These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, May 24, 2020.
Part 2 of UNTANGLING EMOTIONS. Various Passages.
I played rugby in high school. It's a contact sport and it's not unusual for some kicks and punches to fly. In one game, I knew one of our opponents and I thought we were on friendly terms. Until he threw a punch a me. His fist connected with my chin and I blanked out. When I woke up, I was furious. Angry tears filled my eyes. I wanted revenge.
I didn't have to think about getting mad. It was a totally unconscious decision-making process: so fast, instinctive, spontaneous.
That's how we experience emotions. It doesn't feel like we have any control over what they are, when they start, and when they stop. Haven't you found that once your emotions take over, it's really difficult to change them?
God designed them that way because emotions serve a really important purpose: they tell us what our hearts truly love and worship, and what we care about most.
My rage at being punched by a "friend" revealed something about my heart. On the plus side, my heart values friendship and loyalty. On the downside, my heart loves my dignity & hates embarrassment. I didn't think of any of that at the time. I just wanted to punch his lights out.
If you're like me, you want some control over your negative emotions, such as fear, anger, and envy. Today, we'll discover how to experience an emotional makeover.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE AN EMOTIONAL MAKEOVER
1. STEP ONE: INVESTIGATE MY EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE.
Don't ignore what you're feeling. Instead, take time to figure out why you're feeling that way. Why is you heart producing these emotions? Psalm 42 tells us what to do:
(Psalm 42:5) Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Kim and I loved British detective shows. Currently, we're watching a great series about Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope and her long suffering Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth. Vera notices the details everyone else misses and that's how she solves the crime. And that's how we transform our emotions - we investigate them.
The psalmist investigated his feelings of discouragement. That's exactly what we should do. Ask yourself: "What's behind what I'm feeling right now?" It's key to an emotional makeover. Psalm 42 is interesting because it actually answers the question:
(Psalms 42:9-10) I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me ...”
The psalmist was discouraged because his enemies oppressed him and made fun of him. Consequently, he felt abandoned by God. This revealed what his heart truly loved and worship: maybe security and reputation. When he didn't get what he loved, his heart (bones) produced the negative emotions.
STEP TWO: INVITE GOD TO RENOVATE MY HEART.
Our emotions flow from what our hearts love and worship. But, the truth is that we can't change our hearts. Willpower and positive-thinking alone will fall short. To experience an emotional makeover, we have to go deeper than that.
Only God can renovate or re-format our hearts to love what he loves and hate what he hates. So, here is how we partner with him:
Receive a new heart by connecting to Jesus Christ. This step results in a new heart that loves what God loves.
(Ezekiel 11:19) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
This promise is fulfilled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit when we connect to Jesus Christ. The New Testament describes it this way:
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
A new emotional life starts here in Christ. His Spirit opens our hearts to love what he loves. But, remember this: It is a process of transformation. It takes time, lots of time. That's why we have to also ...
Renew the heart daily through spiritual practices. These practices help us re-focus on Jesus. Jesus, by his Spirit is the key to ongoing transformation of our hearts:
(2 Corinthians 3:18) We all, who ... contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
What spiritual practices renew our connection to Christ? Two of the most effective are reading Scripture that turns the spotlight on Jesus, and honest, confessional prayer. One teacher likes to say, "the key to healing is revealing." That is so true.
King David knew this when he wrote Psalms 62:8:
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
We can tell God what we're feeling because we know that he is safe. Mr. Spock, the science officer on the Starship Enterprise, kept his emotions hidden and under control at all times. Don't do that. Pour out your heart to God and tell him how you feel. Ask him to keep on renovating your heart. For example, imagine some situation like this:
"Father, I'm at work and I'm feeling sad. I know it's because my heart loves being recognized for my hard work and I've put in so many hours on this project but no one has said word one to me. I know I should look only to you for approval. You're the one I should want to please. I'm truly sorry Father and I ask you to please renovate my heart so that it loves what you love."
This is such an important kind of prayer. I believe the Lord can really use it. It sets us up for heart transformation and our emotional makeover.
When the movie Avatar was in theaters, Kim and I went to see it. It was fun with the 3D glasses on. But, my enjoyment of it was spoiled by strong feelings of anxiety. I tried everything to relax and enjoy the film. I prayed. I repeated my favorite Scriptures on peace and rest. I did deep belly breathing. Nothing worked.
Have you had the same experiences? It's no fun at all. But now we know why. Emotions come from our hearts. They reveal what we truly love and worship. I felt anxious because my heart didn't have its love set on God who is a good shepherd and my protector.
What I should have done during the movie was ask myself what am I feeling and why am I feeling it? Then, I could have poured out my heart to the Lord. By partnering with him in that way, the ongoing process of renovating my heart would have taken another leap forward.
You don't want to be a miserable victim of emotions. If you follow today's teaching, you won't have to.
Join me next week for a teaching on engaging the hardest emotions: fear and anger.