Part 5 of 22 -
Inner Feelings in the Christian Experience
Some believers initially have a great salvation experience, with an intense inner sense or feeling to witness to and confirm their salvation. Personally, even though I had little understanding of what had transpired when I was saved, I did have the immediate sense of freedom, and as though great weight had lighted off me. It was a weight that I had not even known was there before I received Christ as my savior. I felt as though I could breathe deeper into my lungs than ever before.
However, my kind of experience is not always the case for many others with their salvation. For some it is a matter of immediate training to simply exercise their faith to trust in the truth of His word of promise - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
In either case, with or without emotion or inner sense initially, there should develop an inner sense as a witness or testimony of the indwelling Spirit that assures the believer they are “saved” and secure. Ultimately we come to know we are saved because we just “know” that we are okay and we are His child – it becomes fixed within us. That witness is from the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The Lord (Jesus) who is that Spirit” (1Cor 3:17) immediately comes to indwell the believer’s spirit, then bearing witness to the believer’s new relationship, as a child of God. Romans 8:16 THE SPIRIT ITSELF BEARETH WITNESS WITH OUR SPIRIT, THAT WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD:
Though sometimes the believer’s faith is inundated with an intense feeling or sense, our assurance of salvation does not arise simply out of emotion. Rather, the assurance of our salvation is a radiant certainty that emanates from of the new indwelling “life” and “light” that is of Christ. This innermost awareness is from of the “Spirit of Christ” now within our spirit. It is the sense of Him whose grace has intervened in our life, now reaching us; it is He whose mercy has cleansed us; He whose love has saved us; He whose Spirit has “sealed” us; and He whose presence within our hearts has given us rest, peace, and power for victorious living in the midst of all the trials of life.
It is out of such a sense within that the provoking power of His life in us becomes reassuringly effective. Reason can sometimes settle for us what we ought to do, but only our innermost sense of the spirit can move us to do as we ought… we are thus constrained. This new innate sense or feeling springing from within takes the positive form of desire for the Lord, interest in the things of the Lord, gratitude to the Lord, and a constraining sense of His love; e.g., Paul writes “the love of God constraineth us” (2Cor 5:14).
Many new Christians then may come under “false feelings” as result of “false teaching” of a legalistic requirement of “religious Law” they may hear at “church.” These feelings may falsely take the negative form of apprehension and/or a compulsion that “I must do this, or else… God won’t be pleased. Or He won’t love me anymore.” Often it takes the form of duty, which the believer may accept to be performed from a feeling of strict necessity; all the while the peace and rest of their sense of the Lord is lost. In this false way of Christian living, the love motive that once constrained the believer from within is lost. These negative feelings can become so firmly established that they are habitual and we no longer enjoy the radiant emotional glow of our original love and thankfulness to the Lord. In this way our love affair with the Lord may be sabotaged by the well meaning but ignorant preachers and teachers who abandon God’s “grace” gospel for the church today (Rom 6:14), to promote “the Law” that belongs to Israel. Yet, because Christ never leaves or forsakes believers, the genuine sense of love toward God is still there, in their subconscious, hungering to be expressed. He is always with us; He will never leave us (Heb 13:5).
Sometimes we are rightfully aware of intense feeling. If these are positive emotions directed by the indwelling Lord toward Him, the right persons, causes, or goals of action, we ought not to be ashamed of them or try to stifle them. Paul says believers should be “fervent (hot) in Spirit” (Rom 12:11). The Lord then has our emotions through which He may express His self on earth today. Recall how “Jesus wept” as He looked over
Jerusalemjust before His triumphal entry ’s soon rejection of Him (Luke 19:41). No one can generate a proper emotion simply by deciding that he should or would like to have it. This fact is at the root of the obvious truth that genuine love cannot be mandated for a person or for God. We can choose either to give free reign to a proper emotion or to suppress it. Israel
There are some emotions, such as hate and envy that spring from self-interest that ought to be suppressed. These are contrary to the genuine fruit of the self-less Spirit. The “self” is barely mentioned by the Apostle Paul except in terms of “self-control,” which is positive. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) There are other spontaneous positive emotions, such as love, joy, and peace, of which Paul speaks when he refers to the “fruit of the Spirit.” These ought to be gratefully accepted and willingly expressed.
Thus, we see what proper feelings or emotions God desires for us to experience in Christian experience. It’s not the mere force of emotion but rather the quality of emotion that is the true test of our Christian experience. And here we are led again to our sense of the living indwelling Christ as our guide. It is not because we feel a great emotional glow or a tremendous lift of spirit under some eloquent preaching that makes us sure of salvation. These may be the temporary and fleeting product of crowd psychology. Rather, the basis of our real life transformation and the assurance of it is the radiant inner certainty that we have by the indwelling “light” of Christ.
How shall we be witnesses to our new found saving, transforming, and strengthening faith in Christ? How shall we keep this in the light of the daily demands of living? Christian knowledge and experience normally emerges and is nourished by fellowship - the fellowship the believer has with the Lord and with the members of “the church, which is His body.” It’s difficult to keep one log burning in a fireplace, but together with others it will burn wonderfully. It is important, therefore, for individuals to maintain union with the Lord and the companionship of the members of the body of Christ if they are to become mature Christians. This does not require joining the church organization, but it is most often necessary to make an effort to reach within to the Lord, and also outside our self for fellowship with others.
From the first century onward, Christian experience has been spread by means of personal witness and testimony. It is by believers telling the “good news” that “the gospel of the grace of God” is spread. And in this process, the spoken word, whether from pulpits, Bible studies, and in a personal conversation, has had a major place. But these are not the only place and perhaps not the greatest in spreading the good news. How Christians have lived, whether in going to the lions under Nero Caesar’s sadistic mania or in simply being a Christian in the ordinary events of every day living that has been a most powerful witness to others. Paul says the lives of the believers are as “epistle(s)…read of men.” 2 Corinthians 3:2 Ye are our epistle … read of all men:
I believe all believers have a great opportunity and obligation to provide such a witness; spoken and as unspoken epistles. As a person lives and expresses his convictions in the activities of their life, in their family, in business, and in every kind of personal relationship, he demonstrates beyond doubt what the Lord has done for him. Sometimes he demonstrates this in words, but always he shows it in his acts and attitudes. Unless he expresses his Christian life by the kind of man he is, the world has legitimate reason to doubt whether the experience has reality or depth.
Growing in faith and genuine experiential knowledge of the Lord is deep, real, and no easy matter. If one is to succeed even partially as a Christian, he must find a power greater than his own from a life that is deeper than his mind – it is from Christ’s “Spirit of life” in his spirit. Our Christian experience is nourished by our soul-self learning to abide, trusting in our union with Christ in our spirit.
What relationship is not nurtured by fellowship and heartfelt communication? Every believer should as much as possible maintain spontaneous honest communion with the Lord. For adult Christians most prayers learned in childhood don’t express the mature Christian experience. Mechanical repetition, even the so-called Lord’s Prayer, dull the force of prayer that should be reflexive, genuine, heartfelt communion with the Lord. Most of us would admit that the pulpit prayers one hears on Sunday on behalf of a congregation often sound unreal. Printed prayers, no matter how devout or beautiful, seldom seem quite personal enough. Because of these difficulties and also the pressures, strains, and competing interests of modern existence, many persons rarely attempt pray in any manner.
Many fail to realize prayer is simply talking to and with the Lord. A time of prayer is sometimes in a church building sanctuary, or in the bedroom or car away from the external. It centers in relaxed quietness. But it’s in the midst of the circumstances of our life activities that God may have a chance to speak and move us from within. Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Sometimes it’s in the midst of heartfelt situations of life that we are pushed to turn our heart to Him, touching Him in heartfelt communion.
From the human side, it is not for us to do something but rather to become. We in soul are becoming what Christ already is within our spirit – He is working to renew us (2Cor 4:16) from the inside-out. He is peace, so we come to peace by honest heartfelt fellowship with him. He is rest, so we come to rest in union with him.This is not to say we don’t have God ordained desert (dry) times in our walk, having absolutely no sense or witness of His presence. Such are learning times that sometimes may go on even for months. This is a growing experience for Christians, whereby we learn to “walk by faith and not by sight” 2Cor 5:7). We must learn to simply trust Him and His hand in our lives, and then to be sustained by our knowledge of His word and our fixed faith; even when we have absolutely no sense of Him within. We must come to know and trust Him and His faithfulness. So, even then, while in the aridity of the desert, we can enjoy His peace and rest within our soul …as we simply let go to trust Him.