GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
From the week ending 11/28/04
Thought Versus Emotion.
Philippians 4:10 Now, I have received much inner happiness by means of the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your concern or thinking for me; indeed, you also were thinking about me, but you lacked the opportunity to express it.
The Greek verb for concern or care is phroneo, which does not have an emotional connotation; it connotes a system of thinking rather than feeling. This verb is used in the realm of thought in other passages such as MAT 16:23 (“your mind”), ACT 28:22 (“your viewpoint”), ROM 12:3 (“your thoughts”), ROM 14:6 (“your observation”), PHI 3:15(“your attitude”).
It is important to note the difference between what you feel and what you think, especially since your feelings and emotions can deceive and misguide you. Compassion and concern have to do with the thought content of the soul,COL 3:12. All virtue come from the right lobe of the soul, where you do your thinking-not from your feelings.
Emotion is part of the essence of the soul, which resides in the brain. The emotions are designed to respond to what is in the mentality of the soul. But the way we feel is never the issue in the spiritual life. Emotion is the “female” part of the soul, designed to respond to the right lobe, the “male” part of the soul. PRO 14:30 says, “A sound mind makes for a robust [vigorous] body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones.”
In the divine order, the emotion is to respond to the thoughts in the heart, as the right woman is to respond to her right man. What is inside the right lobe of the soul should dominate emotion, so that emotion acts as an appreciator and responder, rather than reacting. Allowing one’s feelings and emotions to rule will result in disobedience and rebellion against the Lord Jesus Christ.
While certain parts of the physical anatomy are used to represent parts of the soul in the Bible, it is not difficult to distinguish the essence of the soul from the physiological anatomy of the body. The Greek word kardia means“heart” and refers to the area of thoughts in the soul. In the kardia resides the frame of reference, memory center, viewpoint, norms and standards, and doctrine. None of these exist in the emotion, which is designed only to respond to these things. Emotions are stimuli and energy for action, and therefore must be regarded as a form of human power, Rom 8:5-8, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Divine power and human power are mutually exclusive. The omnipotence of God is the spiritual energy for the spiritual life that God has provided. Our feelings must not dictate our spiritual life; we must rely on divine power and not the human power of emotion, HEB 12:3.
Most practices found in Christianity today are related to some system of human improvement and emotional stimulation rather than the omnipotence of God. There is great human power in personality, emotional appeals, various forms of human leadership, and physical appearance, but these things are not the power of God. God the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine are the only energy whereby we are able to live a life that glorifies the Lord. If we are not led by the Spirit, we are functioning under a form of human energy, either emotion or arrogance. Now the Holy Spirit is “quenched” or “grieved” because we are not using His divine energy. Human power and emotion are a cheap substitute for divine power, and Christians get bored, weary, and frustrated when they try to live the spiritual life in human power. Many Christians live the Christian life under the human energy of emotionalism, which is pseudo-spirituality.
God uses prepared men and women for His work who are not governed by their emotions. If a teacher is not prepared, he will appeal to the emotions of the people. He will try to make them feel good or feel spiritual or feel guilty. Christians involved in emotional movements function under the energy of the flesh in Satan’s cosmic system. Human power includes emotional revolt, personality improvement, the works of the flesh, change of behavior pattern, spirituality by works, etc. Since the emotions of the soul are not capable of properly governing the soul, wide emotional swings occur in the believer. We saw this in the Garden of Eden, which was perfect, until the woman took over and dominated the man, and the Fall took place. Emotional stress causes people to act on impulse. The emotional sin of fear causes flight, the emotion of anger causes violence, and the emotion of lust causes immorality. If the way you feel becomes the criterion for your spiritual life, you will never be able to execute God’s plan.
Emotion is a complex biological and physiological process and a function of somatic expression or feeling. There is a battle that goes on inside our soul, between what we feel and what we know is right, GAL 5:17. Many times the emotions within us are at odds with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. The emotions can become complex by tempting you to do things you do not desire to do. However, they can only tempt you; it is your volition that makes the choice to give in. Many times, when we give in to our emotions, we do those things that we regret, and this is the battle that Paul faced in ROM 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of [belonging to the realm of]the flesh [old sin nature], sold in bondage to sin [old sin nature].” We were born slaves to the old sin nature, and the only time that we will ever be free from its slavery is when we perceive, metabolize, and apply Bible doctrine. Only truth can set us free, JOH 8:32.
Paul goes on in ROM 7:15, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand [I do not know what I am doing-confusion caused when emotion tries to control the soul]; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very things that I hate.” We all have a legitimate desire to please the Lord, which increases as we increase our intake of doctrine. Paul is saying he has a desire to advance spiritually and please God, but these good intentions are hindered by emotions, ROM 7:16, “But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do [let my emotions rule], I agree with the law [doctrine] that it is good.”
Doctrine enables us to recognize our flaws and the control our emotions have over us, and it reveals our total helplessness. The purpose of the law and the commandments was to reveal our helplessness and therefore our need for a Savior. ROM 7:17 continues, “So now no longer am I the one doing it, but the sin nature which is indwelling me.” Paul has received the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is no longer the one alive, but Christ is living in him. Therefore when he sins, it is no longer him (the new man or new creature), but it is the old man (old sin nature). If God’s people could only understand this basic principle, they would be free from slavery to their old sin nature and their emotions.
Therefore, in ROM 7:18, Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh [sin nature], for the desire is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
There are times when the sin nature controls the believer’s will, and because the emotions are responders, they will also respond to the old sin nature, ROM 7:19-23, “For the good of intrinsic value that I desire to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil which I do not desire to do. [In his sin nature, he has discovered that it doesn’t matter what he wills; inevitably he cannot do it.] But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish to do [and I am], I am no longer the one doing it, but the sin nature which dwells in me. I find then the principle, that evil is present with me, the one who desires to do the good [virtuous, noble]. For I joyfully concur with the Law of God with reference to my inner man [doctrine in the mentality].”
[This is a positive believer who now sees that doctrine has provided him with standards which now teach him.] But I see a different Law [principle] in the members of my body, making war against the law of my mind [putting me in bondage], and making me a prisoner to the law of the sin nature which is in the members [cell structure] of my body.”
As you grow in the knowledge of doctrine, there can arise a tremendous conflict in the soul, not from the temptation of the old sin nature, but from the emotional revolt that can take place, Rom 7:24-25, “I am a wretched [miserable]person! Who will rescue me from the body of this death [the old sin nature]? Thanks be to God [grace belongs to God] through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, on the one hand, with my mind I am myself serving the law of God; but on the other hand, with my flesh [the old sin nature in control of the soul], I am serving the law of the sin nature.” God in His grace knows we have inherent flaws and environmental handicaps, and that we face problems because we have allowed our emotion to be influenced by something evil.
Therefore, Paul concludes in ROM 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Even when our emotions can get the best of us, there is no ground for condemnation.
There are two categorical functions of the emotions-(1) the conscious sensations of the emotions of the soul, a mechanism of emotions in the brain, and (2) the effects of emotions on the organic function of the body, especially the nervous system, the effects of the transmission of too many or too few nerve impulses to the muscles of the body. The prefrontal lobes (the right and left lobes of the brain) are called the cortical areas of the brain, and are associated with thought, motives, and decisions. Normal emotions respond to these thoughts in the prefrontal lobes. However, emotion functioning without thought is abnormal emotional activity and emotional instability, and it comes and goes with great rapidity and unpredictability.
Normal functions of the emotion include pleasure, entertainment, excitement, and appreciation. These normal emotional functions must not be confused with the enabling ministry of God the Holy Spirit. Emotion is related to human power and influence, but never divine power and the mystery doctrine of the Church-age. When believers make emotion the criterion for their spiritual life, the following happens:
1. The believer makes a god out of his emotions, PHI 3:18ff. When emotion becomes your god, you are an easy target for religious deceptions such as the tongues movement.
2. The believer’s emotional pattern distracts him from the execution of the predesigned plan of God, ROM 16:17 18.
3. Emotion hinders the perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine, 2CO 6:11 12.
4. The believer’s unrestrained and uncontrolled emotional pattern becomes the basis for criminality, violence, hatred, anger, and total involvement in the arrogance complex of sins (bitterness, vindictiveness, jealousy, implacability, self pity, and guilt reaction). There is a very close relationship between the arrogance complex and emotion complex.
5. The believer’s unrestrained, uncontrolled emotional pattern is related to the greatest problem of life-fear, as inHEB 2:14-15, “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”
You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. Satan fears death and uses it to put fear in us. Fear is a crippling emotion, and a fearful life is characteristic of the believer who is not yet fully matured in love, 1JO 4:18. Abnormal emotional experience expresses itself in emotional sins, and becomes the motivation for violence, murder, gossiping, maligning, inordinate ambition, and the inordinate competition of running down other people in order to promote oneself. The sinful activity of anger, hatred, fear, worry, and anxiety promotes arrogance, and undermines the momentum of God’s plan, purpose, and will for your life.
The basic emotional problem that we all have to deal with is the emotion of fear, and there are many scriptures that command us not to fear; therefore, fear is a sin, ROM 14:23b, DEU 31:6, ISA 41:10. Do not be concerned about the enemy because God is walking ahead of you, DEU 31:8, 2TI 1:7.
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart around us, on the inside, where God is working in our life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace, 2CO 4:15-18. These hard times are insignificant compared to the lavish celebration being prepared for us. There is far more here than meets the eye; the things we see now are here today and gone tomorrow, but the things we cannot see now will last forever.
Fear, worry, and anxiety are emotional sins and are a contradiction to God’s plan for your life. No believer can fulfill God’s will for his life as long as he is in a state of fear. The believer who consistently gives in to fear fails to glorify God, and loses out on fantastic blessings and rewards. Fear, of course, is a complex system of emotional sins, which includes worry and anxiety, and therefore failure to think under pressure. We are designed by God to be rational creatures, but fear makes us emotional and irrational. Fear carries with it a “snowballing” effect, and it will grow like cancer. When we surrender to one fear, many more fears will spring up. Fear is something that, if unchecked, will continue to develop in your life until you have no capacity for life, love, or happiness.
Fear is a key that unlocks many doors, starting with the door of arrogance. You cannot be afraid without putting an abnormal emphasis on yourself. Because of arrogance, you do not know who or what you are, for you cannot see your soul in the mirror of God’s Word. You then begin to lose your personality identity, and fall into a total state of fear, retreating from reality and becoming psychopathic or neurotic. Only the perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine can remove the fear, arrogance, and self deception.
The predesigned plan of God is designed to remove all the cobwebs of fear in your soul and replace them with confidence in doctrine, which leads to confidence in the Lord. That is the only true basis for spiritual self-esteem, which is self-confidence through Bible doctrine. This inevitably produces the greatest courage in life-more than moral courage, it is a mental attitude courage in all relationships and in all circumstances of life. Every time fear enters your life, you must respond with the Bible doctrine in your soul, otherwise you are not living the Christian way of life. True courage means consistent sound judgment and thinking under pressure, which comes from Bible doctrine, not from emotion.
1JO 4:18 teaches us a great lesson on fear: “Fear does not exist in love, but mature love drives out fear; for fear causes punishment. In fact, the person who is afraid has not been matured by love.” If you have personal love for God the Father and you understand His integrity, you rest on the entire essence and person of God. You understand His integrity, and therefore you are dependent on Him. If we claim to be dependent on God and His integrity, then living in fear is an insult to God.
Our fear punishes us in two ways. First, we punish ourselves through self-induced misery. Then, when fear leads into arrogance, divine discipline follows. Our fear can bring on punishment from ourselves, our peers, and God Himself. Mature believers are not fearful or anxious, except for occasional brief periods of time. Mature believers will experience fear or anger if physically threatened (the natural fight-or-flight response); however, they are able to confront their perceptions that are causing their fear and make the necessary positive adjustments in their thinking; therefore, they do not get plagued with stress. Worry and fear do not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; they empty today of its strength. Nothing in life is to be feared; it is to be understood. The Church-age believer can never think doctrine, apply doctrine, or solve problems in fear.
For a more detailed study, order tapes 0190-1244 to 0190-1247.