Feelings vs Mental Assent

baptism_holy-spiritThese  are two aspects of faith and they offer much to debate and divide those who favor a particular view.  In revival we see each in operation, but mental assent is much more difficult to observe than the emotions and associated feelings which flood out in all sorts of expression.  Is a particular revival event truly a work of God or simply a show of men? Always and necessary is the Bible’s admonition to test the spirits (1 Thess. 5:19). That test is based on the fruit that is produced.

A relevant scripture…is also a foundation of faith, “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH” (Mark 12:30).  To do this accurately involves all our faculties, the heart is associated with our affections and emotions/feelings, the mind includes our will to assent and analyze.  However, when we endeavor to consider and evaluate others and their spirits, actions, and intentions, we encounter great difficulty.  Historically, revival seems to have been a messy business; I don’t know of any that were nice, pleasant and proper to their existing societies.  There are numerous movies, books and articles about fakes who used religion to get power, money, and fame.  We have seen many preachers who have been caught in sex, drug, and money scandals.  We have known others who were scoundrels albeit within the laws.  Churches seem to be littered with flawed people – of course – there are no other kinds of people, and if you claim to be a distinction, then you of all people should consider well the broad and easy path upon which you tread, for it may very well end in destruction (Matt. 7:13).  So, fools aside, (Ps 14:1) how is faith measured, defined, and observed in practice, and what are the distinctions between a faith of feeling and the mind?

I’ve seen these concepts opposed and defended by camps on both sides.  How can ones mind be turned off and ignored without becoming an absolute fool.  How can one live a spirit-filled/empowered life through mere mental assent and human wisdom. Scripture is clear that we are to use our minds, in fact, we are to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Paul tells us the benefits of using the mind and understanding in gatherings of believers, but he also says that if the congregation is all prophesying, the unbeliever will be convicted of sin and acknowledge that “God is really among you” (1 Cor. 14:23-26).  I know of no one who seriously recommends one’s mind should be ignored in all matters of faith; the argument is an insult and diversion, by those who have ulterior motives (Rom. 16:18). Also, fear may drive some to attack what they do not understand or be comfortable with.  Some ministers which to build their churches or institute a revival in a particular fashion with a particular segment of the population, for example they reach out to young people, or Seekers, Cowboys, or people of influence.  In order to attract or prevent repelling their desired future attendee, they must shape and design the message and service accordingly,  therefore, giving free rein to Holy Spirit leading could not be permitted, who knows what might happen.  These structures don’t generally succeed for long, if at all.

Feelings and emotions are not trustworthy guides to the truth, but they do indicate the truth that one believes, whether Biblical or not.  For example, if a child is ill-treated he may feel that he is to blame and believes it, however, the truth may be something entirely different.  Feelings point to what we believe to be true.  Our minds are no less reliable as we can easily be lead to believe a lie, and our enemy, the father of lies, does this by twisting the truth ever so slightly or by many other means (2 cor. 11:14-15).  We find truth and hold on to it by the Holy Spirit’s leading and holding on to Jesus, our Messiah (Col. 2:18-19; Rom. 8:26-27).  God gave us feelings as well as a mind and He expects us to set our affections on Him.  The mystery of God’s plan is Christ in us (Col. 1:27; John 4:14-24). He pours out His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).  A believer in Yeshua, Jesus Hebrew name, enters into far more than a correct set of truths and rules for righteous living to which he gives mental assent; he enters God’s Kingdom, full of living water, and power, light, life abundant, righteousness, peace and joy, nearness to God, and lest we forget, eternal life (John 7:38-39; 1 Cor 4:19-20; Rom.14:14-23; James 4:8).

A spiritual life is lived in step with the Spirit, but the Spirit is unseen and incomprehensible by us,  He reveals truth, Yeshua, who is the truth, and the way in which we are to go (Ps. 32:8; Isa. 48:17).  God’s way is – raising the dead; walking on water during a storm; turning water into wine; healing incurable diseases and birth defects; shaking things; causing time to go backwards; parting rivers and seas; opening blind eyes, and the greatest – sending His only Son to be tortured and crucified that sinners who believe on Him may have everlasting life in the presence of God, the Father.  This statement is foolishness and unacceptable to the world and natural human mind (1 Cor. 1:24-31).  The message of the Bible is one of God’s love for His people, how can no response be made to such love, why are the full expressions of our deepest feelings inappropriate.  God desires that our hearts be turned toward him (Matt. 15:8-9).  King David danced before the Lord with all his might and was willing to be undignified for God.  He was held in contempt by the worldly thinking mind of his wife who criticized him (2 Sam. 6:14-22).  This is happening in the family of God, but should not.

When the Holy Spirit was first given there was visible evidence via His gifts – violent wind, fire, tongues, worship, praises, prophetic giftings, etc. (Acts 2:2-4-17-18). These impartations were both sovereign acts of the Spirit, by prayer, and the laying on of hands by other believers (Acts 10:44-46; Matt. 3:11).  We can not say where the Spirit of God is going; we may quench what He wishes to accomplish in us, but we cannot contain or restrain Him anymore than we can the wind (John 3:8).  We are to believe God and hold fast to His Word in the Bible, as the Word and the Spirit do not conflict or contradict.  God will work through his people (Matt. 10:20) and He is seeking true worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-26).  Do you expect to speak his message without opening your mouth; do you expect to go where he leads without taking a step; do you expect to love God with all your being and never smile or shed a tear in joy; will you give him lavish praise and never utter a sound?  Perhaps it would be faith active to risk a step, a word, a joyful celebratory emotion, a sound, as you sense the Holy Spirits prompting.

Finally, we are to agree with each other in unity.  We are not to judge the servant of another.  We are not to criticize our brothers, especially in public and to the lost world (1 Cor. 1:10-17; Rom. 14:4).  Let God be our judge, trust Him to correct his people, as necessary.  Who appointed you a judge?  Even if you are right in a particular instance, what benefit is there in tearing down another, particularly in disputable matters (James 4:8-12)? It is not to you, nor for you that believers are exercising their faith, but to God, and He is able to make them stand.  Let your mind be a spirit-filled mind and let your feelings be subject to the Spirits leading.  Keep your heart and mind both open to the Lord (Heb. 8:10, 10:16).

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