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Faith and Emotions

25 Jul

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

–Hebrews 11:6–

 

Your soul’s emotions aren’t merely feelings. In their fullest sense, human emotions have to do with our feelings, sentiments, affections, attitudes, beliefs, and convictions. Feelings are fleeting and should be limited in their influence on our lives and decisions. Emotions are broader and are instrumental in our lives. Feelings can develop into beliefs and convictions and so influence our soul and our faith, but our emotions are more than feelings.

Before your emotions can help you express Biblical faith, each area must be Spirit-controlled. The Holy Spirit should lead and direct your decisions and your emotions. Take time now to think about how the Spirit can influence and control your feelings, your sentiments, your affections, your attitudes, your beliefs, and your convictions. Think about the role of each of these in your faith. How has or how can the Spirit direct your affections? Do your attitudes come from your flesh or does the Spirit control them? What are your strongest convictions and do they come from God?

As such, what happens in our emotions in the moment of truth dictates whether or not we please God, because feelings and convictions are critical elements of a Biblical psychology of faith. Our faith is firmly rooted in our emotions, in our belief, but faith isn’t only belief alone. Faith has to do with the object of belief or it is merely faith in faith. You must have faith in something. To believe in something, you must understand it. If you really believe something, you will act on that belief. We should seek to increase the degree of our faith, to have enough to step out of a boat and in to the waves.

 

Our choice: CONVICTION – strong, unshakable belief in God or INDIFFERENCE, APATHY, AND FEAR

 

Your cry should be the same as the father with a demon-possessed son in Mark 9: I believe; help my unbelief!”

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Faith and the Mind

18 Jul

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine [think], according to His power that is at work within us

–Ephesians 3:20–

What happens in your mind is one of the most important factors in your faith capacity. Rational study and understanding is sometimes forgotten in Christianity today. Our focus has been more on connecting our beliefs with the heart and less on discipline and conscientiously studying God’s Word or logically understanding our faith and beliefs.

An important foundation to understanding the role of faith in the mind is realizing the difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is a part of the body. It is physical, material, and visible. It can be seen and touched (although you probably wouldn’t want to!). The brain works through electrical and chemical means, through interactions of chemicals and synapses. It receives information from the physical senses and from your self-embedded memory. The mind, however, is a part of the soul, as we discussed last week. It is immaterial and invisible; it cannot be seen or touched. The mind, contrary to the brain, works through psychic and spiritual means. It receives information from the brain, as well as from the emotions and Spirit.

Faith works in and with the mind and the brain. When you disbelieve or doubt that something is possible, the brain immediately slows its workload and reduces its “firing capacity,” which short-circuits faith. As a result, the mind’s ability to believe is immediately reduced, resulting in unfaithfulness. When your mind is not being controlled by the Spirit, it stops thinking supernaturally and downsizes what God can do. As a result, it begins to be “pressed into the mold” of thinking, which shrinks your capacity to believe God (Romans 12:2).

Our choice: To BELIEVE God – to trust fully in Him, His promises, His ways, and His purposes or DISBELIEF – our refusal to accept something as true.

WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE TO THINK?

Faith: How does it Work?

11 Jul

This week we’ll begin the main discussion on the psychology of faith, the interaction of our faith with our minds and emotions. In discussing this, it’s important to consider three key truths first.

First, faith doesn’t work how we think it works or how we would like it to work. Faith doesn’t work perfectly, as God originally intended, but it does work. It is to have a significant role in our lives. Secondly, faith only works as God ordained it to work. We cannot manipulate how faith works; we cannot manipulate how God works and make things work how we want them to. We must seek to discover how it works. Understanding faith and understanding God are vitally important in our Christian lives. Thirdly, our ignorance of Biblical faith greatly minimizes God’s work in and through our lives. A lack of understanding may limit how God can work in us, to transform us, and through us, to carry out His will in the world.

Forming a psychology of faith first requires that we understand the field of psychology. ‘Psychology’ comes from the Greek word psyche, which means soul. In our Biblical understanding of personhood, the soul is the center of each human being. A person is made up of a body, a spirit, and a soul. The soul itself is then made up of the mind, the will, and emotions. Psychology seeks to study the soul of a person, to understand how the mind, will, and emotions interact and make a person into who they are.

Much psychology is fundamentally flawed and ungodly because it miscalculates human nature and, as a result, the human condition. Those who seek the services of such well-intentioned people tend to fall deeper into the morass of hopelessness and addiction because they are being treated in ways inconsistent with how God made us.

What happens in the soul tells us whether or not faith is Biblical. Biblical faith involves the whole soul and is played out through the mind, will and emotions. Faith must be logically understood, connect with your feelings and your heart, and it must be lived out in your actions. ‘Feeling’ spiritual or connected to God matters little if you do not truly and deeply understand God and faith. Logical study and understanding is insignificant if you don’t connect with your emotional, affective side or show through your actions. In the same way, the right behaviors show nothing without the beliefs and convictions to back them up.

In the next four weeks, we’ll look at how faith plays out in our mind, emotions, and will as well as practical ideas to put together this knowledge with our lives.

Five Facts about Faith

5 Jul

In seeking to understand faith, which is vital as we discussed last week, there are some foundational ideas to understand and apply. I’m going to introduce and explain five realities of faith which must be understood.

 

1. Your belief that God will act does not obligate Him to do so. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul describes his affliction, his “thorn in the flesh.” He writes that he asked God three times to remove this hardship, but that God told him instead that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God does hear your prayers and requests, but even a firm belief that God can and does heal, does not mean that He has to because you ask Him to. God’s purposes are not our own and His will may differ from ours.

2. God sometimes acts apart from your exercise of faith. God may act and heal those who do not have faith in Him. As stated in the past point, God’s ways of acting and His purposes may be different than what we expect and different than what we want. In Matthew 8:16 and in many other instances, Jesus healed many who were brought to Him, without considering the faith of those whom He was healing. God can have compassion on those who don’t have faith in Him as well as those who do.

3. Sometimes God does require us to exercise faith before He acts. In other stories in the Gospels, Jesus heals people because of their faith. For example, He heals the woman in Matthew 9:21-22 because she had enough faith to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak. She believed that touching His cloak would heal her and it did; His power ‘went out’ without Him being aware of it. He knows, of course, but it was her strong faith in the power of Christ that healed her.

4. Sometimes God wants to act, but our lack of faith keeps it from happening. When teaching in His hometown, many people doubted Jesus’ power and saw Him only as a carpenter’s son. Matthew 13:58 says that “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” While God can act apart from faith, sometimes He does not act because we lack faith.

5. Whether or not God requires us to exercise faith before He acts is His business. How God chooses to act is an essential part of His divine prerogative as God. If God was dependent upon us to have faith, He would not be an omnipotent sovereign God. If He needed us for anything, He would not be our divine Creator. God needs humans for nothing; it is up to Him to choose to act or to choose not to act. We can be sure that His ways and His purposes are above ours, that they are for our best, but we do not dictate the plans of God. Our faith can change God’s mind, as Moses’ plea for the Israelites did in Exodus 3211ff, or allow Him to act in our lives differently than if we did not have faith, but we are not in charge.

 

Human faith plays a central role in our Christian lives. Understanding these five realities of faith is also vital to a correct understanding of the role of faith. God can act in spite of our lack of faith or He may require our faith in order to act. It’s up to God to act or nor; it’s up to us to have faith and to trust in His ways and His purposes.

Thinking About Faith…

27 Jun

Have you ever ‘believed’ God would do something but still been disappointed when you didn’t receive what you hoped for?  Have you ever shown half-hearted faith and, somehow, still saw God work?  Why did faith work one time and not the other? Is it possible that God’s Will is for something to happen but our lack of faith keeps it from happening? Are there times when God works apart from our faith– meaning, times when our faith isn’t required for God to act? And does that mean that God is completely unpredictable and arbitrary in how He acts?  Is the Christian life a complete “wild card?” Does God want us to be completely confused about one of the most important issues in the Christian life or are there things we can know?

It’s not that faith always makes sense, but nor is it that faith never makes sense…it’s that it sometimes makes sense.

Faith in the Christian life requires that we think about these issues. We should live out the Christian life, but we also need to reflect on it, to think deeply about issues of faith. Metacognition is thinking about how you think, the mind reflecting upon itself, being aware of your cognitive processes, and understanding one’s own thought patterns.

As humans, created in God’s image, we are capable of personal reflection and analysis. As Socrates taught, we should know ourselves. Failing to think about faith and about ourselves doesn’t mean that there are not issues we need to understand. Just as being ignorant of scientific laws, like the law of gravity, doesn’t mean that they don’t apply to us. Likewise, failing to understand how the laws of faith work doesn’t exempt us from understanding them either.

Generally, does God want me to understand how He works? Yes! God “made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7).

God wants you and I to think about our faith, to deeply ponder and contemplate issues and laws of our faith. To better understand the role and importance of faith, I encourage you to read Hebrews 11 this week. Read about faith in the lives of the ‘heroes’ of the Old Testament, and how the law of faith applies to us here and now.

I’m going to spend the next six weeks discussing faith, studying five foundational facts about faith, a psychology of faith, and how faith interacts with our mind and with our emotions. Faith is foundational and vital in our Christian lives and is something that all Christians should take the time to think about.

Being Conscious of Your Conscience (Part 3 of 3)

20 Jun

Even after two weeks discussing what the conscience is and how it works, some of you may still not know why understanding your conscience is important. To conclude my series on the conscious, I’ll address this issue and how to apply what I’ve been talking about the past two weeks.

Now, Why Does It Matter?

You might say, “So what?”  Who cares?  Here’s why it matters how you live. IT’S JUST YOUR LIFE.

You’re either going to be happy in life or you’re not.  MOST PEOPLE I KNOW AREN’T VERY HAPPY IN LIFE.  They lost the battle of the soul— they didn’t obey their conscience when they were your age…

Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old & no longer enjoy living.

The bottom line: There are only two sides to the coin of life: Joy and Joyless.  You’ll be one or the other. Joy comes from obedience to God (1 Timothy 6:6). Joylessness comes from disobedience (Psalm 32:1). Which one you’ll be depends on whether or not you obey your conscience.

Let me close with a story that shows how important this is…

Earlier I said that the conscience is your soul’s automatic warning system.  Planes have automatic warning systems too.

In 1984 a jet crashed for no apparent reason.  The plane was flying in the dark and the pilot was unable to see.  That meant he had no sense of where he was and couldn’t get his bearings.  But that shouldn’t have mattered, because planes fly in darkness all the time.  That’s why they have devices that tell them their altitude: so they don’t fly too low or in the wrong direction.

During the night, air controllers lost contact with the pilot and it was later discovered that the plane had crashed.  During the investigation, the cockpit voice recorder was found, and officials made an eerie discovery:

On the recording, they could hear the computerized voice of the airplane, warning him, saying: “Pull Up, Warning… Pull Up.” You see, the pilot was flying too low.

But the pilot, didn’t listen to the voice of warning; he thought the gauges were malfunctioning.  On the tape, the pilot is heard several times telling the computer to “Shut up.” Finally, the pilot got tired of listening to the warning and just turned it off.

Minutes later the plane crashed. Everyone died.


What’s the point?

The point is that just like a plane has a warning system that is designed to keep passengers safe, the soul has a warning system designed to keep us safe spiritually, and that system is called the conscience.

But many times, we get tired of listening to our consciences, so we don’t.  We tell them to shut up and try to turn them off.

Here’s my challenge:  Be conscious of your conscience. It’s something God gave to help you, not to hassle you..

Being Conscious of Your Conscience (Part 2 of 3)

13 Jun

Last week, we began our discussion of the conscience with a definition of what the conscience is, its role is and presence in all people. The conscience is different than the Holy Spirit in Christians. This week we’ll discuss how the conscience actually works.

How Does Your Conscience Work?

Our conscience works in conjunction with our souls, and I’m going to show you how.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24–

God’s desire for us as Christians is to be Sanctified or made holy, “through and through” or “in every way.” What does that mean? God wants us to be completely committed to Him in every way… in every part of our humanity: body, soul and spirit.

Here’s how that works: don’t miss this!

We win or lose the battle of holiness in our soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

The soul is the battlefield of good and evil. Well…. what is your soul? Your soul includes your mind, emotions and will (Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:4; etc.). It consists of what you think, what you feel, and what you do. And if we are going to become holy, we’ve got to win that battle in the soul.

If we THINK like God wants us to, FEEL like God wants us to and DECIDE how God wants us to, then we’ll become holy. If we don’t THINK, FEEL and MAKE DECISIONS like God wants, we’ll stay carnal and live unhappy, defeated Christian lives.

The problem: There’s a war going on inside of us!

In our bodies, bodily appetites want us to sin. Our spirit wants us to be holy. And our souls are trapped in the middle, fighting a battle. Here’s how the Apostle Paul explained it in Romans 7:21-23:“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind (in the soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

As you know from personal experience, we want to fight the good fight, but sometimes our soul has a hard time doing the right thing without some help. That’s a reason that God gave us a conscience.

When we’re faced with a decision and the battle begins: Thoughts go through your mind. Feelings go through your emotions. And options are presented to your will and your will makes a choice, good or bad. That’s why God gave us a conscience: To help encourage us to do the right thing. As your will is making a decision, your conscience kicks in to help you.

That’s why every decision you make triggers a response from your conscience: When we consistently make good decisions, our conscience defends us— and we feel joy, self-respect, peace, happiness and dignity. It feels good. It’s what the Bible calls a good/clear conscience (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16-21). When we consistently make bad decisions and violate our internal standard of right and wrong, our conscience accuses us— and we feel a sense of shame, regret, disgrace and fear.  Those bad feelings are what God is using to convict us, so we’ll live the way He wants us to. It’s what the Bible calls a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22).

That’s how your conscience works.