Feelings…nothing more than feelings…

I haven’t felt much like a Christian lately. I have sinned…recently…today even!

I know, you’re shocked, so I’m going to also tell you that I have not loved God with all my heart today.

This is the first commandment, people…it’s serious, and I have broken it several times today.

I haven’t had faith in God like I should either…sometimes I doubt Him when I shouldn’t.

What am I going to do?

Can I trust these feelings?

Have I lost my salvation?

Do I need to get re-saved?

The answer in short is “no” however there are some denominations that would wrongly tell you “yes, you can lose your salvation.” My adopted hometown paper runs articles written by local pastors in the religion section on weekends. A few months ago it ran an article by a local Pentecostal pastor with the headline “Once gained, can salvation be lost? Best to take no chances” naturally, this piqued my interest as well as my frustration as I read the article.  The pastor argued that “the Bible teaches that a person can forfeit their salvation by their action or inaction” That doesn’t sound like the same Jesus that said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden light” does it?

So according to this pastor, salvation, once received, is up to me to keep.

Salvation is how God gives us a divine second chance?

Huh?

That’s funny …I can’t seem to recall any Bible verses that said that salvation was an action on our part.

I thought that maybe I was wrong on this, maybe there are verses that teach that salvation is an action on our part, I mean I’m not as well-educated as someone who has been to seminary. So I looked…

…and looked…

…and looked…

This is a church door...not the door to your heart.

I suppose you could try to make the argument that Jesus states several times in John 14 that if we love him we will keep his commandments.  But we have to understand to whom was Jesus talking here…his eleven disciples…and us as Christians…us who are already saved. Jesus is not speaking to someone who is in need of saving, but to those who are already saved. The obedience Jesus refers to in these verses are nothing meritorious concerning our salvation, they actually refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit, the helper who guides us and directs us and makes our hearts glad to obey Christ.

The other big problem here is the idea of free-will. I have already discussed the myth of free-will in a previous blog post, so I won’t re-hash that argument here. I will, however, re-emphasize that God is not powerless over our “free-will.” Christ is not a beggar outside the door to your heart pleading with us to let Him in. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” was not an invitation by Christ to unbelievers…it was a call to the church.

I know I cannot trust my feelings, feelings change, and they are misleading. The Bible warns that the heart is desperately wicked, so I know I cannot trust my heart, but I can trust the Bible when it says that God never changes. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is YOUR faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” Lamentations 3:22-24.  Salvation rests on the grace of God, not upon your level of faithfulness, faith is an instrument, but Christ does the saving. I know from reading my Bible that my works did not save me nor can they keep me saved. Salvation is of the Lord!

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” Jonah 2:9

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  John 10:27-29

I know that even though there are times I don’t “feel” like a Christian, and I don’t “feel” close to God, I am saved and I am firmly in His grasp, and nothing can be snatched from His hand. I know that because I am saved, I do not have to get re-saved because I have sinned. And I know that I cannot willful forfeit my salvation because it is not possible that my will is greater than God’s.

I believe that of all the different branches of Christianity those that teach that you can lose your salvation or can backslide out of a gift freely given are the most egregious. They teach the doctrines of man and not of God. They fall into the same camp as the Pharisees that Jesus spent so much time warning us about. They tie heavy loads on the backs of their followers, and only add to the problem when the weight becomes more than a person can bear.  I pray that God would let these men see the error of their ways and they would start preaching the doctrines of God instead of the doctrines of man.

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13 thoughts on “Feelings…nothing more than feelings…

  1. A christian can look to nothing of themselves for salvation or assurance there of…..that’s ALL Christ’s work on the cross and in our hearts. But what I’m trying to say is we are not the same person we were before once God has called us. In Colossians, chapter 3 specifically, Paul talks about dying to the “old man” (our old rebellious nature against God) and putting on the “new man” (the forgiven, reconciled to God nature). As the Holy Spirit works in our hearts we inherently receive a new nature that has different desires and values. If one doesn’t “feel”, and I don’t mean that in an emotional, touchy-feely way, then I would wonder if one has been saved. We are incapable of good or of perfectly obeying God’s law, and Leviticus is very good at pointing that out when it talks-at length-about God’s law of the time. It’s not there to tell us how to perfectly obey and be sinless. It’s there to show us that we can NEVER fulfill God’s law and that we need a Savior in Jesus. I believe, Jay, that we think the same thing it’s just we don’t know how to explain it to each other. I think too many christian’s get caught up in the “feelings” of christianity……and a sure way to question Christ and your salvation. I think when we see God’s beautiful creation all around us or a certain passage really pierces our hearts and we react with emotions that’s fine, but to base your salvation and assurance of salvation on how you “feel” today is wrong. If one truly believes and trust’s in Jesus Christ and know that His sacrifice is our perfect atonement, then there’s no reason to be concerned with or base you salvation on how christian you “feel” today because that’s dust in the wind.

    It’s good to have these kind’s of conversation’s, it’s rare to be able to just talk about this stuff and not get worked up about it. I definitely don’t do it enough and it’s a good stretch for my mind and my faith. So thanks John for posting and Jay for commenting.

  2. The Calvinist (nor should any other christian) doesn’t measure their faith or salvation on what fruit they bear. It is simply an assurance that we are saved and that can never be taken from us, because we can see and feel the change in our hearts and our desires. We have become aware of what is wrong where there was no awareness before. We have days that are good and are worthy of praise to Christ and we have days of chastisement or struggle and they are worthy of praise to Christ. Why would one look to anything else other than Christ for anything when we are, by our very nature, incapable of good or of even turning to Christ. We cannot know Him or love Him until He send His spirit to change our nature. Colossians 3:1-3 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and changes them we DIE to “the old man”, our old nature…..it’s dead…..no longer exists. We have been raised to life with Christ and are even now citizen’s of Heaven. We are told to set our minds on things above for that is where we now belong.

    I think one of the most beautiful and powerful passages on faith is found in Hebrews 12: 1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throned of God.”

    Don’t look to yourself, don’t get caught up in what’s going on around you for it is all passing away……Jesus is our prize and heaven is our home even now and nothing…….nothing can take that from you.

    • Kate said:
      “It is simply an assurance that we are saved and that can never be taken from us, because we can see and feel the change in our hearts and our desires. We have become aware of what is wrong where there was no awareness before”

      Again, here is my issue with Calvinism on assurance, and you spelled it out pretty clearly here. My question is… what about when you don’t ‘see and feel’ the changes in your hearts and desires? I do not believe that you Kate, can always look at yourself, see and feel change, and thereby be assured.

      Also, you mention becoming aware of what is wrong where there was no awareness before… the Law is written on the hearts of all mankind, salvation does not produce a ‘new awareness’ of the Law, it produces a new awareness of grace in light of the Law that stood to condemn us all.

      I am not an Arminian just for the record, far from it, but I do not believe the true 5 point Calvinist has grounds for assurance within their theological system. I would love to be proven wrong here, and would gladly jump on board and be an out and out Calvinist to the core, but this is a huge sticking point for me.

      My assurance comes from a historical event that occurred for me, and for the WORLD (namely the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ). Period. Again, the Calvinist has that tricky little doctrine of a Limited Atonement that keeps them from being able to take an absolute confidence in that historical event because their is the possibility that event did not apply to them.

      • I really think assurance of the believer comes down to being a heart issue, and having that child-like faith that Jesus talks about. If someone needs more than that, more than what the Bible tells them, than I can’t offer much. Maybe Calvinism doesn’t offer it either, Jay, but I don’t really care whether you call yourself a Calvinist or not, you put your trust in Christ alone for your salvation, which is all that really matters.
        And as far as being a Calvinist–I don’t want to split hairs–I am firmly in that camp, but I don’t witness to the lost about John Calvin, I witness to the lost about Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Although there is plenty I could say about the Biblical basis for limited atonement, (see: Isaiah 53:12, Matt. 26:28, John 10:11, & 15, John 17:9, Acts 20:28, Eph. 5:25-27) it’s also not a hill I’m willing to die on, because it doesn’t change the nature of what I’m, or we—as Christians, are called to do here on earth.

      • John,
        Trust me, I understand where you are coming from, and I, just like you, am not all that concerned with getting people to adhere to any particular label. I certainly am not out to try to make Methodists ;).
        The reason I jump on this topic and address Calvinists directly with it is because ‘assurance’ is a very important doctrine, one that effects whether we live life in the joy of the Lord or live it in despair. I do understand limited atonement, I also can rattle off a list of equivalent passages that are clear on Christ’s desire that the world would be saved and come to repentance. Of course we would have to dissect each passage within its context and even then would probably not come to a conclusion satisfactory to change anyone’s mind.
        I was a hook line and sinker Calvinist until months after reading through Desiring God the second time I began to question some of its premise regarding desire. Like you (and the scriptures) said in a different context ‘the heart is desperately wicked’ it cannot be trusted… so if the heart is the place I go for assurance I am prone to either receive false assurance, or be stripped of an assurance I should have.
        With my current understanding (which is not Calvinistic, at least as I understand Calvinism) I still have full assurance even when I don’t ‘feel’ Christian.
        I do not desire to attack Calvinism, most of the authors I truly enjoy and find to be biblical are Calvinistic. I do however desire to attack a faulty version of assurance that looks within oneself for comfort, and I believe that is what Calvinism, and Arminianism for that matter, offers.
        By the way, I am really enjoying this blog, it is a great venue for conversations like this. We need to make sure the other posters can find time, even for short posts. More content will engage more people, and it is a great venue to hash things out.

      • I echo what John says. Kate, your comment was a great comment, I don’t mean to be harsh at all!

        Thanks John for clearing that up! And thanks Kate for engaging!

    • The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit..as it is written: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:15-16. I don’t think even a good Methodist would disagree with that. But I also believe they (the believer seeking assurance) can also look at the fruit in their life…as Christians we are commanded to bear fruit…and as you think back on your life you can see the fruit that faith has produced. You know that today you love God more than you did yesterday. Just like I know today that I love my wife more than I did yesterday. 🙂

      • Calling me out as a Methodist! Well I am probably an atypical Methodist on this issue!

        However your response is a typical Calvinistic response. You say I can know because ‘His Spirit bears witness to mine’ of course I believe that, but can someone please explain that to me? How do I know His Spirit is bearing witness to mine? What is that like? How does it play out?

        As far as fruit being a means of assurance, I say hogwash! Does not the beginning of this very post give the reader the impression that their are days where you love God less than on other days? And do you seriously love your wife more every day that passes? I would agree that is the general course of things, but day to day there are ups and downs both in marriage and in faith. So where is assurance in the down?

        I am not trying to be difficult… well… scratch that… yes I am. The issue of assurance of salvation is the issue that keeps me from being Calvinist. Every Calvinist I have talked with, even myself when I thought myself to be a Calvinist, appealed to fruit (thanks Paul Washer) and or desire (thanks Piper) as the means of assurance. Desire is a vapor, it changes all the time, sometimes believers want to sin…. really they do. Fruit is misleading as well, sometimes we do not bear the fruit of the Spirit in measures that we do at other times. The Calvinist’s assurance is unstable at best.

        Just sayin.

      • Wow, you’re really being difficult. 😉
        Sure, sometimes the crop is spare, other times plenteous…sure, there are ups and downs to life, there are times that you will feel far from God, or outright disobedient to Him. But reguardless of these “feelings” it’s important to remember the words of David in Psalms: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” It’s more important to trust what the Bible tells us than our feelings. Why wouldn’t we bear fruit that we do other times…probably because we have, for the time, in some form or another put more trust in ourselves than in Christ. We’d do good in these times to remember that our righeousness comes not from ourselves but from Christ, that we’re not made perfect, but we are seen as perfect.

  3. Good post! I know what you mean about doubting God. I am really trying to have “child like” faith lately. I am just literally asking my Dad for things knowing he will take care of the situation. So far it is working and taking so much stress of me…. not saying I do not stress I do. hahaha! It is just a bit less. I am practicing.

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