The Moral-Emotional Self

We need to do a quick review of what the image of God is in Man. God’s image is not physical but spiritual. However, His image contains all of the qualities and characteristics which are God’s which allow Man, all people, to relate intimately with their Creator. This does not mean those created in His image are the same as God in all ways. No one is equal to God because He has no equal. It does mean there are certain characteristics humans have which no other created being, including animals, has. We have a soul which carries the essence of life, the desires and passions, responsibilities and knowledge of self. We are also intellectual, emotional and willful. Unlike the angels, God also gave Man dominion over a part of His creation. Man is unique in all creation. God created us for relationship with Him. This point cannot be emphasized too often.

Those who are poor in spirit use their intellect to admit the reality of sin. They see truly the evidence of the certainty of God and their rebellion against Him. Knowing the moral law of God they admit they have violated that law. Those who mourn recognize the consequences of sin they have accepted as true. This means using the moral emotional part of the image of God given to admit separation from Him in death.

God tells us, in several places, we are to love Him with our whole being. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV] In Luke, Jesus is questioned by a lawyer about which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27 ESV]

In Deuteronomy 6:5 the word “heart” means the center of the person, or the inner person, the conscience and moral being, the inclinations and understanding. “Heart” is the center of all the appetites of man. These appetites are that which drives and controls the man. In Luke the word literally means “heart.” It is the organ which circulates the blood which is the life of the man. But it is not simply the center of the physical person. It is also the center of the spiritual being. It includes all of the meanings of the word in the OT and adds to it “life.” This life is the center of the emotional self.

Moses uses a word for “soul” which defines the person as unique in both the physical and spiritual worlds. This is the part of a person which does not cease to exist even when the physical dies and the spiritual is cast away from the source of life, who is God, and dies for eternity. Yet, the soul of the one redeemed and connected to the source of life, both physical and spiritual, lives and grows in life for eternity. Where the life of the creature is in the blood, the life of the spiritual being is in the soul. It is the soul which connects the physical person with the spiritual, the temporary with the eternal.

“Might” in Deuteronomy is the word “strength” used in Luke. It is a combination of the “heart” and the “soul” which gives the person strength of character, or a lack which shows a weakness of character. This might and strength is great and abundant and propels the person through life with vigor and determination.

Jesus adds a concept in Luke not found in Deuteronomy. He adds we are to love God with our entire “mind.” We are to think about, study and understand, grow in wisdom and knowledge in our determination to intimately know and love God.

Love becomes an activity of the whole and complete person. It is an activity of the moral-emotional self, coupled with the mind, propelled forward by strength of character fed by the very life of God. We think of love as only an emotion. Love is an emotion but much more. It is a determination of the mind activated by the will of the person. Love is a reflection of the physically and spiritually natural adherence to the moral law of God known intimately by the soul of the person.

But how is the moral law of God known, or interpreted, by those created in the Image of God? It is Man’s emotions which interpret the innate moral laws of God. When the law is violated people feel the emotion of fear or anger. When the law is upheld people feel the emotion of peace and joy. However, because of the corruption of sin the emotions cease interpreting the moral law of God and begin focusing on the expectations and laws of self. When my expectations are not met I am angry or hateful or fearful. When my expectations are met I am happy and content.

Only those who have been changed, redeemed, re-created, born-again, who have the Spirit as a guarantee of eternal life, will have the tools needed to begin interpreting God’s moral law correctly through their emotions. Using those tools takes a lifetime of discipline. It takes submission to the training of the Spirit to learn to know God’s moral law truly.

We are emotional creatures, made so by God. Since we are created in His image, then God also is emotional and is the pattern for perfect emotions. If we are to love God with our complete being, and cannot because of the separation caused by sin, then our lack of love does not reflect poorly upon Him but shows the evidence of our total depravity, our complete inability to do anything because of sin to please God.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [Romans 7:13-20 ESV]

Jesus tells us plainly the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). He also tells us over and over the ten commandments cannot be ignored. In Matthew 5:21 to 48 He says “You have heard it said … but I tell you” five times, implying throughout the ten commandments are hard and fast, integral to the moral code which is the radiance of God.

How many people do you know who can articulate the moral code? Can you state in words all can understand the moral laws which govern your life and motivate your actions? If you cannot, do you want to put in words the foundational principles which allow you to relate to those around you and to God? 

Don’t jump ahead of the question. This questions difficulty comes in the common understanding which defines the term “moral code” or “morality.” Even for those able to condense their thoughts into reliable, understandable terms the evidence of their lives will challenge their declarations. Most people will say they know the difference between right and wrong then give an answer which shows they do not know the difference, contradicting their words with their lifestyle. They will declare with absolute authority something which is a violation of the known will of God is not part of the moral law and therefore has no consequences to themselves or anyone else. Even Christians will do this.

A moral code is not a personal value. What you value relates to your personal moral code and certainly provides the evidence needed to evaluate that code, but it is not the moral code of God. As I grow up I am exposed to a variety of experiences which shape my personality. If I live in a place of extreme poverty or extreme affluence I will not recognize either the poverty or affluence until I am old enough to see the difference. Yet, there will be certain things I enjoy which make me emotionally happy, and others which I will hate and emotionally despise. I will run toward that which makes me happy and flee from that which I despise. As I grow older I will seek out that which gives me comfort and security and pleasure. If I am able, I will work my life in such a way to lessen the effects of that which I despise and increase that which I enjoy.

You will see and meet people who seem to enjoy what you despise. My tendency is to hold these people up to my personal standard and judge them according to what I think is worthwhile. Here you need brutal honesty not with others but with yourself. Do you judge others according to your personal values?  I am not asking how you treat them.  I am asking what you think of them. What is, or was, your attitude toward them? I am not asking what you think of them now. I want you to honestly remember and examine yourself and what you have ever thought of them. Have you ever been angry with someone because they did not value what you value? My own thoughts and memories condemn me outright.

I am not asking you to judge yourself or to beat yourself up. That is not the intent. I simply want you to be honest. Have you ever? If your answer is “no” stop reading. Go do something else. If you answered “yes” then hold that thought and remember it.

A moral code is not a societal norm. Again, the norm, or those behaviors reflected and known by the individuals of the society, provide the evidence of a common understanding of a moral code. A moral code is not a worldview. A worldview may be articulated in conjunction with a moral code and influence greatly how one perceives the world and how one would like the world, nations and societies, and individuals to operate. But, a worldview is not a moral code. 

A code is a standard, a ruler used to measure whether a person is living, thinking, acting, expecting, proscribing and demanding, very specific attitudes and actions. It is the measure used to judge the evidence of whether the individuals life, both outwardly and inwardly, meets that which is demanded. A code must always be established by one other than the individual or the society or nation. No one can determine their own moral code with any reasonable expectation of it remaining stable.

Morality is the distinction between right and wrong. We do not determine the difference between right and wrong. Yet, there is something in each of us which knows the difference. There is also something within each of us which will subdue and change our understanding, flipping right to wrong, and wrong to right. Thus, a moral code is the standard used to measure the individual’s actions and attitudes in order to determine the righteousness of the individual. Is God’s moral code doable for us? If not, what did it cost Him to make it doable for us? 

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. [Romans 7:21-25 ESV]

No one may have an intimate relationship with God without adhering to His moral code. His moral code is absolute with no wiggle room for compromise. As fallen people whose nature is bent away from God it is impossible for us, in our own power and by our own design, to live according to the moral standards of God. We have to be like Him to do this. We were created like Him but are corrupted by sin. He must do something to change us.

He has.


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