Emotions are a discipleship Issue – Matthew 22
The first message in the With All My Heart series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
Last week we realized from the book of Nehemiah that though the wall was rebuilt, the Temple was established and the laws were re-instituted, the people’s hearts weren’t in serving God.
We looked at the fact that we need God to work in hearts- it doesn’t matter what we build if our hearts haven’t been changed.
Laying under all of this we have our emphasis on building the church our neighbors and friends will join and that our children will one day lead.
The church we’ve joined, the church we lead was built by an original core group, and we need a New Core Group to come to the helm and lead the way in building the church we have envisioned.
The people who belonged to the Original Core Group were everyday folks who experienced the grace of God and grew close to him. They were transformed into patriarchs and matriarchs of our church.
We need our New Core Group to not only be willing to step up, we need a New Core Group that is willing to grow up.
We need to step up to lead and serve, but primarily we need to grow up in Christ.
This series on the heart is meant to help us do exactly that- we’ll grow up by digging down in this series. Not only by digging into God’s Word, but by digging down into our hearts.
You see, the growth and transformation that we are talking about- it happens in our hearts. We are not talking about the honing of skills, the accumulation of information, the development of talents, or even the addiction of service-
Spiritual Growth is not Bible knowledge, Christian service, or church attendance.
Spiritual growth is heart transformation.
we are talking about growing in Christ- and that happens in our hearts.
Let me show you what I mean in Matthew 22.let’s read verses 34-40….
Now I want to get down into the nitty gritty of what Jesus was saying here, but first let’s start broad- Let’s start like we are completely zoomed out and then we’ll zoom in on the heart.
When Jesus answers the lawyer, the general spirit of his answer is that the greatest commandment is to Love God entirely.
Can you agree with that?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind.
It’s all of us- all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our soul.Mark and Luke include all of our strength…
Jesus is saying that Loving God with all that we are, every piece of us, is the most important law. Now this wasn’t a new law that Jesus came up with, but rather it was the “Shema” from Deuteronomy 6. The people would have been familiar with it, but they wouldn’t have been familiar with the understanding that everything else hangs on this- they would have looked at it as another of the 633 commands that they had to memorize.
Jesus is not only saying that we are to love Him with all that we are, He is saying that this is the most important command.
The greatest command is to love God with all that we are.
It’s greater than all the other laws and commands, in fact everything else balances on this…So if it is so important and it involves loving God with all that we are, we probably need to break this down and figure out what it looks like to love God with all that we are.
Here in this command, God gives us a pretty good breakdown: Heart, Mind, Soul, Strength.
So what does the Bible mean when it says Love God with all your heart? We use this word all of the time in Church. “Ask the Lord into your heart.” “Give your heart to Jesus.”
At camp one of the counsellors shared that one of his young campers came to him after the service and said, “they keep saying I need to give my heart to Jesus, but don’t I need my heart to live?”
Scripture isn’t calling us to give the muscles and valves that pump blood through our body- Rather, this is a figurative use of the word heart.
Larry Pierce defines the Biblical use of the word heart as: “the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, and emotions.”
Dr James Strong defines the greek word as: figuratively the thoughts or feelings
Our culture has used this idea for several millennia. We’ve said things like, I love you with all my heart, when our love is unrequited, we are “heart broken.”
Scripture uses this figurative idea of the heart throughout. Here are some good examples just from Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew that will help us be clear on the idea of the heart as the center of our spiritual selves.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Mat 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But here’s what I want you to notice. Jesus uses the words, heart, soul, and mind. We often think of our relationship with God on a rational or spiritual level, but there is an intertwining of the emotional with the rational and spiritual…
God has called us to love Him. We are to love God with our heart, our affections, our passions. Jesus is to be our love, our hope, our joy, our peace. These are all emotional terms.
Some of you are pumping the brakes right now because you’re thinking things like, “Pastor Daniel is talking about emotions but I’m not an emotional person. I’m a rational person.” Or you are saying things to yourself like, “I’m spiritual person, I recognize that I have a soul or spirit and that’s the reason I’m here, but I’m not an emotional person, that’s just not how I’m made up.”
Maybe you’re the kind of person who looks at people who get really emotional and thinks, what is wrong with them??? Everyone experiences emotions, but people differ in how they express their emotions.
Just in a physiological sense, you experience emotions. Chris Lazo has a series of messages on this which are extremely helpful, but he points out that our raw data, the raw information that we gather from our 5 senses- what we see, hear, taste, smell, feel, travel from the back of our brain towards the front where our rational thought takes place.
But for this information to get from the back of our brain to the front, it has to travel through middle where our emotional self resides… So your emotions get the first crack at any info…
This is the reason that if a friend jumps out and scares you, your emotions react before your brain has a chance to say, oh that’s my friend just goofing around.
When Chris Lazo was sharing this exact idea at his church in California and tremor hit. It wasn’t a major earthquake, but it was a decent enough shake that everyone felt it. It was clear in a moment that it wasn’t major, but it still was enough to cause fear and people reacted.
This is the same reason that when your child is screaming, before you have a moment to say, He’s just a child who doesn’t understand what is going on, I need to constructively discipline him, you scream back.
This is the same reason that when a co-worker makes a derogatory comment, before you can think, I need to take this constructive criticism into account and do better the next time, you respond sarcastically.
This is the reason we often find our selves saying, I’m sorry I said that. I don’t know what came over- I regret that I responded that way…
It’s the reason that even when you know what is right and you’ve decided you’re not going to participate in some activity or fall prey to some temptation again, when the opportunity come along, you go along with it, not because you think it’s a good idea because you know it isn’t, but because you feel like it…
It’s the reason that even when you know the right thing to do, you can’t bring yourself to do it because you don’t feel like it.
It’s the reason we say things like, I’m just not feeling it today.
Because the emotions highjack our thinking, decision making, demeanor, and our very lives!
And get this- even people who aren’t very expressive about their emotions are shaped by their emotions.
You are shaped by your emotions and passions whether or not you express them.
You don’t have to tell everyone how you are feeling to make a decision based upon those feelings… The idea that the heart or our emotions or our passion shape who we are truly are is one that carries throughout all of scripture…
Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Mat 12:34-35 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
The idea that is portrayed in scripture is that the heart is the source of all that comes out of us- that is the fountain and from it springs all of our lives- our decisions, our actions, our demeanor, our passions, our desires….
Our hearts shape our lives.
If we are to love God with all that we are, and our hearts shape who we are, they’re not just a part of who we are, it a huge part of who we are, but we often steer clear of talk about emotions, because emotions are a tricky thing…
I’ve noticed that it seems that people who are church shopping will often look for a church that has just the right dose of emotion. If they’re more expressive in emotions, they want a church that is extremely emotional every Sunday… If they are more reserved in their emotions, they want a church that is more reserved in their worship…
I’m not talking about becoming more expressive in our emotions, I’m not trying to make you become more like me or less like me in our expressive you are in your emotions- rather I want you to see the role that your emotions, affections, or passion play in your growth, worship, service, and primarily your relationship with God.
I find the Ephesians 4 extremely helpful when it comes to thinking of emotion and spirituality- that’s the passage where Paul says, be angry and sin not. Anger isn’t the sin. He then goes on to list several sins that need to be put away- bitterness, hatred, evil speaking, etc…
So the emotion isn’t the problem, but the way we handle the emotion is… So clearly, there is some responsibility that we have in how we react to, manage, and use our emotions.
We are accountable for what we do with our emotions.
If we quarantine off our emotions because we are “not that emotional” or because we are “not an emotional church” or something along those lines, we are sectioning off a portion of our heart and God calls us to love Him with all of our hearts…
If we are called to love God with all that we are, and our emotions are a part of who we are, we are called to love God with our emotions. If we are called to be transformed and part of who we are is our emotions, we are called to be transformed in our emotions. If we are called to love God with all of who we are, and emotions are part of who we are, we are called to love God, worship God, with our emotions… If we are held accountable with how we deal with our emotions…
Emotions are a discipleship issue.
If we are called to become like Christ, our emotions should look more and more like Jesus. It’s interesting to me that in Phil 4, Paul says I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I am… What he’s saying is I’ve learned to be content, to be at peace, to have joy despite my circumstances…
What if you emotions aren’t a thermometer that merely reflect your surroundings, but instead your emotions are like a thermostat- a thermostat recognizes the temperature of the room and then connects to the powerful HVAC unit to change the conditions within the house… what if your emotions signaled to you that the conditions around you are influencing you, so you relied upon Christ to change the condition within in spite of the conditions without….
A marker of spiritual maturity is that our heart is shaped by Christ, not our circumstances.
Jesus gave us numerous examples of experiencing emotion without sin…being emotional without sin…
He was angry
He was sad
He was happy
Luke 11:35 Jesus Wept
Talk about an example of experiencing emotion despite what you KNOW… People will say to me, “Pastor I know that God works everything out but… I just feel…”
I want you to think on Luke 11:35 for just a second. Jesus is about to resurrect Thomas from the dead. Jesus knew he could raise Thomas from the dead. Jesus knew he was about to see Thomas- Jesus knew that it was all going to be okay, but Jesus wept. Before that the Bible tells us that when he saw everyone weeping that He was moved and groaned in His spirit.
Hebrew 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
When I was in Junior High I got into a lot of trouble… I was rebellious. I talked back incessantly. I argued with teachers. I served 11 days of in school suspension. I knew I was on the brink of getting expelled from school so I stopped saying anything. I just saying anything other than yes ma’am and no ma’am – yes sir and no sir… but I kept getting in trouble… Because though I had shut off my mouth, I was still angry and rebellious. The difference was made when in a church service, God got a hold of my heart and I broke down and released all the anger I was holding onto….The part of my heart that I had roped off, I let God into…
This morning some of you recognize that you need God to redeem your emotions… You realize that you need God to work in your heart, I welcome you to come forward and pray. Some of you, you’ve never offered God your heart. You’ve never welcomed him into your heart and that’s what needs to happen today….