly seeking the God of the Bible. He says,

Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made…says the Lord. But [I will look] on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2).

Do you want to find the one true God? Finding Him is not a complicated “mystical journey through the arts.” It’s a simple matter of humbling yourself before Him, and trembling at His Word.

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Not long ago in a persecuted nation, a group of believers was gathered together for a secret Bible study when hostile police officers burst in and took over the meeting. They rounded up all the Christians, and one by one they pointed a gun to each person’s head, threatening to kill them unless they spit on the Bible. With heavy hearts, each member of the group took turns spiting on the cover of the Bible in order to preserve their lives. But one sixteen-year-old girl, with tears streaming down her face, tenderly wiped the spittle from the Bible with the corner of her dress. A few seconds later, she was dead.

Throughout Christian history, men and women have given up their lives to protect the purity of Scripture. In light of their astounding sacrifices, it is heartbreaking to see countless American Christians disregarding and questioning God’s Word. 

Remember, when we reject God’s Word, we are rejecting Jesus. He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1-5). He is the solid Rock upon which we must stand. Everything else in this life is uncertain, but His Word remains steadfast and immovable. He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt 24:35). All other ground is truly sinking sand. 

In this day and age where “truth is fallen in the street” (Isaiah 59:14) God is looking for courageous Christians who are willing to wipe the spit from His precious Word, no matter what it may cost them. Will you be counted among them?