Emotionalism in the church

I want to begin by being absolutely clear that emotions have their place. They are a precious gift from God. However, emotions have a place and must stay in their place. We must always ensure that truth is dictating to the emotions and not allowing our emotions to decide what is true. What do I mean by this? Think of a young teenage girl. She is struggling with her boyfriend. He is passionately declaring his love to her, but she has the sense of logic telling her, that he doesn’t even know her, how can he love her? But he is persistent and passionate about his love, so she believes him. Does the boy actually love her? The answer is obviously no. Do you think the boy fooled her? He may have, but I think in many cases (especially in young people), the boy was just as fooled as the girl. He was allowing his emotions to define what was true. She was allowing his emotion to decide what was true. So the young girl tells her parents one night “I love him and he loves me!”. The parents try not to laugh, because they know it’s simply foolishness. Six months later, the boy and girl don’t even talk anymore. Turns out, the boy “loved” his neighbor too. Haha, Hopefully you get the illustration. This inner deception happens within the church as well. You do not necessarily have to be the young girl in this illustration. You can be the vibrant, eager, passionate young man. You went to church one day, you cant really remember what the sermon was on, but after the sermon, the lights were dimmed. It seemed as if you were the only one in there. The music was playing slow, it sounds beautiful. They keep playing the same phrase over and over. People are swaying back and forth, lifting their hands. Then someone begins telling a story. It’s a very touching story. The preacher then asks if there is anyone who wants to make a decision. They play a nice soft guitar solo a little longer. People go to the front. Friends and family are crying, and hugging. They are laying their hands upon those who went to the front and finally the service is over. You feel emotionally drained. You walk outside and suddenly you are hit with the reality of where you are and what time it is. A lot like coming out of the movie theatre. You go home thinking what a dramatic experience you were apart of. You call it a “God-experience”. Then as years go by, you run into trouble. Maybe you begin to doubt it all, and you think about these “God-experiences” you had. They comfort you, they seem to assure you that God is real, you have seen and felt it. Then one day, you are on YouTube, and you decide you want to learn about other religions like Islam, Mormonism, or Jehovah witness for apologetic reasons and what you see is something that shakes you to your core. You see grown men crying at their conversions to Islam, you see everyone hugging them, calling them their new “brothers/sisters” and rejoicing, saying they have finally made their way home. Tears streaming down their faces. You see people declare their love for their religion, for the pope. Suddenly all those experiences that assured you so much are not so reassuring. This is what emotionalism in the church does. That is what a severe lack of doctrinal preaching does to people. Before I break it all down, I want to address a fact. There are people who are not as emotional as others and it is a fabulous gift. In fact I wish I was not as emotional as I am. “But I am what I am.” Then you have tremendously emotional people like the apostle Peter. One day he is standing on the water with Christ, and another day he is in utter despair and depression. You have the types that are nervous by nature. We know from Paul’s letters to Timothy that he was a nervous person, probably had anxiety as well. So the first point is people are different, and that difference is good. They both have pros and cons. So true belief does not necessarily mean you are jumping, with yours hands lifted to the ceiling, singing at the tops of your lungs in the church service. I am always suspicious of people who draw attention to themselves, during the worship of God. My second point is, THEOLOGY MATTERS! Some churches believe in creating emotional services because if they cant get people to accept Christ by logic they want their people to make an emotional decision. These are not all bad people, just poor theology. They believe if they can just get these people to come to the front and repeat a prayer with them, those people will be saved based on what they said that one time. They will quote to you that the scriptures say: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

This is absolutely true, but go back and read the chapter you will learn that Paul is talking about the fact that if you call on the name of the Lord because you first believe in your heart, you will be saved. God is not a coke machine; you don’t drop your dollar in and select your own salvation. Theology matters, emotional decisions are not always true decisions. True belief isn’t pressured, it’s either there or it is not. You either believe this gospel, or you do not. I wonder how many parents have pressured their children to say this, do this, so they will be saved. That’s tradition, that’s what the Roman Catholics do. Some parents may even insist to the children that Christ has saved them. Pastors may even insist some people are saved. In some cases, if a person has doubts, they should listen to them, they may be doubts that are trying to lead them lead to Christ! Salvation is always between the individual’s heart and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. I have a thunder bolt that will strike to the very heart of this misinterpretation of scripture. Our Lord Jesus says Himself:

Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”   (Matthew 7:20-23)

When Christ says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” that means that there will be some who do. If I say “not everyone who kicks a football will be an NFL kicker”, that means some will not and yet some will. The “Lord,Lord” is a reference to emotion of the person. There will be some people who emotionally call Him Lord, they will even do great works in His name, yet they will not enter the kingdom of God.. Emotion means very very little. Not everyone who speaks the repenting, believing words of life come from a believing heart. Christ is saying quite clearly here, people will call out to him emotionally but they will not be saved, because they did not truly believe in their heart. It was simply words. However for some, those words came out of a heart of belief and another came out of something else, maybe even emotion. Not true belief. It’s a frightening thing. The emotionally charged church whether they realize it or not are in the business of creating deceived people. Church should be a miserable place for the non-believer. It should be a place where sin is taken seriously, and Christ is taken seriously. The modern church is interested in making people comfortable, and not in presenting the truth alone. It is not graceful or loving to hide the truth from people.

My next point is, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Judaism all believe very different things. All are extremely emotional and sincere about what they believe. The reason for this is, we are all the basically the same. We all have the same body. We all get hungry, we all get thirsty, we all get angry, we all get sad etc… Which means we all experience what we believe in the same way, through the mind and body. Just because you are emotional and passionate about Jesus Christ, it is not proof to yourself or everyone else that Jesus is the Messiah. People are emotional about movies. That doesn’t mean the movies are true. So, as stated in the beginning, do not allow emotions to be proof of what you believe is true. So what is different about Christianity than all these others? Well first of all, you have to realize by comparing the Lord of Glory to all these other religions is wrong. Why? Because He is God. Who can you compare God too? By starting from this position, you are starting from a position of unbelief. It is not a wonder why one would have doubts if this is what they are doing. If you go there as a believing Christian, you must be very careful. If you go to a place where you feel you need “proof”, you will not get it. Not because of there is no proof but rather because you are blind to see the proof that has already been provided. The Bible and its teachings are absolutely logical, and consistent. It is only the dead and blind that cannot see it. I watched a very interesting debate on the reliability of the New Testament. It was two professionals that spent their professional careers studying the ancient Greek new testament texts. What you came away with is, you have one side that believes it is there is no way we can know what the Apostles actually wrote because the earliest copies of the NT are copies of copies of copies. Then you have another side that believes the exact same evidence proves that the word of God has been preserved by God and todays New Testament is what the apostle actually wrote. So there it is, you will be faced with exactly what you have now, you either believe it or you do not. Both sides were passionate in debate. One being an apostate, the other a Christian, both emotionally charged in the debate. The entire point I am trying to make is emotionalism proves nothing to yourself or anyone else. But if you want proof, start with your life, Has Christ changed you? Do you love and obey Him? Does the Holy Spirit speak to you through the Bible? Do you hate sin? Do you ever think about God and Christ? Do you pray? Do you meditate on Him and His scripture? Do you find comfort in His words? Do you go to Him when times are good? Are you humble, poor in spirit, meek? Do you love the brethren? These are signs that you are a christian and if you are a christian you do not need anymore proof than that, because you are the proof of Christ. You are His witness.

My last point is this: There is a place for emotionalism in the Christian life. There is such a thing as Christian experience. There is such a thing as God speaking to us. There is such a thing has God speaking for us. I do not put much weight if any in Christian experiences that are manufactured with a musical productions and lights in the church. I do not think you can plan revivals. Man simply does not have that power. Let me be the one to tell you, I have had many more emotional experiences by reading the bible, praying and meditating on God alone in my home, offshore, and in the car. I do not need the music, the lights, the stories, the hugs, the small groups, the weekend getaways or the friendships to be moved by God. Every time He meets with me, it is a moving, emotional experience. I remember a particular time, in my vehicle just driving to work, I am convinced I grieved the Holy Spirit because I asked Him to leave, I was afraid I would wreck my vehicle. I regret it, even to this day. It was a shocking and a most unexpected, unprovoked moment of Heaven. The best way to describe it is it was a crushing weight of love for Christ in the heart that came down suddenly and unprovoked. It lasted maybe 15 seconds. It was a foreign heaviness that was in my heart. It was as if Christ had decided to sit in my truck only for a moment. Music doesn’t do that, lights can’t do that, and friends can’t do that, only the presence of God. That was probably two years ago, and I have had experiences since then but nothing like that. I’ve also had several coincidences that were too strange to ignore. I remember having a thought one Sunday morning while waiting in line at the grocery store. The thought hit me, “one day, I am going to bless someone in front of me and pay for their groceries”. This thought hit me, I wasn’t thinking about that, it came out of nowhere. Suddenly, the elderly woman checking-out, didn’t have enough money and asked if she could run to her car and get her check book. The cashier agreed, and I had to sit there a second and make sure that that actually just happened. So I asked the cashier where the woman was going and she told me what I thought I had heard. I knew I was put there in that little town while working on a rig, for that specific event. That was one of the most thankful women I had ever met, hugging me in my dirty coveralls in her church clothes. As I walked to the parking lot with my groceries, that same woman was parked next to me. I loaded my groceries in my truck and as I was about to drive off I saw her looking at me and I got the thought of “If she comes and thanks me again, I’m going to tell her that I gave money, but Christ gives life”. Well sure enough the woman waves me down and tells me “God is going to bless you!” and I told her “He already has and it wasn’t money, He has given me much greater than money, He’s saved me”. The woman broke down crying, I was very uncomfortable with all that emotion, so I drove off to be alone. That was just a few of many experiences that I have had myself. This is been mostly a philosophical discussion, which I am normally against, but I believe this may be helpful for some of you.

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