The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How to Feel Closer to God

Posted on: August 29, 2017

 

OUR FEELINGS FOR GOD DEPEND ON OUR MASTERY OF THE FACTS

Most Christians would like to feel closer to God. We would like to feel warm affection for Him when we meet with Him for prayer and personal worship. We would like to feel loyalty to Him when we are otherwise pulled to sin. We would like to feel His presence as we go about the affairs of our day. Most Christians would like to feel closer to God.

You may be hoping that I will be revealing some exciting new spiritual hack that you can employ to immediately and permanently feel warm affection, intense loyalty, and rich connection with God.

The Bad News

Well, there is some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that Scripture teaches that we walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)… that our walk with God is not measured by, or dependent upon, emotions. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

The fact is, life can be very challenging and there are times when we must have stainless steel in our backbones and ice water in our veins as we walk with God. Jesus, Himself, sweat great stress-induced drops of blood and pled in the garden, “Let this cup pass from me!” Worse, He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

So, there are times when we simply are not going to feel warm emotion and a close divine presence. A walk of faith may enjoy the company of positive emotions, but does not depend on them for survival.

Of course, emotions in and of themselves are not bad. God has given us emotions to enrich our lives, to warn us of danger, and to improve our human relationships. But emotions are to be servants, not masters. They are to follow, not lead.

There is a commonly used illustration of a locomotive, coal car and caboose with the corresponding labels of “fact, faith and feelings.” The point is that for a train to run, the locomotive (facts) must be first, the coal car (faith) second, and the caboose (feelings) last. The train will not run if the order of the cars is changed in any way.

The illustration makes a good point. Emotions are not bad, but they must be subordinate to facts and faith. When they are, emotions are valuable and function as God intended… to enrich us, to warn us, and to motivate us.

Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, writes, “Anger, fear, disappointment, loneliness, frustration, depression, and sorrow don’t seem to fit the image of successful Christian living. However, both negative and positive emotions were designed by God to serve a positive purpose. It’s how we respond to our emotions that lead to good or bad. Negative emotions call for positive action. Positive emotions call for celebration. We should listen to our emotions because they can direct and motivate us to process significant events in life.” (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/HomeLife-Negative-Emotions-Serve-a-Positive-Purpose)

So, we must be careful of our emotions, recognizing that we live by faith and not by sight, and that emotions can replace facts and faith as the driving force in our lives and lead us to unhappy results.

The Good News

The good news is that, if we keep the train in the right order (fact, faith, feelings), it is possible to nurture a closer emotional walk with God that is in keeping with truth and which therefore enrich our lives. In fact, I believe that the more our minds are renewed by biblical truth, the more our emotions will appropriately follow, and reward us with closer emotional ties with God.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable and perfect. This passage tells us that as our minds are renewed, our lives will be transformed, and we will become living demonstrations of how good God’s will is.

The Strategy

Philippians chapter 4 guides us with vital principles to renew our minds:

  1. Cultivate a vital prayer life. (Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”)
  2. Focus your mind on positive things. (Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”)
  3. Live a life of faithful obedience. (Philippians 4:9, “the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”)

As we follow these principles to nurture our relationship with God, our minds are renewed, our emotions are healed and cultivated, our lives are brought more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit, and we begin to experience the healthy emotions that accompany a close faith-walk with God.

In fact, in last week’s blog post, I detailed how my own inaccurate concept of God’s love for me was stunted by life experiences that had not been transformed by the truth of Scripture. As I began to wrestle with Scriptures regarding God’s love for me, as I began to internalize the truth of the Scriptures, my grasp of them began to transform my emotional appreciation for them.

That seems consistent with both Scripture and common sense. As our minds are renewed, our emotions will be healed and we will begin to feel the things that God intended us to feel when He gave us emotions.

The Results

Because we live in a fallen world, we may never feel as warmly affectionate toward God in times of worship, as loyal to Him in times of temptation, as close to Him going about our daily activities as we might wish, but as we give ourselves to mental renewal, our lives will be gradually transformed and we can feel more warmly affectionate, more loyal, and closer than before.

So, how can we feel close to God? By renewing our minds with principles from Scripture and seeing our emotions follow. This will enrich our lives on earth and encourage us with even better things to come in heaven.


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