Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           September 28, 2008                           NO. 36

Is Christianity Based On Feelings?

    The common thought in our society today is, "If it feels good, do it." This often carries over into religion. When people are asked where they find authority for their actions as Christians (or so-called Christians), many times the answer is, "It felt right," or "It made me feel good." You may even hear the response, "It was what I felt like doing." This leads us to the question, "Should religion be based on feelings--us doing things in the name of the Lord simply because of how we feel?"

CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE BASED ON FEELINGS, BECAUSE FEELINGS CHANGE.

    We are told to preach the word "in season and out of season" ( 2 Tim. 4:2 ). This means that we preach the word when it is popular AND when it is not. In other words, we speak what people need to hear when they feel like hearing it AND when they do not feel like hearing it. Jesus was (and is) consistent (Heb. 13:8). We are to be like Him. If we allow our feelings or emotions to be the deciding factor in what we do, we will be wavering daily. We will have no standard, which is in stark contrast to the command to be solid, steadfast and sure (Eph. 4:14).

    How can you "know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6) if all you know is how you feel? If someone asks you about a biblical subject, you won't be able to tell them what the Bible says; you'll only be able to tell them how you feel about it--your personal opinions and feelings. These will not save (1 Pet. 3:15; Mt. 15:1-9; Gal. 1:6-9).

    I am told to "teach all nations." But I cannot teach you how to feel. This means I must be teaching something besides feelings--namely doctrine (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15).

CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE BASED ON FEELINGS, BECAUSE FEELINGS ARE AFFECTED BY OUTSIDE CIRCUMSTANCES.

    We are told not to let outward circumstances move us (1 Cor. 15:58). This is exactly what Paul means when he says that some will have "itching ears" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Whatever comes along will cause us to change our doctrine, and the question will not be whether it is right or wrong. The question then becomes, "Does it make me feel good?" We will be like the Israelites under no king, where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 21:25).

CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE BASED ON FEELINGS, BECAUSE FEELINGS ARE UNRELIABLE.

    Isaac "felt" Jacob, but Jacob "felt" like Esau (Gen. 27:18-23). Jacob "felt" like Joseph had been killed by a wild animal, even though he actually had been sold into slavery (Gen. 37:31-35). Even the apostle Paul, while he was still Saul, "felt" like persecuting the Christians was the right thing to do (Acts 9:1-2; 23:1). Our feelings do not always equal the truth!

CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE BASED ON FEELINGS, BECAUSE MY FEELINGS CAUSE ME TO PUT MYSELF BEFORE OTHERS.

    We are told to "esteem others better" than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). We are responsible to love one another (Jn. 13:34-35), have fellowship with one another (1 Jn. 1:7), serve one another (Gal. 5:13-15), encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11), be devoted to one another in brotherly affection (Rom.12:10), accept one another (Rom. 15:7), build up one another (Rom. 14:19), greet one another (Rom. 16:16), admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), wait for one another (1 Cor. 11:33), care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25), bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2), forgive one another (Eph. 4:32), be kind and tenderhearted to one another (Eph. 4:32), speak to one another in song (Eph. 5:19), submit to one another (Eph. 5:21), teach and admonish one another in hymns (Col. 3:16), comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18), live in peace with one another (1 Thess. 5:13), seek after good for one another (1 Thess. 5:15), be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9), be humble toward one another (1 Pet. 5:5), confess our faults to one another (Jas. 5:16) and pray for one another (Jas. 5:16). How can I do these things for you if I am constantly worried about how I feel?

    "With this, the hitchhiker will say, 'You furnish the car, you furnish the gas, you tend to the repairs and the upkeep, supply the insurance, and I'll ride with you. But you must be going my way and if you have an accident, I'll sue you for the damages.' There are hitchhikers in other places than the roadways. Unfortunately, there are hitchhikers in some local churches. These members seem to say, 'You go to the Bible classes, you attend all the various assemblies, you do the visitation and the personal work, you show the responsibility, you do all the giving, you take care of the meetinghouse and the grounds, and all the things that need to be done, and I'll go along for the ride. But if things aren't done to suit me, I'll complain, criticize, and probably hitchhike to another group'" (Selected). Why are there people like this? Because they are constantly worried about what their religion is providing for them--how their religion is making them feel.

    Sadly, many are like Dee Bowman describes in That's Life. "Being naive has its rewards, I guess. When I first decided to give all my time to preaching, I thought everybody loved everybody else, that everybody truly was concerned for the cause, that all preachers rejoiced at the success of all the others, that there was no spirit of competition like I had left after nearly 20 years in the business world. I found out that I was wrong. It hurt when I found out. I wish I felt the old way again. God knows, I want to. But it's hard. Hard to feel that way when brethren are hurting one another, talking about one another, choosing up sides against one another. Still, I wish I could recapture that naivete. I liked it." Bro. Bowman speaks the truth. People do these things because they are more concerned with winning and making themselves feel good than they are concerned with the truth.

    If I have a problem with my brother, I should go to him first (Mt. 18:15-17). But it makes me feel important to go and tell everybody else about it, because, after all, he wouldn't listen anyway. Talking to him is like talking to a stone wall or a stump. This is an example of my putting my feelings ahead of others.

    Another example: people who "skip church services" are putting themselves ahead of their brethren, as we are told that one of the main reasons to attend is because of others (Heb. 10:24-25).

CONCLUSION

    If Christianity is not a religion of feelings, what is it a religion of? For this, we look at Jn. 17:17,"Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." I would rather preach a gospel sermon that saved one soul from sin than to tell ten million people how to feel good about themselves. So what do we need to do? We need to have our religion affecting our feelings, not our feelings affecting our religion.

---Alex Hale

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