Choosing to rule my emotions?

A good friend recently raised a question in light of my emphasis on the heart as the center of the soul.  It was about the role of choosing.  “I have heard,” he wrote, “teachers and preachers [who insist] that love is a choice.”  He added some quotes from an unidentified devotional piece that I’ll offer in excerpts here:

 

A Christian writer says, “For many years I lived according to my feelings. It was like riding a roller coaster; one day laughing and feeling good and the next crying and feeling sorry for myself. I was being tormented and controlled. I needed emotional maturity, but I required God’s help to attain it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing your fickle feelings more than what God says in His Word. It will take a constant act of your will, to choose to do things His way rather than your own. When you do make that choice, you’ll discover that life is more enjoyable when you’re living according to God’s plan.”

 

Just as you don’t let everybody who knocks on your door come in and make themselves at home, don’t let every emotion that surfaces dictate the direction of your day or decide your responses.  …. God is a God of faith and He works in ways that only faith, not feelings, can discern.

 

It’s certainly an important question, and one that stirs suspicion about anyone who insists (as I do) that the Bible treats the heart as the affective basis for every activity of life.  In effect, the claim I make about the Bible witness is that what we love most always defines us.  Yet, according to this critic, the affections of the heart—and, yes, the affections mean our “emotions” and “feelings”—are simply too unstable to bear such weight!  Choice, on the other hand, represents “a constant act of your will” that is, by comparison, much more reliable.

 

First, let me agree that the heart is, indeed, unreliable as it expresses our sinful “feelings” and “emotions”.  Jesus himself said as much, as reported in Mark 7:21-22, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”  Paul, too, understood that our emotions and uncontrolled desires are traps to be avoided as he spoke about our turning away from the life we “once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” [Ephesians 2:3]

 

So, according to the devotional we cited above, the solution to this problem is for us to use our capacity to choose.  We must avoid “the trap of believing your fickle feelings more than what God says in His Word”. 

 

This seems like a compelling argument, doesn’t it?  After all, our choices are what define us and carve out the shelter we need in order to avoid being taken over by other people’s choices that encroach on our freedoms.  What we do with our bodies, for instance, is “our choice” and where we go and do in life is “our choice’’—and God will judge us on the basis of what we choose, so we need to practice making right choices!  Right?

 

Maybe . . . or maybe not.  As I think of a world that is adamantly “pro-choice” and has, with that devotion to choosing, slaughtered millions of unborn babies at the bloody altar of a “freedom to choose” I get a queasy sense that the argument may not be very sound.  Especially as we stand before Christ in that “Day” that lies ahead for all of us.  I suspect that it actually represents the mantra of individualism—the claim that we are essentially autonomous beings, “like God,” in knowing and choosing for ourselves what is good and what is evil.

 

Here’s the issue: according to the Bible we are, indeed, “choosers”.  Joshua, for instance, challenged the nation of Israel to “choose this day whom you will serve [among various gods] . . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” [Joshua 24:15]  So far we have a “choice-based” model at work.  But notice a much bigger question that always rests beneath any choice: “What motivates that choice?”  This is where the real battle is to be found: do we hide our motives and pretend that a Stoic self-determination defines us?  Or do we realize that we were once enslaved to the Lie that Satan offered Adam, and had once been lovers of self; but now we are set free by the Truth so that we are now “controlled” (to use Paul’s term from 2 Corinthians 5:14) by our new love for Christ?  Either way, our choosing is defined by prior motivational sources.

 

So, to press the issue, do we make choices “ex nihilo” [“out of nothing”], or is every choice based on prior causes—including earlier experiences, fears, desires, doubts, and so on?  For Joshua the basis for his choice was his relationship with the God who had called Israel out of Egypt and revealed himself to the nation at Mt Sinai.  With that experience Joshua called on the people to “cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day” and “to love the LORD your God.” [Joshua 23:8 & 11]  Why love God?  Because, as Moses had disclosed to Joshua and to Israel on God’s behalf, they all knew “that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples . . . [and] the LORD loves you . . . and redeemed you from the house of slavery”. [Deuteronomy 7:7-8]

 

Here’s the bottom line that addresses the problem biblically: God made us as dependent beings.  And God “is love” so that we, too, were made to love him as responders.  We love him because he first loved us!  And he pours that love out in our hearts as the first act of conversion that causes me to find him attractive for the first time in my life.  Then the fruit of the Spirit’s presence in us is love as we love others with his love pouring through us. 

 

And love is an affection, an emotion, and a feeling in response to the one who loves us.  So, yes, I choose God!  I choose to obey God!  I choose to follow God!  Yet all these choices are motivated by love.  And, if not a love for God, then a love for the “glory” that other Christians give us for being “good” people.  One is a choice with a proper motive, the other with a false motive.

 

And all “choices” made towards God evaporate the moment I return to the love of self, the love of pleasure, the love of glory, the love of money, and every other deceitful love that beckons for me to respond in a world filled with false loves—all of which Paul labeled as “the flesh.” 

 

So the real battle, as Martin Luther’s disciple put it so clearly on Luther’s behalf, is always “affection versus affection.”  Satan rules human hearts by capturing us with the promise of autonomy—of “free wills”—but the reality is that he rules our wills by manipulating our hearts with deceitful desires.  God’s love, in sharp contrast, is holy, blameless, and utterly winsome.  It will include moments of joy, desire, delight—call these “feelings” or “emotions”—and it will also bring to us more settled affections such as peace, kindness, forbearance, and so on.  The question is not the strength or the vigor of these inward qualities, but the object that stirs them.  If Jesus wept when Lazarus was in the tomb, let us weep as well—even though we know the resurrection is coming.  If Paul called on the saints, again and again, to “rejoice” I think he was calling for us to unleash our emotions in response to God’s providential care for us.  Let’s learn to love boldly and dramatically—it may just call others to the love of Christ that surpasses understanding.

 

What then, will protect us from “fickle feelings”?  Certainly not the naïve venue of Stoic self-control!  All that offers is a self-centered “will power” that displaces our gaze on Christ.  Instead I can “choose to rule my emotions” by responding to the ever-spreading love of Christ who loves me with his stable, eternal, selfless—and “emotional”—love!  Please join me, and invite others as well!

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26 Comments

  1. Morgan Reynolds

    bravo ron!
    i have always felt a need to study Pauls teaching on the gifts of the spirit, and to continually ask God to fill me with his word, his peace, and a heightened sensitivity to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. it is an exhausting and sad way to live your life at the whim of deceitful desires, just ask me!
    i have re-read your teaching several times and will only add the following ‘cut and paste’.

    1 Corinthians 13, in the midst of Paul’s
    description of the gifts of the Spirit, there is a section on love. While not directly about ‘fruit’, it is about what springs from love, and it is in much the same vein. According to verses 4-8, love:

    * suffers long;
    * is kind;
    * does not envy (ou zeloo);
    * does not parade itself (ou perereupmai);
    * does not get ‘puffed up’ (ou phusioutai);
    * does not behave rudely (ouk askemonei);
    * is not provoked;
    * does not think evilly, nor rejoice in sin;
    * rejoices in the truth;
    * bears all things;
    * believes all things;
    * hopes all things;
    * endures all things.

    In Phillipians 4:8, Paul advises us to think on things that are:

    * true;
    * noble, or worthy of high esteem (semnos);
    * just;
    * pure;
    * lovely (prosphiles);
    * of good report (euphemos);
    * of any virtue, or excellence (arete);
    * worthy of praise(epainos).

    In Colossians 3:12-16, the church members are told to put on (wear) these things:

    * tender mercies;
    * kindness;
    * humility or self-smallness (tapeinophrasune);
    * a heart of compassion (oiktirmos);
    * gentleness;
    * patience.

    Then, they are further instructed to:

    * bear with one another;
    * forgive one another;
    * love;
    * let the peace of God rule their hearts;
    * be thankful (eucharistoi);
    * have the Word live in them abundantly;
    * teach and admonish one another;
    * sing with grace in their hearts.

    a wonderful meditation on living a life that is worthy of our calling. don’t you think? my goodness…we will judge nations and angels! now is the time to focus on the lessons taught us. God is faithful to honor his promises to us, all of them.
    thanks ron

  2. R N Frost

    Yes, indeed, Morgan: a heart-felt focus on Christ can be volcanic in its (or, better, ‘his’) transforming impact! Thanks for the biblical reminders here. It’s all about who we love, isn’t!

  3. Leanne

    Is it just me or is Morgan’s list overwhelming?

    I’d be interested in hearing how you guys go about achieving this and more importantly, attaining it.

    I’m not looking for pat answers, either, but then again, I realize this is not my blog and you guys don’t have to answer anything-hah!

    Seriously, I look at this list and even with the help of the Holy Spirit, I find it incredibly daunting.

    Ideas?

  4. R N Frost

    I’m happy to let Morgan respond!

    But I’ll also offer my own bit. And here it is: the beauty of a relational faith is that it lives as an ongoing response. Stoic Christianity, by contrast, is all about task, as in: “What must I do to be saved?” It makes our ‘choosing’ the defining quality of the human soul…thus the need for a sharp critique that I tried to offer in this posting. In the will-based view of faith we treat God as our assistant who offers us the “enablement” needed for us to achieve the good works God demands.

    Faith working through love, on the other hand, is like an apple tree. What if, for instance, we had never seen a fruit tree in our lifetime and, early in the springtime, we were told about the boxes and boxes of apples that would eventually come from a certain tree. Then, after a few months, we returned at the right time to see it weighed down with hundreds of apples. Would we ask, “wow, who glued all those apples to that tree?” Or would we talk about how hard the tree worked to produce the fruit?

    The bottom line is that Morgan’s list is the promise of what a life can become once we enjoy abiding in Christ’s word, in his love, and in his life. It’s all about abiding. He does the work of creating fruit as the Spirit pours God’s love out in our hearts.

    My own produce is still small, but each season more fruit seems to be present. But it’s not a task, just the fruit of knowing and enjoying Christ.

  5. Morgan Reynolds

    morgan responds…

    my dear sister in Christ,
    emotions kill more people in this world than crack, meth, alcohol, car wrecks or anything else you’d care to think of. ‘out of our heart’…remember that verse? it is of vital importance that our focus be on the Word of God, and Christ crucified. it is important what we listen to, what we read, what we listen to,what we spend our money on, who we hang with, and we need to capture our every thought. tough stuff..but look at the apple tree..a very small seed, a green shoot, a little water, a little sun light, and yes;even a little frost! (that includes ron!) each year a few more apples, new growth, a little pruning,(ouch!)and a few more apples. you too are different today as compared to last week i can guarantee it. the garden theme is most appropriate!

    the first 29 years of my life was lived in such a wanton state of disrepair i cant even begin to tell you. when i answered Gods beckoning and irresistible call i could hardly believe His arm was that long to reach me in the depths i called home. my life changed dramatically. I have many stories, but i will keep them for another time.
    30 years (after my sanctifying renewal that day at the coast) of secular counseling achieved very little, not ONE conversation focused on the spiritual nature of my grave discontent. not until i joined other believers in ‘celebrate recovery’ did the real reason of my continued sadness come to the surface. the sin of my emotions still running most of my life! and this after 20+ years of stumbling behind God’s Holy Word.
    believers come and share their great sadness in their lives, they/i am separated from Gods richest blessings, and to my great sadness; stilling the voice of his Holy Spirit. we are having difficulty in becoming a living, breathing, productive child of the King-because of our earthly emotions.we have separated ourselves from God’s blessings due to the lies of sin/emotions run amok with control, greed, passion,and all manner of dis-ease.
    Christ knows these things, he is a breath away, God does not want our lives frustrated with emotional sin. He is greater than that, Christ conquered the grave, he can conquer our emotion/sin.
    we are in training for Christs return, He will equip you through his word, as i said, He is just a heart beat away.
    so, in summary…i believe He will continue the sanctifying process he has begun, He is faithful. and we are works in progress, do not let the lies of the evil one take away your belief that God will give up on you or anyone else. Pray my sister, find a scripture that emphasizes His great love for you and memorize it. until then, look up in the autumn sky and see the birds..remember what Christ said to the crowds about the birds? you are more valuable.. more loved..and you have been set aside to one day see Christ face to face and reign with Him forever.
    i imagine i will respond again, this time my tears are due to my deep respect for the work He has done in my life, and the profound belief He will continue untill the day i die.
    ron…thanks for watering the seed

  6. Leanne

    You guys ever read Peanuts? Remember Lucy and her sign, “The Doctor Is In-5 cents”? Well, picture me putting a nickel in each of your “jars” 😉

    I truly appreciate your love, Morgan. I felt it just flowing off the screen. *smiles* Thank you.

    Ron, that analogy……………….not bad for a boy 😉

    Last question-Because I am known to be a bit literal and extremely intense/task when it comes to life and especially faith, I just want clarification on one thing.

    Morgans list, while I realize not an actual daily “To Do” thing, incorporates the sum total of Jesus’ teachings, yes? What I want to know is if you guys are able or ever have been able to achieve the ENTIRE list at one time.

    Me? Well, I pick an “apple” here, wait for a “box” there, get “pruned” and then try again. Only maybe twice in my entire 5 years doing this Jesus thing 😉 have I ever been able to say I completed the entire list in one day.

    Mind you, those times sustain me and keep me alive………..

    I may have missed the point with the whole list thing and if so, just say, “Leanne, you missed the point!”. I can take it. Swear.

  7. R N Frost

    You know something, Leanne, you may not have missed the point but you may be missing the location where you want your gaze to be centered. I.e. whenever I find myself asking “how am I doing” it eventually dawns on me that my focus is no longer on Christ but on me.

    So, here’s my response: on occasions people tell me [although in very different words] “what you did/said today was clearly a fruit that fed my soul . . . I tasted God’s goodness through you!” That’s when I know I’m bearing fruit. But I don’t want to ask that question in a self-inspecting fashion because then the focus is on me and I’ll get caught up in my own ‘stuff’ all too quickly. So, with Paul, I just want to “know Christ, and him crucified.” It’s not the fruit that matters but the one whose love “in us” and forms the fruit that matters.

  8. Morgan Reynolds

    Amen!
    prayerfully read Gods Word, it is THE living Word.

    all control is His, he is the one who makes you grow (ever hear a flower grunt? no, didnt think so!)

    God has the responsibility of growing you up, your responsibility is to love him by getting to know him, as i stated before, by his Living Word.

    he is a relational God…he longs to grow you up, he longs for you to know him..

    believe…and prayerfully read his Word
    Morgan

  9. Leanne

    Yes, but if we don’t inspect ourselves how do we ensure we don’t get off course?

    It’s exactly when I keep my focus on Jesus that He kindly shows me what was an “apple” and what needs “pruning”. I think this kind of self-awareness is actually of the Lord, Ron. I really, really do.

    Now, what I do w/ that awareness may fit with what you and Morgan are saying, yes?

    Just now, I was trying to think of how to explain it to you when I realized that maybe, just maybe, what you guys already know/do is this: When Jesus points something out He’d like you to pay attention to/be aware of, He isn’t giving you a task list to go tackle on your own as much as He’s giving you an invitation or a sneak peak into the next part of your walk with Him.

    Maybe, just maybe, He’s pointing out a new direction on your path that He’s going to take you. If you let Him, He’ll carry you all the way. If not, well, then, it may be a looooong hike.

    So, when I see Morgan’s list (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read those passages again w/out calling them “Morgan’s list”!) and realize I need some “pruning”, I shouldn’t look for the pruning shears but rather just thank my loving Father and trust Him to take care of it.

    Yes?

  10. R N Frost

    I know there is always a tension between our self awareness and our awareness of others. As in Eden when Adam and Eve hid from God as he walked into the Garden (e.g. my last post, “In the beginning…”). Before sin Adam and Eve were not self aware, it seems, or at least they were not ashamed of their nakedness. I wrote about this in a chapter on “Sin and Grace” for a book called Trinitarian Soundings, and followed C.S. Lewis in treating sin, ultimately, as our looking into a mirror. That’s why I don’t do anything to prescribe self-examination and self-pruning: both are God’s work, as in the final verse of Psalm 139 (“search me O God…), and as Jesus spoke to the apostles in John 15:3 (“You are pruned already by the word that I have spoken to you.”)

    Yet there’s much more to be said here. I think I’ll wait to say more in a full posting on a Sunday to come. In the meantime I’m reminded that the key to peace in the face of biblical lists is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He began a good work and he’ll finish it.

  11. Steve Mitchell

    Great post, Ron. When I was recently in China, I heard about the affective response in action.

    A brilliant young man from Beijing University questioned another pastor during a recent cultural exchange. Clearly in love with his own brilliance, he declared that God had made a mistake in His judgment on Babel. God had clearly caused all of the heartache and evil, like war, that arose from our failure to communicate effectively with one another. The pastor in charge (Mark) wisely told him that he must take that up with God immediately.

    The young man was non-plussed, He had expected to cross swords in an apologetic duel. Instead, he was thrust into the role of responder, having to return the the One who had spoken to him through the Word. This skeptical critic began a dialog with God through His Word, and came to love Him.

    In the end, he found God far more attractive than satisfying sophistry!

  12. Morgan Reynolds

    what a pleasure to have such a discussion!
    i await ron’s next post with great anticipation.
    good night all!
    morgan

  13. Leanne

    *grins*

    The only thing that would make it better would be all of us sitting in comfy chairs while drinking tea/coffee.

    How great is Heaven going to be????

  14. Clive

    Dear Friends.
    This was quite the exchange! I appreciate Ron in having us focus on Jesus. I’ll offer a human anecdote. Of course there are many things that I should do to love my wife, and I could quite easily come up with a list. The danger is that in doing so I could easily demote my wife to a relegated position in the effort to achieve the list. It’s also likely that I’ll beat myself up for not making the list. Where is my wife in all of this? In other words, my wife takes silver on the podium as my achievement takes gold and the list becomes the basis by which I define myself. I am good at coming home early, I am good at taking out the trash, I listen, I take her shopping, I, I, I. There’s a great danger that it’s then more about me and my achievement than it is about my wife. Achievement is a very subtle idol don’t you think? A more pleasing way is to be in response to my wife and she takes gold on the podium. In fact, I know that’s the case, she loves to be the focus of my attention. And, if I “achieve” anything, the achievement is still not as important as she is. How about this thought, I’d much rather say, my wife is lovely than I’m a good husband. I may be a good husband but that’s not my focus. The focus is her. If I am responding to her she knows that. In contrast, if I am responding to myself, she has an uncanny way of knowing that too, and its then that she feels unloved-shame on me! I think this anecdote has some parallels in our life in Christ. “Follow Christ” is a compelling call in our lives. Notice that the call has an action and an oject to that action. The action is to follow. The object is Him. And its important to note that the two go together. If I wrench Christ out of the occasion by placing glory on me being a follower, then I might as well be following Margaret Thatcher! The joy is, when we follow Him, we can’t help but respond and in responding then the fruit is evident. May I close with confession? To close, I am indeed moving closer to Jesus, but the fruit of being this and the fruit of being that still can take my gaze off Him and place it on the mirror of myself. Please pray for me to have Him more in my gaze and also praise for the transformation that comes from faith to faith. It’s a progressive journey. Hope this encourages you all. Clive

  15. Leanne

    Clive said: “To close, I am indeed moving closer to Jesus, but the fruit of being this and the fruit of being that still can take my gaze off Him and place it on the mirror of myself. Please pray for me to have Him more in my gaze and also praise for the transformation that comes from faith to faith. It’s a progressive journey. Hope this encourages you all.

    Me: It DOES encourage me, Clive and I thank you ever so much for posting this. I think that’s one of the biggest encouragements for me-when my brothers and sisters tell the TRUTH about their walk, even if it includes the “good, bad AND the ugly”.

    In fact, hearing others admit that they sometimes have a gap between where they know they should be, want desperately to be but find themselves still away from, helps us younger believers realize that there isn’t something “wrong” with us when we experience the same frustrations.

    I think that’s what I like most about this website (what I call “Ron’s place”!) I get to read TRUTH and then I get to hear how it looks to actually try and live that truth.

    Most appreciated is the feeling of love and safety I have when you guys take the time to answer my questions honestly and without the superiority or disdain/dismissal that can accompany questions/comments like mine.

    Coming here and reading your responses feels very, very special and always leave me with a sense that we’re closer to Him than we may even realize when we dialogue so earnestly in His name.

    Cool, huh?

  16. R N Frost

    Good words, Clive, and a graciously insightful response, Leanne. I hope you don’t mind, Clive, if I identify you as my “good friend” who started this whole post! It’s much appreciated, especially as you unpack the point by talking about your marriage (which I much admire!). Blessings on you, as one who already understands that our hearts guide our mind and will, for stirring this important conversation.

  17. Clive

    Thanks Ron.
    Yes, everyone I started this current dialog, but it was because I had heard at a number of occassions that love is a choice; you must choose to love. I questioned that premise, and bounced the idea of Ron for insights. I suspect it won’t be long before you hear it too because it appeals to a sense of compliancy that can slip in quite unnoticed. Stand firm in our faith friends.
    Clive

  18. Leanne

    Clive said: “it appeals to a sense of compliancy that can slip in quite unnoticed”

    Me: What do you mean? Are you warning against what Ron said about the Stoic/individual thing or are you disagreeing about the responder thing?

    (or maybe I’m not thinking too clearly after my second bowl of berry crisp 😉 )

    I just want to make sure (oh, the irony, yes, Morgan?) that we’re all on the same page and agree that we’re (to steal Ron’s quote) “now “controlled” (to use Paul’s term from 2 Corinthians 5:14) by our new love for Christ”.

    Help?

  19. Clive

    Hi, I’m responding to the small confusion. Morgan, your cut and paste was not the issue :).
    Leah, I am not disagreeing with Ron.
    Allow me to enlarge my thoughts about “compliancy” for deeper clarity), namely: “it won’t be too long before you hear the words, ‘love is a choice…therefore choose to love’. It sounds great doesn’t it! And, to quote Ron, ‘Maybe, maybe not.’”
    It’s possible that when you hear that kind of statement [choose to love], the motivation behind it is an appeal to your behavior (as opposed to love toward God). If so, it would then miss the point. If we are just improving our behavior then, while we may be better, where is God in the picture?
    I believe there is a danger that as humans we often want to be compliant. For example, someone might say any of the following phrases:
    “well as long as I’m following the rules,
    “I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing,
    “I’m achieving,
    “tell me what to do so I can be compliant,
    “I’m having compliance, so I’m ok,
    “So as long as I choose to love, I’m ok.”
    Each phrase misses the point, because it misses Jesus. Ron has brought up the story regarding Joshua, and it’s very appropriate. Yes Joshua had a choice, but it was based on his relationship with God. Let’s not focus on compliancy, let’s focus on Jesus.
    Hope that helps.

  20. Leanne

    So, when we place love under our own power it’s kinda like offering a deformed calf for a tithe????

    Meaning, under my own power, my love can “just miss”. Does it look like love? Most usually to the outside world but if I realize that I need to view it the way God does, and realizing that God knows my heart motivations, then even if I am loving, as long as it is not based FIRST and PRIMARILY on my relationship with Jesus, I might as well not bother. Wasted effort?

  21. R N Frost

    I’m not sure I’m catching all you have in mind, Leanne. But let me offer some more comments about love.

    One of the real pleasures I’ve had is to read some of what Augustine of Hippo wrote. Among my surprises is how strongly he dismissed the notion that love is under our power. Yet in that theme he was saying something I had already seen in the Bible: that we love God because he loved us. We are responders. That’s a mantra by now in what I’ve written. But it’s more than just an idea.

    So the question of whether we love “first” or “primarily” miscasts a key question of life: that we control love. Instead our identity is formed by the one who is most dearly loved by me: either the “person in the mirror” or “God”!

    This basic polarity is less than obvious to most people because it seems that we are in charge (thus my discussion of “choosing”). But we are actually “ruled” by our desires. Which is fine if our desire is for Christ.

    But for most people a love for God is seen as just one option among many, with freedom to come and go in relation to Christ; and, therefore, their own autonomy is in charge. This is what I’m calling self-love even if it doesn’t always come off as narcissism (though that may appear at times). Self love (as launched by Satan) is seen in our longing to “be in charge” or to insist that I have a “free will” or to say that “I can control my emotions.” The “I, I, I” Clive cited. But let me try to say it in another way.

    J Grant Howard wrote a book years ago called Balancing Life’s Demands. In it he portrayed life as a set of pie-slice segments (with slices representing categories of life such as Church, Family, World, Work, etc.). All these elements of life unite in a center circle called “self” and “self” determines how much time and space each category receives.

    Using Howard’s imagery, what differentiates a proper Christianity from a social and defective Christianity is where God is located. Is God at the center of the “self” (i.e. in our heart as our beloved Lord) or is he located outside the Self although still in the categories church, work, family, and so on? A love for God places him at the center of the soul, so that every engagement in life is moved or defined by the impact of God’s love in us. The radical calling of the Bible is that his presence must be at the center of the self. This, alone, is a genuine, transforming faith.

    Thanks, Leanne, for pressing the issue. I’m trying to say this in varying ways, so every new question or puzzlement helps us think through this decisive issue. So, to conclude: Love, as a response, is not “in charge” but is moved to act by the impact the beloved “other” has on me. So Christ’s love compells me to live for him, which I freely choose to do as I’m captured by his love. Call it the happy paradox of proper love.

  22. Leanne

    This is harder to communicate than I thought.

    I think I am looking at this as an “onion” and then running each “layer” through my mental models to check for proper “response” (w/ response being your definition of love, Ron).

    We’re probably saying the same thing but you guys are talking about a principle and I am talking about putting this principle into action and them comparing it to how well I am able to practice this.

    (“Principle” probably isn’t the right word.)

    You said something, Ron, that I still don’t understand from this post or past posts.”Self love (as launched by Satan) is seen in our longing to ‘be in charge’ or to insist that I have a ‘free will’ or to say that ‘I can control my emotions.’ ”

    I read this and I hear the negative but………..aren’t I supposed to control my emotions, exercise my free will and be in charge of my life IF I am following the promptings of the Lord in each and every situation, thought, or feeling?

    This is where I feel very, very young/uncertain, yet…….I just don’t sense-from Him-that I am wrong in desiring to make myself (or, rather, allow Him to re-make me) more and more like Him, guys.

    I just don’t.

    He SPEAKS to me ALL the time in love AND in correction. Shouldn’t I respond to that, too? If not, then what am I missing that you guys are seeing so clearly?

    Sigh.

    Thanks for being open to my pressing, Ron. Believe it or not, I actually DO think I push too far here, in my search for understanding. It causes me to worry about even entering the conversation because I don’t want to be the person to hold up the rest of the “class”.

    So, thanks again, everyone, for your patience here. It matters. A lot.

  23. Duane Watts

    Hi Ron!

    On Sept 21 ’09 post on “choosing to rule my emotions”.
    Thank you and Clive very much for this.
    I have been spiraling downward for over a month now, and trying to find a limb to grasp. a little TFT here, a little of Bobby’s friend Myk Habets there. I catch a limb but I can’t seem to stop the spiral. No-one could verify that I was getting warmer.
    I am angry very angry and bitter, for probably trivial reasons that don’t feel trivial to me. It involves my job, and I want to control my feelings, but- no good.
    I truly wish to be used of God: to be His witness, and to lead family and friends to Him. At times my consolation is well, regardless, at least you Lord will be glorified whether I’m in on it or out in the proverbial cold.

    Most recently, from a post by Myk Habets at Bobby’s, I was re-excited that sanctification is “in Christ” in His vicarious humanity for us as we abide in Him. But sno-one would really draw this out for me.
    Thanks to Leanne pulling and others pitching in. I’ve gained more encouragement.
    He Is my life. Not that I have made that a reallity; it just is. He lived this life with out spot or blemish. He will lead me too. I really do need to “let go and let God”. That is…Hebrews early chapters speaks of entering into His rest. The Israelites could not because they would not by faith. Rest. His Rest. Abide in me. For you can not bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
    Fix your gaze upon Jesus. All the fruit of the Spirit. That Is Jesus. Look, draw near, eternity is a breath away.
    Thanks so much!
    I’ll let you know what the Lord does with this. Please pray for me.

    Your Brother

  24. Duane Watts

    Oops Ron:
    I don’t know if, when you get notification of a comment, if it tells you what post it was on. This post was Sept 21, 2008, not 2009 as stated above.

    I was very afraid when I began reading the post that you were going to agree with the idea that one only has to “get a grip” on their emotions. I am grateful you propose a higher road.

    Duane

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