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                                                     Week 17

                                        Renewing the Emotions

         Sin has affected every part of us. In Christ we have received a new spirit. The body
enjoys better health as our lives are brought into his order and the peace of God dwells in us
richly. Meanwhile, we are to cooperate with God in the renewing of our souls, that is: our
mind, emotions and will.
          An emotion is a feeling arising from the heart rather than a rational activity of the
intellect. Emotions are to the soul what pain is to the body - they are the product of what we
think, and the driving force of our personality. Emotions reflect the state of the soul, just as
pain reflects the state of the body. Pain has a protective function – it alerts us to something
that’s gone wrong – and so may emotions. Therefore, listen to them and don’t ignore them.

         Psychologists are clear that good mental health includes a willingness to
acknowledge, feel and deal with our emotions. In fact, the root cause of much physical pain
also lies in our emotions. Specifically, some practitioners claim that back pain is one of the
mind’s means of diverting attention from the emotions. This is not just a medical theory, it is
actually biblical! Thus:

      Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness
      because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
      My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down
      and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with
      searing pain; there is no health in my body. (Psalm 38:3-7)

        Like any other person, God also has emotions (love, joy, anger), and we are made in
his image and likeness ( Genesis 1:26). They are a precious gift. Jesus was filled with joy
more than any other person (Hebrews 1:9), was profoundly peaceful, and on occasion wept
or was (righteously) angry. The ‘fruit of the Spirit’, (Galatians 5:23) which is increasingly seen
in us as we become more like Christ, touches our emotions at every point.

                                             Reconciled to God.
       At new birth God reconciled us to himself (2Corinthians 5:18). That act of love and
grace changed the attitude of our hearts towards him, and thus began the transformation of
our emotions. Specifically:

                                 Fear                  were                     Love
                                 Guilt              replaced by                  Joy
                                Hostility                                       Peace

         Our heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and purified
by faith (Acts 15:9). Thus, he has both purified and released our emotions. Moreover, God
did not give us a spirit of timidity (cowardice), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-
discipline (self-control) (2 Timothy 1:7). So, along with the mind of Christ God has also
given us the emotions of Christ, as witness Paul’s passionate writing to the Philippians
(1:8): God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection* of Christ Jesus.

                                     Thoughts determine feelings.
         Since thoughts determine our feelings it follows that the key to coping with our
emotions is transformation of the mind. A classic case in point is that of the prophet Jeremiah
after the sack of Jerusalem in 597 BC, Lamentations 3. In vv.1-18 he wallows in self-pity, as
well he might given what he’d gone though. Then his thinking changes (vv.19-24), he realises

 [NB. *The Greek word that is translated as ‘affection’ is much stronger in meaning. It literally means ‘bowels’, and is
sometimes translated as ‘the compassion of Christ’ or his ‘tender mercies’. ]

that God isn’t the cause of his troubles, he does a U-turn, and the whole scene brightens. His
circumstances hadn’t altered, but his view of God did – and his emotions followed suit.
           Where the mind is in line with God’s word of truth, godly emotions follow.

        Your emotions/feelings cannot be trusted as a guide to the truth. If others lied to us as
much as our emotions do, we’d have nothing to do with them! If you believe what you feel,
your Christian walk will be as inconsistent as your feelings. Y o-yo Christians are always
up and down. When they’re down they talk obvious rubbish; when they’re up they may seem
to be spiritual but, in fact, they’re no more trustworthy. Therefore:
                        Don’t believe what you feel; feel what you believe!

        The reality of the inward transformation of your mind and emotions is proved by the
changes in your behaviour/lifestyle that all can see. Renewed emotions are visible proof of
what Christ has done within you. It’s not what you claim to be, but what you are seen to be
that matters in God’s kingdom.

                                  How people handle emotions

         Sit on them                 Let it all hang out                Be real & face them
        (Suppression)                   (Expression)                     (Acknowledgment)

This is conscious denial - it’s       Hard on others.        Psalm 109:1-13. David was being
unhealthy. [Repression is                                    honest with God about the pain and
unconscious denial]                                          anger he felt.

        The people we trust instinctively are not those who lack feelings - indeed, they are
often quite emotional people – but we discern that they do not live by their feelings.

                             Some factors that affect emotions
                        Hunger       Stress           Menstrual cycle
                                  Tiredness                Childbirth

                      The Psalms: a Guide to Handling Emotions.
        More than any other book in the Bible the Psalms show how to handle emotions. In
them you will find wonderful expressions of the praise, adoration and worship of God that
open up to you new vistas in your walk with him. You will also find expressions of rage,
loneliness, despair, fear, confusion, anger, contempt, envy, shame, and many other emotions.

         Although the psalms are full of raw emotion, they are not simply examples of people
blasting off in anger or some other feeling: these are not cases of people simply ‘letting it all
hang out’ by dumping their frustration on others. Having let off steam, so to say, the writers
almost always end with their focus back on God in the realisation that, in the final analysis, his
justice and righteousness will win the day. The psalms are, therefore, a good pattern to follow
when we find ourselves in confusion. Two examples:
     But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I
     envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no
     struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens
     common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their
     necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

     When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and
     ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by
     my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into
     glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
     My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion
     forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to
     you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my
     refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:2-6; 21-28)

        Wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have
        spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they
        attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me.

        May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be
        fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they
        be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers
        plunder the fruits of his labour. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on
        his fatherless children. May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from
        the next generation.

        But you, O Sovereign LORD, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the
        goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is
        wounded within me. (Psalm 109:4-12; 8-13; 21-22)

         We can be real with God, we can pour out our pain, anger, disappointments and
confusion before him, and we should do so for to bury emotions always leads to trouble
somewhere down the track, because emotions are always buried alive unless they have been
dealt with before God. However, there is in fact a very important principle at work here .

        “Though our negative feelings may not at first appear to have much to do with God,
        they are quite often making a profound statement. Fear says, ‘Is God capable of
        taking care of me?’ Anger says, ‘Why does God allow my goals to be blocked?’
        Envy says, ‘God seems to bless others more than me.’ Disappointment says, ‘Is
        God fair?’ Our feelings may surface in the horizontal context of life but they have a
        vertical concept also: our concept of God.”

        At the root o all joy is the wonder of redemption; at the root of all negative
        emotions is the question: ‘Is God good?’

                                         Healing the emotions
        Emotions are the product of our upbringing and experience. The more traumatic our
experience, the stronger will be the resulting emotions. Many deal with painful experiences by
burying them, repression as it is called (i.e. unconscious suppression), but this is not God’s
way. He wants us to face such things and deal with them.
     Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if
     there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

         Negative emotions may be the result of traumatic experiences, especially in
childhood, or a sign that God wants us to deal with some aspect of our trust in him as our all-
sufficient Lord and provider. You may deal with these things as follows.

Step 1: Ask God to show you any hidden or suppressed issues he wants you to deal with.

Step 2: In the case of things from your past your emotions are the result of how you
perceived the event then. But now you are a new creation: your ‘old man’ has died on the
cross and with it the pain of the event(s). How you process and evaluate such things has also

Step 3: Forgive. Forgiveness is:
            ? ? resolving to live with the consequences of another person’s sin
            ? ? the only way to stop the pain
            ? ? required by God – Matthew 6:14-15
            ? ? a crisis of the will.

       God tells you to forgive, therefore it is possible and you can choose to do it. An
unforgiving person is yoked to the past and is not free to grow in Christ. If you have
been deeply hurt and cannot find it in your heart to forgive, then ask the Holy Spirit to give you
    Every Day with Jesus, Selwyn Hughes, CWR, UK, 8th July 2009.
    Ref.1, 13th July 2009.

a forgiving heart and to do in you what you cannot do yourself. I can tell you from personal
experience that it works.

        Having admitted before him what we are feeling, we are then to submit to his comfort
through his word. That way, the negative feelings give way to hope.
 Praise the LORD. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:1,3)

     Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion
     and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can
     comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
     For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ
     our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

               “The God-given ability to discipline our emotions is a hallmark of
                    spiritual maturity and dependability.” (Trevor Dearing)

                        How to handle other peoples’ emotions
     Then they [Job’s four friends] sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven
     nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
     (Job 2:13)
      Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda,
                 is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. (Proverbs 25:20)

     When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her
     also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid
     him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

         Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

         In other words, answer emotions with emotions. Don’t take too seriously the words
of someone who is expressing emotions honestly. Words at such a time tend to reveal the
intensity of the pain, not the intellectual content. People who are in distress don’t want to hear
your theology of suffering – they want to know how much you care, and if you understand
how they feel. Therefore, weep with those who weep, and don’t try to lecture them or force-
feed them scriptures!

        Summary: the important process of renewing your mind includes managing your
emotions by controlling your thoughts and perceptions, and acknowledging your feelings
honestly and lovingly in relationships. Responding to emotions properly is an important part of
keeping the devil from gaining a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).

                                Emotions and guidance
     Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were
     called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

       Whatever disturbs your peace is cause for concern. When you are seeking guidance
from God, one of the key elements in determining the truth of what you believe you hear is his
peace. His joy also will confirm it, and his love will apply, ensuring that nobody will be hurt,
disadvantaged or marginalized as a result of what you believe you are hearing from God.

                                     Renewing the Will
              "If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15,23,24)

         In scripture ‘love’ and ‘hatred’ are actions as much as emotions. Like electricity, love
can be seen only by its effects. True love of Jesus is demonstrated by obedience to his will,
not by what we claim to be or to have experienced. The extent to which a person’s life is in
line with scripture shows how far their will is submitted to God – and that tells you how much
they really love him!
        There are two kinds of submission: (1) the genuine article; (2) false submission –
the appearance of submission – which actually means that that person is trying to manipulate

you. True submission is surrender of one’s will to God. Along with true submission to God
goes a willingness to submit to man’s authority, especially God-ordained authority within the
church. God hates independence. Independence and rebellion travel together. There are
many ‘independent’ churches centred upon the need of one man to lead, churches that were
never meant to be.

         God reads your heart and he knows if you truly want to live for him. If you do, and if
your thinking and emotions line up with his word and are therefore under his direction, you will
hear him clearly, for yourself and for others. As soon as your intentions are clear he will use
you for your God-ordained purpose. In the Christian life it’s not what you learn that
counts, but what you do with what you learn. You can hear God and still go your own way
– that grieves the Holy Spirit.

                           Some common emotional issues.

          The                               The prescription

1.   Inferiority       I am seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6)
2.   Insecurity        He will never leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)
3.   Inadequacy        I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
4.   Guilt             I am in Christ, therefore there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
5.   Worry             I have Christ’s peace in my heart and he hears my prayers. (John 14:27,
                       Philippians 4:6)

6.   Doubt             God’s wisdom is available to me. (James 1:5)

 The worldly person                     The spiritual person