Friday, May 30, 2008

How to say no, chapter 8

Continuing on with my notes from How To Say No to a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer:

Chapter 8, Living With Your Feelings

This is the toughest area for me, because somehow I expect that when I surrender an area to God, my feelings will be different and I won't want to do that thing any more. But that's not the case.

Lutzer points out that Eve's first sin involved a choice to follow feelings and desire rather than God's command, and that feelings in themselves are God-created and not wrong, but they are not fully reliable, and must be kept in check.

He mentions specifically by way of illustration:

The feeling of hunger is given by God to keep you alive: without it you would starve. But your craving for food must be kept in check, or else you will probably become gluttonous. Feelings of hunger must be restrained for the total good of the body.

The same can be said for sexual feeling and even feelings of anger and love. Your will must provide a check on the stream of emotions that ebb and flow through your being. If you follow your feelings wherever they may lead, you will be fulfilling virtually every wanton desire.
What he specifically means by "feelings" here are "inclinations, passing preferences, momentray urges," not "the deep currents of emotion which are part of the unity of your person."

We need thought, will, feeling, spiritual perception, and physical activity all to work together under the authority of the Word of God (Matt. 4:4).

"Most sinful habits are developed by simply following the path of least resistance, by doing whatever you feel like doing." "Many people who think they cannot obey God's commands really don't feel like obeying...Our fallen human nature seldom feels like obedience; usually it wants to do its own thing...Satan suggests to us -- as he did to Eve -- that God has asked us to obey commands which we cannot or need not keep. If we think we must feel like it, before we obey God's Word, we will never get off the ground in our spiritual lives."

Another danger of living by feeling is substituting or mistaking it for doctrine. "If you believe God is with you just because "He feels so close, " you will also believe there are days when He forsakes you, because He feels so far away. The assurance of God's presence does not come by feelings, but by faith (Heb. 13:5). "You need not experience a steady stream of placid emotional feelings to walk with God." Even Christ struggled with the emotions of facing the cross (John 12:27-28, Matt. 26:38).

Another danger of living by feelings is procrastination -- putting things off until we feel ready and able to do them, then adding guilt feelings to the mix.

"The moment you declare war on your besetting sin, you will bump into your feelings, mostly negative ones," like helplessness (the sin of unbelief in a different form), discouragement, laziness.

The example of Christ in coping with feelings:

1. He admitted them (Matt. 26:38, John 12:27-28)
2. He requested the support of friends.
3. He knew His emotional suffering would not separate Him from the Father's love and approval.
4. He knew that blessing would follow obedience (Heb. 12:2).

"Faith often runs counter to feeling. Even the attempt to find victory in feelings is a sin in the life of a believer. In short, it is simply 'walking in the flesh.' We must repent of th sin of assessing the reality of the Christ0life on the basis of feeling." Henry Teichrob

(Disclaimer: My purpose in jotting down these notes is not to post "the answer" so that people don't have to buy the book: on the contrary, I hope anyone struggling with persistent sin will buy the book. There is so much more there that is so rich. Rather, this is just an exercise for me to review what I have read and studied.)

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