Doctrinal Matters: Salvation
Feelings Follow Facts
Humans are emotional creatures. We love and hate. We hope and hurt. We dread and rejoice. We cry when we are sad, as well as when we are happy. We shout when we are angry, and we shout when we are thrilled. I have one son who not only smiles when he is happy, he even smiles (seemingly uncontrollably) when he is in trouble (which I have yet to understand). The roller coaster of emotions that occasionally overcomes us can wear us out one day and energize us the next. Like any human, Christians are emotional people. We are emotional because we are human, but we also are stirred with emotions because we are servants of Jesus Christ.
Christians are called to be spiritual people (Galatians 6:1). We are “partakers of…spiritual things” (Romans 15:27). We are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We must “worship the Father in spirit” (John 4:23-24). We are building a “spiritual house…to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5). Such spirituality leads us to feel an array of emotions: reverence for the Creator, compassion for the lost, hatred of evil, anticipation of the Lord’s return, etc. Sadly, however, many who call themselves followers of Christ think of Christianity simply as a “feel-good religion.” The mindset among many is, “Feelings first, knowledge later” (if ever). Like the prophets of Baal, they cry out with great emotion and leap around in hysteria (1 Kings 18:20-40). Like the Pharisees, they pray and do charitable deeds to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1-8). Like Cain, they make unacceptable offerings, rather than sacrifices “by faith” (Genesis 4:4-5; Hebrews 11:4; cf. Romans 10:17). The cornerstone of Christianity for such people is emotion rather than Christ (Ephesians 2:20), feelings rather than facts. They think they can be “spiritual” without knowing the Spirit-revealed Truth (John 16:13).
If Scripture teaches anything, it teaches that a faithful Christian’s feelings follow the digestion of biblical facts. Unlike Israel who had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), our enthusiasm for the Lord is to be rooted in the knowledge of God’s Word. Prior to becoming Christians, our hearts can be properly “pricked” only after we have heard the Gospel (Acts 2:14-37). We can be saved after we have “come to the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “receive with meekness the implanted word” (James 1:21). We can be cleansed and comforted after “taking heed” according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9,50-52). We can go on our way rejoicing after receiving the Word (Acts 8:26-39). We can praise God “with uprightness of heart” after learning God’s righteous judgments (Psalm 119:7). We can worship in spirit after learning the truth (John 4:24; 17:17). We can be spiritual after taking hold of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) and learning “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-6:1).
Are we to worship God fervently? Certainly. Are we to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14)? Definitely. Should the soul-saving message of Jesus Christ stir our souls intensely? Indeed. But, Christianity has never been rooted in raw human emotions. Spirituality is not equivalent to excitement. Faith is not a mere feeling. Christianity is grounded in God’s Word. Our salvation, spirituality, worship, work, and overall faithfulness to God are dependent on knowing God’s will. Remember, “[F]aith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).