Pastor Henry (8/9/2022)
In his last moments with his disciples, Jesus is praying for them and asks the Father to “Sanctify them by the truth. Their feelings are truth.” Of course we more than likely know this is not really what Jesus said, but it is so often our interpretation and application. How often do we hear the mantra “Follow your heart” or “How do you feel about _______” or “let your feelings be your guide.” Now, I understand that feelings should play a roll in our lives as they are God-created and given expressions of our emotions and I do not seek to invalidate or ditch all feelings. Nonetheless, I do believe we have allowed feelings to be something that God never intended them to be.
What Jesus actually said when praying for his disciples is: “Sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17, CSB). Now truth is different. Truth is objective and absolute. Truth doesn’t change. Even when we claim something to be truth, but then unearth deeper and new evidence, It does not change the truth, though it should certainly change our understanding of what we thought to be true. The truth was there all along, it just hadn’t been fully understood or revealed. Truth when wholeheartedly sought after and understood to the fullest extent possible, is the surest foundation to which one can anchor themselves. Feelings are often circumstantial and fleeting; Truth is sure and true. This is why Jesus prayed they would be sanctified in the truth, not their feelings.
Our issue is that we often let our feelings be the influencer of truth rather than truth being the sanctifying guide of our feelings. Without God’s truth found in his word, our feelings rarely sanctify us, or conform us more in the holy image of the Son. Consider for a moment: When was the last time your raw emotions or feelings drove you to sacrifice yourself for someone else? When was the last time your own feelings actively called you to humble yourself (or think of yourself less). This may not be true of you, but my own feelings often time try to convince me that I actually know best, that my feelings of offense are right and merited, that my selfish, fleshly desire for passion, vengeance, indulgence, or whatever is worthy and absolutely true. And it’s in that moment that I come to a crossroads. Do I follow these feelings or is there a different alternative?
The secret is found in knowing and believing truth to be in God’s Word and then actively seeking to know what His Word says. My feelings say that I am important and should care only about my interests; God’s word tells us to consider others’ interests as more important than our own. Our feelings say that its ok to hold a grudge and hate our enemies; God’s word said that we should pray for our enemies and to be kind and forgive. Our feelings say its ok to selfishly seek love and happiness; God’s word says sacrificially show love and joy. Our feelings say we should love others only when we feel like it; God’s word says we are to love Him and others because he has commanded it. In all of these, the truth in God’s word always trumps the feelings within ourselves.
As we live out our days here, God desires that we be sanctified and conformed more and more into the image of his Son, the Lord Jesus. The way this happens is by following and submitting ourselves to truth, even when we don’t feel like it. This is at the heart of Jesus’s conditions for following him: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” To deny one’s self is to remove himself as the authority and follow another; This includes our feelings. Hear me, I am not saying that we must forsake and reject our feelings. But I am saying that we must reject their authority to lead us as the highest authority in our lives. We don’t love because we always feel like loving; We love because God has loved and commands us to love. We don’t serve simply when we feel like serving; We serve because Jesus served us and calls us to do the same. And in so doing, we now have the opportunity to allow God’s truth to sanctify our lives. Our feelings will fail us as God. God’s truth found in His word never will.