Many modern Christians seek a church that provides a positive experience rather than one that stands for doctrinal truth. Preachers today in order to appeal to these “modern” Christians, offer principles for experiencing the Christian life rather than the doctrinal presentation of sin and grace. Worship has become an expression of how we feel about God rather than a response to what God has done for us. Jesus Christ is no longer primarily the suffering sacrifice for sin, but rather an example for living. He is the one who gives meaning to life. It is not strange that movements that ignore doctrinal distinctives and promote unity on the basis of “we all love Jesus” have widely captured the imagination of modern evangelicals.
There is nothing wrong with Christians desiring feelings, emotions, and experience. In fact, the lack of any experience is in itself an experience. The lack of feeling is a feeling. The lack of emotion is an emotion. Any cursory reading of the New Testament demonstrates that love, joy, peace, hope, contentment are to be the Christian’s experience.
I believe that we must recognize the legitimate role of feelings and experience in the Christian life. Those who attend churches which offer a feel-good brand of Christianity are not wrong in doing so. Can we blame people who come to the church seeking the experience of love, joy, peace, hope, and contentment in the midst of a world of confusion? Are we willing to acknowledge that perhaps in our zeal to be doctrinally correct we have ignored or even put down feelings and emotions?
The subjective feelings and emotions commanded in the Word of God must be the result of embracing in faith the objective doctrinal facts of what God has done in Christ Jesus. Feelings and emotions that arise because of a group dynamic involving lively music and expressive demonstrations are no different than the feelings and emotions that arise at a rock concert. They are not the fruit of the Spirit.
Martin Luther put it this way:
We must not judge by what we feel or by what we see before us. The Word must be followed, and we must firmly hold that these truths are to be believed, not experienced; for to believe is not to experience. Not indeed that what we believe is never to be experienced but that faith is to precede experience. And the Word must be believed even when we feel and experience what differs entirely from the Word.
Luther further wrote, “Feeling must follow, but faith, apart from all feeling, must be there first.”
Rather than coming against a feel-good faith, we should clearly teach that true Christian feelings, emotions, and Holy Spirit experience are the product of sound theology.
Martin Luther wrote , “We can mark our lack of faith by our lack of joy; for our joy must necessarily be as great as our faith.” Again he writes, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.”
Recognizing that feelings will follow a faith that clings to the objective promises of God in Scripture, the person who believes and confesses that his sins are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross should feel guilt-free and experience the joy of having a cleansed conscience. Feelings and emotions. while not the cause of our faith, are the expression of our faith.
Martin Luther, because of his frequent bouts with depression, recognized the importance of using the Word of God as the means for adjusting feelings and emotions. For example, he wrote:
I still constantly find that when I am without the Word, Christ is gone, yes, and so are joy and the Spirit. But as soon as I look at a psalm or a passage of Scripture, it so shines and burns into my heart that I gain a different spirit and mind. Moreover, I know that everybody may daily experience this in his own life.
He said, “Hear God’s Word often; do not go to bed, do not get up, without having spoken a beautiful passage two, three, or four of them to your heart.”
It is one thing to teach people the objective, doctrinal truths of God’s Word. It is something quite different to teach them how to use that Word, speak and confess that Word, and apply that Word to their daily living. Truth must have application. The application of the truth of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus will have an effect upon our lives. Our feelings, and emotions will be adjusted. Our daily experience will no longer be directed by the world and our sinful nature but rather by the Holy Spirit producing in us love, joy, and peace through the powerful Word of God. Peter encourages us to give an answer to anyone who asks us to explain the hope that is within us (I Peter 3: 15). If we have no experience of hope, no one will ever ask. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8: 32).”
Those who minimize sound doctrine and promote feelings and experience must recognize that they are plotting a course for deception and disaster. Those who focus on sound doctrine must begin teaching people to apply those great truths of Scripture to their daily living so that the experience of God’s people matches what the Word of God commands.
Reference : http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar100.htm
Excerpts from Feelings, Emotions and Christian Truth
by Don Matzat