Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good - crucified. (Galatians 5:24)
Feelings are a blessing and a problem. They live on the front row of our lives like unruly children clamoring for attention. Feelings always seek to justify themselves, unlike thoughts, which are able to challenge and question, "Why?" Because of the nature of our feelings, they are essential to our spiritual formation. They must be renovated, destructive ones minimized and constructive ones heightened to a new priority.
Feelings give us a sense of being alive. They move us and we like to be moved. Without feelings we have no interest in life, which means we carry on by mere exertion of will or by waiting for things to happen. Distance from our feelings is a condition to be dreaded, and cannot be sustained for long. This is how people become dependent on substances and activities that give them feeling, even if harmful. Such a condition is also frequently a precursor to suicide.
So, feelings are essential to life and must be accepted, worked with, and controlled, as harmful, evil ones will eventually be regarded as better than no feelings at all. On the other hand, healthy feelings are essential to a good life. To be formed in Christlikeness, we must take good care of our feelings and not just let them happen.
Prayer: Father God, we are in Christ Jesus, and so we want to renovate our minds' feelings. We don't want to set our own ways or mindlessly respond to the world's influences with careless feelings. Remove our old feelings and install new ones as we learn to take care of our feelings in a Christlike way.
Renovated feelings do not happen with a snap of our fingers. This vision requires openness to radical change, careful and creative instruction, and an abundant supply of divine grace. For most people, this only comes after they hit bottom and discover the total hopelessness of being who they are. They cannot envision who they would be without the fear, anger, lust, and woundedness they have lived with for so long. To achieve this vision, we must understand what won't and what will work.
What Won't Work
Tackling our feelings head-on. Feelings are very powerful and we cannot master them by simply resisting them by willpower in the moment of choice. To try this is to misunderstand how life and the human will works. Those who are mastered by their feelings - anger, fear, sexual attraction, food, to look good, reactions to being hurt, or whatever - are usually people who believe their feelings must be satisfied. Instead of questioning the basis of their feelings, they choose to resist certain ones and allow others full reign.
Denying our destructive feelings or dumping them on others. We all have destructive feelings - arrogance, greed, jealousy, envy, hatred, belittling others - and it doesn't work to deny or suppress them. Nor should we dump them on others by venting or acting them out. Denying and suppressing feelings is not the answer to our problem. Proper action is to work toward transformation of our destructive feelings into constructive ones that have a beneficial effect on others and us. This will happen through spiritual formation in Christ and through grace as we cooperate with God in seeking this change. This is one of the most difficult parts of the Christian life, but it is definitely not impossible.
What Will Work
Cultivating feelings that move us away from sin instead of focusing on trying not to sin. It's a huge step to desire to avoid sin but also to have a different set of feelings that lead us away from sin. We have to cultivate two strong feelings. We have to develop a revulsion toward the wrong or destructive feelings and we have to, at the same time, develop an attraction to good or constructive feelings that we do not really feel at this point. This shift in feelings is absolutely necessary in order to "put off the old person" and "put on the new person." For example: We don't merely want to avoid attacking others verbally, we don't even want to have the feelings that lead us to such an attack. So we take steps to avoid these feelings.
Removing the underlying condition (the cause), not just the feeling (the effect). An underlying condition is something that causes something else to happen. For example: You have a sore throat so you take throat lozenges. After a week the pain is still there so you visit the doctor who says you have strep throat caused by a bacteria and he gives you an antibiotic. The bacteria is the underlying cause, the sore throat is the effect.
If our minds' feelings are to be transformed, we must remove the cause (the underlying condition), not just the effect (the destructive feelings). If we deny or suppress feelings without removing them, they will simply break out again. For example: James 3:16 states, "Whenever you're trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others' throats." Trying to look better or get the better of others is the underlying condition. If these feelings are not dealt with, our relationships will continue to fall apart. And when everyone is at each others' throats, that's a bad sore throat.
If you have a problem with anger, you can't deal only with the anger. You must identify the underlying condition that causes your outbursts and then deal with it. If you carry feelings of depression, you can't treat only the symptoms. You must treat the underlying cause. Only the "spiritual antibiotics" of Christ can wipe out the underlying bacteria.
Replacing the underlying condition; the feelings will then take care of themselves. We must replace sinful underlying conditions with conditions that lead to a godly life and healthy feelings. We can't just work on feeling peaceful. This is trying to manage the feelings and disregarding the condition that creates those feelings. With this approach, we avoid confronting evil to maintain the feeling of peacefulness. For example, you may decide not to confront a friend who is using drugs because it will create negative tension in the relationship. Or a young girl may agree to have sex with her boyfriend so he doesn't get angry. Some people may even abuse alcohol or drugs to create the feeling of peacefulness. Of course, this leads to destruction and a total lack of peacefulness.
True peacefulness comes from an underlying peace deep inside us. To experience love, we must possess the condition of love deep inside. When we cultivate, with divine assistance, the transformation of our minds' feelings, the foundational conditions become prominent in our lives and the feelings fall into place. The five essential conditions that must be present in our lies to produce healthy and constructive feelings are love, joy, peace, faith, and hope (see Galatians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 13:13). Let's understand what these virtues are and how they work to produce feelings that are healthy.
Hope and faith. Hope is the anticipation of a good that's not yet here or not yet seen. Faith is confidence grounded in reality, and for the Christian, reality is Christ. We have a real faith in a real person so we can see what has not yet happened. Therefore, we act as if the good anticipated in hope were already in hand. Because God offers the hope that He works out everything for our good (Romans 8:28) and we believe Him in faith, we can live without fear, anxiety, and all kinds of other feelings that people who don't have hope and faith as their underlying condition experience.
Love. We love others when we promote their good for their own sake. Love is not the same as desire because we may desire something or someone without wishing them well. This is the difference between lust (mere desire) and love (as between a man and a woman). Desire and love are, of course, compatible when desire is ruled by love.
Here are the four movements of Christ-centered love that reside deep inside the transformed follower of Christ. These ultimately produce the healthy feelings we're hoping for. (From 1 John 3-4 and John 13)
We are loved by God
We love God
We love others
Others, who also experience God's love, love us
With love as the underlying condition of our lives, we experience the accompanying feelings of love, removing the negative feelings we used to experience, such as fear and pride. Love eliminates pride because love's will for the good of others overcomes our arrogance that we should get our way. We are concerned for the good of others and are assured that our good is taken care of without self-will. Pride, fear and their dreadful offspring no longer rule our lives as love becomes complete in us.
Joy. Joy is a deep sense of well-being. Its primary feeling is delight. Jesus wants His joy to be in us and for that joy to be complete. With Christ's joy in us, we experience a sense that all is well, even in the midst of suffering and loss. With the inner condition of joy in our lives, our feelings are not tossed to and fro by all the troubles that life can bring us. We can be freed from the feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.
Peace. Peace is the relaxing of our hearts that results from the assurance that things will turn out all right. This means we no longer strive inwardly or outwardly to achieve some outcome that's dear to us - or to avoid one that we dislike. We have released the issue.
Most people carry heavy burdens of care about the things that are most important in life: what will happen to their loved ones, finances, health, physical appearance, the future of society, their standing before God, and their eternal destiny. To be at peace with God and others is a great attainment and depends on much more than our own efforts. This is also true of being at peace with ourselves. To attain this peace, follow the advise of Paul: Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace with God comes only from acceptance of His gift of life in Jesus. We are assured of the outcome of our lives and no longer try to justify ourselves before God or others. We accept that we are neither righteous nor even competent enough to make the decisions of our lives and that we can never be so on our own. We lay down the burden of justifying ourselves before God and are learning not to justify ourselves before men. This is the peace that grows within us.
Prayer: Father, You know how we feel and how our feelings often lead us away from You. We know that our feelings are both powerful and dangerous in our quest to follow You. We desire to experience Your vision to renovate our minds' feelings. We long to bring negative and destructive feelings under Your reign and Lordship - to eliminate them from our lives. We long to feel like Christ feels, passionate and compassionate for the right things - things that bring life. We commit ourselves to you, O Lord.
THE MEANS TO TRANSFORM MY MIND'S FEELINGS
Oh! May the God of hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (Romans 15:13)
The renovation of our hearts is going to require a transformation of our minds' feelings. We need to start with a sound, biblically based vision for achieving such a feat in Christ. This is a matter of carefully cultivating love, joy, and peace in our lives. Without these qualities in our hearts - virtues placed in us by the Holy Spirit as we look to Him - we will not be able to consistently act in ways that are vibrant with new life of God's kingdom.
Following the VIM Pattern, we must "intend the vision" by deciding that it will dominate all we are and do. Our thought lives will be focused on God so, through His grace, we can translate our intention to dwell in love, joy, and peace in our daily existence.
Our central task is to increasingly possess God's love, joy, and peace as the underlying condition of our lives. When these qualities are in place in a genuine, Christlike way, our feelings will take care of themselves, being constructive and healthy. They will please God and will nurture the relationships God has put into our lives. Developing God's love, joy, and peace is basically a reconstruction project. We have to remove the underlying conditions that create destructive feelings and replace them with love, joy, and peace.
Remove the underlying conditions that create destructive feelings in us. We must start to take away the underlying conditions that cause destructive and unhealthy feelings by honestly coming to terms with what our current feelings are. When these destructive feelings are identified, then we can probe deeper into the underlying reasons we feel this way. We must come to terms with negative feelings we have toward others. Wounds carried over the years that weigh us down and prevent our spiritual growth in love, joy, and peace. They may have seeped over into our identity and we wouldn't know who we are without them. But these feelings can be healed if we give them up to God and receive the healing ministry of His Word and Spirit.
We must also probe the underlying conditions or motives that determine why we choose to show love to some and not to others. There is so much "love" going on that is hypocritical and self-seeking. People show acts of love on the outside, but they may not be properly motivated. For true transformation of our feelings, we must come to a place where we can love others sincerely from the center of our lives.
Replace the underlying conditions with love, joy, and peace. Receive these from God and others. He showers love, joy, and peace on us, but we must acknowledge it and receive it. God has placed people in our lives who have experienced this transformation and we need to learn from it. To begin to fill your mind with God's Word on these qualities, take the following actions:
Meditate on these verses and write down the insights that come to your mind:
Love - Romans 8:28-39
Joy - John 15:9-17
Peace - Philippians - 4:4-9
Write down your thoughts when God shows His love to you or to someone you know. What did
He do? How did He do it? Why did He do it? What can you learn about God and ways of showing
love to others?
Pay particular attention every time someone, anyone, shows Christlike love to you or to others
you know. Write down the incidents and further meditate on them. What did they do? How did
they do it? Why did they do it? This will create a positive movement toward becoming the kind of
person who loves. As the Holy Spirit sees you abandoning your feelings to Him and growing in
your desire to be like Christ in this way, He will do His part to produce this love in the very core of
As you discipline your mind to receive love from God and others, extend that love outward. Take what you are learning about love, joy, and peace and offer that to others through your attitude toward them, prayer for them, and actions on their behalf.
Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for offering the means to achieve transformation of our minds' feelings. We intend in our hearts to pursue this change. We will remove things from our lives that cause us to have destructive feelings. We will receive Your love, joy, and peace and extend it to others. We will use the means You have given us to become new people in Christ.
Let's review the principles we have learned in this Part:
The Vision To Transform My Mind's Feelings
What won't work:
Tackling our feelings head-on
Denying our destructive feelings or dumping them on others
What will work:
Cultivating feelings that move us away from sin instead of focusing on trying not to sin
Removing the underlying condition (the cause), not just the feeling (the effect)
Replacing the underlying condition; the feelings will then take care of themselves
The Means To Transform My Mind's Feelings
Remove the underlying conditions that create destructive feelings in us
Replace the underlying conditions with love, joy, and peace
Prayer: God, we are drawing near to You so that our minds' feelings can truly be transformed into feelings that reflect You. We embrace the vision that You have for us, and we intend to make the necessary changes. We will use the means You have given us to accomplish our personal renovation plans by seeking Your help to replace underlying conditions with love, joy, and peace that flow from You to us and out to others. Come renovate our feelings!
Next week: Transforming My Heart