Maturing Toward Wholeness in the Inner Life
With All Your Mind — Emotions
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).
1 – In considering the five components of the human person outlined by Jesus in Mark 12:29-31, we now seek further understanding of the mind.
2 – We are viewing the mind as being composed of thoughts and emotions. In this chapter we explore human emotions. They too must be re-formed.
3 – God has emotions. The Scriptures speak of characteristics of God which are accompanied by emotions. God:
- is love (1 John 4:8)
- knows joy (Nehemiah 8:10)
- creates peace (Hebrews 13:20)
- exercises patience (Romans 2:4)
- is kind (Psalm 145:17)
- is good (Psalm 107:1)
- is faithful (Psalm 31:5)
- is gentle (2 Samuel 22:36)
- can be pleased (1 Kings 3:10)
- can be grieved (Genesis 6:6)
- can become angry (2 Samuel 6:7)
- can lay down his anger (Amos 7:1-3)
- is forgiving (Psalm 86:5)
- initiates reconciliation with his enemies (Romans 5:10-11)
- shows mercy (Psalm 103:4)
4 – Human beings are created in God’s image. We too have emotions. God intended that we experience our emotions to be healthy, beautiful, delightful.
5 – The fruit which characterizes the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23a) gives insight into God’s emotions. The Spirit forms these in people who allow him to do so.
6 – The components of this one fruit (singular) are best understood as conditions of a person who is walking with God. They are accompanied by emotions.
7 – Take love for example. Love is more than a feeling. It is a condition, a quality of relationship that one person chooses toward another. Certain feelings accompany it.
8 – But some of our emotions may not be in the state God intended for them. Sin damages. Wounded emotions can be very strong and frightfully uncontrollable.
9 – In our current cultural environment in the western world, emotions are considered to be valid simply because they exist.
10 – If I feel it, I have the right to express it. How dare you even suggest that I don’t have the right to express what I am feeling!
11 – This idea is rooted in a belief system that sees humans as autonomous. There are no absolutes except what man, beginning from himself, arbitrarily selects.
12 – It lacks any appreciation of potential danger in life. Acting autonomously can feel good in the moment, but can result in real damage to me and others.
13 – Contrast this with the belief system Jesus taught: Man is created by God to be like him. Some choices result in life functioning well; some choices harm.
14 – The engine of my car is designed—created—for oil. If I keep the oil topped up, the engine will function well. If I drain the oil I will ruin the engine.
15 – It is my car. I can do with it whatever I want! True enough. But if I choose to treat it in ways for which it was not designed, I will damage it—even ruin it.
16 – So it is with my emotions. God is the manufacturer of my person. If I choose to act in ways contrary to how I was designed, I can damage myself—and others.
17 – How can we seek deeper insight into our emotions? In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus tells us seven behaviors to avoid. They negatively impact emotional health.
18 – Anger. My anger is aroused when my will is crossed. I feel a strong desire to hit back. But I can learn that I am not required to give in to every feeling.
19 – Jesus placed anger in the category with murder and contempt (Matthew 5:21-22). All three are behaviors of violence toward others.
20 – Anger negatively marks all who experience it—perpetrator, victim, bystander. It is not pleasant to be around someone habitually venting anger.
21 – There are better strategies for achieving my desired ends than anger. Whatever I think I can achieve by anger can be better achieved without it.
22 – We were not created for anger. It is death-producing rather than life-giving. The way of Jesus is a different way.
23 – So what do I do with my anger? Stuff it? No! It will only gush out in some unguarded moment. God’s way is not to suppress emotions—but transform them.
24 – Contempt. I treat another person with contempt when I speak about him, or to him, or relate to him in ways that dishonor, despise or dehumanize him.
25 – Contempt typically begins with speech. We call others “fools” or “idiots” or much worse. We search for terms that will inflict the greatest hurt.
26 – Hateful speech gives permission for hateful acts. Here are the roots of racism, slavery, misogyny, ethnic cleansing and hatred of those who are the “others.”
27 – Sadly, contemptuous speech can become “normal” in political life. Jesus’ followers can hold differing political views and discuss them respectfully.
28 – But when we speak of a political opponent with contempt, one thing can be said with certainty—we did not learn to do so by being with Jesus.
29 – Sexual lust. God’s design is for a man and a woman to share a mutual, unique, committed intimacy. He made provision for this to be expressed physically.
30 – God further arranged for the physical, sexual expression of this one-of-a-kind intimacy to result in beautiful and deeply meaningful emotions for both persons.
31 – Bodily intimacy (sexual activity) apart from intimacy of persons (unique commitment), violates the intention of the Creator and those who engage in it.
32 – Sexual activity that is only physical can indeed generate strong emotions. But it is without integrity. It cheapens the persons who engage in it.
33 – The emotions it generates are short-lived and ultimately unsatisfying. They can transition quickly into contempt, even hatred (2 Samuel 13:14-15).
34 – What is superficial cannot meet needs that are deep. Sexual behavior without authentic, committed, mutual intimacy of persons wounds the soul.
35 – Divorce. It is crucial that we think and speak of divorce with tenderness and compassion. Few other experiences in life can wound so deeply.
36 – A fundamental personal violation in divorce is abandonment. The deepest of all human relationships is being severed.
37 – Those considering divorce do well to call “time-out” and seek help. Divorce is never a good option. Sadly, at times, it can be the better of two unhappy options.
38 – The circle of those affected goes well beyond the two whose marriage is ending. Divorce reveals how broadly we are all related—children, family, friends.
39 – Damaged emotions involved in divorce may take years to heal, but Jesus is a specialist in healing! Personal crises of all kinds beckon us to go deeper with God.
40 – Oaths. The central wrong in making an oath is idolatry of self. The oath-maker assumes control over circumstances he or she does not necessarily control.
41 – Jesus: “And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:36-37).
42 – I am not self-determined or self-sufficient; only God is. I control neither the external nor internal circumstances of my life; only God does (James 4:13-15).
43 – Of course we must make commitments—life does not work without them. But we do so with humility, owning our limitations and relying on God’s help.
44 – Retaliation. When we respond to an offense, real or imagined, by wanting to retaliate, we assume a role God has not given us—the role of judge.
45 – To try to justify myself—to right every wrong—is unworkable. It leaves me frustrated. It wounds me further. The way of Jesus: I allow my Father to justify me.
46 – Only God has a fully accurate view of the wrong. What really happened? Who is to blame? Only God can judge with the proper balance of truth and mercy.
47 – Love of enemies. How can I possibly love my enemies? Not by greater “will-power.” I must become a new kind of person—the kind of person who forgives.
48 – How do I become the kind of person who forgives? An entire chapter on this is coming. This summarizes the answer: I become the kind of person Jesus is.
49 – Initial steps to becoming the kind of person who forgives:
- Forgiveness never denies or minimizes the wrong.
- Forgiveness speaks truth without assigning blame.
- Forgiveness leaves God to judge who the “bad guys” are and what punishment should be.
- Forgiveness results in the healing and freeing of the one feeling wronged.
50 – How do I pursue the re-formation of my emotions? Let’s look again at the fruit of the Holy Spirit and its components.
51 – These components are best seen as conditions of life that are accompanied by emotions. I pursue the condition (obedience). In time the emotions follow.
52 – The most immediate ways I have to regulate my emotions are my choices in placing my thoughts. I practice the Presence. I locate my thoughts in Scripture.
53 – What do I do with painful emotions? Jesus’ way is not to block them out or suppress them. Any relief this may yield will be short lived.
54 – God’s way is to heal painful emotions. Practicing his Presence, I bring my pain to Jesus on the cross. In my imaginative mind I “see” him dying there for me.
55 – I ask him to take my pain and administer his healing. He died for my sin; he also died for my pain (Isaiah 53:5). I rely on him; I trust him.
56 – It may be helpful at this point to review Chapter Seven: Inner Healing.
57 – I focus on learning how to love. Jesus said this was most important (John 15:9, 12-13). Here all qualities of Christlikeness converge (Colossians 3:12-15).
Last edited—April 17, 2017
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