"My Feelings, Meet God's Word!"#85-46
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 15, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 6:14-29
Let us pray: O God, You are our Creator and Judge, our Savior and our Sanctifier. Through Your Word You teach us to know You; You give us faith to trust You; and You mature us to live more and more in Your will. Our lives are filled with emotions; feelings continually swirl within our souls. By Your Spirit working through Your Word, help us live in total obedience to You, in our actions, our thoughts, and our feelings. We beg this because only You can lead us in Your way, and You have promised that blessing to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In today's message, I invite you to make an introduction. I'd like you to imagine introducing your feelings to what God has to say. We all have feelings: love, anger, joy, sadness, disappointment, shame, confidence, guilt ... the list of feelings is long. Some are good; others are not so good. In these next minutes, I'd like you to think about how you handle your feelings. An important part of true spirituality is not only being aware of your feelings but introducing your feelings to God's Word.
Emotions can drive us, for good or for ill. Let me give you a real-life example: the story of Bob and Alicia. This account comes from a book by Thom Rainer.
"Bob had caught the wave of the technology boom at a good time, and his start-up company would soon be traded publicly. Analysts predicted that his net worth would soar to the hundreds of millions of dollars. But wealth was not new to Bob. A successful inventor, he already had a taste of being a millionaire. The pleasure was fleeting; joy was still elusive. Bob's failure to find joy in the material world was a crushing blow. 'I worked the first forty years of my life with a singular aim: to become a millionaire before I turned forty. I succeeded, but I found no joy. I began wondering if I would ever be happy.'"
Think about Bob's experience with his feelings. He yearned for joy and lasting pleasure. He expected to find it in wealth. It's as if Bob had said, "My feeling for happiness, let me introduce you to money." Well, Bob's yearning for happiness met money, lots of money, but the relationship proved disappointing. Our yearnings don't go away, and so Bob moved onto his next hope. Reading again from Thom Rainer's account.
"When Bob met Alicia, he again thought that he had found happiness. Indeed, he was so infatuated with her that he thought his life's journey for happiness was over. He was wrong. 'Alicia and I were very much in love,' Bob confirmed. 'Yet the more we talked, the more we realized that we were still missing something in our lives.'"
It's as if Bob had said, "My feeling for happiness, meet Alicia! Loving Alicia and being loved by Alicia will meet my deepest yearning for happiness." Again, human love, as wonderful as it can be, didn't meet their deepest need. As Bob said, "The more we talked, the more we realized that we were still missing something in our lives."
At this point, I must give you a content warning. In the next part of the story, Bob and Alicia go to church. Here's my content warning: what you'll hear next is not a pitch to go to church. I absolutely do believe regular worship is one of the most practical things you can do, and later I'll tell you why. For now, let's simply keep tracking with Bob and Alicia's feelings. They said,
"'That's when we decided to visit a church.' The church they chose to visit was a large nondenominational church not far from their home on the east side of town. 'We didn't choose the church because it was big or because it had a bunch of programs. We were just looking for answers. We picked this church because our neighbors recommended it.'
How did they react to the church? 'It was unbelievable,' said Bob. 'It was like the pastor was preaching right at us. I would look at Alicia and she would look at me. We were both thinking how can this guy know what's going on in our lives?'"
I don't know anything about that church, what town it was in, what style of ministry it had, nothing. I hope that church not only touched their feelings but introduced their feelings to God and Jesus. There are churches that simply pander to your feelings. If God and Jesus are mentioned, it's just to make you feel good. The Barna organization surveys the beliefs and practices of Americans, and here's what they report about American spirituality today.
"When we peel back the layers, we find that many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self .... While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through culture, a majority of churchgoing Christians have embraced corrupt, me-centered theology."
Church should make you feel good, feel good because you hear that God knows you, knows your feelings, sees your sins, and gives you a Savior. We are born sinners, and so our feelings by nature are sinful. Following our natural feelings for happiness and love is a vain pursuit. We need the Word of God to speak to our being, head and heart, to speak sin and forgiveness and guidance. You'll go home from that kind of church saying, God does know what's going on in our lives and He speaks to us!
Bob and Alicia's story seems to have turned out well. Now we turn to a story about the darker side of emotions. This is a story about not monitoring your feelings with the Law and Gospel of God's Word. This story is from the Bible, Mark 6. It's about Herod, a woman named Herodias, and John the Baptist. Herod had strong feelings for his brother's wife and followed his feelings to get her away from her husband. When you blindly follow your feelings without regard for the Word of God, life gets messy. This story is a soap opera, but it's true. From Mark 6:
"Herod ... had sent and seized John (the Baptist) and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife'" (Mark 6:17-18).
John was trying to get Herod to examine his feelings with the Word of God. If Herod had taken the message to heart, he would have repented and confessed his sin, much like King David did when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered. David repented and was forgiven (2 Samuel 11-12).
Herod listened, but did he repent? No. And what about Herodias, who also followed her own lusts? Mark 6 says, quote, "And Herodias had a grudge against him (John the Baptist) and wanted to put him to death." Sin is rebellion against God's commandments and rebels keep on rebelling. "It's going to be my way, God, not Your way!" So Herodias commits adultery, and now nurses a grudge and wants to have John murdered. When you follow your feelings more than the Word of God, sin multiplies. The soap opera of your life gets messier and messier. Reading on.
"But she (Herodias) could not (get John killed), for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, 'Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.' And he vowed to her, 'Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.'"
Ha! Herod must have been drunk! Another failure to live his life according to God's Word. Reading on,
"And she went out and said to her mother, 'For what should I ask?' And she said, 'The head of John the Baptist.' And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.' And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother" (Mark 6:19-28).
There's sin, full-blown sin. Lust, adultery, hatred, conniving, murder. St. James describes it well. "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). And here's another relevant theological point. God lets sinners have their way. Herod and Herodias got away with it, at least for a time. St. Paul writes this about people who do not introduce and submit their feelings to God's Word.
"God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity ... Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil ... Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Romans 1:24, 28-32).
The soap opera of undisciplined feelings and consequences is God's way of teaching, "Follow your feelings, ignore My commands, and see where it gets you!"
That's life without the Good News of God. The Good News of God forgives. When you and I introduce our feelings to the Word of God, when we acknowledge the deep stirrings within us and measure them against God's will for our lives, we find that our feelings without repentance and God's forgiveness are sinful. The Good News is that God forgives you when you confess your sin and His Word penetrates the depths of your being. Forgiveness is God's way of making you right with Him. That's the most important thing of all, that you be right with God. Being right with God is more important than how you feel at any given time. And forgiveness brings great blessings, including a change in your feelings. Listen to Psalm 32 describe the emotional change that comes from God's forgiveness.
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:1-5).
To bring the blessing of forgiveness into your life, God sent His Son Jesus. On the cross Jesus suffered the punishment that your sin deserves. By the resurrection on Easter morning, God signaled that He has accepted Jesus' sacrifice for you. This comes to you in the Word of God. That is why it is so important that our feelings be introduced to the Word, specifically the word of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Feelings are part of who we are. We are born sinners, and so our feelings are by nature sinful until ... until the Word of God covers us with forgiveness. The Word of Christ is not an emotion; it is God's objective truth. God's Word keeps speaking to your feelings, "My son, my daughter, be of good cheer! Your sin is forgiven!" That's one of the real practical benefits of going to church every Sunday, if you are able. You keep bringing your feelings to the objective Word of God, the Word of forgiveness in Christ, who judges you not for the dark stirrings of your heart but judges you forgiven because of Jesus. My feelings, meet God's Word of forgiveness!
All this comes to you because God loves you, whatever you've done. St. John wrote, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). As you think about your sinful feelings and sinful acts, do you think God can't love you? Take this to heart. 500 years ago, in 1518, Martin Luther compared human love and God's love. He wrote, "God's love does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. Human loves comes into being through that which is pleasing to it." That is, we love what we like. Bob and Alicia, in our opening story, loved one another because each found the other attractive. Those awful people Herod and Herodias found each other pathetically attractive. Human love seeks out what it thinks is attractive. God's love is different. God's love searches and finds what is unattractive and creates someone loveable. God's love finds you and me, unattractive because of the darkness of our hearts and the stirrings that are so often sinful. God's love puts that to death in His Son Jesus and through faith makes you pleasing and beloved by God.
So keep introducing your feelings to the Word of Christ, and the Spirit of God will grow in you the purest and best of emotions. St. Paul writes, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh ... The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no Law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:16, 22-24). My feelings, meet God's Word! Amen.
Reflections for July 15, 2018
Title: MY FEELINGS, MEET GOD'S WORD
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and that was Dr. Dale Meyer. Now, Pastor Ken Klaus joins us from his home in Texas. Hello there, Pastor!
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark! Pleasure to be with you and a pleasure to have listened to another of Dr. Meyer's messages. Once again, he went boldly where not many preachers have gone before.
Mark Eischer: Where is that?
Ken Klaus: Well, talking about how life can be like a soap opera.
Mark Eischer: Okay, in which things seem to get messier when we don't follow God's Word. Would you agree with that?
Ken Klaus: Well, not really. You see, before I became a minister, I would occasionally glance at about five minutes of soap opera and then I'd turn it off. Five minutes was all I could take. It was so fake. Anytime the subject of a soap opera came up, I'd say people don't act that foolish in real life.
Mark Eischer: Now, that's what you would say back then. What would you say now?
Ken Klaus: Well, after I got out in the ministry and ended up doing some counseling, I'd come home shaking my head. Pammy would ask me why, and although I couldn't give her particulars, I would say, "If they'd put people's real lives on a soap opera, nobody would ever believe it. People are just so strange."
Mark Eischer: I think that's true, but the main thrust of our message today wasn't so much an evaluation of soap operas. Dr. Meyer was talking about the feelings that we have, and how they either do or do not relate to God's Word. He used the story of Herod and John the Baptist, to show how things really do get messy when we don't live according to the will of God. Would you agree with that?
Ken Klaus: Oh, yeah, absolutely! And that's why I spend so much time talking about soap operas. Mark, do you know how to end the plot of every soap opera in one segment?
Mark Eischer: No, how would you do that?
Ken Klaus: You could end every soap opera in one segment if you had all the characters confessing their sins, lies, rumors, and viciousness, and told the truth. If they did it in the context of Christianity, their lives would be changed infinitely for the better.
Mark Eischer: I'm thinking here of that passage from 1 John chapter one that says, "If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned we make God a liar and His Word is not in us."
Ken Klaus: Yeah, that's it. Poof! No more soap operas and not so many problems in people's real lives either. That's what happens when we are in God's Word, or at least that is what should happen.
Mark Eischer: But sometimes other things get in the way, don't they?
Ken Klaus: Yeah, they do. Years ago, it fell to me to direct the children's Christmas service, and usually there was a child in every class who goofed around, didn't participate, disturbed the others, and the like. Eventually, I'd stop the practice and give what I felt was as gentle correction. When I looked up I saw children crying.
Mark Eischer: Apparently, your words had a much stronger effect.
Ken Klaus: Yeah. The problem was it wasn't the misbehaving children who were crying. They were still misbehaving. It was the good as gold kids who were upset they had let me down. Their emotions were unjustly accusing them.
Mark Eischer: So they took your words to heart, even though those words were not meant for them?
Ken Klaus: Yeah. And I've seen the same thing happen in Christian adults, too. Now, not usually because of something I've said, but because of something they've done, somewhere, once upon a time. Maybe a long time ago, they did something which scandalized them, bothered them, rode them, ate away at their stomachs, robbed them of sleep.
Mark Eischer: Well, could I be bold here and say they should have made confession?
Ken Klaus: And that's it, but they had confessed their sins. The Lord, because of Jesus, had absolved them of their sin. They were forgiven.
Mark Eischer: But that sin still stuck?
Ken Klaus: Well, not the sin, Satan. Satan kept accusing and accusing, and they felt so bad about what they had done, it was easy for them to believe Satan, and that was the tragedy. They were right with God, but their emotions were accusing them and letting them down.
Mark Eischer: And I'm sure we have listeners who understand right now exactly what you're saying. What do they need to hear?
Ken Klaus: They need to hear, in Christ there is forgiveness for every sin. Death could not defeat Jesus, and your once-upon-a-time wrongdoing can't do it either. You, my friends, are forgiven.
Mark Eischer: On the other hand, what about those misbehaving children who've grown up into misbehaving adults?
Ken Klaus: Well maybe this, if your conscience isn't accusing you of wrongdoing when you've done wrong, don't assume you are off the hook. Your emotions need to be brought into line with the will of the lord, and today would be as good of day as any to do it.
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Pastor. And what can we look forward to hearing next week?
Ken Klaus: We're gonna talk about letting the Lord Jesus do what only He can do, and letting us do what we should.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)