Many of us have spent our Christian lives chasing after experiences. We live in pursuit of spiritual highs and that “first-time feeling.” There is something different and better. Jon and Justin talk about what that is.
Members Podcast: The guys talk about pietistic, emotionally-based preaching, as well as the armor of God and the Lord’s Table.
Jon Moffitt: Hi, this is Jon. Today on Theocast, Justin and I are going to discuss chasing goosebumps—those spiritual highs that you have after personal devotion time, or a worship service, or evangelizing. We’re looking for that next spiritual significance where we feel close to God, and we know that His presence is near.
Why is that dangerous? And how can that actually hurt our assurance and distract us from the gospel? We hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned.
Justin, talk to us a little bit about this subject; why it’s important, and why we chose it.
Justin Perdue: This podcast exists to try to set people free from all kinds of bondage and to pull people away from things that are less than good onto the only sure foundation, which is Jesus Christ and his righteousness and work for us. One of the things that we can often chase after, and frankly be enslaved by, is the pursuit of what I might call spiritual highs, where we chase after experiences.
People need to have that category in their minds that sometimes we need to be delivered from things that, in our experience, actually feels good, but then can become really bad for us because we’re always measuring how we’re doing up against how we felt that one time: the experience that we had, that one church service, or whatever it may be. Then it introduces all of these thoughts and concerns into our brains, and we become hyper-introspective about it, and we become anxious, or worried, or concerned about various things because we’re not feeling how we once felt about Christ. “I’m not doing as well today as I was yesterday,” or, “This week at church just is not thrilling my heart like I was thrilled last week or that service that happened two months ago.” Or whatever it is. That can become a very heavy burden and it can become something that is a form of bondage, as I referenced just a moment ago. We’re hoping to have a reasonable conversation about this and not only point out where this comes from, but also pull people onto something better as we try to think reasonably about the Christian life, and the fact that we’re fallen, and that we don’t always feel the way we should. That’s going to come to bear in us.
Jon Moffitt: When many of those who are listening came to Christ, maybe you came from a background where you were in sin, or you didn’t grow up in a church background and you, in that conversion moment, that moment when you saw the Holy Spirit open your eyes and your sin before you, and you saw that Jesus saved you, that it’s unreal and it’s an otherworldly experience to know that the Holy Spirit has transformed you. I know that many have this emotional moment where they truly experienced the gospel in a way that transformed their life. They were a different person going forward. Then you see this person and they’re involved in everything, they can’t get enough of the Word of God. Uh they’re at soul-winning there, it’s like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. My dad used to describe these people as getting a good dose of the Holy Ghost. I guess I never got one of those. That was never me.
What ends up happening down the road, a year down the road, is things start to slow down and that spiritual high is no longer there. What they’re looking for is that next high. It’s that next “How do I get back to when I was really close to Jesus, when I was first saved? How do I maintain that experience?”
When I grew up in the Baptist world, you always want to have fresh blood in your church because it keeps the excitement level up. Basically, new converts keep everybody excited. When you are always looking for that next spiritual moment that’s going to throw you back up to where you feel like God is the most important thing in your life, nothing else matters, you’re floating on air. When you can’t find it and years start passing by, it creates all kinds of theological problems. It creates all kinds of assurance issues. Then you start seeking it in books and in movements: you have the radical movement and then you have the Charismatic movement. Every denomination and every theological bend has these goosebumps moments they want for you to experience so that you can have that next euphoric high.
Justin Perdue: There’s a reason why it’s unusual anymore for somebody to just hold the same theological positions for a long period of time. It’s unusual for people to just be members faithfully in the same church for a long period of time. Not only is it something where we grow bored, but I think in some ways, people get worried about their spiritual condition because they’re not feeling it the way that they once were, or they need something different so that they can get excited and geeked up about it.
Sometimes this chasing experience can actually lead us into theology and practices and stuff that are less than helpful. That may be true, but I want to back up a little bit and talk about emotions for a second, and the fact that emotions in and of itself is not a bad thing. Jon and I would both uphold the fact that part of being made in God’s image, a small part of that anyway, means that we are emotional creatures and emotion, in and of itself, is a good thing. The issue for us is that we are fallen creatures, and that means that every aspect of our personality has been affected by sin—that includes our emotions. Because our emotions are fallen, and because we are inherently self- interested and the like, and lack perspective, our emotions are not always trustworthy. We have to acknowledge that if we’re going to make any sense of this conversation.
To feel really good about God, or to feel really good about Jesus and what he has done for you, is a wonderful thing. Praise the Lord for those moments when we realize that there are going to be plenty of times, as a fallen human being, as a Christian who is in Christ living in a fallen world, that you and I are not going to feel the way that we should. We’ve got to have something, by way of a sure foundation, that is bigger and much more robust than how I’m feeling on any given day.
As a matter of fact, I know in our church, we often welcome people to service acknowledging that they’ve come in feeling any kind of way, and that the only thing that’s consistent about us is that we’re inconsistent in terms of how we feel. What we’re trying to do is look to something that’s outside of us that can give us hope and peace before the Lord—and his name is Jesus. Thank God.
As good as the goosebump moments are—and they’re great. Who wouldn’t want them? You would be wrong to say that you shouldn’t want to feel great about Christ. Of course, you should want to feel great about Christ; moved and just gripped. Those moments are wonderful and praise God for them. But also, praise God that Christianity and the gospel is about more than goosebumps, because if it’s about goosebumps, it’s sinking sand. It’s that quagmire where the more we flail about chasing after it, the further we sink down in it.
Jon Moffitt: It matters where the goosebumps are coming. You and I have watched a really great movie and at the end of it, we think that was fantastic. I can remember the first time I went to the theater and I watched The Village. I’m not going to ruin it for anybody, but there’s that aha moment at the end of the movie. If I were to go back and watch it again, it won’t have the same effect on me. We experience this closeness and this emotional high where you can feel the tingle, your heart is exploding, your eyes are watering—and that could be caused by a thousand different things. It could be caused by an abortion video, when we start thinking about how kids are being murdered and it breaks your heart. Or it could be about God healing somebody from cancer. You’re watching this video and it’s just bringing this on. There are a million and one things that cause us, as humans, to feel this emotional drive that comes out of us. The danger is that if you go to some worship services, they’re going for that—the mood, the lighting, the music, the transitions, and the words are all designed to get you into this emotional state where you can experience the presence of God. And it is an experience because of the music, the words, the emotions, the smoke, and all that kind of stuff.
On the flip side, I also know people who have had this experience when they repent of sin. There’s this weight that’s off of them and they have this warmth theologically, where they can feel the presence of God—not real—but they understand His joy and they understand the love that He has for them.
Justin, you and I have given experiences on theological shifts where I can remember the moment I started to understand the covenantal God, who has this unmovable, unshakable love for me. That was an emotional experience for me to realize that I had never seen the faithfulness of a covenantal God. It was one of those moments where I was brought to tears thinking of how much my God has proven His love for me.
Justin Perdue: I’ve been a Christian for a while, by God’s grace, but I’ve had several points in time, even over the last 15 years as my theology has continued to be refined, like you were saying, where you come to a greater and deeper understanding of Christ, the gospel, God and His faithfulness, our security, and all these kinds of things. It is like being born again. We’re not saying either that you won’t have things land on you anew.
This is not trying to take us off down a trail either, but there are plenty of times for myself where, in the ebbs and flows of my life, I’ll be reading something or I’m in a service in my own local congregation, or I’m preaching even, and I am very gripped and affected by what’s being said or what we’re doing. It’s not because I haven’t heard it before, but because it’s landing on me. We’re not trying to discourage people from treasuring those moments and from thanking God for those moments, but what we’re trying to do is help people think through the fact that their love, their joy, it’s going to ebb and flow all the time, and that there has to be something immovable and unshakable that does not change that would be the anchor of their soul.
Jon Moffitt: People have different emotional tendencies. A good friend of mine who’s a pastor here in Nashville… I think I’ve seen him cry once in the nine or 10 years that I’ve known him. I’m not a crier, but recently, just with the amount of pain and suffering that’s going on in our church, I get up there and I see these people’s faces when I start preaching, and my eyes start watering up. I can just imagine how painful it is for them. I don’t want it to do that. It’s not like I’m looking for it to do that, but you can’t take personality.
I’ve seen this where you have this gregarious, outgoing, very emotional personality, and that person is considered to be righteous, holy, and close to God because they’re always emotionally involved in what they’re doing. Then I have other people in our church who… the blip doesn’t move from a straight line. Their face never changes, the expressions… they’re not loud, they’re not quiet—some could say they are flatlined, and that they need to get in line with who God is and get excited about it. I talked to this person and I thought, “This guy loves Christ.” He is doing more for the body of Christ than most people are. He just doesn’t want anybody to know about it. He doesn’t need the emotional highs and lows to make himself feel significant within the body of Christ because he understands Christ is significant. He is the one we focus on, not my emotional highs and lows. He doesn’t pursue it that way.
Justin Perdue: Not only can we not trust our own emotions—I think that’s very clear in terms of being our guide—we also cannot trust our evaluations of other people’s emotions. We just got to get to that right now. For us to look around and assess how we think our brothers and sisters are doing in the faith, based on the countenance, on their faces, or based upon how joyful we assess them to be during singing—that is just absurd. First of all, you have no idea what’s going on in that person’s life, and what they may have endured and encountered yesterday or this morning before they showed up to this service. Everybody’s wired differently in terms of how they express themselves, how they communicate, and how they look.
That’s just a public service announcement to help you be a better church member, and to love the saints in your congregation better. Quit doing this evaluation of each other’s emotional state and what that means about their affections for Jesus. Because, like you said, there are all kinds of times you talk to people that seem to be quite still on the service, but it actually is very deep underneath—and the current is there. It just is not as much whitewater on the surface as we might surmise there to be.
Jon Moffitt: I’m going to throw them a throw one at you. What is the difference between an emotional Christian goosebump moment and biblical joy? What’s the difference?
Justin Perdue: I’ve heard people contrast, for example, happiness and joy. I don’t really want to do that right now; happiness is circumstantial, joy is transcendent. That’s not what we’re necessarily talking about here. I think that what we’re talking about there, biblical joy, or even though a word that we use often which is biblical rest in Christ is more of something that I would call like a resting heart rate posture that is ongoing, that’s always there. Our experience of how joyful we feel is going to be all over the place. Certainly when we say biblical joy, it’s not like a temperature check like how am I doing now? How am I doing in an hour? How am I doing tomorrow? That would be an unhelpful way of thinking about biblical joy. Biblical joy is very much tethered to rest and peace, that all is tethered to Jesus and what he has done for me. Because Christ never changes right, and his work for me never changes, I can have that resting joy and peace in Christ all the time though I might feel quite differently about Christ, or about my Christian life, or about my life wholesale—depending on what moment of the day you talk to me. But underneath all that, there is something that doesn’t change and that has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with Christ. That’s how I would begin to answer that question.
Jon Moffitt: Paul demands joy. He says be joyful in everything. Then Jesus promises joy. I look at that and I say that joy is not circumstantial, but we can’t connect it to emotions. The joy of the Lord is my strength means… I love how you rephrased it. Sometimes, it’s easier to say the rest of the Lord is my strength. I can find rest and comfort. I could even say the comfort of the Lord is my strength.
Joy has the sense of rest and comfort because it’s not based upon a circumstance, it’s based upon a person, which is Jesus. So, when we think about emotional highs and lows, I think, biblically speaking, Paul and David can make these references because they are connecting them to something that’s outside of our current circumstances, no matter how I’m feeling emotionally and no matter what’s going on with me physically or emotionally. When Jesus says, “My joy can be in you and it can be complete,” it’s not just abstract joy, and it’s not portions of joy, Jesus says, “The complete full joy of myself can be inside of you.” And he says that when you have love for one another, that’s how you tap into it.
What’s interesting to me is that if you’re going to pursue these moments of, I would say, safety and comfort and rest, it is not connected to actions like music, or I would even say things like reading your Bible, or these emotional prayers that we have. I read a book, unfortunately, when I was in seminary, that convinced me that if I got on my knees at four in the morning and just would not get up, and begged for the presence of God to be around me, and that I could be aware of it and worship Him, then that’s what was going to give me the energy for the day to obey and continue in my day. I would wake up at four in the morning, and I can remember the very first week I did that, it was like an experience I had never had. The emotional high, the crying, the joy that I felt. Then after that one week, I couldn’t get it to come back no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I read. It wasn’t enough because that initial experience I had, it was like the shekinah glory was in my living room, and it went away and I couldn’t figure out why.
Justin Perdue: I’m resonating with you, not in terms of the particular piece of that book and praying at four in the morning, but I’ve said this many times: the most common prayer I pray is “God help me.” I may be asking Him to help me about any number of things: to not sin, to continue to give me faith, to protect me from doubt and unbelief.
Jon Moffitt: Just to put some words to that, Justin, the three things that I almost pray for daily are mercy, grace, and wisdom, because those were the three things Jesus had asked for liberally. Mercy, grace, wisdom.
Justin Perdue: Even with respect to feelings and how I feel about God, Christ, or the things of God. I could be wrong in saying this, but I’m going to go ahead and throw it out because I think it’s legit: we, in this life, are meant to know, confess, see, and feel our need for Christ. We are meant to know that we are debtors to grace and in need of grace all the time. I think one of the ways that the Lord reminds us of that consistently is in this area, because we don’t often feel like we should. That forces us to remember that we are dependent and we are in need. I need God’s grace. I need His mercy. I need His power. I need His help if I’m even going to feel like I should. To find ourselves praying for this, not chasing highs, but for us to pray that God would give us grace and that He would help us and that He would stir our hearts, I think it’s a reasonable thing to ask the Lord for and to see our need of it in this life is not bad, as we are not fully sanctified yet, and we haven’t been resurrected yet.
I want to pivot slightly with an anecdotal illustration of what we’re getting at. In many churches—it doesn’t have to be the mega church context but the illustration I’m going to give is kind of that—this is not unique to me to make this observation either. I’m not uniquely brilliant in saying this, but how many times have you been to a church service where we walk in the space, and maybe it’s an inviting space, and there’s the screen up front and it’s got the countdown for the service to start. There’s the clock and it’s ticking down, and the music is playing with maybe three minutes to go. The music ramps up and the lighting changes, and then with a minute it ramps up even more, and then for the last 10, 20, 30 seconds, there’s like this driving kick drum, and we’re about to start this thing. Right on cue, the worship leader, with this grand gesture, grabs the microphone and he’s like, “How y’all feeling out there?” I’ve seen this. I trust many have experienced this.
My thoughts on that are several: one, what kind of New Testament question is that? How am I feeling? Depending on the day, you’re going to get any different kind of answer. Maybe today, my wife and I had a fight in the car on the way to church, maybe I spilled my coffee all over this or that or the other, maybe I’ve just got a job promotion. But in part, a lot of times, for me, I come into a service and I’m burdened and distracted. I’ve got a lot going on. My initial thought to “How y’all feeling?” is I feel like a miserable wretch, so what do you have for me? Because if you’re asking me how I’m feeling, that’s a pretty hopeless thought. What we’re trying to do is demonstrate the foolishness of that kind of question and that kind of approach to a church service or certainly the Christian life.
I think we can certainly agree that rather than asking me how I feel, ask me something that’s somewhat more significant than that: ask me what I know to be true. Ask me what I know to be true most pointedly about Jesus Christ and his work in my place, his atoning death, the satisfaction that he has made for my sins, the fact that in his death, I too have died to the Law, that he has provided me with righteousness. That’s all I could ever need. He is the ground of my peace and assurance, not just today, but forever and ever. Ask me what I know about that, and then we’re getting somewhere, and then we might actually have something to sing about, rather than this really this amorphous, free form, fleeting, ever-changing thing called “how I’m feeling”.
Jon Moffitt: It’s hard because you see people moving the needle, and moving the experience, more and more and more to make sure that we’re not distracting from that experience. I tell our congregants, our elders, and our deacons all the time that we don’t want to distract from the reason we’re there, which is fellowship in the Word. If there’s anything that’s going to cause a distraction from that, then let’s do our best to make sure that the temperature is set right…
Justin Perdue: The space is reasonably inviting and not miserable.
Jon Moffitt: If I’m preaching and people can’t hear me, then how are they to hear the Word? So, don’t hear us say that those things don’t matter.
Justin Perdue: That sounds like something in Romans 10: how are they going to hear?
Jon Moffitt: Exactly. What we’re getting at is that I understand why people are turned off by church often, because they get exhausted by the fact that they’re going there and everyone else around them is jumping up and down, everybody else is excited. Or even if you’re in a conservative church, everybody has a smile on their face, everybody seems to be clean cut and good, and they are demonstrating that they have this joy that you don’t have.
Justin Perdue: I just kind of lambasted the mega church attractional model. Let me go after the traditional model real quick. Even the whole classic… if somebody gets up in the pulpit and greets everybody and says, “Isn’t it wonderful to be in the house of the Lord?” Two thoughts on that. One, if you’re asking me how I feel about being in the house of the Lord at this very moment, I don’t know what I’m going to say to you because it depends on the week. But if you’re asking me, do I know that it’s good to be in the house of the Lord? Yes, I do. But those two things are very different. I assume that you’re talking to me about what I know and not what I feel, but a lot of times, the way that it comes across is I should feel so warm and fuzzy about just being here. I should feel so good about just being here in God’s house. I’m feeling nothing. I’m afraid that if you told me that one of my children had died, suddenly I wouldn’t feel anything, because that’s how jacked up I am emotionally. I certainly don’t feel all kinds of warm and wonderful things about being in the house of the Lord today. Again, there better be something bigger than that for me.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. Something outside of circumstance. It’s interesting you should say that, Justin. Not to talk about what we do at our services, but you and I are very sensitive to the fact that we know who is walking into our context. Every Sunday, I say to people, “Most of you, if not all of you, have walked in with shame and guilt for the failures of your week this week. We want you to know one simple truth: everyone stands for an equal need of God’s grace. I don’t care how you feel or what you’ve done, you need God’s grace.” Then we go into a prayer of confession, and after we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, I tell them, “Now we have reasons to worship our God, because He just forgave you of your sins.” That has nothing connected to your emotions. No matter how you feel about that or not, you have one truth that remains: your God, who loves you, is good with you not based upon you. That is more important than how you feel about Him or how you have treated Him this week, because the circumstances shall remain the same: God saves sinners.
I’m going to change this to something that is a really hot topic. I was shepherding somebody recently for this very purpose. They were emotionally out in every way, shape, or form; they weren’t excited about church, they weren’t excited about their faith, they weren’t excited about their Bible reading, and they said they’ve been just dry. That’s the way they described it. “I’ve been dry for two to three years and I just feel burned.” When I started peeling back the layers, eventually what I got them to admit was they actually not only worked dry, but they were resentful towards God. They were angry at Him. I even got them to say, “Yeah, I kind of hate Him.” Because they feel like they had put all of this energy and effort into God, and at moments, there were these high points where they were discipling people, they were being discipled, they were reading their Bible, and it was like jumping out of the page at them, they were enjoying church, and then circumstances changed, life changed, moved. All of a sudden, the things that used to bring this moment of significance weren’t doing it anymore. The comment was, “I felt like God moved away. He moved. He went away. He distanced himself from me and I don’t know why.” They were equating God’s affection, God’s concern, and God’s love to their emotional experience of God. The moment they weren’t experiencing it through the different methods that they had set up, they assumed God was the one who moved away and they didn’t understand why. It just drained them to the point where they didn’t want to try anymore.
This is what I said to them, and this is going to sound funny and I’m going to have to explain myself. I said, “You’re not allowed to read your Bible for a year.”
Justin Perdue: Oh my gosh. Here we go.
Jon Moffitt: Of course, they looked at me and said, “Why? If I just told you I’m dry, and I just told you I’m emotionally out of it, why would you say the one thing that could bring me back in is the one thing I can’t do?” And I said, “Because that’s the one thing that caused all of this problem. You just admitted that you go to the word of God and you’re more depressed when you come away from it than when you entered into it. If the cause of your depression is an action, then maybe we should think about that for a moment.”
It was at that moment I was beginning to walk them towards the firm foundation of where they found their significance and where they found their hope was not in Christ; it was in what they were doing for Christ. Not only that, as they went into the Word, they were looking for that moment where there was this connection between them and God, and they were going to find that verse that was going to bring this connection back to this emotional experience that they’re going to have. God’s Word is not designed to do that; it’s not designed to do that at all, yet we treat it in that way that we’re looking for that golden nugget of the day. They’re chasing the Bible down to find that goosebump for the day to give them the energy to say, “God’s good with me because I experienced something.”
Justin Perdue: We talked about this in an episode we did months ago called How Not to Read the Bible, and one of the ways we said not to read it is this way, chasing after some experience, some high, chasing after a feeling that you would take away from the Word. There are any number of ways that we turn good things like Bible reading into bondage and slavery, for sure. What we all need to be able to do, or what we need done for us, is to have people who love us enough to recalibrate our thinking on these things. Part of it is we need to learn how to read the Bible in the first place and understand it legitimately, in terms of its entire redemptive historical framework and everything.
The way you framed it was, you’re exactly right, that you are not so much concerned about Christ or what he’s done for you. You’re concerned about what you’re doing for him. Whenever that becomes your focus, there’s no way that you’re going to ever have peace and rest. Far from it. In fact, you’re going to be exhausted. You’re going to be beat to death, and you’re going to have the experience of this person. Eventually, you’re just going to wear out because you’re going to think you are not doing enough. You never could do enough.
Then you get frustrated with Jesus or with God. He is not the one requiring these things of you; you are requiring these things of you. I feel like we may be headed in a completely different direction here. I’m not trying to do that, but it is related very much to the things that we’re discussing.
Jon Moffitt: To go back to it real quick. The reason I mentioned something so pointed is that…this has happened at my members class this last Saturday. I was talking about Bible reading and I said, “How many of you moms are so exhausted by the fact that when you wake up and you turn your head to the left, and there’s already three-year-old there staring at you before you even get out of bed, and you’re thinking there’s no way you’re going to crack the Word this week? Now you’re feeling guilty because you haven’t spent time in the Word, you’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re angry, and you are feeling theologically and spiritually insignificant.” That is not the design of God’s Word, and if that’s what it’s causing, we are way off here.
Justin Perdue: I agree. If it’s this work to perform, if it’s this thing that I must be doing in order to grow and be sustained in the faith, and if I’m neglecting this… the perfect example, like you said, is the mom with young kids; I’m married to one. I can’t tell you how many conversations we’ve had over the course of years where she has been discouraged by not knowing how in the world to read the Bible or read theology or whatever it is. There are just too many immediate demands upon her, and these things are primary. You ought not neglect your children or your family, and things of that nature. Any kind of church context or Christian context that would say to somebody, in that circumstance, that you are failing, there’s something clearly wrong.
Jon Moffitt: I’m exhausted, I’m beat down, I’m emotionally drained, and what’s the question they ask them? “Well, have you been spending time in the Word?” No, where’s your foundation. Where’s your hope?
Justin Perdue: You’re exactly right. People tell you they’re exhausted, and then you basically pivot and say, “Well, what are you doing? What have you been doing for the Lord?” ” You’re already tired. Let me give you some things to do,” said Jesus never. Not really related exactly to what we’re talking about at this very moment, but it is related to our topic today.
This is somewhat anecdotal as well: I remember a service recently, in the last few months at CBC, and in the message, I referenced a quote from John Newton that I will reference on a semi-regular basis, where he says something like this. This is going to be close to exact. “In private, I am cold and lifeless as usual, but He permits me to speak for Him in public.” That’s good because here’s a man who’s well-known relatively, well-known in the last few hundred years of Christian history—maybe more as a hymn writer than as an Anglican minister—but nonetheless, this man was a minister and he speaks about the reality of his private life, how he is cold and lifeless as usual, but that God permits him to speak for Him in public. That’s a moving thought to me as a preacher, I trust it is to you as well, Jon, but in the comments that I made around that and speaking about how we often don’t feel it and whatnot. There was a brother in our church, a very good friend of mine on our staff, who came up to me after the service and said, “Brother, thank you for that. Because I was sitting here all morning,” and he knows this stuff and he would agree completely with what we’re saying, but he said, “I’ve been sitting here all morning just flat out not feeling it. I’m cold. I’m apathetic. I’m not stirred. I’m not warm. I’ve just got nothing.” He was mindful of how he was doing, and he’s grieved by how he’s doing, but then he says he can’t do anything to change it. Then for whatever reason, the Lord used these comments to, just in one sense, comfort him, but then also stir him that this is the normal Christian experience, that we so often don’t feel it. We lament the fact that we don’t feel it. We feel powerless to change it. But what we need in that moment is not, “You need to feel this way about Jesus.” No, we need to be told that all is well because of Jesus, and that we will struggle, and we often won’t feel as we should. But one day we will, one day we’ll feel as we should all the time, and the struggle will be no more, and because of Christ, we know that that’s where we’re headed. In the meantime, he’s got us.
Jon Moffitt: I want to say that your significance should never be found in how you feel about God. This is what chasing goosebumps is. We want to feel significant, and I will tell you, the Bible tells you how you can feel significant. It absolutely tells you. It says to love God and love each other. Peter legitimately says you’re ineffective when you are not showing gentleness and patience and meekness and kindness and forgiveness. So, your effectiveness in your relationship to God has nothing to do with your emotional highs and emotional levels.
Justin Perdue: Peter says that ineffectiveness comes from forgetting the gospel and what Christ has done for you.
Jon Moffitt: Right. And if you aren’t doing these things, he doesn’t say drum up some emotional high. He says to remember that you have been cleansed.
Justin Perdue: Remember your status. Remember who you are.
Jon Moffitt: You have been set free from the bondage. So, the significance of your emotions is if you have an emotional high, that doesn’t become the new watermark.
The other day when we had welcomed a new child into our congregation, Hazel, and she’s just adorable, and I love her, and I love her family. As a pastor, that was an emotional moment because I was like, “Wow. The Lord gave us a new child to love, to care for, and to administer the gospel to.” Then I’m going to go sit next to a man who just lost a child. The emotions there are pain and suffering and sorrow. I cannot allow either one of those to dictate my significance before the Lord, because my significance before the Lord is wrapped up in His arms, not mine. It’s wrapped up in His affections, not mine. God has deep affection, so deep for me, and so deep for Justin, and for every listener who loves and trusts in the Lord’s promises. His affections are so deep for He says, “I sacrificed my Son. That is how much affection I have for you.” You cannot get any more significant affection than a man laying down his life for you. He doesn’t say in return, in order for you to receive this, you must have the same level of affection. He says, believe it and it’s yours. That’s what stabilizes it.
Justin Perdue: For sure. I want to make a brief comment about effectiveness because you brought up 2 Peter 1. A lot of times people will act, think, and even accuse us: “How are people ever going to be effective unless we directly exhort them toward effectiveness, or unless we say things that are emotive on the face of them?” Or whatever it may be. My answer to that question is that’s the wrong question, but let me speak to what your concern is. In heralding Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, and in pointing people to him only, we are actually giving people the one thing that will make them effective, and not just make them effective tomorrow, but will sustain them in their effectiveness.
The proof is in the pudding in this, too. You can motivate people with emotion, fear, guilt, and all these other things for a period of time, but people will eventually absolutely crash against the rocks and will be done. It just can’t be sustained, but Christ is able to sustain, and we can remain effective and fruitful in his church because he is the one who ultimately carries us along in that work.
I know that we’re running low on time in the regular episode here. A couple of things that, maybe for the members’ episode or the episode that we’re about to do for our membership, would be to talk about feelings and the Lord’s Table. Maybe. Because that’s a very feeling-driven moment. I know it was in my experience. Then I also may drop a little bit of a Horatius Bonar gold from his book, God’s Way of Peace: A Book for the Anxious.
Jon Moffitt: I also want to speak on preaching that is emotional, and I’m not talking about Charismatic. I’m actually talking about Calvingelicals, those who consider themselves to be Calvinistic, and how they preach in such a way that if you don’t have these emotional experiences, as they are pressing you towards, then you should question your salvation. I’ve got some words of wisdom for those of you who may have sat under that type of preaching. We’re going to liberate you from that.
For those of you that don’t know, this is kind of our family meeting. For those who have joined in and want to support Theocast and what we’re doing, our membership is a way for you to join in on the team and get this message out. It’s encouraging. We are seeing more pastors join in on what we’re doing. We are seeing more churches planted. We have several more in the works and all of that is because of our members who come along onboard and support us monthly. If you wanna learn more about that, you can go to theocast.org.
Stay tuned, members. If you’re not using the private podcast feed, go to theocast.org/members. You can get it there and put it in your favorite podcast app, and listen to all of our podcasts, members’ and regulars right there from your phone. I don’t know if you want that much Theocast, but it’s available.
We’ll see you next week.