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.”
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What Are You Doing Here?

1 Kings provides one of the most powerful demonstrations of God’s presence and power then few other narratives in the Bible.  We see how quickly Israel (now divided into 2 kingdoms) starts rapidly departing from the Lord, usually due to their kings following other gods and as we so often read doing “evil in the sight of the Lord.”

1 Kings 18 is the famous account of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel.   God shows up in a huge way and unquestionably displays his sovereignty over false gods and the false prophets of Baal pay with their lives.  Elijah, riding high on this victory and being used by God in such a powerful way…finds himself then in the cross hairs of Queen Jezebel.   For reasons which aren’t as clear, Elijah – after just calling down fire from heaven, and routing hundreds of men – runs from the queen like a scared little girl.  He RUNS 120 miles, sits down under a tree and proceeds to have a pity party asking even that he “might die.”  (1 Kings 19:4).

God then shows up again – again demonstrating his sovereignty over his creation by displaying power in the wind, an earthquake, and then fire.  But the Lord wasn’t in any of these – he was instead in what came next – a low whisper.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (19:13)

I was immediately struck by how many times I go places I shouldn’t be.   Perhaps not so much physical places anymore, but maybe for you that may still apply – but places in my mind. Even if we call ourselves disciples of Christ, we still will struggle with sin in this life – one of the biggest battlegrounds is our minds. Our minds are so powerful and how we think MUST be shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We  must take every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus. (1 Cor 10:5).  Many times I will find myself thinking things that I should not, and then subsequently allowing that to alter my perception.   The famous clip from Martin-Lloyd Jones rings true here once again – in his commentary on Ps 42 –

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in this psalm] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’”

–Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965), 20.

The Bible is very clear that we are to renew our minds (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 4:22-24) which will then lead to renewed behavior.  Right thinking leads to right living.

So, don’t let your thoughts get away from you.  Counter act wrong thoughts with the truth of the gospel.  Preach the gospel to yourself constantly.  Pray for the Spirit to remind you of the truth of the gospel.  Meditate on his word. Surround yourself with things that glorify God.

And in those moments where you find the thoughts running away – be quick to ask yourself  – “What are you doing here?”

And head back to the cross and press on.