A Brief Theology of Emotions
We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?
Emotions are part of God’s good design
First, it is important to realize that “Our emotional capacities are part of our nature as personal beings created in the image and likeness of God.” Second, Emotions are part of God’s good design. Third, We often don’t think about it but we are actually commanded to be emotional. For example, Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And there’s a bunch of other examples (Deut. 28:47-48; Ps. 51:17; 97:10; 100:2; Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 12:9, 15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:15).
So, Jay Adams says:
“The fact is that there are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.”
You may have heard: “Don’t follow your emotions” or “don’t let your feelings get the best of you,” or “use your head.” But emotions are not bad in themselves. God created us with emotions.
Even our negative emotions are not always wrong. It’s not always bad to feel bad. Sometimes feeling sad and angry is good and right. It’s important to realize that in the Psalms the genre of lament is most common. It is also important to remember that there is no book of Joys but there is a book of Lamentations. We don’t always have just “good” feelings and that’s okay. On the other hand, God made us at least in part to experience profound joy and to experience this forever, Psalm 16:11 says. So, our first take away is for us to realize that emotions are not bad in themselves.
But what’s wrong with emotions? Or, why is it that sometimes we can’t or shouldn’t trust our emotions? Because…
Emotions are broken by sin
A lot of us remember the (true) story of Adam and Eve. John Frame has said, “the fall… was rebellion of the whole person—intellect as much as emotions, perception, and will—against God.” After looking at Genesis 3:1-6 (notice the highlighting) we can agree with what Frame says:
Theology of Public Worship
Worship must be carried out according to God’s revealed will. We want to worship God in the way that He has prescribed as best as we possibly can. So, we want our worship to be drenched in Bible. We want every aspect to pour out biblical truth.
Public worship must succeed as much as possible in carrying out what God has given us in His word to do. We should acknowledge, however, that “The New Testament does not provide us with officially sanctioned public ‘services’ so much as with examples of crucial elements.” Even though it is true that the New Testament does not give us “a complete manual of liturgics,” it does gives us clear things that we are to do.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 tells us a few things that are essential for disciples of Jesus. Matthew 28:19-20 says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We will look at implications from the Great Commission first and then turn to other crucial aspects of what it means to be the called out ones of God.
First, the church is given a command. Something we must collectively work at carrying out. We must make disciples and that includes sharing the good news of Jesus with others (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Public worship then is to facilitate discipleship (which includes encouraging evangelism).
A Brief Christian Perspective on Psychoactive Medication
Depression, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, are just a few of the things we are taking psychoactive medication for. However, have we given the use of these drugs any thought? That is, if we use them, do we use them with a well-informed understanding? If we do not use them, or believe we should not, do we make the decision on the basis of hard thinking?
I want to look briefly at the question and give you my conclusion. I would also like to know your thoughts. I would also encourage you to do more research on the subject. Of course, as you read my opinion, know that I am not an M.D., PSY.D., Dr., or D.Min.; I’m a blogger that was employed as a heavy equipment operator when I wrote this.
What must we consider as we consider the question of psychoactive medication?
We Must Consider Common Grace
There are many things we can look at regarding common grace. God pours out grace on all men (Ps. 145:9; Matt. 5:45). God has given us many good things to eat (Gen. 1:29). God has given us medicine, coffee, and doctors. He keeps the universe from imploding; which He did not have to do (Heb. 1:2-3; Jn. 1:1-4). God gives some form of conscience to humans (Rom. 2:14-15) which in turn means that generally speaking parents love and provide for their children (Matt. 7:9-10; Acts 14:16-17). God, through various means, has restrained much evil (Gen. 20:6, 1 Sam. 25:26; Rom. 13:1, 6). The world is not as bad as it could be. God has also graciously preserved a semblance of His image in humans (Gen. 9:6: 1 Cor. 11:7). Humanity is not as evil as they could be. In fact, because of common grace, humans can give true, accurate, and even helpful descriptions of reality (think of Edison and Einstein).
As Eric Johnson says, because of common grace “unredeemed humans are capable of accurately understanding aspects of God’s creation (including human nature, psychopathology, and facets of its remediation)—except insofar as it requires spiritual illumination—and this understanding is the gift of God.” John Calvin, also agreed that there is a lot we can gain from unregenerate humanity.
Most evangelicals gratefully, or forgetfully, accept modern medicine (a form of common grace).
Yet, realizing there are extremes and overprescribing of psychoactive medication (laid out well in Carlat’s book Unhinged), why do evangelicals so often, and so easily, disregard psychoactive medication? Is it because they are well-informed? Because if that is the case then fine, let it be disregarded. So long as the decision is justified on the basis of thought; and not vain hearsay.
However, I am led to believe that many are not well-informed on this subject so I will continue. We live in a fallen world and by God’s grace we have been granted medicine to reverse or alleviate some of the impacts of the curse. If there are in fact biological factors involved in someone’s depression, for example, then why not help them with medication (again, a form of common grace)?
Eric Johnson, gives a helpful point. God created marriage and food “to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:3-5). Johnson says, “Paul was admittedly addressing a very different subject than we are, but a legitimate analogy can be drawn. Like food and marriage, medication for a biological problem (such as the improper production of a neurotransmitter)… is not intrinsically evil… On the contrary, when used consciously and explicitly in dependence on God, biological and psychosocial soul-care assistance is ultimately a gift of God.”
God has given us—all of us—minds. And the means by which to explore our minds. Given there is much that is shrouded in mystery. There’s probably less explored between our two ears than in the depth of the ocean and the limitless expanse in space.  Yet, we can speculate and know some things. And for that, we must be grateful to God.
Thus, because of common grace, I believe psychoactive medication can be beneficial in certain cases. See below.
We Must Consider that we are Psychosomatic Unities
Many today believe that we consist of mere biology. We, and everything about us, emotions, actions, thoughts, etc., are determined by the determinism of biological and neurological activity. This, as you can imagine, has all kinds of negative implications (e.g. think of the penal system).
Christians, however, believe in the material and also in the nonmaterial. We believe that we have a body and a soul. We are what is known as psychosomatic unities. The body is the vehicle of our soul. It provides the soul a means of expression. The body and soul are so closely tied, perhaps you could say interwoven even, that when the soul is absent from the body the result is death (esp. James 2:26; cf. Gen. 35:18; Ps. 31:5; Lk. 12:20; 23:43, 46; Acts 7:59; Phil. 1:23-24; 2 Cor. 5:8; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9; 20:4). This understanding has historically had implications for various counseling issues and still has implications for us today.
We see in Genesis 2:7 that when God made man He made him out of dust (i.e. material, the body) and He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (i.e. the immaterial, the soul). We are spiritual beings but God has provided us with bodies as our earthly habitation (2 Cor. 5:1ff). We are to be holy in body and soul, Paul tells us (1 Cor. 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1). This implies that we are body and soul.
There should be certain implications if we believe we are body and soul. For one, we should realize that the body and soul are not unrelated. They have affects upon each other. So, for example, if you go without food or sleep (physical, bodily) you will be more irritable and prone to sin (spiritual, related to the soul). Thus as we minister to people (and think of sanctification for our self) the fact that we are psychosomatic unities should not go forgotten.
“Ministry must address the whole range of human needs if it is to minister to the whole person. God has constituted us as beings who exist as a unity but a complex unity that includes physical, psychological, spiritual, mental, and emotional faculties.”
So, we believe we are soul and body. But, is this what we really believe? If this is what we believe does it show in the way that we minister to people? If we are body and soul (i.e. psychosomatic unities), which Scripture makes clear we are, then why is it wrong to take medication? We take medication if our knees ache, we take medication if we have a headache. So, if we can be fairly sure that medication will help for psychological problems, then why should we not take it?
Thus, because we are body and soul, I believe psychoactive medication can be beneficial in certain cases. See below.
We Must Consider that We are to Have Dominion
Many today believe that man is no different than animals (1 Cor. 15:39). However, it is clear both biblically and logically that we are more. We are sentient and rational beings. We are created in the image of God. We are more than animals, we are to have dominion over the animals.
Our dominion over the earth is derived from the fact that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). That’s why we’re vice-regents. God is Lord over all the earth (cf. Lev. 25:23; Ps. 24:1; 50:10-11; Matt. 5:45; 6:26, 28, 30) yet He has put us over the work of His hands (Ps. 8:6). So man is supposed to work. We see this teaching in Scripture and it is often referred to as the Protestant work ethic (cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:8, 15; 4:17-20; Ps. 128:2; Prov. 12:11; 13:4; 14:23; 16:3; 20:4; 22:29; Eccl. 2:20, 24; 3:22; 9:10; Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 10:31; 15:58; Eph. 4:28; Col. 3:17, 23; 2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). We are to subdue the land with our hands and our heads.
We are to bring good out of what was cursed (cf. Gen. 1:26, 28-29; 2:15; esp. 3:23). Of course, we can’t take away all the groaning, only the Lord can ultimately do that (Rom. 8:19ff). However, an implication of our dominion function and work ethic is that if we can relieve some of the strain caused by mental illness we should.
God has said, subdue the earth. Work the earth. Bring good out of what was cursed . God has also said work hard. Do a good job, and do it for my glory. I believe scientists, neurologists, and psychiatrists can do all of these things. I believe God has commanded them to.
Thus, because we called to have dominion and bring good out of what was cursed and because we are to work hard to God’s glory in whatever we do, I believe psychoactive medication can be beneficial in certain cases. See below.
Principals for taking Psychoactive Medication
- We should be fairly sure that the medication will help us before we take it.
- We should understand that psychoactive medications are not the elixir of life. They cannot, nor should we seek for them to, fix all our problems.
- We should understand that they often have negative side effects. We should understand what the possible side effects are and inform those closest to us.
- We should seek the advice of a competent doctor or psychiatrist; preferably with Christian convictions or sympathies.
- We should know the limitations of psychoactive medication. The medication cannot save or sanctify. However, that is not to say that God cannot use the medication to more easily facilitate the process.
- We should receive psychoactive medication, like all medication, with thankfulness. We must consciously thank God for His common grace in the provision of modern science and medicine.
- We should take psychoactive medication, like all medication, in reliance on God asking Him to bless its use.
- We should realize that people, you and me, and even psychiatrists and neurologists, come to the data with a certain worldview bias that shapes the interpretation of things.
- We should realize that the use of psychoactive medication does not do away with the need for reformational counseling (when counseling is needed) and vice versa, the presence of counseling does not mean that medication may not be needed.
- We should understand that sometimes, as Hezekiah says, it is to our benefit that we have great bitterness (Is. 38:17). It just may be the fire alarm of our soul. It may be sounding to warn of imminent danger. Thus, to “smash” the “fire alarm” in this case would likely not be helpful. Instead, we should seek counsel to root out the real underlying heart issue.
- We should understand that there is quite a bit of speculation involved in our understanding of how exactly psychoactive medications work. We cannot, for example, cut a patient’s head wide-open and see what’s going on.
- We should understand that some physical ailments are the result of direct sin in our lives (Ps. 31:10; Prov. 14:30), others are not (e.g. Jn. 9:3), and still other ailments are a complex and interwoven mix of the two. It can be very difficult to know the difference between a spiritual and physical issue.
- We should understand that the issue is complex. We must ask God to guide us with His wisdom. We must also remember His grace and love in the midst of uncertainty.
- We should hope in Jesus in the midst of suffering. It is through Jesus’ death and resurrection that all those who trust in Him have hope of glorified bodies where suffering and sin will be done away with (cf. Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:35-49; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Jn. 3:2). We also have the hope of Jesus wiping every tear from our eyes and making all things new (Rev. 21:1-8).
Mike Emlet agrees that there are times to use medication. He says, “Medications are a gift of God’s grace and they can be used idolatrously. Any good gift can be used in a way that displaces God, his glory and his good purposes and makes something else (comfort, escape, even ‘normality’) more ultimate. We have freedom to use—but not abuse.”
So, my perspective is one of caution and thankfulness. I praise God that He has allowed medication that can relieve great suffering. And I am cautious because we must realize that psychoactive medication is not anyone’s savior and it can be overprescribed. I conclude by echoing Jeremy Pierre’s words:
“Applying this teaching practically is no simple matter. The psychiatric medication industry is largely driven by naturalistic assumptions and compelled by profit margins, and mental illness has been stigmatized in many of our churches. Thinking about how to navigate the process practically would require a discussion beyond the present one.”
 Psychoactive or psychotropic substances can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function. They impact alertness, perception, consciousness, cognition, mood, and behavior. They alter brain function and subsequently behavior (E. John Kuhnley, “Psychopharmacology,” 58 and Frank Minirth “Psychoactive Drugs,” 66 in The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling).
 LifeWay Research has come out with a “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith” that helps us to see where American evangelicalism is in regards to this question.
 I encourage you to read at least three things; (1) “Listening to Prozac… and to the Scriptures: A Primer on Psychoactive Medications,” by Michael R. Emlet, (2) “Psychiatric Medication and the Image of God,” by Jeremy Pierre, and (3) Blame it on the Brain? Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience, by Edward T. Welch.
 I am happy to see that the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors came out with a “Statement Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling.” I believe that their statement is helpful, biblical, and balanced.
[v] It may be helpful to realize that along with alcohol and nicotine, caffeine is also a type of psychoactive drug. And notice that Paul thus, in a sense, told Timothy something like, take some psychoactive medication (see 1 Tim. 5:23). Some have construed Paul’s words in in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 as showing the importance of whole person care. Paul says, may your whole spirit (the theological), soul (the psychological), and body (the physiological) be blameless (v. 24 may lend to this view because we will in fact be made finally “blameless” in all of these spheres). Also, notice that the Bible does not speak negatively about doctors or medication; Luke himself was a doctor (Matt. 9:12; Col. 4:14; 1 Tim. 5:23).
 Johnson, Foundations of Soul Care, 113.
 See The Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.1.8; 2.2.18-25. “In reference to the science and philosophy of which he was aware, Calvin argued strongly that Christians are to make constructive use of it. ‘If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God'” (Johnson, “Reformational Counseling: A Middle Way,” 20).
 Daniel Carlat, a secular psychiatrist who trained at Harvard Medical School, wrote Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry–A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis (New York: Free Press, 2010). In it he says, “The term ‘chemical imbalance’ is commonly used by laypeople as a shorthand explanation for mental illness. It is a convenient myth because it destigmatizes their condition—if the problem is a chemical imbalance, it is not their fault” (Ibid., 13). Later he says, “When psychiatrists start using what I call neurobabble, beware, because we rarely know what we are talking about” (Ibid., 74-75). Thus Edward T. Welch has said, “As Christians, we can’t just ‘listen to Prozac’; we need a biblically-based philosophy to guide the use or non-use of medications. We need to know not only the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of psychoactive medication use, but also the ‘why’ or ‘why not’ (“Listening to Prozac… and to the Scriptures: A Primer on Psychoactive Medications” in the The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 12). He goes on to say that the medications are “less like ‘smart bombs’ that work with laser precision, and more like conventional bombs with widespread effect on systems of neurotransmitters in the brain” (Ibid.). In fact, “in the majority of trials conducted by drug companies in recent decades, sugar pills have done as well as—or better than—antidepressants” (Shankar Vedantam, “Against Depression, a Sugar Pill Is Hard to Beat,” in Washington Post (May 7, 2002): A01. See also David Powlison, “Biological Psychiatry,” in Journal of Biblical Counseling 17 (Spring 1999). Richard Baxter, writing in the 1600s said, “If other means will not do, neglect not medicine” (“The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith”).
 It is important to note here what Welch has said. Antidepressants “do seem to work—that is, improve mood and other symptoms of depression—in some people, some of the time, but they certainly are not the ‘silver bullet’ that some make them out to be. Even if we conclude that medications are or might be effective for a particular person, they comprise only a part of the total approach to the person” (“Listening to Prozac… and to the Scriptures,” 16).
 Johnson, Foundations, 375-76.
 There is still an awful lot that is still a secret. So, for example, in response to a study on a piece of a mouse’s brain the size of a piece of salt, Jeff Lightman, a neuroscientist and Professor at Harvard said, “It’s a wake-up call to how much more complicated brains are than the way we think of them” (“Secrets of the Brain“).
 The three contrasting anthropologies are: (1) tracheotomy; humans are made up of three parts, spirit, soul, and body, (2) dichotomy; humans are made up of two parts, soul and body, and (3) monism; humans are simply made up of physical organisms; what is commonly considered soul or mind is rather chemical and neurological processes.
 “Scripture does presuppose and explicitly teaches a distinction between the body and the soul—the view known as dichotomy—especially in its affirmation of the soul’s living presence before God at bodily death. However,… this view in no way entails, much less requires, a radical anthropological dualism. In that light, I would prefer a term such as psychosomatic holism, since dichotomy implies that the distinction between soul and body is more basic than its unity. The important point is that human nature is not to be identified exclusively or even primarily with the soul; the ‘real self’ is the whole self—body and soul” (Michael Hortan, The Christian Faith, 377).
 Early on various puritan writers knew the significance of the fact that we are psychosomatic unities. Here’s a clip from Jonathan Edwards: “This seems to be the reason why persons that are under the disease of melancholy, are commonly so visibly and remarkably subject to the suggestions and temptations of Satan: that being a disease which peculiarly affects the animal spirits, and is attended with weakness of that part of the body which is the fountain of the animal spirits, even the brain, which is, as it were, the seat of the phantasy. ‘Tis by impressions made on the brain, that any ideas are excited in the mind, by the motion of the animal spirits, or any changes made in the body. The brain being thus weakened and diseased, ’tis less under the command of the higher faculties of the soul, and yields the more easily to extrinsic impressions, and is overpowered by the disordered motions of the animal spirits; and so the devil has greater advantage to affect the mind, by working on the imagination” (The Religious Affections, 289-90). Also, earlier in the same work, he said, “Also, early on Jonathan Edwards realized this. He said, “Such seems to be our nature, and such the laws of soul and body, that there never is any case whatsoever, any lively and vigorous exercise of the inclination, without some effect upon the body.” Thus, he shows the interrelatedness of our body and soul. Richard Baxter, writing in the 1600s said, “If other means will not do, neglect not medicine” (“The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith”). Martyn Lloyd-Jones, also considered a puritan in a sense, talked about the physical and the spiritual. And he was a medical doctor and in a sense doctor of theology. Lloyd-Jones said, “You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical” (Spiritual Depression, 9).
 “The body is the material component of human nature distinct from–but intimately linked with–the immaterial component, commonly called the soul (or spirit)” (Gregg R. Allison, “Toward a Theology of Human Embodiment,” 5). It should also be noted that our human bodies are not in themselves bad. The Bible teaches that we will receive resurrection bodies (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 21:1-22:5). So the physical is not bad. It is good. But it needs resurrected.
 “The Doctrine of Humanity” in A Theology of the Church, 350.
 “More than 6,000 years from Eden, God’s creation is marred with many biological defects, including defects of brain structure and function. Sometimes these defects result in alterations in our abilities to reason, think clearly, and accurately perceive reality. In such a state, it is more difficult to discern truth and come to the knowledge of God. To the degree we can intervene with medication and restore the ability to reason clearly and perceive reality accurately, we increase the ability to know God and work with the Holy Spirit to restore the image of God in man. Antipsychotic medications are tools we can utilize to help those suffering with physical brain illness to think and function more clearly” (Timothy R. Jennings, “Antipsychotic Drugs,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling, 66).
 I think Sarah Rainer is a good example of this. See “The Integration of Christianity and Psychology: A guest post by Sarah Rainer“ Jeff Forrey also offers some helpful thoughts on her comments in “A Response to ‘The Integration of Christianity and Psychology: A Guest Post by Sarah Rainer.’”
 John Piper has said, “I do not want to give the impression that medication should be the first or main solution to spiritual darkness. Of course, by itself medicine is never a solution to spiritual darkness. All the fundamental issues of life remain to be brought into proper relation to Christ when the medicine has done its work. Antidepressants are not decisive savior. Christ is. In fact, the almost automatic use of pills for child misbehavior and adult sorrows is probably going to hurt us as a society (When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God, 27).
 “Taking depression medication that improves brain function gives God some glory, since God is the ultimate source of all medical improvement, and because he designed brains to function properly. However, if the medication is taken in God’s name, that is, with conscious and explicit gratitude to God (e.g., by thanking God for the creation grace that led to its use), God is given much greater glory, because the biological order is transposed into the spiritual by thanksgiving” (Johnson, Foundations, 374).
 As unregenerate humanity wades into the areas where Scripture is more explicitly relevant we will see that they bring more distortions. “Christians ought to expect that human scientific activity will yield some distortions in human understanding, particularly when dealing with the issues of ultimate significance” (Johnson, Foundations, 101). “Counseling concepts, in particular, are loaded with connotations shaped by worldview beliefs” (Ibid., 94 cf. 97).
 “Many mild conditions respond to non-medication approaches. For moderate to severe impairment, medication is often necessary. Studies indicate that medication alone may be sufficient for a few individuals. More commonly, an integrative approach is necessary to achieve optimum results” (E. John Kuhnley, “Psychopharmacology” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling, 60).
 cf. Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 103.
 See for example Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health by Elliot Valenstein. On page 65 he gives a helpful and brief overview of his opinion.
 See Heath Lambert, “How Can Christians Tell the Difference Between a Spiritual Issue and a Physical One?”
 Mike Emlet, “The Doctor is IN – Part 4.”
 Jeremy Pierre, “Psychiatric Medication and the Image of God.”
500th Blog Post!
Super excited. This is the 500th blog post. And over 21,000 different people from 145 countries have visited the site.
This is great because that’s the purpose of this site, to provide truth that transforms. We want to pepper people’s lives with relevant Christ-centered teaching. We want people to consider Christ and His relevance in their lives.
There are a lot of distractions in the world. A lot of reasons to falsely think Jesus doesn’t matter. We want to be part of counteracting those lies. We want to herald the Truth from the hills and the hollers, from wherever we can, by whatever means we can. Therefore, we will use any means available to reach and teach as many as we can. And we’ve reached a lot of people from some 145 countries!
We are excited about that. But, we’re not done. There are more people to reach. More truth to share. Thus, we forget what lies behind us and strain forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13).
So, that’s what we’re going to keep working at. We are going to keep sharing relevant truth that transforms. We have some exciting plans for the upcoming year and are happy about what the new writers have to share.
Ways To Support
We have an exciting project coming up that we would love to have you support. We’ll give more information in the coming weeks. But, the short of it is, we are creating a resource that will help people see the relevance of Jesus. It’s created for people that grew up in the church and left the church. For people that know of Christ, but don’t live for Christ.
It’s our prayerful aim to change that.
Here are some ways you can support:
I know and quote Psalm 127:1 often. It says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Ps. 127:1). I want to reach 10,000 people with this new resource. And I know the Spirit can use it to keep people from limping back and forth, one minute holding Jesus to be relevant and the next irrelevant (2 Kings 18:21). God can awaken hearts to Himself through this resource.
But, for it to happen, it would be a work of the Lord. My part, however, is to do the work. And, I’ll do the work. I’d love for you to pray that I wouldn’t labor in vain. Pray that the Lord would choose to richly repay my work to His glory.
High goals require giving. I’ve given to the goal of writing and sharing truth that transforms. And some of those goals have been met. I’m thankful. And I’m going to keep working and writing (I can’t help it. It’s one of the things my hand has found to do, and I‘m going to work at it with all my might).
But, I want to reach more people. I believe there is a huge need. Especially for my millennial peers and those younger than me. It is for those that I am working on this next resource. I want them to see and eternally savor the glory of Jesus.
So, if you can finically support the work, you can give here.
You can also share and follow on Facebook or whatever platforms you use.
Some Favorite Posts
- Is the world enchanted?
- The Church is a Place for Outcasts
- A Brief Christian Perspective on Psychoactive Medication
- You Are What You Read
- Is Homosexuality Part of God’s Good Design?
- The Woman, the Beast, and Babylon
- The Bible teaches that what we do matters.
- A Brief Theology of Emotions
- ***Porn*** (pt 1)
The Work of the Spirit | pt. 11
Questions, Concerns, and Cautions
Questions. The first question I think it is important to ask is, what should be our level of expectation regarding the gifts? Sometimes proponents of the continuation of the gifts reference John 14:12, in that passage Jesus said, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” Some take that verse to mean that we should expect more miraculous gifts of the Spirit than even seen through the ministry of Jesus.
What, however, are the works that Jesus is referring to? I tend to agree with William Hendriksen’s understanding. He says, as a result of Jesus’ “departure the disciples will perform not only the works which Jesus has been doing all along (miracles in the physical realm), but also even greater works than these, namely, miracles in the spiritual realm.”
I believe that instead of always expecting the miraculous or never expecting it, we should understand that the miraculous is still possible. The gifts have not ceased. However, that does not mean that every Sunday will be a recreation of Pentecost. I believe we see through Scripture and the history of the Church that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are still given, yet they are not normative, they are not always given or to the same degree.
We are not to expect Pentecost but we are to expectantly pursue the gifts in accordance with Scripture for the upbuilding of the church. In the last days in which we are in, the actual outpouring of the grace gifts will look different at different geographical locations as well as different times throughout history. This is to be expected because in the New Testament there was no equal distribution of grace gifts and God’s mighty acts by the Spirit have in no way been evenly disbursed over the course of redemptive history. The Spirit moves where He wills (John 3:8) but that does not in anyway preclude us from praying for His special empowering. All over Scripture, the Spirit empowered people in mighty ways, we are in no less need of that special empowering today. Although we cannot demand it and it does not seem to be normative.
Second, why do so many unhealthy teachings and experiences go on within some churches that believe in the continuation of the grace gifts? There are various ways to answer this question but briefly, I think the issue shows a need for biblical leadership. That is not to say that biblical leadership has always been lacking in these churches. Paul himself had to provide correction to the Corinthian church that was dealing with various issues. But, he did provide that leadership, he did provide correction. I think it is important to note that abuses seem to abound where there is need for biblical balance regardless of the doctrine. I think for example of hyper-Calvinism or the issue of having orthodoxy but not orthopraxy.
I appreciate this important advice from Carson:
When God graciously manifests himself in abnormal and even spectacular ways, the wisest step that the leaders participating in such a movement may take is to curb the excesses, focus attention on the center—on Christ, on loving discipleship, on self-sacrificing service and obedience, on God himself—and not on the phenomena themselves.
Third, is the popular “open but cautious” view of the gifts a biblically tenable one? I do not believe so. If the grace gifts are still given then Scripture exhorts us to “earnestly desire” them for the upbuilding of the body (1 Cor 12:31; 14:1, 39). If the Lord Jesus cares enough about His church to give gifts and Spirit-empowered abilities to serve people, should we not care enough about the church to use those gifts for that purpose? Are we okay with being merely open to these good gifts, and even cautious about them, when He has graciously given them for our corporate good? That option does not seem open to me (although I understand that it may take some time to study and pray over the topic). Though, this issue should never be one of contention or disunity.
Earnestly desiring the gifts of the Spirit for the upbuilding of the body should never be allowed to cause division in the body. The Spirit wants us to and works so that we “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). So, the gifts should never be pursued in a way that would cause disunity or disrepute.
Earnestly desiring the gifts of the Spirit for the upbuilding of the body should never be allowed to cause division in the body.Tweet
I do believer, however, if someone is “open but cautious” then they should study Scripture in depth on the topic. If they are cautious it is important that they be informed on what particularly they should be cautious about. If they are open they should know why and what they are open too. If they are open, they should earnestly desire the grace gifts and lead the church to be built up through the operation of the full range of the grace gifts of the Spirit. This is important, because if the nose is missing, where would be the sense of smell (See 1 Cor 12:12ff)? In the same way we want each part of our body functioning, we should want every grace gift functioning within the church body.
May we long to impart spiritual gifts to strengthen each other as Paul did (Rom 1:11). “If, as Paul puts it, God’s various gifts are given ‘for the common good’ and ‘for the building up of the church,’ then we should expect to flourish to the extent that we receive, steward, and enjoy them.” Thus, the “open but cautious” position is not, in my opinion, a biblical position. Though I believe it is appropriate to be “unsure but studying” even though I believe the correct view is “open and desirous.”
Concerns and Cautions. The Apostle Paul has some good words for us, both groups. He says earnestly desire to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:39). And he also says all things must be done in a proper and in an orderly manner (v. 40). He says I will pray with my spirit, I will sing with my spirit (v. 15). And he says, I will pray with my mind, I will sing with my mind (v. 15). Whatever our view on the continuation of the gifts, our churches should not be able to be labeled either “charismaniacs” or “the frozen chosen.” Because God is not a God of confusion (v. 33) but He is a God of new and exciting life and there is reason for us to respond to Him with visible affection. May we, both of us, worship the LORD, as He deserves, in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
I believe there is a danger of emotionalism on one side and of distain for emotion on the other. The renowned philosopher, theologian, and pastor Jonathan Edwards said, “there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection.” Emotions are not bad in and of themselves but emotions must be guided by Scripture and governed by the self-control of the Spirit. Jay Adams has said,
There are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.
It is also important that we realize that worship is to be a response to revelation, the glory and goodness of God, and not mere hype, lighting, and musical mood. When we respond with the correct emotions to God’s revelation it honors Him. There is a time to “rend our hearts,” for instance (Joel 2:13). As William Wilberforce said, “Scripture speaks with praise of the lively exercise of the passions towards their legitimate object.”
The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), is a denomination that has a history of reckoning with this important and controversial topic, and they have wisely said, “in all periods of highly emotional religious issues, excesses are inevitable.” The C&MA knows about both the “blessings and the mischief of the [charismatic] movement.” Though it is true that mischief and even grave harm is done by those who teach falsely and wrongly emphasis certain gifts at the expense of others, it does not mean that the gifts themselves are bad. The apostle Paul himself showed that “the correct treatment for abuse is not disuse, but proper use.”
As the C&MA states, “we must… remember that our ‘comfort zone’ is not the same as spiritual discernment, and at times even a gift manifested in love may make those ignorant of it uncomfortable. Therefore, patient teaching on the gifts and their manifestations is a necessity.” Further, we must work very hard to distinguish between a work of the Spirit and what is merely a work of man or even Satan.
Jonathan Edwards gives five evidences of a work of the Holy Spirit that we would be wise to consider. First, the Spirit will work in such a way as to exalt Christ (1 Cor 12:3). Second, the Spirit will work against Satan and his work. Third, the Spirit will cause people to have a greater regard for Scripture and will establish them in God’s truth. Fourth, the Spirit will lead people in truth and convince them of what is true. Fifth, the Spirit will cause people to love God and man. Further, Edwards says,
The surest character of true divine supernatural love—distinguishing it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love—is, that the Christian virtue of humility shines in it; that which above all others renounces, abases, and annihilates what we term self… Love and humility are two things the most contrary to the spirit of the devil, of any thing in the world; for the character of that evil spirit, above all things, consists in pride and malice.
The Spirit’s work in us, whatever form that work takes, should not produce pride but humility. Also, the fruits of the Spirit should always accompany the gifts of the Spirit to a high degree (Gal 5:22-23).
It is also very important that we understand, as Jonathan Edwards says, “A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.” Thus, Allen Ross is correct in saying, “It is presumptuous for anyone to say that others do not have the joy of the Spirit if they do not dance and shout in a certain way… [or] have particular spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit works differently in people.”
As a last caution, it is important to hear from Cecil M. Robeck in his book The Azusa Street Mission and Revival. He says, “As a church historian, I have… come to realize that revival is not the normal state of affairs, nor is it intended to be so. Those of us who appreciate the role that revival plays often miss this.” Robeck compares revival to smelling salts. Smelling salts have their purpose. They revive people and bring them back to consciousness. But they are not for everyday life. “Imagine a roomful of people convinced that they need to keep on inhaling smelling salts in order to keep on living.”Read More…
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C. S. Lewis on Longing
You can trace the theme of longing through most of Lewis’ writings. In some places, it is explicit in other places it is implicit. For example, Perelandra does not so much make an argument as much as make you desire and long to experience something of what Lewis wrote. When reading some of Lewis, we often find ourselves hoping what he writes about is true. Lewis’ argument is not really cognitive and logical as much as it is “kardialogical,” that is, reasoned from the heart. As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.”
It is also important here to look at what Lewis meant by longing or desire. Lewis himself said, “From the age of six, romantic longing—Sehnsucht—had played an unusually central part in my experience.” Sehnsucht is a German term that communicates the longing that all of humanity has. It means “longing,” “yearning,” or “craving.” It is a way of saying, “something is intensely missing, there must be more.” Joe Puckett defines Sehnsucht this way:
The aching, and yet pleasurable, intense longing for a life that we cannot yet have but naturally and universally crave. It is the feeling of having lost something that we once had—giving us a sense of homesickness and discontentment with the less-than-ideal world we currently find ourselves in.
Lewis was specially equipped to discuss longing since from a very young age he had experienced such longing and had the ability to write about it with apologetic force in both narrative and essay form. My thesis is that Lewis is correct, our longing does point us beyond this world. Our longing ultimately points us to the Lord and His coming Kingdom.