Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- How did this message help you in discerning when your emotions are valid and good versus when they are disordered and unhealthy?
- Read Psalm 42:5. How does the Psalmist respond to his own emotional turmoil? What can we gain from this?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
All right, quick culture check. How many Star Trek fans that are in the house? Just raise your hand, you're a Star Trek fan, all right, there's... Now, I'm not talking about... Listen, I'm not talking about new-school Star Trek. I'm not talking about the Star Trek movies. I'm talking about going way back to the original, that kind of Star Trek. You remember how that thing opened? I was little. I don't know when it first started, but I was young. But that opening, the special effects were terrible, it didn't have all the cool stuff, and all the stunts were stupid, and all the... It was just still a fun show because that opening monologue got you fired up. The very beginning lines of the opening monologue, and the very closing lines, those are some of the most famous lines in TV. Do you remember it? Maybe you do, let's take a look.
Captain Kirk: Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
You remember that, right? Thank you, I'll be here for the next little bit. Tip jar in the back if you want, with an usher. It was a cool show. That opening line, "Space, the final frontier." And you're going, "Okay, all right," and then they give you that "To boldly go where no man has gone before", and I'm like, "I'm in, let's go. Get me on the ship, in a USS Enterprise. I am out."
Now, I had a couple of favorite characters. Everybody knew Captain Kirk. He wasn't my favorite character but everybody knew him, "Jim ...," he's always doing that. But the two favorite people that I had were Spock and Bones. You remember them? Here's what they look like, if you don't, if you're young and you may not remember.
So Spock, he's half Vulcan and half man. And then Jim, Bones McCoy is a doctor. They just called him Bones, because he's a doctor. And they're an interesting contrast in emotion. Because Spock, he's half Vulcan and half man, so what he did is he repressed all of his emotions so that he could think logically all the time. That was what he said, "You can't let your emotions get in the way," and so you rarely ever saw him show emotion, unless he was on some freaky planet and ate some fungus or something, and then he started freaking out, but that was really the only time you saw emotion from Spock.
Bones, on the other hand, he's like a bomb with the pin pulled out looking for a place to detonate. This guy is always just jacked up, and he always yelling at people, "Jim," he's yelling at Captain Kirk. He's like, "What do you expect? I'm a doctor. I'm not an engineer," and he's yelling, and he's always yelling at Spock. So he's like emotion out of control, and he's like emotions that are always repressed and stored away, Spock and Bones.
Let me ask you something. Do you know some Spocks where they stuff away all of their emotional life and you can't hardly tell when you look at them, and you talk to them, and you're like, "Now, you, do you feel? Do you have nerve endings?" You just are wondering.
Do you know any people like Bones?
Yeah, more people like that. When I said Spock there was a handful of people that were like, "Yeah, yeah, we know him." And of course, all the Spock in the crowd are going, "I don't know what you mean. I do not know why this man is talking this way. Is he making a joke of some kind?"
And then others, you go, "Do you know anybody like Bones, where it's just like ... all the time," you're like, "Yeah, I know them."
Now, here's another question. Are you one of those? Do you know if you're one of those? Some of us may not have figured that out. I can see some people right now that are going, "Spock, Spock, Spock." It's ladies next to their husband going, "Spock, Spock." And then the husband's looking over going, "Bones ... Spewing a word salad on me all the time. I don't know what to do."
So here's the thing, if outer space is the final frontier, I wonder what inner space is like. It's the first frontier, isn't it? And interestingly enough, we get fired up about outer space because we want to boldly go where no human has gone before, but when it comes to inner space we're not as bold to be able to go in and figure out exactly what life looks like inside.
You see, it's an interesting contrast, isn't it, when you've got this idea of our emotional health because emotions actually affect everything. Emotions touch every single relationship that we have. Emotions affect our relationship with God. Emotions affect our relationship with our spouses, or with our children, or with our grandchildren, or with our friends, or with the people that we work with, or go to school with, or how we view the world. Emotions actually end up touching everything. As it's been said before, you don't experience the world as it is. You experience the world as you are. That's why emotions are something that we have to pay attention to and end up, even, talking about.
Now, in the United States we really need to talk about this. When I was reading the article in the Atlantic, the world health organization has actually noted that the United States has the most ... is dealing with the most mental issues of anybody or any country in the world. We lead the world in dealing with issues related to mental health. And they talked about that the majority of those were related to the families of mood and emotion. That's where they were talking about them, that mood and emotion are the two big-picture families, whether that's the continuum of depressions, or the continuum of anxieties, or the continuums of mania that people are having to deal with mentally and emotional. It has to do with mood and emotion.
And if that's the case, I think that maybe I'm talking to the right group of people, including myself, because what happens is a lot of people either really suppress all of that emotion or they let it go in an out-of-control way. It's Spock or Bones. And that's what leads us, sometimes, to some places that we don't end up wanting to be in. But to be whole, because our emotions come with us, they're not a separate category, they are a part of the nature of who we are, to be whole we actually have to discern where our emotions came from, and what actually happened to them, and what should we be doing with them.
This is a part of the discernment that we need in our culture, and here's why, because when it comes right down to it you cannot be spiritually mature and emotionally immature at the same time. That cancels it out. To be emotionally immature is to be spiritually immature. You can't have spiritual maturity and emotional immaturity at the same time. So I think that this is a topic that we need to address. And here's the thing, it's not an easy subject, if I'm being honest. It's a challenging subject. In fact, it's challenging for, sometimes, men to be able to talk about this subject, let alone being a pastor who's talking about this subject because it doesn't get talked about very often. You don't often hear a message at a high level on the idea of being able to discern our emotional world, but it's something that's a pressing need in the culture that we live in and we best pay attention to it.
I must confess that I'm not an expert in this. If you're going, "Hey, man. Is this going to be like a Dr. Phil thing that you're going to be doing?" No, it's not. And every man in here who's immediately going, "Oh, great. I got to get all in my emotions and all that stuff," listen, I hear you. I feel you. Did you see what I did? I feel you. That's not what this is about. We're going to talk about the word of God and what it has to say to us about some of this stuff, and we all need it. Why? We need it so that we can be the right kind of husband. And we need it so we can be the right kind of friend, so that we can be the right kind of employer or employee, so we can be the right kind of witness in the world. This is really important for us as men. It's really important for us as women. Young men and women, you have to pay attention to this because you have ... you're being bombarded emotionally all the time.
This is something that I think every single one of us needs to be able to grab hold of. Now, I will readily admit that I have read, and studied, and learned from a number, a host of other people on this topic because I don't consider myself an expert on it by any stretch. I've read Peter Cizero and what's he's talked about, in terms of emotionally healthy spirituality. And I've read Dr. Bob Kellemen, who's a PhD in clinical, biblical counseling. And I've read Jen Wilkin, who is a bible teacher and she writes about a number of things and how the word of God connects to our emotional life.
So you could probably see their fingerprints in some of what I'm talking about, without a doubt, but I want you to know that in doing this I'm not only teacher, but I'm also learner. So together we're going to have the opportunity to be able to journey a little bit today, and I'm going to teach and learn alongside of you when we talk about this idea of our emotional health and our emotional maturity, but there's ... What I want to do is I want to back up a little bit and I want to get us to a place where we start at the beginning. Sometimes we don't start at the beginning, but I want us to start at the beginning because there are three truths that I want to offer to us that we really need to pay attention to and grab hold of.
Here's the first one. It's really straightforward. Emotions are from God. This is something that I don't want you to miss because sometimes when we talk about this idea you immediately think, in your mind, "I've had some emotions and I can tell you right now, they are not from God." You can ... In your head, you're already doing that. Now, I hear you. I get it. We're coming to that eventually. But the idea that emotions are from God is really important to us. Why? Because this is what we learn at the very beginning of scripture when it comes to this imprint on humanity, in terms of how God made us.
Listen to what it says in Genesis one. It says, "God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness so that they may rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'" So God created mankind, listen to this, in his own image. In the image of God he created them. Male and female, he created them. Now, there's so much that can be said, and I have talked about this subject before, on the idea of image of God in humanity. It's a big, rich, beautiful topic for us to explore that we're not giving all of our attention to today. But here's what I could say, at the very minimum, for humanity to be created in the image of God means that in some way we bear God's likeness. That's, in fact, what it says in verse 26 of Genesis chapter 21. We've been made in his image, in his likeness. It doesn't mean we look like God exactly. It's not talking about that, but it just talks about we bear a lot of the characteristic nature of God, because he's made us that way.
And what is it that we know about God? We know a lot of things about God. To be created in his image means that we can think, and we can create, and we can rationalize. And here's what it also means, we can feel. You know why? Because God is emotional. God emotes. God feels. In his Trinitarian nature, we see that. We see that the father actually gets angry, and we see that the father also can be pleased. We see the son who is the perfect image of God in bodily form, who is the perfect human being, Jesus, we see him being angry. We see him being happy. We see him being compassionate. We see him experiencing sadness. We see all of this range of emotions in Jesus. And of course, by the way, even the Holy Spirit, which is not a thing but a person, the bible says the Holy Spirit can be grieved.
So in the Trinitarian nature of who God is what we know is this, is that God is emotional and to be created in God's image means that we have these emotions that are from God. So we could look at it this way, emotions are a good gift of God, such that we can integrate our inner world with our outer world. That's one way of saying, that emotions are a good gift from God that allow us to integrate our inner world with our outer world.
So here's what that means, you do not have to take all of your emotions and look at them as a bad thing, and stuff them away, and hide them so that no one can ever seem them, like Spock. And you don't have to be governed or ruled by your emotions, such that you are just all the time freaking out and having to give rise to everything, and having to ... "I've got to vent, I've got to yell, I've got to do all these things," like Bones. You don't have to do that either. Because listen, emotions are not intended to be sovereign, only God is. God is sovereign, emotions are not.
And here's the reason that we have to understand that, that this is a good gift of God that we don't have to hide and repress, but it's also this good gift of God doesn't need to govern us. And here's why, because something's gone wrong. Something's become disordered in our emotional world. You see, if the first truth is that emotions are from God, here's the second truth, that emotions have been tainted by sin.
You see, even though we are created in the image of God, the fact that our fore-bearers and we have all walked into sin means that we have, in our whole lives, been tainted by the effects of sin. And as a result of that, things happen. When we are tainted by sin, and we are distanced from God there are things that happen. And here's what happens, we move from order to disorder in our hearts. Things get all awry, and upside down, and out of place, and because we become disordered emotionally we become disoriented about the world. And this is not where we ultimately want to live, and my mind goes to what Paul the Apostle was talking about when he talked about this idea. Even though he doesn't use the term emotion, he does give us the sense for what he's talking about there with people who have walked far away from God, or who have not entrusted their lives to Jesus, and what that looks like for them emotionally.
Listen to what he said. It's in Ephesians chapter number four. Paul says, "So I tell you this and insist on it in the lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all," what's the word?
Sensitivity. Stay right here for a second. Having lost all sensitivity. Now, why did they lose all sensitivity? You can see it right here, because of the hardening of their hearts. But do you know what this phrase actually means? When you read it in the Greek language, it means that they've lost their ability to feel. They have lost their ability to properly feel. In other words, because they have hardened their hearts toward God here's what happened, that now they're living in such a way where they can't feel the guilt of their sin properly, so that it calls them back to a new way. They can't feel the pain that they are causing other people because they are so self-absorbed and so hardened to God and to others. They have lost all sensitivity. They are not feeling properly anymore.
But instead, it says, "Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality, so as to indulge in every kind of impurity." You know what's interesting about this? This is idea of sensuality has to do with excessive lust, unbridled lust. In other words, it goes from this pole over here where I've hardened myself emotionally and I can't even feel the right things anymore, to now expressing that in a different way by turning myself loose, maybe, emotionally into areas that I shouldn't be going in that lead me to disordered places, because of their impurity.
Do you see how it's almost like Paul is describing this pin-balling between how we will suppress, and put down, and harden our emotions, to letting them run wild and unchecked over here. It's this pin-balling between these extremes. It's almost like Spock and Bones. Paul's telling us that this is not the way that it's supposed to be. This is how our disordered hearts actually lead us.
Now, I'm not trying to imply that some of you introverts don't have any emotion. Some of you are going, "What about me? I'm an introvert and I feel emotion. I just don't show it very often." I was talking a guy in the atrium and he said, "I've got a cousin, or a relative that's an introvert and she finally one day just posted on social media." She said, "Look, I'm an introvert. Here's what that means. I'm cool as a cucumber on the outside, and I'm a squirrel in traffic on the inside." And I thought, "That's about right."
So I get it. Introverts feel deeply. What I'm talking about here in this passage, and what I believe the Apostle Paul is talking about is he's talking about how we've gotten to a place where we're so hard-hearted that we can't feel the kind of emotion God wants us to feel. Because here's the thing, if we're created in the image of God that means this, what God wants for us is to be able to feel the things he feels, to love the things he loves, to hate the things he hates. This is ultimately what God wants, in terms of how we are supposed to be wired in who we are as a person. So there's some that repress all of that because, maybe, they think it's bad and it's not from God, but it is from God. It's just gotten disordered.
And then there's others who have allowed that disorder to rule. It makes them do everything. They're the kind of people that you always know whatever's going on, and it's just all over the place, and it's just emotional, and it's always happening, and it can be good, it could be bad, it could be mediocre, it could be sadness, it could be whatever and you always know because there's no filter. It's just like ... It's all the time. But unfortunately, what it does is it has a tendency to govern their decision making. These are the kind of people that use phrases like this, "I just can't help the way I feel." You can't? So your feelings are in charge? Your feelings are the ones making all the decisions for you?
I don't know if you're going to like where that gets you ultimately, because if our feelings govern us to the point of being disordered it's going to lead us to really disordered places. In fact, I was reading about a study. I was reading a guy's comments, a professor's comments. His name was Richard Topolski, and he's a professor at Georgia Regents University, and he was commenting on a study that a survey about how people viewed life, just life in general. And among the many data points in this he was talking about one of the data points, and it was a really interesting one. There was a question that was asked, and a whole bunch of people took this survey, and he just asked a general question. And it was this, if there was a bus that was hurdling out of control, no chance to stop it, it's hurdling out of control, and in its path were a foreign tourist that you don't know and your dog, which one would you save if you could only save one of them? 40% of the respondents said the dog.
By the way, of that 46%, when you start looking at it demographically, 46% of the women said the dog. And I paused for a second and I went, "Uh-oh. This is not good," because they asked the question, why would save the dog and not this human, human being, made in the image of God, infinitely valuable? Why would you not save the human? Here was the answer, "Because I don't have any feelings for him. Don't know him. Don't have any feelings for him."
Do you see where, if our feelings govern us, that it can lead us to very disordered places. I hope that I don't have to convince you that the life of a human being is worth more than the life of an animal, because human beings have been made in the image of God. It doesn't mean, by the way, that we just hate animals or anything. I hope your dog gets saved if there's a problem. I'm for that, but not at the expense of another human being. This is where we get so upside down. We cannot let our feelings govern us to that degree.
So Paul tells us, actually, in Ephesians four that this is what can happen to us, but he says, "This is not what we should be doing," because we ought to be living like new people. We ought to be putting on a new way of living. And if we do that, we now have a funnel to be able to work through so that we can process emotion the way it's supposed to be processed.
Look what he says going on in verse number 21 of Ephesians four. He says, "That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, and to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you're still angry. And do not give the devil a foothold."
You see, what Paul is reminding us here is this, is that we have to process our emotional life, listen, through our new existence in Jesus, not through our old existence. Why? Because our old, listen, our old self and our old existence is disordered and it will lead us, emotionally, to disordered places. We have to look at this completely differently. Because there's a huge difference, ladies and gentlemen, when we let the word of God begin to wash over our hearts and our minds, and we begin to now deal with our emotions based on the truth of who God is, listen, that's when we begin to experience real, proper emotion. But if not, we begin to feel illegitimate emotion based upon a broken way of looking at the world.
Dr. Kellemen helped me along this line and he had a chart, and he explained it, and I want to share it with you. It's not my work. It's his. But here's what he said, he said, "Take a negative situation." Let's just pretend the negative situation, just to be generic, is you got fired from your job. That's the negative situation. If you take this negative situation but you combine with a biblical belief, he says, "What that equals is legitimate painful emotions." You may experience sadness, or remorse that you lost the job, legitimate painful emotions. But look what happens if that same negative situation you combined with unbiblical belief, here's what happens, they're illegitimate painful emotions, like hate, and despair. These are things that ought not be brewing up in the hearts of believers. Hate, "I hate my employer," "I hate that person." Or despair, "I'm hopeless now," "I've got nothing now because I was depending upon my job. It was my all. It was my everything." No, it's not. No, it's not.
You have to go back here and make sure you understand the truth of who God is and what God has said, so that whatever emotion, your experience, is a legitimate emotion even if it's a painful one. Sadness, remorse, "I got fired, I understand the company's downsizing," you're able to process this differently. Same this is true, by the way, if there's a particularly good situation. Let's say it's not you getting fired. Let's say you getting a humongous promotion at your job. You take this positive situation and you combine it with biblical belief and you experience legitimate positive emotion, like joy, and peace. But what happens if you've got this same positive situation, you get this great bump up in pay, this great promotion in responsibility but you combine that with an unbiblical belief? You start experiencing illegitimate positive emotion, like pride, and arrogance, or entitlement, "About time." It's that kind of thing.
So we have to make sure that we are actually looking at this through the lens of the new self in Christ and not the old self, so that even the emotions we experience are ... they are legitimate emotions based on the new self, not illegitimate emotions based on the old self that lead us to disordered places. Does that make sense? Everybody tracking with me? This is super important for us to be able to grab hold of.
You see, because what Paul did in Ephesians chapter four, by the way, you might have missed it because I went by it pretty quickly, Paul actually affirmed the idea of emotion in its proper place from the new self, this new self that's put our faith in Jesus. We can still have emotion, even emotions like anger. Did you catch it? Look at what he said in verse 26, "In your anger, do not sin." Do you know what Paul is saying here? You can be angry and not sin. He's not saying anger by itself is sinful. He's simply saying it's an emotion. It just needs to be in the context of the new self, the new identity in Christ, not the old one. Because with the old, with anger came a whole bunch of other things, hate, vengeance, all of those things. This is a different kind. In your anger, do not sin. You can be angry and sin. In fact, some of the older translations say, "Be angry and sin not."
So what does that mean for us? Well, what it means for us is that what Paul is doing here, in fact that phrase "in your anger, do not sin", that's actually a quotation from the Old Testament. And if you've got a bible that has notes, you'll probably see that that's from Psalm chapter four. Why does Paul quote the psalms when he's talking about rightly-placed emotion? Because the psalms are the best place to go when you want to talk about emotion.
Some people have asked me before, they're like, "Now, is the bible just really sterile, or does it really show any emotion or whatever?" I'm like, "Have you ever read the psalms? You've got everything under the sun in the psalms." It's a reminder that God's given this emotion, that those emotions are expressed. And by the way, sometimes it's even a reminder that human beings express emotion in a disordered way. You see that in the psalms. You see every expression of that.
And so, what I want to do with the last truth that I gave you, I gave you two already when I talked about the idea that emotions are from God but that our emotions have been tainted by sin, I want to give you a third truth but what I want to do is I want to carry you into a psalm and I want to show you how it unfolds. Because what I'm going to do is show you four movements in this psalm that help us understand how we can actually get to the place of emotional maturity.
So let me tell you the third truth, it's this, that our emotions need to be under the rule of God. This isn't rocket science. I'm telling you things that, probably, intuitively many of you could have picked up on, that emotions are from God. You're like, "Yeah, I understand that." Our emotions have been tainted by sin, "Yeah, I understand that." And our emotions need to be under the rule of God and you're like, "Okay, yeah. I understand that." What we don't understand is how to do that. How do we actually get our emotions under the rule of God? That's why I'm going to introduce you to Asaph, here for the last bit of time that we have. I'm going to really high-level this.
Asaph is a guy who's walking with God. He loves God. He's been serving God for a very long time but he keeps looking around at all these people that aren't serving God and here's what's happening. They seem to be doing fine. He's looking around going, "This lady doesn't serve God with anything. This is ridiculous. How come she's rich? How come she's good-looking? How come she seems healthy? I'm over here suffering, and I'm looking at her, and I'm looking at all these other people and they don't seem to be serving God at all, and it seems to be going fine with them. They're living long lives, seem like they don't have a care in the world, everything seems fine. I look at their Instagram accounts and everything is awesome. And then here's me, I'm over here suffering."
And so, what's interesting about the psalm in Psalm 73 is that we get this ... not only this spiritual journey but this emotional journey of Asaph. And what it does is it shows us these movements that we can pick up on and learn from principally that I think could be extraordinarily helpful to you and to me, because I'm learning alongside of you. In fact, here's the first movement that we learn from Asaph. It's this, name the strong emotions you feel. Do you know how many times ... Have you ever been this way? Have you ever just felt like whatever your ... you know something's awry inside, but you can't put your finger on it? Maybe you haven't tried. You're just like, "I just ... I don't know. I'm just ... I don't know. Just, I don't want to be around you right now. I, just, I don't ..." It's that.
What you have to be able to do, if you want to experience emotional maturity, is that you and I, we have to be able to actually name what that is because we're never going to get anywhere if we can't name what that is. So in other words, you need to be able to go to it and say, "What is it that's making ... I'm just ... I feel like I'm irritated. I don't ...," and then you spend enough time and here's what you'll get to, "I'm angry. I am angry." You got to be able to name this. You can't do anything about something that's just generic and nebulous that you don't know anything about. In fact, that's what Asaph actually did.
Notice in the first set of verses, I'm going to point it out to you, he beings by just how you're supposed to begin psalms, I guess, "Surely God is good to Israel to those who are pure in heart." He's summarizing. So he's telling you, "Hey, this is going to end well but it's about to get ugly." Then he says this, "But as for me," notice whenever there's a "but", "Surely God's good to Israel to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped. I have nearly lost my foothold, for I," what?
"I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Do you hear him naming what he felt? "I envied this." And then he starts explaining why he envied it, "They have no struggles. They're bodies are healthy and strong. They're free from common human burdens. They're not plagued by human ills. Therefore, pride is their necklace. They clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity. Their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and they speak with malice, with arrogance. They threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to Heaven and their tongues take possession of the Earth. Therefore, their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, 'How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?' This is what the wicked are like, always free of care. They go on amassing wealth."
Here's what he's saying, "I'm envious of this," and he's not sure what to do with it. Then he says this, "Surely, in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence." You know what he's expressing now? Betrayal. "What? I could have been just living apart from God all this time and had all of this stuff? No, I'm over here suffering. They're not suffering at all. They seem to be living long lives. I'm over here suffering because I'm following after God. They're having a ton of fun. They're making a ton of money, and here's me over here suffering for God. I'm not only envious, but I feel betrayed. I've kept my heart pure. I've washed my hands in innocence. All day long I've been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children."
Then he says this, "When I tried to understand all this it," what, "troubled me deeply." Do you know what that word translates to? Grief, misery, anguish. Here's what he says, "I am envious. I feel betrayed, and I am in misery." Okay, Asaph. He's speaking clearly. You know what he's doing? He's naming these things. That's important for us to begin. That's movement one. But let me show you move two. You not only name the strong emotions you feel but then you have to face your emotions while facing God. Notice what I just said, you have to face your emotions while facing God. Not, "Hey, I'm just going to try and face my emotions and then I'm just going to vent to somebody, and I'm ...," no, no, no, no. Face your emotions while facing God.
Listen to what Asaph did. He went through all this trouble, and then he says, "When I tried ..." Go ahead, you can go to it. "When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I understood their final destiny." You see, what Asaph was doing was processing this all himself. He was having a conversation in his mind, "I can't believe this. I am looking over at that lady. I'm looking over at that man. I can't believe what life is like for them. It seems like it's so good. Look at their Instagram account. This is ridiculous. I'm envious. I'm jealous. I don't like them. This is disgusting. I'm over here afflicted. They're having a great life. They are living their best life," my favorite phrase. "They are over there living their best life, and here's me. I'm over here afflicted living for God."
"This troubled me deeply until I got into the presence of God, then I started understanding their outcome. I got into God's presence. I took this stuff that I'm dealing with, and I faced it, while facing him." Not faced it just to face it, but to face it while facing him. Because even if you just face your emotion, you may not be able to fully decipher what the deal is. But you face it while facing him and all of a sudden he's going to help you. He's going to start giving you an understanding. He's going to start enlightening your mind to his truth.
Let me show you the third move, though. Then you have to tell God about your emotions. You bring them there. You face your emotions while you face God, but then you need to tell him. You need to tell him about what you have experienced, and you need to tell him, even, if you're embarrassed by what you experienced because you know better now, when you get into his presence you need to tell him about that too. You know why? He understands. He gets it. I don't know if you know this, but we have a high priest named Jesus that we can confidently go to him because he understands our every temptation, and weakness and emotion. He gets every bit of it and we can go to him.
In fact, listen to what Asaph said directly to God, verse number 21 and 22. He says, "When my heart was grieved, and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant. I was a brute beast before you." Do you catch what he's saying here? He's like, "You know what? What I was doing was not even making sense. I got so bent out of shape I was operating in a different perspective, and I got so bent out of shape it didn't even make any sense, but now I realize it was stupid. I didn't even think about the eternal consequences all along. I'm just thinking about the temporary. That's just ignorant. Man, I was just operating on animal instinct at this point. I was just letting my emotions govern me like an emotional animal would do. And I did all this before."
You know what Asaph is doing right there? Listen, it's a great biblical word, repenting. That's what he's doing. He's repenting. He's doing an about face. He's like, "You know what? I was doing all this stupid stuff, God and then I decided to turn to you and get your perspective, and allow you to help me to understand these things, and now you've changed everything for me because now I'm looking," listen to this, "I'm looking through your eyes, and I'm feeling with your heart what I'm supposed to be feeling, instead of doing that on my own in my disordered self."
There's a last thing, though, that I don't want you to miss. It may be the most important. Then we have to preach the gospel to ourselves. You got to name the emotion you feel, then you got to face it while facing God, and then you got to tell God about it, listen to this, but then here's our responsibility, we got to start preaching the gospel to ourselves. Listen to what Asaph does. He starts talking about the truth. He's talked about all this stuff. He's was like, "I was senseless. I was ignorant. I was a brute beast before you." Then he says, "Yet, I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in Heaven but you? And Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
"Those who are far from you will perish. You destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign lord my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds." You know what he's doing? He's just preaching the gospel to himself. Do you know how badly we need to do that?
Badly. We need to do it badly.
Listen, the gospel is the best news that people who are far from God, who've never put their faith and trust in Jesus, the gospel is the best news you will ever hear, that God loved you so much, even in the midst of your sin, even in the midst of your disordered brokenness, that Jesus came, died in your place to take upon himself the wrath of God, so that you could be forgiven, and I could be forgiven. He rose from the dead, conquering sin and Hell in the grave on our behalf, that by faith in him we can now be reconciled to God, and now the image of God that had been so distorted in our lives can begin to be put back together in the image of Christ. This is the good news of the gospel. And if you've never come to faith in Jesus Christ, it's the best news you'll ever hear. It's eternal in significance.
But listen, for those of you who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, the gospel today is the best news you will ever hear. It is the best news you will ever hear, and you have to continually preach this to your own soul. This is what David did. By the way, this is what Jerry does. I was this morning in my study praying, talking to the lord, praying for you, praying for me, that somehow God would take the water of my message and make it wine in the hearts of his people. I was praying that God would be glorified in everything that I do, that God would be glorified in everything that you do, that he would be the one that we make much of.
And in the middle of my time of praying I had some things going on in my heart and in my head that did not belong. Has that ever happened to you?
They did not belong. That's, I'm talking about just a few hours ago. They didn't belong. So you know what I started doing? Preaching the gospel to my own soul, "Listen to me, soul, I have things to tell you. This is coming from my flesh and from the disordered part that still wants to fight with me. You don't listen to it. Soul, you are under the command of a good god who is gracious, and he will make us grateful instead of entitled. Soul, you listen to the truth of the gospel."
I was literally out loud in my study preaching the gospel to my own soul. But I'm not alone. You need to do it. This isn't just Jerry doing weird things in his study. You need to do it. David did it. I love how Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book called Spiritual Depression. Listen to what he said. He said, "If you realize that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself, take those thoughts that come to you in the moment you wake up in the morning," you haven't originated them but they are talking to you, "they bring back the problems of yesterday." Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you.
Now, David's treatment in Psalm 42 was this, instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. "Why art thou cast down on my soul," he asks. His soul had been depressing him, had been crushing him, so he stands up and says, "Self, listen for a moment. I will speak to you. This is what we have to do."
I like how John Piper said it this way as well. He said, "On this side of the cross we know the greatest ground for our hope. Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and triumphant over death." So the main thing we must learn is to preach this gospel to ourselves. "Listen, self. If God is for you, who can be against you? He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for you, how will he not also, with him, graciously give you all things?"
When you preach the gospel to yourself, this is not Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live looking in the mirror saying, "I'm smart enough. I'm ..." It's not that. "And doggonnit people like me." This is not that. This is not just pablum that you're just trying to pump yourself up and give yourself ... "I am good. I am smart. I am pretty." It's not all that. It's about taking the word of God and preaching it to yourself, because that matters the most.
I am not Spock today. I'm hopefully not Bones either, but I am definitely not Spock today. This is so important for us. And why is it so important? Because you can't be spiritually mature and emotionally immature at the same time. This is important for what, ultimately, it looks like to show God off to the world. If you want to summarize in a sentence, write this down, rightly-ordered emotions glorify the god who gave them to us. Rightly-ordered emotions glorify the god who gave them to us. Do you know why? Because we love what he loves. We're passionate about what he's passionate about. We hate what he hates. This is what God has designed us for. This is what God desires for our lives.
So let me tell you this as we finish here. Here's what I want you to do, if you've got some strong emotions that you've been feeling in your life here recently, I want you to treat them like you would a car warning light. I had my car warning light come on this week, actually, in my car. It was just for a tire pressure thing or whatever. But you know what a car warning light does? It tells you got to look into something. And if you've been feeling some ... It doesn't matter if you've let that emotion go, or if you've kept it suppressed or whatever, but you're feeling something, and it's strong. It may be time, listen, it may be time to pop the hood and take a look because you may need to identify some things, name them, face them in the presence of God. You may need to tell God about them, and then listen to him and preach the gospel to yourself, because this is the only way that you're going to have a rightly-ordered heart when it comes to our emotional wellbeing.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, listen carefully, you don't have to be like Spock, you don't have to be like Bones because God wants to make you like Jesus. That's what he wants for you, to be like Jesus. Let's bow our heads together.
We're gone in just a moment. You may be here and never entrusted your life to Jesus Christ. We'd love it if you'd come by the fireside room after we're done and speak to somebody about what relationship with Jesus looks like. And for those of us, maybe, who are here, and we've got some things going on in our hearts, and we're like, "You know what? Is there anybody that could walk with me in this," there is. You may or may not know this, but in our church our counseling pastor, Dave Drake, he's trained a hundred-plus lay counselors. They've gone through training. And would they be willing to walk with you, maybe, through processing some of this stuff? Yeah, probably so. And in fact, we've got some of those representatives in our lay counseling ministry. They are at every one of our campuses at our information tables. They're there for you today.
If you need to go and just say, "Hey, you know what? Could I set up a meeting with somebody," or, "Hey, I'm dealing with grief. Do you guys have anything where people who are grieving can be together?" Yeah, we got that. We got a number of things. Maybe you just want to find out what's available if you have a need. Please go by the information center and talk to one of the folks there. They'd love to help you and give you the upshot on what ways we could be able to serve you, and help you, and walk with you through processing some of this stuff.
My hope is, though, that we'll pop the hood on our lives from time to time. It's not about always just navel-gazing and always being all up in our own stuff. It's not about that. We have to look externally and be serving people, and loving people. It's not about that. But there are times in our lives where if we don't pop the hood and check in, we're going to find ourselves being disordered in the choices that we make, and the things that we do, and we don't want that. We want to look like Jesus, particularly in the world that we live in. There are so many inputs. There are so many things vying for our emotional allegiance and attention. Everybody wants us to be outraged about everything, and it's exhausting. It's exhausting to be angry about everything. Be angry about the right things. Be angry about the right things.
Father, I pray that you would speak by the power of your spirit into the souls of every one of us, myself included. I am learning while I'm teaching because you, Holy Spirit, are kind to us. And I pray we would learn what it looks like to check in every now and then and to name these really strong emotions that we feel, to bring them and get face-to-face with them in your presence, to be able to repent where we need to repent, and have you clarify our perspective, and be able to preach the gospel to ourselves, not just pump-up self-talk, but to preach the truth of the word of God to ourselves and to believe it, so that we might feel what you feel, love what you love, hate what you hate. Because what we want more than anything, God, is to be fully beautiful as image-bearers.
We know that that full consummation won't come until Jesus returns, and we long for that day but we sure want to be moving in the direction of looking more like Jesus, not less like him. So would you help us, God, to grow in our spiritual maturity as we grow in our emotional maturity, because this is how you've designed us and what you desire for us? We pray you'd do this in our lives. In Jesus name, amen.