On Saturdays, I’m writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Betsy Nichols’ sermon given at Irving Bible Church, the 2nd in our series, “Whatever.” This one is titled “How We Think Matters.”
Ever heard the phrase, “Just follow your heart?” Usually in the context of making some big decision, right? Like a teenager choosing a university. Or a friend trying to make a choice between two jobs. Or someone we know trying to figure out whether or not to continue in a dating relationship. Something like that.
What a bunch of nonsense on stilts.
Because our feelings are a terrible way to make decisions. See, feelings are “responders.” They respond to whatever stimuli they’re given. For example, the Powerball lottery drawing is tonight. There’s a chance to win nearly $200 million dollars.
Think of everything you could do with that money! If you took the cash option, after taxes, you’re looking at some $70 million in your pocket! You could be conservative with it! Live well and help others! You wouldn’t ever have to worry about money ever again! How awesome would that be! All for a $2 dollar investment!
Check your feelings.
Now remind yourself of the truthful reality: The odds are staggeringly against you to the point you’re more likely to be struck by lightning…or so I’ve been told. I’m not sure what the odds are precisely. I do know your money would do more good if you gave it to your kid for their piggy bank.
MY feelings responded to the slim hope that you’d win all that money, and then went all over the place to the kinds of cars and houses I’d buy and even the charities I’d help and on and on. The advertisers of the lottery also play on our feelings with “You can’t win if you don’t play.” It’s hard to sell tickets on “One in 175-million of you might win,” no?
My point is not about lotto. My point is that your feelings will respond to whatever stimuli they’re given. Given the hope and possibility of big money, you react one way. Given the reality, you temper that enthusiasm.
We have to have some standard to measure our feelings against reality. Like the university cash outlay against the value of the degree in the marketplace, or “fit” of the teen in that university’s culture. Or the balance of pay against hours/travel in the job hunt, or workplace environment. Or the character of the person you want to date, or compatibility. Or a hundred other ways we need to evaluate our feelings against some sort of standard in those instances beyond, “I want to go to Yale,” “I’ll make six-figures,” or “She’s a mean person, but when she’s in a good mood she’s awesome!”
And Betsy touched on how that reality plays out as believers in the sermon when she said,
We’ve got to be so careful with what we put in our minds…what will it look like for you to guard your mind? Paul says to the Corinthians ‘we take captive every thought and make it obedient unto Christ. We have to take captive our thoughts.’ And he said that in the context of a world at war, that this was going to be a fight. And the weapons Paul told us we have to guard our minds are the Word of God and prayer. Bring those thoughts into alignment with God’s truth, bring them before your King and He will help you sort out which ones bring life and which ones bring death…And, then finally, we have to practice. We’ve got to take the thoughts we know are true and we’ve got to start acting them out. John Maxwell said, ‘It’s easier to act yourself into feeling rather than feel yourself into acting.
She’s dead right because I have the firm belief that truth, as found in Scripture, gives freedom. Conversely, error binds us up, or enslaves us. So, if we buy into the world’s system…
…really *buy in*…
…on the world’s way of thinking, you name it, from college choice to job decisions to choosing a life-partner to having sex outside of marriage or taking on unmanageable debt or anger or drunkenness or gluttony, you’ll eventually become a slave to it with varying degrees of consequences.
I mean, it may be just being miserable at college or working too much or heartache, or it could be bankruptcy or a bar fight arrest or a DUI or a muffin top, but to some degree you’re a slave to the errors you bought into.
Conversely, if you follow His truth, well, you’re free. If you make a wise choice using a bunch of thoughts from Proverbs alone on the life stuff, well, you might not go to the big brand name university but you find you’ve saved cash and wound up with a valuable ministry, or you don’t make six-figures but you have more family time, or you broke up with the guy because Scripture warned you, or you saved for a rainy day, or used self-control, stayed sober, made good dietary choices, well, the consequences of those things tend to bring peace and joy and freedom.
I mean, they may be as simple as an average day at school, dinners at home, or contentment, or a few bucks in the bank or avoiding a hangover or just a healthy heart…but you’re free nonetheless.
So Betsy’s certainly on to something when she quotes Maxwell, because if we take our thoughts captive and measure them with the truth of His Word, our actions should naturally follow. If we feel ourselves into actions, in most cases, it’ll lead to slavery of some type. If we act ourselves into feelings, it’ll lead to peace and freedom.
The issue, as I see it, is do we truly trust Scripture to do that very thing…or do we politely nod at it like Homer Simpson’s famous quote when asked what religion he was and said, “You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work out in real life. Uh… Christianity.”
Because the choice truly is ours: enslavement or freedom. And our feelings always should be measured against whether or not they line up with His truth.