Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Conflict of Fact and Feeling

In a recent response to "But I Can't Forgive Myself", someone asked, "What if what you know and what you feel are conflicting?"

As Christians, we should be in a constant state of "renewing our mind" (Romans 12:2). An examination of what Peter told his readers in I Peter 5:6-11 might help you understand the battle that is taking place. First, Peter reminds us to "be humble, under God's mighty hand..." Humility, under God, is never a false humility. It is always a genuine response to the majesty of God. I love how T.W. Hunt defined humility, "Humility is not thinking less of or badly of yourself, it is simply not thinking of yourself at all!" Hard words to live by apart from the Holy Spirit but none the less, it is to be our state of mind. So, in response to this "what you know" and "what you feel" conflict, ask the Lord to keep you humble by reminding you of his majesty. For those who have a proper perspective of humility, God has promised to "lift you up in due time." Let him be the one who establishes your position before others and yourself and then, give him the glory!

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." The finished work of Christ is all sufficient for every emotion we ever encounter. The finished work of Christ is also a picture of his care for you. When what you feel conflicts with what you know, a conscience decision to rely on his sufficiency and his care must be applied.

"Be self-controlled and alert." Peter is reminding us to be aware of the battle going on around us. If you and I were in Iraq right now, we would be constantly aware that the enemy could attack at any time from any where. Our spiritual war with the devil is far more real than any physical war ever fought. I intend absolutely no disrespect to our troops through this statement. On the contrary, I greatly appreciate each and every person willing to lay down their life for my freedom. We hear of the atrocities taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan every day. They are real. They are sobering. The emphasis of the statement is meant to be an awakening of how real spiritual warfare is. We must be self-controlled (fruit of the Spirit) and we must be alert (or sober minded) to fight the war taking place in the heavenly realms. A war in the heavenlies must be fought on a different plane - that is why our weapons are different weapons and ultimately lead us to God's Word and prayer.

That old serpent, the devil, wants you to feel defeated by sin. God wants you to know that Christ defeated sin, death, and the devil through his life, death, burial, and resurrection. If ever there were a truth to "name and claim", it is this one! I am united with Christ, the Victor!

Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering terrible mistreatment. He reminds them that Christians all over the world are suffering (v. 9) and that God will "restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." This might sound somewhat strange when you are struggling with truth over feelings but receive suffering as a gift from God. Don't go looking for suffering - it will find you! But when it does come, know that God is using it to strengthen your inner man. The strengthening he provides, will indeed enable you to act more and more upon what you know is truth.

If you are struggling with what you feel concerning God's forgiveness, you are struggling with condemnation. For those who belong to him, "there is no condemnation" (Romans 8:1). Condemnation tends to be general, "You are not worthy of God's forgiveness." Conviction is straight forward, "You have sinned by ..." Condemnation lingers. Conviction last only until there is confession and repentance. I would encourage you to learn this verse and the verses that follow. I would encourage you to set forth to memorize Romans 8. Our battle is in the mind, no doubt. So, our minds must be renewed. Renewal comes through the word.

Pray. Pray God's Word. Pour your heart out to him. Let him know what the desire of your heart is. Let him know that you want to live in the victory that belongs to believers. Recruit someone to pray with you. Preferably, someone who is older in the Lord.

Remember the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Even as you pray, the Holy Spirit is interpreting your groanings (Romans 8:26). Do a study on the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. John, chapters 14-17, and Romans 8 are good places to begin.

Deep biblical issues do not have easy 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c, kinds of answers. Battle is work. Spiritual battle is work. Paul told the Philippians to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling". If you are looking for a quick, "magical" solution to overcoming feelings that deny truth, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a life long quest in the pleasures of God, you will be rewarded!

In writing this blog, I am very aware of how human I am. It is with inner trembling that I pen an answer to such an age old subject such as this. Please know that none of what is written is considered easy. Please know that in no way do I feel that I have arrived. I just hope some of what the Lord is teaching me, helps you.

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