TURNING FROM A FEELING TO A COMMANDMENT ORIENTED LIFE
All compulsive and addictive behaviors have a desire and feeling component to them. When a person is driven by the feeling of an inner spiritual void and the power of their sinful nature they will seek to find a temporary feeling of satisfaction and pleasure from their drinking, drug use, or over-eating. However, the pleasurable feeling never lasts, therefore the emptiness drives them to seek that good feeling again (Heb. 11:25). This process occurs over and over again. The power of sin eventually enslaves the person in their addictive behavior which only ensures that there will be no freedom.
I. A Biblical Look at Feelings and Desires.
A. Feelings are what caused Eve to fall in the garden. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6).
B. Feelings are what caused the children of Israel to fail in their relationship with God in the wilderness. They "yielded to their intense craving" (Num. 11:4). They also failed to trust God by yielding to their fear of the giants in the Land of Promise (Num. 14:1-10).
C. Moses overcame his feelings of inadequacy by obeying the command of God (Ex. 4:1-20). This example reveals the way to overcome strong desires and feelings.
D. Jesus taught the disciples that even if a person sins against you seven times in one day and then repents you must forgive him. The disciples were amazed when they heard this teaching. They said, "Increase our faith". Jesus told them a simple story of a field worker. This man had worked all day and was tired. He didn't feel like doing any more at the end of the day; but when he came home his master said, come and serve me first, then you can sit down to dinner. The field worker did it only because he was commanded to do it (Luke 17:1-9). Jesus was teaching here not to wait till you feel like forgiving before you obey the command. If you wait for the feeling of forgiveness you will never forgive. Just like the field worker you must take every action you are commanded to take before you feel like it.
E. All aspects of the Christian life are like this. Don't wait for a feeling before you obey God. Obey Him because God commands you to do so whether you feel like it or not. The feelings will follow your obedience. You didn't feel like getting up this morning to go to work, but you did get up because you knew you must. Only after you got up did your feelings change.
II. How do Feelings, Thoughts, and Behavior Work Together?
A. First, you must understand the connection between your feelings, your thought life, and your behavior.
l. Your feelings are directly associated with your thoughts. If you want to control your feelings you must control your thought life. Notice in Mark 14:72, when Peter thought about his denial of Jesus, he wept. His feelings were directly controlled by what he was thinking about. Also in Lamentations 3:19-23, when Jeremiah thought on his afflictions, his soul sank within him. That means he wasn't feeling very good about his circumstances. However, when he thought on God's mercies he received hope. Another example is David, in Psalms 73:16. When he incorrectly thought that the wicked would escape the Judgment of God it was too painful for him. He became upset and angry. But, when he went into the Sanctuary of God, (vs. 17-28), and began to hear the praises being sung to God the Lord gave him a new perspective and he found strength (vs. 26).
2. Your feelings are directly associated with your behavior. If you want to control your feelings you must change your behavior. When your behavior is sinful your conscience will accuse you through your thoughts and then your feelings. In Romans 2:15, Paul taught that your conscience uses your thoughts to either accuse you or excuse you. Sinful behavior causes accusing thoughts and depressed feelings. Godly behavior that is in obedience to God's Word will cause thoughts that excuse you, making you feel good about your actions. Paul taught in Phil. 4:8-9, do what you see me doing, what is just and pure and the God of peace will be with you. With the same idea in mind, Jesus gave a simple formula for being happy. He said, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (John 13:17). Jesus taught a simple truth; happiness comes from doing what you know is right. Therefore, you shouldn't wait till you feel like doing what is right. First, do what God commands and you will naturally feel good inside because your conscience will approve your actions.
B. Next, you must make simple choices if you are to gain control over your thoughts and feelings.
l. Choose to line up your behavior, thoughts, and feelings with the Word of God. Determine if your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are contrary to His Word. If these violate God’s Word then these thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are wrong. When Paul sought to determine what he should think about how a person became justified before God he looked at what the Scripture taught. Paul said, “For what does the Scripture say” (Rom 4:3)?
2. Wherever you find that your thoughts, feelings, or behavior is contrary to the Word, you must take a stand against these and reject them. Paul taught, “Reject profane and old wives' fables” (1 Tim. 4:7). Paul also taught, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
3. You must also choose to forsake any sinful behavior or evil thought as the Scripture commands. God spoke through Isaiah: "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Is. 55:7) (Phil. 4:9). Choosing to forsake these thoughts and behaviors are your responsibility. God won't do this for you. It's your choice.
4. You must choose to ask God to purify your heart before Him. You do this because you know that out of an evil heart proceeds evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19) (Acts 8:21-23). If your heart attitude is angry, self-righteous, or resentful you won't have the correct thoughts or feelings you should. Neither will you take the correct actions that you should.
5. You must choose to ask God to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) (Phil. 4:6-8). Prayer is a choice. Prayer is the only way to receive the grace and help you need.
6. You must choose to think and meditate only on what is good, just, pure, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8-9). Doing this will many times will be an extreme battle inside you. You must fight this battle by faith. In the beginning it is helpful sometimes to make a written list of things you can carry with you at all times to help you focus on things to think about. When you find your thoughts drifting back to sinful thoughts pull out your list and meditate on what is good and the God of peace will be with you. You can control your thoughts and feelings. God's Word declares it that you can. If you take these steps you will gain control because Paul promised in Philippians 4:9: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
III. How Do These Truths Relate to Addictive Behaviors?
A. You must concentrate on getting your heart in the right place with the Lord. Ask God to give you a hatred for your addictive behaviors and the heart issues that drove these behaviors.
B. Ask God for the grace to stop these behaviors. By stopping the behaviors you enable your conscience to begin helping you to immediately feel better. There is no more guilt.
C. If you allow feelings and desires to control you then you must realize that you are living your life as you did when you were a non-Christian. Paul defined what motivated all of us before we came to Christ in his epistle to the Ephesians: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:1-3).
D. When the old desires come you must resist them. Ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God's commands. You can do what God requires because He will strengthen you (Phil. 4:13) (Phil. 2:13).
E. When you hear yourself saying, "I don't feel like doing this" understand that you are living by a feeling orientation and not a commandment orientation. You will stumble yourself if you don’t turn to being obedient to God in spite of what you feel.
F. The feelings and desires are strong that draw you back to your old behavior. However, the longer you follow the Lord the easier it will get, because the more you yield to His commands, pray and cry out for the power of the Holy Spirit the more you gain God’s inner strength. Notice what happened when Jesus prayed: “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:43-44). What happened to Saul as he obeyed God in his ministry: “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22). Therefore, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14)!