Monthly Archives: September 2018

Think – Feel – Do

The pathway of change

Change starts with our thinking, the Bible makes this very clear;

do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind Romans 12v2 (ESV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians10v5 (NIV)

Many would agree with this but still see little deep and lasting change in their lives. Ironically often the problem is that we are unaware of the deficiency in our thinking, our unhelpful thoughts, our misunderstanding of truth and lack of grasp of the gospel. We ‘think’ we believe it all but an inner emptiness and dissatisfaction can suggest otherwise.

Often ‘pretence’ or as the ESV puts it ‘lofty opinion’ is lurking more than we are aware of or would like to admit. If we are (I am) honest so much of our lives is not the real thing but a shell, a shadow, pride, a performance based not on Christ but on self.

It is fairly easy to hide what we really think and how we are really doing behind either our intellect or our behaviour. However, it is much harder to hide behind our emotions.  We may be able to explain great doctrine but if this leaves us unmoved emotionally we can’t have really understood it, or at least how it applies to ourselves.  We may perform all sorts of good activities but if we do not feel anything towards God and those the activity is supposedly for, then a performance is exactly all that it is.

It is surely our feelings and desires, or lack of, which reveal what we really think as they flow from our deepest thoughts, perceptions & understanding. And they speak of the authenticity of our behaviour as they are the motive & force behind it.  Therefore, the appropriateness of what we feel is a thermometer of how we are spiritually, a gauge of our engagement with reality, a n indicator of our grasp of truth, a measure of our appreciation of beauty.

Thoughts and feelings are coupled together so closely they cannot be separated.  Wherever there is a feeling there is a thought or perception behind it that has produced it. So the only real way to change how we feel is to change how we think, and then in turn our new feelings empower a change in our behaviour. But it is our feelings, our emotions and desires which highlight our true thinking and understanding, showing us where our mind needs renewing and which thoughts need taking captive.

If we are prepared to be honest with ourselves and God (and others) about how we feel and the roots of these feelings then we are in a place to start real deep change in our lives. Our thinking flows into our feelings which flow into our doing, so new thinking can transform our lives. However, to accurately and deeply change our thinking or renew our mind we need to be honest about our current feelings, so that our real thoughts, understanding and perceptions can be laid bare. 

Please(d)

The pleasure of salvation

We are called to ‘please God’ (1 Thessalonians 4v1esv) but how are we meant to do this? What is it that God finds pleasing? What is it that honours and values him as most precious and glorious?

The greatest commandment is ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22v37esv). Loving God with our all, above anything else declares him to be of supreme satisfaction and worth. Cherishing, taking delight, joy & pleasure in God recognises him for who he is and relates to him as he is. So we please God by taking pleasure in Him.

Unfortunately this is the very thing we don’t do. The essence of our sin is that we prefer to take pleasure in almost anything above God. In so doing declaring it to be of more value and worth than the Almighty and so turning our backs on him.

The good news is that this is why Jesus came. He lived, died & rose again so that through faith in him we can be forgiven of all our sinful displeasure & dishonouring lack of joy in God, and be given Jesus’ righteousness as our own. ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God’ (Philippians 3v9esv) 

To be given Jesus’ righteousness, is to be given his record of rightly relating to or correctly valuing God. That is, we are given Jesus’ perfect record of total pleasure in God, and so declared 100% pleasing to God 100% of the time, just as Jesus himself is!  Therefore we are brought back to God, enabled to come into his presence and to take pleasure in him, to the honour of his name and delight of his heart. 

This is wonderful news; you will not hear better. But at this point confusion can set in. We can think ‘how do I please him who is already totally pleased with me?’ And in our attempts to do so, fall back into trying to make God pleased with us; trying to win his approval. 

The problem is that often we can confuse ‘God being pleased with us’ and ‘us pleasing God’. They are not the same thing. The first is justification, the second is sanctification. Once we put our trust in Jesus we are pleasing to God, how he thinks and feels towards us does not and cannot change, as it is set in Jesus Christ (justification).

Once this is the case we can please God day by day, moment by moment, because he is already pleased with us. We please him by giving to him what he finds pleasing, namely ourselves in Christ & Christ in us (sanctification). That is, we please God by enjoying the fact that he is pleased with us in Christ; we delight God by delighting in his delight in us (in what he has graciously done for us), and ultimately we delight him by delighting in him (in who he is; his character, attributes & ways). 

This is just another way of saying we please God by being with him. Through faith in Jesus, God is pleased with us, so we can please him, by taking pleasure in Him!