ďThe Christian Mind:EmotionsĒ††††††††††††† Psalm 47†††††††††††††††† August 19, 2012

 

SI:Weíre spending the rest of the summer in the Psalms.

Iím choosing Psalms that are unfamiliar to us.

†† Psalms we donít know well and tend to skip over.

 

The great benefit of the Psalms is that they show us the truth

†† worked out in a believing heart and mind.

Dr. Robert Rayburn, who Iím leaning on heavily, put it this way:

†† ďThe Psalms are a repository of doctrine, but doctrine processed through the heart and turned

†† into prayeróthe best kind of doctrine there is!

 

Iíve called this series:The Christian Mind.

†† Our focus is how the Psalms enable us to develop a Christian mind,

†† a Christian worldview, by taking truth and turning it into prayer and praise.


 

INTRO:Iím sure most of you watched the Olympics.

One of the highlights of the Olympics that is replayed over and over on television,

†† and worked into numerous advertisements is the victory celebration.

 

Not the medal ceremony, with the athletes standing and national anthems playingó

†† but that moment of emotional outpouring when the athlete realizes that he

†† has won the goldówhen he crosses the finish line, or when the judgesí score

†† flashes on the screen.††

There is fist pumping, leaping into the air, falling to the knees, eyes often full of

†† tears, mouths open with cries and shouts.No self-consciousness.No reservation.

 

And then the camera cuts to the stands and there are mom and dad.

†† They are bouncing up and down, hugging, cheeringó

†† strangers are pounding them on the back.

And if it is a big win, a world record broken, or if it is a home-nation heroó

†† one of the British athletes in these past gamesó

†† then there is in that moment of victory a massive roar from the crowd.

Itís that celebratory gush of emotion in the moment of victory that the cameras

†† capture and replay over and over and over.

 

Psalm 47 describes a celebratory gush of emotion.

†† Clap your handsófor the Hebrew people, clapping was not as much an

†† expression of appreciation as it is for us, it was a gesture of joy.

†† Shout to God with cries of joy.

And then the Psalm gives the reason for this outburst of joyful emotion.

†† Because the Lord is our King, and he is awesome, and he has won victories

†† over kingdoms of world, and secured an inheritance for us and our children.

And all around his people are shouting and blowing trumpets and singing.

 

Do you recognize this scene?

The psalmist is describing the work of God for our salvation.

†† In a prophetic way he is describing the saving work of Jesus Christ.

But the scene he is using to describe Godís salvation is a kingís victory celebration.

†† In fact, he is probably remembering a time when King David came into Jerusalem

†† after one of his great victoriesóover the Philistines, or the Syrians, or Moabites.

This was in the days before electronic communication.

†† The only thing the citizens of Jerusalem knew was that days before the army

†† and marched out to fight the enemy with King David leading the troops.

They did not have the nightly news.They had rumors.They had speculation.

But they knew that at some point they would see dust in the distance,

†† and then an army would appear on the horizon.But which army would it be?

Would it be their enemies?That would mean Israel was defeated and

†† Jerusalem defenseless.They would be burned and pillaged.

Or would it be King David leading the troops?

 

The lookout shouts that he sees something.Riders go out toward the dust in the

†† distanceóand then come flying backóItís the King.The victory has been won.

Word starts to spread.Some ride to surrounding villages.No TV or radio.

†† There has been no information.Bad rumors.Pent up fears.

All of that is wiped away with this incredible good news that is being shouted

†† in the streets.People begin pouring out of their homes, rushing from villages.

This is more than their team winning a gold medal or BCS championship.

†† Davidís victory means that their little children will not be torn away from them

†† and sold into slavery.Davidís victory means life and freedom and prosperity.

 

And as David and his troops march through the city, there is shouting and fist

†† pumping, and back-slapping, the jumping up and down and falling to the knees,

†† and tears of joy.It become more and more exuberant.Sing, blow trumpets.

Until David ascends the steps to the entrance of his palace.

†† I imagine that he turns and looks at this great crowd of his subjects.

†† He doesnít wave like politicians today.Heís a king.He has a kingly bearing.

But he looks at his happy people with love in his eyes.

†† And then he turns and goes into his palace.

The celebration outside continues, but the people knowó

†† the king is on his throne, all is well with the world.

 

Iíve chosen Psalm 47 as springboard for us to study the role of emotion

†† in the Christian life.

There are many other Psalms that would have served just as well.

†† The Psalms are full of emotions of all kindsónegative and positiveó

†† grief, despondency, anger, contentment, compassion, joy.

This Psalm focuses only on the happy emotionsóbut itís a good one for the study

†† of this subject because of the all-out exuberance of the emotion portrayed

†† and the startling fact that emotion is commanded.

Commands the worshipper not only to shout to Godóbut to shout with cries of joy.

†† That tells us something fascinating.That our emotions are subject to God.

†† That our emotions are to be brought under his Lordship and used to glorify him.

This is completely out of step with the worldís view.††

Letís look at this important and huge topic (weíll barely scratch the surface).

†† Three points:Iíll give them to you as we go.

MP#1Your emotions were created by God.

God made us emotional creatures.He made us to feel.

†† And he made us this way so that we will glorify him with our feelings.

 

We all know what emotions and feelings are, but they are hard to define.

Someone has said:

†† What pain is to the nerve endings,

†† what sweetness is to the taste buds,

†† what light is to the eye,

†† feelings are to the soul.

And feelings are a matter of the soul.They do reside deep within us.

 

There was an article in National Geographic several years ago about love.

†† Basically evolutionists explaining how love fit into the Darwinian concept

†† of survival of the fittest.

It was a laughable attempt to put love and all of the emotions into a purely

†† biological, animalistic category.Of course there is a physical aspect to emotions.

 

But fundamentally, our emotions are an aspect of being made in the image of God.

†† God himself is an emotional being.He responds with feelings.

Itís important to have a right understanding of Godís emotions.

†† The Bible speaks of God loving, hating, delighting over things, being filled with

†† anger, it speak of him rejoicing and grieving.We can identify with all of the

†† emotions attributed to God.

But there is a very important distinction between Godís emotions and ours.

 

Godís emotions are under the perfect control of his will.

†† He cannot be subjected to emotions against his will.

†† We cannot do things that cause emotions to be stirred up in him involuntarily.

Our emotions come upon us against our will.

†† If a loved one dies, you grieve, whether you want to or not.

 

This week I was walking through some heavy brush, up to my waist.

†† Looking at some land someone wanted me to see for Cullman Christian School.

I went to push a branch of privit out of way, and almost put my hand on a snake.

†† Itís only a garder snake I told myself.There are not rattlesnakes near my ankles.

†† But fear overcame me, my heart started pounding, and I ran.

God is not dominated by emotion like that.

†† This one of the things that set the God of the Bible apart from all the gods and

†† goddesses of ancient mythology.Always getting upset with the things people were doing, jealous, falling in love with them, and so on.

The true God is sovereign.He voluntarily enters into his emotions.

†† He chooses to love and hate and grieve and rejoice.

†† Heís a feeling being with perfect emotions.

 

That helps us to understand how he created emotions in us.

Letís think about Adam and Eve.Letís think about emotions before sin came

†† into the world and messed things up.Weíre going to get to that in point 2.

But letís first consider how God created our emotions.

†† How he intended for them to function in the human person.

 

To understand emotions as God created them, you have to start with the mind.

†† Emotions are a response to thoughts in our minds.

†† You think about rattlesnakes in the weeds and you respond with fear.

†† You think about a hurting person, you respond with pity and compassion.

God created our first parents with minds that accurately perceived reality, minds

†† that grasped and understood what is really true.

God also gave them emotions that properly and proportionally responded to the

†† truth that they had perceived.

And then, with the right thoughts and the right emotions motivating themó

†† they exercised the wills God gave them to make the right decisions.

 

Letís just pause for a moment and ponder the way God made man.Amazing.

What it would be like to have minds that always perceived things as they really are?

†† There would be very few arguments.Not, he sees it his way, she sees it hers.

What would it be like to then always have proper and proportional emotional

†† responses?It would be beautiful.Proper joy, proper anger.

Weíve all experienced in ourselves and seen in other people emotions that are

†† improper or disproportionate.Get mad at someone, find out, had it all wrong.

†† That person did not say what you thought she said.Worries about little thing.

And then, what if those emotions didnít just die or become something pathological

†† inside of us, but what if they were then a powerful motivation to do right.

Think of all the wrong things done and good things left undone because

†† of wrong emotions.

 

Thatís how God made us.But thatís not how we are.Brings to second point.

MP#2Your emotions have been corrupted by the Fall.

Adamís sin resulted in a corruption of our nature and all our faculties.

Our minds, our thinking, our reasoning has been corrupted by sin.

†† We cannot see ourselves or the world or God rightly.

Our will, our decision making, our wants and the choices we make because of

†† what we want has become enslaved to sin.

And our emotions are also corrupted by sin.

 

This is a radical concept in our time.We live in society idolizes feelings.

†† In the Olympics, reporters donít ask a gold medal winneró

†† What did you think about winning?They always ask:How did it feel to win?

Thereís a song line from the 70s:ďIt canít be wrong when it feels so right.Ē

†† That could have been written yesterday.††

Itís a perfect summary for the emphasis on emotion in our society..

†† Deep feelings are considered a sure sign of authenticity.

 

But it doesnít take a rocket scientist to see that emotions are corrupted.

People can be plunged into the depths of grief over empty things.

†† I had a friend who grew up in South America who told me of the wailing,

†† even occasional suicides when one national soccer team lost to another.

People can weep tears of sheer happiness, raptures of joy, over truly evil things.

†† Think of the cheering and heartfelt rejoicing that TV cameras showed

†† across the Middle East when news spread of the 911 attacks.

Our emotions are truly corrupted by sin.

 

The corruption comes in two different ways:

For one thing, since we donít see the world and ourselves rightly,

†† our emotional responses are improper and disproportionate.

†† We feel certain ways about things, and completely wrong in our understanding.

And the other problem is really the cart before the horse.

†† Instead of the order God has created, where thoughts give rise to emotionsó

†† we just react emotionally, and then form our thinking from the way we feel.

Itís not a matter of truth or duty.But that feels right to me.That doesnít feel right.

†† Or the Christian version:I feel led or I donít feel led.

 

Now donít misunderstand me.All emotional responses are not wrong.

†† Because of Godís common grace, and his compassion for the human race,

†† he holds back the full, corrupting effects of sin.

Most people can still think in reasonable ways.Can still get some grasp of reality.

And most people have emotional responses that are somewhat proper and

†† proportionate.Parents love their children.Injustice moves people to anger.

†† The sight of human suffering causes many people to respond with compassion.

But fundamentally, our emotions are corrupted by sin.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, 30 years

†† written brilliantly about role of emotions in Christian life

†† Spiritual Depression:Itís Causes and Cure

ďI suppose that one of the greatest problems in our life in this world, not only for Christians, but for all people, is the right handling of our feelings and emotions.Oh the havoc that has been wrought, the misery and the wretchedness that is found in the world, simply because people do not know how to handle their feelings.Ē

 

When we think of mishandling feelings, first think of problem emotions.

Anger and hatred.We should be angry at certain things.Jesus was.

†† We should hate some things.But most of the time, our anger and hatred

†† rises up within us and lashes out at other people.

Most of the time it comes from our pridefulness and not to honor God.

 

Melancholy, despondency.How often this is caused by our false view of the

†† world and God and ourselves.A debilitating emotion.

Bitterness and resentment.Hebrews says:See to it that no bitter root grows up to

†† cause trouble and defile many.Itís an emotion that drips poison into soul.

Fear, anxiety, worry.More debilitating emotions, often have physical effects.

 

We could list other sinful, damaging emotions.But often, itís the whole

†† range of our emotional responses that we donít know how to handle.

Some of you wear your feelings on your sleeve.Overly sensitive, easily offended.

†† You say thatís just the way you are, but itís actually a choice to live by your

†† feelings instead of responding biblicallyóeither cover in love or confront in love.

 

Some of you are hyperactive.You run on emotions.You live on them.

†† Have to be stirred up.Have to have excitement.If you arenít moved, no good

†† But the Bible says we are to live by faith, not by emotions.

And then some of you have the opposite problem.Emotionally cold and dull.

†† You arenít moved as you should be.You do not feel much at all and thatís ok.

†† Itís much more comfortable and less of a bother to suppress your emotions.

All of us, way too often, define reality based on how we feelónot how God

†† has spoken in his Word.What he has said is true about us, lives, his character.

Emotions are so deep, they spring from so deep within usó

†† how can we ever change?How can we deal with problem emotions?

†† Much less regain what Adam lost?Brings us to the third point.

MP#3Your emotions can be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

 

What is sanctification?The catechism says:

†† Sanctification is a work of Godís free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after

†† the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

Godís grace works in us.His Holy Spirit takes the power of Christ, the power of

†† the resurrection and starts to work it out inside of usóand we are renewed.

†† We start to regain those things that Adam lost.

Specifically, enabled gradually to put off sin and put on righteousness.

 

Now when we think of sanctification, when we think of becoming a better,

†† more Christ-like person, we usually think of morals.Iíll become better and

†† more consistent at doing the things I ought to do, not doing things I shouldnít.

Thatís certainly part of sanctification.

†† Then we sometimes think in terms of character.Iíll become more honest person.

†† More trustworthy, more diligent.

 

But how often do we think of sanctification as God renewing our emotions?

†† Changing the way we feel about things.Changing the way we express feelings.

But thatís exactly what sanctification does.

†† Renews in us proper, proportional emotions.

†† Love what God loves, hate what he hates.

So that the full range of our emotions expressed in a way that glorifies God.

 

Have you ever stopped to consider why most of the Bible is stories and poetry?

†† Most of the Bible is not like the book of Romans.Itís not theological lectures.

Itís mostly stories and poetry because God is concerned not just for our intellect,

†† but for our feelings.He wants both renewed.

I mentioned story of Joseph last week as one of the great illustrations of providence.

†† Why doesnít the Bible just have a chapter titled:Providence.

†† With all of the truth spelled out point by point?

 

Instead there is that scene where Josephís brothers are there before him.

†† They donít know who he is.They think heís an Egyptian, doesnít know Hebrew.

†† You remember some of the things they saidóJoseph had to rush out of the room.

 

And he wept.He wept for the dysfunction of his family.He wept over the wrong

†† done to him.He wept over the lost years.He wept with homesickness for father.

And then he came back to his brothers and revealed himself and spoke those

†† amazing words:ďYou meant it for evil but God meant it for good.You did not

†† send me here, but God did, for the saving of many lives.Ē††

The Holy Spirit wants you not just to know about Godís providence, but to feel it.

†† To feel how absolute confidence can co-exist with true tears of grief and loss.

 

We could go on and on and eventually we would get to the life of our Lord.

†† Donít have time to explore the rich emotional life of Jesus Christ.

The many times we are told and see him respond with compassion, and with anger,

†† and with grief, and with gratitude, with joy, and with sorrow.

We see his tears, his threats, his kind words.

†† And all of that culminates in his Passion.

†† Isnít that an interesting word the church has chosen to use for his suffering?

The whole range of human emotions:Great love for his disciples, overwhelming

†† dread of the cross, compassion for enemies, deep distress, sweet relief.

Thatís our Savior.A man of perfect emotions.

 

Now, finally, we come to Psalm 47.And here is something immensely practical.

The Psalm commands us to feel.It commands us to be joyful.

†† That raises the question:What if I donít feel joy over salvation?

†† What if my heart sad?Or, what if I donít feel sad over something I should?

The fact is that very few of us feel the joy we ought to feel knowing that we will

†† go to heaven and not to hell.Very few have the awe of God we should.

†† Very few of us are broken-hearted over sin, very few fear the judgment of God,

†† grateful for his mercy, filled with feelings of peace as we should be.

 

Hereís the wisdom of Psalm 47.Even if the right emotions donít rise in your heart,

†† they can still be practiced.Weíre commanded to clap and shout for joy, not

†† because we feel like it (even though we should) but because we should and can.

Weíre not told to feel happy, but to do happiness and to practice it.

†† The Bible never tells us to base anything on our feelings, or to wait to do things

†† until we feel like it.Nehemiah told the grieving Israelites:

†† ďDo not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.Ē

Nehemiah, what do you mean, Donít grieve.I canít help my feelings.

†† I canít make myself feel joyful.And yet here is the command.

†† Do not grieve.Rejoice.

 

Listen to the way Dr. Rayburn expresses it:

†† The practice of emotion trumps the natural experience of it. We are being told that whether or not we feel as we wish we did, we can always practice the proper emotions of the Christian life. It is to be sure, as we all know, much easier when the emotions come unbidden and powerfully, but then, no one said the Christian life was easy! And it is not only here, with regard to our feelings, that it remains true that the secret of our life lies in bringing the force of truth to bear upon our minds and hearts, reminding ourselves of what we have to be ecstatic over when we are inclined to be discouraged or sad, what reason we have to be sad if we are too glibly cheerful, why we should fear if we are complacent, why we ought to have hearts at peace, and why gratitude should rule our inner beings when we find ourselves taking for granted the impossibly great goodness of the Lord to us. We are, in other words, never hostage to our feelings in the Christian life, never prevented from living the Christian life by the fact that we donít feel as strongly as we should about this or that. How liberating! Because nothing is so unreliable as my emotions!

One more thing:Weíre all different.

†† Some of us have cheerful dispositions, and some of us have gloomy ones.

Some Christians find it easier to rejoice than others.

†† And other Christians find it easier to be sad over things that ought to make

†† a Christian sad.These differences arenít virtues, just part of personality.

 

That means we all have our own work to do in practicing the emotions of

†† the Christian life.And will all find some emotions harder to practice than others.

This Psalm challenges us to ask:How much hand-clapping and shouting has there

†† been in our worship lately, both our public worship and private devotions.

How much have we celebrated that King Jesus has won the victory,

†† and subdued our enemies, and secured our inheritance?

We have to sing and praise and remind ourselves of what is true.

 

Thatís why the joy of the Lord is our strength.Not because we always feel it.

†† Not because the emotion of joy always stirs in the heart, but because itís true.

King Jesus is smiling on his happy people.He has ascended to heaven.

†† Heís seated on the throne.And all is well, and all will be will with the world.