Feelings…and Dr. Jones.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m thinking.  Martin Lloyd Jone’s (1899-1981) book Spiritual Depression has been testified about repeatedly by some of my greatest heroes in the faith (John Piper, CJ Mahaney, Bob Kauflin, Mark Driscoll…to name just a few).  So the big question is – why haven’t I read this sooner?  Duh.

Each chapter has been blowing my mind, but I felt lead to share this mornings chapter on “Feelings” as it is particularly practical. He is one of my new favorite dear old departed saints.

The starting premise is that feelings exist, they are altogether strange in their coming and going, and we are not to allow ourselves to be controlled by them.  We need to control them, with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that lives within us as followers of Jesus.  “Oh the havoc that is wrought and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!”  Thank you, Dr. Jones, for starting us off with a bang.

Basics:

  1. Feelings are meant to be engaged
    • Do not be afraid of feelings (RuelNote: Does that count as feeling something about a feeling?)
  2. We cannot create feelings, nor command them at will.
    • We cannot generate feelings within ourselves.
  3. Nothing is as changing within us as our feelings
    • Ever just wake up in a bad mood for no reason at all?
    • Don’t underestimate the physical factors – are you exercising, eating right, and sleeping enough?
  4. Bad feelings do not mean we are not a Christian
    • Neither is happy lightheartedness Christian joy – but that doesn’t mean we give in to stoicism and thinking all happy feelings are bad.  (Turns out you can be a Christian and show some emotion.  Perhaps try that when singing! OK, I digress, back to our regularly scheduled program…)

So what do to/not to:

  1. Feeling depressed?  First check for sin.
    • If you are actively sinning and not repenting…guess what? You should be miserable.  There is something between you and God…
    • Confess, repent and run to the cross and soak in the grace God gave you in Jesus
  2. Do not over-concentrate on your feelings – they are not to be central.  We cannot let them control us.
    • Concentrate on the Truth – God’s Word.  Yes, the Bible.
  3. There is a difference between rejoicing and feeling happy
    • You cannot make yourself happy, but you can make yourself rejoice (Phil 4:4 anyone?)
    • Stir yourself up – remind yourself of your identity in Christ
    • When you are walking in the darkness, keep walking.  Don’t sit down in it.
    • Thirst after righteousness (Matt 5:6)
  4. Want the most supreme joy? Press hard into God
    • Psalm 16:11 – “You have make know to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.”

The Cross Centered Day

If we are calling ourselves Christians – nothing should be more central to our faith than Christ.  Yes..I know…novel thought.  Specifically, the person and work of Jesus Christ – who he was and what he came to do – his cross, the gospel.  We must keep this the center, the core – always in focus.  If you know me or my wife — you may have heard us say that a time or two.

CJ Mahaney is one of our favorite authors, and one of the bestest (yes, bestest is a word) is “Living the Cross Centered Life” I LOVE this book. Recently, during our yearly chronological Bible reading, we were in Isaiah…and when we got to Isaiah 53 it drove me right back to Mahaney’s wonderful book. That chapter of Isaiah paints such an amazing picture of our Savior – a prophecy of Jesus – who would bear not only our sin, but our shame and our sorrows on the cross.

Now, in real life we have disappointments, setbacks, we have condemnation and guilt that creep up on us and try overwhelm us and keep us ineffective…as a Christian, God is always using these for his glory and our good – conforming us to the image of his Son. (Rom 8:29) Again, realize that “our good” doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be rich, happy, skinny, and free of pimples – it’s not a self-centered “good” it is a CHRIST-centered “good”. Don’t believe the lies of the false gospel of prosperity. Silly rabbit, it’s always about God’s glory, not our own.

OK, so back on track. Sorry about that.

In his book, Mahaney gives 5 great practical suggestions for keeping the cross the focus in the day to day:

1. Memorize the gospel.

  • This means memorizing where the gospel is recorded for us…the BIBLE.  Dwell in gospel-saturated verses like:
    • 2 Cor 5:21
    • Rom 8:31-31
    • Isaiah 53:3-6
    • Rom 3:23-26
    • Rom 5:6-11
    • 1 Cor 15:3-4
    • Gal 2:21
    • Even if you know these passages already, memorize them…write them down, say them out loud, pray that the Spirit will give you more understanding…you will be amazed at what you see.

    2. Pray the gospel

  • Mahaney writes “Thank him that you’ll never be separated from God’s love because Jesus bore God’s wrath for sin. Thank Him that because of the cross you are reconciled to God and have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, lead you, guide you, and empower you to resist sin and serve God. Then as God to bless you graciously with everything you need to obey and glorify Him”

3. Sing the gospel

  • As a worship leader, this is HUGE.  And I totally agree with CJ that there is a lot of junk “worship music” out there is that is focused more on US than the gospel. Be discerning!  Remember Christian music is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Seek out music that is Biblically accurate, cross-focused, and gospel centered.  Check out Chris Tomlin, Keith/Kristin Getty, Fee, Matt Redman…and my favorites – Sovereign Grace Music. And remember, just because it’s on “Christian radio” doesn’t mean anything – we are called to protect our lives and doctrine closely.

4. Review how the gospel has changed you

  • This is key for me.  I need to remember what God has saved me from, but not get stuck there.  I need to remember who I used to be and then let it cause me to rejoice in what God has done thru Christ to make me a completely NEW person – and not get stuck in the guilt and condemnation of the past.  We cannot stay there, it will cripple us.  Trust me.  Some great passages here are:
    • Gal 2:20-21
    • Col 3:1-3
    • Phil 3:13-15
    • Isaiah 43:18-19
    • Eph 4:20-24

    5. Study the gospel

  • Mahaney writes – “Camp out in the books of Romans and Galatians”; “don’t be afraid of technical theological terms like atonement, substitution, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, sanctification…if you are looking for a guide The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges explains each of these words in detail
  • Read your WHOLE Bible with your eyes peeled for the gospel- it’s in the whole Bible…really.

What kind of God do you think of?

Do you think of this kind of God?  (Hopefully you are seeing a picture to the left right now…)

I’m convinced the vast majority of people do.

Exodus doesn’t really the picture any differently.

Exodus Chap 19 describes Moses’ encounter with God at Mt. Sinai, where God gives the 10 Commandments to the people, but the scene as described is pretty awe-inspiring.

God was on his mountain.  No one, except Moses, could even touch the mountain. 

12And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.(A) Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.

On top of that…there is a HUGE cloud, thunder probably like no one has ever heard before, lightning so bright it probably temporarily blinds you…an earthquake, smoke, FIRE….a trumpet being blown out of no where at ear-shattering volumes…

Wow.  OK then. God then proceeds to give the 10 Commandments…you know, those laws that our society is pretty much based upon.  The people are so terrified when God is done giving them the “rules” they say “Umm, Moses. From now on YOU talk to us – Don’t let God speak to us anymore, he is so scary we may just DIE if we hear that again.” (Ex 20:19 – Ruel Translation)

Is that the kind of God you think of?

It’s pretty hard to think of being intimate with a God that says if anyone or anything gets close to me I will kill them.

Well, I can understand, BUT realize this:  that Christ came to bring us to that very same God.  Actually that very same God loves you very much…but you have to realize that God isn’t like us – he is totally different than us.  He is the all powerful, Creator of the universe, He is 100% holy and pure, so much so that we humans in our 10-commandment-breaking sinfulness can’t approach such a being.  It’s not that he doesn’t love us – it’s that our sin is incompatible with a 100% pure God.   That’s a big problem, isn’t it?  Worse yet, God considers our sin to him (and there isn’t one of us alive that hasn’t sinned) OFFENSIVE.  God is also 100% just and fair and always has to punish sin…YIKES.   So, let’s take stock here:

  1. God is 100% holy – no sin at all
  2. We are ALL, every one of us, sinners
  3. This sin is OFFENSIVE to God, as he is 100% holy
  4. God is also 100% fair and just and will always treat sin with the punishment it deserves
  5. We can do nothing to fix this ourselves.

This is a dilemma.  As CJ Mahaney refers to it in his book “Living the Cross Centered Life” – this is a Divine Dilemma and we are in need of a Divine Rescue. 

Enter Jesus Christ.

God, in his great love and mercy towards us, sends us Jesus Christ – who lived the only perfect, sinless life (remember those Commandments?), who was both fully God and fully human – to pay that punishment we deserved for our sin (see #4) and thus appease the Most Holy and Angry God (see image of Angry God type).  The sin was so big that God himself had to pay it – he is the only one who could.

This is the Gospel – and I love the RC Sproul quote:

The glory of the gospel is this: the one from whom we need to be saved is the one who has saved us

The work of Jesus on the cross is what saves us.  That is the only way that we can approach God almighty – by claiming the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross.  Then we will not see the pointing finger, the anger – we will see the love of the one who created you to be with him.

19(A) Therefore, brothers,[a] since we have confidence to enter(B) the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by(C) the new and living way that he opened for us through(D) the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have(E) a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts(F) sprinkled clean(G) from an evil conscience and our bodies(H) washed with pure water. 23(I) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for(J) he who promised is faithful.

Why So Many Cross Centered Songs?

Another great article from CJ Mahaney – from WorshipGod09. I took this right off his blog :

Please, lather, rinse…repeat as necessary!

-M

At the WorshipGod09 conference, my friend Jeff Purswell asked Bob and me the following question:

Many of the songs we sing here, and many of the songs written by people in Sovereign Grace, have the gospel as a key component to them. There are all kinds of themes in Scripture, and there are all kinds of songs in Scripture. Why should we have so many songs about the cross? Why should the cross play such a central role in our singing when there are so many other things we can sing about?

This is an important question. Here was the essence of my answer:

First, since the cross is the storyline of Scripture, it should be the storyline of our corporate worship. The cross is the matter of “first importance” and it should be reflected in our singing on a weekly basis (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Second, we must never leave the impression during corporate worship that we do not need a mediator. There isn’t a moment where I don’t need a mediator. In light of the Father’s holiness and my sinfulness, I cannot approach him directly apart from Christ. It is quite possible for us to sing songs that are accurately extolling the attributes of God. But if the cross is absent, we leave the unintended impression that somehow I can approach the Father apart from a mediator—that I can experience intimacy with God apart from the One who died for my many sins.

Third, cross-centered songs imitate the heavenly model. In Revelation 5:1-14, for example, we catch a glimpse of eternal worship and our heavenly future. Jim Elliff has written, “One is taken aback by the emphasis upon the Cross in Revelation. Heaven does not ‘get over’ the cross, as if there are better things to think about; heaven is not only Christ-centered, but cross-centered, and quite blaring about it.” Amen! Every Sunday should be a heavenly preview as we survey the wondrous cross and as we sing of the Lamb who is worthy of our praise.

Forth, cross-centered songs affect our souls. You’ve heard the Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote about how most of our unhappiness comes from listening to ourselves more than we talk to ourselves. In light of this, corporate worship is a serious gift! Singing in corporate worship is a means of talking to yourself. This provides us an opportunity to stop listening to ourselves, to stop listening to sin, legalism, condemnation, and to begin singing and talking to ourselves. And by the end of corporate worship there is a good chance that we will experience the joy of the gospel. Not very often in our noisy world do we have such an opportunity to talk to ourselves. So what your church is saying in these moments of corporate singing is very important. And what a unique opportunity worship leaders have to transfer the hope of the gospel to people in corporate worship. And to think, you can do this each and every Sunday!

Cross-centered worship songs are vital to the life of the church.

Idolatry…

During my morning 1hr 15min drive to work this morning, I was overjoyed (ok…just “pretty happy”) to find out that I had neglected a conference message on my iPod from CJ Mahaney at New Attitude 2007 on Idolatry. (Click HERE for the MP3)

Needless to say, I had been thinking about idolatry a lot these days…duh…I guess that’s why I’m posting about it.

Also needless to say, there were a few zingers in this message that nearly caused me to slam on the brakes and proceed to slam my forehead into the steering wheel of my trusty G6 in repentance.  I immediately took out my trusty iPhone and snagged a few sections, thanks to my trusty Evernote iPhone app.

Here are a few nuggets for your conviction:

Idolatry may well come in the form of an over attachment to something that is in itself perfectly good

Oh.  An “over” attachment eh.  Like…when I don’t get it…it bothers me?

More to the point of what it really is…

Idolatry is a sinful craving for one of God’s gifts that you want more than God himself.

An idol is something that is within creation that is inflated to function as God.  (Richard Keys)

You know the gifts – they could be anything – food, sports, drinks, sex, TV, money…the “usual” list goes on…but what about the “not” so usual list?  What’s on that…well…as Pastor Mahaney says “anything that you want more than God himself.”

Anything that I want more than God himself?

Oh.

Other juicy nuggets:

An idol causes you to profess a love for the true and loving God while functionally loving and serving a false god.

And summing it up nicely is Mr. Calvin, whom Pastor Mahaney also quoted:

The evil in our desires usually doesn’t lie in what we want, but that we want it too much (Calvin)

So…how bad do you want [whatever it is].

Do you want it more than God himself?

-M