The Feelings God Gives

by Nov 21, 2011

Jesus delivered a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees who tried to hide their rebellious and selfish hearts by covering them up with religious rituals: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9).

He’s saying that worship is all about the heart. Too often we go through the motions with empty religious rituals while our hearts are somewhere far away.

So how do we overcome it? How do we bring our hearts back where they belong?

The heart is where we feel things, so the first step is to allow God to make us feel again. John Piper lists some of the feelings God gives us:

  • “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
  • “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin”(Psalm 38:18).
  • “As a hart longs for the flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).
  • “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26).
  • “I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee” (Psalm 5:7).
  • “Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalm 33:8).
  • “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, and bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4).
  • “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).
  • “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

And how do we start to feel those kinds of intense emotions? By seriously reflecting on the depths of our sin, the heights of God’s glory, and the greatness of God’s grace that bridges between them:

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:1-10)