edit: This post should really be titled anchored hearts — the heart is composed of both the thoughts and emotions as per the Greek and Hebrew.
In Christian Masculinity, Mastery, the internal and the external, I talked a bit about external characteristics and internal characteristics we are to develop as Christians. Specifically, the internal characteristics were divided into two groups:
The internal characteristics of Joy, Peace, Patience/Longsuffering, Faithfulness, Chastity, Self Control are internal because they are of the godly characteristics that God wants multiply in our lives as a model for both other Christians and non-Christians. They are comprised of 2 different categories themselves which are the emotional and the logical:
- Emotional — Joy and peace which are not of ourselves but by nature from God. This is not to say other emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness, etc are bad, but they are transient and not what we are supposed to base our faith on. I will have a follow up post on this in the future.
- Logical — Faithfulness of a godly persuasion, Self control which leads to patience/longsuffering, and the maintenance of chastity which is also a form of self control.
We know that the emotional characteristics that godly Christians (not just masculine men) are to have are those which are in God and God alone. The peace of God and the joy of God.
The eirene (peace) of God is a supernatural imbuing of “wholeness” or “Shalom” (Peace be with you) that is with us when we accept Jesus as our savior and the Holy Spirit comes into our life. How the eirene peace of God is integrated with our lives is discussed more in the post Christian masculinity and confidence. There is no peace for the wicked, but those that exist in Him are able to have the peace of God in any situation in their lives.
Likewise, the Joy of the Lord which is our strength is also a supernatural imbuing of the emotional state characteristic of a mature Christian. Indeed, in the most recent missions trip I went on to Nicaragua I saw this in the children there that have such a joy in their lives even in the deepest despairs of poverty where they do not know where their next meal comes from. This is the supernatural joy that the apostles had when they were in in prison. This is the joy of the Lord that is present in the persecuted Church in the 10-40 window.
It’s very sad because Western Christianity has a huge problem with entitlement and a lack of gratitude. The entitlement carries over extensively into our emotional state such that we are unhappy with what we have even though we have more than 99.99% of the rest of the world. The missions trip to Nicaragua cost about $1400 to go to a week down there to help serve, and $1200 can put one of the students through a year of university there including books, housing and food. Yet, these are people that have more peace and joy in their lives than we do.
This makes Jesus’ parable on the two foundations particularly illuminating:
Matthew 7 (NASB) — The Two Foundations
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and [o]acts on them, [p]may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the [q]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not [r]act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the [s]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
28 [t]When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
The parable speaks to broader applications such as a man having a foundation in God versus that of the world. That much most Christians can understand in their first read through. But what if we understood this passage in a different way.
We know that the most volatile part of humans are certainly their emotions, especially those of us that are of the feminine persuasion. It’s very easy for us as humans to swing from being many of the different emotions to the other even in the span of only minutes in a day — anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.
Emotions are actually comprised of a conglomerate of various interactions of feelings, moods, and affect.
- Feelings are best understood as a subjective representation of emotions, private to the individual experiencing them.
- Moods are diffuse affective states that generally last for much longer durations than emotions and are also usually less intense than emotions.
- Affect is an encompassing term, used to describe the topics of emotion, feelings, and moods together, even though it is commonly used interchangeably with emotion.
Though the main thing to understand is that they are transient.
We understand that emotions are normal. It is not bad to feel emotions whether happiness, sadness, anger, or any others. That is the capacity for which God created humans and He created it to be very good. However, that is also why Jesus says in our anger we should not sin. We need to have self control over our emotions such that we do not act rashly from them and do things that are sinful or that we will regret.
The Jewish people recognized that sin (avera) comes in three distinct categories:
- Pesha (deliberate sin; in modern Hebrew: crime) or Mered (lit.: rebellion) – An intentional sin; an action committed in deliberate defiance of God; (Strong’s Concordance :H6588 (פשע pesha’, peh’shah). According to Strong it comes from the root (:H6586); rebellion, transgression, trespass.
- Avon (lit.: iniquity) – This is a sin of lust or uncontrollable emotion. It is a sin done knowingly, but not done to defy God; (Strong’s Concordance :H5771 (avon, aw-vone). According to Strong it comes from the root (:H5753); meaning perversity, moral evil:–fault, iniquity, mischief.
- Cheit – This is an unintentional sin, crime or fault. (Strong’s Concordance :H2399 (חַטָּא chate). According to Strong it comes from the root khaw-taw (:H2398, H2403) meaning “to miss, to err from the mark (speaking of an archer), to sin, to stumble.”
And so we understand that when we cannot control our emotions we commit avon against God. Fortunately, since this is not pesha (or intentionally rebellion against God), it is covered by the blood of Jesus. That if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Nevertheless, we are called to take off the old and put on the new. We know that the emotions that come from the human experience and their derivatives are transient. But as Christians we know that the peace of God and the joy of the Lord given to us as Christians are free gifts from God. They are not based on our human experiences because like Him, they are present with us at all times.
Therefore, we should anchor our emotions to that to which God has given us in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. His Joy and His peace. And when we can manifest those in our lives in the good and the bad then we will truly see our lives transformed, and this is what will cause other Christians and non-Christians around us to ask how. How are you so peaceful when it seems like your life is falling apart? How do you have so much joy when you are having a difficult time?
Happiness, in particular, is one of the emotions that almost all humans strive for. We all want to be happy. But realize this: there is nowhere in the Scripture much less the fruit of the Spirit that calls us to be happy as part of our Christian walk. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the heart is deceitful and wicked:
Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB) “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Thus, we can say for certain that while happiness is nice it is not the point of being a Christian walking with God. We can enjoy being happy when we are happy and we can look for happiness BUT not at the expense of doing what is righteous. It is more important to have the peace and joy of the Lord. It is more important for us show love, patience/longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control than strive after a transient feeling of happiness.
This is the categorical flaw with Churchianity. “Christian” wives are divorcing their husbands because they are unhappy believing that God wants them to be happy. They do not know God or understand His Scripture lest they would know He hates divorce and does not call them to be happy.
As Christians it is the times when we respond with the exact opposite emotions that people expect that will show them Christ in you. It is the time we respond with the exact opposite actions that will show them Christ in you.
Happiness and fear, like other emotions, are transient. Anchor your emotions to the firm foundation of peace and joy in Christ Jesus and not to those of the shaky foundation of the human flesh. Your life will be transformed.