The conversation revolved around various ways that we derive our self worth, and I shared with my friend a phrase that had come to me – emotional casino. He thought it aptly described how we often look to our feelings for validation and the gamble that it is – to live life based on how you feel or on how you think others feel about you. Yet, God created us with the wonderful ability to sense and perceive.
I can only guess the level of pleasure and enjoyment that our first parents experienced in the Garden of Eden. They were not unfeeling droids, robotically relating to God, the animals, and the rest of the created order. The first human beings were perceiving – beauty, pleasure, joy, and contentment, in the fullest measure possible. Only Jesus, knew gladness at a more intense level. Heb. 1:9 Thankfully, our Lord and Savior is one to share, thus abundant life is ours through the Gospel.
Following his teaching on abiding in the true Vine, Jesus makes it clear that joy is to be our portion: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jn. 15:11 The Gospel writer reiterates this a few years later, telling the world in essence: Encountering God with your senses will result in the fullness of joy. 1 Jn. 1:1-4 All of which to me begs the question, Can I really encounter God at a sensory level, every single day? The answer is a resounding “Yes”, although we must clarify that “joy” is not the ONLY emotion we are destined to feel. If it were, then we would be visiting the emotional casino every day, waking up to roll the dice to determine if God was going to be present for us today or not. This is one of our enemy’s favorite diversions, and a road much traveled, by bankrupt Christians who invested all or nothing, based on their feelings alone.
Ready for a pendulum swing? Here’s a bold statement that wonderfully complicates the manner in which we encounter God, based on the experience of Jesus. “Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.” Heb. 5:8-10 (MSG) Why do I day wonderfully complicates? Because it gives me the reassurance that no matter how I may feel on any given day, that I am following in the footsteps of the Son of God, who fully understands the wonder and fascination of knowing God at every level of human experience. “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Heb. 4:15-16 (MSG)
As a young man, newly born again 43 years ago, I knew feelings of true joy for the very first time. These wonderful emotions ran unabated for several months. The man who led me to faith in Christ, gave me a booklet to read, entitled Four Spiritual Laws.* It explained that just as the universe has natural laws, there are also spiritual laws. One particular page had an illustration of a train with three cars. The first car (engine) was FACT, representing the trustworthiness of God and the promises in his Word. The second car was FAITH, our trust in God and his Word. The third car (caboose) was FEELINGS, the anticipated result of our faith and obedience. My early Christian life was marked by this truth: the train will run without the caboose and I must never allow my life to be led only by emotions. Ever see a caboose as the engine?
There is a population of deceived Christians, who have left the staight and narrow path of life, to pursue what appears to be a more “feel good” opportunity, not restricted by the constraints of faith, suffering, and perseverance. This is a gamble that will never pay off in the long run. I prefer the path trodden by the Son. Wiithout a doubt, this is a sure bet.